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Vitamin C (VC) levels (mg/l00 g FW) were determined in 10 varieties of colored bell pepper grown under different field conditions. VC was determined by the microfluorometric method. `Orobelle' (169 mg), `King Arthur' (143 mg), `Valencia' (141 mg), and `Chocolate Bell' (134 mg) had significantly higher VC levels than `Dove' (109 mg), `Ivory' (106 mg), `Blue Jay' (93 mg), `Canary' (90 mg), and `Black Bird' (65 mg). The largest variability (53 mg) in VC levels were observed for varieties that had the highest VC content. Mean VC levels were 143a, 143a, 141a, 136a, 108ab, 93bc, and 63c for the yellow, red, orange, brown, white, purple, and black colors, respectively. Since the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for VC is 60 mg per day, these results suggested that a 100-g serving of fresh bell pepper or less would supply 100% RDA of VC. Therefore, after selecting a color, growers still have the freedom to grow a variety that performs well in their area to produce peppers of high VC contents.

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Florida tomato growers generate about $600 million of annual farm gate sales. The Florida Vegetable and Agronomic Crop Water Quality/Quantity Best Management Practices Manual was adopted by rule in the Florida Administrative Code in 2006 and describes cultural practices available to tomato growers that have the potential to improve water quality. By definition, BMPs are specific cultural practices that are proven to optimize yield while minimizing pollution. BMPs must be technically feasible, economically viable, socially acceptable, and based on sound science. The BMP manual for vegetables endorses UF-IFAS recommendations, including those for fertilization and irrigation. Current statewide N fertilizer recommendations for tomato provide for a base rate of 224 kg/ha plus provisions for supplemental fertilizer applications 1) after a leaching rain, 2) under extended harvest season, and 3) when plant nutrient levels (leaf or petiole) fall below the sufficiency range. An on-farm project in seven commercial fields was conducted in 2004 under cool and dry growing conditions, to compare grower practices (ranging from 264 to 468 kg/ha of N) to the recommended rate. Early and total extra-large yields tended to be higher with growers' rate than with the recommended rate, but these differences were significant only in one trial. The first-year results illustrated the need for recommendations to be tested for several years and to provide flexibility to account for the reality of local growing conditions. Working one-on-one with commercial growers provided an opportunity to focus on each farm`s educational needs and to identify specific improvements in nutrient and irrigation management.

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The development of best management practices (BMP) and the alloca-tion of pollution among land users in a watershed (TMDL) requires an understanding of the effect of cultural practices on both yields and nutrient leaching below the root zone. `Florida 47' tomato and `La Estrella' tropical pumpkin were grown on plasticulture using combinations of UF–IFAS recommended N and irrigation rates in a 1-ha field in 2004. Average N and irrigation rates over the whole field were 100% and 80%, respectively. Nitrate movement was assessed with twenty-four 1-m-long drainage lysimeters in each plot and ten 7-m-deep wells in and around the field Lysimeters and wells were sampled every 2 and 3 weeks throughout the year, respectively. Leachate volume and concentration in the drainage lysimeters were highly variable. Except shortly after the 25-cm rain due to hurricane Jeanne, most leachate volumes were <1 L·m–1. Annual NO3-N mean treatment load ranged between 7 and 15 kg·ha–1, but these differences were not significant due to high variability (CV = 175%). Single-lysimeter annual highest load was 39 kg·ha–1 of NO3-N (17.5% of N applied). In 2004, NO3-N concentration in well water was <1, ranged between 15 and 35, ranged between 0 and 10 mg·L–1 NO3-N in the up-stream control, inside, and perimeter wells, respectively. These concentrations are in the same ranges as those observed in this field in previous years (1997–2003) and often exceeded the 10 mg/L drinking water standard. Because NO3-N discharge into the environment may occur after the growing season, BMPs should be implemented on a year round basis. The methodology used in load measurement should be improved to better account for spatial variability.

