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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » Horticultural Crops Production and Genetic Improvement Research Unit » Research » Research Project #438039

Research Project: Water and Nutrient Management for Sustainable Production of Small Fruit and Nursery Crops

Location: Horticultural Crops Production and Genetic Improvement Research Unit

Project Number: 2072-21000-055-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Apr 14, 2020
End Date: Apr 13, 2025

Irrigation and nutrient management are key factors that impact sustainable and profitable production of high-quality small fruit and nursery crops. The goal of this project is to develop new approaches that integrate water and nutrient management methods with other environmental and cultural constraints to improve the quantity and quality of berry, wine grape, and nursery crops grown in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) while protecting the environment. Objective 1: Determine requirements for high-quality berry crop production through monitoring and management of water, nutrients, and soil. [NP 305, Component 1, Problem Statement 1B] • Subobjective 1A: Adapt and refine remote sensing technology to monitor water and nutrient deficits and determine irrigation and fertilizer needs in berry crops. • Subobjective 1B: Assess the feasibility of using deficit or pulsed-drip irrigation to increase water use efficiency and protect regional water quality in berry crops. • Subobjective 1C: Develop new fertigation and soil management practices to increase production and fruit quality in blueberry. Objective 2: Develop approaches to manage vineyard canopies, soils, and nutrients for improved grape production, plant health, and fruit quality. [NP 305, Component 1, Problem Statement 1B] • Subobjective 2A: Develop an integrated nitrogen (N) management approach encompassing N use in both the vineyard and winery to identify the most effective and efficient manner to manage N inputs to improve wine quality and protect water quality. • Subobjective 2B: Examine how canopy architecture, vine density, and crop load interact to identify the most efficient use of sunlight and soil water resources to improve production efficiency of Pinot noir. • Subobjective 2C: Understand how N management practices influence beneficial arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in grapevines to develop more sustainable methods for farming grapes. • Subobjective 2D: Determine the impact of rootstocks on root development and AMF colonization when challenged by the northern root knot nematode. Objective 3: Evaluate the impact of management practices for water and nutrients on tolerance to abiotic and biotic stress in specialty crops. [NP 305, Component 1, Problem Statement 1C] • Subobjective 3A: Develop new management practices and disease control measures to minimize pathogen damage and losses for woody nursery plants. • Subobjective 3B: Define salinity thresholds for specialty crops so growers can reduce losses of planting stock, mitigate salinity impacts on quality, and broaden the use of more salt tolerant species in systems considered marginal for production of other crops. • Subobjective 3C: Develop and evaluate water and nutrient management practices for specialty crops grown in soilless substrates.

Experiments will be conducted in the greenhouse and field on small fruit (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, grapevines) and other specialty crops including nursery crops (Rhododendron, Vaccinium, Basil), and in growth chambers on root pathogens. For Obj. 1 we will develop remote sensing based crop coefficients and water stress indices for irrigation of blueberry and raspberry, and will test the following hypotheses: Deficit irrigation will reduce water use but have no effect on yield or fruit quality when it is applied at early stages of fruit development or after harvest in blueberry or raspberry; Pulsed-drip irrigation will reduce water use and increase yield and production relative to conventional irrigation in blueberry and raspberry; Application of P and B by fertigation will result in greater yield and fruit quality than granular or foliar fertilizers in blueberry; Biostimulants are most effective when applied at low rates and during peaks in root production. For Obj. 2 we will test these hypotheses: Maintaining low N status in the vineyard will enhance wine composition as compared to boosting N supply in the vineyard; Varying N supply to Pinot noir alters berry and wine phenolic composition to a greater extent than P or K; Altering the VSP trellis to increase canopy solar exposure at midday will increase productivity but not alter ripening or fruit quality in Pinot noir; Soil and foliar applied N in vineyards reduces AMF colonization and P uptake; Nitrogen inhibition of AMF colonization in grape roots increases with N dose; Nitrogen is a more potent inhibitor of AMF as vine P increases; Root development and AMF colonization differ among rootstock genotypes when northern root knot nematode is present. We will test the following hypotheses for Obj. 3: Critical temperatures for vegetative growth and zoospore formation of Phytophthora isolates will be similar within a species; fungicide sensitivity of Phytophthora is greatest at the optimal temperature for growth; Root rot induced by flooding is more severe than rot under moisture conditions common in nurseries; Reducing water availability minimizes root damage caused by Phytophthora in rhododendron; Increasing N increases root damage caused by Phytophthora in rhododendron; Crop tolerance to salinity will differ among production systems; Southern highbush blueberry plants have different substrate needs than northern highbush blueberry; Strategies to improve water distribution in substrates will increase growth and production in blueberry. Measurements and techniques used in these studies will include standard approaches to measure plant growth, biomass, and yield, plant water status (pressure chamber, porometer), photosynthesis (gas-exchange), fruit quality (refractometry, titratation, HPLC, sensory perception), root production and mycorrhizal colonization (soil cores, microscopy), soil pH and EC, soil water content (TDR, tensiometers), plant and soil nutrients (CNS analyzer, ICP), and pathogen growth (microbiological media) and root damage (visual ratings). We will also utilize multi-spectral cameras and drones to develop new methods to measure plant water status.