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  • Author or Editor: Joseph M. Kemble x
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In-season nitrogen (N) management is a common challenge in organic vegetable production. This is especially true when using polyethylene mulch combined with fertigation. Soluble organic N sources suitable for fertigation in organic vegetable production are needed. The objective of this research was to evaluate an organic fish fertilizer in a squash/collard rotation and to compare its effectiveness to inorganic sources. A 2-year crop sequence of yellow squash (Cucurbita pepo) and collards (Brassica oleracea var. acephala) was used. To eliminate the rotation order effect, the crops were switched each year: yellow squash-collard in Year 1 and collard-yellow squash in Year 2. Three N sources were used along with a zero N control: hydrolyzed fish fertilizer (HFF), inorganic N source with secondary and micronutrients (INORGWM), and inorganic N without secondary or micronutrients (INORGWO). Three N rates and a control were also included: 1) N at the recommended rate (152 kg·ha−1 for yellow squash and 110 kg·ha−1 for collards); 2) N at 80% of the recommended rate; 3) N at 60% of the recommended rate; and 4) a zero N control. Year 2012 yellow squash had a 30% higher yield when grown with inorganic N as compared with squash grown in HFF. Year 2012 collards had a 21% higher yield when grown with INORGWM as compared with collards grown in the HFF. In the second year, highest yields of collards were again produced in the INORGWM treatments followed by those grown in the HFF treatments. Second-year squash grown in the inorganic N treatments produced highest yields, and squash grown in the HFF had a 16% lower yield as compared with those grown in the two inorganic N sources. INORGWO produced lower marketable collard yields than INORGWM or HFF as a result of sulfur deficiency. Although yields were reduced in the crops grown in HFF treatments, the premium price and resultant profit associated with organic products were enough to offset the reduced yield. If growers can obtain the price premiums associated with organic produce, the use of HFF could be an economically feasible option in organic vegetable production.

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The Alabama Tomato Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program was demonstrated during two growing seasons in southeastern Alabama. The program consisted of a twice-a-week insect/disease scouting service combined with a weather-timed spray program (TOM-CAST). On average, growers made four fewer insecticide applications and three to four fewer fungicide applications when following the IPM program compared to their conventional, calendar-based program. There was no apparent reduction in yield when following the IPM program. An economic analysis indicated that growers following the IPM program saved an average of $54.36/acre ($134.32/ha).

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Mini-watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.)] cultivars Valdoria and Vanessa were evaluated at 20, 30, 40, or 50 days after anthesis to determine maturity at harvest. Fruit circumference, weight, ground spot color, and number of senescent tendrils were measured as external indicators for each watermelon. Soluble solids content (SS), pH, and SS:total acid ratio (SS:TA) of each watermelon were determined to provide an indication of internal maturity. Regression and Akaike Information Criterion fit statistics analyses were performed to determine significant relationships and best predictors for external indicators of internal maturity factors. In this study, external predictors were most closely linked to fruit pH rather than to SS or SS/TA. Of the external indicators tested, fruit weight, circumference, number of senescent tendrils, and International Commission on Illumination (CIE) b* color coordinate values of the ground spot were best related to fruit pH. According to the regression models, two completely senesced tendrils, a circumference of 53 cm, weight of 3 kg, and CIE b* coordinate ground spot value of 40 are each sufficient to predict maturity when pH is used as the internal indicator of maturity under the conditions of this experiment.

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The development of more cold-tolerant short-cycle banana cultivars has made subtropical production possible, but fruiting may be unreliable in colder margins, such as the coastal region of Alabama, as a result of cold winter temperatures and other suboptimal growing conditions. Thus, the objectives of this study were to determine plant growth parameters that predict flowering, and to evaluate vegetative and reproductive growth of Cavendish and non-Cavendish banana cultivars. Pseudostem circumference and the height-to-circumference ratio (HCR) for tall cultivars and HCR for medium cultivars exhibited linear or quadratic relationships when regressed to the number of days from planting to inflorescence emergence (DPE), and hence were the best predictors of inflorescence emergence. The banana cultivars Double, Grand Nain, Cardaba, Ice Cream, and Goldfinger demonstrated cropping potential by producing mature bunches in the cooler environment of the subtropics and currently offer the best possibilities for banana production in Alabama.

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Production of high tunnel tomatoes and snapdragons was evaluated over a 2-year period at the Wiregrass Experiment Station, in southeastern Alabama. `BHN 640', `Florida 91', `Sunleaper', and `Carolina Gold', were evaluated in early Spring 2004. Results indicated that `BHN 640' outperformed `Florida 91' and `Carolina Gold' in early production of high tunnel grown tomatoes. A late Fall 2005 study examined `BHN 640' and `Florida 91'. Results indicated that `BHN 640' was superior to `Florida 91' in total marketable fruit. Season extension of both spring and fall tomato production were accomplished. A planting date study was completed in the early Spring 2005. The following four planting dates were evaluated: 31 Jan., 17 Feb., 4 Mar., and 25. Mar 2005. Wind damage to the high tunnel caused some mortality; however, the two earliest planting dates (31 Jan. and 17 Feb. 2005) produced over 10 lbs. of marketable tomatoes per plant. These were both superior to the last planting date of 25 Mar 2005. Cut snapdragons were evaluated for suitable colored mulch (red, white, or blue) and varieties for summer (`Opus Yellow', `Opus Rose', `Monaco Red', and `Potomac Early White') and fall (`Apollo Purple', `Apollo Yellow', `Monaco Red', `Monaco Rose', and `Potomac Early Orange') production. Results indicated that inflorescence length was affected by the color of mulch. The red mulch had increased inflorescence length compared to the white in Summer 2005. The Fall 2005 study revealed that white mulch had longer inflorescence length than the red or blue mulch. Some varietal differences were observed. The `Apollo Purple' had longer stem lengths than all other varieties for the fall study. The summer study revealed that `Opus Yellow' had longer inflorescence lengths than all others but stem lengths were all similar.

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