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  • Author or Editor: Carol Miles x
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Sales of organic foods are one of the fastest growing segments of Washington state's food industry. In response to grower demand for information on organic and sustainable production practices, Washington State University (WSU) created an Extension Agricultural Systems position. This position has been instrumental in helping WSU gain the trust and recognition of organic growers. The position enabled WSU to demonstrate that it has a commitment to organic and sustainable research and extension activities. This paper describes the key activities of this position: 1) finding out research needs, 2) on-farm research approaches, 3) formation of regional research programs, and 4) creation of the WSU Food and Farm Connections Team. Grant funded on-farm research, interdisciplinary teams, and extension publications have been major emphases of the position.

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Commercial edamame (Glycine max) varieties and advanced edamame breeding lines from the Asian Vegetable Research Development Center (AVRDC) were tested for adaptability to southwest Washington. Edamame, or green vegetable soybeans, are specialty varieties of soybeans that are eaten at the green stage as a vegetable. For the vegetable market, 25 beans must weigh at least 20 g. Experimental procedure was a randomized complete block design with four replications. Recommendations from AVRDC for plant spacing and fertilizer application and timing were followed. In 1995, 13 commercial varieties and 10 AVRDC breeding lines were tested in an on-farm location in Chehalis. At the same location in 1996, 10 of these commercial varieties were again tested along with an additional six commercial varieties. Also in 1996, 12 new AVRDC breeding lines were tested along with the single line that was selected in 1995. Both years, all commercial varieties were harvested more than 40 days later than their advertised days to maturity. Three commercial varieties, White Lion, Shironomai, and Butterbeans, were high-yielding in both years. In 1995, one AVRDC breeding line was selected in Chehalis, and in 1996 five additional AVRDC breeding lines were selected. Earliness is a key factor affecting suitability of commercial varieties and breeding lines to the Chehalis area. In this region, irrigation also appears essential for production of large beans for the vegtable market. Pod weight was not a good indicator of bean weight. Seed was collected in Chehalis from AVRDC breeding lines for use in future trials.

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New foods have been introduced to the North American populations from many world cultures in both planned and unplanned situations. Success of such crops will depend on the acceptance of the consumers. Growers and retailers must educate customers about these new crops in order to ensure that the customer comes back for more. The different strategies that can be used successfully in the process of education, marketing, and promotion, including developing recipe cards, brochures, newspaper and magazine press releases, and talks and presentations to local and regional groups, will be discussed.

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Improving sweet corn fertilizer-N efficiency promotes a more vigorous and healthy crop, rewards the grower with greater profits, and protects our water resources from nitrate-N pollution. Two areas of research that have the potential to improve the efficiency of fertilizer-N applications are the Minolta SPAD 502 chlorophyll meter and the presidedress soil N test. The SP meter is a rapid and nondestructive technique for assessing sweet corn leaf levels, and SP readings have been correlated to leaf N concentration. A presidedress soil N test measures the amount of soil N that will be available to the plant during the remainder of the growing season. SP meter readings combined with presidedress soil N analyses may be used to determine crop N needs and fertilizer-N sidedress application rates. Basing fertilizer-N sidedress application rates on actual crop N needs will reduce excess fertilizer-N applications and the resulting leaching of nitrates.

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Successful grafting of vegetables requires high relative humidity (RH) and optimal temperatures for ≈1 week following grafting to reduce transpiration of the scion until rootstock and scion vascular tissue are healed together and water transport is restored. This study evaluated the effect of three healing chamber designs on the survival of grafted eggplant (Solanum melongena), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), and watermelon (Citrullus lanatus). The three healing chamber designs were 1) an industry design, which was hand-misted, 2) a research design, which contained a humidifier, and 3) a simplified design, which was shadecloth only and hand-misted. All plants were self-grafted using the splice grafting technique, placed in the healing chamber for 7 days after grafting and evaluated for signs of wilting and graft failure from day 6 to day 14 after grafting. During the 7-day healing period, the industry design had the greatest fluctuation in temperature, the research design had the greatest fluctuation in RH, and the shadecloth only design had the least fluctuation in both temperature and RH. When the healing chambers were closed on day 2 after grafting, the industry healing chamber had higher mean temperature and RH (24.9 °C, 98%) than both the research (23.4 °C, 81%) and shadecloth only (23.3 °C, 52%) healing chambers. These results suggest that a humidifier may not be necessary to maintain high RH. Mean graft survival rates in the industry (69%) and research (66%) healing chambers were similar, and both were higher than that in the shadecloth only healing chamber (52%). Tomato had the highest rate (98%), eggplant was intermediate (82%), and watermelon had the lowest mean survival rate (7%); there was no interaction between healing chamber and crop. The very low survival rate of watermelon was most likely due to the grafting technique used in this study, which is not optimal for watermelon. Tomato graft survival was high in all three healing chambers (96% to 98%), suggesting that high RH is not essential for tomato graft survival. Eggplant graft survival decreased from 90% to 60% when RH was decreased, suggesting that high RH is essential for eggplant graft survival.