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An evaluation of the effect of bed width (24, 28, 32, and 36 inches) on the control of a mixed population of nutsedge [yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus) and purple nutsedge (C. rotundus)] was conducted with an emulsifiable concentrate formulation of a 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D) and chloropicrin (CP) mixture (1,3-DCP) for application through drip irrigation systems. Beds were mulched with either 1.4-mil-thick virtually impermeable film (VIF) or 0.75-mil-thick high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and 1,3-DCP was applied at 35 gal/acre by surface chemigation or via subsurface chemigation 6 inches deep within the bed. HDPE was more permeable to gaseous 1,3-D than VIF so that 1 day after treatment (DAT), 1,3-D gas concentration at the bed centers under VIF was significantly higher than under HDPE. Dissipation of 1,3-D gas with HDPE occurred within 7 DAT, but dissipation with VIF took ∼10 days. In bed centers, 1,3-D concentrations 1 DAT were in the range of 2.3 to 2.9 mg·L–1 whereas in bed shoulders concentrations ranged from 0.1 to 0.55 mg·L–1. In 2002 and 2003, 1,3-D concentration in shoulders of narrower beds was significantly higher than in the wider beds, but dissipated more rapidly than in wider beds. Lower initial 1,3-D concentrations were observed with HDPE film in shoulders than with VIF and the rate of dissipation was lower with VIF. At 14 DAT, nutsedge plants were densely distributed along bed shoulders (19 to 27 plants/m2) with little or no emergence in the centers of beds (fewer than 5 plants/m2), but with no response to bed width. Nutsedge density increased with time, but the nature of the increase differed with bed width. The most effective nutsedge suppression was achieved with 36-inch beds, which had densities of 11–13 plants/m2 on bed centers and 53 plants/m2 on bed shoulders by 90 DAT. Nutsedge suppression was initially more effective with VIF than with HDPE film, so that no nutsedge emerged in the centers of beds mulched with VIF compared with 2–7 plants/ m2 with HDPE by 14 DAT. On bed shoulders there were 2–7 plants/m2 with VIF and 32–57 plants/m2 with HDPE. Increase in nutsedge density with time was greater with VIF so that by 90 DAT nutsedge densities on bed centers and shoulders were greater than with HDPE in 2002 and the same as with HDPE in 2003. Subsurface chemigation did not consistently improve suppression of nutsedge when compared with surface chemigation. Concentrations of 1,3-D in bed shoulders irrespective of bed width were nonlethal. Initial superior nutsedge suppression with VIF did not persist. Nutsedge control in a sandy soil with 1,3-DCP chemigation is unsatisfactory with one drip-tape per bed.

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About 10,000 ha of staked tomato are grown each year in the winter–spring season in southwest Florida. Tomatoes are produced with transplants, raised beds, polyethylene mulch, drip or seepage irrigation, and intensive fertilization. With the development of nutrient best management practices (BMPs) for vegetable crops and increased competition among water users, N recommendations must ensure economical yields, but still minimize the environmental impact of tomato production. The current University of Florida–IFAS (UF–IFAS) N fertilization rate of 224 kg·ha-1 (with supplemental fertilizer applications under specified conditions) may require adjustment based on soil type and irrigation system. Because growers should be involved in the development and implementation of BMPs, this project established partnerships with southwest Florida tomato growers. Studies evaluated the effects of N application rates on yield, plant growth, petiole N sap, pests, and diseases. Nine on-farm trials were conducted during the dry winter 2004–05 season. Treatments consisted of N fertilizer rates ranging from 224 to 448 kg·ha-1, with each trial including at least the UF–IFAS rate and the traditional rate. Although total yields were comparable among N rates, there were differences in size category. Nitrogen rates had little effect on tomato biomass 30 and 60 days after transplanting. Changes in petiole sap NO3-N and K concentrations were different between seepage and drip irrigation, but usually above the sufficiency threshold. It is important to consider the type of irrigation when managing tomato and determining optimum N fertilizer rates.

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The objective was to quantify the effect of the timing of macronutrient applications on nutrient uptake, growth, and development of Petunia ×hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr. ‘Supertunia Royal Velvet’ during vegetative propagation. Starting with unrooted cuttings (Day 0), fertigation was applied continuously at three time intervals (Day 0 to 7, Day 8 to 14, or Day 15 to 21) using either a “complete” (C) water-soluble fertilizer containing (in mg·L−1) 75 NO3-N, 25 NH4-N, 12 phosphorus (P), 83 potassium (K), 20 calcium (Ca), 10 magnesium (Mg), 1.4 sulfur (S), 2 iron (Fe), 1 manganese (Mn), 1 zinc (Zn), 0.5 copper (Cu), 0.5 boron (B), and 0.2 molybdenum (Mo) or a micronutrient fertilizer (M) containing (in mg·L−1) 1.4 S, 2 Fe, 1 Mn, 1 Zn, 0.5 Cu, 0.5 B, and 0.2 Mo in a complete factorial arrangement. With constant fertigation using the C fertilizer, plant dry weight (DW) doubled from Day 0 (sticking of unrooted cuttings) to Day 7 (0.020 g to 0.047 g), root emergence was observed by Day 4, and by Day 7, the average length of primary roots was 2.6 cm. During any week that the M fertilizer was substituted for the C fertilizer, tissue N–P–K concentrations decreased compared with plants receiving the C fertilizer. For example, plants receiving the M fertilizer between Day 0 and 7 had 20% lower tissue-N concentration at Day 7 compared with those receiving the C fertilizer. Although both shoot DW and leaf count increased once macronutrient fertilization was resumed after Day 7, final shoot DW and leaf count were lower than plants receiving C fertilizer from Day 0 to 21. Time to first root emergence was unaffected by fertigation. Constant application of C resulted in a higher shoot-to-root ratio at Day 21 than all other treatments. Results emphasize the importance of early fertigation on petunia, a fast-rooting species, to maintain tissue nutrient levels within recommended ranges.

