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Shannon Caplan, Bryan Tilt, Gwen Hoheisel and Tara A. Baugher

Increasing labor costs and changes in labor forces have prompted an increased demand for automation in specialty crop production. Implementation of technological innovations in the agricultural sector tends to be slow, thus this study investigated motivations and perceptions of technology. Using qualitative interviewing and analysis, this study used a diffusion of innovations framework to gain insight into what channels of communications impacted planned adoption rates and what aspects of technology influence the decision-making process. Interview participants emphasized the inevitability of implementing new technologies while considering the capital investment of more complex technology, changes in labor management to integrate technology, applicability of technology to current practices, and trust in technology designers.

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Stephen S. Miller, James R. Schupp, Tara A. Baugher and Scott D. Wolford

Peach (Prunus persica L. Batsch) thinning is a costly and time-consuming but necessary practice to produce a crop of marketable size fruit. A number of mechanical devices and methods have been developed and evaluated to reduce the cost and time required for hand thinning peach. This report provides additional evidence that a Darwin string thinner can effectively thin peach at bloom and a spiked drum shaker can thin at bloom or at the green fruit (pit hardening) stage. Five trials were conducted over 2 years in grower orchards with trees trained to a perpendicular V system. A Darwin string thinner at 60% to 80% full bloom (FB) reduced crop load (fruit/cm2 limb cross-sectional area) on scaffold limbs by 21% to 50% compared with a hand-thinned control. At the 60% FB stage, a USDA-designed double-spiked drum shaker reduced crop load by 27% and in another trial, a USDA prototype single-drum shaker reduced crop load by 9%. Across all trials, the spiked drum shakers (single or double units) removed an average of 37% of the green fruit. All mechanical devices reduced the time required for follow-up hand thinning. Follow-up hand-thinning costs (US$/ha) were reduced an average of 27% by mechanical thinning devices over hand-thinned control trees. Fruit size was increased over hand-thinned controls by mechanical thinning in most, but not all, trials. A combined treatment of the Darwin string thinner at bloom followed by a drum shaker (single or double unit) at the green fruit stage produced the greatest net economic impact in a number of the trials. Despite overthinning in some trials, the mechanical thinning devices described provide a potential alternative to hand thinning alone in peach production.

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Ian J. Warrington, David C. Ferree, James R. Schupp, Frank G. Dennis Jr. and Tara A. Baugher

The characteristics of 1-year-old vegetative spurs growing on 2-year-old branches were measured on 28 `Delicious' apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) strains growing on M.7 rootstocks at Clarksville, Mich., and on 23 strains of `Delicious' on M.7a rootstocks at Kearneysville, W.Va. Spur-type strains typically had densities >20 to 21 spurs/m, and high spur leaf numbers, leaf areas per spur, leaf areas per leaf, and terminal bud diameters, whereas values for standard strains were generally lower. However, for most spur quality characteristics, there was a continuous range of values between the extremes rather than any distinct grouping into either spur or standard type. At both sites, spur density was significantly and positively correlated with yield efficiency. In a related study, the spur characteristics of `Starkspur Supreme' were measured on nine rootstocks: M.7 EMLA, M.9 EMLA, M.26 EMLA, M.27 EMLA, M.9, MAC 9, MAC 24, OAR 1, and Ottawa 3. Spur leaf number and spur leaf area were both high with vigorous rootstocks, whereas spur density was low. The rootstocks MAC 9, M.9, and M.9 EMLA had the highest yield efficiencies.

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Suman Singha, Tara A. Baugher, Edwin C. Townsend and Mervyn C. D'Souza

Fruit of 10 `Delicious' apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) strains were harvested 149 days after full bloom in 1988. Fruit color was measured at four locations on each fruit at the midpoint between the stem and calyx end with a Minolta CR-200b portable tristimulus calorimeter. Anthocyanin content of corresponding skin disks was determined spectrophotometrically. Significant differences existed among strains in both the amount and distribution of anthocyanin around the fruit. High-coloring strains had a significantly higher anthocyanin concentration at both the blushed and the nonblushed surface when compared to low-coloring strains. A linear regression of anthocyanin content on the ratio of (a*/b*)2 provided an R2 = 0.59; precision was enhanced by using a separate equation for each strain (R2 = 0.80). Regressing log (anthocyanin) on L* using two linear splines yielded an R2 = 0.78. These relationships allow the use of a portable calorimeter for rapid, nondestructive estimation of fruit anthocyanin content in situ.

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Tara A. Baugher, Kendall C. Elliott, David W. Leach, B.D. Horton and Stephen S. Miller

Studies were conducted on peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] during 1988 to 1990 to test the performance of a tree-width rope-curtain bloom thinner and a rotating rope-curtain thinner. Six trips over the tree canopy were required with the tree-width rope curtain, and only one trip was required with the rotating curtain to thin to a spacing of about one flower per 9 cm of fruiting shoot length. Based on the number of flowers per square centimeter of branch cross-sectional area (CSA) immediately following thinning and the number of fruit per square centimeter of CSA following June drop, rope-curtain thinning was equal to hand-thinning at full bloom (FB). Rope-curtain thinning reduced hand-thinning time by 40% and increased harvest fruit weight by 10% to 20%. Research on various modifications in tree training/pruning indicated that performance of the mechanical thinner was negatively correlated with shoot density. Thinning was maximum on open-center-trained trees on which detailed pruning had been conducted to eliminate overlapping shoots.

