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Bielinski M. Santos

Research was conducted to determine appropriate in-row spacing for eggplant (Solanum melongena) and to determine the best economic returns of this practice. ‘Classic’ eggplant seedlings were transplanted at in-row distances of 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, and 3.5 ft. Eggplant height decreased linearly as in-row spacing increased. In-row spacing affected total eggplant fruit number, with no fruit number differences among 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, and 2.5 ft, averaging ≈46,800 fruit/acre. Total fruit weight followed a trend similar to that for total fruit number and there were no differences among 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, and 2.5 ft (ranging between 18.2 and 19.9 tons/acre). From an economical standpoint, the comparison between 2.0 and 2.5 ft resulted in the former spacing having a marginal return rate of 8.03% in relation to an in-row spacing of 2.5 ft, which indicated that growers would earn $0.08 extra for each $1.00 of net profit by switching from 2.5 to 2.0 ft in-row plant spacing.

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Bielinski M. Santos

Two field studies were conducted to compare the effects of preplant nitrogen (N) rates and irrigation programs on tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) growth and yields. Irrigation programs were seepage (subsurface) irrigation alone at a water volume of 28 acre-inches/acre per season and seepage plus drip irrigation at a volume of 28 and 14 acre-inches/acre per season, respectively. Preplant N fertilization rates were 200, 250, and 300 lb/acre, using ammonium nitrate as the N source. There were significant irrigation program by N rate interactions for nitrate (NO3 ) petiole concentrations at 8 weeks after transplanting (WAT), and yield of extra-large fruit and total marketable fruit, but not for plant height at 5 and 7 WAT. The highest NO3-N petiole concentrations were found in plots treated with 200, 250, and 300 lb/acre for N and seepage plus drip irrigation, and with 300 lb/acre N under seepage irrigation alone. For the total marketable fruit weight, there were no differences among N rates in those plots irrigated with the seepage plus drip combination, ranging between 23.8 and 25.9 tons/acre. However, there was a significant N effect in plots receiving only seepage irrigation with marketable fruit weight almost doubling from 12.0 to 22.7 tons/acre when applying 200 and 300 lb/acre N, respectively. Both irrigation programs had equivalent performance when 300 lb/acre N were applied.

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Bielinski M. Santos

The effects of early pruning on the growth and yield of ‘Florida-47’ and ‘Sungard’ tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) were assessed in west-central Florida. Each cultivar was established in separate experiments. The four pruning treatments consisted of leaving one, two, and three main stems in the tomato plants below the first flower cluster, and a nonpruned control. Pruning shoots had significant effects on the plant height of ‘Sungard’ and ‘Florida-47’ at 4 and 3 weeks after transplanting, respectively. Tomato plants with a single stem were 13% and 10% taller than the ones in the nonpruned control, respectively. However, this effect disappeared 1 and 2 weeks later in both cultivars. Regardless of the cultivar, early pruning did not influence foliar disease incidence or early and total tomato marketable yield. This cultural practice did not affect the partitioning to different fruit categories in either cultivars. This data showed that early pruning can temporarily change the plant architecture of ‘Sungard’ and ‘Florida-47’ tomato, explaining the perceived increased plant vigor in comparison with the nonpruned control. However, the effect disappeared during the growing season and did not reflect on marketable yields of either tomato cultivars. If no pruning were performed in these cultivars, growers would be able to save an estimated $40/acre of tomato.

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Bielinski M. Santos

Field studies were conducted to determine effects of preplant nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) sources on ‘Strawberry Festival’ strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) growth and yield. Six treatments resulted from the preplant application of ammonium nitrate [AN (34% N)], ammonium sulfate [AS (21% N and 24% S)], ammonium sulfate nitrate [ASN (26% N and 14% S)], polymer-coated AS [PCAS (20% N and 23% S)], and elemental S (90% S). A nontreated control was added. The N was fixed at 50 lb/acre for AN, AS, ASN, and PCAS, which resulted in S rates of 0, 57, 27, and 57 lb/acre, respectively. The S rate of the elemental S treatment was set at 57 lb/acre. For early fruit number, the highest values were found in plots treated with AS and elemental S, while the highest total fruit numbers were obtained in plots treated with AS, ASN, PCAS, and elemental S. There was no difference in total fruit numbers between the nontreated control and AN. Plots treated with elemental S, PCAS, ASN, and AS had the highest early marketable fruit weights, whereas the lowest early marketable fruit weight was found in the nontreated plots. In comparison with the nontreated control plots, all the preplant fertilization programs improved early marketable fruit weight, with AN, AS, ASN, PCAS, and elemental S. Total marketable fruit weights were maximized in plots treated with preplant AS, ASN, PCAS, or elemental S. There was no difference between the total fruit weights obtained in the control and AN-treated plots. The data indicated that the strawberry total yield increases can be attributed to the use of preplant fertilizer sources containing S. This research may lead to a more appropriate use of N for strawberry production in Florida, minimizing the nitrate-leaching potential in high sandy soils by eliminating N sources from preplant fertilization programs.

