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  • Author or Editor: Steven Berkheimer x
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Injury has been observed since the early to mid-1990s to highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) growing along roads in southern Michigan. Symptoms include shoot dieback, flower bud mortality, and reduced yields. To determine if this injury was the result of deicing salts applied to roads, salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) spray was applied to potted blueberry plants, and to the plant root zones. Bushes sprayed six times during the winter with NaCl solutions (0, 0.034, 0.068, 0.137, 0.274, 0.548 m) developed the same injury symptoms observed in roadside fields, and injury severity was proportional to the spray concentration. The root media of other potted plants was saturated with NaCl solutions (0, 0.017, 0.051, 0.154, and 0.462 m) in Mar. 2002. Pots were then rinsed with fresh well water when growth began in April to determine if soil salt caused similar damage. The highest soil salt levels killed most above ground growth, and damage diminished with decreasing salt levels. Twigs were also excised from branches sprayed twice with NaCl solutions or water and frozen incrementally to measure the temperature resulting in 50% flower bud mortality (LT50). Salt exposure reduced the LT50 of flower buds, by as much as 11.5 °C, relative to the control, even within 2 days of treatment. Additional studies with chloride salts (NaCl, KCl, CaCl2, MgCl2) and sodium salts (NaCl, Na-acetate, Na2SO4) indicated that most reduced the cold tolerance of blueberry flower buds to some degree.

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Seven primocane-fruiting and 15 floricane-fruiting raspberry varieties (Rubus idaeus) were compared for three fruiting seasons on a loamy sand soil in southwest Michigan. The earliest primocane-fruiting varieties (`Autumn Bliss', `Autumn Britten', `Polana') began ripening 3 weeks before the standard variety, `Heritage'. `Autumn Bliss' was the most productive early primocane-fruiting variety. `Caroline' and `Dinkum' ripened about 1 week earlier than `Heritage', and `Ruby' was 2 days later. `Caroline' was the most productive of this group and also had large fruit that were somewhat resistant to rot caused by Botrytis cinerea. `Caroline' also received the greatest leaf feeding from rosechafer beetles (Macrodactylus subspinosus). Most primocane-fruiting varieties were fairly resistant to leaf spot (Sphaerulina rubi), while `Dinkum' was highly susceptible to spur blight (Didymella applanata). Floricane-fruiting varieties were evaluated based on fruit production and quality as well as winter injury to canes, disease resistance, and feeding injury from two-spotted spider mites (Tetranychus urticae). The floricane-fruiting varieties showing minimal winter injury were `Boyne', `Killarney', `Latham', `Nova', and `Prelude'. `Canby', `Encore', `Glen Ample,', `Qualicum', `Reveille', `Titan', and `K 81-6' were moderately hardy; while `Tulameen', `Malahat', and `Lauren' were not hardy enough for this location. `Reveille', `Killarney', `Boyne', and `Prelude' were the most productive floricane-fruiting varieties. `Nova' and `Qualicum' had low levels of botrytis rot. `Nova' was most resistant to leaf spot and also had resistance to spur blight. Injury from mites was greatest on `Glen Ample' and lowest on `Malahat', `Prelude', `Qualicum', and `Tulameen'. `Caroline' (primocane-fruiting), `Prelude', and `Nova' (floricane-fruiting) were promising newer varieties.

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Some highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) fields adjacent to Michigan roads exhibit abnormally high levels of winter fl ower bud mortality and twig dieback, even following relatively mild winters. This work was conducted to determine if this injury was caused by deicing salts (primarily sodium chloride) that are applied to adjacent roads and blown by the wind onto bushes. Flower bud mortality was recorded in the spring at several locations within six farms adjacent to divided highways treated with deicing salts. Four farms were east of highways (downwind of prevailing wind direction) and two were west (upwind) of highways. Each May for 3 years, the numbers of live and dead fl ower buds were counted on plants located varying distances from the highway. Bush position and distance from the highway were determined with global positioning system (GPS) equipment. Bud health was also assessed monthly during the winter. In fields located downwind of highways, bud mortality was consistently greatest close to the road and decreased with distance. Salt had an apparent effect on mortality 60 to 120 m from the highway, depending on the year. In fields west or upwind of highways, bud mortality was not consistently related to distance from the highway. Flower bud injury was evident by mid-January, and increased throughout the winter. Results indicated that wind-blown salt spray can cause considerable injury in blueberry fields close to salted roads.

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