OKRA IN-ROW SPACING ALTERS PLANT GROWTH AND YIELD IN SOUTHERN FLORIDA

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  • 1 University of Florida IFAS, Gainesville, FL 32611-0690

Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) is grown as a direct-seeded cash crop at high plant populations (>87,000 plants/acre) on calcareous soils in Homestead, south Florida. A study was established in a commercial field in May 2005 to evaluate if high populations translated to higher yields. Seedlings were thinned to within-row spacings of 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 inches in rows set 3 ft apart (87120, 43560, 29040, 21780, and 17420 plants/acre). Harvest data was collected from 29 July to 30 Sept. 2005 (26 harvests) from 10 ft of the center row within plots 15 ft long and 3 rows wide. Decreasing plant density resulted in decreasing plant height early in the season and increasing height late in the season. Density affected stem caliper with a clear trend of decreasing density and increasing caliper. Early, mid-, and total yields by weight (boxes/acre) were not affected by density, but plants at the lowest density produced 55% more late yield than plants at the highest density. Plants at the lowest density produced 30% fewer early pods and 31% more late pods than plants at the highest density. Decreasing plant density resulted in increasing average pod weight for early, late, and total harvests by as much as 14% to 18%. With inexpensive open pollinated cultivars such as `Clemson Spineless 80', there seems little economic incentive to reduce plant populations below what is commonly used in the Homestead area. Growers should not be alarmed, however, if plant stands are reduced to some extent after seeding.

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