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R.C. Ebel, D.G. Himelrick, A. Caylor and J. Pitts

The surfactant “Surfactant WK” (dodecyl ether of polyethylene glycol) was applied to peach trees [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] at full bloom over 3 years. Blossoms died rapidly so that within 2 days dead blossoms could be distinguished easily from live blossoms or set fruit. There were strong (R 2 > 0.87), linear correlations between concentration of “Surfactant WK” applied and percent blossoms removed and fruit set, which were similar over the 3 years. Trees were hand-thinned according to commercial practices after treatment. There was similar cropload, fruit weight, and yield across treatments at harvest indicating no negative effects by the chemical on productivity. There was only slight limb damage at the highest concentrations of “Surfactant WK,” which overthinned blossoms. We recommend that based on the effectiveness, consistency, and lack of significant phytotoxicity, “Surfactant WK” be reevaluated as a thinning chemical for peach trees.

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X. Zhang, F.M. Woods, R.C. Ebel, D.G. Himelrick, N.K. Singh and C. Mosjidis

A prevailing hypothesis indicates that a decrease in vegetative growth and cessation in floral initiation in strawberry in response to changes in photoperiod and temperature may correlate with hormonally induced changes. We investigated changes in endogenous free polyamines in crowns, flowers, leaves, and fruit of springbearing strawberries (Fragaria xananassa cvs. Chandler and Earliglow) in response to varying temperatures to induce flowering. Spermidine was the prominent free amine in crowns. No marked changes of putrescine, spermidine, and spermine were observed in crowns during the transition from vegetative to reproductive growth in either cultivar. In contrast, high levels of free polyamines were noted in young developing tissues such as the most recently initiated leaves, flower buds, and green fruit. When the putrescine synthesis inhibitor difluoromethylonithine (DFMO, 1 mm) was exogenously applied, levels of putrescine, spermidine, and spermine were altered in crown tissues in greenhouse experiments. These findings indicate that free polyamines may potentially be associated with the stimulation of new growth in springbearing strawberries under the present experimental conditions evaluated.

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F.M. Woods, C. Mosjidis, D. Hilmerick, R.C Ebel and B. Wilkins

Strawberry fruit (Fragaria ×ananassa `Chandler') were evaluated at five different stages of growth and development for changes in the senescence process in fruit tissues. Levels of total antioxidant activity, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), lipid peroxidation product, malondialdehyde, and ethylene production were determined. Total antioxidant activity (TAA) was measured in terms of in situ antioxidants to scavenge the ABTS.superscript +superscript radical cation. With the progression of ripening and senescence, there was a significant decline in TAA that coincided with increased concentration of H2O2, lipid peroxidation and increased production of ethylene. Our results illustrate that the senescence process in strawberry fruit is associated with the decline of TAA and the potential initiation and accumulation of reactive oxygen species. These results are additionally discussed in terms of potential processes associated with abiotic and biotic environmental stresses. Moreover, although strawberry fruit are typically classified as nonclimacteric, this study illustrates that the free radical mediated senescence process is similar to that of climacteric fruits.

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B.S. Wilkins, R.C. Ebel, W.A. Dozier, J. Pitts and R. Boozer

This study was conducted to determine efficacy of Tergitol TMN-6 in thinning peach blossoms. A pretest was conducted and demonstrated no difference between TMN-6 and TMN-10 in efficacy when applied at full bloom or petal fall and at rates of 20 and 40 mL·L-1. In the main test, Tergitol TMN-6 was sprayed once at 10, 20, or 30 mL·L-1 at full bloom or petal fall and compared to an unsprayed control for 3 years. Tergitol caused widespread necrosis of flower parts including sepals, petals, pistils, stamens and peduncles. There was a difference among chemical treatments with more fruit removed at higher concentrations, although the amount of fruit removed was similar for the 20 and 30 mL·L-1 rates. There was no difference in thinning response at full bloom or petal fall, indicating a wide window of efficacy. There was also a difference among years, which was apparently not related to temperature or relative humidity during time of application. Tergitol caused some leaf yellowing and tip burn especially at the higher rates when leaves were present, but the trees did not appear to be seriously affected. Fruit weight was either not affected or larger in some years from treatment. Unlike higher concentrations, tergitol at 10 mL·L-1 did not negatively impact fruit number per tree at harvest. At harvest, fruit weight, skin blush, firmness, and soluble solids at harvest were not affected by treatment. Tergitol TMN-6 proved to be an effective thinning agent and when applied from full bloom to petal fall at 10 mL·L-1 it did not adversely affect the tree or fruit.

