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E.A. Guertal

Slow-release nitrogen (N) fertilizers offer many potential benefits for vegetable production. In sandy soils, their use may lessen N leaching. If the slow-release fertilizer has a release pattern that matches crop needs, N uptake by the growing crop may become more efficient. Additionally, if slow-release fertilizers can be applied as a preplant application, production costs could be lessened, eliminating the need for multiple applications of soluble N fertilizer. Synthetic slow-release fertilizers can be separated into two general groups: those that are slow release as a byproduct of a chemical reaction (such as urea-formaldehyde), and those that are slow release via a sulfur, wax, or resin coating around the fertilizer prill. In vegetable crop research, much of the available literature has focused on use of sulfur coat urea and urea-formaldehyde, as they have been in the fertilizer market for 40 years. Newer research has evaluated resin-coated products. In most studies, use of slow-release N fertilizers as a preplant treatment did not decrease crop yield, but yield was rarely increased when compared with standard split applications of soluble N. Based on available research, the benefits of using slow-release N fertilizers in vegetable crop production will come from reduced environmental risk and savings in production costs.

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E.A. Guertal and J.N. Shaw

A 3-year study was conducted in Auburn, Ala., on an established hybrid bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. × C. transvaalensis Burtt-Davy `Tifway'] stand maintained at a 2.54-cm mowing height. Treatments were level of soil traffic applied via a weighted golf cart to produce turf and soil that received varying amounts of traffic. Dormant bermudagrass was overseeded with perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) each October, which remained until May of each year. Spectral data were collected monthly using a multispectral radiometer. Percent reflectance data were acquired over 512 discrete wavelengths in visible (VIS) and near-infrared (NIR) ranges. Quarterly data collection included soil penetrometer and bulk density measurements to a depth of 15 cm. After 2 years of traffic, both soil penetrometer and bulk density data indicated statistically significant increases in soil compaction. In general, as traffic increased there were also increases in percent reflectance in the VIS range. Data were subject to temporal variation, however, as values changed with the date of sample collection. The NIR reflectance data provided little consistent correlation to measurements of soil compaction. Use of NIR and VIS radiometry to evaluate turf stress showed some potential, but temporal variation must be considered.

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J.M. Kemble and E.A. Guertal

In 1994 and 1995, a study was conducted in Crossville, Ala., to determine if differences in leaf P concentration and crop yield occurred when P was broadcast or band-applied. Phosphorus (0, 34, 67, 101, and 134 kg P/ha) was banded (2 × 2) or broadcast and incorporated before planting. Other nutrients were applied based on current recommendations and soil testing. In 1994, as level of P increased from 0 to 150 kg P/ha, fresh weight of harvested ears increased quadratically. In 1995, fresh weight of harvested ears did not differ among broadcast treatments; however, there was a linear increase in yield among banded P treatments. There was no difference in fresh weight of harvested ears between banding and broadcasting in either year. Percent P in corn ear leaves did not differ among treatments. There was no difference in P leaf concentrations between the banded and broadcast treatments, indicating that yield response occurred because of rate of P application as opposed to method.

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E.A. Guertal and J.H. Edwards

Fall and spring collards (Brassica oleracea L. Acephala Group) were grown under one of three mulches (black plastic, ground newspaper, wood chips) and in a bare soil control. Mulch treatments were arranged in a factorial design with five rates of N fertilizer: 0, 67, 134, 201, or 268 kg N/ha. All fertilizer was preplant-incorporated into the bed before applying mulches and transplanting collards. Season did not affect collard yield, and there was no significant season × N rate interaction. Collard yields increased with increasing rates of N, with a maximum yield at 163 kg N/ha. Mulch type significantly affected collard yield, with fall collard yields highest under bare ground or wood chip mulches and spring yields highest under black plastic mulch. Collards produced under newspaper mulch produced the lowest yields in the fall and yields equal to bare soil and wood chips in the spring. Collards produced under newspaper mulch had less tissue N at harvest than those of any of the other treatments in both seasons. Collards produced on black plastic produced the lowest plant populations in both seasons. Wood chips and newspaper offer some appeal as low-input, small-scale mulches, but additional research to explore fertility management is necessary.

