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Brent Rowell

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Brent Rowell

Civil war and the hostilities which followed it in Cambodia from 1972 to 1979 resulted in a 20% reduction in the country's population and the near total destruction of its educational and agricultural research infrastructure. As if this were not enough, western governments embargoed humanitarian aid to Cambodia during its most critical period of need from 1981 until multiparty elections were held in 1993. During this period a handful of nongovernmental agencies helped the government begin rebuilding some of its agricultural production capacity. One NGO, together with its government counterparts, established the country's first research station for vegetable crops in 1985 at the request of the Ministry of Agriculture. The Kbal Koh Vegetable Crops Research Station was built and its staff received training from 1985 to 1987. The facility has continued its four-part mission with very limited outside funding and technical support since 1987. Numerous variety and seed production trials have been conducted at the station and in farmers' fields since 1985; practical training programs for agricultural technicians and students began in 1986 and today provide much of the salary and operating budget support for the station. Coinciding with the phase out of NGO assistance in 1995, their are great expectations for continuing support through the newly formed Cambodia–Laos–Vietnam vegetable production and research network, AVRDC, and the Asian Development Bank.

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Brent Rowell and Mar Lar Soe

Drip irrigation is used extensively by both large and small commercial horticultural crop growers in most developed countries where benefits include not only high water use efficiency, but also higher yields, improved product quality, and reduced incidence of foliar disease. Drip systems are still relatively new and expensive in Southeast Asia, and it is primarily wealthier farmers who currently enjoy its benefits. There are also significant perceptual barriers to adoption as many farmers are accustomed to applying copious amounts of water to horticultural crops and are unfamiliar with drip or their crops’ actual water requirements. As a nongovernmental organization whose mission is to help boost small farm incomes, International Development Enterprises (IDE) began experimenting with low-pressure, low-cost gravity-fed drip systems in Myanmar (Burma) in 2006. While the basic design was similar to microtube drip systems of the 1960s, local improvements included filters designed for low pressures, easy-to-use fittings, and inexpensive collapsible header tanks. Our system was optimized for operation on small but commercial-scale plots using pressures as low as 1 psi or only ≈1/10th of that used for conventional drip irrigation. Extension support materials included illustrated installation guides, system design software, videos, testing/filtering of dissolved iron, and easy-to-use water requirement calculators. After hundreds of controlled and farmers’ field tests, our locally manufactured drip sets were offered for sale by private dealers throughout Myanmar in 2009. Incremental system improvements coupled with a strong on-farm demonstration and farmer education program resulted in the successful introduction and widespread adoption of drip irrigation in Myanmar.

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Brent Rowell and John C. Snyder

“We are a tobacco state” is frequently heard among farmers and agricultural leaders in Kentucky; the state's farm economy has always revolved around burley tobacco production. Tobacco, grown in Kentucky for nearly two centuries, remains the most valuable crop earning approximately $694 million in 1995. Even our unusual terminology of “alternative,” “supplemental,” or “opportunity” crops denotes the prime position of tobacco and attitudes toward vegetable crop production. This long tradition and attitudes associated with it contribute to a serious lack of confidence and low expectations when it comes to diversification with vegetable crops. These low expectations and the consequent circular pattern of experience with vegetable production were revealed in a multidisciplinary, 5-year research project designed to determine opportunities for and constraints to vegetable production in the state. The study showed that nearly half of Kentucky's commercial vegetable growers also were tobacco growers and that there were no fundamental incompatibilities in tobacco–vegetable cropping systems. Although farmers considered lack of markets a major constraint, economic research revealed that growers were often unwilling to use and take the risks associated with existing market structures and channels. As a result of these findings, a major on-farm demonstration program was implemented to raise expectations and break the “circular syndrome”. More recently, new partnerships and collaborative relationships have been established between university horticulture and marketing specialists and the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association for the promotion of “supplemental crops” among Kentucky's tobacco growers.

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Derek M. Law and Brent Rowell

A 2-yearfield study in Lexington, Ky., evaluated the use of mulches in two organic production systems for bell peppers. Two planting strategies, flat ground and plastic-covered raised beds, and five weed control practices, straw mulch, compost mulch, wood chip mulch, corn gluten, and “living mulch” clover were tested. In 2003, the mulches were applied at planting, while in 2004, shallow soil cultivation was used for 6 weeks prior to mulch application. In 2003, the experimental field had been under a winter wheat cover crop; in 2004, the field had been cover cropped for more than a year prior to planting with sudex/cowpea (Summer 2003) and rye/hairy vetch (Winter/Spring 2004). Bell pepper yields in both bed treatments were very low in 2003 due to extensive weed competition. In 2004, plastic-covered raised beds coupled with mulching in-between beds resulted in significantly higher yields than the peppers grown on flat ground. These yields were as high as yields from a conventional pepper trial conducted on the same farm. Compost mulch, continuous cultivation, and wood chip mulch provided excellent weed control in 2004. Straw mulch was variable in its weed control efficacy; corn gluten and “living mulch” clover were ineffective.

