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  • Author or Editor: Christine Harris x
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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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Feeding damage by white-tailed deer to vegetable and ornamental crops are often adverse to plant growth, and result in economic and aesthetic losses. While the efficacy of commercially available deer repellent products is questionable, plant extracts may provide an environmentally sound alternative to traditional chemical treatments. Commercially available plant extracts (Dusty Miller, peppermint, Madagascar periwinkle, wax myrtle, barberry, juniper, geranium, rosemary, lemon balm, and yucca) known to be unpalatable plants were chosen as treatments. Thiram and putrescent egg spray were used as positive controls along with a no-spray treatment. Gomphrena were grown off-site in trade gallon pots and used as test plants. Sixteen deer were confined in two 1-acre study pens at the Auburn Univ. Deer Research Facility. Feeding damage was recorded daily using a 0 to 3 rating scale corresponding to 1/3, 2/3, and complete destruction, respectively. All damage data were converted into percent damage. Barberry and wax myrtle extracts made gomphrena more palatable to the deer as feeding damage exceeded that of the untreated plants. However, lemon balm, rosemary, yucca, and peppermint provide some level of protection against feeding damage to gomphrena. Fifth-day damage ratings for these extracts were 37%, 35%, 13%, and 19%, respectively. Fifth-day damage for untreated plants was 40%. Peppermint and yucca extracts appear to be promising alternatives to thiram and putrescent egg-based products.

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With an estimated white-tailed deer population of >25 million in the United States and 1.7 million in Alabama, deer feeding damage has become a serious problem for vegetable growers. Typically, deer feed on foliage during plant growth or dig roots near harvest time. Because there is currently no method available to control deer feeding damage to sweetpotatoes, studies were conducted with both confined and free-ranging white-tailed deer to determine the effectiveness of several commercial deer-repellent products on `Beauregard' sweetpotato. In 1998, testing was conducted at the Alabama Agricultural Piedmont Substation in Camp Hill, Ala., with free-ranging deer. Treatments included Deer Away (egg-based spray and powder), Tree Guard, Garlic Barrier, Thiram (a commercial fungicide), as well as a nontreated control. Damage was rated on a 0 to 4 scale (0 = no damage; 4 = 100% damage). In 1999, testing was continued with confined deer at the Auburn Univ. Deer Research Facility in Auburn, Ala. Havahart egg-based spray, Hinder, Grant's, XP-20 (Thiram), and Ro-Pel were applied to potted `Beauregard' plants. Nontreated plants were also included. Pots were placed in 2 one-acre pens, each containing six adult deer. Damage was rated on a 0 to 3 scale (0 = no damage; 3 = plant eaten to pot line or uprooted). Significant (P < 0.05) differences were found among products. The most effective products in 1998 were Deer Away powder, Garlic Barrier at 3× the manufacturer's recommended rate, and Deer Away spray. In 1999, Havahart egg spray provided the highest level of protection, followed by XP-20. Although no product provided complete protection to sweetpotato, egg- and Thiram-based products were most effective in 2 years of testing. None of these products are labeled for use on food crops at this time.

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Vegetable variety trials are of interest to the entire vegetable industry from breeders, seed companies, growers, consultants, researchers, to Extension personnel. The Auburn Univ. vegetable variety trial results have been made more accessible and user-friendly by becoming available online at Users can point and click through a completely searchable database by selecting one of the following categories: 1) explanation of rating system and database, 2) list of vegetable crops, 3) description of variety types of crops, 4) contacting seed companies and web sites, 5) vegetable variety trial team members. For additional information about vegetable variety production, a link to horticulture extension publications has been included. The database gives each vegetable crop tested by Auburn Univ. a rating and allows a search for varieties. For each crop, the five options available to search the database are “rating,” “variety name,” “variety type,” “seed company,” and “type.” The Web page is primarily intended to be a quick, practical reference guide to growers and horticulture professionals in Alabama. Variety performances presented are based on small-scale research plots and test results may vary by location. It is always recommended to perform an on-farm trial of several varieties before making a large planting of a single variety.

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