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  • Author or Editor: Jeffrey Martin x
  • HortScience x
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Four potentially biodegradable mulch products (BioAgri, BioTelo, WeedGuardPlus, and SB-PLA-10) were evaluated during 2010 in three contrasting regions of the United States (Knoxville, TN; Lubbock, TX; and Mount Vernon, WA) and compared with black plastic mulch and a no-mulch control for durability, weed control, and impact on tomato yield in high tunnel and open field production systems. WeedGuardPlus, BioTelo, and BioAgri had the greatest number of rips, tears, and holes (RTH) and percent visually observed deterioration (PVD) at all three sites (P ≤ 0.05), and values were greater in the open field than high tunnels, likely as a result of high winds and greater solar radiation and rainfall. SB-PLA-10 showed essentially no deterioration at all three sites and was equivalent to black plastic in both high tunnels and the open field. Weed growth at the sites did not differ in high tunnels as compared with the open field (P > 0.05). Weed growth at Knoxville and Mount Vernon was greatest under SB-PLA-10 (P ≤ 0.02), likely as a result of the white, translucent nature of this test product. Tomato yield was greater in the high tunnels than open field at all three sites (P ≤ 0.03), except for total fruit weight at Knoxville (P ≤ 0.53). Total number of tomato fruit and total fruit weight were lowest for bare ground at both Knoxville (150 × 104 fruit/ha and 29 t·ha−1; P ≤ 0.04) and Mount Vernon (44 × 104 fruit/ha and 11 t·ha−1; P ≤ 0.008). At Knoxville, the other mulch treatments were statistically equivalent, whereas at Mount Vernon, BioAgri had among the highest yields (66 × 104 fruit/ha and 16 t·ha−1). There were no differences in tomato yield resulting from mulch type at Lubbock.

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Like everything for the past 2 centuries, agriculture has depended increasingly on fossil fuel energy. Pressures to shift to renewable energy and changes in the fossil fuel industry are set to massively alter the energy landscape over the next 30 years. Two near-certainties are increased overall prices and/or decreased stability of energy supplies. The impacts of these upheavals on specialty crop production and consumption are unknowable in detail but the grand lines of what will likely change can be foreseen. This foresight can guide the research, extension, and teaching needed to successfully navigate a future very unlike the recent past. Major variables that will influence outcomes include energy use in fertilizer manufacture, in farm operations, and in haulage to centers of consumption. Taking six increasingly popular fruit and vegetable crops and the top two horticultural production states as examples, here we use simple proxies for the energy requirements (in gigajoules per ton of produce) of fertilizer, farm operations, and truck transport from Florida or California to New York to compare the relative sizes of these requirements. Trucking from California is the largest energy requirement in all cases, and three times larger than from Florida. As these energy requirements themselves are all fairly fixed, but in future will likely rise in price and/or be subject to interruptions and shortages, this pilot study points to two commonsense inferences: First, that fruit and vegetable production and consumption are set to reposition to more local/regional and seasonal patterns due to increasing expenses associated with fuel, and second, that coast-to-coast produce shipment by truck will become increasingly expensive and difficult.

Open Access