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Charles L. Webber III and James W. Shrefler

Although CGM has been identified as an organic herbicide for weed control in turf and established vegetable plants, direct contact with vegetable seeds can decrease crop seedling development and plant survival by inhibiting root and shoot development. The objective of this research was to determine the impact of banded corn gluten meal applications on squash plant survival and yields. This factorial field study was conducted during Summer 2005 on 81-cm-wide raised beds at Lane, Okla., with two application configurations (banded and solid), two CGM formulations (powdered and granulated), two incorporation treatments (incorporated and nonincorporated), and three application rates (250, 500, and 750 g·m–2). The two CGM formulations at three application rates were uniformly applied in both banded and solid patterns on 19 Aug. The banded application created a 7.6-cm wide CGM-free planting zone in the middle of the raised bed. The CGM applications were then either incorporated into the top 2.5 to 5.0 cm of the soil surface with a rolling cultivator or left undisturbed on the soil surface. `Lemondrop' summer squash (Cucurbita pepo L.) was then direct-seeded into the center of the raised beds. When averaged across the other factors, there was no significant difference between powdered and granulated CGM formulations or incorporating and nonincorporating the CGM for either squash plant survival or yields. As the CGM application rates increased the plant survival and yields decreased. Banded application resulted in significantly greater crop safety (90% plant survival) and yields (445 cartons/ha) than the broadcast (solid) applications (45% plant survival and 314 cartons/ha). The research demonstrated the potential usefulness of CGM in direct-seeded squash production, if used in banded application configuration.

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Charles L. Webber III and James W. Shrefler

Corn gluten meal (CGM) has been identified as a potential organic preemergence and preplant-incorporated herbicide. It is an environmentally friendly material that has demonstrated ability to decrease seedling development and plant survival by inhibiting root and shoot development. Unfortunately, CGM can also decrease the development and plant survival of direct-seeded vegetable crops. As a result, the use of CGM is not recommended in conjunction with direct-seeded vegetables. The development of equipment to apply CGM in banded configurations has created an opportunity to investigate whether banded CGM applications will provide significant crop safety for direct-seeded vegetables. The objective of this research was to determine the impact of banded CGM applications on squash plant survival and yields. A factorial field study was conducted during the summer of 2004 on 81-cm-wide raised beds at Lane, Okla., with two application configurations (banded and solid), two CGM formulations (powdered and granulated), two incorporation treatments (incorporated and non-incorporated), and three application rates (250, 500, and 750 g·m–2). The two CGM formulations at three application rates were uniformly applied in both banded and solid patterns on 18 Aug. The banded application created a 7.6-cm-wide CGM-free planting zone in the middle of the raised bed. The CGM applications were then either incorporated into the top 2.5 to 5.0 cm of the soil surface with a rolling cultivator or left undisturbed on the soil surface. `Lemondrop' summer squash (Cucurbita pepo L.) was then direct-seeded into the center of the raised beds. When averaged across the other factors, there was not a significant difference between powdered and granulated CGM formulations or incorporating and non-incorporating the CGM for either squash plant survival or yields. CGM application rates made a significant difference for both squash survival and yields, when averaged across all other factors. As the CGM application rate increased, the plant survival and yields decreased. When averaged across all other factors, the banded application resulted in significantly greater crop safety (59% plant survival) and yields (228 cartons/ha) than the solid applications (25% plant survival and 118 cartons/ha). The research demonstrated the potential usefulness of CGM in direct-seeded squash production, if used in a banded application configuration. Additional research should further investigate the interaction of CGM application rates and the width of the CGM-free zone on crop safety for various vegetables.

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Charles L. Webber III, Merritt J. Taylor and James W. Shrefler

