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Marvin P. Pritts

Manipulating light, temperature, moisture, and nutrients to favor plant growth and productivity is an important component of horticulture. The technology required to achieve such manipulation ranges from inexpensive, basic practices to elaborate, costly approaches involving the latest engineering advances. For example, pruning and mulching are relatively low-tech methods for improving light interception and soil moisture status in small fruit plantings. At the opposite extreme are glass houses with supplemental lighting, CO2 enrichment, and nutrient film hydroponic systems Of greatest value to small fruit growers, however, is technology that ran be applied in field situations, such as the use of overhead irrigation for maintaining soil moisture status, frost protection, and evaporative cooling. One of the greatest challenges to small fruit growers and rcsearchers is integrating new technology into production systems. The introduction of a new technique for environmental modification usually has indirect effects on other aspects of management, which may require additional technology to compensate for adverse changes while maintaining the favorable change. In addition, unique macro- and microclimates demand and market opportunities, specific solutions, and the result is a dynamic, diverse collage of production systems used by growers throughout the world.

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Marvin P. Pritts

Strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) is a perennial plant with a compressed woody crown that responds to the environment in a similar way as other temperate fruit crops. Nutrient management practices are also similar, with a few exceptions. Levels of preplant amendments are determined based on soil test results, and are used to increase nutrient availability and modify pH as needed. Once plants are established, soil tests, coupled with foliar tissue analysis and observations of plant growth, are the best indicators of plant nutrient status and limitations. Drip irrigation is more efficient than granular applications for supplying soluble nutrients such as nitrogen (N). While most temperate fruit crops respond well to N in spring when growth resumes after winter, applications of spring N in strawberry can cause excessive vegetative growth, reduce fruit quality, and have only a marginal impact on yield. N is most efficiently taken up by plants when conditions favor root growth, and N applied in summer or fall is more effective at increasing yield the following spring, assuming that the carbohydrate status of the plant is good. However, if carbohydrate status is poor, supplemental N late in the season can reduce yield by requiring additional carbon (C) for N uptake. Many questions remain to better understand how to manage nutrients optimally in perennial strawberry.

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Marvin P. Pritts

A course was developed at Cornell University for the purpose of attracting nonmajors from across the university, instilling in them an appreciation for horticulture and then encouraging them to take additional horticulture and plant science courses. The course incorporates many engaging and interesting horticultural activities, with scientific concepts and horticultural techniques conveyed almost exclusively through hands-on instruction using the campus as a laboratory. Experiential learning and culinary experiences are key components of the course. Student evaluations are very high (5-year average of 4.94/5.00 with five representing “excellent”), and the class fills to capacity each spring semester with diverse students from across campus. Enrollment in other horticulture classes has increased since the course has been offered. Forty-three percent of students who took Hands-On Horticulture as a freshman, sophomore, or junior subsequently enrolled in at least one other plant science course. Participating horticulture faculty also find the class to be fertile ground for recruiting research and field assistants. Students report an increase in well-being and reduction in stress while taking the course, and write about how their worldview has changed after the course experience. This class has allowed students to discover or rediscover their role and connection to nature while simultaneously providing them horticultural skills and understanding of scientific principles.

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Marvin P. Pritts

This LISA project involves four state universities and the USDA, and has the objective of developing and evaluating non-conventional production and pest management strategies for raspberries and strawberries. Production goals are divided between cropping systems and pest management. The evaluation of trellising systems for cropping efficiency, ease of harvest, and spray distribution is an example of a production related objective. Groundcover management systems for strawberries are being evaluated for their effects on both the pest complex and production system. Biological control strategies for root diseases are also being studied. Evaluations involve field performance, economics, and impacts on pesticide use. In addition, grower attitudes towards adoption of non-traditional production practices have been assessed. The project supports the publication of a newsletter that is distributed to 450 growers. The major goal of our work has been to improve production efficiency and provide growers with economical, dependable tools that can be used to prevent pest problems before chemical intervention is required.

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Marvin P. Pritts

Non-chemical methods for weed management are becoming important as fewer herbicides are labelled for use and as the market demands pesticide-free produce. We have studied the use of interplanted cover crops in strawberry plantings as an alternative/supplement to chemical weed management. Several different cover crops (tall fescue, marigold and sudangrass) were seeded between rows of newly planted strawberries in late June as runnering was commencing. An additional seeding of sudangrass was made in late July. For comparison, untreated plots and diphenamid treated plots were included in the experimental design. Measurements were taken throughout the season of soil moisture, light levels, crop nutrient concentrations, nematode numbers in soil and crop roots, runner biomass, and weed composition and biomass. Cover crops were incorporated in late fall and the planting was mulched. The following spring, crop nutrient concentrations, nematode numbers in soil and crop roots, weed composition and biomass, yield, individual fruit size, and aboveground strawberry biomass was assessed. The marigolds were too competitive for moisture to be an effective companion cover crop. The early planting of sudangrass was too tall, and fescue was too competitive for nutrients. The untreated plots contained many more weeds than other treatments, nematode levels were higher in the strawberry roots in these plots, and harvesting fruit was very difficult. The late seeding of sudangrass, however, provided significant weed control while not reducing yield relative to herbicide-treated plots.