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Brent Rowell and Mar Lar Soe

New users of drip irrigation in Myanmar had no idea how much water to apply to their crops with drip and could not afford tensiometers or other soil moisture monitoring tools. The concept of a simple paper calculator was born out of their need for an easy-to-use yet inexpensive tool to estimate horticultural crop water requirements. We used a generalized crop coefficient and growth stage approach together with average evapotranspiration (ET) for the vegetable crops “Water Wheel” calculator and a canopy cover approach for the tree fruit calculator. Differences among published crop coefficients are relatively small for a large number of vegetables and single coefficients were used for groups of crops without putting farmers’ crops at risk. Vegetable crops were divided into two groups based on whether water requirements during harvest remained the same as for the flowering and fruiting stage or were reduced for the harvest period. A simplified canopy cover approach was used to determine water requirements for perennial fruit, tree, and vine crops. Our faith in the ability of farmers to make their own adjustments gave us confidence to simplify ET-based water requirements and make them available in the form of simple rotating disc calculators printed in color on laminated card stock. The calculators were welcomed by our staff and enabled them to provide reasonably reliable recommendations for new users of drip irrigation. When surveyed, field staff responded that 74% of farmers they advised followed Water Wheel recommendations. Rough estimates of fruit and vegetable water requirements reached a large number of new drip users in a form they could easily understand, thereby lowering adoption barriers for an unfamiliar technology. This paper describes the Water Wheel concept and design so nonspecialists might develop their own calculators using local climatic data.

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Tina Wilson, Robert Geneve and Brent Rowell

Membrane damage associated with rapid influx of water during imbibition can play a role in the poor emergence and seedling vigor associated with sweet corn germination. Film-coating as a seed treatment has been used to improve germination and vigor in sweet corn and this improvement may not be associated with changes in imbibition rate. Two seed lots of shrunken-2 variety sweet corn, low-vigor `Even Sweeter' and high-vigor `Sugar Bowl', were treated with a hydrophilic polymer film-coating and evaluated for differences in emergence and water uptake. Both cultivars were grown at 19, 21, and 26 °C with no effect on emergence due to film-coating. Imbibition curves were established for untreated and hydrophilic film-coated seeds. Film-coated seeds showed an 18% increase in fresh weight compared to untreated seeds for both cultivars during a 6-h period. Bulk conductivity tests resulted in no significant mean difference between untreated and hydrophilic-treated seeds after 24 h. These seed lots have been treated with a hydrophobic polymer and are currently being evaluated for cold temperature emergence and imbibition rates. Water entry during imbibition will also be compared for untreated sugary (su) and shrunken-2 (sh2) seeds using the fluorescent compound trisodium salt, 8-hydroxypyrene-1, 3,6-trisulfonic acid (HPTS).

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Tina Wilson, Robert Geneve and Brent Rowell

Mutant endosperm associated with shrunken-2 sweet corn possesses a high osmotic potential that increases the rate of imbibition. Membrane damage associated with the rapid influx of water during imbibition can play a role in the poor emergence and seedling vigor associated with sweet corn germination. Film-coating as a seed treatment has been used to improve germination and vigor in sweet corn. This improvement may be associated with alterations in the kinetics of imbibition. Two seed lots of shrunken-2 sweet corn, low-vigor `Even Sweeter' and high vigor `Sugar Bowl', were treated with a polymer film-coating and evaluated for differences in water uptake. Imbibition curves were established for nontreated and film-coated seeds. Seeds were weighed every hour for 6 hours and showed a significant difference between the two treatments in fresh weight for both cultivars. This pattern continues throughout the imbibition phase of germination and continues into the lag period. Bulk conductivity tests resulted in no significant mean difference between untreated and film treated seeds after 24 hours. Film treatment assumes characteristics of a hydrophilic polymer. Electrolyte leakage is not reduced and imbibition rate increases by 18% for both varieties of film-coated seeds.

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Brent Rowell, Terry Jones and J.C. Snyder

We conducted trials of vine-ripened, staked tomato cultivars in 1998 and 1999 to identify a variety suitable for marketing as a premium “Kentucky Tomato.” Essential qualities of our ideal Kentucky tomato were determined in conversations with marketing specialists at the Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture and merchandising managers from the state's largest supermarket chain. A carefully selected group of 14 varieties (including 10 from the 1998 trial) was evaluated at two locations for yields, returns per acre, appearance, and quality in 1999. New varieties were compared with commercial standards `Mountain Spring' and `Mountain Fresh'. Yields of different sizes and grades of marketable fruit were multiplied by appropriate market prices for a given harvest date and summarized in a single “income per acre” variable for each variety. Although many varieties were in the highest 1999 income group (`Fabulous', `Mountain Spring', `Emperador', `Florida 47', `Sunleaper', `Floralina', `Mountain Fresh', `SunGem', NC 98274, `Enterprise'), not all were acceptable in terms of fruit quality and firmness. `Fabulous' and `Emperador' had higher percentages of fruits with radial cracks at one location in 1999 than in 1998. Consumer taste tests were conducted in 1998 and `Mountain Fresh' and `Floralina' were considered the best tasting among the six varieties tested. `Sunleaper', `Floralina', `SunGem', NC 98274, and `Fabulous' (for local markets) together with `Mountain Fresh' were considered prime `Kentucky Tomato' candidates and were recommended for further testing in farmers' fields in 2000.

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Brent Rowell, R. Terry Jones and William Nesmith

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.