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E.A. Guertal and J.M. Kemble

Although the effect of various N fertilizers on tomato yield and quality has been previously examined, much of this research was conducted in hydroponic or green-house studies. The objective of this research was to examine the effect of N fertilizer sources (ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), potassium nitrate (KNO3), urea (CO(NH2)2), urea ammonium nitrate (UAN), and calcium nitrate (Ca(NO3)2) on tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) growth, yield, and fruit quality. The 2-year experiment was conducted using black plastic mulch covered raised beds with drip fertigation. A total of 180 lb acre (202 Kg·ha−1) N was applied with each N source, with 25% applied preplant and premulch and remaining N applied as 10 weekly applications of 13.5 lb/acre (15.2 kg·ha−1). If an N source contained Ca or K, that amount was applied to all other N sources (preplant and fertigated) as potassium chloride (KCl) or calcium chloride (CaCl2). Collected data included plant height, leaf N concentration, and yield. Different N sources had varying and inconsistent effects on fruit yield and quality. Although plant height and stem diameter from UAN treatments were always smaller than those from other N sources, this effect did not extrapolate to decreased total marketable yield. Differences in N concentration of tomato leaf tissue were not consistent with N source and were not related to differences in tomato yield. There were few differences in yield and quality of nonmarketable fruit due to N source. In this one-site, 2-year study, it appears that any of the N sources studied would be suitable for tomato production, if price of N fertilizer materials are the same.

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E.A. Guertal and C.B. Elkins

Photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) was measured at two times of day (8:00 am and noon Central Standard Time) in a 915 × 915-cm area of a 1006 × 915-cm gable roof greenhouse. PAR measurements were taken across a grid at 40-cm intervals, a total of 529 data points. Spatial variation of PAR in the greenhouse was evaluated through contour plots and the geostatistical technique of semivariogram construction. Semivariograms provide a visual guide to the degree of spatial correlation of a variable, allowing a quantification of the distance at which variables cease to be spatially correlated (the range) Measured PAR contained distinct zones of lowered values, a function of overhead greenhouse structures, wall-hung electrical boxes, and tall plants in adjacent greenhouses. Although the amount of PAR changed over time, zones of high and low PAR remained relatively constant, except at the sides of the greenhouse. Constructed semivariograms revealed that PAR contained strong spatial correlation (up to a 350-cm separation) as measured in the north-south direction, moving parallel to greenhouse bench placement. When PAR measurements perpendicular to benches (east-west) were used in directional semivariograms PAR was found to be completely random, plotting as a horizontal line called a nugget effect. Thus, plants placed perpendicular to the greenhouse benches (east-west) would not be affected by the spatial correlation of PAR.

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M.L. Elliott, E.A. Guertal, and H.D. Skipper

The rhizospheres of creeping bentgrass (Agrostis palustris Huds.) and hybrid bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. × C. transvaalensis Burtt-Davy) putting greens were sampled quarterly for 4 years. Six bacterial groups, including total aerobic bacteria, fluorescent pseudomonads, actinomycetes, Gram-negative bacteria, Gram-positive bacteria, and heat-tolerant bacteria, were enumerated. The putting greens were located in four geographic locations (bentgrass in Alabama and North Carolina; bermudagrass in Florida and South Carolina) and were maintained according to local maintenance practices. Significant effects were observed for sampling date, turfgrass species and location, with most variation due to either turfgrass species or location. Bentgrass roots had significantly greater numbers of fluorescent pseudomonads than bermudagrass roots, while bermudagrass roots had significantly greater numbers of Gram-positive bacteria, actinomycetes and heat-tolerant bacteria. The North Carolina or South Carolina locations always had the greatest number of bacteria in each bacterial group. For most sampling dates in all four locations and both turfgrass species, there was a minimum, per gram dry root, of 107 CFUs enumerated on the total aerobic bacterial medium and a minimum of 105 CFUs enumerated on the actinomycete bacterial medium. Thus, it appears that in the southeastern U.S. there are large numbers of culturable bacteria in putting green rhizospheres that are relatively stable over time and geographic location.

