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Christine Coker, Patricia Knight, Ben Posadas, Scott Langlois and Randy Coker

The greenhouse and nursery industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the region's agricultural economy; however, a major problem facing this industry is a shortage of workers, particularly skilled workers. A recent national survey of commercial nursery/landscape operations listed labor shortage as the number one limitation facing the industry at the end of 2001. The target population of this project is greenhouse and nursery workers in the Gulf South. The goal of this project is to develop and identify automated systems that can be adapted by the highly diverse greenhouse and nursery industry. Adoption of this technology will improve working conditions for greenhouse and nursery workers, increase worker retention, improve worker safety, increase worker productivity, improve skill levels, and create new jobs related to servicing the machinery and instrumentation. The Coastal Research and Extension Center, in cooperation with industry leaders representing the Gulf South, has identified several major areas of program focus. Together, we have developed a comprehensive set of production issues which will be addressed through the integration of applied mechanization technologies developed through this project.

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Christine Coker, Mike Ely and Thomas Freeman

Ethnicity plays a strong role in niche market development, and the Asian market is currently underserved. As Asian populations continue to grow in Mississippi, especially along the Gulf Coast, it is important to recognize new market opportunities. The fruit and vegetables desired by the diverse Asian population are often unavailable or of poor quality as a result of extensive shipping distances. Mississippi growers can meet this need for fresh Oriental produce at a higher price than traditional vegetables. Yardlong bean or asparagus bean (Vigna unguiculata ssp. sesquipedalis) is the same species as cowpea. The cultural practices for yardlong bean are similar to that of traditional pole beans (Phaseolus vulgaris). However, there is still much to be learned about this crop in terms of pest management, disease susceptibility, and varietal superiority. The objectives of this research were to compare length and yield of eight yardlong bean varieties and collect observational data regarding production practices. Four replications of eight yardlong bean varieties were grown at Beaumont, MS, during Summer 2001 and 2002. Beans were grown on 4-ft-wide trellises 1 ft above the soil line. Beans were harvested twice per week. Highest marketable yields were attained with the varieties Red Seed and Black Seed, which are best suited for growing conditions in southern Mississippi. However, mosaic viruses may pose a potential production problem, and further research is warranted to determine best cultural practices and pest management.

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Patricia R. Knight, John M. Anderson, Wayne McLaurin and Christine Coker

Lagerstroemia indica ×fauriei `Tonto' and `Sioux' were planted in Mar. 1995. All other cultivars were planted in Oct. 1985. Plants were planted into a Ruston sandy loam on a 12 × 12 ft (3.7 × 3.7 m) spacing. Trees were pruned to develop multiple trunks. Trees are pruned annually in winter to remove any limbs smaller than 0.6 cm in diameter. Pruning cuts are made 6–8 in (15.2–20.3 cm) above prior cuts. Severe pruning is performed every 5 years. Trees were evaluated at 2-week intervals during the flowering season to determine total length of flowering and duration of good to superior flowering. Growth indices (height + width + perpendicular width)/3 were recorded after plants were dormant. Total days of flowering and floral display (0–5 with 0 representing no flowers and 5 representing superior flowering) were rated. `Muskogee' had the greatest growth index after the 2004 growing season. `Seminole' had the least. However, `Seminole' had the greatest number of flowering days. `Biloxi' had the fewest flowering days. `Tonto' had the most good to superior flowering days, while `Tuskegee' and `Muskogee' had the fewest. In 2005, `Muskogee' again had the greatest growth index, while `Sioux' had the least. `Yuma' and `Seminole' had the greatest number of flowering days, and `Biloxi' again had the fewest. `Tonto' again had the most good to superior flowering days, while `Biloxi' and `Acoma' had the fewest.

