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Stephen M. Southwick and James T. Yeager

Heavy fruit set of apricot (Prunus armeniaca) cultivars grown in California often require hand thinning to insure that adequate fruit size is obtained. Alternatives to costly hand thinning would be welcome. GA treatments made during flower bud initiation/differentiation have been previously shown to inhibit the development of floral and vegetative buds in a number of different tree fruit species. The effects of post-harvest limb and whole tree aqueous gibberellic acid (GA) sprays on flower and fruit production were investigated over a 3 year period in `Patterson' apricot. Limb treatments indicated the potential for utilizing postharvest GA sprays to reduce the number of flowers produced in the following season. Harvest fruit size (June 1989) was increased by a 100 mg·liter-1 GA whole tree spray applied 7 July 1988 when compared to non-thinned and hand thinned trees. Yield per tree was reduced by that GA spray, but not enough to show statistical differences. No abnormal tree growth responses have been observed in GA-sprayed trees to date. These results and those from the 1989 and 1990 growing seasons will be presented in effort to identify a role for whole tree postharvest GA sprays in a chemical thinning program suitable for commercial apricots.

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Stephen M. Southwick and James T. Yeager

Sweet cherries produce vigorous upright growth from Apr.-Sept. and are slow to bear in California. Our tree training objectives include earlier bearing, easier harvesting, high productivity of good quality fruit. `Bing' cherry on mazzard and mahaleb rootstock were planted in 7 blocks and trained 6 ways. One group was headed 12-18 inches above the bud union and 4 branches were retained at the 1st dormant pruning. Lateral buds were treated with promalin at bud-break to induce lateral shoot formation. Trees were spring-summer pruned to reduce terminal growth. At the second dormant pruning, strong shoots were removed and lateral shoots were treated with promalin to induce spur formation. Trees were treated likewise through the 3rd dormant season and produced a fair crop in the 4th season. Central leader trees were created by tying/weighting limbs, dormant and summer pruning, and retaining less vigorous limbs as well as utilizing promalin. Slow growing trees tended to bear fruit more rapidly. Both training methods yielded fruit in the 4th season while traditional pruning procedures produced few fruit. Data and procedures will be presented to document these practices.

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Jeff B. Million and T.H. Yeager

A goal of irrigation best management practices in container nurseries is to conserve water while maintaining optimal plant growth and quality. A web-based, container irrigation management program (CIRRIG) was developed to automatically provide daily irrigation run times for sprinkler-irrigated crops in container nurseries. The program estimates evapotranspiration rates based on weather uploaded from a weather station located on-site and plant production conditions monitored in each zone and adjusts irrigation run times based on irrigation application rate, the plant’s irrigation-capturing ability (for sprinkler irrigation), desired leaching fraction, and irrigation system uniformity. For this project we interfaced CIRRIG output with a programmable logic controller (PLC) to automatically irrigate a sprinkler-irrigated crop at a container nursery in Florida. Sweet viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum) in 10-inch-diameter containers were grown by the nursery for 24 weeks in adjacent irrigation zones, one controlled automatically using CIRRIG and the other by the nursery’s traditional practice of manually turning on and off irrigation. Water use was monitored with flowmeters and plant growth by measuring plant size and shoot dry weight periodically throughout the trial. Plant growth was not different (P < 0.05) because of irrigation practice. CIRRIG reduced water use during the study period by 21% (42 vs. 53 inches) compared with the nursery’s irrigation practice. An assessment of the water-saving benefits of making daily adjustments to irrigation run times based on weather including rain indicated savings of 25% and 40% compared with biweekly adjustments with and without automatic rain cutoff, respectively. This trial demonstrated that CIRRIG coupled with an on-site weather station and a computer-controlled irrigation system can be used to manage irrigation while conserving water in a container nursery.

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Stephen M. Southwick and James T. Yeager

Hand-thinning is required every season to ensure large fruit size of `Loadel' cling peach in California. Hand-thinning is costly. Chemical thinning could help to lower costs of hand-thinning. Armothin® {[N,N-bis2-(omega-hydroxypolyoxyethylene/polyoxypropylene)ethyl alkylamine], AKZO-Nobel, Inc., Chicago; AR} was sprayed at 80% of full bloom (FB), FB and FB + 3 days. The spray volume was 935 liters·ha–1. Concentrations of AR were 1%, 3%, and 5% AR applied at FB. No damage to fruit was noted. Leaf and fine shoot phytotoxicity were seen at 5% AR. The amount of time needed and number of fruits thinned were reduced by those same treatments. Salable yield and fruit size after AR treatments equaled those found on hand-thinned controls. Armothin® shows promise for chemical thinning of peach when used as a bloom spray that damages flowers, thereby reducing fruit set. An experimental use permit was issued for use of AR for stone fruit thinning in California during 1995.

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Warren C. Micke, Joseph A. Grant and James T. Yeager

`Gala', the third most widely planted apple cultivar in California, requires early and precise thinning to produce good fruit size. Thus, chemical thinning would be ideally suited for this cultivar. However, the normally prolonged bloom for apples in California makes timing of chemical thinning applications difficult. In 1995 and 1996 trials, several chemical thinning treatments provided significantly reduced fruit set on `Gala' compared to the untreated control. Three treatments showed promise for commercial use: 1) carbaryl, two applications at petal fall and again at 10-15 mm diameter of the king fruit; 2) carbaryl plus NAD at petal fall; and 3) carbaryl plus 6-benzyladenine and GA4+7 (Accel®), two applications at petal fall and at ≈10 mm diameter of the king fruit. These treatments generally gave reduced fruit set per 100 flower clusters, fruit set per fruiting cluster and/or numbers of fruit removed by follow-up hand-thinning. None of these treatments showed evidence of phytotoxicity, and some increased fruit size over the untreated control.

