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  • Author or Editor: Kent Cushman x
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Fertilizer material costs, particularly nitrogen (N), have increased substantially over the past 5 years. Increased costs, along with increased awareness of the impact of fertilizer leaching on the environment in humid regions, have increased interest in use of slow-release fertilizer (SRF) or controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) materials. The goals of SRF and CRF use are that no nutrient should be limiting for crop uptake, there should be improved nutrient uptake efficiency, and nutrient-leaching potential should be reduced. These considerations are particularly important for crops grown on sandy soils with relatively low nutrient and water holding capacities. Release rates of biodegradable, or slow-release materials, such urea formaldehyde, isobutylidene diurea, and methylene urea are proportional to soil microbial activity and are therefore soil temperature dependent. These materials are N sources and depend on soil biological activity, thus, soil temperature during specific crop growth phenology must be considered and release may be delayed by soil fumigation. Whereas CRFs depend on diffusion through coatings and not biodegradation, both are soil moisture and temperature dependent. Examples of coated materials are sulfur-coated urea, polymer-coated urea, and polymer/sulfur-coated urea. The advantage of these materials is that leachable fertilizer elements other than N can be incorporated within the coating. However, this comes at an increased cost. The use of any single or combination of these materials depends on time of year, the length of crop cycle and crop nutrient demand patterns, and the use of soil fumigants.

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Pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo, C. moshata) were grown in northern Mississippi during 2000 and 2001 for the purpose of more narrowly defining plant population recommendations for commercial production in the humid southeastern United States. Four plant populations were examined for `Aspen': 908, 1361, 2045, and 3068 plants/acre (2244, 3363, 5053, and 7581 plants/ha, respectively) and for `Howden Biggie': 605, 908, 1361, and 2045 plants/acre (1495, 2244, 3363, 5053 plants/ha, respectively). Plant populations were adjusted by varying in-row spacing while holding between-row spacing constant at 8 ft (2.4 m). Plant population significantly affected yield of `Aspen' and `Howden Biggie'. Linear and quadratic terms were significant for `Aspen', with maximum yield (ton/acre and fruit/acre) for the quadratic relationship occurring at about 2045 plants/acre. In contrast, yield of `Howden Biggie' decreased significantly (ton/acre) and nonsignificantly (fruit/acre) in a linear relationship as plant population increased from 605 to 2045 plants/acre. Plant population significantly affected fruit weight and size. As plant population increased, weight and size decreased slightly but significantly in a linear relationship for `Aspen' (lb/fruit and inch3/fruit) and `Howden Biggie' (lb/fruit). The quadratic relationship for `Howden Biggie' (inch3/fruit) was significant and the minimum value occurred at about 1361 plants/acre. Plant population significantly affected pumpkin yield components associated with plant productivity. As plant population increased, number and weight of fruit per plant decreased sharply in a quadratic relationship for `Aspen' (lb/ plant and fruit/plant) and `Howden Biggie' (lb/plant). The linear relationship for `Howden Biggie' (fruit/ plant) also decreased significantly. At the highest plant populations for `Howden Biggie', 40% of the plants did not produce marketable pumpkins. In conclusion, recommendations of optimum plant populations for a semi-vining cultivar such as `Aspen' should be centered on about 2045 plants/acre. Published recommendations from Kentucky appear sound, advocating plant populations within the range of 1360 to 2720 plants/acre (3361 to 6721 plants/ha). For a vining cultivar such as `Howden Biggie', recommendations can be as low as 605 plants/acre. Published recommendations from Kentucky and Georgia, along with those published in the Vegetable Crop Guidelines for the Southeastern U.S., advocate plant populations for vining cultivars of approximately 725 to 1465 plants/acre (1790–3620 plants/ha). Our results with `Howden Biggie', a cultivar that produces larger pumpkins than most other vining cultivars grown for the wholesale market, indicate that producers of vining cultivars should use plant populations from the lowest values of these recommendations or use even lower values. Our results also indicate that growers can control size and weight of pumpkins by varying plant population, with increasing populations resulting in a slight decrease of size and weight.

