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Timothy M. Spann and Michelle D. Danyluk

The adoption of mechanical harvesting for processing oranges is a major objective of the Florida citrus industry. A number of issues have slowed the adoption of this new technology, including the observation that the amount of leaves, stems, and dead branches (collectively termed “debris”) is greater in mechanically harvested than in hand-harvested loads of fruit. This debris increases transportation and processing costs. The objective of this research was to determine the amount and types of debris in mechanically harvested loads of sweet oranges compared with hand-harvested controls. Mechanical harvesting was found to increase the amount of debris per load of fruit by as much as 250% compared with hand-harvested fruit. This translates into ≈108 kg of debris compared with 71 kg (fresh weight) per 27 t load for mechanically harvested and hand-harvested fruit, respectively. Across harvesting method, leaves were the largest component of debris, accounting for ≈60% of total debris, small stems (less than 5 mm diameter) accounted for ≈35%, and the remaining 5% was large stems (greater than 5 mm diameter). In addition, the amount of sand on the surface of mechanically harvested fruit that was picked up from the orchard floor was found to be up to 10 times greater compared with hand-harvested controls. Engineers developing debris elimination systems for mechanical harvesting systems can use the data from this study to determine the performance requirements of their systems. The data are also useful for economic analyses of the costs of mechanical harvesting.

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Timothy M. Spann and Holly A. Little

‘Hamlin’ sweet orange trees on ‘Carrizo’ citrange and ‘Swingle’ citrumelo rootstocks were treated weekly with a commercial extract of the brown seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum at 5 and 10 mL·L−1 as either a soil drench or foliar spray. Half of the trees in each treatment were subjected to drought stress [irrigated at 50% of evapotranspiration (ET)], whereas the other half remained fully irrigated (100% ET). Drought stress reduced shoot growth and leaf photosynthesis but increased root and total plant growth relative to the amount of water applied, thus increasing whole plant water use efficiency. Trees treated with seaweed extract and drought-stressed had significantly more total growth than untreated drought-stressed trees for both rootstocks. The maintenance of growth by the seaweed extract under drought stress conditions was unrelated to photosynthesis. However, the seaweed extract treatment did have a significant effect on plant water relations. Soil drench-treated trees had more growth and higher stem water potential than foliar-treated or control trees after 8 weeks of drought stress. These results indicate that seaweed extract may be a useful tool for improving drought stress tolerance of container-grown citrus trees.

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Antonios E. Tsagkarakis, Michael E. Rogers, and Timothy M. Spann

Asian citrus psyllid [ACP (Diaphorina citri)] is an important pest of citrus (Citrus sp.) in many citrus-growing regions of the world because of its status as the vector of huanglongbing disease [HLB (citrus greening)]. There are currently no HLB-resistant citrus genotypes and no proven treatments for the disease; thus, vector control through the use of frequent prophylactic pesticide applications is key to managing the spread of this disease. However, this practice is unsustainable and other means of altering ACP biology or reducing populations are needed. To this end, six plant growth regulators (PGRs) were tested to determine their effect on citrus tree vegetative growth and the subsequent impact on the biology of ACP. In greenhouse and growth chamber experiments, ACP reared on trees treated with prohexadione calcium and mefluidide exhibited significant reductions in both fecundity and survivorship, whereas uniconazole affected only fecundity and paclobutrazol affected only survivorship. No significant effects of PGRs on adult ACP weight were observed except on uniconazole-treated trees. No eggs were laid on dikegulac sodium-treated trees; however, this was likely the result of severe phytotoxicity rather than a true PGR effect. Oviposition rate was lower on all the PGR-treated trees, except chlormequat chloride under greenhouse conditions, compared with untreated control trees. In general, oviposition was delayed on PGR-treated trees compared with untreated controls. The observed changes in ACP biology and behavior after PGR treatment were not the result of a reduction in the number of suitable oviposition sites (i.e., growth reduction) or toxicity of the PGRs to ACP, suggesting there were PGR-induced plant biochemical changes that altered host plant quality. Leaf nutrient analyses and photosynthesis indicated that there were no correlative changes in plant nutrient status or carbon assimilation that led to the changes in ACP behavior, although it is possible that phloem-specific nutrient or carbohydrate changes could have occurred that were not detected in our whole-leaf analyses. These results support previous studies in which the fitness of various insect species has been affected by PGR applications, but more research is needed to understand the changes in plant chemistry that are responsible.

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Timothy M. Spann, Jeffrey G. Williamson, and Rebecca L. Darnell

Experiments were conducted with V. darrowi and two cultivars of southern highbush blueberry, `Sharpblue' and `Misty,' to test whether V. darrowi and cultivars derived from it are photoperiodic with respect to flower bud initiation. Plants of each cultivar were grown under three different photoperiod treatments [long days (LD) = 16-hour photoperiod; short days (SD) = 8-hour photoperiod; and short days + night interrupt (SD-NI) = 8-hour photoperiod with 1-hour night interrupt] at constant 21 °C for 8 weeks. Vegetative growth was greatest in the LD plants of both cultivars. Flower bud initiation occurred only in the SD treatments, and the lack of flower bud initiation in the SD-NI treatment indicates that flower bud initiation is a phytochrome mediated response in Vaccinium. Previously initiated flower buds on the V. darrowi plants developed and bloomed during the LD treatment, but bloom did not occur in the SD and SD-NI treatment plants until after those plants were moved to LD. These data indicate that flower bud initiation in both V. darrowi and southern highbush blueberry is photoperiodically sensitive, and is promoted by short days, while flower bud development is enhanced under long days.

