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D.S. NeSmith

Greenhouse and field experiments were conducted to determine the influence of transplant age on growth and yield of `Dixie' and `Senator' summer squash (Cucurbita pepo L.). Dry weight and leaf area measurements indicated that 28- to 35-day-old greenhouse-grown transplants grew more slowly after transplanting than plants that were 10, 14, or 21 days old. Older transplants flowered earlier; however, earlier flowering did not result in higher early yields. Transplants of varying ages did not differ greatly in yield and yield components in the field, although all transplants had higher early yields than the directly seeded controls. Results from these experiments suggest that 21 days may be a reasonable target age for transplanting summer squash. If transplanting were delayed by adverse planting conditions, 21-day-old transplants would likely have at least a 10-day window of flexibility before yields would be reduced notably by additional aging.

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D.S. NeSmith

Watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum & Nakai] cultivars StarBrite and Crimson Sweet were grown during 1991 and 1992 in rows 1.5 m apart at plant spacings of 0.9, 1.5, or 2.2 m. Total fruit yield, marketable fruit yield, fruit-weight distribution, and estimated gross returns were determined for each spacing treatment. Total and marketable fruit yields were greater overall for `StarBrite' than for `Crimson Sweet'. Except for 1991 `Crimson Sweet' yields, marketable fruit yields per unit land area increased 29% to 34% as plant spacing decreased from 2.2 to 0.9 m. The yield component contributing the most to increased yields with high-density plantings was increased fruit count per unit land area. Average fruit weight responded only slightly to decreased plant spacing. Fruit-weight distribution on a relative frequency scale was stable regardless of plant spacing or production year. The potential for increasing gross returns per unit land area exists by increasing watermelon plant populations beyond the current Georgia recommendation of 2500 to 3000 plants/ha.

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D.S. NeSmith

Transplanting generally results in more rapid stand establishment than direct seeding for cucurbit crops. A 2-year field study was conducted to examine the pattern of rooting of watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nak.] following usage of different planting methods, and to determine subsequent effects on crop yield. Root length was assessed by obtaining soil cores three times per growing season to a depth of 75 cm. Transplanted watermelons generally had greater root length density in the upper 30 cm of soil 4 to 7 weeks after planting (WAP). However, by 11 to 12 WAP root distribution was similar over the entire 75 cm soil profile for the two planting methods. Total marketable yields were comparable for direct seeded and transplanted watermelons during 1995, but transplanted watermelon yield exceeded direct seeded yield by 40% in 1996. In both years, 90% to 100% of the marketable yield of transplanted watermelons was obtained at the first harvest, compared to 0% to 55% for direct seeded watermelons. These findings suggest that rapid root proliferation of transplanted watermelons may be an important factor in their earlier establishment and increased early yields as compared to direct seeded watermelons.

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D.S. NeSmith and Gerard Krewer

Individual flower clusters of `Tifblue' rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade) were treated with 300 ppm GA at several flower bud stages to determine the activity of the growth regulator in promoting fruit set. Applications were made one time only at a specified stage of flower development, or once followed by a second application. A single application of GA when flower buds had elongated but corollas had not expanded (stage 5) led to the largest increase in fruit set. Two applications of GA, 10 to 18 days apart, increased fruit set compared with a single application at flower developmental stages other than stage 5. Fruit set promoted by a single spray of GA imposed on fully expanded corollas (stage 6) decreased with increasing number of chill hours (350, 520, 760, or 1150). Chemical names used: gibberellic acid (GA).

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D.S. NeSmith and G. Hoogenboom

The time from sowing to flowering and maturity of summer squash (Cucurbita pepo L.) varies depending on environment. Research was conducted over a 2-year period to assess flowering time of five squash cultivars grown at different locations and times in Georgia representing varying thermal regimes. Heat units (HUs) were calculated using a single equation to determine if this approach could account for a significant proportion of the variability in the time to onset of flowering observed over this range of environments. Depending on the cultivar and flower sex, the number of days to flowering varied as much as 20 days. There were no cultivar differences in overall mean days to first staminate flower; however, there were differences in mean days to first pistillate flower. There were cultivar differences in HUs required for staminate and pistillate flowers. The use of HUs significantly affected the variability in time to flowering as indicated by regression analyses and mean absolute differences between predicted and observed days to flowering.

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D.C. Bridges and D.S. NeSmith

A Weibull distribution function was used to develop a model for estimating cumulative flowering and the distribution of flowers of `Tifblue' rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade) as a function of growing degree days (GDD) after chilling for chill hours ranging from 300 to 1200. Controlled chilling and flowering conditions were imposed on blueberry plants to obtain data for model development. Once developed the model was validated using independent data sets which were available in the literature. Given information concerning chilling and historical GDD, the model can be used to predict the onset of flowering, cumulative flowering, total number of flowers, and flower frequency at discrete intervals. It is expected that the techniques developed will be applicable to a range of fruit species in which chilling influences flowering habit.

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D.S. NeSmith and D.C. Bridges

A Weibull distribution function was used to develop a model for estimating cumulative flowering and the distribution of flowering of `Titblue' rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium Ashei Reade) as a function of growing degree days (GDD) following exposure to chilling temperatures for 300 to 1200 hours. Controlled chilling and flowering conditions were imposed on blueberry plants to obtain data for model development. Once developed, the model was validated using independent data sets from the literature. Given information concerning chilling and historical GDD, the model can be used to predict the onset of flowering, cumulative flowering, total number of flowers, and flower frequency at discrete intervals. The techniques developed likely will be applicable to a range of fruit species in which chilling influences flowering habit.

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G.R. Panta and D.S. NeSmith

Eight muskmelon (Cucumis melo reticulatus L.) cultivars were selected to test whether a model could be developed to estimate leaf area across cultivars. Regression analyses of leaf area vs. leaf width and length revealed several models that could be used for estimating the area of individual muskmelon leaves. A linear model using leaf width squared was the best overall, yielding the equation A = 3.3 + 0.63 (W2), where A is area of an individual leaf lamina (square centimeter) and W is leaf width (centimeter) at the widest point perpendicular to the leaf midrib. Forcing the intercept through the origin did not significantly alter prediction capability and resulted in a simple model of the form A = 0.64 (W2) that was applicable to all eight cultivars.