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Marvin P. Pritts and Travis Park

Most institutions that offer a degree in horticulture have established a set of learning outcomes for the major or are in the process of doing so. Because horticulture programs are being subsumed into larger entities, and because there is no process for providing consistency of expectations for horticulture majors, a group of horticulture administrators from across the United States initiated an effort to develop a common set of learning outcomes that would be appropriate for any four-year horticulture program. The intent was to identify learning outcomes that could be made more specific for an institution’s local conditions and capacities, or expanded to accommodate broader plant science-type majors. Five outcomes with specific goals were identified. An increasing level of higher-order thinking skills is associated with later learning outcomes. The outcomes are knowledge acquisition; knowledge integration; synthesis, creativity and problem-solving; communication; and demonstration of professionalism and proficiency. Adopting these learning outcomes can provide students with guidance in choice of major, faculty with a tool for curriculum development and program assessment, and employers with expectations for new horticulture graduates.

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Marvin P. Pritts and Mary Jo Kelly

Competition from weeds and an interplanted sudangrass [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moensch, formerly S. sudanense (Piper) Stapf.] cover crop was allowed to occur in newly-planted strawberries (Fragaria ×ananassa Duch.) for varying lengths of time, and at different times during the growing season. Newly planted strawberries were most susceptible to weed and cover crop competition during the first 2 months after planting, as both runnering (stolon formation) and subsequent yield were impacted. In 1994-95, 1 month of weed competition in June reduced yield by 20%, whereas 2 months of weed competition reduced yield by 65%. However, 1 month of uncontrolled weed growth later in the growing season had little to no impact on yield, although weed biomass was much less then. Herbicide (napropamide) use alone was insufficient to prevent weed competition and yield reduction. In our study, yield was reduced 0.67 t·ha-1 or 5.5% for each 100 g·m-2 of weed biomass. The data suggest that it is critical for growers to minimize weed competition early in the planting year when weed growth is greatest. Since an interplanted sudangrass cover crop displaced a portion of the weeds, it could be seeded later in the year to provide some weed suppression without a negative impact on yield. Chemical names used: N, N, Diethyl-2-(1-naphthalenyloxy)-propionamide (napropamide); N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine (glyphosate).

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David L. Trinka and Marvin P. Pritts

Micropropagated (MP) raspberries (Rubus idaeus L. var. idaeus) are sensitive to moisture and temperature extremes and to certain preemergent herbicides used at transplanting. We examined fertilizer placement and row covers in conjunction with various weed management strategies to identify beneficial practices for newly planted, MP primocane-fruiting `Heritage' raspberries. Uncontrolled weed growth during plant establishment inhibited raspberry cane growth and production into the second and third growing seasons. Handweeding and herbicide treatments successfully controlled weeds, but soil moisture was apparently insufficient for optimum growth of the MP raspberries when these treatments were imposed, even with normal rainfall in early summer and drip irrigation in late summer. Polyethylene and straw mulches during the establishment year provided both weed control and adequate soil moisture, resulting in more cane growth in the first and 2nd year, and higher yields the 2nd year. Primocane density after the third growing season still was influenced by first-year weed management practices. Raspberry plants responded best to straw mulch without row covers as plant growth was better in both years. Canes were thicker, yields were higher, and a larger portion of the total crop was harvested early. Row covers were beneficial only in bare-soil treatments, and method of fertilizer placement had no effect on any measured variable. Mulching newly transplanted MP raspberries is an alternative to herbicide use that also provides physiological benefits to the plant through microclimate modification.

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Gina E. Fernandez and Marvin P. Pritts

Seasonal changes in growth, mean maximal photosynthetic rates, and the temperature and light response curves of `Titan' red raspberry (Rubus idaeus L.) were obtained from potted plants grown under field conditions. Primocane dry weight accumulation increased steadily at the beginning and the end of the season, but growth slowed midseason during fruiting. The slower midseason dry-weight accumulation rate coincided with an increase in root dry weight. Primocane net assimilation rate (NAR) was highest early in the season. Floricane photosynthetic rates (A) were highest during the fruiting period, while primocane A remained steady throughout the season. Primocane and floricane leaflets displayed a midday depression in A under field conditions, with a partial recovery in the late afternoon. Photosynthetic rates of primocane and floricane leaves were very sensitive to temperature, exhibiting a decline from 15 to 40C. Light-response curves differed depending on cane type and time of year. A temporal convergence of sink demand from fruit, primocanes, and roots occurs when plants experience high temperatures. These factors may account for low red raspberry yield.