Squash (Cucurbita pepo) producers could benefit from additional herbicide options that are safe to the crop and provide effective weed control. Research was conducted in southeastern Oklahoma (Atoka County, Lane, OK) during 2010 and 2011 to determine the impact of pelargonic acid (PA) on weed control efficacy, crop injury, and squash yields. The experiment included PA applied unshielded postdirected at 5, 10, and 15 lb/acre, plus an untreated weedy control and an untreated weed-free control. ‘Enterprise’ yellow squash was direct-seeded in single rows into raised beds. Weeds included smooth crabgrass (Digitaria ischaemum), cutleaf groundcherry (Physalis angulata), spiny amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus), and yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). Pelargonic acid was applied each year in mid-July and then reapplied 8 days later. The maximum smooth crabgrass control (98%), broadleaf weed control (94%), and yellow nutsedge control (41%) was observed with the 15-lb/acre PA treatment at 9 days after initial spray treatment (DAIT), 1 day after sequential treatment (1 DAST). Pelargonic acid at 15 lb/acre provided equal or slightly greater smooth crabgrass and broadleaf (cutleaf groundcherry and spiny amaranth) control compared with the 10-lb/acre application, and consistently greater control than the 5-lb/acre rate and the weedy control. Pelargonic acid was less effective at controlling yellow nutsedge than smooth crabgrass and broadleaf weeds. Yellow nutsedge control peaked at 9 DAIT (1 DAST) with 10-lb/acre PA (41%). As the rate of PA increased from 5 to 15 lb/acre, yellow nutsedge control also increased significantly for all observation dates, except for 28 DAIT. Increasing the PA application rate increased the crop injury rating at 1 and 3 days after each application (1 and 3 DAIT, 1 and 3 DAST). Maximum squash injury occurred for each application rate at 9 DAIT (1 DAST) with 4.4%, 8.0%, and 12.5% injury for PA rates 5, 10, and 15 lb/acre, respectively. The 10-lb/acre PA treatment produced the highest squash yields (kilograms per hectare) and fruit number (fruit per hectare) compared with either the 5- or 15-lb/acre rates, and equivalent yields and fruit number as the hand-weeded weed-free treatment. The 10-lb/acre PA rate applied in a timely sequential application has the potential of providing good weed control with minimal crop injury resulting in yields equivalent to weed-free hand-weeding conditions.

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Charles L. Webber III, Merritt J. Taylor and James W. Shrefler

Pepper (Capsicum annuum) producers would benefit from additional herbicide options that are safe to the crop and provide effective weed control. Research was conducted in southeastern Oklahoma (Atoka County, Lane, OK) during 2010 and 2011 to determine the impact of pelargonic acid on weed control efficacy, crop injury, and pepper yields. The experiment included pelargonic acid applied unshielded postdirected at 5, 10, and 15 lb/acre, plus an untreated weedy control and an untreated weed-free control. ‘Jupiter’ sweet bell pepper, a tobacco mosaic virus-resistant sweet pepper with a 70-day maturity, was transplanted into single rows on 3-ft centered raised beds with 18 inches between plants (9680 plants/acre) on 28 May 2010 and 27 May 2011, respectively. Weeds included smooth crabgrass (Digitaria ischaemum), cutleaf groundcherry (Physalis angulata), spiny amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus), and yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). Pelargonic acid was applied postdirected each year in mid-June and then reapplied 8 days later. The 15-lb/acre pelargonic acid treatment resulted in the maximum smooth crabgrass control (56%) and broadleaf weed control (66%) at 1 day after the initial spray treatment (DAIT), and 33% yellow nutsedge control at 3 DAIT. Pelargonic acid at 15 lb/acre provided equal or slightly greater smooth crabgrass and broadleaf (cutleaf groundcherry and spiny amaranth) control compared with the 10-lb/acre application, and consistently greater control than the 5-lb/acre rate and the weedy control. Pelargonic acid was less effective at controlling yellow nutsedge than smooth crabgrass and broadleaf weeds. As the rate of pelargonic acid increased from 5 to 15 lb/acre, yellow nutsedge control also increased significantly for all observation dates. Increasing the pelargonic acid application rate increased the crop injury rating. The maximum crop injury occurred for each application rate at 1 DAIT with 7%, 8.0%, and 13.8% injury for pelargonic acid rates 5, 10, and 15 lb/acre, respectively. There was little or no new crop injury after the second postdirected application of pelargonic acid and crop injury following 3 DAIT for application rates was 2% or less. Only the 15-lb/acre pelargonic acid application produced greater fruit per hectare (4784 fruit/ha) and yields (58.65 kg·ha−1) than the weedy control (1196 fruit/ha and 19.59 kg·ha−1). The weed-free yields (7176 fruit/ha, 178.11 kg·ha−1, and 24.82 g/fruit) were significantly greater than all pelargonic acid treatments and the weedy control. Pelargonic acid provided unsatisfactory weed control for all rates and did not significantly benefit from the sequential applications. The authors suggest the pelargonic acid be applied to smaller weeds to increase the weed control to acceptable levels (>80%).

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Charles L. Webber III, James W. Shrefler and Merritt J. Taylor

Corn gluten meal (CGM) is a non-selective preemergence or preplant-incorporated herbicide that inhibits root development, decreases shoot length, and reduces plant survival. The development of a mechanized application system for the banded placement of CGM between crop rows (seed row not treated) has increased its potential use in organic vegetable production, especially in direct-seeded vegetables. The objective of this research was to determine the impact of CGM applications (formulations, rates, incorporation, and banded applications) on direct-seeded squash (Cucurbita pepo) plant survival and yields. Neither CGM formulation (powdered or granulated) nor incorporation method (incorporated or non-incorporated) resulted in significant differences in plant survival or squash yields. When averaged across all other factors (formulations, incorporation method, and banding), CGM rates of 250 to 750 g·m−2 reduced squash survival from 70% to 44%, and squash yields from 6402 to 4472 kg·ha−1. However, the banded application (CGM placed between rows) resulted in significantly greater crop safety (75% survival) and yield (6402 kg·ha−1) than the broadcast (non-banded) applications (35% survival and 4119 kg·ha−1 yield). It was demonstrated that banded applications of CGM can be useful in direct-seeded squash production and other organic direct-seeded vegetables.