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Hannah M. Mathers, Luke T. Case and Thomas H. Yeager

As limitations on water used by container nurseries become commonplace, nurseries will have to improve irrigation management. Several ways to conserve water and improve on the management of irrigation water applied to container plants are discussed in this review. They include 1) uniform application, 2) proper scheduling of irrigation water, 3) substrate amendments that retain water, 4) reducing heat load or evaporative loss from containers, and 5) recycling runoff water.

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Shawn T. Steed, Allison Bechtloff, Andrew Koeser and Tom Yeager

Mulches have many positive benefits for the production of plants, ranging from weed suppression to water conservation. In this study, a novel method of using plastic film mulch for container-grown plants was evaluated. Plots of 25 japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum) in #1 (2.5 qt) nonspaced containers were wrapped with 1.25-mil white or black plastic mulch over the top and sides of containers. Small plants were planted through the plastic and grown for 22 weeks with overhead irrigation. Water application amount was determined by moisture sensors placed in the substrate of each treatment. Plant growth, dry weights (DWs), weed fresh weights, weeding time, substrate electrical conductivity (EC), substrate temperature, total water applied, and mulch costs were determined. Black plastic (BP) and white plastic (WP) mulch reduced water applied by 82% and 91%, respectively, compared with the nontreated control (NT). Nontreated control plants grew faster and had greater DW at the end of the experiment. Mulched containers had fewer weeds and required less labor to remove weeds than the NT treatment. Substrate EC level was greater in BP and WP treatments than for the NT after 20 weeks, and plastic mulch did not result in different substrate temperatures. Plastic mulch added $4.94/1000 containers ($2.24 input cost and $2.70 removal cost) to production costs, not including disposal costs. This novel method of mulching nonspaced plants reduced irrigation water, herbicide applications, and weeding labor, but probably added 2–3 weeks to finish time.

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Stephen M. Southwick, W. Krueger, J.T. Yeager and J. Osgood

French prunes (Prunus domestica L.) on myrobalan seedling rootstock were planted in 1981 in an east-west direction with 4.9 m between rows and 2.7 m between trees on a poorly drained Class II soil in Glenn County, CA. A randomized complete block design was used with 8 trees per plot. Trees were pruned by hand to an open-center tree form or pruned by machine to a pyramid form in the dormant or summer season resulting in 6 pruning treatments. This high density system has led to high yields of good quality fruit (9.18 dry tons/acre in 1989, sized at 78 fruit per pound). Hand pruning led to higher yields, larger fruit, lower drying ratios and a greater dollar return per acre than any of the machine pruned trees. Dormant machine pruning led to larger fruit produced than those trees pruned in the summer by machine. Mechanical pruning may be possible for short time periods, but continued practice led to smaller fruit with lower yields than hand pruning. Certain locations within the tree canopy had smaller fruit size and it is within those lower locations where fruit size needs to be improved. These and additional experimental results obtained from 1987 through 1989 growing seasons will be presented.

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Warren C. Micke, Mark W. Freeman and James T. Yeager

A replicated rootstock trial for almond was established in 1986 in the central San Joaquin Valley, a major almond growing area for this most widely planted tree crop in California. `Nonpareil', the major cultivar in California, was used for this trial with `Fritz' grown as the pollenizing cultivar. Two standard rootstocks for almond, `Nemaguard' and `Lovell' peach, were compared to two newer peach-almond hybrid rootstocks, `Bright's' and `Hansen'. After eight years both hybrid rootstocks produced significantly larger trees than the peach rootstocks, based on trunk cross-sectional area. Trees on hybrid rootstocks frequently produced greater yields than those on peach rootstocks; although, differences were not always significant. However, there were generally no significant differences in production per trunk cross-sectional area (yield efficiency). Thus, increased production by trees on hybrid rootstock was the result of larger tree size and not an inherent increase in productive efficiency of the tree itself. Since trees on hybrid rootstock should be planted further apart than those on peach, production per hectare should not be significantly increased, at least under good growing conditions as represented in this trial.

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Stephen M. Southwick, Kitren G. Weis and James T. Yeager

Hand thinning fruit is required every season to ensure large fruit size of `Loadel' cling peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] in California. Chemical thinning may lower costs of hand thinning. A surfactant, Armothin {[N,N-bis 2-(omega-hydroxypolyoxyethylene/polyoxypropylene) ethyl alkylamine]; AKZO-Nobel, Chicago; AR}, was sprayed at 80% of full bloom (FB), FB, and FB + 3 days. The spray volume was 935 liters/ha. Concentrations of AR were 1%, 3%, and 5% (v/v). An early hand thinning in late April, a normal hand thinning at 13 days before standard reference date (early May), and a nonthinned control were compared to bloom-thinned trees for set, yield, and fruit quality. AR resulted in no damage to fruit; however, slight leaf yellowing and burn and small shoot dieback were seen at the 5% concentration. Fruit set, and therefore, the number of fruit that had to be hand thinned, were reduced with 3% AR applied at 80% FB and 5% AR applied at all bloom phenophases (stages of bloom development). Thinning time was reduced by 37% (5% AR applied at 80% FB), 28% (5% applied at FB), and by 20% (3% applied at 80% of FB), compared to the normally hand-thinned control. Although AR resulted in early size (cross suture diameter and weight) advantages, at harvest there were no significant differences in fruit size among all AR treatments and the normally hand-thinned control. Total and salable yields of AR treatments and the normally hand-thinned control were equal. Armothin shows promise for chemical thinning of peach when used as a bloom thinner.