‘Vidalia’ onions are sweet, short day, low pungency, yellow Granex-type bulbs that are popular in the United States. The relationships of sweet onion bulb yield and quality with potassium (K) and sulfur (S) concentrations are not fully understood. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of K and S fertilization rates on sweet onion plant growth and bulb yield and quality. Experiments were conducted at the Horticulture Farm, Tifton Campus, University of Georgia, in the Winters of 2012–13 and 2013–14. The experiment had five treatments (K/S rates: 56/80, 112/126, 168/172, 224/218, and 280/264 kg·ha−1 of K and S, respectively). K/S rates had no effect on onion biomass of roots, bulbs, and shoots during the growing season. Marketable and total number and weight of onion bulbs and individual bulb weight were also unaffected by K/S rate. Incidences of bolting, double bulbs, Botrytis leaf blight (Botrytis cinerea), and sour skin (Burkholderia cepacia), and bulb dry weight, soluble solids content (SSC), and pungency (pyruvate concentration) were unaffected by K/S rates. In conclusion, K/S rates had little effect on plant growth and bulb yield and quality. The lack of response of onion plants to K/S rates, even at the lowest rate suggests that some of the K absorbed by plants originated from K already present in the soil before planting. The average K content of sweet onion whole plants was 80 kg·ha−1 K. Thus, under our experimental conditions, application of K rates above the recommended value (84 kg·ha−1 K) are unnecessary and will likely not improve plant growth, yield, or quality. Regarding S, rates higher than 80 kg·ha−1 S are probably unnecessary and will not enhance either plant growth or bulb yield or quality of sweet onion.
Juan Carlos Díaz-Pérez, Jesús Bautista, Anthony Bateman, Guna Gunawati, and Cliff Riner
Juan Carlos Diaz-Perez, W. Keith Jenkins, Dharmalingam Pitchay, and Gunawati Gunawan
There is limited information on the effect of organic fertilizers on seed germination and subsequent transplant growth. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of application rate of blood meal (BM) and feather meal (FM) fertilizers on germination of tomato seeds. Both organic fertilizers were applied as amendments to peat-based organic substrates at rates ranging from 0 to over 50 g·kg−1 N. Tomato ‘Brandywine’ seed were sown in trays. Seed germination was recorded daily until the germination percentage remained unchanged. Ammonia concentration in the substrates (Pro-Mix and Miracle-Gro) increased with increasing rate of substrate N concentration. Ammonia concentration also increased with increasing time after incorporation of BM and FM reaching maximum values (16 ppm) at day 9. Tomato seed germination was little affected at BM and FM rates lower than ≈3 g·kg−1 N (4% w/w for BM or FM), but declined above 3 g·kg−1 N reaching 0% germination rate at ≈14 g·kg−1 N for both BM and FM. Substrates pH was 5.9 in the absence of BM or FM and increased to about pH 7 with addition of low rates of BM (2.7 g·kg−1 N) and FM (2.6 g·kg−1 N). Substrate electrical conductivity (EC) increased with increasing substrate N concentration as supplied by BM and FM; FM, however, had a stronger effect on increasing EC compared with BM. In conclusion, BM and FM had inhibitory effects on tomato seed germination when applied at more than 3 g·kg−1 N (4% w/w for BM or FM). High ammonia concentration in the substrates for the first 2 weeks after incorporation of BM or FM likely caused, at least partially, inhibition of tomato seed germination. Thus, substrate mixed with BM or FM should be allowed to incubate for at least 2 weeks before planting tomato seed.
