Successful Beit Alpha Cucumber Production in the Greenhouse Using Pine Bark as an Alternative Soilless Media

in HortTechnology
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  • 1 University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Horticultural Sciences Department, P.O. Box 110690, Gainesville, FL 32611-0690.

Beit Alpha cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is an exciting new greenhouse crop for production in the southeastern U.S. and Florida. Beit Alpha cucumbers are short, seedless fruit with dark-green skin and an excellent sweet flavor. Beit Alpha-types are the leading cucumber types in the Middle Eastern market and have gained recent popularity in Europe. Beit Alpha cucumbers grown hydroponically under a protected structure have prolific fruit set, yielding more than 60 high-quality fruit per plant during one season. U.S. hydroponic vegetable production is generally associated with structure and irrigation investments which are costly as well as other inputs, such as the media, which must be replaced annually or with each crop. Beit Alpha cucumber `Alexander' was grown in Spring 2001 and 2002 in a passive-ventilated high-roof greenhouse in Gainesville, Fla. Three media types, coarse-grade perlite, medium-grade perlite, and pine bark, were compared for efficiency of growing cucumbers (production and potential costs). During both seasons, fruit yield was the same among media treatments [average of 6 kg (13.2 lb) per plant]. Irrigation requirements were the same for each type of media; however, leachate volume was sometimes greater from pots with pine bark compared to either grade of perlite suggesting a reduced need for irrigation volume when using pine bark. Pine bark is five times less expensive than perlite and was a suitable replacement for perlite in a hydroponic Beit Alpha cucumber production system.

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