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Chad Hutchinson

The economics of pesticide production and registration has limited the number of pesticides registered for use in minor crops relative to agronomic crops. Current regulations such as the Food Quality Protection Act may further reduce the number of efficacious compounds registered for use on minor crops. Traditionally, the lack of registered pesticides for minor crops has been offset by soil fumigation. However, methyl bromide use is scheduled for phase-out in the United States by 2005, leaving a pest control vacuum in some crops. Loss of methyl bromide has stimulated research into the use of other soil fumigants for weed control. Methyl bromide, methyl iodide, propargyl bromide, 1,3-dichloropropene, and metham sodium have been tested alone and in combination with chloropicrin in laboratory experiments to determine their efficacy against Cyperus esculentus L (yellow nutsedge) tubers. All the fumigants controlled nutsedge equal to or better than methyl bromide and resulted in synergistic control when combined with chloropicrin. Although excellent weed control can be achieved with all the fumigants in the laboratory, weed control in the field with the same fumigant may result in poor or no control. Further research is necessary to optimize the field application of the remaining fumigants to maximize pest control. In the near future, to achieve the broad-spectrum pest control obtained with methyl bromide, growers will need to rely on multiple control strategies. The most promising replacement program for broad-spectrum pest control includes dichloropropene/chloropicrin fumigation followed by a herbicide program or mechanical weed control. To control problem weeds that are not controlled with the in-season herbicide program, a chemical fallow program should be instituted in the off-season to reduce weed pressure during the cropping season.

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Chad Hutchinson* and Eric Simonne

Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) production best management practices (BMPs) are under development for the Tri-County Agricultural Area (TCAA; St. Johns, Putnam, and Flagler counties) near Hastings, Fla. BMPs are designed to reduce nitrate non-point pollution in the St. Johns River from the |8000 ha in potato production in the TCAA. Research to develop a controlled release fertilizer (CRF) program to help growers meet the current nitrogen rate BMPs was conducted during the 2003 season. A randomized complete block experiment with four replications was conducted at the Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Hastings, Fla. The treatments were no nitrogen control, ammonium nitrate (168 and 212 kg N/ha) and three CRF products blended at different ratios (168 kg N/ha). Total tuber yields for `Atlantic' for the no nitrogen, and 168 and 212 kg N/ha ammonium nitrate treatments were 11.5, 23.4, and 36.4 MT/ha. The best combination of the three CRF products were a ratio of 33:33:33 with a 40 day, 75 day, 120 day release period, respectively. Total yield for this blend was 42.2 MT/ha. Specific gravities for tubers in all four treatments were 1.060, 1.072, 1.078, and 1.082, respectively. Percent of tubers with hollow heart four all four treatment were 8.1, 18.2, 20.0, and 6.4% respectively. Percent of tubers with internal heat necrosis four all four treatments were 20.6, 8.1, 20.6, and 6.3%, respectively. The CRF treatment produced significantly more tubers than the ammonium nitrate treatment at the same nitrogen rate. Quality of the tubers in the CRF treatment was higher than tubers from the no nitrogen control and ammonium nitrate treatments. Research will continue to optimize the CRF program for potato production in Florida.

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Jeffery Pack and Chad Hutchinson

Potato production in the Tri-County Agricultural Area of northeast Florida accounts for nearly half of the state's $120 M, 18-K hectare annual crop. Concern over nitrate movement into watersheds from potato production have stimulated research into alternative fertilizer sources and practices. This study evaluated the potential of several controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) products to release nutrients over a 100-day growing season under field temperature and precipitation conditions. In 2003 and 2004, 6 and 3 CRF products were evaluated, respectively. Meshbags containing 3 g of product mixed with 200 g of soil were buried 15 cm below the top of the potato row. Meshbags were removed at 2-week intervals. Samples were dried and sieved to remove soil. Fertilizer prills were ground and mixed with DI water to dissolve residual fertilizer. Samples were analyzed for total N by the Dumas (combustion) method (2003) or for TKN (2004). In 2003, initial release (after 20 days) ranged from 23% to 85% for the six products. In 2004, initial release (after 9 days) ranged from 34% to 65% for the three products. In 2003, total N release from CRF prills after 104 days ranged from 72% to 99%. In 2004, total N release from samples ranged from 79% to 92% release after 91 days. The shape of the release curve described some release patterns comparable to water-soluble fertilizers while others exhibited sustained-release properties. If release characteristics are designed to match potato plant uptake requirements in time and quantity, CRF products may be used to reduce off-site N movement while maintaining potato production.

