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  • Author or Editor: Mark Schmittgen x
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The specialty vegetable market is a rapidly expanding niche in the produce industry. One popular sector of this market is focused on heirloom tomatoes. Heirloom varieties, mostly open-pollinated, are often favored for their taste and unique shapes and colors. Older, traditional varieties have been maintained mostly by home gardeners, seed saver organizations, and government germplasm centers, but are becoming increasingly popular with commercial growers, consumers, and seed companies. Special growing techniques and attention to postharvest handling is also necessary with heirloom tomatoes because most do not have an extended shelf life. For growers willing to develop special harvesting and handling techniques, specialty tomatoes offer colors, shapes, and flavors that are an important part of today's cuisine. Performance of a given cultivar will vary from year to year depending on several factors: planting date, irrigation, disease pressure, staking practices, and climatic conditions during the growing season. Fourteen heirloom tomato cultivars have been researched at Ohio State Univ. (OSU) since 1995. Data collected on yield, fruit characteristics, market outlets, cultural information, special harvesting and handling requirements, and disease pressure for heirloom cultivars will be presented.

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Specialty vegetables are defined as crops that are different in color, size, shape or nutrient content for that particular crop, those not normally grown in a specific area, or crops grown out of season. Knowing the clientele and what they demand is the first step in successfully marketing these less common crops. Due to market demand, “uncommon” crops are more frequently requested by produce buyers and the public. What is in demand one year may not be marketable the next. Our attempts to produce >25 specialty crops under Ohio growing conditions over the past 3 years resulted in successes and failures. Regardless of the outcome, our findings were important to vegetable growers who are interested in producing these crops. Crops tested from 1994 to 1996 included globe artichokes, luffa gourds, chili peppers, habanero peppers, okra, tomatillos, baby corn, and several specialty tomato varieties. Crops produced successfully in Ohio were marketed through several farm markets, food terminals, and produce brokers. A summary of cultural practices, production tips, and marketing opportunities on these less common vegetable crops based on our research in Ohio will be presented.

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The performance of peach trees [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch cv. Redhaven/Siberian C.] on raised beds as compared to the conventional flat (unraised) orchard floor surface was evaluated from 1982 to 1991. The raised bed was similar to the flat bed in cation exchange capacity (CEC), Ca, P, K, Mg, B, and Zn soil levels in the 0-15 cm depth. Microirrigation, using two 3.7 L.h-1 emitters per tree vs. no irrigation, was applied to trees planted in a north-south orientation on a silt loam, noncalcareous soil. Raised beds increased trunk cross-sectional area (TCA) and yield-efficiency over 5 years. Irrigation increased fruit mass mostly in years of highest evaporation. Significant year to year variations occurred in yield, fruit mass, TCA and yield efficiency. There were significant bed × year interactions for yield and TCA. Irrigation increased leaf boron content regardless of bed type. Leaf potassium was higher in flat beds. Nonirrigated trees had the lowest tree survival on the flat bed, but the opposite was true on the raised bed.

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Physiological disorders of apples, such as cork spot and bitter pit, are a result of low soil calcium, low or excessive soil moisture, large fruit size, and environmental conditions. We report on the effect of microirrigation treatments on apple fruit when irrigation is applied as water alone or water plus a calcium (Ca)/boron (B) solution with applications applied over the tree canopy or under the tree canopy. Apples were harvested from trees in their 4th to 7th leaf and the number of fruit and size of fruit varied from year to year. In most years, there were no significant differences among treatments for fruit Ca. Fruit B was significantly higher in treatments where B was applied through the irrigation. Fruit N/Ca levels were lower when the fruit size was smaller, which was due to a higher number of fruit per tree. Year to year variations in fruit Ca levels also were likely to temperature, humidity, rainfall, fruit size, and shoot growth.

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Annual yields of thornless blackberries may be inconsistent due to low winter or early spring temperatures. Under ideal conditions thornless blackberries can produce two or three times more berries per acre and ripen over a longer period of time than the erect, thorny type.

Yields of several thornless blackberry cultivars were improved by using straw mulch. In experiment one standard cultivars were compared to numbered clones. In experiment two Chester, Black Satin, Dirksen and C-65 were compared. Over a six year period, straw increased yields from 1670 to 8300 pounds per acre. Straw mulch appeared to be effective during years where low temperatures did not affect bearing surface.

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