Emillie M. Skinner, Juan Carlos Díaz-Pérez, Sharad C. Phatak, Harry H. Schomberg, and William Vencill
Sunnhemp (Crotalaria juncea L.) is a tropical legume that could be an important summer cover crop in the southeastern United States, but it has the potential for suppressing both crops and weeds. Allelopathic effects of sunnhemp on weeds, vegetable crops, and cover crops were evaluated in greenhouse and growth chamber experiments. In the greenhouse, ground dried sunnhemp residues (applied mixed with the soil at 1.6% w/w) reduced percent germination of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) and smooth pigweed (Amaranthus hybridus L.) to a similar degree as that caused by cereal rye (Secale cereale L. subsp. cereale) residues (applied at 1.5% w/w). The allelopathic activity of sunnhemp was greater in the leaves than in the roots or stems. In growth chamber studies, the mean reduction in germination (relative to the control) caused by sunnhemp leaf aqueous extracts was: bell pepper (100%), tomato (100%), onion (95%), turnip (69%), okra (49%), cowpea (39%), collard (34%), cereal rye (22%), sweet corn (14%), Austrian winter pea (10%), crimson clover (8%), cucumber (2%), and winter wheat (2%). In lettuce, carrot, smooth pigweed, and annual ryegrass, sunnhemp aqueous leaf extract reduced seedling length to a degree similar as that produced by rye aqueous leaf extract. Sicklepod [Senna obtusifolia (L.) H.S. Irwin & Barneby CA] germination was not inhibited by any of the sunnhemp or rye aqueous extracts. In conclusion, sunnhemp reduced the germination percentage and seedling growth of various crop species. The allelochemical activity in sunnhemp was primarily in the leaves and remained active at least 16 d after harvest under dry conditions. Sunnhemp's allelochemical effect may be a useful attribute for weed management in sustainable production systems. However, plant growth in the field in crops such as bell pepper, tomato, onion, and turnip may be impacted as a result of allelopathic activity of sunnhemp residues. Thus, weed management may be more effective when sunnhemp is grown in rotation with crops that tolerate the allelochemicals from sunnhemp, resulting in optimization of the rotation effects.
Juan Carlos Díaz-Pérez, Jesús Bautista, Gunawati Gunawan, Anthony Bateman, and Cliff Martin Riner
Vidalia onions (Allium cepa L.) are sweet, short-day, low pungency, yellow Granex-type bulbs that are popular in the United States because of their mild flavor. There are limited studies on sweet onion plant growth in response to organic fertilization rate. The objective of this report was to evaluate the effects of organic fertilizer rates on sweet onion plant growth, and leaf and bulb mineral nutrients. Experiments were carried out at the Horticulture Farm, Tifton Campus, University of Georgia, in the Winters of 2012–13 and 2013–14. There were five treatments [organic fertilizer 3–2–3 equivalent to 0, 60, 120, 180, and 240 kg·ha−1 nitrogen (N)]. During the season and at the mature plant stage, root, stem, and bulb biomass increased whereas the root-to-shoot ratio decreased with increasing fertilization rate up to 120 kg·ha−1 N. Foliar concentrations of N and Ca decreased whereas Cu concentration increased with increasing organic fertilization rate. Bulb Mg and Mn increased whereas P and Cu decreased with increasing organic fertilization rate. The accumulation of mineral nutrients by onion whole plants increased quadratically (N, P, K, and S) or linearly (Ca and Mg) with increasing fertilization rate. The N use efficiency decreased with increasing organic fertilization rate; the agronomic efficiency of N (AEN) decreased quadratically and the marginal yield decreased linearly with increasing fertilization rate. Chlorophyll indices (CI) were highest with 240 kg·ha−1 N and lowest with 0 kg·ha−1 N. In conclusion, onion plant growth increased with increasing organic fertilizer rate probably because of augmented soil N levels. Observation of nutrient deficiencies late in the season, even at high organic fertilization rates, indicates that preplant application of organic fertilizer was sufficient to cover plant nutritional needs only partially and that applications of N fertilizer later in the season may be necessary. High application rates of organic fertilizer (above those required by the crop) may have resulted in significant N leaching because it is unlikely that the crop used most of the N that was mineralized. Bulb concentrations of P, K, Ca, Mg, S, B, Fe, Cu, and Mn were higher compared with values reported in the literature for onions produced with inorganic fertilizers.
