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  • Author or Editor: D.D. Treadwell x
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Row intercropping sweet corn (Zea mays L.) with a living mulch of buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) may reduce weed competition without reducing sweet corn yields. The objective of this experiment was to examine competition for nutrients, crop water use, and plant growth between weeds, buckwheat, and organically grown sweet corn, and examine the impact of buckwheat on weed densities and corn yields. In 1999, `Bodacious' (sehybrid) sweet corn was planted to 41,000 plants/ha stand and the following treatments were applied: 1) `Manor' buckwheat planted at 0 kg·ha–1, 56 kg·ha kg·ha–1, and 112 kg·ha–1, 2) buckwheat planted at three times: planting corn, at four-leaf corn and eight-leaf corn stage. A RCB design with four replications including a weedy/weed-free split was used. Above ground biomass of buckwheat was measured within a 1/2-m2 quadrat 8WAP and analyzed for C and N. Weed densities were taken within a 1/2-m2 quadrat 4WAP and 8WAP following each buckwheat planting. Buckwheat and corn tissue samples were analyzed for total nutrient content 8WAP. Soil samples were taken in corn and buckwheat interrows at emergence, 4 WAP, 8 WAP, and at harvest, and evaluated for inorganic nitrogen and soil moisture. Within rate treatments, yield was highest in weed and buckwheat-free (16.3 MT·ha–1) and lowest in weed-free 112 kg·ha–1 buckwheat (8.5 MT·ha–1). Within buckwheat timing treatments, yield was highest in 8 leaf (18.2 MT·ha–1) relative to at plant buckwheat. Weed densities were highest in no buckwheat (281 no/m2) and lowest in 56 kg·ha–1 buckwheat (28 no/m2) compared to the controls. These findings indicate buckwheat rate influences yield and weed density more than timing of buckwheat plant.

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The effect of living mulches (LM) on weed suppression, crop growth and yield, and soil hydraulic conductivity were evaluated in broccoli in North Central Florida at Citra and in North Florida at Live Oak, using organic production methods. `Florida 401' rye, `Wrens Abruzzi' rye, black oat, and annual ryegrass, were either mowed or left untreated and compared with weedy and weed-free controls. Cover crop biomass was highest with `Florida 401' at both locations, intermediate with black oat and `Wrens Abruzzi', and lowest with ryegrass. The greatest weed infestation occurred with the weedy control. In Citra, ryegrass decreased weed biomass by 21% compared with ≈45% by the other LM with no differences due to mowing. However, at Live Oak, mowed LM and the weedy control had similar amounts of weed biomass; whereas unmowed LM had 30% to 40% less weed biomass than the weedy control. At both locations, broccoli heights were greatest with the weed-free control, intermediate with the cover crops, and lowest with the weedy control. Total above-ground broccoli biomass and marketable weight of broccoli at Live Oak, and number of marketable heads at both locations, were unaffected by the LM. At Citra, total broccoli biomass with LM and the weedy control decreased in a similar manner, so that total broccoli biomass was highest with the weed-free control. Ryegrass and the weedy control suppressed marketable broccoli weight by 24%; however, greater decrease in marketable weight (39% to 43%) occurred with `Florida 401', `Wrens Abruzzi', and black oat. At both locations, mowing of LM had no effect on broccoli growth or yield. There was no difference in saturated hydraulic conductivity among treatments.

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Soil solarization is an important practice for small-acreage farmers and home gardeners and is used commercially in areas with high solar radiation and air temperature during the summer. In this technique, clear plastic films are used to increase soil temperature to manage soil-borne plant pests such as insects, diseases, nematodes, fungi, and weeds. Several different kinds of plastic films were evaluated in 2007 and 2008 for durability, weather tolerance, and weed suppression. Treatments were arranged in a randomized complete block design with five replications. In 2007, treatments were four clear plastic films including: ISO, VeriPack, Poly Pak, Bromostop®, and a white plastic control. In 2008, treatments were Polydak®, Poly Pak, Bromostop®, and white plastic. Films were evaluated for weed suppression based on the population density of weeds that emerged through breaks in the plastic, for durability in terms of number and size of breaks in the films, and for the total exposed soil area resulting from breaks. Purple nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus) was the major weed problem throughout both years. In both years, total exposed area was greater with white plastic and Bromostop® (81.5 ft2/bed) compared with other plastic films (<21.5 ft2/bed). Due to their durability, Poly Pak, ISO, and VeriPack suppressed nutsedge more than Bromostop and white plastic. Although a number of very small (<0.75 inch long) breaks were observed in Polydak® plastic film, they never increased in size, and this plastic film remained intact throughout the experiment and provided excellent weed control.

