Vidalia onions (Allium cepa) are a branded product of southeastern Georgia marketed under a federal marketing order. They are short-day, yellow onions with a Granex shape that are susceptible to a number of diseases postharvest, limiting the amount of time they can be marketed. Postharvest treatments and storage methods can help extend their marketability. Thus, the objective of this study was to evaluate these postharvest treatments and storage conditions on quality of three Vidalia onion varieties: ‘WI-129’, ‘Sapelo Sweet’, and ‘Caramelo’. All varieties were undercut, then either harvested immediately (zero cure), field cured (2 days), or forced-air heat cured (3 days at ≈37 °C) when judged mature. ‘WI-129’, ‘Sapelo Sweet’, and ‘Caramelo’ represent early, midseason, and late varieties, respectively. Bulbs were then sorted and stored in refrigerated storage [0–1 °C, 70% relative humidity (RH)], sulfur dioxide (SO2) (1000 mg·L−1 in 2010 and 5000 mg·L−1 in 2011, one time fumigation) followed by refrigeration, ozone (O3 (0.1–10 mg·L−1; continuous exposure, 0–1 °C, 70% RH), or controlled-atmosphere storage [3% oxygen (O2), 5% carbon dioxide (CO2), 0–1 °C, 70% RH]. After 2 and 4 months, bulbs were removed from storage, and evaluated after 1 and 14 days for quality and incidence of disorders. ‘Caramelo’ had the lowest percent marketable onions after curing in 2010, while ‘WI-128’ had the lowest percent marketable onions in 2011. There was a rain event immediately before harvesting ‘Caramelo’ that may have contributed to low marketability in 2010. Heat curing improved marketability for ‘Sapelo Sweet’ and ‘WI-129’ in 2010 compared with no curing. In 2011, heat curing resulted in more marketable onions for ‘Sapelo Sweet’ compared with no curing. Curing had no effect on ‘Caramelo’ in 2011 and field curing had the greatest percent marketable onions for ‘WI-129’ in 2011. In 2010, controlled-atmosphere storage had more marketable onions compared with SO2 for ‘Caramelo’ and was better than simple refrigeration or O3 with ‘WI-129’. In 2011 refrigeration, controlled-atmosphere storage, and O3 were all better than SO2 with ‘Caramelo’. ‘Sapelo Sweet’ and ‘WI-129’, on the other hand in 2011, had better storage with SO2 compared with other storage methods. Onions stored for 2 months had 32% and 17% more marketable onions after removal compared with 4 months of storage regardless of storage conditions for 2010 and 2011, respectively. Poststorage shelf life was reduced by about one-third, 14 days after removal from storage regardless of the storage conditions.
Manish K. Bansal, George E. Boyhan and Daniel D. MacLean
George E. Boyhan, Suzanne O’Connell, Ryan McNeill and Suzanne Stone
Organic production is a fast-growing sector of agriculture in need of variety evaluations under their unique production systems. This study evaluated 16 watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) varieties for their performance characteristics under organic production practices. Plants were grown on plastic mulch-covered beds on land that had been certified organic in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program. Six of the entries were F1 hybrids; the remaining entries were open-pollinated (OP) varieties. Of the 10 OP varieties, three were considered heirloom varieties, including Cream of Saskatchewan, Georgia Rattlesnake, and Moon & Stars. ‘Georgia Rattlesnake’ was the highest yielding variety and had the greatest average fruit weight. Along with ‘Georgia Rattlesnake’, ‘Nunhems 800’, ‘Nunhems 860’, ‘Orangeglo’, and ‘SSX 8585’ were included in the top five yielding varieties. The top five yielding varieties had fruit size that averaged more than 20 lb. Fruit size correlated with rind thickness, with lighter fruit having thinner rind (Pearson’s correlation, r = 0.779), which is not unexpected. ‘Sangria’ had the greatest average soluble solids content at 11.2%, which was greater than all entries with soluble solids less than 10%.