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Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) are popular fresh market vegetable crops. In western Washington, there is interest in growing them in high tunnel production systems because of the region’s mild, coastal climate. The objectives of this study were to contrast the economic potential of growing lettuce and tomato under high tunnel and open-field production systems, and identify the main factors affecting profitability within each production system. Economic data for this study were collected by interviewing experienced lettuce and tomato growers in western Washington during focus group sessions. Costs of production varied by crop and production system, and findings indicated that it was five times more costly to grow lettuce and eight times more costly to grow tomato in a high tunnel than in the open field in western Washington. For lettuce, the labor cost per square foot of growing area was found to be 6 times greater in a high tunnel than in the open field; and for tomato, labor costs were 10 times greater in a high tunnel than in the open field. Total labor cost comprised more than 50% of the total production costs of lettuce and tomato in both the high tunnel and open-field systems. The percentage of total labor cost was similar in both the high tunnel and open-field production for lettuce, but was higher in high tunnel tomato production than in the open field. Tunnel-grown lettuce and tomato had three and four times greater marketable yield compared with field-grown, respectively. Given the base crop yield and average price, it was 43% more profitable to grow lettuce in the open field than in the high tunnel, while in contrast, high tunnel-grown tomato was three times more profitable than open-field tomato production.

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The one-cotyledon splice grafting method is commonly used for watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) because it is relatively rapid and there is less rootstock regrowth than with other grafting methods. However, plants must rely on moisture in the air for survival during at least the first 4 days after grafting. In 2015 and 2016, greenhouse experiments were conducted to investigate if application of commercial stomata-coating and stomata-closing antitranspirant products, applied 1 day before grafting to both scion and rootstock seedlings, could increase the survival of watermelon transplants grafted using the one-cotyledon method. ‘TriX Palomar’ watermelon was grafted onto rootstock ‘Tetsukabuto’ (Cucurbita maxima × C. moschata) in Expt. 1, and onto rootstock ‘Emphasis’ (Lagenaria siceraria) in Expt. 2. The survival of grafted watermelon differed because of experiment (P = 0.0003), antitranspirant treatment (P < 0.0001), and experimental repeat (P < 0.0001). The survival of ‘TriX Palomar’ grafted onto ‘Tetsukabuto’ was greatest for plants treated with the stomata-coating + stomata-closing antitranspirants (92% to 100%), followed by the stomata-closing antitranspirant (79% to 97%), water (72%), and the stomata-coating antitranspirant (50% to 60%). For ‘TriX Palomar’ grafted onto ‘Emphasis’, plants treated with the stomata-closing antitranspirant had the greatest survival (87% to 97%), followed by stomata-coating + stomata-closing antitranspirants (84% to 94%), the stomata-coating antitranspirant (50% to 67%), and water (53% to 68%). In Expt. 3, stomatal conductance (g S) was similar for both ‘TriX Palomar’ and ‘Emphasis’ seedlings before treatment application, but differed because of the treatments 1 and 2 days after application. Stomatal conductance did not change for ‘TriX Palomar’ seedlings after application of the stomata-coating antitranspirant or water, or for ‘Emphasis’ seedlings after application of the stomata-coating antitranspirant. Stomatal conductance of ‘TriX Palomar’ seedlings decreased 57% to 62% after application of the stomata-closing antitranspirant and decreased 48% to 60% after application of the stomata-coating + stomata-closing antitranspirants. Stomatal conductance for ‘Emphasis’ seedlings increased 37% after water application, and decreased 58% to 68% after application of the stomata-closing antitranspirant, and decreased 42% to 45% after application of the stomata-coating + stomata-closing antitranspirants. The survival rate of grafted ‘TriX Palomar’ transplants was increased nearly 30% by application 1 day before grafting of the commercial stomata-closing antitranspirant or stomata-coating + stomata-closing antitranspirants in this study. Increase in grafting success is likely due to a reduction in transpiration that occurs when the stomata-closing antitranspirant is applied to the seedlings before grafting.

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Asian crops can provide growers with a means to diversify crop production and marketing options. However, before expanding into Asian crops, growers should determine consumer expectations regarding a new crop. Existing market criteria for each crop (i.e., maturity, color, size, shape) must be considered for all markets including traditional Asian use as well as for the general North American market. If growers decide to target general consumers in North America, then consumer awareness and acceptance must be addressed in a marketing and promotion program. Extension publications, popular magazines, and newspapers are useful tools in a marketing and promotion program. Crop production information must be available to enable growers to successfully produce Asian crops. Yet, most growers are unlikely to invest heavily in new production equipment and systems until a market has been established for the crop. It is a challenge for university scientists and extension agents to concurrently create supply and demand for new Asian crops. To accomplish this, multidisciplinary teams that include university and community experts should initiate a diversified program of Asian crop production, promotion, and marketing.