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E.A. Guertal, B.K. Behe, and J.M. Kemble

The use of composted waste materials as an alternative source of potting media has received much interest in recent years. Our objective was to incorporate composted, ground poultry litter into a standard greenhouse potting mix, and evaluate the effect of the poultry litter on vegetable transplants grown in the greenhouse and transplanted to the field. Treatments consisted of potting mixes of 100% potting media or 50/50 media/poultry litter. Collards (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala DC.), broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica Plenck.), cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. var. capitata L.) and three tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) cultivars were utilized as test crops. A nutrient solution treatment of 8 oz of 8N-11P-7K fertilizer or 8 oz of water was added when transplants were set in the field. Plant weight and nitrogen content were measured weekly during the greenhouse production stage, and final crop yield was recorded at harvest. Any effect from the inclusion of poultry litter in the potting media on cole crop (collards, broccoli, cabbage) transplant dry weight had disappeared by the fourth week of sampling in the greenhouse, and final yield of cole crops was unaffected by either type of potting mix or presence or absence of starter nutrient solution. Dry weight of tomato transplants was not affected by type of potting media. Differences in tomato yield due to type of potting mix were observed, as plots with transplants grown in the 50/50 mix had greater nonmarketable yields (`Bonnie' and `Big Boy'). Yield of `Big Boy' tomato was increased by the addition of starter nutrient solution. It appears that composted, uniformly prepared waste materials are suitable for production of vegetable transplants.

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R.P. Flynn, C.W. Wood, and E.A. Guertal

A glasshouse study was conducted to evaluate the suitability of composted broiler chicken (Gallus gallus) litter as a potting substrate using lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.). Broiler litters containing wood shavings or peanut bulls as bedding materials were composted with either shredded pine bark or peanut hulls. Composted materials were then combined with a commercially available potting substrate. Greatest fresh weight yield was obtained when peanut bull compost was mixed with commercial potting substrate at a ratio of 3:1. Fresh weight was less with pine bark compost than with peanut hull compost. However, there were no differences in lettuce dry weight among composts except for pine bark composted with wood-shaving broiler litter. The pH of this material was below the lettuce tolerance level for mixes at or above 50% compost. There was no evidence of lettuce physiological disorders resulting from excessive nutrient concentration. Most elements analyzed (N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, and Al) were within or slightly above sufficiency ranges for Boston-type leaf lettuce. It appears that composting broiler litter for use as a potting substrate or component would be one suitable alternative to land application in the southern United States. We recommend, however, that the pH of substrates be adjusted to suit desired crop requirements.

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Monica L. Elliott, J.A. McInroy, K. Xiong, J.H. Kim, H.D. Skipper, and E.A. Guertal

Taxonomic diversity of bacteria associated with golf course putting greens is a topic that has not been widely explored. The purpose of this project was to isolate and identify culturable bacteria from the rhizosphere of creeping bentgrass (Agrostris palustris Huds.) at two sites (Alabama and North Carolina) and hybrid bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. × C. transvaalensis Burtt-Davy] at two sites (Florida and South Carolina) for a minimum of 3 years with sampling initiated after the construction process. Randomly selected colonies were identified using gas chromatography for analysis of fatty acid methyl ester profiles. Over 9000 isolates were successfully analyzed. When a similarity index of 0.300 or higher was used, the average number of unidentifiable isolates was 38.6%. The two dominant genera in both bentgrass and bermudagrass rhizospheres were Bacillus and Pseudomonas with Bacillus dominant in bermudagrass and Pseudomonas dominant or equal to Bacillus in bentgrass. Other genera that comprised at least 1% of the isolates at all four sites were Clavibacter, Flavobacterium, and Microbacterium. Arthrobacter also comprised a significant portion of the bacterial isolates in the bentgrass rhizosphere, but not the bermudagrass rhizosphere. Overall, there were 40 genera common to all four sites. At the species level, there were five that comprised at least 1% of the isolates at each location: B. cereus, B. megaterium, C. michiganensis, F. johnsoniae, and P. putida. As has been reported for many grasses, we found considerable taxonomic diversity among the culturable bacterial populations from the rhizospheres of bentgrass and bermudagrass grown in sand-based putting greens.