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Gary W. Stutte, Tara A. Baugher, Sandra P. Walter, David W. Leach, D. Michael Glenn and Thomas J. Tworkoski

A study was conducted to quantify the effects of rootstock and training system on C allocation in apple. Dry-matter distribution was determined at harvest in 5-year-old `Golden Delicious' apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) trees on four rootstocks (MM.111 EMLA, M.7a, M.26 EMLA, and M.9 EMLA) and in three training systems (three-wire palmette, free-standing central leader, and nonpruned). Mobilizable carbohydrate content was determined at harvest and leaf fall in trees from the same planting on MM.111 EMLA and M.9 EMLA in all three training systems. Training system effects interacted with rootstock effects in dry weights of branches and of fruit. Nonpruned system shoot and fruit dry weights reflected known rootstock vigor; whereas, pruned system (three-wire and central leader) shoot dry weights were greatest and fruit dry weights were lowest in trees on M.7a. Rootstock affected the partitioning of dry matter between above- and below-ground tree components, with MM.111 EMLA accumulating significantly more dry matter in the root system than trees on the other rootstocks. Trees in the central leader and the three-wire palmette systems partitioned more dry weight into nonbearing 1-year shoots than trees in the nonpruned system. Root starch content at harvest was greater in trees on MM.111 EMLA than on M.9 EMLA, and root sucrose and sorbitol were less in trees on MM.111 EMLA compared to M.9 EMLA. At leaf fall, starch in young roots was equal in trees on both rootstocks, and sorbitol again was lower in trees on MM.111 EMLA. Harvest starch content of roots, shoots, and branches was lower in nonpruned than in pruned trees. At leaf fall, root, shoot, and branch starch content increased in nonpruned and central leader-trained trees but did not increase in three-wire palmette-trained trees.

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James R. Schupp, H. Edwin Winzeler, Thomas M. Kon, Richard P. Marini, Tara A. Baugher, Lynn F. Kime and Melanie A. Schupp

Pruning is the cutting away of vegetation from plants for horticultural purposes. Pruning is known to reduce apple tree size, increase fruit size and quality, and decrease yield. Methods for studying the effects of varying degrees of severity of pruning on a whole-tree basis have used qualitative descriptions of treatments rather than repeatable whole-tree quantitative metrics. In this study, we introduce a pruning severity index calculated from the sum of the cross-sectional area of all branches on a tree at 2.5 cm from their union to the central leader divided by the cross-sectional area of its central leader at 30 cm from the graft union. This limb to trunk ratio (LTR) was then modified by successively removing the largest branches of ‘Buckeye Gala’ to achieve six severity levels ranging from LTR 0.5 to LTR 1.75, with lower values representing more extreme pruning with less whole-tree limb area relative to trunk area. Pruning treatments were applied for three consecutive years and tree growth and cropping responses were observed for the first 2 years. With increasing pruning severity the following characteristics increased after seasonal growth: number of renewal limbs, number of shoots, shoot length, number of shoot leaves, shoot leaf area, final fruit set, fruit size, yield of large fruit, crop value from large fruit, soluble solids, and titratable acidity. The following characteristics decreased: limb age, number of secondary limbs, number of spurs, number of spur leaves, spur leaf area, the ratio of spur leaf area to shoot leaf area, fruit count per tree, yield, yield efficiency, crop value from small fruit, overall crop value, and sugar:acid ratio. The LTR provides a measurable way to define and create different levels of pruning severity and achieve consistent outcomes. This allows a greater degree of accuracy and precision to dormant pruning of tall spindle apple trees. The use of the LTR to establish the level of pruning severity allows the orchard manager to set crop load potential through regulation of the canopy bearing surface. This metric is also a necessary step in the development of autonomous pruning systems.

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D. Michael Glenn, Gary J. Puterka, Stephen R. Drake, Thomas R. Unruh, Allen L. Knight, Pedro Baherle, Ernesto Prado and Tara A. Baugher

Particle film technology is a developing pest control system for tree fruit production systems. Trials were performed in Santiago, Chile, and York Springs, Pa., Wenatchee and Yakima, Wash., and Kearneysville, W. Va., to evaluate the effect of particle treatments on apple [Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill. var. domestica (Borkh) Manst.] leaf physiology, fruit yield, and fruit quality. Leaf carbon assimilation was increased and canopy temperatures were reduced by particle treatments in seven of the eight trials. Yield and/or fruit weight was increased by the particle treatments in seven of the eight trials. In Santiago and Kearneysville, a* values of the fruit surface were more positive in all trials although a* values were not increased in Wenatchee and Yakima. Results indicate that particle film technology is an effective tool in reducing heat stress in apple trees that may result in increased yield potential and quality.