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Increasing the length of irrigation time by reducing the operating pressure (OP) of drip irrigation systems may result in decreased deep percolation and may allow for reduced nitrogen (N) fertilizer application rates, thereby minimizing the environmental impact of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) production. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of irrigation OP (6 and 12 psi), N fertilizer rate (100%, 80%, and 60% of the recommended 200 lb/acre N), and irrigation rates [IRRs (100% and 75% of the target 1000–4000 gal/acre per day)] on fresh-market tomato plant nutritional status and yields. Nitrate (NO3 )–N concentration in petiole sap of ‘Florida 47’ tomatoes grown in Spring 2008 and 2009 in a raised-bed plasticulture system was not significantly affected by treatments in both years and were within the sufficiency ranges at first-flower, 2-inch-diameter fruit, and first-harvest growth stages (420–1150, 450–770, and 260–450 mg·L−1, respectively). In 2008, marketable yields were greater at 6 psi than at 12 psi OP [753 vs. 598 25-lb cartons/acre (P < 0.01)] with no significant difference among N rate treatments. But in 2009, marketable yields were greater at 12 psi [1703 vs. 1563 25-lb cartons/acre at 6 psi (P = 0.05)] and 100% N rate [1761 vs. 1586 25-lb cartons/acre at 60% N rate (P = 0.04)]. Irrigation rate did not have any significant effect (P = 0.59) on tomato marketable yields in either year with no interaction between IRR and N rate or OP treatments. Hence, growing tomatoes at 12 psi OP, 100% of recommended N rate, and 75% of recommended IRR provided the highest marketable yields with least inputs in a drip-irrigated plasticulture system. In addition, these results suggest that smaller amounts of irrigation water and fertilizers (75% and 60% of the recommended IRR and N rate, respectively) could be applied when using a reduced irrigation OP of 6 psi for the early part of the tomato crop season. In the later part of the season, as water demand increased, the standard OP of 12 psi could be used. Changing the irrigation OP offers the grower some flexibility to alter the flow rates to suit the water demands of various growth stages of the crop. Furthermore, it allows irrigation to be applied over an extended period of time, which could better meet the crop's needs for water throughout the day. Such an irrigation strategy could improve water and nutrient use efficiencies and reduce the risks of nutrient leaching. The results also suggest that OP (and flow rate) should be included in production recommendations for drip-irrigated tomato.

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Consumer demand for fresh market organic produce combined with the increasing market share of ready-to-eat products indicates the potential for expansion of an organic culinary herb market. Barriers to organic herb greenhouse production are high as a result of lack of available technical information and the low number of producers experienced in this area. There is a critical need for information and technologies to improve the management of organic soil and fertilizer amendments to optimize crop yields and quality, manage production costs, and minimize the risk from groundwater nitrogen (N) contamination. Because of limited information specific to organic culinary herb production, literature on organic vegetable transplants and conventional basil (Ocimum basilicum) production was also considered in this review. Managing N for organic crops is problematic as a result of the challenge of synchronizing mineralization from organic fertilizer sources with crop N demand. A combination of materials, including locally formulated composts, supplemented with standardized commercially formulated fertilizer products is one method to ensure crops have access to mineral N throughout their development. In experimental greenhouse systems, local raw materials are frequently used as media amendments to satisfy partial or complete crop fertility requirements. This makes comparisons among experiments difficult as a result of the wide variety of raw materials used and the frequent interactions of fertilizer source and planting media on nutrient availability. Nitrogen mineralization rates are also influenced by additional factors such as the environmental conditions in the greenhouse and physical and chemical properties of the media and fertilizer. Despite the variability within and among experimental trials, yields and quality of organically grown crops are frequently similar to, and occasionally better than, conventionally grown crops.

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The success of the best management practices (BMPs) program for vegetables in Florida is measured by the level of BMP implementation and the improvement of water quality. Both require keeping water and fertilizer in the root zone of vegetables. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension Vegetable Group has identified the fundamental principles of 1) basing UF/IFAS production recommendations on the rigors of science and the reality of field production; 2) replacing the out-of-date paradigm “pollute less by reducing nutrient application rates” with “improve water management and adjust fertilizer programs accordingly”; 3) engaging growers, consultants, educators, and regulators in open-channel discussions; and 4) regularly updating current fertilization and irrigation recommendations for vegetables grown in Florida to reflect current varieties used by the industry. The group identified 1) developing ultralow-flow drip irrigation; 2) assisting conversion from seepage to drip irrigation; 3) using recycled water; 4) developing controlled-release fertilizers for vegetables; 5) developing real-time management tools for continuous monitoring of soil water and chemical parameters; 6) developing yield mapping tools for vegetable crops; 7) developing and testing drainage lysimeter designs suitable for in-field load assessment; and 8) using grafting and breeding to develop commercially acceptable varieties with improved nutrient use efficiency by improving morphological, biochemical, and chemical traits as new strategies to keep nutrients in the root zone. These strategies should become funding priorities for state agencies to help the vegetable industry successfully transition into the BMP era.

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