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Growth, fruit yield and quality, and potential tolerance to verticillium wilt (Verticillium dahliae) were compared among non-grafted, self-grafted, and grafted triploid watermelon (Citrullus lanatus Thunb., ‘Crisp’n Sweet’) and heirloom tomato (Solanum lycopersicum, ‘Cherokee Purple’). Rootstocks for watermelon were ‘Emphasis’ bottle gourd (Lagenaria sicerarea) and ‘Strong Tosa’ interspecific squash hybrid (Cucurbita maxima × Cucurbita moschata), and rootstocks for tomato were ‘Beaufort’ and ‘Maxifort’ interspecific tomato (Solanum lycopersicum × Solanum habrochaites). Field trials were carried out in 2010 and 2011 at Hermiston and Eltopia (eastern Oregon and Washington, respectively) and Mount Vernon (western Washington). Grafted watermelon had significantly larger stem diameter than non-grafted and self-grafted plants both years at Mount Vernon, whereas there were no differences at Hermiston or Eltopia. Grafted tomato in 2011 had significantly larger stem diameter than non-grafted and self-grafted plants at Eltopia and Mount Vernon, and ‘Beaufort’-grafted plants were significantly taller than other treatments at Mount Vernon. Grafting did not impact watermelon or tomato fruit yield or quality at any location either year. Foliar symptoms of verticillium were not observed on ‘Crisp’n Sweet’ watermelon at the eastern locations either year; however, at Mount Vernon, ‘Emphasis’ and ‘Strong Tosa’-grafted plants had significantly lower verticillium wilt severity than non-grafted and self-grafted plants both years. Microsclerotia were observed in all recovered watermelon stems sampled at Eltopia and Mount Vernon. V. dahliae was isolated from non-grafted and ‘Emphasis’-grafted ‘Crisp’n Sweet’ stems at Eltopia and non-grafted, self-grafted, and ‘Strong Tosa’-grafted stems at Mount Vernon. Foliar symptoms of verticillium wilt and microsclerotia in stems were not observed on ‘Cherokee Purple’ plants at either location both years despite site histories of the disease. Grafting with ‘Emphasis’ and ‘Strong Tosa’ rootstocks may be an effective strategy for managing verticillium wilt on watermelon in western Washington; however, grafting ‘Cherokee Purple’ onto ‘Beaufort’ and ‘Maxifort’ did not provide any advantages for tomato under the field conditions of this study.

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Grafting watermelon (Citrullus lanatus Thunb.) onto resistant rootstocks is used in many areas of the world to overcome soilborne disease losses including verticillium wilt caused by Verticillium dahliae Kleb. Currently, this disease poses a serious risk to watermelon growers in Washington State. To identify resistant rootstocks, the verticillium wilt reactions (chlorosis, necrosis, and wilting) of 14 nongrafted PI accessions including Benincasa hispida Thunb., Cucurbita moschata Duchesne ex Poir., and Lagenaria siceraria Molina Standl. from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Plant Germplasm System (USDA NPGS); 11 nongrafted commercially available rootstocks; and, nongrafted ‘Sugar Baby’ watermelon (verticillium wilt–susceptible control) were visually assessed in a field naturally infested with V. dahliae at a rate of 17 colony-forming units (cfu) per gram of soil. Typical symptoms of verticillium wilt were observed on all entries. ‘Sugar Baby’ had the highest relative area under disease progress curve (RAUDPC) value (26.80), which was not significantly different from ‘64-19 RZ’, ‘Marvel’, PI 368638, PI 634982, and PI 642045 (average = 10.16). PI 419060 (1.46) had the lowest RAUDPC value, which was not significantly different from ‘Miniature Bottle Gourd’, PI 326320, PI 419016, PI 536494, PI 636137, ‘Strong Tosa’, ‘Strongtosa’, and ‘TZ 148’ (average = 3.36). The mean RAUDPC value of PI accessions (5.49) did not differ significantly from the mean value of the commercial rootstocks (5.68). Microsclerotia typical of Verticillium spp. were observed in the stems of all but one entry (PI 181913). In a greenhouse study, a subset of 12 entries were inoculated with V. dahliae, and by 22 days after inoculation (DAI), ‘Sugar Baby’ had a significantly higher disease rating than all entries except PI 419060, PI 438548, and ‘Titan’. A strong positive correlation was observed between the field and greenhouse studies. Results indicate that commercial rootstocks as well as PI accessions could be used to successfully manage verticillium wilt in Washington; however, grafting compatibility with watermelon must first be ascertained for the promising PI accessions. Although greenhouse-based verticillium wilt assays can be used to help predict rootstock performance in the field, accurate assessment may require manipulating environmental conditions (e.g., temperature and humidity) to approximate field conditions.

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