George E. Boyhan, James E. Brown, Cynthia Channel-Butcher and Virginia K. Perdue
A 3-year study to evaluate mulch type (reflective and black) and new virus resistant summer squash (Cucurbita pepo L.) varieties was undertaken. In the first year of the study (1996), in Shorter, Ala., under slight virus pressure, silver painted mulch suppressed virus symptoms through the final evaluation 2 months after planting. In addition, virus symptoms were significantly more prevalent on `Dixie' compared to `Supersett', `Tigress', `HMX 5727', `Jaguar', `Destiny III', and `Prelude II'. In the second year (1997), two different experiments were conducted in Savannah, Ga., where there was no virus pressure. In the first experiment at the Savannah location, `Tigress' and `HMX 6704' had significantly higher yields than `Destiny III', `Prelude II', `Puma', `Jaguar', `Meigs', `Dixie', and `Supersett'. In the second Savannah experiment, `Prelude II' and `Destiny III' had significantly higher yields than `Zucchini Elite', `Supersett', `HMX 6704', and `Jaguar'. In 1998 at Shorter, there was no difference in virus incidence based on mulch used. Although there were differences in virus incidence among varieties, the lowest incidence was 70% of plants infected for `Prelude II'. In addition to field evaluations, these varieties were evaluated for resistance to zucchini yellow mosaic virus under greenhouse conditions. Varieties HMX 7710, HMX 6704, Puma, Tigress, Prelude II, Jaguar, and Destiny III were significantly more resistant compared to varieties Zucchini Elite, Meigs, Supersett, and Dixie. In conclusion, reflective mulch was effective only under slight virus pressure.
George E. Boyhan, Norman E. Schmidt, Floyd M. Woods, David G. Himelrick and William M. Randle
A spectrophotometric assay for pyruvic acid in onion has been adapted to a microplate reader. Correlations between the spectrophotometer and microplate reader ranged from 0.991 to 0.997 for sodium pyruvate standards and 0.899 to 0.934 for onion samples. Onion pungency values were slightly higher with the microplate reader for both sample and background compared to the spectrophotometer when both are used in the single wavelength mode. Comparing the spectrophotometer in the single wavelength mode to the microplate reader in the dual wavelength mode resulted in no statistically significant difference between them. Standards for both the microplate reader and spectrophotometer followed a quadratic function.
Theekshana C. Jayalath, George E. Boyhan, Elizabeth L. Little, Robert I. Tate and Suzanne O’Connell
High tunnels may help mitigate unfavorable climate and weather on lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) production leading to greater yields and quality, yet information for using these systems in the Southeast region is lacking. This study evaluated the effect of high tunnels and three planting dates (PDs) (early March, late-March, and mid-April) on spring organic lettuce production. A 25% to 36% increase in marketable fresh weight for butterhead and romaine lettuce, respectively, was observed under high tunnels compared with the field in 2016, but there was no difference among the two growing systems in 2015. High tunnel lettuce was harvested ≈2 to 7 days earlier than in the field in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Pest and disease pressure (e.g., Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) as well as the incidence of physiological disorders (i.e., bolting, tip burn, and undersized heads) were similar between the two systems indicating that our high tunnel system did not provide a benefit for these issues. High tunnel air temperatures were ≈3 to 5 °C greater on the coldest mornings and only 1 °C greater on the warmest days compared with the field. Average relative humidity (RH), leaf wetness, and light levels were all lower under the high tunnels. Our results indicate that high tunnels can help increase the production of spring organic lettuce in Georgia, but that the advantage may depend on yearly weather conditions.
George E. Boyhan, Reid L. Torrance, Jeff Cook, Cliff Riner and C. Randell Hill
Onions (Allium cepa) produced in southeastern Georgia's Vidalia-growing region are primarily grown from on-farm–produced bareroot transplants, which are usually sown the end of September. These transplants are pulled midwinter (November–January) and are reset to their final spacing. This study was to evaluate transplant size and spacing effects on yield and quality of onions. Large transplants (260–280 g per 20 plants) generally produced the highest yield. Medium transplant size in the range of 130 to 150 g per 20 plants produced satisfactory yield while maintaining low numbers of seedstems (flowering) and doubled bulbs, which are undesirable characteristics. Smaller transplant size (40–60 g per 20 plants) have reduced yields and lower numbers of seedstems and double bulbs. Increasing plant population from 31,680 to 110,880 plants/acre can increase yield. In addition, plant populations of 110,880 plants/acre can increase yields compared with 63,360 plants/acre (industry standard), but only when environmental conditions favor low seedstem numbers. Seedstems can be high because of specific varieties, high plant population, or more importantly, in years with environmental conditions that are conducive to their formation. ‘Sweet Vidalia’ was the only variety that had consistently reduced quality and high numbers of seedstems. ‘Sweet Vidalia’ has a propensity for high seedstem numbers, which may have influenced results with this variety. A complete fertilization program that included 133 or 183 lb/acre nitrogen did not affect onion yield, regardless of variety or population density.
