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.
Pumpkins are Ohio's third-largest fresh-market vegetable crop. Many non-traditional growers are planting pumpkins to increase gross income. Experienced growers have noticed that new producers are successful with low input. Are intensive production practices needed for a good crop? High and low input production schemes were studied, over 3 years on pumpkin yield and quality. High input consisted of Furadan at planting, reflective mulch, trickle irrigation, and a routine fungicide and insecticide spray program. Low input consisted of no mulch, no supplemental irrigation, and a reduced fungicide and insecticide program. The number of insecticide plus fungicide sprays for high vs. low input were: 10 vs. 5 in year 1; 5 vs. 3 in year 2; and 12 vs. 8 in year 3. Number and weight of marketable orange fruit in high-input plots were significantly higher than low input plots in year 1 and 3. Plastic mulch conserved soil moisture and resulted in 91% plant stand in high input vs. 57% in low input in year 1. The only year without a significant yield difference was when the difference in pesticide sprays was two. High input is suited for retail markets where the expectation is good yields of high quality pumpkins. Wholesale producers can probably get by with reduced inputs in certain areas.
Strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) production practices followed by growers in the United States vary by region. Understanding the challenges, needs, and opportunities in each region is essential to guide research, policy, and marketing strategies for the strawberry industry across the country, and to enable the development of general and region-specific educational and production tools. This review divided the United States into eight distinct geographic regions and an indoor controlled or protected environment production system. Current production systems, markets, cultivars, trends, and future directions for each region are discussed. A common trend across all regions is the increasing use of protected culture strawberry production with both day-neutral and short-day cultivars for season extension to meet consumer demand for year-round availability. All regions experience challenges with pests and obtaining adequate harvest labor. Increasing consumer demand for berries, climate change-induced weather variability, high pesticide use, labor and immigration policies, and land availability impact regional production, thus facilitating the adoption of new technologies such as robotics and network communications to assist with strawberry harvesting in open-field production and production under controlled-environment agriculture and protected culture.