The latest edition of Topics in Subtropics newsletter is out, Elizabeth Fichtner as editor. Read on.
TOPICS IN THIS ISSUE:
Why has California red scale been so difficult to control?
Navel Orange Nitrogen Fertilization
Recent Advances in Understanding the History of Olive Domestication
- Upcoming UC Olive Center Events
Years of drought, and a stressed tree are a perfect set up for navel oranges and fruit splitting.
The days have turned cooler and suddenly out of nowhere there is rain. That wonderful stuff comes down and all seems right with the world, but then you notice the navel fruit are splitting. Rats! No, a dehydrated fruit that has taken on more water than its skin can take in and the fruit splits. This is called an abiotic disease. Not really a disease but a problem brought on by environmental conditions.
Fruit splitting is a long-standing problem in most areas where navel oranges are grown. In some years, the number of split fruit is high; in other years it is low. Splitting in navel oranges usually occurs on green fruit between September and November. In some years, splitting may also occur in Valencia oranges but it is less of a problem than in navel oranges.
Several factors contribute to fruit splitting. Studies indicate that changes in weather including temperature, relative humidity and wind may have more effect on fruit splitting than anything else. The amount of water in a citrus tree changes due to weather conditions and this causes the fruit to shrink and swell as water is lost or gained. If the water content changes too much or too rapidly the rind may split. In navel oranges the split usually occurs near the navel, which is a weak point in the rind.
Proper irrigation and other cultural practices can help reduce fruit splitting. Maintaining adequate but not excessive soil moisture is very important. A large area of soil around a tree should be watered since roots normally grow somewhat beyond the edge of the canopy. Wet the soil to a depth of at least 2 feet then allow it to become somewhat dry in the top few inches before irrigating again. Applying a layer of coarse organic mulch under a tree beginning at least a foot from the trunk can help conserve soil moisture and encourage feeder roots to grow closer to the surface.
If trees are fertilized, apply the correct amount of plant food and water thoroughly after it is applied. If the soil is dry, first irrigate, then apply fertilizer and irrigate again.
Transpiration is essentially a function of the amount of leaves present. With no leaves, there is no transpiration and no water use. The extreme case is tree removal. If canopies are pruned there is reduced water use. The more canopy reduction, the more transpiration reduction. Most citrus produces terminal flowers, so there is also a reduction in yield, but there is also typically an increase in fruit size as competitive fruit growing points are removed. There is a balance between yield reduction and tree water use, but typically a 25% canopy reduction results in a 25% decrease in tree water use (Romero, 2006).
The severity of the drought will determine how drastic the canopy should be trimmed. The trees can be skeletonized so that only the main structural branches are left. The tree is whitewashed to prevent sunburn and the water is turned off. As the tree gradually leafs out, the water is gradually reapplied in small amounts. It's important to check soil moisture to make sure the tree do not get too much or too little water. The trees if pruned in the winter will often flower a year later in the spring, but normal production will often take three years for the trees to recover their previous yields.
Skeletonizing should first be practiced on orchards that are the poorest producing. In those areas that get too much wind and have lots of wind scarring or elevated water use, those areas that are most prone to frost damage, those areas that have been always problematic, such as fruit theft. In areas that are healthy and a new variety has been contemplated, this is the time to topwork and replace that old variety. In areas that have been poor producing from disease, this is the time to get rid of those trees.
Canopy sprays of kaolinite clay have shown some promise in reducing transpiration with negligible yield reduction (Skewes, 2013; Wright, 2000). If these are used, they should be done under the advisement of the packing house to make sure the clay can be removed in the packing house.
With a reduced canopy, there are often other benefits besides water reduction. There is better spray coverage for pest control. There is also reduced fertilizer use. New growth is normally coming from nutrients that are now being mined by a large root system and fertilizer applications can be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether for a year until fruit set recommences.
Kerns, D. and G. Wright. 2000. Protective and Yield Enhancement qualities of yield of kaolin on lemon. In: Eds. G. Wright and D. Kilby, AZ1178: "2000 Citrus and Deciduous Fruit and Nut Research Report," College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona. http://extension.arizona.edu/sites/extension.arizona.edu/files/pubs/az1178_3.pdf
Skewes, M. 2013 Citrus Drought Survival and Recovery Trial. HAL Project Number CT08014 (16/12/2013). SARDI. http://pir.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/238414/SARDI-Citrus-Drought-Survival-Recovery-Trial.pdf
Navel trees skelotinized and topworked, ready for rain and more profits in the future.
- Author: Craig Kallsen
A sure way to generate controversy among citrus growers is to initiate a discussion on navel orange tree pruning. Some growers maintain that yield and fruit size is best maintained by minimal pruning, while others believe that the number of large fruit is increased when trees are severely pruned. A ‘standard’ manual pruning for navel oranges does not exist, but the closest thing to it is a procedure that involves pruning from the tree; 1.) shaded, dead branches 2.) branches which cross from one side of the tree to the other and 3.) green, triangular, juvenile shoots from the tree. This type of pruning commonly goes under the name of ‘deadbrushing’. Deadbrushing is a relatively light form of pruning, and a trained crew usually spends less than 15 minutes per tree performing it. In addition to any manual pruning, most navel orange orchards in California are mechanically ‘hedged’ and ‘topped’ to provide continued access to trees and their fruit by equipment and people involved in orchard cultural and harvest activities. Although growers have been growing navel oranges in California for over one hundred years, surprisingly few experiments have been conducted to determine the effect of pruning on navel orange yield and quality.
