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December 2012

December 2012
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Fruit stand works for Washington orchard

Fruit stand works for Washington orchard

It’s 30˚ F in the Wenatchee Valley, the sun isn’t up yet and Dennis Nicholson is hard at work at Nicholson’s Orchard Fresh in Peshastin, Wash., finishing a block of pears. This is exactly the type of work Nicholson expected when he and his wife Nancy decided to pack up the kids and move back to the family orchard in 1987, after working in Seattle for 15 years. “My grandfather grew up on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and migrated to the Pacific Northwest after serving in the U.S. Army during World War I,” Nicholson said. “I believe he worked in the timber industry until he was able to buy his first orchard near where our orchard is today. After being discharged from the Navy in 1946, my father married my mother and came home to run the family orchard.” Although he enjoyed the family business…  » Read more
Sandy’s effects on fruit being measured

Sandy’s effects on fruit being measured

Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, was a tough blow to growers who already had to deal with a rough spring, and a boom for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. Sandy was the second-costliest Atlantic hurricane in history, only surpassed by Katrina in 2005, according to The Weather Channel. In the United States, Hurricane Sandy affected at least 24 states, from Florida to Maine and as far west as Wisconsin. New Jersey and New York took the brunt, however, according to The Weather Channel. As if the hurricane wasn’t bad enough, it was followed closely by a Nor’easter, named for the winds that blow in from the northeast and drive the storm up the east coast along the Gulf Stream, according to The Weather Channel. That hit the same area with more rain, high winds and much colder temperatures, which brought snow and ice. Effects Sandy damaged more than just the United States as…  » Read more
BMSB numbers on the rise late in the season

BMSB numbers on the rise late in the season

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) numbers in mid-Atlantic states are surging, which is worrying growers and researchers, said Tracy Leskey, a research entomologist at USDA’s Appalachian Fruit Research Station in West Virginia. Leskey has been on the front lines in the fight against BMSB. “Based on data we have been collecting in Maryland and West Virginia orchards, we observed a 10-fold decline in late-season populations from 2010 to 2011,” Leskey said. “Thus, in 2012, very few bugs were present in the early season.” Over the course of the season, however, Leskey and other researchers watched BMSB populations rebound. They were at least six times larger in late 2012 compared to late 2011. If these larger populations survive the winter, there might be more bugs to deal with in spring 2013, Leskey said. This late-season surge is a cause for concern. “We did see problems in…  » Read more
Booming squirrel population a threat to fruit

Booming squirrel population a threat to fruit

A side effect of the strange weather that battered much of the North American fruit industry this season has been damage from wildlife. Growers in the Northeast are seeing a lot of damage from squirrels this season, said Paul Curtis, an Extension wildlife specialist with Cornell University. “Apparently, there is a gray squirrel population eruption underway in the Hudson Valley and Lake Champlain areas, that may have been caused by an excellent acorn crop last year,” Curtis said. “Red squirrels probably also benefited from the acorns last year, and their numbers are likely high, too.” The cause for the excessive damage this season is the fault of those same acorns. The warm spring, followed by frosts, followed by an extremely dry summer, caused oak trees to produce fewer acorns. “Squirrels could be looking for alternative food sources, and like deer and voles, squirrels love apples,”…  » Read more
Dormant pruning regulates North Carolina winegrapes

Dormant pruning regulates North Carolina winegrapes

Adapted from the North Carolina Winegrape Grower’s Guide, a publication of North Carolina State University. Dormant pruning is the primary means of regulating the crop. If other factors do not limit productivity, vines pruned correctly are likely to produce large crops of high-quality fruit. Pruned incorrectly, vines and crop will ultimately suffer. It is important to understand how many nodes to retain, as well as which nodes are associated with good cold hardiness and fruitfulness. A mature, un-pruned grapevine can have more than 400 buds. Overcropping would occur if all of these buds were allowed to grow and bear fruit. There are both immediate and long-term effects of overcropping grapevines. Immediate effects are observed in the current year. Symptoms can include reduced sugar accumulation in fruit and reduced pigmentation in berry skin. Rather than maturing into woody canes, the shoots of overcropped vines typically die…  » Read more
Robotic strawberry harvesters demoed in California

Robotic strawberry harvesters demoed in California

Agrobot, a company based in Huelva, Spain, recently demonstrated a robotic strawberry harvester at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). The company is working to bring robotic technology to strawberry harvesting and hydroponic growing, with the goal of reducing labor costs, said company representative Miguel Ángel Vázquez Rodríguez. The company’s strawberry machine uses a rubber-lined basket to grasp fruit that’s identified by workers as harvestable, according to Mark Bolda, an Extension educator with UC Davis. The fruit is “picked” as it is lifted from the pedicel. A small, round razor on one side of the basket frees the fruit. The berry then moves on a conveyer belt to a worker seated at the front of the machine. The worker inspects the berry and places it in a container, such as a clamshell or other receptacle. The company first started working with the California Strawberry…  » Read more
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