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Timothy M. Spann, Jeffrey G. Williamson, and Rebecca L. Darnell

Experiments were conducted with `Misty' southern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L. interspecific hybrid) to test the effects of high temperature on flower bud initiation and carbohydrate accumulation and partitioning. Plants were grown under inductive short days (SDs = 8 hour photoperiod) or noninductive SDs with night interrupt (SD-NI = 8 hour photoperiod + 1 hour night interrupt), at either 21 or 28 °C for either 4 or 8 weeks. Flower bud initiation occurred only in the inductive SD treatments and was significantly reduced at 28 °C compared with 21 °C. The number of flower buds initiated was not significantly different between 4- and 8-week durations within the inductive SD, 21 °C treatment. However, floral differentiation appeared to be incomplete in the 4-week duration buds and bloom was delayed and reduced. Although plant carbohydrate status was not associated with differences in flower bud initiation between SD and SD-NI treatments, within SD plants, decreased flower bud initiation at high temperature was correlated with decreased whole-plant carbohydrate concentration. These data indicate that flower bud initiation in southern highbush blueberry is a SD/long night phytochrome-mediated response, and plant carbohydrate status plays little, if any, role in regulating initiation under these experimental conditions.

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Timothy M. Spann*, Robert H. Beede, Steven A. Weinbaum, and Theodore M. DeJong

Rootstock significantly alters the pattern of shoot growth of pistachio (Pistacia vera) cv. Kerman. Trees on P. atlantica typically produce a single flush of spring growth whereas trees on P. integerrima selection PGI and P. atlantica × P. integerrima selection UCB-1 can produce multiple flushes during the season. Terminal buds of shoots on all three rootstocks were dissected during the dormant season to determine the number of preformed nodes. Data indicate that there are 8-9 nodes preformed in the dormant terminal bud of shoots from Kerman trees and that this number is independent of rootstock, canopy location, crop load, and shoot carbohydrate concentration, suggesting genetic control. This number corresponds with the number of nodes typically found on a shoot at the end of the spring growth flush. Unlike the spring flush which is preformed in the dormant bud, later flushes are neoformed, that is, nodes are initiated and extended during the same season. Neoformed growth depends on current season photosynthates and may compete with fruit growth for available resources. Neoformed growth is sensitive to water stress and trees on all three rootstocks grown under two levels of regulated deficit irrigation showed a reduction in both the number and length of neoformed shoots. Preformed shoot growth did not appear to be reduced under water stress conditions, supporting the hypothesis that preformed shoots are more dependent on environmental conditions during the season they are initiated than during the season they are extended. Additionally, preformed shoots on well irrigated trees were similar in length for all rootstocks, further supporting the idea that preformed shoots are under genetic control and are not easily manipulated.

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Timothy M. Spann, Luis V. Pozo, Igor Kostenyuk, and Jacqueline K. Burns

In Florida, the combined use of mechanical harvesters and the abscission agent 5-chloro-3-methyl-4-nitro-1H-pyrazole (CMNP) for late-season harvesting (May to June) of fruit of ‘Valencia’ orange is effective at removing mature fruit with minimal adverse effects on the subsequent season's crop. However, CMNP can cause fruit peel scarring, and no data were available on how this affects peel integrity and potential losses resulting from fruit crushing and/or decay before processing. In this study, two late-season harvest dates were tested in commercial orchards during 2009 and 2010. Harvesting treatments consisted of combinations of two mechanical harvester ground speeds (0.8 and 1.6 km·h−1), two harvester shaker head frequencies (185 and 220 cycles/min), and CMNP foliar applications (4 days before harvesting) at 250 and 300 mg·L−1 in a spray volume of 2810 L·ha−1 plus mechanically-harvested and hand-picked controls. After harvesting, fruit samples were randomly collected from each block for peel resistance and postharvest decay evaluations. Peel resistance was determined by measuring both peel puncture force and fruit crush force. Fruit used to study postharvest decay were stored at 27 °C and 50% relative humidity or ambient conditions and evaluated daily for 8 days. Peel resistance was unaffected by mechanical harvesting combinations or CMNP application. No significant effects on postharvest decay were found among treatments for at least 3 days after harvest. However, a significant increase in postharvest decay between CMNP-treated and untreated fruit began between 4 and 6 days after harvest such that by 8 days after harvest, decay was as high as 25% in CMNP-treated fruit. The results indicate that CMNP can be safely used in combination with late-season mechanical harvesting under the conditions described in this study without losses resulting from fruit crushing or decay for at least 3 days, a time period well within the normal commercial harvest-to-processing time of ≈36 h.

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Timothy Spann, Robert H. Beede, Steven A. Weinbaum, and Theodore M. DeJong

Rootstock significantly alters the pattern of shoot growth of pistachio (Pistacia vera) cv. Kerman. Trees grown on P. atlantica typically produce a single flush of spring growth, whereas trees on P. integerrima selection PGI and P. atlantica × P. integerrima selection UCB-1 can produce multiple flushes during the season. We have shown that the spring flush is entirely preformed in the dormant bud for all three rootstocks, but later flushes are neoformed, that is, nodes are initiated and extended during the same season. Shoots producing both preformed and neoformed growth have lower yield efficiency than those producing only preformed growth. Additionally, yield components of the crop from shoots with both preformed and neoformed growth was different than for shoots producing only preformed growth. However, these differences do not appear to be significant at the whole tree level. These data suggest that neoformed growth can both compete with fruit growth for available resources (lower yield efficiency) and act as an additional source (altered yield components), depending on the factor being measured. Controlling neoformed growth may potentially increase pistachio yield through a shift to the more efficient preformed shoots while at the same time lowering orchard maintenance costs by reducing required pruning. We have data to indicate that regulated deficit irrigation and new pruning techniques may be viable methods for controlling neoformed growth in pistachio without affecting yield.