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  • Author or Editor: Bryan Butler x
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The effect of altered red/far-red light environment on subsequent field performance of strawberry plug plants was tested. Two wavelength-selective plastic films were compared to neutral shade and full-sun control for conditioning `Chandler' strawberry plug plants before transplanting to a winter production system. The following year, plug plants of `Chandler', `Sweet Charlie', and `Allstar' were conditioned under the same treatments, with the addition of a continuous incandescent light and a short-day photoperiod, and plant performance was followed in the winter production system in Florida, a cold-climate annual hill system in Maryland, and in a low-input greenhouse production system. During the first year, the red light-filtering film slightly advanced fruiting in Florida. However, during the second year, the effect of the red light-filtering film was not significant, and a short-day treatment resulted in a greater reduction in runnering and increased early crown and flower development. For June-bearing strawberry plants maintained above 20 °C, altering the red/far-red environment did not consistently advance flowering.

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Afield study of organic production of tomato (Lycopersiconesculentum Mill.) in high-tunnels was conducted in 2004. `Mountain Fresh' was transplanted 31 Mar.; `Ultra Sweet' and `Sun Leaper' were transplanted on 21 July. The primary objective was to determine the feasibility of obtaining two crops of fresh-market tomatoes by starting plants 4–8 weeks earlier than the average last spring-killing frost, and extending the growing season 4–6 weeks past the average first fall-killing frost. Plants were started at weekly intervals for 4 weeks in both seasons. Data and observations were recorded on the yield of marketable fruits, plant growth and development, and plant health. Other objectives were to evaluate: 1) the benefits of using a selective UV-blocking film on plant growth and development, disease events; and 2) compost amendments on soil improvement and disease control. Major cultural challenges included water management, soil texture/drainage, prevention of chilling injury, plant support, and adequate ventilation. Major disease/pest challenges involved stalk rot caused by Sclerotinia sclerotiorum in the spring, powdery mildew in spring and late summer, Alternaria and Septoria leaf blight in late summer, and aphids, tomato hornworm, corn earworm, and beet army worm also in late summer. In addition, macrofaunal intrusions by fox, mice, and birds occurred sporadically. Poor drainage and stalk rot in the spring necessitated relocating the tunnels to an uninfested site with better drainage. The fall crop yielded high numbers of marketable quality fruits, well beyond the 15 Oct. average killing frost date. The results suggest that with improved management, there is a considerable potential for profitable extended-season production of organic tomatoes in this region.

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