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Christine M. Worthington and Chad M. Hutchinson

The St. Johns River has been identified by the state of Florida as a priority water body in need of restoration. Best Management Practices were evaluated for potato (Solanum tuberosum L. `Atlantic') production in the Tri-County Agricultural Area to reduce nitrate run-off from about 9,300 ha in production. Objectives of this study were 1) determine the influence of soluble and controlled release fertilizer (CRF) and timing of leaching irrigation on nitrate leaching and 2) compare yield and quality of the potato crop fertilized with either a soluble or controlled release nitrogen fertilizer in a seepage irrigated production system. The experiment was a split-split plot with four replications. Main plots were irrigation events (0, 2, 4, 8, and 12 weeks after planting, (WAP)), nitrogen source and rates included (ammonium nitrate (AN) 224 kg·ha–1 or controlled release fertilizer (CRF) 196 kg·ha–1). About 7.6 cm of water was applied at each irrigation event and surface water runoff collected. CRF decreased NO3-N loading by an average of 35%, 28%, and 32% compared to AN fertilizer during the 2, 8, and 12 WAP irrigation events, respectively, compared to AN. Plants in CRF treatments had significantly higher total and marketable tuber yields (30 and 25 t·ha–1) compared to plants in AN treatments (27 and 23 t·ha–1), respectively. Plants in the CRF treatments also had significantly higher total and marketable yields in 2005 (28 and 23 t·ha–1) compared to plants in AN treatments (25 and 21 t·ha–1), respectively. CRF was an effective alternative to conventional soluble forms of fertilizer maintaining yields and protecting natural resources from nonpoint source pollution.

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Christine M. Worthington* and Chad M. Hutchinson

`Atlantic' potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.) are grown on approximately 8100 hectares with seepage irrigation in Northeast Florida's Tri-County Agricultural Area (St. Johns, Putnam, and Flagler counties). `Atlantic' is preferred for its chipping quality, high specific gravity and yield, but is susceptible to internal heat necrosis (IHN), a physiologic disorder that affects potato tuber quality. The relationships of environmental stressors (growing degree days, GDD and rainfall) to IHN were evaluated on two fields (fields 3 and 4) on a local producer's farm. IHN reduced marketable tuber yield by 100% in the 1995 and 2003 seasons, but not in 2001 and 2002 seasons. From 3 to 6 weeks after planting (WAP), GDD for 1995, 2001, 2002, and 2003 were 470, 325, 386, and 628 (45° F base), respectively. This is the only 4 week period during the 14 week season that GDD accumulation by week was different among treatments. Average rainfalls (cm) for the same periods were 1.60, 1.12, 2.23 and 7.91, respectively. Both warmer/dryer and warmer/wetter early season conditions occurred during seasons with higher rates of IHN. Although circumstantial, higher accumulated heat units and water stress within the first 6 weeks of the growing season resulted in higher percentages of tubers with IHN. These relationships should be evaluated further with other growers.

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Eric H. Simonne and Chad M. Hutchinson

Best management practices (BMPs) for vegetable crops are under development nationwide and in Florida. One goal of the Florida BMP program is to minimize the possible movement of nitrate-nitrogen from potato (Solanum tuberosum) production to surface water in the St. Johns River watershed without negatively impacting potato yields or quality. Current fertilizer BMPs developed for the area focus on fertilizer rate. Controlled-release fertilizers (CRF) have long been a part of nutrient management in greenhouse and nursery crops. However, CRFs have been seldom used in field-vegetable production because of their cost and release characteristics. Nutrient release curves for CRFs are not available for the soil moisture and temperature conditions prevailing in the seepage-irrigated soils of northern Florida. Controlled-leaching studies (pot-in-pot) in 2000 and 2001 have shown that plant-available nitrogen (N) was significantly higher early in the season from ammonium nitrate, calcium nitrate and urea compared to selected CRFs. However, N release from off-the-shelf and experimental CRFs was too slow, resulting in N recoveries ranging from 13% to 51%. Cost increase due to the use of CRFs for potato production ranged from $71.66 to $158.14/ha ($29 to $64 per acre) based on cost of material and N application rate. This higher cost may be offset by reduced application cost and cost-share pro-grams. Adoption of CRF programs by the potato (and vegetable) industry in Florida will depend on the accuracy and predictability of N release, state agencies' commitment to cost-share programs, and CRFs manufacturers' marketing strategies. All interested parties would benefit in the development of BMPs for CRFs.

