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Mechanically harvested pickling cucumbers are a once-over destructive harvest system. Gynoecious hybrids are planted at high populations to obtain high yields and to concentrate maturity. Population, row width, plant spacing, and uniform emergence all affect yield and maturity. 65,000 plants/acre in 26 inch rows were found to optimize yield and provide the highest percentage of fruit at the desired uniform size.

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In response to a national increase in the consumption of triploid (seedless) watermelons, seedless watermelon production in Delaware has increased to 43% of the total watermelon acreage. Cultural practices for triploid watermelon production are similar to seeded (diploid) types. However, poor seed germination, high seed costs, erratic performance, and inadequate varieties limited their adoption until the early 1990s in Delaware. Univ. of Delaware Cooperative Extension has worked with Delaware growers to develop a “recipe” for successful triploid production. Extension programs, such as on-farm demonstrations, research trials, educational seminars, and one-on-one consultations, have enabled producers to provide high-quality fruit and yields. Intensive management and marketing are the keys tosuccess as Delaware producers have become leaders of triploid production in the Northeast region. As demand for triploid watermelon continues to increase, extension will remain a vital part of the $4.5 million industry. Growers continually deal with marketing issues in a supply and demand-driven market. As more seedless are on the market and profits lessen, growers will have to be diligent in their marketing and management practices.

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Proper variety selection and production practices are critical to obtaining profitable yields of mechanically harvested pickling cucumbers (Cucumis sativus L.). On the Delmarva peninsula, the tractor-mounted harvester, which utilizes the pinch-roller system for separating the pickles from the vine, was used exclusively for harvest until 1998. The pull-type forced-balance shaker machines have been introduced as an alternative harvest system. Replicated commercial-size variety trials have been conducted for four consecutive years. The trials are planted twice during the growing season, reflecting the climactic differences associated with early-season and late-season plantings. `Vlaspic' and `Lafayette' are standard varieties. Promising new varieties include `EX 1914' and `SQRP 1882'. Investigations to determine optimum plant populations and row spacing have determined that three-row beds with 60,000 plants per acre provide the highest yields and best quality fruit. Optimal operating speeds and picking reel speeds of 1.4 mph and 45 rpm, respectively, have been determined for the tractor-mounted machine. Additional design improvements have been implemented and evaluated to reduce damage. Fifty-nine replicated commercial tests evaluating the tractor-mounted harvester and the forced-balance shaker type indicate much greater harvest and throughput efficiencies are associated with the forced-balance shaker harvester, resulting in improvements between $65 and $100 per acre.

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