Excessive cutting pressure (CP) early in the lifespan of an asparagus (Asparagus officinalis L.) plantation may weaken and reduce yields and quality. The objective of this research was to determine how increasing CP affects yield, quality, and survival of spring-harvested and summer-forced asparagus. `Jersey Gem' asparagus was harvested for 4 years (1999–2002) in spring or summer-forced on 1 Aug. using the following CP (weeks/year from 1st to 4th years, respectively): 2, 3, 4, 6 (low), 3, 4, 5, 7 (medium), and 4, 5, 8, 10 (high). In all harvest years, as CP increased, marketable number and weight increased. Yield in spring harvest seasons significantly increased with each increase in CP. In summer, yield significantly increased only when high CP was used with equivalent yields at low and medium CP. With summer forcing, there were 48% and 55% fewer large spears at medium and high CP, respectively, compared to the same CP used during spring harvest seasons. Stands tended to decrease with CP from 1997 to 2003, but these differences were not significant and not severe enough to kill the plants. Yearly root fructose concentrations (RFC) with all CP increased yearly from 1999 to 2001 and plateaued from 2002 to 2003. From 1999 to 2002, RFC increased 53%, 27%, 13%, and 13% in unharvested control, low, medium, and high CP, respectively, indicating that with a greater CP, RFC decreased. RFC in summer-forced asparagus was significantly less than spring-harvested in 83% of all sample months. RFC in spring-harvested asparagus was similar to unharvested asparagus in February, March, April, November, and December; however, in all other sample months, spring-harvested RFC was significantly lower than unharvested control plants. The highest CP scheme is appropriate for spring-harvested asparagus based on greatest marketable yields and acceptable cull losses. For summer-forced asparagus, the lowest CP scheme is more appropriate based on acceptable marketable yields and to avoid undue plant stress verified by unacceptably large cull losses mostly attributed to spindly spear size and lower RFC.
Robert J. Dufault and Brian Ward
Brian Ward, Powell Smith, Susan James, Zachary Stansell and Mark Farnham
Increased demand for fresh market crown-cut broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) has led to increased production along the eastern seaboard of the United States. Maximizing broccoli yields is a primary concern for quickly expanding eastern markets. Thus, a plant density study was carried out in Fall 2012 and 2013 using the hybrid cultivar Emerald Crown on a commercial farm in Summerton, SC, and in Fall 2013 using ‘Emerald Crown’ and another hybrid, ‘Durapak 19’, on a research farm in Charleston, SC. The objective was to determine the effect of variable within-row spacings of 4, 6, and 8 inches (using a system with double rows spaced 12-inches apart) on marketable yields and quality in the three environments. Our results indicated that increasing plant density by reducing within-row spacing to 4 inches significantly increased overall yield per hectare over the 6- and 8-inch spacing treatments at two of three environments. Stem diameter and average head weight were unaffected by plant density; however, heads harvested from plots with the highest plant densities had significantly (P < 0.01) lower bead uniformity in the Summerton 2012 trial, and significantly (P < 0.05) larger bead size in the two trials conducted in 2013. In general, the highest total marketable yields were from the 4-inch within-row spacing, but increased competition at the highest density may increase the risk of plants producing heads with lower quality characteristics. With the increased risk of producing lower quality marketable heads along with the increased production costs associated with the 4-inch spacing, yield and head quality attributes may be optimized at the 6-inch within-row spacing.
