In Virginia, past research has identified an open-market window for fall broccoli (Sterrett et al., 1990). Because earlier studies demonstrated the feasibility of multicropping broccoli on plastic mulches (Burnette et al., 1993; Clough et al., 1990; Coffey and Ramsey, 1987), growers that invest in a plasticulture system can capitalize on this market opportunity by producing broccoli after summer vegetables. Due to seasonal production schedules, the use of transplants is recommended for uniform stand establishment (Elson et al., 1992; Sterrett et al., 1991). Furthermore, transplants allow for the production of large single-heads (>6 inches diameter) preferred by consumers (Jett et al., 1995; Relf et al., 1990). As a result, growers supply a high-value fall product and use plastic and residual N fertilizer from summer production.
The feasibility of producing vegetable crops using new cultural practices requires an examination of basic production components. Broccoli cultivar selection can significantly impact yield, quality, and production schedule (Cutcliffe, 1975; Damato, 2000). Multicropping changes the grower approach to N management, which affects broccoli yield, leaf N accumulation, and N recovery (Sanders et al., 1993; Zebarth et al., 1995). Furthermore, plant density impacts the quantity of marketable head and broccoli head-size (Chung, 1985; Jett et al., 1995). We conducted a 3-year study to identify practices that maximize large, single-head broccoli production.
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