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Roberto Nunez-Elisea and Lilia Caldeira

We tested two severities and four timings of summer pruning in 2-year-old `Sweetheart' (P. avium L.) trees on seedling mazzard (P. avium L.) rootstock to evaluate growth and precocity responses. Trees were planted at 3.6 m × 5.6 m (497 trees/ha). Canopies consisted of three to four scaffolds and about 20 current-season shoots. All shoots on summer-pruned trees (n=6) were either headed or tipped on 24 June, 9 July, 26 July, or 9 Aug. 2004. Control trees were trained as steep leaders, with comparative current season shoots left intact. Trees had no bloom in 2004 and negligible bloom or fruiting in 2005. All 2005 shoots were headed in late July, except for controls, where only leaders were headed. By late Fall 2005, controls were 3.4 m tall with a canopy diameter of 3 m, while headed and tipped trees were about 65% and 75% the size of controls, respectively. Growth modules consisting of the original shoot and subsequent growth showed distinct responses to summer pruning treatments. Control shoots did not branch in 2004 and modules had an average of 17 spurs. Headed shoots branched in 2004 (except those headed 9 Aug.) and produced compact modules with a similar amount (24 June) or about 25% fewer (later heading treatments) spurs than controls. Shoots tipped in 24 June or 9 July branched in 2004 and produced modules with about 50% more spurs than controls. Shoots tipped in 26 July or 9 Aug. produced no new growth in 2004 and modules had about 30% the spurs of controls. Selective summer pruning produced compact trees which are expected (based on spur number) to yield at least 15 kg of fruit in 2006 (4th year) and appear suitable for densities of about 750 trees/ha. Yields, fruit quality, and future canopy management will be discussed.

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Roberto Nuñez-Elisea and Jonathan H. Crane

Carambola (Averrhoa carambola L.) is native to the humid tropics of southeastern Asia, where it bears fruit year-round. In south Florida, winter conditions (strong winds and night temperatures below 15 °C) repress growth and flowering of the main commercial cultivar, Arkin, and fruit is produced from July to February. Off-season fruit would reach premium prices. We have previously demonstrated that selective pruning stimulates flowering of carambola at any time of the year. However, flowers produced during cool, windy weather have consistently failed to set fruit. This study was conducted in 1994–1995 to determine whether protected cultivation would help obtain off-season fruit. Four-year-old `Arkin' trees growing in 80-L containers were placed in a glasshouse or outdoors and pruned in November or December to force flowering during December–January. Glasshouse night temperatures during the winter were above 20 °C. All trees flowered in response to pruning. Outdoor trees produced less than one fruit per tree in late March to late April. Glasshouse trees produced 2.3 to 6.1 fruit per tree, 2 to 3 weeks earlier than trees outdoors. In the glasshouse, more than 98% of fruit were seedless, whereas all fruit produced outdoors were seeded. Production of seedless fruit indoors was achieved in the absence of insect pollinators, and yields were low compared to those of outdoor trees during the summer (at least 25 fruit per tree). We speculate that, under protected cultivation, the use of synthetic bioregulators during anthesis and insect pollinators may help increase production of off-season seedless and seeded fruit, respectively.

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Roberto Nunez-Elisea*, Helen Cahn, Lilia Caldeira and Clark Seavert

A `Regina'/Gisela 6 sweet cherry orchard was planted in April 2001 to evaluate a row cover (RC) made of black, woven polypropylene fabric, in water conservation. Trees were trained to a central leader and planted at 3 m x 5.4 m. Soil water content and tree growth variables were compared for trees growing with or without a 2.4 m-wide RC. Irrigation of all trees replenished approximately 80% of weekly evaporation rate. Trees with RC maintained consistently higher (30% to 40%) soil moisture content at 30 cm depth than non-RC trees. In Spring 2003, trees in RC had significantly larger trunk cross sectional area (34%), height (7%), total wood length (65%), total number of branches (20%) and number of 1-year-old-shoots (45%) compared to trees with no row cover. Length of 1-year-old wood for trees in RC was two-fold that of non-covered trees. In Summer 2003, RC had no clear effect on bloom time, intensity or duration. Fruit yields were light and not affected by RC, but fruit size was slightly larger for trees in RC. Although trees were not fertilized, foliar nitrogen content was significantly higher and leaf green color was notably darker green for trees with RC. During Spring and Summer 2003, soil temperatures under RC at 5-cm and-10 cm depths were generally 1 °C to 2 °C warmer than in non-covered ground. The RC did not affect air temperature at 10 cm and 30 cm above ground. It is speculated that RC promoted tree growth by a combined increased available soil moisture and warmer root temperatures, which favor root development and nutrient uptake, particularly in the absence of competing weeds. Increased branching in trees with RC is unclear. It is possible that light quality above RC triggers developmental changes resulting in increased vegetative budbreak.

