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Dan Drost

In 1992, a long term study was initiated to determine water use of asparagus and to assess water stress effects on asparagus growth. Asparagus (Syn 4-56) crowns were planted and maintained at soil moisture levels near field capacity during the first year. In 1993, irrigation treatments based on 60, 40, and 0 percent of evapotranspiration (ET) were applied to asparagus during the fern growing period (mid-June to October). Soil moisture, shoot and root growth, and fern water potentials were measured throughout the year. Prior to the irrigation treatments, asparagus had 39 buds per plant with a shoot and root fresh weight of 573 and 270 grams, respectively. Soil moisture in the root zone (0 to 60 cm) approached the permanent wilting point in the 40%. and 0% of ET treatments by mid-August. A decrease in irrigation rate from 80 to 0% of ET had no effect on fern fresh weight at the end of the growing season. However, as irrigation rate decreased from 80 to 0% of ET, root fresh weight (586, 533, 415 grams) and bud number (78, 59, 53) decreased linearly. These results suggest yield and growth may be reduced in 1994.

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Jennifer Reeve and Dan Drost

Interest in unheated plastic film-covered high tunnels to extend the growing season of high-value fruits and vegetables is growing rapidly, but sustainable soil management in intensively managed high tunnels is challenging. Yields, fruit quality, and soil quality in transition organic and conventional tomato were measured over the course of three growing seasons. Nitrogen (N) was applied at the rate of 112, 168, and 224 kg total N/ha in the form of chicken manure compost to the organic treatments and a polymer-coated slow-release urea fertilizer in the conventional treatments. Marketable yield of organically grown tomatoes was lower in Year 1 but equaled conventional tomatoes in Years 2 and 3. Soil quality as measured by total carbon (C) and N and microbial activity was significantly greater in organic tomato production at the end of the study. Significant phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) applied with the composted manure resulted in high soil P and K levels in organically managed high tunnels after just 3 years of application. Although compost is the most economical organic fertilizer and results in significant benefits in soil quality during the transition phase to organic production, a maintenance fertility plan is needed once available soil P reaches adequate to high levels. Combinations of compost and high N, low P organic fertilizers are needed for optimum maintenance fertility strategy for organic tunnel house production.

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Dan Drost and Darlene Wilcox-Lee

Asparagus officinalis L. cv. Centennial established with seedling transplants in 1983 was maintained with a conventional tillage (CT) or a no-till) (NT) system with either metribuzin or metribuzin + napropamide being applied for weed control. Marketable yield was assessed from 1985-1989. In 1989, in addition to yield data, destructive harvests were made every three weeks from March to November to evaluate the effects of tillage on fern, crown and bud growth and root carbohydrate levels. Yields were reduced in CT when compared to NT during all years. Asparagus growth (crown and fern weight, bud cluster, bud and fern numbers) was greater in NT than CT throughout the year although seasonal patterns of growth were similar for both tillage systems. Root carbohydrate levels were higher in NT than CT before the harvest season began. Carbohydrates for both tillage systems reached their lowest level in late July before recovering to pre-harvest levels in late September. Use of metribuzin + napropamide did not reduce fern number or yield but significantly reduced the number of bud clusters, buds and fern when compared to metribuzin alone.

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Dan Drost, Rich Koenig, and Terry Tindall

Nitrogen (N) losses can be substantial in furrow-irrigated onions (Allium cepa L.). Polymer-coated urea (PU) may reduce N losses and result in an increase in productivity. In this study, we investigated the effects of different rates and blends of urea and PU on onion yield and N use for two cropping seasons. Nitrogen was applied at 112, 168, and 224 kg·ha-1 as PU or urea. In addition, three PU/urea blends equal to 224 kg·ha-1 of N were compared. Plant growth and N concentration, soil nitrate concentrations, and bulb yield were evaluated each year. Onion yield decreased by 95 Mg·ha-1 for each 25% increase in the proportion of urea in the fertilizer blends. Reducing the N rates from 224 to 112 kg·ha-1 had minimal effect on bulb yield when all the fertilizer was supplied by urea. A reduction of N applied from 224 to 168 kg·ha-1 had little effect on yield, although a further reduction to 112 kg·ha-1 did significantly reduce bulb yield when the entire N was supplied from PU. Nitrogen source and rate had no effect on bulb maturity and only minor effects on leaf area and storage potential. Soil sampling indicated that more N was retained in PU-treated onion beds than in urea-treated beds, which improved nitrogen use efficiency. In addition, N use efficiency improved when there was more PU in the blend and when PU was compared with urea at the same rate. We conclude that the use of PU can dramatically improve N use efficiency and productivity in direct-seeded onions.

