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S. Alan Walters and Jeffrey D. Kindhart

Various tillage systems were evaluated in summer squash (Cucurbita pepo) production in southern Illinois to observe the influence of these systems on yellow and zucchini squash production during 1998, 1999, and 2000. For squash production, suppression of a cover crop such as tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) or winter ryegrass (Secale cereale) must be accomplished to obtain the greatest possible yields. However, once the cover crop is killed via herbicides, squash yields tend to be similar among tillage, strip tillage, and no-tillage treatments. Previous studies indicated that early yields may be reduced when using a no-tillage production system, especially if direct seeding is the method of planting and would not be beneficial to growers seeking early production. This study found that squash growers can use transplants in a no-tillage system and not compromise early yields. No differences were observed for soil bulk densities between tillage and no-tillage treatments and may partially explain why similar yields were obtained between these treatments. Effective systems for weed control must be developed in no-tillage squash production before wide acceptance will occur. Observations from this study indicated that the success of no-tillage squash production depends on the availability of effective herbicides; however, few herbicides are currently labeled for use in summer squash. Future studies need to address the problem of weed control in no-tillage squash production.

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Samuel E. Wortman, Michael S. Douglass, and Jeffrey D. Kindhart

Demand for local food, including strawberries (Fragaria ×ananassa), is increasing throughout the United States. Strawberry production in the midwestern United States can be challenging due to the relatively short growing season and pests. However, vertical, hydroponic, high tunnel production systems could extend the growing season, minimize pest incidence, and maximize strawberry yield and profitability. The objectives of this study were to 1) identify the best cultivars and growing media for vertical, hydroponic, high tunnel production of strawberries in the midwestern United States and to 2) assess potential strategies for replacing synthetic fertilizer with organic nutrient sources in hydroponic strawberry production. To accomplish these objectives, three experiments were conducted across 2 years and two locations in Illinois to compare 11 strawberry cultivars, three soilless media mixtures, and three nutrient sources. Strawberry yield was greatest when grown in perlite mixed with coco coir or vermiculite and fertilized with a synthetic nutrient source. Yield was reduced by up to 15% when fertilized with a bio-based, liquid nutrient source and vermicompost mixed with soilless media. Strawberry yield among cultivars varied by year and location, but Florida Radiance, Monterey, Evie 2, Portola, and Seascape were among the highest-yielding cultivars in at least one site-year. Results contribute to the development of best management practices for vertical, hydroponic, high tunnel strawberry production in the midwestern United States, but further research is needed to understand nutrient dynamics and crop physiological response among levels within vertical, hydroponic towers.

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S. Alan Walters, Jeffrey D. Kindhart, Houston A. Hobbs, and Darin M. Eastburn

Viruses are a serious threat to cucurbit production in southern Illinois. The most prevalent viruses infecting cucurbit crops in the region were determined during the 1998, 1999, and 2000 growing seasons to enable growers to make better decisions on viral disease management. Watermelon mosaic virus (WMV) was the most prevalent virus as it was found in ≈84% of samples over the three years. Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), papaya ringspot virus (PRSV), squash mosaic virus (SqMV), and zucchini yellow mosaic virus (ZYMV) were detected in ≈8%, 6%, 9%, and 1% of samples, respectively, over the 3-year period. WMV was generally the only virus isolated from samples collected before mid-September. Other viruses, including CMV, PRSV, SqMV, and ZYMV, were generally first detected after mid-September and were usually found as mixed infections with WMV.