Juan Carlos Díaz-Pérez, Jesús Bautista, Gunawati Gunawan, Anthony Bateman, and Cliff Martin Riner
There is a growing interest in organic fertilizers because of increased demand for organic sweet onions and other vegetables. There are, however, limited studies on sweet onion bulb yield and quality in response to organic fertilization. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of organic fertilizer rate on sweet onion bulb yield and bulb quality before and after storage. Experiments were conducted at the Horticulture Farm, Tifton Campus, University of Georgia, in the Winters of 2012–13 and 2013–14. There were five organic fertilization treatments (organic fertilizer 3–2–3 equivalent to 0, 60, 120, 180, and 240 kg·ha−1 N). Total and marketable yields and individual bulb weight increased quadratically with increasing organic fertilization rate and responses failed to reach a plateau. The fraction of extra-large bulb increased with increasing organic fertilization rate. Incidence of onion bolting was maximal at 60 kg·ha−1 N and decreased with increasing organic fertilization rate. The percentage of bulb dry weight was highest in the unfertilized control and decreased with increasing organic fertilization rate. Organic fertilization rate had no consistent impact on bulb soluble solids content (SCC) and pungency (measured as pyruvate concentration) in the two seasons. Total antioxidant capacity (measured as gallic acid equivalents) values were among the lowest at 60 and 120 kg·ha−1 N. In conclusion, onion bulb yields increased with increasing organic fertilization rate, whereas incidences of bulb diseases responded differently to N rate. Botrytis rot was the main cause of postharvest bulb decay in all organic fertilization rates.
Andrés Mayorga-Gómez, Savithri U. Nambeesan, Timothy Coolong, and Juan Carlos Díaz-Pérez
Bell peppers (Capsicum annuum L.) are ranked eighth in value for vegetable production in the United States (). Due to the high value of bell peppers, disorders such as blossom-end rot (BER) can cause significant losses in yield by up to 35% for growers. BER is the symptom of a calcium (Ca2+) deficiency that may occur during periods of cell expansion when the supply of Ca2+ may be lower than demand. In this study, we determined the temporal patterns of the fruit Ca2+concentration ([Ca2+]) and accumulation in three separate studies under field and greenhouse conditions. In the three experiments, [Ca2+] during fruit development showed varied patterns: it remained constant, decreased transiently during the cell expansion phase, or displayed a more gradual sustained decrease. However, in the three experiments, fruit Ca2+ accumulation increased during development as fruit size increased. In two experiments, the distal part of the fruit had lower [Ca2+] than the proximal end. However, there was no correlation between [Ca2+] in various fruit sections with BER incidence. Seeds and placental tissue had increased [Ca2+] and several other macro- and micronutrients; this spatial distribution of Ca2+ coupled with subcellular Ca2+ distribution should be explored in future studies. The temporal pattern of Ca2+ accumulation in this study suggests that fruit Ca2+ uptake continues throughout fruit development. Therefore, Ca2+ application during bloom and early fruit development may prevent or minimize Ca2+ deficiency disorders in bell pepper.
George E. Boyhan, Juan Carlos Diaz-Perez, Chris Hopkins, Reid L. Torrance, and C. Randy Hill
Onions (Allium cepa) in southeastern Georgia are almost exclusively transplanted, with the associated high costs and labor requirements. This study was undertaken to evaluate direct-seeded onions as an alternative production method. This study evaluates variety, sowing date, and fertility on direct seeding short-day onions in southeastern Georgia. Sowing dates, early or mid-October (5 and 15 Oct. 2001 and 7 and 21 Oct. 2002), did not affect total, jumbo (≥3 inches diameter), or medium (≥2 inches and <3 inches diameter) yields. Late October sowing (29 Oct. 2001) did not produce sufficient stand or yield to warrant harvesting. Variety also had no affect on yield of direct-seeded onions. Seedstems (flowering), an undesirable characteristic, was significantly greater with the early October sowing date across all varieties compared with the mid- or late- October sowing dates. Neither variety nor sowing date significantly affected plant stand or plant spacing. Fertilization treatments of 150 or 195 lb/acre nitrogen (N) with various application timings and fertilizer sources did not affect total or medium yields. Jumbo yield was affected in only 1 year with calcium nitrate as the primary N source at 195 lb/acre total N having the highest yield, but did not differ from some treatments at 150 lb/acre N. In addition, fertilization treatments did not affect seedstems, plant stand, or plant spacing. Based on this study, we are recommending that growers should direct seed onions in southeastern Georgia in mid-October, plus or minus 1 week depending on field accessibility. In addition, current fertilizer recommendations for transplanted dry bulb onions should be followed, which includes 150 lb/acre N. This eliminates all of the cost and resources required for transplant production.