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Aquaponics combines the hydroponic production of plants and the aquaculture production of fish into a sustainable agriculture system that uses natural biological cycles to supply nitrogen and minimizes the use of nonrenewable resources, thus providing economic benefits that can increase over time. Several production systems and media exist for producing hydroponic crops (bench bed, nutrient film technique, floating raft, rockwool, perlite, and pine bark). Critical management requirements (water quality maintenance and biofilter nitrification) for aquaculture need to be integrated with the hydroponics to successfully manage intensive aquaponic systems. These systems will be discussed with emphasis on improving sustainability through management and integration of the living components [plants and nitrifying bacteria (Nitrosomonas spp. and Nitrobacter spp.)] and the biofilter system. Sustainable opportunities include biological nitrogen production rates of 80 to 90 g·m−3 per day nitrate nitrogen from trickling biofilters and plant uptake of aquaculture wastewater. This uptake results in improved water and nutrient use efficiency and conservation. Challenges to sustainability center around balancing the aquaponic system environment for the optimum growth of three organisms, maximizing production outputs and minimizing effluent discharges to the environment.

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A 3-year field experiment was initiated in 2001 to evaluate different organic sweetpotato production systems that varied in cover crop management and tillage. Three organic systems: 1) compost and no cover crop with tillage (Org-NCC); 2) compost and a cover crop mixture of hairy vetch and rye incorporated before transplanting (Org-CCI); and 3) compost and the same cover crop mixture with reduced tillage (Org-RT) were compared with a conventionally managed system (Conv) with tillage and chemical controls. Yield of No. 1 sweetpotato roots and total yield were similar among management systems each year, except for a reduction in yield in Org-RT in 2002. The percentage of No. 1 grade roots was at least 17% and 23% higher in Org-CCI and Org-NCC than Org-RT in 2001 and 2002, respectively, and similar to Conv in 2001 and 2004. Organic and conventional N sources contributed to soil inorganic N reserves differently the 2 years this component was measured. In 2002, soil inorganic N reserves at 30 DAT were in the order: Org-CCI (90 kg·ha−1) > Org-NCC (67 kg·ha−1) > Org-RT (45 kg·ha−1), and Conv (55 kg·ha−1). No differences in soil inorganic N reserves were observed among systems in 2004. Sweetpotato N, P, and K tissue concentrations were different among systems only in 2004. That year, at 60 days after transplanting, tissue N, P, and K were greatest in Org-CCI. In 2001 and 2004, N (4.09% to 4.56%) and K (3.79% to 4.34%) were higher than sufficiency ranges for N (3.2% to 4.0%) and K (2.5% to 3.5%) defined by North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recommendations for all treatments. No tissue macronutrient or micronutrient concentrations were limiting during this experiment. Reduced rainfall during the 2002 sweetpotato growing season may have contributed to the low microbially mediated plant-available N from the organic fertilizer sources. Despite differences in the nutrient content of organic and conventional fertility amendments, organically managed systems receiving compost with or without incorporated hairy vetch and rye produced yields equal to the conventionally managed system.

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Integrating hydroponic and aquaculture systems (aquaponics) requires balanced pH for plants, fish, and nitrifying bacteria. Nitrification prevents accumulation of fish waste ammonia by converting it to NO3 -N. The difference in optimum pH for hydroponic cucumber (Cucumis sativa) (5.5 to 6.0) and nitrification (7.5 to 9.0) requires reconciliation to improve systems integration and sustainability. The purpose of this investigation was to: 1) determine the ammonia biofiltration rate of a perlite trickling biofilter/root growth medium in an aquaponic system, 2) predict the relative contribution of nitrifiers and plants to ammonia biofiltration, and 3) establish the reconciling pH for ammonia biofiltration and cucumber yield in recirculating aquaponics. The biofiltration rate of total ammonia nitrogen (TAN) removal was 19, 31, and 80 g·m−3·d−1 for aquaponic systems [cucumber, tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), and nitrifying bacteria (Nitrosomonas sp. + Nitrobacter sp.)] with operating pH at 6.0, 7.0, and 8.0, respectively. With the existing aquaponic design (four plants/20 L perlite biofilter/100 L tank water), the aquaponic biofilter (with plants and nitrifiers) was three times more effective at removing TAN compared with plant uptake alone at pH 6.0. Most probable number of Nitrosomonas sp. bacteria cells sampled from biofilter cores indicated that the aquaculture control (pH 7.0) had a significantly higher (0.01% level) bacteria cell number compared with treatments containing plants in the biofilter (pH 6.0, 7.0, or 8.0). However, the highest TAN removal was with aquaponic production at pH 8.0. Thus, operating pH was more important than nitrifying bacteria population in determining the rate of ammonia biofiltration. Early marketable cucumber fruit yield decreased linearly from 1.5 to 0.7 kg/plant as pH increased from 6.0 to 8.0, but total marketable yield was not different. The reconciling pH for this system was pH 8.0, except during production for early-season cucumber market windows in which pH 7.0 would be recommended.