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James W. Shrefler, Charles L. Webber III and Otis L. Faulkenberry III

Producers of organic vegetables often report that weeds are a troublesome production problem. It has been documented that corn gluten meal (CGM), a by-product of the wet-milling process of corn, is phytotoxic. As a preemergence or preplant-incorporated herbicide, CGM inhibits root development, decreases shoot length, and reduces plant survival of weed or crop seedlings. The development of a mechanized application method for CGM and the ability to apply the material in a banded pattern would increase its potential use in organic vegetable production, especially in direct-seeded vegetables. Therefore, the objective of this research was to develop a mechanized method to uniformly apply CGM to the soil surface in either a broadcast or banded pattern. An applicator was assembled using various machinery components (fertilizer box, rotating agitator blades, 12-volt motor, and fan shaped gravity-fed row banding applicators). The equipment was evaluated for the application of two CGM formulations (powdered and granulated), three application rates (250, 500, and 750 g·m–2), and two application configurations (solid and banded). Field evaluations were conducted during Summer 2004 on 81-cm-wide raised beds at Lane, Okla. Differences between CGM formulations affected the flow rate within and between application configurations. The granulated formulation flowed at a faster rate, without clumping, compared to the powdered formulation. While the CGM in the banded configuration flowed faster than the solid application. It was determined that the CGM powder used with the solid application configuration was inconsistent, unreliable, and thus not feasible for use with this equipment without further modifications. These evaluations demonstrated the feasibility of using equipment, rather than manual applications, to apply CGM to raised beds for organic weed control purposes. Several design alterations may increase the efficiency and potential usefulness of this equipment. If research determines equivalent weed control efficacy between the two CGM formulations, the granulated formulation would be the preferred formulation for use in this equipment. This equipment would be useful for evaluating the benefits of banded applications of CGM for weed control efficacy and crop safety for direct seeded vegetables.

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Angela R. Davis, Charles L. Webber III, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Julie Collins and Vincent M. Russo

Cultural practices have been reported to affect quality and phytonutrient content of watermelon. Knowing which varieties perform best under various production systems, and how these systems affect quality, yield, and phytonutrient content, is imperative to ensure high quality and yield. There is limited information on how watermelon [Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai] varieties perform when grown with organic practices. Production characteristics of six watermelon varieties from certified organic seed sources were compared under high-(black plastic and mechanical cultivation for weed control) and low-input (no-till) organic culture. The high-input method utilized black plastic mulch and mechanical cultivation for weed control. The low-input utilized no-till planting. `Triple Star' was the most productive seedless variety in terms of number of fruit and marketable yield when data were combined across locations. `Early Moonbeam' produced the largest number of fruit, and the smallest fruit, of the seeded varieties. `Allsweet', a seeded variety, had the best marketable yield due to its larger size. `Triple Star' had the best quality (lycopene and °Brix content) when data were combined across locations. Among the seeded varieties, `Allsweet' had the best quality at both locations; however, average lycopene content on a per-fruit basis under low input production was not significantly different when compared to `Sugar Baby'. High-input production methods almost doubled the number of fruit produced for all varieties, producing greater yields, and heavier average fruit weights, but lower °Brix and lycopene content compared to the low-input production method.

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Angela R. Davis, Charles L. Webber III, Wenge Liu, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Amnon Levi and Stephen King

