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The challenges encountered and discussions generated during the review process of the manuscripts submitted to the Variety Trials category of HortTechnology have revealed the need to review issues encountered during manuscript preparation and to provide flexible guidelines for authors and reviewers. Using a question/answer format, this manuscript discusses issues related to data collection and statistical methods available to compare varieties. Clear objectives and conclusions, adequate plot size, careful selection of entries, and sound statistical procedures are considered essential. Several additional factors (following standard production practices, using multiple seed sources, reporting analysis of variance table and mean square error, reporting multiyear/multilocation trials) are regarded as desirable, with different degrees of desirability, depending on the crop. These flexible guidelines should be viewed as recommendations for authors and reviewers rather than requirements. While defining the state-of-the-art in variety trialing is of interest to all those involved, it may be difficult to achieve when resources are limiting. It is ultimately the prerogative and responsibility of the author(s) to ensure that the work is scientifically sound.

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White sweet corn (Zea mays L.) is widely grown in the southeastern United States. Although `Silver Queen' has been a popular variety in that region for over 20 years, many other varieties are now available. Selecting a variety for commercial or home production is a complex decision because varieties vary considerably with regard to field performance, ear characteristics, and eating quality. Because limited information is available on overall evaluation of sweet corn varieties, the objectives of this study were to 1) evaluate field performance, ear characteristics and eating quality of selected white sweet corn varieties, 2) globally compare varieties using an overall rank-sum index (ORSI), and 3) determine if `Silver Queen' is still the best variety or if it benefits from name recognition. Significant differences among varieties were found for most of the attributes evaluated. When a variety needs to be selected on the basis of a single group of attributes, our results suggest that the best varieties for field performance, ear characteristics and eating quality were `Even Sweeter' and `Treasure', `Silver Queen' and `Rising Star', and `Silverado', respectively. When ranks for all attributes were pooled together, the ORSI for all varieties fell within the 40 to 60 median range for ORSI. These results suggest that while marked differences between varieties can be found for a selected attribute, overall all selected varieties showed similar potential for commercial production. Panel response on sweet corn variety names and the rate of correct blind identification of `Silver Queen' suggested that while it is still among the best varieties, `Silver Queen' did benefit from name recognition.

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Best management practices (BMPs) for vegetable crops are under development nationwide and in Florida. One goal of the Florida BMP program is to minimize the possible movement of nitrate-nitrogen from potato (Solanum tuberosum) production to surface water in the St. Johns River watershed without negatively impacting potato yields or quality. Current fertilizer BMPs developed for the area focus on fertilizer rate. Controlled-release fertilizers (CRF) have long been a part of nutrient management in greenhouse and nursery crops. However, CRFs have been seldom used in field-vegetable production because of their cost and release characteristics. Nutrient release curves for CRFs are not available for the soil moisture and temperature conditions prevailing in the seepage-irrigated soils of northern Florida. Controlled-leaching studies (pot-in-pot) in 2000 and 2001 have shown that plant-available nitrogen (N) was significantly higher early in the season from ammonium nitrate, calcium nitrate and urea compared to selected CRFs. However, N release from off-the-shelf and experimental CRFs was too slow, resulting in N recoveries ranging from 13% to 51%. Cost increase due to the use of CRFs for potato production ranged from $71.66 to $158.14/ha ($29 to $64 per acre) based on cost of material and N application rate. This higher cost may be offset by reduced application cost and cost-share pro-grams. Adoption of CRF programs by the potato (and vegetable) industry in Florida will depend on the accuracy and predictability of N release, state agencies' commitment to cost-share programs, and CRFs manufacturers' marketing strategies. All interested parties would benefit in the development of BMPs for CRFs.

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With the development and implementation of best management practices (BMP), extension educators are facing a new and unexpected combination of challenges and opportunities. Because the BMP mandate requires a combination of research, demonstration, and outreach, it may affirm the relevance of the land grant mission in the 21st century, engage universities in interagency alliances, and help rediscover the wonders of the proven extension method. The extension approach to water and nutrient management needs to shift from “pollute less by applying less fertilizer” to “pollute less by better managing water.” Applied research is leading to advances in areas such as nutrient cycles and controlled-release fertilizers. At the same time, universities need to walk a fine line between education and regulation, address perennial issues of overfertilization, and consider the reformulation of recommendations that are now used in a quasi-regulatory environment. A combination of education, consensus, and novel approaches is needed to adapt the rigor of research to a multitude of growing conditions and risks of nutrient discharge in order to comply with U.S. federal laws and restore water quality.

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Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) production historically has been limited in the southeastern United States because of the risk of early bolting and unacceptable bitterness. Small-scale vegetable growers may be able to include lettuce in their production through selection of bolt tolerant and nonbitter varieties. The objectives of this research were to evaluate earliness, bitterness, vitamin E, ascorbic acid, folate, β-carotene, and lutein content in 17 lettuce varieties. Significant difference were found among varieties for days to harvest (DTH) (47 DTH for `Epic' to 37 DTH for `Big Curly'). Observed DTH in this study was consistently 7 to 10 days less than commercial descriptions of the lettuce varieties, due to the use of transplants. Only `Slobolt' and `Greengo' bolted before reaching marketable size. Panelists found that the bitterness was acceptable for most varieties, but not for `Nancy,' `Big Curly,' and `Slobolt'. Significant differences among varieties were also found in vitamin E, ascorbic acid, folate, β-carotene, and lutein. `Redprize' and `Nevada' were the best varieties overall, while `Salinas 88 Supreme,' `Epic,' `Legacy,' `Big Curly,' `Slobolt,' and `Greengo' were unacceptable.

