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  • Author or Editor: Christian A. Wyenandt x
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A key to profitability in many “u-pick” pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) farm operations is producing attractive, marketable fruit while maintaining suitable field conditions for consumer entry during periods of inclement autumn weather. The use of municipal leaves collected from urban areas may help improve fruit quality and field conditions in u-pick pumpkin operations. In 2005 and 2006, an experiment (randomized complete block design) was conducted to compare four different production systems on pumpkin yield and fruit quality. Treatments consisted of no leaf mulch (bare soil) plus herbicide with 25 lb/acre nitrogen (N) sidedressed (treatment 1), leaf mulch without herbicide with 25 lb/acre N sidedressed (treatment 2), no leaf mulch (bare soil) with herbicide with 75 lb/acre N sidedressed (treatment 3), and leaf mulch without herbicide with 75 lb/acre N sidedressed (treatment 4) during the production season. In 2005, there were no differences in the total number and weight of harvested fruit and weight of orange fruit between production systems. Although the presence of leaf mulch reduced the total number and percentage of orange fruit harvested, there were no significant differences in average weight of orange fruit between production systems. Average weight of orange fruit was significantly higher and similar at both sidedress N rates in both leaf mulch production systems compared with bare soil. In 2006, there were no differences in total number of fruit, number of orange fruit, and percentage of orange fruit at harvest between production systems. Total weight, weight of orange fruit, and average fruit weight of pumpkin fruit was significantly higher and similar at both sidedress N rates in both leaf mulch production systems compared with bare soil. Sidedress N should be applied in accordance to plant growth and environmental factors to overcome any expected N deficiency from N immobilization because of the presence of the leaf mulch and other environmental factors. Applying municipal leaves to the soil surface exhibited a marked advantage over bare soil in producing clean fruit. In both years, the percentage of clean fruit at harvest was higher in both leaf mulch production systems compared with bare soil.

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Every autumn an abundance of leaves from various species of shade trees [e.g., oak (Quercus sp.), maple (Acer sp.)] are collected from urban landscapes. In 1988, shade tree leaves were banned from landfills and combustion facilities in New Jersey because it was an unsustainable practice. Composting and mulching leaves and using them as a resource was proposed. The purpose of this review is to summarize studies of mulching and amending soils with shade tree leaves and their potential to benefit agricultural production. Research sponsored by New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station on soils and crops found that land application of shade tree leaves was beneficial for building soil organic matter content, protecting against erosion, and controlling weeds when used as a mulch. In general, crop yields and quality were improved with leaf mulch. Collected shade tree leaves on average have a relatively high carbon-to-nitrogen (N) ratio and the potential to cause a temporary deficiency of soil N availability. However, with good agronomic practices and well-timed N fertilization, crops perform well after shade tree leaves have been applied without increasing the recommended N fertilizer application rate.

Open Access

The effects of three bed systems [conventional (bare soil), chemically killed, or mechanically killed winter rye (Secale cereale) + hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) cover crop mulch] and five fungicide programs (no fungicide, 7-day fungicide application program, and Tom-Cast-timed fungicide applications at 15, 18, or 25 disease severity values) on marketable yield and soil-borne fungal fruit rot development in processing tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) production were studied. In 1997, marketable yield was higher in both cover crop systems compared with the conventional bed system. In 1997, percentage of anthracnose- (Colletotrichum coccodes) and ground rot-infected fruit (caused by Pythium spp. or Phytophthora spp.) were lower in both cover crop mulch systems compared with the conventional bed system. In 1998, marketable fruit yields were lower in both cover crop mulch systems compared with the conventional bed system. Percentage of anthracnose-infected fruit was lower in 1998 in the chemically killed cover crop mulch system compared with mechanically killed bed system. There were no differences in ground rot-infected fruit between bed systems in 1998. In 1998, percentage of total molded fruit in the chemically killed cover crop mulch system was reduced compared with the mechanically killed cover crop mulch system.

