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  • Author or Editor: Henry G. Taber x
  • HortTechnology x
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Black, clear, and wavelength-selective IRT 76 plastic mulches with or without clear, slitted, hooped rowcovers were evaluated for early muskmelon production in 1991 and 1992. Clear and IRT 76 plastic mulches tripled early yield, compared with bare ground, 130 and 45 cwt/acre, respectively. Highest yields both years were from the combination of rowcover with either clear plastic or IRT 76 mulch-181 cwt/acre in 1991 and 379 cwt/acre in 1992. Yield from clear plastic was superior to that from IRT 76 by 41 cwt/acre in 1991, but not in 1992. The minimum soil temperature for IRT 76 compared with clear plastic was +0. 5F and -2F for 1991 and 1992, respectively. Crop rotation and herbicides were used to provide adequate weed control both years. The best cost-effective early muskmelon production system tested involved clear plastic, rowcovers, and trickle irrigation.

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Three bone products (meat and bone meal, steamed bone meal, and bone chips) were compared to a water-soluble P source (monocalcium phosphate) for P availability and enhancement of tomato shoot growth. All bone products were finely ground to pass through a 40-mesh sieve. The products were added to a phosphorus-deficient greenhouse growing medium based on their P concentration with P at 50, 100, 200, and 400 mg·kg−1. Meat and bone meal produced the least shoot growth in 1992, but all products were similar in 1993. Growth peaked with P at 111 mg·kg−1 in 1992, but in 1993, P at 50 mg·kg−1 was sufficient. Shoot P uptake was in direct proportion to P availability in the soil mix, monocalcium phosphate having the highest shoot P content. Although bone products affected N, Ca, Zn, and Mn content in shoots, the magnitudes of differences were minor and inconsistent from 1992 to 1993. Major consideration for using a bone product are its relative cost of P, fineness of grind, and CaCO3 equivalent.

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Three trials, beginning June, July, and September 1991, examined the breakdown of photodegradable plastic bags. The plastic contained a light-sensitive compound dissolved in the polymer to hasten degradation. The bags were placed in east-west rows on bare ground. Other factors studied included turning the bags over either every 3 or 7 days and either filling the bags with fresh grass clippings or leaving them empty. Strength loss was determined with a hand-held puncture tester. Strength increased initially by 36%, 32%, and 63% in the three trials, respectively. The bags took 33, 35, and 64 days to reach brittleness (puncture strength of 180 g) in the three trials, respectively. Once degradation began, all trials showed similar rates of decline. However, the degradation began 7 days after exposure in the first two trials, but not until 14 days after exposure in the September trial. The addition of grass clippings to the bags increased the initial strength and delayed the onset of degradation. Turning the bags every 3 days rather than every 7 did not affect degradation.

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Sweet corn (Zea mays L.) growers in the upper midwestern U.S. have used clear plastic mulch to improve early yield and advance crop maturity. Results of this practice have been inconsistent because of early season temperature variability and inadequate information on cultivar adaptation. Our objective was to improve the performance consistency by investigating earliness techniques with the early, sugary-enhancer (se) cultivar Temptation planted at two sites. Treatments were bare soil or clear plastic mulch, rowcovers or none, and direct-seeded or transplanted plants. Transplants were produced in the greenhouse in either 50-cell plastic trays or peat pot strips, 2.3 inches × 4.0 inches deep (6 × 10 cm) and were evaluated according to transplant age and cell size. In the cold springs of 1996 and 1997, the use of clear plastic mulch shortened maturity of sweet corn by 1 and 10 days, respectively, for the silt loam site; but no maturity advantage was observed for the loamy sand site. Clear plastic raised the minimum soil temperature by 3.8 to 4.0 °F (2.1 to 2.2 °C) at both sites. The 2-week-old 50-cell tray transplants matured 6 days earlier than the peat pot strip transplants or direct seeded at both locations in 1997. Marketable yield from the transplants was inconsistent by location and year. Four-week-old transplants did not withstand field stress and performed poorly regardless of type of container. Ear quality as indicated by row number, ear diameter, ear length, and tipfill was lowest with transplants.

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