George E. Boyhan, Julia W. Gaskin, Elizabeth L. Little, Esendugue G. Fonsah and Suzanne P. Stone
Certified organic production is challenging in the southeastern United States due to high weed, insect, and disease pressure. Maintaining and building soil organic carbon in midscale organic production systems can also be difficult due to the warm, moist conditions that promote decomposition. Focusing on cool-season cash crops paired with warm-season cover crops may help alleviate these production problems. This 3-year study (2011–13) evaluated two vegetable rotations of cool-season crops with cover crops for their productivity, disease management, and soil building potential in Watkinsville, GA. In the first rotation, cool-season cash crops included onion (Allium cepa), strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa), and potato (Solanum tuberosum). These crops were rotated with green bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), oats/austrian winter pea (Avena sativa/Pisum sativum ssp. arvense), southernpea (Vigna unguiculata), and sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea). In the second rotation, cool-season cash crops included onion, broccoli (Brassica oleracea Italica group), lettuce (Lactuca sativa), and carrot (Daucus carota ssp. sativus). These were rotated with millet (Urochloa ramosa), sunn hemp, egyptian wheat/iron clay pea (Sorghum sp./Vigna unguiculata), and sorghum × sudangrass (Sorghum bicolor × S. bicolor var. sudanese)/iron clay pea. Onion yields in both rotations were at least 80% of average yields in Georgia. Lettuce yields were at least double the average yields in Georgia and were comparable to national averages in the 2nd and 3rd years of the study. Strawberry yields in these rotations were lower than Georgia averages in all 3 years with a trend of lower yields over the course of the study. By contrast, potato, although lower than average yields in Georgia increased each year of the study. Broccoli yields in the first year were substantially lower than average Georgia yields, but were comparable to average yields in the 2nd year. Carrot remained less than half of average Georgia yields. Green bean were half of average Georgia yields in the 2nd year and were comparable to average yields in the 3rd year. As expected from what is observed in cool-season organic vegetable production in Georgia, disease pressure was low. Cover crops maintained soil organic carbon (C) with a small increase in active C; however, there was a net loss of potentially mineralizable nitrogen (PMN). Active C averaged across both rotations at the beginning of the study at 464 mg·kg−1 and averaged 572 mg·kg−1 at the end of the study. On the basis of this study, using cover crops can maintain soil carbon without the addition of carbon sources such as compost. Finally, longer term work needs to be done to assess soil management strategies.
George E. Boyhan, Gerard Krewer, Darbie M. Granberry, C. Randell Hill and William A. Mills
George E. Boyhan, Albert C. Purvis, William C. Hurst, Reid L. Torrance and J. Thad Paulk
This study was undertaken to evaluate the effect of harvest date on yield and storage of short-day onions in controlled-atmosphere (CA) storage conditions. In general, harvest yields increased with later harvest dates. Yields of jumbo (>7.6 cm) onions primarily showed a quadratic or cubic response to harvest date, first increasing and then showing diminished or reduced marginal yields. Medium (>5.1 to ≤7.6 cm) onions generally showed diminished yield with later harvests as jumbos increased. Neither days from transplanting to harvest nor calculated degree days were reliable at predicting harvest date for a particular cultivar. Cultivars (early, midseason, and late maturing) performed consistently within their harvest class compared to other cultivars for a specific year, but could not be used to accurately predict a specific number of days to harvest over all years. Only three of the eight statistical assessments of percent marketable onions after CA storage were significant with two showing a linear increase with later harvest date and one showing a cubic trend, first increasing, then decreasing, and finally increasing again based on harvest date.
George E. Boyhan, Reid L. Torrance, Ronald H. Blackley Jr., M. Jefferson Cook and C. Randell Hill
Fertilizer rates of N, P, K were evaluated over 4 years (2000–03) as were different sources of experimental and commercial fertilizers. The highest total yields and yields of jumbos (≥7.6 cm) occurred with nitrogen rates of 140–168 kg·ha–1. Neither phosphorus nor potassium rates had an affect on total yield. Phosphorus rates of 0-147 kg·ha–1 and potassium rates of 0–177 kg·ha–1 were evaluated. Increasing nitrogen fertilizer resulted in increasing leaf tissue nitrogen, but did not affect P, K, Ca, or S. Increasing phosphorus fertilizer increased leaf tissue phosphorus only slightly (p = 0.060) with no affect on other leaf nutrient levels. Increasing potassium fertilizer did affect leaf tissue potassium 2 out of 4 years with none of the other leaf nutrient levels affected. Several fertilizers were also evaluated including an experimental fortified peat (10%N), calcium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, diammonium phosphate, 5–10–15 (56 kg·ha–1 N), 18-6-8 liquid, 14–0–12 8%S liquid, 19–8–19 slow-release at rates of 140 and 168 kg·ha–1 nitrogen. All were used to supply 168 kg·ha–1 nitrogen unless noted otherwise. P and K were supplied according to soil test recommendations unless they were part of the fertilizer formulation. There were no differences between the different fertilizer sources for total yield and differences in jumbo yields only occurred one year out of three years of testing and for medium (≥5.1 and <7.6 cm) yields there were differences two years out of three years of testing.