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Amy Simonne, Eric Simonne, Ronald Eitenmiller and Christine Harris Coker

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) production historically has been limited in the southeastern United States because of the risk of early bolting and unacceptable bitterness. Small-scale vegetable growers may be able to include lettuce in their production through selection of bolt tolerant and nonbitter varieties. The objectives of this research were to evaluate earliness, bitterness, vitamin E, ascorbic acid, folate, β-carotene, and lutein content in 17 lettuce varieties. Significant difference were found among varieties for days to harvest (DTH) (47 DTH for `Epic' to 37 DTH for `Big Curly'). Observed DTH in this study was consistently 7 to 10 days less than commercial descriptions of the lettuce varieties, due to the use of transplants. Only `Slobolt' and `Greengo' bolted before reaching marketable size. Panelists found that the bitterness was acceptable for most varieties, but not for `Nancy,' `Big Curly,' and `Slobolt'. Significant differences among varieties were also found in vitamin E, ascorbic acid, folate, β-carotene, and lutein. `Redprize' and `Nevada' were the best varieties overall, while `Salinas 88 Supreme,' `Epic,' `Legacy,' `Big Curly,' `Slobolt,' and `Greengo' were unacceptable.

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Christine E. Coker, Patricia R. Knight and John M. Anderson

Sun coleus (Solenostenum scutellarioides) are commonly used in the southern landscape. However, with the introduction of new cultivars, producers and consumers may be unaware of the selection and landscape performance of sun coleus. Sun coleus cultivars were trialed under landscape conditions at the South Mississippi Branch Station in Poplarville, Miss., in 2000 and 2001. The objective of this study was to evaluate sun coleus cultivars based on landscape performance criteria including flowering, durability, vigor, uniqueness, and insect and disease resistance. Cultivars performing well over both years included `Ducksfoot Red,' `Ducksfoot Tricolor', `Ducksfoot Yellow', `Sunflower Red', `Pineapple', Mardi Gras', and `Saturn'.

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Patricia R. Knight, John M. Anderson, Wayne McLaurin and Christine Coker

Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei `Tonto' and `Sioux' were planted in March, 1995. All other cultivars were planted in October, 1985. Plants were planted into a Ruston sandy loam on a 12 × 12 ft (3.7 × 3.7 m) spacing. Trees were pruned to develop multiple trunks. Trees are pruned annually in winter to remove any limbs smaller than ¼ in (0.6 cm) in diameter. Pruning cuts are made 6–8 in (15.2–20.3 cm) above prior cuts. Severe pruning is performed every five years. Trees were evaluated at 2-week intervals during the flowering season to determine total length of flowering and duration of good to superior flowering. Growth indices (height + width + perpendicular width)/3 were recorded after plants were dormant. Total days of flowering and floral display (0–5 with 0 representing no flowers and 5 representing superior flowering) were rated. `Muskogee' had the greatest growth index after the 2004 growing season. `Seminole' had the least. However, `Seminole' did have the greatest number of flowering days. `Biloxi' had the fewest flowering days. `Tonto' had the most good to superior flowering days while `Tuskegee' and `Muskogee' had the fewest.

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Christine E. Coker, William Evans, Michael Collins and Walter Blankenship

The National Guard State Partnership Program seeks to link the National Guards of the United States with Ministries of Defense of emerging democratic nations in cooperative activities of mutual benefit. The Program aims to enhance those connections by bringing “Hometown America” onto the international stage through personal, sustained relationships. These associations could build a “Bridge to America,” establishing and nurturing bonds of mutual understanding at the grass roots level. The focus of the program has shifted rapidly to the “citizen” aspects of the National Guard, with instruction, orientation, and personnel exchanges in areas such as economic development, small business administration, and entrepreneurship. Mississippi's program partner is Bolivia. Mississippi State University was called upon to participate in the program by providing Subject Matter Experts. Scientists spent seven days in Bolivia working with the Bolivian military (made up of conscripted soldiers as young as 14 years of age), the Catholic University, and local villages, advising on greenhouse vegetable production and instructing program participants on cultural practices that would benefit their communities.