To assist in providing some guidance related to pruning and its possible effects on fruit yield and quality, an experiment was established in 2000 in northern KernCounty in an orange orchard that was typically harvested in late December or in January. In 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003, yield, fruit quality parameters and manual pruning costs were compared among mature “Frost Nucellar” navel trees (90 trees/acre) having one of three topping-height treatments (14 ft, 16 ft, and untopped trees). In addition to a topping treatment, the experimental trees were given one of three levels of manual pruning 1.) removal of several large scaffold branches in March of 2000 followed by deadbrushing in 2001, 2002 and no manual pruning in 2003; 2. dead brushing only in 2000, 2001, 2002 and no manual pruning in 2003; or 3. no topping or deadbrushing). Data were collected from experimental trees surrounded by similarly topped and manually pruned border trees. Fruit weight, numbers, size, grade and color were determined the day after harvest at the University of California Research and ExtensionCenter experimental packline near Lindcove, California. The year, in this report, refers to the year that the crop bloomed and not to the year of harvest.
For the 2003 crop year, even after 4 years, trees that were severely pruned in the spring of 2000 produced less total yield and less fruit in the most valuable-size range (i.e. 88 to 48 fruit/carton) than trees that were deadbrushed or left unpruned. In 2003, differences in yield among manual pruning treatments were greater than in 2002, probably because of the higher yield potential that appeared to exist across the industry in 2003. The canopy of the severely pruned trees in 2003 had not yet retained the size of the deadbrushed or unpruned trees after four years, which limited their potential fruit production. In contrast, in 2001 only one year after the manual treatments were imposed and a year with high spring temperatures and very poor fruit set, no differences in yield were found among manual pruning treatments.
When the data of average individual tree performance are summed over the four years that this experiment was conducted, the treatment that included removal of some major scaffold branches in March of 2000 with deadbrushing in 2001 and 2002, was inferior in terms of yield, fruit number, and number of valuable-sized fruit in the range of 88 to 48 per carton than to trees that were only deadbrushed or those that had no manual pruning. Most of the detrimental effects of severe pruning on yield (and on fruit quality) occurred at the December harvest following the severe pruning in March 2000. Over the four years of the experiment, the trees that were not manually pruned produced equal or better cumulative yields of fruit, equal or more valuable sized fruit, and fruit with equal grade compared to deadbrushed or severely pruned trees. The percentage of the fruit on the tree larger than size 88 was greater in the severe pruning treatment, but because total fruit number per tree was less and more of this fruit was overly large (i.e. greater than size 48) the number of the most valuable-sized fruit/tree (sized 88 to 48) was less. Obviously, the trees that were not manually pruned had no associated manual pruning costs when compared to the other two pruning treatments. Manual pruning costs, from 2000 through 2003, not including stacking and shredding of pruned brush, were $8.50/tree for the deadbrushing treatment and $13.00/tree for the severe manual pruning treatment.
Fruit yield or quality was not different among topping heights in any of the four years of the experiment. Topping height did not affect yield, probably because of the wide spacing and tall trees in this orchard. The canopies of untopped trees had little fruit within 4 feet of the ground as a result of shading of the lower canopy by neighboring trees. Removing the top 4 feet from an 18-foot tall tree moved the fruit-bearing volume downward in response to greater light penetration into the lower canopy but did not decrease the volume of the tree that received sufficient light to produce fruit. This effect was in contrast to severe manual pruning, which reduced the volume of the unshaded canopy overall, limiting the volume available for fruit production. A highly significant positive-linear correlation was found in the data across the four years and treatments between the total numbers of fruit produced per acre versus the total number of fruit sized 88 to 48 per carton produced per acre. This functional relationship existed whether reductions in fruit numbers produced per acre were the result of severe pruning in March or from weather-related phenomena such as occurred in 2001, suggesting that anything that reduced fruit numbers below approximately 130,000 fruit per acre resulted in a decrease in the number of fruit sized 88 to 48 per carton in this orchard.
Of course, there are other reasons to manually prune orange trees, other than to improve fruit size. If certain insects, like California red scale or cottony cushion scale have been a problem, pesticide spray coverage may be improved by making the canopy less dense through pruning and fruit quality may be improved by making this investment. In general, what this pruning research has reinforced is the concept that growers should know why they are pruning orange trees and that manual pruning is unlikely to increase the number of fruit in the most valuable size ranges.
1Fruit sizes refer to number of fruit that fit into a standard California 37.5 lb. carton.
2 The severe treatment refers to the treatment that included removal of two or more major scaffold branches in spring 2000.