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Dan Drost, Taunya Ernst, and Brent Black

High tunnel (HT) winter production may be limited by extreme low air temperatures, suboptimal soil temperatures, large diurnal temperature changes, and short daylengths and associated low light conditions. To determine the productivity of spinach in extreme climates, HT production trials were conducted in the fall (October to December) and winter (January to March) of 2010–12 at the Greenville Research Farm in Logan, UT (lat. 41 N. elevation 1455 m). Soil heating (±) using electric cables and secondary covers (fabric rowcovers and plastic low tunnels) were evaluated to determine combined effects on fall and winter spinach production. Soil heating significantly increased yield in all cover treatments in the Fall 2010 (F2010) trial when spinach was planted in November, but had little to no effect on plant productivity in the other three trials (more appropriate planting dates) even though it did increase soil temperature marginally. The addition of secondary covers significantly increased plant biomass and leaf area when compared with the uncovered control. Excluding the F2011 trial when spinach was planted earlier under more favorable temperature and light conditions, the use of low tunnels resulted in significantly higher spinach yields (biomass and leaf area) than when grown under fabric rowcover. In the fall, relative growth rates (RGRs) decreased exponentially regardless of whether the soil was heated or not heated or if a secondary cover was used. This response was because of the seasonal decline in light levels and temperatures. In the winter production cycle, spinach relative growth without covers was similar or increased as climatic conditions improved. For plants grown under fabric or plastic rowcovers, RGR remained more constant or decreased during the production cycle. Increased yields were possible with secondary covers as air temperatures increase more quickly in the morning, maintained optimal temperatures longer each day (higher growing degree hours), and retained trapped heat later into the evening. Statistical interaction between heating cables and secondary covers were rarely observed. Fall and winter HT spinach production increases when further protection with secondary plant covers is provided; however, supplemental soil heating is not necessary.

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Debbie Amundsen, Dan Drost, and William Varga

The Davis County Master Gardener program is unique in several ways. The program includes 3 years of training and volunteer service. The first year's training, taught each year, covers general gardening principles, while the two advance classes, offered in alternate years, focus on fruit and vegetables and ornamentals and landscape design. The program is also unique in that it is based at the Utah State University Botanical Gardens. In addition to working with horticulture extension programs, Master Gardeners can get hands-on experience working in the gardens. Many specialize and become local resident experts in particular gardening areas.

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Wade Bitner, Jerry Goodspeed, Dan Drost, and Rick McDaniel

Conducting varietal evaluations for the home vegetable garden are time-consuming, labor-intensive, and costly. As a result, most are done on an observational basis only. In 1991, a horticultural training program modeled after the highly successful Master Gardener program began at the Utah State Prison, Draper, for the prison inmate population. In 1994, 12 broccoli, 20 pepper, and 30 tomato varieties commonly used in the home garden were evaluated for growth and yield at the Prison Farm. Inmates raised, tended, harvested, and compiled the trial's data and participated in all evaluations of the varieties. Extension personnel provided the instruction and regular visits to conduct the trial. The project provides instruction on vegetable production and cultivar evaluations to the inmates while providing the public with needed cultivar information for the home garden. In addition, the partnership with the inmate population limits the time inputs necessary to conduct the trials by extension staff. This project will continue and greatly expand in 1995.