George E. Boyhan, Juan Carlos Diaz-Perez, Reid L. Torrance, Ronald H. Blackley Jr., and C. Randell Hill
The majority of Vidalia onions are produced as a transplanted crop. Seeding in high density plantings in September is followed 8 to 10 weeks later by transplanting to final spacing. This practice is labor intensive and expensive. Direct seeding would save on labor, cost, and time. Traditionally, transplanting has been done because of better winter survival, more uniform stands, and better irrigation management during seedling emergence. Beginning 5 years ago, we began evaluating direct seeding onions. Initially, seedstems (bolting) and lack of uniform stand establishment were the main problems. Sowing in September resulted in almost 100% seedstems and using a belt planter with raw seed resulted in poor singulation for uniform stand establishment. Mid-October ultimately proved to be the best time for sowing Vidalia onion seed. Earlier sowing resulted in more seedstems and later planting did not give the plants sufficient time to grow resulting in later stand loss during cold winter temperatures. Using polymer coated seed and a precision vacuum planter resulted in uniform, even stand establishment. Fertilizer requirements are almost half with direct seeded onions compared to transplanted onions with a reduction in the need for fungicides and herbicides. We have established direct seeded onions both with drip irrigation and overhead irrigation. There was concern that center-pivot irrigation would not be able to sufficiently irrigate fields during seedling establishment with the frequent hot fall days we experience. Since this work was initiated several growers have successfully produced direct seeded onions under center-pivot systems. Direct seeding Vidalia onions requires attention to detail because there is only one opportunity to get it right. Timing is also critical particularly with planting date and herbicide application.
Juan Carlos Díaz-Pérez, Kelly St. John, Mohammad Yamin Kabir, J. Alberto Alvarado-Chávez, Ania M. Cutiño-Jiménez, Jesús Bautista, Gunawati Gunawan, and Savithri U. Nambeesan
Colored shade nets may affect plant growth and fruit yield of horticultural crops. The understanding of how colored shade nets influence plants, however, is far from complete. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of colored shade nets on bell pepper fruit yield, postharvest transpiration, color, chemical composition, and antioxidant capacity. The experiment was conducted in Tifton, GA, during the spring of 2015 and 2016. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with four replications and five colored shade net treatments (black, red, silver, and white nets, and an unshaded control). The nets were placed on the top of wooden rectangular structures (15 m wide × 6 m long × 5 m high), leaving the sides of the structures uncovered. Results showed that in both 2015 and 2016, marketable and total fruit number, yield, and individual fruit weight were reduced under the unshaded treatment. There were inconsistent differences in marketable and total fruit number, yield, and individual fruit weight among colored shade nets. Postharvest fruit transpiration and skin permeance were also reduced in unshaded conditions, and no differences were found among colored shade nets. Fruit color L* and b* values were highest, and a* value was lowest in unshaded conditions. Fruit soluble solids, total phenols, flavonoids, and antioxidant capacity [Cupric Reducing Antioxidant Capacity (CUPRAC) and Trolox Equivalent Antioxidant Capacity (TEAC)] responded differently among colored shade nets in the 2 years. Total phenols, flavonoids, and TEAC, however, were among the highest in unshaded conditions. In conclusion, results of the present study support previous findings that shade nets increase fruit yield and quality in bell pepper compared with fruit produced in unshaded conditions. Nevertheless, there were no consistent differences in fruit total and marketable yield and postharvest fruit transpiration and chemical composition of fruit produced under colored shade nets.