Robert J. Dufault, Brian Ward and Richard L. Hassell
The objective of this study was to determine the best combination of planting dates (PDs) and cultivars on yield and quality for long-term production of romaine lettuce. `Green Forest' (GF), `Apache' (AP), `Darkland' (DK), `Green Tower' (GT), `Ideal Cos' (IC), and `Tall Guzmaine' (TG) were successfully grown to harvest maturity on 19 PDs from September 1998 to April 2001. Lettuce planted in September and April PDs (pooled over cultivars and year), required as little as 47 and 49 days, respectively, to reach harvest (all cultivars harvested on the same day). Lettuce planted in October, November, February, and March PDs (pooled over cultivars and year), required on average 64, 66, 75, and 67 days to reach harvest, respectively, but in the coldest PDs of December and January, 90 and 98 days, respectively, were needed to reach maturity. Of the eight PDs evaluated, marketable numbers/plot (pooled over cultivars and years) were greatest in the September PD, followed by April (–8% decrease from September PD) > March (–13%) > October (–17%) > November (–21%) > December = January = February (about –30%) and heads weighed the most in September > January = February (–7% decrease from September PD) > March = April (–14%) > October (–21%) > December (–25%) > November (–31%). Cull heads/plot (pooled over cultivars and years) were greatest in April > December (–5% decrease from April PD) > January = February (–16%) > November (–27%) > October (–34%) > March (–44%) > September (–49%). Two out of three November PDs were lost to freezing damage and this PD should be avoided. Significant bolting occurred primarily in the September and October PDs (in 1 of 3 years) with negligible bolting in the November, December, and January PDs, but bolting recurred again in the February, March and April PDs. Marketable numbers/plot (pooled over all PDs and years) were greatest for GF > GT (–7% decrease from GF) > AP (–8%) > IC (–9%) > DK (–11%) > TG (–21%). The interaction effect of cultivar × PD indicated that GF yielded the most marketable heads in 6 out of 8 PDs. The best performing cultivars by PD (pooled over years) were September and February = GF and IC; October = TG; November = AP; December, January, March, and April = GF.
Robert J. Dufault, Ahmet Korkmaz, Brian K. Ward and Richard L. Hassell
Extending the production season of melons (Cucumis melo L.) by using very early and late planting dates outside the range that is commercially recommended will increase the likelihood of developing a stronger melon industry in South Carolina. The objective of this study was to determine if early (February) transplanted melons or later (June through July) planting dates are effective in extending the production season of acceptable yields with good internal quality of the melon cultivars: Athena, Eclipse, and Sugar Bowl and Tesoro Dulce (a honeydew melon). Melons were transplanted in Charleston, S.C., in 1998, 1999, and 2000 on 12 and 26 Feb., 12 and 26 Mar., 9 and 23 Apr., 7 and 21 May, 4 and 18 June, and 2 July and required 130, 113, 105, 88, 79, 70, 64, 60, 60, 59, and 56 days from field transplanting to reach mean melon harvest date, respectively. Stands were reduced 67%, 41%, and 22% in the 12 and 26 Feb. and 12 Mar. planting dates, respectively, in contrast to the 26 Mar. planting date but ≤15% in all other planting dates. Planting in February had no earliness advantage because the 12 and 26 Feb. and 12 and 26 Mar. planting dates, all reached mean melon harvest from 19 to 23 June. Comparing the marketable number of melons produced per plot (averaged over cultivar) of the standard planting dates of 12 and 26 Mar. indicated decreases of 21%, 32%, 36%, 36%, 57%, 57%, and 54%, respectively with the planting dates of 9 and 23 Apr., 7 and 21 May, 4 and 18 June, and 2 July. The most productive cultivar of all was `Eclipse', which yielded significantly more melons per plot in all 11 planting dates followed by `Athena' (in 8 of 11 planting dates), `Tesoro Dulce' (7 of 11 planting dates), and `Sugar Bowl' (2 of 11 planting dates). In our study, any planting date with melon quality less than the USDA standard of “good internal quality” or better (Brix ≥9.0) was considered unacceptable because of potential market rejection. Therefore, the earliest recommended planting date with acceptable yield and “good internal quality” was 12 Mar. for all cultivars; the latest planting dates for `Athena', `Eclipse', `Tesoro Dulce', and `Sugar Bowl' were 4 June, 18 June, 7 May, and 9 Apr., respectively. With these recommendations, the harvest season of melons lasted 40 days from 24 June to 3 Aug. for these four cultivars, which extended the production season an additional 2 weeks longer than the harvest date of last recommended 21 May planting date.