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Daniel Rowley, Brent L. Black, Dan Drost, and Dillon Feuz

Small-scale fruit and vegetable growers increasingly use high tunnels to expand production windows and exploit demand for local produce. Day-neutral cultivars, high tunnels, low tunnels, and targeted heating were investigated in North Logan, UT (lat. 41.766° N, 1405 m elevation, 119 freeze-free days) to extend the availability of local strawberries. Day-neutral cultivars Albion, Evie 2, Seascape, and Tribute were spring-planted in an annual hill system both inside and outside of high tunnels. Within the high tunnels, low tunnels and targeted root zone heating were tested in replicated plots. During the summer months, plastic was removed from the high tunnels and replaced with shadecloth. Treatments were evaluated for yields, fruit size, and production season. Fruit production in the tunnels began in late May and continued sporadically until December. Combinations of high and low tunnels provided more hours of optimal growing conditions than high tunnels alone, but managing the combination to maintain optimum temperatures proved difficult with temperatures often exceeding the optimum for strawberry. Targeted root zone heating efficiently increased root and canopy temperatures, preventing flower bud damage during extreme cold events, but did not significantly improve total season yields. Of the cultivars tested, ‘Evie 2’ and ‘Seascape’ had the most consistent yields and acceptable fruit size. Economic analysis indicated that growing spring-planted day-neutral strawberries in high tunnels was marginally profitable, whereas field production at this location would be a money-losing enterprise.

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Britney Hunter, Dan Drost, Brent Black, and Ruby Ward

In northern climates where the growing season is shortened by cool spring conditions, high tunnels make it possible to plant and produce tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum L.) at least 1 month earlier than in the field. However, limited high-tunnel research has been performed in arid high-elevation regions that experience extreme diurnal temperature fluctuations. High tunnels are designed to be passively heated; therefore, additional protection from frost may be warranted if growers wish to plant significantly earlier than normal. Low tunnels built within a high tunnel reduce the energy requirement by concentrating heat around the plants, particularly when a heat source is placed inside the low tunnel. ‘Sunbrite’ tomatoes were transplanted through black plastic mulch in four high tunnels in North Logan, UT (lat. 41.73° N, long. 111.83° W, 1382 m elevation) on 17 Mar., 30 Mar., and 7 Apr. in 2009 and on 19 Mar., 30 Mar., and 9 Apr. in 2010. Low tunnels were constructed over each row, and three supplemental heat treatments (unheated, soil-warming cables, and soil-warming cables plus 40-W incandescent lights) were tested to improve plant performance. The highest total marketable yield was achieved for earliest planting dates in both 2009 and 2010. In 2009, early-season yield was significantly greater when both the soil + air were heated, but only for the earliest planting date. In 2010, soil heat alone and in conjunction with air heat significantly improved early-season yield. Information gathered in this study on planting dates, yield, and energy costs provides valuable production and economic information to growers in arid high-elevation climates who desire the benefits of growing early-season tomatoes in high tunnels.

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Daniel Rowley, Brent L. Black, Dan Drost, and Dillon Feuz

High tunnels have been used successfully in many areas of the world to extend the growing season for numerous crops. However, very little research has been conducted to evaluate the season extension benefits offered by high tunnels for small fruit crops in high-elevation growing areas such as the Intermountain West region of the United States. The use of high tunnels was investigated in North Logan, UT (lat. 41.766 N, elev. 1405 m, 119 freeze-free days) to extend the growing season for June-bearing strawberries. Growing systems included a fall-planted annual hill system and vertical growing systems in two different orientations. Optimum planting date for each system was determined by transplanting ‘Chandler’ plugs at 2-week intervals over 10 weeks. For the second year of the study, a field planting was also included. Over two seasons, the optimum planting dates were approximately the first week of September. The vertical systems were more susceptible to winter injury likely resulting from the temperature extremes in the root zone. Where winter injury was prevented, the vertical systems had higher yields per tunnel area than the in-ground system, but yield increases did not compensate for higher construction and management costs. The production window for the in-ground high tunnel planting was ≈4 weeks earlier than the field-grown plants and increased profitability by $13/m2 of tunnel area.