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Evaluations of 21 entries (commercial cultivars and breeders' experimental hybrids) of triploid watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) were conducted in northern and central Mississippi during 2000 and 2001. The purpose of this research was to identify high-yielding, medium-sized triploid cultivars with good horticultural characteristics and consumer qualities for commercial production in Mississippi. Most entries were similar to `Tri-X 313' and had red flesh, oval shape, and a mottle stripe rind pattern. SXW 5052, `Triple Crown,' `Crimson Trio,' `SeedWay 4502,' and `Millionaire' produced the highest total marketable yields; however, SXW 5052 is no longer available. `Crimson Trio' produced slightly smaller-sized melons compared to other entries and `SeedWay 4502' produced melons with relatively low soluble solids concentration. Based on total marketable yield, average size of melons, soluble solids concentration, and lack of undesirable characteristics such as hollowheart, black and colored seed, and rind necrosis, `Triple Crown,' `Millionaire,' `Cooperstown,' `Summer Sweet 5244,' and `Crimson Trio' can be recommended as mid- to late-maturing cultivars for commercial production in Mississippi. Based on early marketable yield, and using the same criteria listed above, `Tri-X 313' and `Tri-X Carousel' can be recommended as early-maturing cultivars for commercial production in Mississippi. `Tri-X 313' exhibited only one undesirable trait, producing a relatively high number of black and colored seeds. `Diamond' had high early and total yields, as well as high soluble solids concentration, but it should be recommended only on a trial basis to determine its potential susceptibility to hollowheart.

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Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) production is concentrated in southern Florida where growers often use seepage irrigation. According to a recent survey, growers believe that nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) rates recommended by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS) are low. A study was conducted during Spring 2004 and 2005 at a UF-IFAS research farm to compare three nutrient and water management systems: high rate [HR (265, 74, and 381 lb/acre N, P, and K, respectively)], recommended rate [RR (150, 44, and 125 lb/acre N, P, and K, respectively)], and recommended rate with subsurface irrigation (RR-S). Irrigation was managed to keep soil moisture content at 16% to 20% for HR and 8% to 12% for RR and RR-S. The experimental design was a randomized complete block design with two replications and three subsample areas within each 0.25-acre plot. The HR management approach produced ≈60% to 80% higher yields (cwt/acre) during 2005 than RR or RR-S. The HR treatment produced larger watermelons than RR or RR-S in 2005. Triploid watermelon prices had to be at least $3.74/cwt to cover all costs associated with HR. The HR approach increased the grower net returns by $590/acre and $1764/acre under conservative and higher yield and price expectations, respectively. Soluble solids content and hollowheart ratings were unaffected by treatment. Total biomass, recorded during 2005, followed a similar trend as yield, with HR producing 105% and 125% greater total dry weight than RR and RR-S, respectively. Total N content of HR biomass was 56% higher than that of RR and RR-S. Total P content was 29% and 50% higher than that of RR and RR-S, respectively. Leaf and petiole tissue from the HR treatment exhibited consistently higher N and K leaf tissue values during 2005 than RR and RR-S. In conclusion, trends in the data consistently showed greater plant performance with higher rates of fertilizer and soil moisture content. Our ability to detect differences in 2005 was probably enhanced by higher rainfall during 2005 compared with 2004.

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Small- and large-scale farmers must often decide when to begin application of fungicides, either before the onset of disease as a preventative treatment or after disease becomes evident in the field. Growers also must decide about products that claim to enhance fungicide efficacy when added to the spray mixture. A study was conducted during the summer of 2002 to investigate control of foliar diseases of vine crops (Cucurbita spp.) with low-input (LI) or high-input (HI) management approaches and six fungicide/spray combinations at four locations in southeastern United States. Fungicide applications began for LI when leaf disease first became evident and for HI about 20 days after seeding. Both approaches continued applications at 7- to 10-day intervals until harvest. Spray treatments consisted of a water-only control or one of six combinations of azoxystrobin/chlorothalonil alone or in combination with potassium bicarbonate, foliar phosphite (0N–12.2P–21.6K), or foliar nitrogen (25N–0P–0K). Azoxystrobin was applied in rotation with chlorothalonil for all treatments except the control. Seeds of ‘Lil’ Goblin’ pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) were planted July to August and fruit harvested October to November, depending on location. Plants were rated twice for powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca fuliginea and Erysiphe cichoracearum) and downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis). HI did not significantly increase yield compared with LI. All fungicide treatments significantly increased yield and reduced foliar diseases compared with the water-only control. The simplest of treatments, the azoxystrobin/chlorothalonil rotation without any other chemicals, can be recommended for general use where strobilurin resistance has not been documented.

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