- Author: Craig Kallsen, Blake Sanden and Mary Lu Arpaia
To maximize profits in the early navel orange market, growers need to have large fruit size and sufficient yellow-orange color and a high enough sugar-acid ratio to meet or exceed the legal minimum harvesting standards. Growers of early-maturing navel oranges in Kern County use different strategies to produce these oranges. Some growers irrigate at full evapotranspiration rates nearly up to harvest with the belief this will maximize fruit size, while others begin deficit irrigating a month or two prior to harvest to maximize development of sugar and color to promote earlier maturity. Little information exists in the literature to assist growers in making decisions related to producing early maturing navels such as Beck,Fukumoto and Thompson Improved. After three years of research, we have elucidated some of the trade offs that relate to irrigation strategies and early navel fruit production.
Three different irrigation treatments, defined as low, mid and high, were developed based on the relative amounts of irrigation water applied to the test plots. Each plot consisted of 10 trees in a central row, bordered by 10 similarly irrigated trees in the two adjacent rows. Each treatment was replicated 5 times. The same irrigation treatment was applied to the same plots for the first two years, while in the third year the low treatment was changed to the high treatment to provide information on how rapidly the trees would recover from stress. The different irrigation treatments were administered by using irrigation emitters with different flow rates and by differentially shutting off water to some treatments as needed to achieve desired stress levels. Between growing seasons, the top three feet of soil profile was refilled with water during the winter and differential irrigation began in early August. Measurable differences in tree shaded stem water potential among treatment usually were noted by early September. In the second year of the experiment (2007), the low and mid-
irrigation treatments applied approximately 38 and 71 percent, respectively on average, of the water of the high treatment. Water potential measurements made mid-day on shaded, interior leaves demonstrated that good separation was achieved among the three treatments. In 2007, for example, shaded stem water potential measurement in early September were about -9, -12, and -18 bars for the high, mid and low irrigation treatments, respectively and at harvest in mid October were -12, 18, -24, respectively. Neutron probe measurements also demonstrated that trees differentially depleted available water stored in the soil as the season progressed (data not shown). In 2007, differences in applied water among the treatments were large. Including the increased quantity of water applied to refill the soil profile in the winter, 3.55, 2.58 and 2.11 acre feet of water on a per acre basis, were applied to the high, mid and low irrigation treatments respectively, from October 30 2006 to harvest, October 15 2007. Rainfall was minimal.
Again, using 2007 as an example, as the level of applied water decreased, soluble solids (i.e. sugars) and titratable acid, were greater at harvest, although the sugar acid ratio was not different (see Table 1). Rows in the experimental orchard were oriented east and west. Fruit on the south side of the tree had higher soluble solids concentration and sugar/acid ratio than fruit on the north side of the tree, regardless of irrigation treatment. Fruit juiciness, either measured as weight of juice to weight of fruit (see Table 1) or volume of juice per weight of fruit (results not shown) were not different among irrigation treatments, suggesting the increase in sugars and acid was the result of osmotic adjustment and not fruit dehydration. We were also interested in seeing if the differential irrigation treatments influenced eating quality of the fruit. To test this idea, we provided fruit from the highest and lowest irrigation treatments of 2007 and 2008 to volunteer panelists at the UC Kearney Ag Center and asked if they could detect any differences between the fruit. In both years the panelists could not detect differences between fruit from the two irrigation treatments, suggesting that the increase in soluble solids in the low irrigation treatment was not sufficient to influence eating quality.
In 2007, yield and grade decreased as the amount of applied water decreased (see Table 2). Fruit in the high and mid irrigation treatments peaked on size 56 per carton and on size 72 per carton in low treatment (data not shown). The decrease in fruit grade at pack-out appeared to be largely due to a more oblong shape. The negative yield, fruit size and grade effects measured in the low and mid treatments in 2007 were probably the cumulative result of deficit irrigation in Years 1 and 2 and not just Year 2 alone. Reduced rates of irrigation did increase the color in the fruit compared to the high irrigation treatment (see Table 3) and this occurred every year.
The deleterious effects on yield, and grade on the trees in the low-irrigation treatments suggested that not much would be gained by continuing this level of stress for a third season in the same plots. In 2008, the low irrigation treatment was replaced by a high irrigation treatment and, at harvest, yield by weight and fruit numbers were not different from the control high-irrigation treatment. This observation demonstrated that the Beck navels rebounded quickly from the low irrigation stress of 2006 and 2007. The mid level irrigation stress of 2006 and 2008 was less severe than that of 2007, and yield and fruit quality was not as adversely affected as in 2007.
This study provides information on some of the trade offs that might be expected among fruit yield, size, grade, sugar and color in relation to reduced irrigation as harvest approaches. Information from this study will be available in greater detail in the near future. How growers respond to this information will depend on their approach to profiting in the early navel market and how much water will be available for irrigation. If reducing water use, while minimizing effects on yield and fruit quality compared to fully irrigated orchards, is the primary goal of the grower, work by Dr. Goldhamer, UC irrigation specialist, demonstrated that regulated deficit irrigation in the mid-May through mid-July time period would be the best strategy.