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Monte L. Nesbitt, N.R. McDaniel, Robert C. Ebel, W.A. Dozier and David G. Himelrick

Several microsprinkler treatments were tested on 5-year-old satsuma mandarin orange (Citrus unshiu Marc.) trees to compare survivability of trunks and scaffold limbs in severe freezes. Three damaging freeze events occurred during winter, with two in 1995-96 and one in 1996-97. Air temperature dropped to -9.4, -5.6, and -6.7 °C, respectively. Almost 90% of the foliage was dead on the control plants after the first freezing event and 98% after the second. A single microsprinkler 1.6 m high in the canopy delivering 90.8 L·h-1 reduced injury; only 54% of the canopy was dead after the first freeze and 71% after the second. There was slightly more shoot-tip dieback on the plants in the microsprinkler treatments than on the control plants after the first two freezes. The amount of limb breakage by ice was minor. The third freeze killed 34% of the canopy in the control plants, but only 26% in the plants in the microsprinkler treatments. Use of microsprinklers increased yield in 1996, but yield for all treatments was very low. Yield for all treatments fully recovered in 1997, averaging 153 kg/tree. Although no death of scaffold limbs or trunks occurred, these results demonstrate that microsprinkler irrigation reduces damage to foliage and increases yield somewhat in severe freezes.

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Monte L. Nesbitt, N.R. McDaniel, Robert C. Ebel, W.A. Dozier and David G. Himelrick

Several microsprinkler treatments were tested on 5-year-old satsuma mandarin orange (Citrus unshiu Marc.) trees to compare survivability of trunks and scaffold limbs in severe freezes. Three damaging freeze events occurred during winter, with two in 1995–96 and one in 1996–97. Air temperature dropped to –9.4, –5.6, and –6.7 °C, respectively. Almost 90% of the foliage was dead on the control plants after the first freezing event and 98% after the second. A single microsprinkler 1.6 m high in the canopy delivering 90.8 L·h–1 reduced injury; only 54% of the canopy was dead after the first freeze and 71% after the second. There was slightly more shoot-tip dieback on the plants in the microsprinkler treatments than on the control plants after the first two freezes. The amount of limb breakage by ice was minor. The third freeze killed 34% of the canopy in the control plants, but only 26% in the plants in the microsprinkler treatments. Use of microsprinklers increased yield in 1996, but yield for all treatments was very low. Yield for all treatments fully recovered in 1997, averaging 153 kg/tree. Although no death of scaffold limbs or trunks occurred, these results demonstrate that microsprinkler irrigation reduces damage to foliage and increases yield somewhat in severe freezes.

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S. Shukla, B.J. Boman, R.C. Ebel, P.D. Roberts and E.A. Hanlon

Despite efforts to optimize water and nutrient inputs to Florida's vegetable and fruit crops, the sandy soils, shallow water table, and tropical climate of Florida result in nutrient leaching losses that are unavoidable. Water quantity and quality management strategies that can reduce these nutrient losses from Florida's horticultural crops were reviewed and research needs for quantifying their effectiveness were identified. The water quantity management strategies included water table management for irrigation, drainage management, detention of runoff and drainage, and summer flooding. In addition to the expected water quality benefits of these practices, potential effects on crop production and farm economics were also discussed. Watershed-scale adoption of stormwater harvesting has the potential to not only reduce the nutrient loadings but also become a source of additional income for landowners through water trading. The water quality practices included structural and managerial practices (e.g., vegetative filter strips and ditch cleaning). Key research needs for reducing the unavoidable nutrient discharges included the development of a crop-specific drainage management tool; quantification of farm and watershed-scale benefits of stormwater detention and its reuse with regards to nutrient loadings, water supply, crop production, and farm income; enhancement of hydraulic efficiency of detention areas; and effects of summer flooding and ditch maintenance and cleaning on nutrient discharges.

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R.C. Ebel, W.A. Dozier, B. Hockema, F.M. Woods, R. Thomas, B.S. Wilkins, M. Nesbitt and R. McDaniel

This study was conducted to determine fruit quality of Satsuma mandarin Citrus unshiu, Marc. `Owari' grown on the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Soluble solids increased linearly and titratable acidity decreased quadratically during October and November for the four sampling years. There was no significant interaction between sampling date and year. There was a significant year effect for titratable acidity, but not soluble solids or their ratio. A 10:1 soluble solids to titratable acidity ratio was observed on 10 Nov. Variation in fruit weight corresponded with cropload. Fruit weight increased during the sampling period due to an increase in fruit length since there was no change in width. Peel color was yellow-orange by 10 Nov., with many fruit still exhibiting patches of green color. Because of some green color present in the peel, the fruit would have to be degreened for successful marketing in U.S. retail chain stores.