High-quality, high-phytonutrient watermelons [Citrullus lanatus (Thumb.), Matsum & Nakai] have strong market opportunities. To produce highly nutritious fruit in a seedless triploid market, the nature of phytonutrient accumulation as affected by ploidy must be understood. The present study performed on six field-grown watermelon diploid (2n) inbred lines, their induced autotetraploids (4n), and autotriploids (3n) determined the importance of ploidy on quality and nutritional content. Lycopene, total soluble solids (TSS), L-citrulline (hereafter referred to as citrulline), glutathione (GSH), weight, width, and length were measured in ripe fruit from one location. Our findings contradict some previous manuscripts, which did not use diploid inbred lines and their induced autoploidy relatives. Of the traits we analyzed that did not have a family-by-ploidy interaction (citrulline, GSH, weight, and width), we determined citrulline levels were not significantly affected by ploidy in five of six families nor was there a significant correlation when all family’s citrulline values were averaged. Previous studies on field-grown fruit that did not use autoploidy lines suggested triploid fruit had more citrulline than diploid fruit. GSH was higher in autotriploid than in diploid or autotetraploid (95.0 vs. 66.9 or 66.7 μg·g−1 GSH, respectively). Additionally, we found an association with higher GSH in larger fruit. Autotriploid fruit were, in general, heavier and wider than diploid and autotetraploid fruit, and autotetraploid fruit were generally smaller than diploid fruit. Of the traits we analyzed that had a family by ploidy interaction (lycopene, TSS, and length), we determined within four families, ploidy affected lycopene concentration, but whether this interaction is positive or negative was family-dependent. These data suggest the triploid state alone does not give fruit higher lycopene concentrations. The mean TSS was higher in autotetraploid than in autotriploid, which was again higher than in diploid fruit averaged across families (10.5%, 10.2%, and 9.5% TSS, respectively); there was a family × ploidy interaction so the significance of this increase is affected by the triploid’s parents. Lycopene and TSS had a slight positive correlation. Four of six families showed no statistical correlation between ploidy and length, and although mean length across family demonstrated smaller tetraploid fruit, the family-by-ploidy interaction demonstrates that this observation is family-dependent. Length and width correlate well with weight when combining data for all ploidy levels and when analyzing each ploidy separately. Length correlates more closely with width in autotriploid fruit than in diploid or autotetraploid fruit.

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Angela R. Davis, Charles L. Webber III, Wayne W. Fish, Todd C. Wehner, Stephen King and Penelope Perkins-Veazie

Producers of fresh fruits and vegetables face increasing production costs and international market competition. Growers who can offer high-quality watermelons [Citrullus lanatus (Thumb.) Matsum. & Nakai] that are also highly nutritious will have better market opportunities. To accomplish that, germplasm must be identified that has enhanced phytonutrient levels. Surprisingly, there is little information on the genetics of nutritional quality in watermelon. The present study was performed on 56 watermelon cultivars, breeding lines, and PI accessions (hereafter collectively referred to as cultigens) to determine the importance of genotype and environmental effects on L-citrulline concentration in fruit, an amino acid that helps regulate blood pressure. Our results demonstrated that L-citrulline concentration was affected by environment and the amount of environmental effect varies among cultigens. The mean of fruit tested in Lane, OK, was 3.10 mg·g−1 fresh weight and in College Station, TX, it was 1.67 mg·g−1 fresh weight. All cultigens had a higher mean L-citrulline concentration when grown in Lane, OK, instead of College Station, TX. Additionally, the L-citrulline concentration varied considerably within cultigens; i.e., ‘Congo’ had a 1.26 to 7.21 mg·g−1 fresh sample deviation. The cultigen ‘AU-Jubilant’ had the most stable L-citrulline concentration (2.23 to 4.03 mg·g−1 fresh deviation) when tested from one location. Environment did not significantly increase within-genotype variation (average se of 10 cultigens tested at each location was ± 35.3% for College Station, TX, and ± 32.9% for Lane, OK). L-citrulline concentration did not correlate with watermelon type (open-pollinated or F1 hybrid) or flesh color (red, orange, salmon yellow, or white). Differences among cultigens for L-citrulline were large (1.09 to 4.52 mg·g−1 fresh sample). The cultigens with the highest L-citrulline concentration were ‘Tom Watson’, PI 306364, and ‘Jubilee’. These could be used to develop cultivars having a high concentration of L-citrulline.

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Charles L. Webber III, Angela R. Davis, James W. Shrefler, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Vincent M. Russo and Jonathan V. Edelson

The increasing perception by consumers that organic food tastes better and is healthier continues to expand the demand for organically produced crops. The objective of these experiments was to investigate the impact of different weed control systems on yields of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus) varieties grown organically. Six watermelon varieties were transplanted at two locations (Lane and Center Point, Okla.). The six varieties included three seeded varieties (`Early Moonbeam', `Sugar Baby', and `Allsweet') and three seedless varieties (`Triple Crown', `Triple Prize', and `Triple Star'). The weed control system at Lane utilized black plastic mulch on the crop row, while the area between rows was cultivated to control weeds. The no-till organic system at Center Point used a mowed rye and vetch cover crop, hand weeding, and vinegar (5% acetic acid) for weed control. When averaged across watermelon varieties, Lane produced significantly more fruit per plant (4.2 vs. 2.3 fruit/plant), greater marketable yields (16.0 vs. 8.4 kg/plants), and higher average marketable weight per fruit (6.1 vs. 4.0 kg) than at Center Point. When comparing locations, four of six varieties had significantly greater number of fruit per plant and higher marketable yields at Lane than at Center Point. Except for `Early Moonbeam', all other varieties produced significantly heavier fruit at Lane than at Center Point. In contrast, the Center Point location produced a greater percentage of marketable fruit for all varieties except `Allsweet'. Fruit quality (lycopene and °Brix) was as good or greater when harvested from the weedier Center Point location.