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  • Author or Editor: Daniel Leskovar x
  • HortTechnology x
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Irrigation methods, rates, timing, and frequency may influence the physical and chemical properties of the growing media thereby affecting root initiation, elongation, branching, development and dry matter partitioning between roots and shoots.

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Areas with mild climate conditions are suitable for growing winter spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.). Successful production depends on choosing slow-bolting cultivars resistant to major diseases in each area. Field experiments with a total of 18 cultivars were conducted during 8 years in the Winter Garden region of Texas, an area known for its high white rust (Albugo occidentalis G.W. Wils) inoculum. Spinach cultivars differed widely in their resistance to both white rust and bolting, and the incidence of both traits was more severe as the season progressed. White rust infection increased linearly with average monthly minimal air temperature. Cultivars Fidalgo, Springfield, and Springer were slow bolting and are suitable for areas with no white rust incidence, while cvs. ASR-318, DMC 66-09, Fall Green, Samish, and San Juan were more white rust resistant.

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Polyethylene mulch is widely used for vegetable production in the United States as a tool to conserve water, control weeds, and produce earlier and cleaner products (i.e., less attached soil). However, the increasing labor costs for mulch removal and disposal after harvest and soil environmental pollution are major concerns. The objective of this study was to assess fruit yield and quality, mulch deterioration, soil microbial activity, and nutrient changes in ‘Stargazer’ watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) grown with degradable plastic mulch. The deterioration rates of degradable mulch were 7%, 37%, 57%, and 92% after 120, 210, 300, and 365 days, respectively, of placing the mulch in the field. However, the extra difference in using degradable mulch was calculated as $58.6/acre (polyethylene $600.9/acre vs. degradable $659.5/acre), including all costs associated with laying and disposing. One year after placing mulch in the field, the nitrate content and total and active fungi numerically increased (P = 0.08) in soils with the degradable mulch compared with polyethylene mulch. However, there were no statistical differences in soil phosphorus, potassium, organic carbon, and total and active bacteria. Extra-large fruit size yield (category >24.0 lb) from the polyethylene mulch treatment was higher than that from degradable mulch, whereas the 18.0- to 24.0-lb category was lower than that with degradable mulch. However, total yield and total soluble solids from both mulches were statistically similar. Considering the complete deterioration (less waste), mulch removal cost (not required), microbial associations (higher fungi abundance and activity), and similar yield and fruit quality of degradable mulch compared with polyethylene, the implementation of degradable mulches in commercial watermelon field practices is promising.

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