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Annette Wszelaki, Sally Miller, Douglas Doohan, Karen Amisi, Brian McSpadden-Gardener, and Matthew Kleinhenz

The influence of organic soil amendments (unamended control, composted dairy manure, or raw dairy manure) and weed treatments [critical period (CP) or no seed threshold (NST)] on diseases, growth parameters, yield, and postharvest quality was evaluated over 3 years in a transitional organic crop rotation of tomato, cabbage, clover, and wheat. More growth, yield, and postharvest quality parameters were affected by amendment treatments in cabbage than in tomato. Significant differences in yield among amendment treatments were found in 2001 and 2003 in cabbage, with higher marketable and total yields in amended vs. control plots. Soil management effects on cabbage varied annually, though amendments were required to maximize crop growth, as head weight, size, and volume and core volume of treatment plots exceeded the control plots in 2002 and 2003. Few differences were found between weed treatments, although in 2001 cabbage heads from the NST treatment were larger than heads from the CP treatment. Similar results were found in tomato in 2003. Also, the CP treatment had a higher Area Under the Disease Progress Curve than the NST treatment in tomato in 2003. Overall, disease pressure was highest in tomato in 2001. But disease levels within years were mostly unaffected by amendment treatments. In cabbage, disease was more common in 2002 than in 2003, although head rot was more prevalent in compost-amended plots in 2003 than in manure-amended or control plots. Tomato postharvest quality parameters were similar among amendment and weed treatments within each year. Soil amendment may enhance crop yield and quality in a transitional-organic system. Also, weed management strategy can alter weed populations and perhaps disease levels.

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Matthew D. Kleinhenz, Sonia Walker, John Cardina, Marvin Batte, Parwinder Grewal, Brian McSpadden-Gardener, Sally Miller, and Deborah Stinner

The risk: reward for a transition to organic vegetable farming near urban areas and changes in soil, crop, and economic parameters during transition are poorly understood. A 4-year study was initiated in 2003 at the Ohio State Univ.–OARDC to document the relative advantages of four transition strategies and their effects on major cropping system variables. Soil previously in a vegetable-agronomic crop rotation has been maintained fallow, planted to a mixed-species hay, used in open field vegetable production, or used in vegetable production under high tunnels, transition strategies with a range of management intensity and expected financial return. Each strategy was replicated four times within the overall experimental area. Half of the soil in each strategy unit was amended with composted dairy manure while the remaining soil was unamended. Field vegetable plots have been planted to potato, butternut squash, and green bean. High tunnels have been planted to potato, zucchini, and a fall–spring rotation of beet, swiss chard, mixed lettuce, radish, and spinach. Data describing the outcomes of the strategies in terms of farm economics, crop yield and quality, weed ecology, plant pest and disease levels, and soil characteristics (physical, chemical, biological) have been recorded. Inputs in the high tunnels have exceeded inputs in all other strategies; however, high tunnel production has widened planting and harvesting windows and increased potato yield, relative to open field production. To date, compost application has increased crop yield 30% to 230% and influenced crop quality, based on analytical and human panelist measures. Weed (emerged seedlings, seedbank) and nematode populations also continue to vary among the transition strategies.

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Dilip R. Panthee, Chunxue Cao, Spencer J. Debenport, Gustavo R. Rodríguez, Joanne A. Labate, Larry D. Robertson, Andrew P. Breksa III, Esther van der Knaap, and Brian B. McSpadden Gardener

There is a growing interest by consumers to purchase fresh tomatoes with improved quality traits including lycopene, total soluble solids (TSS), vitamin C, and total titratable acid (TTA) content. As a result, there are considerable efforts by tomato breeders to improve tomato for these traits. However, suitable varieties developed for one location may not perform the same in different locations. This causes a problem for plant breeders because it is too labor-intensive to develop varieties for each specific location. The objective of this study was to determine the extent of genotype × environment (G×E) interaction that influences tomato fruit quality. To achieve this objective, we grew a set of 42 diverse tomato genotypes with different fruit shapes in replicated trials in three locations: North Carolina, New York, and Ohio. Fruits were harvested at the red ripe stage and analyzed for lycopene, TSS, vitamin C, and TTA. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed that there were significant differences (P < 0.05) among tomato genotypes, locations, and their interaction. Further analysis of quality traits from individual locations revealed that there was as much as 211% change in performance of some genotypes in a certain location compared with the average performance of a genotype. Lycopene was found to be most influenced by the environment, whereas TTA was the least influenced. This was in agreement with heritability estimates observed in the study for these quality traits, because heritability estimate for lycopene was 16%, whereas that for TTA was 87%. The extent of G×E interaction found for the fruit quality traits in the tomato varieties included in this study may be useful in identifying optimal locations for future field trials by tomato breeders aiming to improve tomato fruit quality.