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From 2006 to 2008, four different production systems and five bell pepper cultivars (Capsicum annuum) with either no resistance (Alliance and Camelot), tolerance (Revolution), or resistance (Paladin and Aristotle) to the crown rot phase of phytophthora blight (Phytophthora capsici) were evaluated for the development of skin separation or “silvering” in fruit at a research facility and four commercial vegetable farms in southern New Jersey. Cultivar, production system, and year, each had a significant effect on the total percentage of fruit with skin separation and marketable yield. The percentage of bell pepper fruit with skin separation was higher in both phytophthora-resistant cultivars compared with the phytophthora-susceptible cultivars across all four production systems. Marketable yield was highest when bell peppers were grown in double rows on raised beds with black plastic mulch and drip irrigation compared with bell peppers grown on single rows on raised beds with black plastic mulch and drip irrigation and bell peppers grown on single rows on raised, bare ground beds with buried drip irrigation. Marketable yields were lowest when bell peppers were grown in single rows on high, ridged beds with overhead irrigation. Results of this study suggest that the development of skin separation or “silvering” in fruit is more closely associated with genotype than type of production system.

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In this study, the effects of six nitrogen fertility programs and two bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) cultivars were evaluated for marketable yield and incidence of skin separation in fruit. In 2006 and 2007, bell pepper cultivar Aristotle, which is tolerant to the crown rot phase of phytophthora blight (Phytophthora capsici), and a susceptible cultivar, Camelot, were established in a split-plot design with cultivar as the whole-plot factor and fertilizer regime as the subplot factor. Each year, fertility treatments included 1) 180 lb/acre of soluble nitrogen (N) plus phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) as 20N–8.7P–16.6K, 2) 300 lb/acre of soluble N (4N–0P–6.6K), 3) 180 lb/acre of soluble N (30N–0P–0K), 4) 135 lb/acre of soluble N (30N–0P–0K), 5) 180 lb/acre of granular N (43N–0P–0K), and 6) 135 lb/acre of granular N (43N–0P–0K). Soluble fertilizer treatments 1–4 were applied weekly through drip irrigation during the production season. Granular fertility treatments 5 and 6 were applied after bed making but before laying black plastic mulch each year. Additionally, all plots received 180 lb/acre each of P and K (0N–2.6P–4.9K) plus 2 lb/acre of boron distributed season-long in weekly fertilizer applications. In 2006 and 2007, cultivar had no effect on marketable yield or percent marketable fruit. In 2007, the percentage of harvested fruit with skin separation was significantly higher in fertility programs 1 and 2 compared with program 5. In 2006 and 2007, there were no significant interactions between cultivar and fertility program for marketable yield per plot, fruit with skin separation, percent marketable fruit, or marketable yield per acre. In both years, harvest date has a significant effect on marketable yield per plot, fruit with skin separation, percent marketable fruit, and marketable yield per acre. The percentage of harvested fruit with skin separation was higher in phytophthora-tolerant ‘Aristotle’ compared with phytophthora-susceptible ‘Camelot’ in 2006 and 2007. Results of this study suggest that the development of skin separation in bell pepper fruit is more influenced by genotype than N fertility program.