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Bielinski M. Santos

A two-season study was conducted to assess the effects of preplant potassium (K) fertilization rates and sources on the growth and yield of beefsteak tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). Fourteen treatments resulted from the combination of two K sources: sulfate of potash [SOP (0N–0P–42K)] and muriate of potash [MOP (potassium chloride, 0N–0P–50K)] and seven preplant K rates (0, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 lb/acre). Soil electrical conductivity (EC) at 4 weeks after transplanting was influenced by the interaction between preplant K rates and sources. When SOP was applied, soil EC increased from 0.4 dS·m−1 with no preplant K application to ≈1.3 dS·m−1 with a rate of 500 lb/acre of preplant K. However, the soil EC steadily increased from 0.4 to 3.0 dS·m−1 as preplant K rates increased from 0 to 500 lb/acre when MOP was used as the nutrient source. The combined effect of the preplant application of K rates and sources influenced the seasonal extra-large and total marketable fruit weight, which increased steadily with K rates, regardless of the sources, from 0 to 300 lb/acre. At K rates between 300 and 500 lb/acre, there were no extra-large and total fruit weight differences among rates when SOP was applied. In contrast, extra-large and total marketable fruit weight declined when rates increased from 300 to 500 lb/acre of K and MOP was applied to the soil. Data demonstrated that plots treated with MOP at rates higher than 300 lb/acre of K increased soil EC and caused a decline on extra-large and total marketable fruit weight of tomato.

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Bielinski M. Santos

Selecting the “right” nutrient rate for fertilization programs is one of the most important decisions growers face. On one hand, increasing fertilizer prices and environmental concerns have increased the awareness of accurately managing fertilization programs, thus reducing fertilizer amounts during cropping seasons. By contrast, many growers fear not obtaining the desired crop performance and economic returns, especially when fertilization is assumed as “inexpensive insurance” to improve yields, thus leading to overfertilization. The objective of this paper was to provide general principles for selecting and monitoring the right nutrient rate within the framework of the “4R” nutrient management concept (right rate, right source, right placement, and right timing) to protect environmental quality while maintaining productivity. Some methodologies to determine, apply, and adjust fertilization rates during the growing season were discussed, including in-season monitoring procedures, such as petiole sap testing, plant diagnostic analysis, leaf color evaluation, and plant growth index.

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Bielinski M. Santos and James P. Gilreath

Among the current methyl bromide alternatives under study, propylene oxide (Propozone) has shown potential to control soilborne diseases, nematodes, and weeds in polyethylene-mulched tomato. However, further research is needed to determine the appropriate application rates to control nutsedge in the crop. Also, the effect of this fumigant on tomato nutrient absorption has not been determined yet. Therefore, field trials were conducted for this purpose in Bradenton, Fla. Tested rates of Propozone were 0, 190, 380, 570, 760, and 950 L·ha–1 and were shank-applied in raised planting beds three weeks before `Florida 47' tomato transplanting. Examined data indicated that there was a rapid decrease in nutsedge density with 570 L·ha–1. For phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) foliar content, there was a linear increase of P concentrations as rate increase, whereas K content increased rapidly after 190 L·ha–1. The highest tomato yields were obtained with 760 and 950 L·ha–1 of Propozone.

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Bielinski M. Santos and James P. Gilreath

Purple nutsedge can easily penetrate polyethylene mulch films. However, there are no reports on possible differences among mulch films. Because of this situation, field trials were conducted in Ruskin and Bradenton, Fla., during 2002 and 2003. In Spring 2002, the treatments were a) no mulch, b) black Pliant High Barrier mulch, and c) green Klerk's Virtually Impermeable Film (VIF). In Spring 2002, the films were a) black Pliant High Barrier, b) black IPM Bromostop, c) metallized Pliant, and d) green Klerk's VIF. The number of nutsedge emerged through the films was determined. No fumigants or herbicides were applied. Results indicated that the Klerk's VIF had the lowest nutsedge densities. No nutsedge control differences were found between the IPM Bromostop and the metallized Pliant films. These differences might be due to the physical properties of the films, including stretching and thickness.

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Bielinski M. Santos and James P. Gilreath

A 2-year field study was conducted in two locations in the Dominican Republic to determine the influence of various support systems and nitrogen fertilization programs on passion fruit (Passiflora edulis var. flavicarpa) yield and economic returns. Three trellis systems were used: 1) single line, where a single wire was placed along the planting rows at 2 m high; 2) double lines, where two wires were established along the planting rows at 2 and 1 m high, respectively; and 3) crossed lines, with wires at 2 m high, allowing the vines to grow both along and across the planting rows. Nitrogen (N) fertilization rates were 13, 26, and 52 g/plant of N every 20 days. Plants trained with the single- and double-line support systems combined with 52 g/plant of N had higher marketable yield and had the lowest proportion of non-marketable fruit/plant per year. Partial budget analysis indicated that the single-line support system had a marginal return rate of 36% compared to the double-line support system.