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  • Author or Editor: Wayne Mitchem x
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Tree fruit researchers and extension specialists from North Carolina (NC), South Carolina (SC), and Georgia (GA) have been collaborating informally for many years. There has been a desire to formalize some of these arrangements, and in late 1998 planning was intiated to develop an extension specialist position to cover orchard and vineyard floor management in NC, SC, and GA. Wayne Mitchem, who had this responsibility for NC as well as serving as the coordinator for the regional IR-4 field research center at NCSU, presented us with the opportunity to create a three-quarters time extension specialist position dealing solely with the management of weeds in tree fruits and vineyards on a regional basis. The proposal was presented to Extension Directors from NC, SC, and GA in Oct. 1998, and over the following 6 months a memorandum of understanding was developed among the three states to establish the position. The position is located in NC at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, Fletcher, and each of the states agreed to share equally in funding the salary. None of the three states had this expertise in their faculty and if the position were not created, we would have had a void in this important aspect of orchard and vineyard maintenance. In addition to weed manangement, the position will have responsibilty for conducting residue trials for the IR-4 program as it pertains to the labeling of minor use pesticides for tree fruits and vineyards.

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Orchard floor vegetation competes with peach trees for water and nutrients and may harbor pathogens and insects. Tree growth, fruit yield, and fruit size can be optimized through management of vegetation in the tree row and irrigation. Under-tree vegetation-free strip widths (0, 0.6, 1.2, 2.4, 3.0, and 3.6 m) and irrigation were studied in years four through eight of a young peach orchard to determine their effects on peach tree growth and fruit yield, harvest maturity, and fruit size. Immature fruit samples were collected during thinning in years four through six to determine the effect of the treatments on the incidence of hemipteran (catfacing) insect damage. Trunk cross-sectional area (TCSA), as a measure of tree growth, increased with increasing vegetation-free strip width; trees grown in the 3.6-m vegetation-free strip had TCSAs 2.2 times greater, on average, than trees grown in the 0-m vegetation-free strip. TCSA also increased with irrigation; trees grown with irrigation had TCSAs 1.2 times greater, on average, than trees grown without irrigation. Yield increased with increasing vegetation-free strip width, from 9.6 kg per tree in the 0-m plot to 26.5 kg per tree in the 3.6-m plot in year four, to 24.3 kg per tree in the 0-m plot and 39.6 kg per tree in the 3.6-m plot in year eight, for a total yield over years 4–8 per tree of 100 kg in the 0-m plot compared with 210 kg per tree in the 3.6-m plot. Yield, average fruit weight, and average fruit diameter increased with irrigation in three of 5 years; the other 2 years had higher than average rainfall reducing the need for supplemental irrigation. In 3 out of 5 years fruit in irrigated plots matured earlier than fruit in nonirrigated plots. In all years, fruit grown in the 0-m strip matured earliest and had the smallest diameter. Establishing a vegetation-free strip of as narrow as 0.6 m reduced the incidence of catfacing damage compared with the 0-m treatment, even though the orchard was on a commercial pesticide spray schedule. The least damage was seen with the industry standard vegetation-free strip widths greater than 3.0 m with or without irrigation.

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