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Chad M. Hutchinson and Milton E. McGiffen

The goals of sustainable agriculture include decreased reliance on synthetic nutrients and pesticides and improved environmental quality for the long-term benefit of the land, livelihood of growers, and their communities. Cropping systems that maximize these goals use alternative fertility and pest control options to produce crops with minimal soil erosion and nutrient leaching. Cropping system elements that can help achieve these goals include: reduced tillage, cover crops, and organic soil amendments. Cover crops are grown before the cash crop and used to replenish the soil with nitrogen and organic matter. Cover crops often also influence pest populations and can be selected based on site-specific growing conditions. Cover crops can be mulched on the soil surface to prevent erosion and weed emergence or can be tilled directly into the soil to incorporate nitrogen and organic matter. Green waste mulch is an increasingly used soil amendment. Many municipalities are encouraging farmers to use green waste mulch in farming systems as an alternative to green waste disposal in landfills. Reduced tillage was once restricted to large-seeded field crops but recent technical advances have made it a feasible option for vegetables and other horticultural crops. Alternative farming practices; however, are still only used by a small minority of growers. Increases in price for organic produce and changes in laws governing farming operations may increase adoption of alternatives to conventional agriculture.

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Milton E. McGiffne Jr. and Chad Hutchinson

A 2-year field project was conducted in Thermal, Calif., on cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) mulch as an alternative weed control option in pepper (Capsicum annuum) production. Treatments included a bare ground production system with hand weeding, bare ground with no weeding, a cowpea mulch production system with hand weeding, and cowpea mulch with no weeding. Cowpea was seeded in July in 76-cm beds and irrigated with a buried drip line. In September, irrigation water was turned off to dry cowpea plants. The cowpea plants then were cut at the soil-line to form mulch. Pepper plants were transplanted into mulch and fertilized through the drip line. Every 2 weeks, the number of weeds emerged and pepper plant heights were recorded. In December, fruit production, pepper plant dry weight, and weed dry weight were recorded. Fewer weeds emerged in the cowpea mulch than the conventional bare ground system. At harvest, weed populations in nonweeded cowpea mulch were reduced 80% and 90% compared to nonweeded bare ground for 1997 and 1998, respectively. Weed dry weights in nonweeded treatments were 67% and 90% less than weed dry weights in nonweeded bare ground over the same period. Pepper plants in cowpea mulch produced 202% and 156% more dry weight than on bare ground in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Pepper plants in cowpea mulch produced more fruit weight than in bare ground with similar fruit size. Cowpea mulch provided season-long weed control without herbicides while promoting plant growth and fruit production.

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Chad M. Hutchinson and Milton E. McGiffen Jr.

A 2-year field project was conducted in Thermal, Calif., to investigate cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.] mulch as an alternative weed control option in pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) production. Treatments included: bare ground (BG) with hand weeding, BG with no weeding, cowpea mulch (CM) with hand weeding, and CM with no weeding. Cowpea was seeded in July on 76-cm beds and irrigated with buried drip line. Two weeks prior to transplanting peppers, irrigation water was turned off to desiccate the cowpea plants. In September, cowpea was cut at the soil line, mulch was returned to the top of the bed, and pepper plants were transplanted into the mulch and fertilized through the drip line. Every 2 weeks, the number of weeds emerged and pepper plant height were recorded. Fruit production, pepper plant dry weight, and weed dry weight were recorded at harvest in December. Fewer weeds emerged in CM than in BG. The final weed population in nonweeded CM was reduced 80% and 90% in comparison with nonweeded BG in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Weed dry weights in nonweeded CM were 67% and 90% less than those in nonweeded BG over the same period. In 1997 and 1998, respectively, pepper plants produced 202% and 156% more dry weight, as well as greater fruit weight, in CM than in BG. There were no differences in mean fruit weight. Cowpea mulch provided season-long weed control without herbicides while promoting plant growth and fruit production.

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George Hochmuth, Pete Weingartner, Chad Hutchinson, Austin Tilton and Dwight Jesseman

Phosphorus (P) fertilization studies were conducted on four commercial farms and at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Hastings Research and Education Center in Hastings. All sites were in the potato (Solanum tuberosum) production area of northeastern Florida. Preplant Mehlich-1 soil test P was very low at one commercial site and very high at the other four sites. The yield of marketable size A tubers, the desired tuber category, did not respond to P fertilization from 0 to 66 lb/acre (74.0 kg·ha-1) of P at any site. The average yield across all sites was 324 cwt/acre [16.2 ton/acre (36.3 t·ha-1)]. Leaf-P concentration at midseason did not respond to P fertilization. Leaf-P concentration averaged 0.38%, which was sufficient for potato. Potato tuber specific gravity averaged 1.075 and responded slightly to P fertilization only at one site.