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Benjamin L. Campbell, Robert G. Nelson, Robert C. Ebel, William A. Dozier, John L. Adrian and Brandon R. Hockema

Satsuma mandarins (Citrus unshiu) have been produced intermittently along the Gulf Coast for over a century. However, very little is known about the market potential for this citrus fruit in today's consumer markets. This study evaluated consumer preferences for seven external attributes over a range of levels: price ($1.07, $2.18, or $4.39/kg), color (green-yellow, yellow-orange, or orange), size (5.08, 6.35, or 7.62 cm in diameter), seediness (0, 3, or 7 seeds), blemishes (0, 1.91, or 3 cm in diameter), production region label (Alabama or U.S.A.), and organic production (yes or no). Consumers from grocery stores in nine cities in Alabama and Georgia were asked to evaluate 20 photographs of various combinations of these attribute levels using a seven-point intention-to-buy scale. 605 useable surveys were collected and a conjoint analysis was conducted to determine the strength of preference for the attribute levels and the relative importance for attributes. Three consumer segments were identified by cluster analysis of strengths of preferences: the no-blemish segment (37% of sample), the price-sensitive segment (23% of sample), and the no-seeds segment (41% of sample). A multinomial logit analysis identified several demographic, socioeconomic, and usage variables as significant determinants of segment membership.

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R.C. Ebel, B.L. Campbell, M.L. Nesbitt, W.A. Dozier, J.K. Lindsey and B.S. Wilkins

Estimates of long-term freeze-risk aid decisions regarding crop, cultivar, and rootstock selection, cultural management practices that promote cold hardiness, and methods of freeze protection. Citrus cold hardiness is mostly a function of air temperature, but historical weather records typically contain only daily maximum (Tmax) and minimum (Tmin) air temperatures. A mathematical model was developed that used Tmax and Tmin to estimate air temperature every hour during the diurnal cycle; a cold-hardiness index (CHI500) was calculated by summing the hours ≤10°C for the 500 h before each day; and the CHI500 was regressed against critical temperatures (Tc) that cause injury. The CHI500 was calculated from a weather station located within 0.1 km of an experimental grove and in the middle of the satsuma mandarin (Citrus unshiu Marc.) industry in southern Alabama. Calculation of CHI500 was verified by regressing a predicted CHI500 using Tmax and Tmin, to a measured CHI500 calculated using air temperatures measured every hour for 4 winter seasons (1999-2003). Predicted CHI500 was linearly related to measured CHI500 (r 2 = 0.982). However, the slope was a little low such that trees with a CHI500 = 400, near the maximum cold-hardiness level achieved in this study, had predicted Tc that was 0.5 °C lower than measured Tc. Predicted and measured Tc were similar for nonhardened trees (CHI500 = 0). The ability of predicted Tc to estimate freeze injury was determined in 18 winter seasons where freeze injury was recorded. During injurious freeze events, predicted Tc was higher than Tmin except for a freeze on 8 Mar. 1996. In some freezes where the difference in Tc and Tmin was <0.5 °C there were no visible injury symptoms. Injury by the freeze on 8 Mar. 1996 was due, in part, to abnormally rapid deacclimation because of defoliation by an earlier freeze on 4-6 Feb. the same year. A freeze rating scale was developed that related the difference in Tc and Tmin to the extent of injury. Severe freezes were characterized by tree death (Tc - Tmin > 3.0 °C), moderate freezes by foliage kill and some stem dieback (1.0 °C ≤ Tc - Tmin ≤ 3.0 °C), and slight freezes by slight to no visible leaf injury (Tc - Tmin < 1.0 °C). The model was applied to Tmax and Tmin recorded daily from 1948 through 2004 to estimate long-term freeze-risk for economically damaging freezes (severe and moderate freeze ratings). Economically damaging freezes occurred 1 out of 4 years in the 56-year study, although 8 of the 14 freeze years occurred in two clusters, the first 5 years in the 1960s and 1980s. Potential modification of freeze-risk using within-tree microsprinkler irrigation and more cold-hardy cultivars was discussed.