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Greenhouse experiments were conducted in 2005 and 2006 near Live Oak, FL, to develop fertilization programs for fresh-cut ‘Nufar’ basil (Ocimum basilicum) and spearmint (Mentha spicata) in troughs with soilless media using inputs compliant with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program (NOP). Four NOP-compliant fertilizer treatments were evaluated in comparison with a conventional control. Treatments and their analyses in nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) contents are as follows: conventional hydroponic nutrient solution [HNS (150 ppm N, 50 ppm P, and 200 ppm K)], granular poultry (GP) litter (4N–0.9P–2.5K), granular composite [GC (4N–0.9P–3.3K)], granular meal [GM (8N–2.2P–4.1K)], and GM plus a sidedress application of 5N–0.9P–1.7K fish emulsion (GM + FE). Electrical conductivity (EC) of the media, fresh petiole sap nitrate (NO3-N) and K concentrations, dried whole leaf NO3-N, P, and K concentrations, and yield and postharvest quality of harvested herbs were evaluated in response to the treatments. Basil yield was similar with HNS (340 g/plant) and GP (325 g/plant) in 2005 and greatest with HNS (417 g/plant) in 2006. Spearmint yield was similar with all treatments in 2005. In 2006, spearmint yields were similar with the HNS and GP yields (172 and 189 g/plant, respectively) and greater than the yields with the remaining treatments. In both years and crops, media EC values were generally greater with the GC than with the GP, GM, and GM + FE treatments but not in all cases and ranged from 1.77 to 0.55 dS·m−1 during the experiments. Furthermore, HNS media EC values were consistently equal to or lower than the GP media EC values except with EC measurements on 106 days after transplanting in both crops in 2005. Petiole NO3-N and K results were variable among crops and years, but provided valuable insight into the EC and yield data. We expected EC, petiole NO3-N, and petiole K to be consistently higher with HNS than with organic treatments, but they were not, indicating a reasonable synchrony of nutrient availability and crop demand among the organic treatments. The postharvest quality of both basil and spearmint was excellent with all treatments with few exceptions.

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Like everything for the past 2 centuries, agriculture has depended increasingly on fossil fuel energy. Pressures to shift to renewable energy and changes in the fossil fuel industry are set to massively alter the energy landscape over the next 30 years. Two near-certainties are increased overall prices and/or decreased stability of energy supplies. The impacts of these upheavals on specialty crop production and consumption are unknowable in detail but the grand lines of what will likely change can be foreseen. This foresight can guide the research, extension, and teaching needed to successfully navigate a future very unlike the recent past. Major variables that will influence outcomes include energy use in fertilizer manufacture, in farm operations, and in haulage to centers of consumption. Taking six increasingly popular fruit and vegetable crops and the top two horticultural production states as examples, here we use simple proxies for the energy requirements (in gigajoules per ton of produce) of fertilizer, farm operations, and truck transport from Florida or California to New York to compare the relative sizes of these requirements. Trucking from California is the largest energy requirement in all cases, and three times larger than from Florida. As these energy requirements themselves are all fairly fixed, but in future will likely rise in price and/or be subject to interruptions and shortages, this pilot study points to two commonsense inferences: First, that fruit and vegetable production and consumption are set to reposition to more local/regional and seasonal patterns due to increasing expenses associated with fuel, and second, that coast-to-coast produce shipment by truck will become increasingly expensive and difficult.

Open Access

A field study was conducted in 2008 and 2009 in Citra, FL, to evaluate the effects of seeding rate and removal of apical dominance of sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea L.) on weed suppression and seed production by sunn hemp. Three seeding rates of sunn hemp were used: a representative seed production rate of 11 kg·ha−1, an intermediate seeding rate of 28 kg·ha−1, and a cover crop seeding rate of 45 kg·ha−1. Cutting the main stem at 3, 4, or 5 weeks after planting to break apical dominance was compared with an uncut treatment. Cutting had no significant effect on shoot biomass, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) penetrating the canopy, and nondestructive leaf area index (LAI). As a result, cutting also had no effect on weed density and biomass in 2008 and very little effect in 2009. Increase in seeding rate resulted in linear decrease in PAR and increase in LAI in both years. Seeding rate had a greater effect on suppression of weed biomass than on suppression of weed density. There was a linear decline in sunn hemp branching with increased seeding rate in 2009 and, averaged across years, flower number decreased linearly with increased seeding rate. Cutting to break apical dominance induced branching but had no effect on flower number. No seed pod production occurred and we postulate that the lack of seed production may be the result of the absence of effective pollinators in fall when short-day varieties of sunn hemp flower in Florida.

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