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Benedict C. Posadas, Patricia R. Knight, Christine E.H. Coker, Randal Y. Coker and Scott A. Langlois

This work describes workers’ socioeconomic characteristics and evaluates the determinants of workers hiring decisions among 215 randomly selected wholesale nurseries and greenhouses located in eight selected southern states in the United States. The participating nurseries and greenhouses employed on average 5.40 permanent workers per horticulture operation or 2.27 permanent workers per acre under cultivation. Participating nurseries and greenhouses hired an average 2.38 part-time workers per horticulture operation or 0.80 part-time workers per acre placed under production. Empirical models were estimated to determine the significant factors affecting hiring decisions by this industry. Hiring decision models covered age groups, racial backgrounds, formal education levels, and gender. Analysis of the decision-making process involving the employment of hired workers among the participating wholesale nurseries and greenhouses provided insights into the hiring decisions in the industry. The hiring decisions by demographic characteristics serve as benchmarks for assessing impacts of regulations affecting the industry in the near future. About 1.9% of all the establishments employed more than 50 permanent and part-time workers and 1.4% employed more than 50 permanent workers.

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Benedict C. Posadas, Patricia R. Knight, Randal Y. Coker, Christine H. Coker, Scott A. Langlois and Glenn Fain

Using results of a socioeconomic survey of nurseries and greenhouses, Tobit regression analysis was used to estimate empirical models to measure the socioeconomic impact of automation or mechanization on annual gross sales, annual employment, and workers' earnings, safety, and retention. The survey was conducted among 87 randomly selected nurseries and greenhouses located in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, from Dec. 2003 to Mar. 2005. About 20% of all the identified major tasks were performed by workers in nurseries and greenhouses with some form of mechanization or automation. Regression results showed that nurseries and greenhouses that experienced higher levels of sales also demonstrated higher levels of automation or mechanization. The employment impact of automation or mechanization was neutral, indicating that any improvement in automation or mechanization did not necessarily lead to a reduction, but instead to a more efficient use of labor by nurseries and greenhouses. Improvements in automation or mechanization resulted in higher total workers' earnings reported by participating nurseries and greenhouses. Further Tobit regression results showed that automation or mechanization had neutral effects on the length of training period, workers' safety, and retention rates and enabled nurseries and greenhouses to hire less-skilled workers.

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Valtcho D. Zheljazkov, Charles L. Cantrell, M. Wayne Ebelhar, Dennis E. Rowe and Christine Coker

Nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) were believed to be important nutrient management tools for the production of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L. ‘German’) with desirable oil content and composition and acceptable herbage yields. A multilocation research study was initiated to evaluate the effect of N (0, 60, 120, and 180 kg·ha−1 N) and S (0, 20, 40, and 80 kg·ha−1 S) rates on biomass production, oil content, and oil composition for sweet basil. The three locations in Mississippi (Stoneville, Poplarville, and Verona) were selected based on soil type, geographic, and climatic variation. Location, N rate, and their interaction were significant on basil dry herbage yields. The herbage yield means were 4967 kg·ha−1, 2907 kg·ha−1, and 2122 kg·ha−1 for Poplarville, Verona, and Stoneville, respectively. Oil content was significantly affected by location with means of 0.69%, 0.80%, and 0.64% for Stoneville, Poplarville, and Verona, respectively. Location, N, and S had significant effects on oil yields with means of 14.7, 38.7, and 18.5 kg·ha−1 for Stoneville, Poplarville, and Verona, respectively. The significant quadratic response of essential oil yields to N fertilization rates showed oil yields were maximized for fertilization between 50 and 60 kg·ha−1 N. In contrast, the response to S fertilization appeared to continue to increase beyond the maximum fertilization rate evaluated of 80 kg·ha−1 S. Location and N application rates had a significant effect on the yields of the major basil oil constituents (–)-linalool, eugenol, (–)-bornyl acetate, and eucalyptol, whereas S had a significant effect on eucalyptol yield only. Eucalyptol concentration was positively correlated to the concentration of (–)-bornyl acetate. This is the first study to quantify (in real concentration) the response of the major sweet basil oil constituents (–)-linalool, eugenol, (–)-bornyl acetate, and eucalyptol as a function of N and S application rates. Also, it is the first study to demonstrate a strong response of basil oil yield to S. The results from this study demonstrated that N and S applications can be used as management tools with respect to sweet basil production, oil content, and oil composition.