Black Polyethylene Tunnel Covers Affect Plant Production and Quality of Sweetpotato Transplants

in HortScience
Authors:
D.R. La BonteDepartment of Horticulture, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, Baton Rouge, LA 70803

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A.Q. VillordonDepartment of Horticulture, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, Baton Rouge, LA 70803

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J.R. SchultheisDepartment of Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University, Box 7609, Raleigh, NC 27695

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D.W. MonksDepartment of Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University, Box 7609, Raleigh, NC 27695

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The influence of a black polyethylene tunnel cover (BTC) was evaluated for its effect on quantity and quality of sweetpotato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.] transplants in plant beds in Louisiana and North Carolina. Use of BTC increased production of `Beauregard' transplants from 63% to 553% in comparison with the bare ground control. `Jewel' was less responsive; BTC treatments increased transplant production by at least 48% in Louisiana over the bare ground control, but no increase was observed in North Carolina. Individual transplant weight was at least 34% less in BTC treatments than in the control. The first harvest of cuttings in BTC beds was at least 14 days prior to that in control beds. Transplant quality was assessed as yield of storage roots in repeated trials that extended throughout the normal growing season. Yield of storage roots was not affected by BTC in early season plantings, but was frequently lower for BTC treatment transplants in middle and late season plantings. We therefore do not recommend this method as a means of increasing sweetpotato plant production from bedded roots.

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