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Roberto Nunez-Elisea, Helen Cahn, Lilia Caldeira and Clark F. Seavert

Black, woven polypropylene row covers were compared to chemical sprays as methods to manage ground vegetation in a `Regina'/Gisela 6 orchard planted in 2001. Row covers were installed within 1 month of planting. Exposed row cover width was 2.4 m, with edges (30 cm on each side) buried in the ground. Only a 30-cm band along the edge of row covers was sprayed with herbicide to facilitate mowing. Weed management of control trees consisted of chemical herbicide sprays. Trees were not fertilized since planting in 2001. Irrigation of all trees was applied with low volume (20 L·h-1) microsprinklers and scheduled according to soil water content. Row covers significantly increased trunk cross-sectional area (TCSA) by about 30% annually. By Summer 2004, trees with ground covers had filled their allotted space within rows, while control canopies were ≈50 cm apart. Trees in row covers produced a 130% higher average yield than controls (7.4 kg/tree vs. 3.2 kg/tree). Row covers produced larger and firmer fruit, which matured 2–3 days later than controls. Groundcovers slightly increased soil temperature from April to September by ≈2 °C at 5- and 10-cm depths. Roots under ground covers were denser and more spread out than in controls and water use efficiency was higher for trees growing in ground covers. Amount and labor for herbicide application was reduced to less than half with row covers. Although ground covers are expensive at ≈$2000 per acre, their cost could be offset by earlier and higher production and by long-term savings in labor, water use, and herbicides. Durability of row covers is expected to exceed 15 years.

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Roberto Núñez-Elisea, Bruce Schaffer, Mongi Zekri, Stephen K. O'Hair and Jonathan H. Crane

Most tropical fruit trees in southern Florida are grown in calcareous gravelly soil that is mechanically trenched to a depth of about 50 cm (about 20 inches). Fruit trees are often planted at the intersections of perpendicular trenches to provide space for root development. Tree root systems are concentrated in the top 10 to 20 cm (about 4 to 8 inches) of soil. Extreme soil rockiness has made it difficult to obtain consistent and reliable measurements of soil water status and to collect soil samples for constructing soil-water characteristic curves in the laboratory. Multisensor capacitance probes andlow-tension [0 to 40 kPa (centibars) (0 to 5.8 lb/inch2)] tensiometers were installed adjacent to star fruit (Averrhoa carambola L.) and avocado (Persea americana Mill.) trees in trenches to simultaneously measure volumetric soil water content and soil matric potential in situ. Capacitance probes consisted of four sensors centered at depths of 10, 20, 30, and 50 cm (3.9, 7.9, 11.8, and 19.7 inches). Tensiometers were installed at 10- and 30-cm depths, adjacent to the 10- and 30-cm deep capacitance sensors. Measurements obtained with both instruments were used to generate in situ soil-water characteristic curves. Rock fragments were more abundant at 30 cm than at 10 cm (71% to 73% versus 26% to 38% of bulk soil volume, respectively) soil depth, which limited the precision of tensiometers at the greater depth. In situ soil water characteristic curves for the 10-cm soil depth can be used to determine parameters needed for irrigation scheduling by techniques such as the water budget method.

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Xinhua Yin, Clark F. Seavert, Janet Turner, Roberto Núñez-Elisea and Helen Cahn

The impacts of synthetic polypropylene groundcover in the row area of young sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) trees (Regina on Gisela 6) on soil nutrient availability, tree mineral nutrition and productivity, and cash costs and returns were investigated on a Van Horn fine sandy loam soil at Hood River, Ore., from 2001 to 2005. Treatments included 2.44-m wide synthetic fabric groundcover made of black, woven polypropylene over the row area of cherry trees and no groundcover but with herbicide applications in the row area with the same width as the polypropylene groundcover. Soil-available NO3 , P, K, Ca, Mg, S, B, Zn, Mn, and Cu contents in 0 to 30 cm in August did not differ significantly between the cover and no cover treatments in any year except 2005, when soil N and K levels were lower with polypropylene cover. Leaf N concentration in August was enhanced by 11% to 19% each year in the polypropylene cover treatment. However, leaf P concentration was lowered by 19% to 37% with polypropylene cover each year; and leaf Ca and Mg concentrations were reduced by 9% to 13% and 6% to 24%, respectively, as a result of polypropylene cover in 3 of 5 years. Reduced leaf P, Ca, and Mg concentrations in the cover treatment were attributed to the diluting effects of enhanced tree growth and fruit yield. Cumulative cash costs for the orchard within the first 4 years before fruit production were $5246/ha higher with polypropylene cover relative to no cover. However, these costs were offset quickly by increased returns from enhanced fruit yields. In the long-term, more fertilizers may need to be applied on polypropylene groundcovered trees to compensate for the enhanced tree growth and fruit production.

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Xinhua Yin, Janet Turner, Clark Seavert, Roberto Nunez-Elisea and Helen Cahn

Theinfluences of a synthetic fabric cover in the row area of sweet cherry trees on soil fertility and plant nutrition are largely unknown. A field trial has been conducted on young `Regina' sweet cherry on a sandy loam soil at the Mid-Columbia Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Hood River, Ore., since 2001. The difference in soil NO - 3, P, K, Ca, Mg, S, B, Zn, Mn, Cu, pH, or organic matter was nonsignificant between the covered and non-covered treatments in any year. Leaf N content was 11% to 16% greater with the covered treatment compared with the non-covered treatment in 2002 and 2003, but leaf N was similar for the two treatments in 2001. Leaf P content was similar for the two treatments in 2001, but was about 36% less with the covered treatment than the non-covered treatment in 2002 and 2003. Leaf Ca content was decreased by 11% to 17% due to a synthetic fabric cover in 2002 and 2003. Leaf Mg content was 13% to 24% less with the covered treatment than the non-covered treatment in 2002 and 2003. However, the decreased leaf P, Ca, and Mg contents with the covered trees were due to the dilute effects of increased tree growth. The effects of a fabric cover on leaf K, S, B, Zn, Mn, and Cu contents were primarily nonsignificant. Our results suggest that although nutrient availability in the soil is not reduced by a wide synthetic fabric cover, higher rates of fertilizers may be needed for the covered sweet cherry trees due to the elevated tree growth and fruit production from a long-term perspective.