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  • Author or Editor: Charles W. Marr x
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Seedlings are established in small growing containers to reduce cost of greenhouse space, while improving crop uniformity. These seedlings often are referred to as plugs. Vacuum seeders are used by larger growers to seed many flats per season (Bakos, 1983); however, individual growers, producing plants for their own use, may not be able to justify expensive seeding equipment. Several moderately priced vacuum seeders are available (Bartok, 1988). They consist of a metal tray with small drilled holes to hold the seed in place when a vacuum is applied to the tray from an external source. However, several problems with them exist. Seeds must be free of extraneous materials that might clog the small holes. A slight jarring of the plate, especially when the plate is turned upside down over the seed flat, may cause seeds to dislodge, resulting in unplanted cells in each flat. Also, different sizes of seeds and flats require completely different seeding plates and plate holders. A small grower may choose to seed flats by hand by placing seeds individually in each cell. This is feasible only for large-sized seeds or with pelleted seed. A simple, inexpensive, non-vacuum alternative design is presented and evaluated.

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Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. cv. Jet Star) seedlings grown in small cells (plugs) in trays holding 200, 406, or 648 plants per flat (28 × 55 cm) were larger after 6 weeks as cell size increased, but all were acceptable. Other seedlings, transplanted at weekly intervals from plug trays to plastic cell packs (48 cells per 28 × 55-cm flat), were of similar size during weeks 1-3; seedlings from 648-plug trays were smaller than the others by week 5-6. Seedlings from 200-plug trays planted at weekly intervals into containers where plant-plant competition was absent were larger through 6 weeks than those from 406- and 648-plug trays. Early marketable and total yields were similar for plants held in 406-plug trays 1 to 4 weeks before their transfer to 48-cell flats, but yield decreased for those held 5 to 7 weeks.

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A Casio QV-10 digital camera was used to photograph images. A portable of desktop computer was used to convert the images to a digital image file and attached them to an electronic mail message sent from field extension staff to campus-based horticulture specialists. Images were examples of insect, disease, or cultural problems for diagnosis, plant identification questions, or an overview of a lawn or landscape. Electronic transmission allows immediate identification for a low cost, enables the specialist to see what is being described, and results in images that can be stored for news releases, newsletters, or problem warnings. Limitations exist for resolution and size of objects photographed and these will be described and demonstrated along with other problems and limitations encountered. Cameras are presently available in all five area extension centers and in several individual county extension offices. Two cameras are available for testing and demonstration purposes by individual agents. Transmission from a cellular phone from a remote location is possible, but has not been tested as of this writing. A campus-based “horticulture response center” was established to provide immediate responses to questions from field staff.

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Consumers in six farmers' market locations in Kansas indicated that they would pay an additional 5¢ per pound for seedless watermelons. When asked to rate seeded and seedless melons on a 1 to 10 scale after tasting samples, consumers rated the seedless melon 7.35 and the seeded melon 7.01. There were no practical differences among the six locations studied. With the difficulties in growing seedless melons and greater costs of production, growers and marketers need to assess carefully the market potential for seedless watermelons and plan a merchandising strategy to differentiate seedless from seeded melons. Our studies indicated a slight eating quality preference for seedless melons.

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Several new seedlees watermelon cultivars have recently been released or tested by seed companies. Their greatest asset is their seed-lessness. Melon quality, as determined by consumer acceptance may be a greater challenge.

A consumer preference survey was conducted to determine the acceptability of ten seedless cultivars and breeding lines. All cultivars were rated as acceptable and significant differences were found among the cultivars. Comments expressed by consumers indicated that the seedless melons were not as flavorful as seeded cultivars. No correlations were found between soluble solids and preference nor firmness and preference. Further investigation will be made as to whether the convenience and flavor are worth the greater cost of the seedless watermelon.

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A survey conducted at farmers' markets in eastern Kansas showed that more consumers purchased pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns than for cooking. One to four jack-o-lantern pumpkins are purchased annually per consumer. Whether or not the pumpkins are treated with insecticides to control squash bugs and regardless of their intended use, consumers preferred U.S. no. 1 grade, which sell at the higher retail price of $0.33/kg. At least 90% of the consumers surveyed would pay 20% more than the retail price for insecticide-free pumpkins. About two-thirds of those polled would pay 30% more. Cost-benefit data indicate that the higher prices consumers would pay may not be sufficient for growers to produce insecticide-free pumpkins economically using only biological control. However, if biological control is integrated with host-plant resistance, the higher prices may be sufficient for growers to produce insecticide-free pumpkins.

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Four cover crops {alfalfa (Medicago sativa L. `Kansas Common'), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), Austrian winter pea [Pisum sativum subsp. arvense (L.) Poir], and winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L. `Tam 107')}, alone and in combination with feedlot beef manure at 5 t·ha–1 were evaluated for 2 years to determine whether sufficient N could be supplied solely by winter cover cropping and manure application to produce high-quality muskmelons (Cucumis melo L. `Magnum 45') in an intensive production system using plastic mulch and drip irrigation. Among the legumes, hairy vetch produced the most biomass (8.9 t·ha–1) and accumulated the most N (247 kg·ha–1). Winter wheat produced more biomass (9.8 t·ha–1) than any of the legumes but accumulated the least N (87 kg·ha–1). Melon yields produced using legume cover crops alone were similar to those receiving synthetic N fertilizer at 70 or 100 kg·ha–1. Melons produced on plots with cover crops combined with beef manure did not differ significantly in yield from those produced on plots with only cover crops. Legume cover crops alone, used with plastic mulch and drip irrigation, provided sufficient N for the production of high-quality muskmelons.

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