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Donna A. Marshall, James M. Spiers and Kenneth J. Curry

Calcium is commonly known to affect the developmental processes of many plants, and its role as a major nutrient has been interpreted in terms of its interaction with components of the cell wall and membrane. A 2-year study was conducted to assess the affects of calcium foliar feed fertilization applied at bloom and throughout floral development on the reduction of rain-related splitting in blueberries. Foliar-applied calcium at 0.2% or 0.9% concentration did not successfully decrease splitting in blueberries to a statistical and, more importantly, an economically significant level. Calcium sprays also had no adverse affects on the fruit firmness, quality, or calcium concentrations within the fruit.

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Donna A. Marshall, James M. Spiers and Kenneth J. Curry

Split-resistant and split-susceptible rabbiteye blueberry fruit were evaluated at all stages of development to determine “water uptake thresholds” by soaking in distilled water. Weight increase after soaking was measured, and percent weight gain was calculated to take into consideration the weight increase of the fruit from development. The ratio of percent increase in volume to weight increase resulting from water uptake was calculated. Ratios of percent water uptake to weight increase between split-susceptible ‘Tifblue’ and split-resistant ‘Premier’ blueberries were found to be similar. The split-susceptible ‘Tifblue’ had a 1.6 g/50 fruit increase with a 1.7% water uptake and a ratio of 1.08. ‘Premier’ had a higher weight increase with 3.3 g/50 fruit and also a higher percentage of water uptake at 3.6% providing a ratio of 1.09. Although both absorbed water at a constant rate shown by a linear increase of weight increase over time, ‘Premier’ absorbed a significantly greater amount of water than did ‘Tifblue’ yet remained intact and did not split.

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Donna A. Marshall, James M. Spiers, Stephen J. Stringer and Kenneth J. Curry

Preharvest rainfall that occurs when fruit are fully ripe or approaching full ripeness can result in detrimental fruit splitting in rabbiteye and southern highbush blueberries. This study was initiated to develop a laboratory method to model rain-related incidence of splitting in cultivated blueberries with the goal of predicting the incidence of splitting in blueberry cultivars and selections. Multiyear field surveys of rabbiteye and southern highbush cultivars show that the incidence of rain-related splitting is strongly cultivar-dependent. Laboratory values for forced splitting and naturally occurring rain-related field splitting data show a strong correlation indicating that the incidence of fruit splitting can be accurately estimated by this laboratory method. Soaking the berries in distilled water 14 h at room temperature gives a confident determination of splitting tendencies. Blueberry breeders and geneticists can use this method to evaluate new potential blueberry cultivars for splitting tendencies as part of routine screening. This would lead to a long-term goal of reducing splitting susceptible blueberry cultivars in commercial plantings.

Open access

Melinda A. Miller-Butler, Barbara J. Smith, Kenneth J. Curry and Eugene K. Blythe

Inoculation of detached strawberry leaves with Colletotrichum species may provide an accurate, rapid, nondestructive method of identifying anthracnose-resistant germplasm. The purpose of this study was to statistically compare two methods (visual and image analysis) of evaluating disease severity of strawberry germplasm screened for anthracnose resistance. Detached leaves of 77 susceptible and resistant strawberry clones were inoculated with one Colletotrichum gloeosporioides (Penz.) Penz. & Sacc. and two C. fragariae A. N. Brooks isolates. Anthracnose disease symptoms on each leaf were assessed quantitatively via computer-based image analysis to determine percentage lesion area and qualitatively by two independent raters using a visual disease severity rating scale (0 = no symptoms to 5 = entire leaf dead). The two visual raters’ average disease severity ratings (n = 3413) were in substantial agreement with a weighted Cohen’s kappa coefficient (k) of 0.80 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.79–0.82]. There was a strong positive correlation between percent lesion area determined by image analysis and the visual disease scores of the two raters (r p = 0.79). Image analysis provided a precise measurement of percent lesion area of infected leaves while visual assessment provided more rapid results. Our results indicate that detached leaf inoculations can be used as a rapid preliminary screen to separate anthracnose-susceptible from -resistant germplasm in large populations within breeding programs. It also may be used for assessing the resistance/susceptibility of parental breeding lines to various Colletotrichum species and isolates, for mapping germplasm for resistance genes, and in pesticide development studies.

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Anthony L. Witcher, Eugene K. Blythe, Glenn B. Fain and Kenneth J. Curry

Wood-based substrates have been extensively evaluated for greenhouse and nursery crop production, yet these substrates have not been evaluated for propagation. The objective of this study was to evaluate processed whole loblolly pine trees (WPT) (Pinus taeda) as a rooting substrate for stem cutting propagation of a range of ornamental crops. Substrates included processed WPT, pine (Pinus sp.) bark (PB), and each mixed with equal parts (by volume) peatmoss (PM) (WPT:PM and PB:PM, respectively). Substrate physical (air space, container capacity, total porosity, bulk density, and particle size distribution) and chemical [pH and electrical conductivity (EC)] properties were determined for all substrates. Rooting percentage, total root length, total root volume, and total shoot length were evaluated for four species in 2008 and five species in 2009. Substrate air space was similar between PB and WPT in the 2008 experiment, and likewise between PB:PM and WPT:PM. In the 2009 experiment, PB and WPT had similar substrate air space. The addition of PM to PB and WPT resulted in reduced air space and increased container capacity in both experiments. The proportion of fine particles doubled for PB:PM and WPT:PM compared with PB and WPT, respectively. Substrate pH for all substrates ranged from 6.0 to 6.9 at 7 days after sticking (DAS) cuttings and 6.9 to 7.1 at 79 DAS. Substrate EC was below the acceptable range for all substrates except at 7 DAS. Rooting percentage was similar among substrates within each species in both experiments. The addition of PM resulted in significantly greater total root length for PB:PM and WPT:PM compared with PB and WPT, respectively, for five of the eight species. Shoot growth was most vigorous for PB:PM compared with the other substrates for all species. The study demonstrated a range of plant species can be propagated from stem cuttings in whole pine tree substrates alone or combined with PM.