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In 2001 and 2002, fall- and spring-sown, spring-killed or spring-sown living cover crops mulches were evaluated for their effects on pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) number and weight, fruit cleanliness, and fusarium fruit rot (FFR; Fusarium solani f. sp. cucurbitae race 1). In general, the number and weight of orange (mature) fruit and total fruit weight were higher in bare soil (conventional), fall- or spring-sown, spring-killed cover crop mulches compared with spring-sown, living annual medic (Medicago spp.) cover crop mulches. In both years, pumpkins grown on fall-sown winter rye (Secale cereale), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa), winter rye + hairy vetch, and spring-sown oat (Avena sativa) produced fruit numbers and weights comparable to or slightly higher than bare soil (conventional) production, suggesting that these cover crop mulches had no effects on reducing pumpkin yield. The number and weight of pumpkins grown in spring-sown, living annual medic cover crop mulches were reduced in both years compared with the other cover crop mulches. On artificially inoculated field plots, percentages of groundcover at harvest and fruit with FFR were 89% and 5% in fall-sown winter rye (seeded at 90 lb/acre), 88% and 10% in fall-sown rye (50 lb/acre), 85% and 5% in fall-sown rye + hairy vetch (50 lb/acre each), 19% and 30% in fall-sown hairy vetch (50 lb/acre), 23% and 23% in spring-sown oat (110 lb/acre), 1% and 25% to 39% in spring-sown, living annual medics (40 lb/acre) and 0% and 46% in bare soil plots, respectively. Results suggest that cover crop mulches such as fall-sown winter rye, fall-sown winter rye + hairy vetch, or spring-sown, spring-killed oat killed and left on the soil surface may help reduce losses to FFR in pumpkin production.

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Although not considered an essential nutrient, silicon (Si) can be beneficial to plants. Si accumulator species such as pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo var. pepo) can absorb Si from soil. Si uptake may reduce plant susceptibility to fungal diseases such as cucurbit powdery mildew (Podosphaera xanthii and Erysiphe cichoracearum). We previously reported that wollastonite, an Organic Materials Reviews Institute–approved natural mineral, can increase soil Si level, increase soil pH, provide pumpkin plants with Si, and increase their resistance to powdery mildew. In this study, we examined the optimum application rate of wollastonite for pumpkins grown in pots and exposed to cucurbit powdery mildew. We confirmed that wollastonite has liming capabilities similar to regular limestone. Regardless of the application rates, wollastonite and limestone showed similar effects on soil chemistry and plant mineral composition. Pumpkin plants grown with the lower doses of wollastonite amendments (3.13 and 6.25 tons/acre) had the greatest tissue Si concentrations and demonstrated the greatest disease resistance. We conclude that wollastonite is a useful material for organic cucurbit (Cucurbitaceae) growers who want to increase soil pH and improve plant resistance to powdery mildew at the same time. Applying wollastonite at rates beyond the amount required to achieve a desirable soil pH for pumpkin production did not further increase Si uptake, nor did it further suppress powdery mildew development.

Open Access

Different basils (Ocimum sp.) and cultivars (28 in 2009 and 32 in 2010) were evaluated for susceptibility to basil downy mildew (Peronospora belbahrii) at the Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center near Bridgeton in southern New Jersey. At the end of each growing season, seed was collected from individual plants and stored for potential downy mildew pathogen detection using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. Most of the basil cultivars and breeding lines were showing symptoms of basil downy mildew infection at the time of seed collection before the first frost near the end of the production season. Symptoms of basil downy mildew were present on 25 of the 28 (89%) basil lines evaluated in 2009 and 26 of 32 (81%) basil lines tested in 2010 at the time of seed harvest, with sporulation evident on the abaxial surface of infected leaves. Real-time PCR analysis of seed collected from various infected plants detected P. belbahrii on seed of 14 of 25 (56%) basil lines tested in 2009 and 8 of 32 (25%) tested in 2010. Importantly, P. belbahrii was not only detected on seed of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) phenotypes but also on seed of ‘Spice’ basil (Ocimum americanum) in 2009 and ‘Sweet Dani Lemon Basil’ basil (Ocimum citriodorum), ‘Holy Red and Green’ basil [Ocimum tenuiflorum (form. sanctum)], ‘Lime’ basil (O. americanum), and again on ‘Spice’ basil in 2010 where no symptoms (i.e., no chlorosis or sporulation) were present on the leaves when seed were collected. This work demonstrates that basil seed, regardless of basil species and whether symptoms are visible on foliage of the basil plant or the plant is immune or resistant to downy mildew, can test positive for the presence of P. belbahrii using a real-time PCR assay following exposure of plants to the pathogen during the natural development of downy mildew under field conditions.

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