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  • Author or Editor: Joseph G. Masabni x
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A field study was conducted in 2010 and 2011 to determine the suitability of Earth-Kind® production principles for home vegetable gardening. Earth-Kind® production encourages water and energy conservation, and reduction of fertilizer and pesticide use. Seven vegetable cultivars [Sweet Banana and bell pepper (Capsicum annuum); Celebrity and Juliet tomato (Solanum lycopersicum); Spacemaster cucumber (Cucumis sativus); Ichiban eggplant (Solanum melongena); Spineless Beauty zucchini (Cucurbita pepo)] were grown in mushroom compost (MC) or city compost (CC). Both composts were incorporated preplant into the soil with shredded wood mulch placed over them. In each year, nitrogen (N) fertilizer (15.5N–0P–0K from calcium nitrate) was applied preplant to CC plots to bring initial soil fertility levels similar to MC plots. No additional fertilizer was applied during the growing season. Drip irrigation was supplemented weekly. One application each of neem oil and pyrethrin (organic insecticides) and chlorothalonil (synthetic fungicide) was applied before harvest in 2010, but none was applied in 2011. Results indicated that Earth-Kind® technique could be effectively implemented in a home vegetable garden. MC is better suited for Earth-Kind® vegetable production than CC for some vegetables. Banana pepper, bell pepper, and zucchini had twice the yield in MC plots when compared with CC plots. No yield differences (P > 0.05) were observed between composts for tomato, eggplant, or cucumber. With proper irrigation and soil preparation practices such as addition of compost and mulch, Earth-Kind® vegetable gardening techniques can be used for selected vegetable crops without additional N fertilizer or pesticides. Furthermore, Earth-Kind® vegetable gardening can be successful as long as the home gardener understands that low yields may result from using this production method. However, often the home gardener is more concerned about producing vegetables using sustainable, environmentally friendly methods than maximizing yields.

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Pickling cucumbers (Cucumis sativus L.) for machine harvest were interplanted with barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), oat (Avena sativa L.), rye (Secale cereale L.), sorghum-sudan (Sorghum vulgare L.), or wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Cover crops 3 to 5 (7.6 to 12.7 cm) or 6 to 10 inches (15.2 to 25.4 cm) tall were killed with sethoxydim. Cover crops seeded at ≈12 seeds/ft2 (129 seeds/m2) provided protection from wind erosion and minimal crop competition. Additional nitrogen to obtain maximum yield was required when small grain cover crops were interplanted with cucumbers. Barley emerged rapidly, grew upright, and was killed easily with sethoxydim, making it ideal for interplanting. All cover crops caused some cucumber yield reduction under adverse growing conditions.

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Dry bulb onion (Allium cepa) leaves may not dry down normally and bulbs may not attain dormancy during adverse growing seasons. An effective method of artificial leaf desiccation is needed to complement mechanical harvesting and onion conditioning for storage. Desiccants were tested in 1993, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2003 on onion leaves prior to harvest, and bulb quality was evaluated after 5 months or more of storage. Carfentrazone, diquat, and paraquat desiccated onion foliage well but increased bulb rot and reduced the percentage of marketable bulbs after storage. Bromoxynil and endothall desiccated onion foliage significantly without inducing rot or reducing the percentage of marketable bulbs. Copper sulfate and pelargonic acid increased desiccation of onion foliage but were not sufficiently effective for field use. Neither reduced the percentage of marketable bulbs. If bromoxynil or endothall were labelled for onion desiccation, they could be applied 10-14 days before harvest to enhance natural leaf senescence and facilitate mechanical harvest.

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The inclusion of a smother crop used as a cash crop in an intercropping system may be an effective cultural control strategy for the management of weeds in organic production systems. In addition, a multilayered canopy created when intercropping species with different growth forms may limit germination cues for weed seeds and can allow for a more efficient utilization of resources that reduce competition to target crops from weeds. Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) was evaluated for its ability to reduce weeds in a low-input organic system in Texas when planted alone or in various intercropping combinations that also included peanut (Arachis hypogaea), okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), and hot pepper (Capsicum annuum). Watermelon significantly reduced total weed biomass when planted in monoculture and in all intercropping combinations compared with peanut, okra, cowpea, and pepper monocultures in year 1 of the 2-year study. Total weed biomass was reduced by 81%, 83%, 88%, and 92% in treatments containing watermelon on average as compared with pepper, peanut, okra, and cowpea grown in monoculture, respectively. Less effective weed suppression was obtained with watermelon in year 2. Pepper grown in monoculture had significantly higher weed biomass than all other treatments in year 2. Broadleaf weeds were effectively suppressed across all intercropping treatments in year 1, but nutsedges (Cyperus sp.) were consistently reduced both years, particularly when compared with monocrops with small leaf area such as pepper. The three and four species intercropping combinations consistently had high leaf area index (LAI) values, whereas pepper monoculture had significantly lower LAI values than all other treatments except for cowpea monoculture. There was a significant negative relationship between LAI and total weed biomass 33 d after last planting (r = −0.51, P < 0.01). There was a significant negative relationship between total weed biomass and total fruit yield in year 1 (r = −0.64, P < 0.01) but no significant relationship in year 2. Although findings were inconsistent in year 2 because of changes in precipitation amounts and in relative planting dates, these findings suggest that incorporating a multifunctional intercropping system that includes a low-growing vining crop such as watermelon or at least an architecturally complex mixture can optimize canopy density to reduce weed pressure from resilient perennial weeds such as nutsedge. This may offer organic producers another management tool for the control of perennial weeds.

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This study investigates the potential impact of food safety outbreaks on domestic shipments, imports, and prices of the produce industry. Moreover, the compliance costs associated with new food safety standards were also estimated. Three case studies were analyzed to assess these potential impacts: the muskmelon (Cucumis melo) outbreak of Mar.–Apr. 2008, the spinach (Spinacea oleracea) outbreak of Sept. 2006, and the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) outbreak of June–July 2008. The results demonstrate that the costs incurred by producers because of food safety outbreaks in produce are far greater than preventing such incidents.

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