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  • Author or Editor: Nancy Maxwell x
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A key to profitability in many “u-pick” pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) farm operations is producing attractive, marketable fruit while maintaining suitable field conditions for consumer entry during periods of inclement autumn weather. The use of municipal leaves collected from urban areas may help improve fruit quality and field conditions in u-pick pumpkin operations. In 2005 and 2006, an experiment (randomized complete block design) was conducted to compare four different production systems on pumpkin yield and fruit quality. Treatments consisted of no leaf mulch (bare soil) plus herbicide with 25 lb/acre nitrogen (N) sidedressed (treatment 1), leaf mulch without herbicide with 25 lb/acre N sidedressed (treatment 2), no leaf mulch (bare soil) with herbicide with 75 lb/acre N sidedressed (treatment 3), and leaf mulch without herbicide with 75 lb/acre N sidedressed (treatment 4) during the production season. In 2005, there were no differences in the total number and weight of harvested fruit and weight of orange fruit between production systems. Although the presence of leaf mulch reduced the total number and percentage of orange fruit harvested, there were no significant differences in average weight of orange fruit between production systems. Average weight of orange fruit was significantly higher and similar at both sidedress N rates in both leaf mulch production systems compared with bare soil. In 2006, there were no differences in total number of fruit, number of orange fruit, and percentage of orange fruit at harvest between production systems. Total weight, weight of orange fruit, and average fruit weight of pumpkin fruit was significantly higher and similar at both sidedress N rates in both leaf mulch production systems compared with bare soil. Sidedress N should be applied in accordance to plant growth and environmental factors to overcome any expected N deficiency from N immobilization because of the presence of the leaf mulch and other environmental factors. Applying municipal leaves to the soil surface exhibited a marked advantage over bare soil in producing clean fruit. In both years, the percentage of clean fruit at harvest was higher in both leaf mulch production systems compared with bare soil.

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In this study, the effects of six nitrogen fertility programs and two bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) cultivars were evaluated for marketable yield and incidence of skin separation in fruit. In 2006 and 2007, bell pepper cultivar Aristotle, which is tolerant to the crown rot phase of phytophthora blight (Phytophthora capsici), and a susceptible cultivar, Camelot, were established in a split-plot design with cultivar as the whole-plot factor and fertilizer regime as the subplot factor. Each year, fertility treatments included 1) 180 lb/acre of soluble nitrogen (N) plus phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) as 20N–8.7P–16.6K, 2) 300 lb/acre of soluble N (4N–0P–6.6K), 3) 180 lb/acre of soluble N (30N–0P–0K), 4) 135 lb/acre of soluble N (30N–0P–0K), 5) 180 lb/acre of granular N (43N–0P–0K), and 6) 135 lb/acre of granular N (43N–0P–0K). Soluble fertilizer treatments 1–4 were applied weekly through drip irrigation during the production season. Granular fertility treatments 5 and 6 were applied after bed making but before laying black plastic mulch each year. Additionally, all plots received 180 lb/acre each of P and K (0N–2.6P–4.9K) plus 2 lb/acre of boron distributed season-long in weekly fertilizer applications. In 2006 and 2007, cultivar had no effect on marketable yield or percent marketable fruit. In 2007, the percentage of harvested fruit with skin separation was significantly higher in fertility programs 1 and 2 compared with program 5. In 2006 and 2007, there were no significant interactions between cultivar and fertility program for marketable yield per plot, fruit with skin separation, percent marketable fruit, or marketable yield per acre. In both years, harvest date has a significant effect on marketable yield per plot, fruit with skin separation, percent marketable fruit, and marketable yield per acre. The percentage of harvested fruit with skin separation was higher in phytophthora-tolerant ‘Aristotle’ compared with phytophthora-susceptible ‘Camelot’ in 2006 and 2007. Results of this study suggest that the development of skin separation in bell pepper fruit is more influenced by genotype than N fertility program.

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