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  • Author or Editor: David Handley x
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Twenty-seven green bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) cultivars were evaluated over three growing seasons in Maine. Each year, plants started in a greenhouse were transplanted into double rows on raised beds covered with black plastic mulch. Overall yields were low compared with similar experiments in other regions of North America and varied considerably from year to year. ‘Ace’ and ‘New Ace’ consistently produced the largest crops by both weight and number of fruit. However, both of these cultivars had undesirable characteristics of small fruit size (<150 g), few lobes (two-three), and thin fruit walls (<6 mm), limiting their commercial market potential. Other cultivars, including ‘Vivaldi’, ‘Patriot’, and ‘Socrates’, had significantly better fruit quality but very low or inconsistent yield. The results of this study demonstrate the current limitations for growing economically viable crops of bell peppers in regions such as Maine that have short growing seasons and a wide range of seasonal temperatures. Further, the data underline the need for the development of cultivars better adapted to these growing conditions.

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Bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) are an economically important yet difficult to grow crop in northern New England. Yields of bell peppers can be increased through the use of plastic mulches; however, refinements are needed to make bell peppers a more viable crop in regions with short, variable growing seasons. The objectives of this study were to (1) compare the effects of black mulch with white inter-row much, reflective silver mulch, and standard black plastic mulched beds on bell pepper yield and quality and (2) compare the effects of two in-row plant arrangements [single rows at 12-inch within-row spacing (7260 plants/acre) and double rows spaced 18 inches apart with 18-inch in-row spacing (9680 plants/acre)] on pepper yield and quality. Treatments were factorial combinations of three mulch treatments and two within-row planting arrangements. Double rows produced more fruit by number and weight than single rows; however, fruit harvested from the double-row plots tended to be smaller than fruit harvested from the single-row plots. Mulch treatments significantly influenced total marketable yield and yield of cull bell peppers grown in Maine. The plots receiving the inter-row white mulch or reflective silver mulch treatment produced significantly greater yield than standard black plastic mulch treatment. The reflective mulch treatment produced significantly more cull fruit per acre compared with the white inter-row mulch and black plastic.

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Corn earworm [CEW (Helicoverpa zea)] is one of the most important pests of sweet corn (Zea mays) in New England. Conventional management of this pest is achieved through repeated applications of chemical insecticides through the silking period. Organic growers, however, have few alternatives to prevent CEW infestation. Technology first developed in the 1930s and 1940s, using applications of mineral oil directly into the silk channel with an eyedropper, has been further researched in recent years using vegetable oils with and without pesticides, but pollination problems associated with these treatments have been observed. Several materials were evaluated for efficacy in controlling CEW populations and for phytotoxicity to the developing ear. Materials evaluated were corn oil, soy oil, carrageenan, corn oil mixed with Bacillus thuringiensis ssp. kurstaki (Bt), soy oil mixed with Bt, and carrageenan mixed with Bt. All treatments were compared with an untreated control. Treatments provided a range of 33% to 50% control of CEW infestation. The oil and Bt combinations provided some reduction in infestation compared with the untreated controls (33% vs. 100% infestation), but this level of control was inadequate for all wholesale markets and most direct markets. Additionally, oil-based treatments also caused significant injury to developing ears by reducing pollination quality, impacting the development of the kernels at the ear tip. This condition referred to as “cone-tip” is of concern since it may decrease marketability. The percent unmarketable ears due to cone-tips ranged from 0% to 13% for the untreated and carrageenan-based treatments. From 12% to 42% of ears were unmarketable due to the soy oil treatments. Corn oil treatments caused 10% to 50% cone-tips.

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Winter injury has limited the expansion of commercial blackberry (Genus Rubus, subgenus Rubus) production into more northern latitudes in central and eastern United States. Rowcover (RC) was applied over trailing ‘Boysenberry’ and ‘Siskiyou’ and erect, thornless ‘Triple Crown’ and ‘Apache’ blackberries at Kearneysville, WV (lat. 39.5°N, USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6b) from 2004 to 2007. The daily minimum temperatures under RC were as much as 5 °F to 10 °F higher at nights after sunny days, but were similar during nights after overcast days. On sunny days, daily maximum temperatures under RC were as much as 28 °F higher than in the open. Under RC, humidity rose more quickly and remained higher during the day than in the open, but was slightly lower at night. Mean vapor pressure deficit in late December, January, February, and early March was 100 to 250 kPa higher under RC than in the open. RC treatment significantly reduced winter injury and increased yield in ‘Siskiyou’ blackberry plants. The winter protection techniques described here would provide substantial benefits for growing blackberries in more northern areas where winter injury frequently causes crop failure.

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