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Several okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) cultivars are now available as alternatives to the standards `Clemson Spineless' (open pollinated) and `Annie Oakley II' (hybrid). Based on the results of four trials involving 20 cultivars, `Mita', `Spike', `Green Best' and `North & South' should be added to the list of recommended cultivars for Alabama and Florida. The experimental `SOK 601' should also be included on that list, but on a for trial basis since it was evaluated only at one location. Other cultivars may perform well at specific locations. Differences among cultivars were also found for ease of harvest. `North & South' and `Baby Bubba' were the easiest and most difficult cultivars to harvest, respectively. The economic feasability of selecting a hybrid cultivar over an open-pollinated one and using plasticulture instead of bare ground was also examined in this study. Using hybrid seeds resulted in an average yield increase per harvest of 92 lb/acre (103 kg·ha-1), which exceeded the estimated 75 lb/acre yield (84 kg·ha-1) increase necessary to offset the additional cost of hybrid seeds. For reasons ranging from improved weed control, increased nutrient and water use efficiency, and double cropping, an increasing interest exists to produce okra with plasticulture, instead of bare ground as done traditionally. The average yield increase per harvest due to plasticulture over bare ground production was 196 lb/acre (220 kg·ha-1). Based on this number, it would take three harvests to produce the 540 lb/acre (605 kg·ha-1) yield increase necessary to offset the additional costs due to plasticulture.

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Aquaponics combines the hydroponic production of plants and the aquaculture production of fish into a sustainable agriculture system that uses natural biological cycles to supply nitrogen and minimizes the use of nonrenewable resources, thus providing economic benefits that can increase over time. Several production systems and media exist for producing hydroponic crops (bench bed, nutrient film technique, floating raft, rockwool, perlite, and pine bark). Critical management requirements (water quality maintenance and biofilter nitrification) for aquaculture need to be integrated with the hydroponics to successfully manage intensive aquaponic systems. These systems will be discussed with emphasis on improving sustainability through management and integration of the living components [plants and nitrifying bacteria (Nitrosomonas spp. and Nitrobacter spp.)] and the biofilter system. Sustainable opportunities include biological nitrogen production rates of 80 to 90 g·m−3 per day nitrate nitrogen from trickling biofilters and plant uptake of aquaculture wastewater. This uptake results in improved water and nutrient use efficiency and conservation. Challenges to sustainability center around balancing the aquaponic system environment for the optimum growth of three organisms, maximizing production outputs and minimizing effluent discharges to the environment.

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Most of the winter vegetable production in the southeastern United States is located in Florida. High-value vegetable crops are grown under intensive fertilization and irrigation management practices using drip, overhead, or seepage irrigation systems. Rainfall events may raise the water table in fields irrigated by seepage irrigation resulting in leaching of nutrients when the level is lowered to remove excess water. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phases on rainfall distribution and leaching rain occurrences during the fall, winter, and spring tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) growing seasons using long-term weather records available for main producing areas. Differences in fall growing season mean precipitation during El Niño, La Niña, and neutral years were found to be nonsignificant. Winter and spring mean precipitations during El Niño, La Niña, and neutral years were found to be significantly different. Winter and spring average rainfall amounts during La Niña and neutral years were lower than during El Niño years. During El Niño years, at least one leaching rainfall event of 1.0 inch or more in 1 day occurred at all locations and all planting seasons and two of these events occurred in more than 9 of 10 years except during the winter and spring planting seasons at the Tamiami Trail station located in Miami–Dade County. During the fall growing season of El Niño years, three to four 1.0 inch or more in 1-day leaching rainfalls may be expected at least 4 of 5 years at all locations. In the case of larger leaching rainfall events (3.0 inches or more recorded in 3 days or 4.0 inches or more recorded in 7 days), the probability of having at least one event was mostly less than 0.80. Based on these results, nitrogen fertilizer supplemental applications of 30 to 120 lb/acre could be applied during the fall growing season of all ENSO phases and during all planting seasons of El Niño years. Using current fertilizer prices, one supplemental fertilizer application of 30 lb/acre nitrogen and 16.6 lb/acre potassium costs $55/acre. Assuming a median wholesale price of $12 per 25-lb box, this additional cost may be offset by a modest yield increase of 4.6 boxes/acre (compared with a typical 2500 25-lb box/acre marketable yield). These results suggest that ENSO phases could be used to predict supplemental fertilizer needs for tomato, but adjustments to local weather conditions may be needed.

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Measurements of daily, 3-day, and 6-day cumulative pan evaporation using a #2 wash tub or a modified steel drum and a ruler provided an accurate, easy, and inexpensive way to schedule irrigation. Pan factors for these containers, which were covered with a 5-cm-mesh wire under humid climatic conditions, were 1.0 and 1.1, respectively.

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