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  • Author or Editor: William Nesmith x
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Kentucky growers currently produce about 1300 acres of bell peppers worth $2 million for both fresh market and processing. Bacterial leaf spot (BLS) caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria has been the scourge which continues to limit expansion of pepper production in the state. Fourteen new BLS-resistant varieties and experimental lines were evaluated together with two standard (susceptible) varieties in 1995 at two locations. All entries were exposed to an induced BLS epidemic at one location but were kept disease-free at the second location. Field resistance to four races of BLS was high for all but one of the lines tested, which claimed resistance to races 1, 2, and 3. Cultivars with resistance to only race 2 or races 1 and 2 of the pathogen were no different from susceptible checks in terms of yields and disease resistance. Six entries performed well at both locations; these will be included in further trials in 1996.

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Bacterial leaf spot (BLS) caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria is the scourge that has devastated and continues to limit expansion of both fresh-market and processing pepper production in Kentucky. Fourteen new BLS-resistant varieties and breeding lines were evaluated together with two standard (susceptible) varieties in 1995 at two locations. Twenty advanced lines and commercial varieties were tested at the same locations in 1996. All entries were exposed to an induced BLS epidemic at one location, but were kept disease-free at the second location. Epidemic development was slow and field resistance to four races of BLS was high for all but one of the lines tested, which claimed resistance to races 1, 2, and 3 in 1995. Six entries performed well both under BLS epidemic conditions and in the disease-free environment in 1995. Cultivars with resistance to only race 2 or races 1 and 2 of the pathogen were no different from susceptible checks in terms of yields and disease resistance and were not tested in 1996; combined results form 1995 and 1996 are discussed.

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We began trials of vine-ripened, staked tomato cultivars in 1998 to identify a variety suitable for marketing as a premium “Kentucky Tomato”. In conversations with marketing specialists at the Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture and merchandising managers at the Kroger Company's regional distribution center, we identified essential qualities of our ideal Kentucky tomato. A carefully selected group of 16 varieties was evaluated at two locations for yields, appearance, quality, disease tolerance, and taste. New varieties were compared with commercial standards like `Mountain Spring'. Yields of different sizes and grades of marketable fruit were multiplied by appropriate real-market prices for a given harvest date and summarized in a single income-per-acre variable for each variety. Some of the highest yielding varieties in eastern Kentucky (`Fabulous' `Sunbeam') appeared to have some tolerance to early blight; other varieties in this highest-yielding group included `Emperador', `Enterprise', `Sunleaper', and `Sunbrite'. All of these had fruit quality we considered acceptable for commercial markets with the exception of `Sunbrite'. `Fabulous', `Emperador', `Sunleaper', `SunGem', and `Sunpride' were the highest yielding varieties in central Kentucky. `Sunleaper' and `Sunpride' appeared somewhat tolerant to tomato mosaic virus (ToMV), which occurred at this location. Preliminary taste tests identified six varieties that were evaluated further by consumers at a local farmers' market. `Mountain Fresh' and `Floralina' were considered the best tasting varieties overall. The search continues in 1999.

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Farmers' field trials conducted in western Kentucky counties in 1995 and 1996 showed that dramatic reductions in insecticide usage are possible using scouting and action thresholds. Five-acre plots were scouted and treated according to action thresholds while adjacent 5-acre plots were treated weekly with insecticides. Seven out of 10 insecticide sprays were eliminated, saving $65/acre for the 1995 season. There were no differences in yield, insect damage, or fruit quality between the scouted plots and the plots that were treated weekly. Assuming similar low pest populations in all 885 acres of the company's contracted fields, savings could have amounted to nearly $31,000 for 1995 after deducting scouting costs. There were no yield or quality differences from three test plots treated according to regularly scheduled applications and three plots treated according to action thresholds for insect pests and according to Tomcast predictions for fungal disease control in 1996. We have demonstrated the value of using Tomcast as an aid in making fungicide spray scheduling decisions for processing tomatoes in Kentucky. Although we were able to greatly simplify the Tomcast-CR10 datalogger interface program in 1996, there were still difficulties in getting information from the university-based computer to the company making spray applications. The company will be able to access the datalogger and obtain the information directly in 1997. The further analyses of “Skybit” satellite data collected in 1996 should also tell us whether this type of information might be used instead of a remote datalogger thus simplifying the process even further. We plan to build on the quick adoption of the Tomcast system and to make it sustainable by transferring “ownership” to the growers and processing company in 1997.

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