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  • Author or Editor: Scott Johnson x
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Minimal dormant pruning after the first and second growing seasons, followed by standard pruning thereafter, improved total tree yield in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th years after planting. Trees that were pruned in accordance with standard local practice had ≈50% yield compared to minimally pruned trees in years 3 through 5. Fruit from minimally pruned trees was sgnificantly smaller, but mathematical adjustment of crop load indicated that overall yield efficiency was improved in the 3rd and 4th years for trees receiving minimal pruning.

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Urea foliar sprays may be a more efficient and environmentally sound alternative to soil applied fertilizer N in the postharvest period in tree crop production in California. While tree crop sulfur (S) status can interact with tree N status to affect growth, we know of no study assessing tree crop leaf N and S dynamics following fall (postharvest) foliar urea applications. We conducted a field study to measure temporal dynamics of leaf N and leaf S (% dry weight basis) following postharvest urea sprays on prune (Prunusdomestica) and almond (Prunus dulcis). June-budded nursery stock prune (`French' on Myro 29C) and almond (`Price' on Lovell) trees were sprayed to dripping with 6.5% (w/w) and 10% (w/w) standard urea solutions, respectively. Prunes were sprayed on 1 Oct. 2003 and almonds on 18 Nov. 2003. Leaf samples were taken over a 3-week (almond) or 8-week (prune) period, beginning just before treatment. Foliar urea sprays significantly increased prune (23%) and almond (14%) leaf N compared to untreated control within 8 days of application. This affect was transient, as there were no differences in leaf N concentrations between treated and untreated trees at final leaf sampling. Urea sprays did not affect almond leaf S concentration relative to untreated trees. Prune leaf S was significantly reduced compared to untreated trees 8 days after treatment, but only on that sampling date. Remobilization of S from the leaves of control trees of either species was not apparent.

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Foliar urea sprays offer an alternative to soil applied fertilizers which could greatly reduce the potential for nitrate pollution of groundwater, The approach in the past has been to apply relatively small doses of urea in order to minimize leaf phytotoxicity. Our approach is to apply relatively large doses in the fall when leaf phytotoxicity is not a serious concern. Results on peach trees in the field indicated rapid uptake of foliar applied solutions of 4.3 to 8.8% urea (w/w) (2.0 to 4.0% N). About 80-90% of the urea was absorbed by the leaf within 24 hours. Leaf N levels suggest the majority of this urea was translocated from the leaf into the tree within 1 week despite damage to the leaf. There were no negative effects on flowering, fruit set and production in the following year as long as a very low biuret formulation of urea was used.

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Six irrigation strategies were imposed on a block of O'Henry peach trees irrigated by fanjets. Treatments received different percentages of ET during the various stages of fruit growth and postharvest. ET was estimated by a large weighing lysimeter containing 2 trees and located in the center of the block. Fruit diameters were measured weekly and final fruit weights were determined at harvest. Adjusted fruit weights were estimated by statistically adjusting each treatment to the same fruit load.

Adjusted fruit weight correlated well with soil water content during the month before harvest but not during early stages of fruit growth. Treatments which applied 50% ET during early stages of fruit growth showed reduced fruit size at that time. However, with applications of 150% ET during the final fruit growth stage, fruit size recovered. Adjusted fruit weight also correlated with measures of tree water status including midday leaf water potential and canopy temperature.

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One of the deterrents to the commercial adoption of controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) on a broad scale is the significant energy cost for lighting and thermal environmental control. Advances in energy conversion technologies, such as internal combustion engines (ICs), microturbines and fuel cells, offer the potential for combined heat and power (CHP) systems, which can be matched with the needs of CEA to reduce fossil-based fuels consumption. A principal concept delineated is that an integrated entrepreneurial approach to create business and community partnerships can enhance the value of energy produced (both electrical and heat). Energy production data from a commercial dairy farm is contrasted with energy use data from two greenhouse operations with varying energy-input requirements. Biogass produced from a 500-cow dairy combined with a 250-kW fuel cell could meet nearly all of the energy needs of both the dairy and an energy-intensive 740-m2 CEA greenhouse lettuce facility. The data suggest CEA greenhouses and other closely compatible enterprises can be developed to significantly alter agriculture, as we have known it.

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Fruit size is a valuable commercial trait in blueberry. The cellular basis of variation in fruit size among rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei) genotypes was investigated. Twenty genotypes, including cultivars and advanced selections from the University of Georgia blueberry breeding program, were analyzed. Among the 20 genotypes, fruit weight and fruit diameter varied by over threefold and 1.6-fold, respectively. Regression analysis indicated a linear relationship between fruit weight and fruit diameter (R2 = 0.97, P < 0.001), suggesting that fruit diameter is a good predictor of fruit weight. Among the 20 genotypes, mesocarp cell number and cell area varied by almost 2.5-fold and 1.5-fold, respectively. Although fruit diameter and cell number were significantly related (R2 = 0.79, P < 0.001), no relationship could be established between fruit diameter and cell area. These data indicate that variation in fruit size among rabbiteye blueberry genotypes is primarily facilitated by variation in cell number. Two small and two large fruit size genotypes were further analyzed. Differences in cell number among some of these genotypes were apparent at bloom suggesting that cell production before bloom is an important mechanism contributing to variation in final cell number. Differences in final cell number among other genotypes were manifested during fruit development, indicating that cell production during fruit development was also instrumental in determining variation in final cell number. This study suggests that fruit size variation in rabbiteye blueberry genotypes is determined by mechanisms that regulate cell production before bloom and during fruit development.

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Vegetative growth of two peach (Prunus persica L. Batsch) cultivars Flavorcrest and Loadel growing on six different rootstocks (`Nemaguard', `Hiawatha', K-146-43, K-146-44, P-30-135, and K-119-50) was analyzed during the third season of growth in an experimental orchard at the University of California Kearney Agricultural Center near Parlier, California. Seasonal trunk cross-sectional area, shoot and internode growth, diurnal stem extension growth rate and summer and dormant pruning weights were measured to determine extent of size-control imparted by the experimental rootstocks compared to the trees on the `Nemaguard' control and to characterize the nature of the sizecontrolling response. Trunk cross-sectional area growth of trees on the two smallest rootstocks (K-146-43 and K-146-44) was only 25% to 37% of the growth of trees on `Nemaguard', while trees on the other three rootstocks provided an intermediate level of size control. Generally, the seasonal patterns of shoot growth did not vary substantially among trees on the different rootstocks, but average shoot and internode lengths did correspond with tree size. Vigorous watersprout growth was decreased by more than 80% in the trees on the least vigorous rootstocks compared to trees on `Nemaguard' resulting in major reductions in the extent of summer and winter pruning weights. Variations in vegetative shoot growth appeared to correspond to variations in daily shoot extension growth rates but more research is needed to explore these relationships.

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