Date of Award

8-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Forestry and Environmental Conservation

Committee Member

Dr. Juan Carlos Melgar, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Guido Schnabel

Committee Member

Dr. Douglas Bielenberg

Abstract

One of the main challenges of growing high quality peaches in the southeastern United States is to cope with the high pest and disease pressure caused by the humid climate in the region. Bagging fruit at an early stage of fruit development could be a viable way to physically exclude pest and diseases. Experiments were conducted for two consecutive years at a conventional farm and an organic farm and results indicate no consistent differences between treatments in fruit quality parameters, marketable yield at harvest, or post-harvest disease incidence when compared to the control not bagged fruit. Nevertheless, marketable yield in the early season cultivar had a 13% increase in 2015 and the mid-season cultivar had an 11% increase in 2016. The commercial farm had 100% yield in bagged and control treatments except when bags were placed improperly during 2016. Bagging peach fruit appeared to reduce the intensity of red blush but consumer surveys suggested color was not a decisive factor when purchasing the fruit. The benefit from the bags could stem from the increase in price consumers are willing to pay for "grown-in bag" fruits that have less contact with pesticides. More economic analysis needs to be done, but an increase in price could potentially offset the extra cost of labor and bagging material. In a homeowners setting non-bagged fruit was compared to bagged fruit and treated with different chemical applications and results showed that bagging the fruit can have a significant effect on yield high disease pressure.

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