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  • Author or Editor: Ben Mullinix x
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Bananas (Musa spp.) are a popular ornamental plant in the southern United States; however, only a few cultivars, such as Lady's Finger and Orinoco, are grown in Georgia. Thirty-three primarily commercial cultivars of bananas were grown for 2 years near Savannah, Georgia, to determine their suitability for ornamental and nursery production, and for 3 years for fruit observations. Most plants were grown from tissue culture plugs. They were given rates of fertilization used for commercial banana fruit production. Most cultivars produced 10 to 14 leaves and grew to heights of 1.5 to 2.0 m. Some displayed desirable ornamental characteristics such as pink-tinted pseudostems, colorful flowers, and large graceful leaves. Some of the most attractive tall-growing cultivars were Belle, Ice Cream, Kandarian, Manzano, Saba, and 1780. Some of the most attractive medium-height cultivars were Dwarf Namwah, Dwarf Orinoco, Goldfinger, Raja Puri, and Super Plantain. In the short category, the cultivars Dwarf Nino, Gran Nain, Kru, and Sum X Cross were among the most attractive ornamentals. Many of the cultivars flowered and began producing fruit in late summer, although only ‘Raja Puri’, ‘Sweetheart’, and ‘1780’ produced palatable fruit before frost in November. Cultivars were also rated for their ability to produce suckers that could be used for nursery production. In year 2, ‘Manzano’ and ‘1780’ produced more than six high-quality suckers for nursery propagation. Potential income for these cultivars was over $60 per plant. For the planting as a whole, sales of suckers at a field day averaged $7 per plant in year 2, and $17 per plant in year 3.

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Georgia has an excellent window for organic blueberry production since much of the crop ripens ahead of production in the northern U.S. Major challenges facing Georgia organic blueberry growers are weed control, organic fertilization, insect control and disease control. A team of Georgia growers, extension agents and scientists are working together to solve these production problems. Since 2002 a series of experiments have been conducted on blueberry establishment and maintenance. Various mulch materials were tested. On young plants, pine straw produced the highest yields, but pine bark and landscape fabric were also successful. With the pine straw treatment, a respectable yield of 0.97 kg/plant occurred 24 months after planting. In addition, a bed shaper–plastic mulch layer was modified by developing a removable center. Using this system, beds are formed, plants are mechanically transplanted, plants are pruned to 75 mm, and plastic is then pulled over the stem. This produces a fairly tight fit around the stem and a nearly weed free system except for weeds growing from the edges. On mature plants, pine bark and wheat straw were tested. Wheat straw produced excellent weed control and improved blueberry growth in year one and two. However, pine bark mulch provided the best weed control in year three. Various organic burn down compounds such as vinegar, Xpress, Alldown, and Matran 2 were tested for winter weed control efficacy. In these trials Matran 2 was the most effective, and the product also performed well on woody weeds that were winter pruned, allowed to resprout and then treated. A propane torch was also tested, but discarded because of the fire hazard. Entrust insecticide was tested for thrips control and gibberellic acid for fruit set. Thrips populations were low, so no effect on fruit set was noted from Entrust. Gibberellic acid significantly improved fruit set.

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