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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Interest in producing specialty melons (Cucumis melo) is increasing in Florida, but information on yield performance, fruit quality, and disease resistance of specialty melon cultivars grown in Florida conditions is limited. In this study conducted at Citra, FL, during the 2011 Spring season, 10 specialty melon cultivars were evaluated, in both certified organic and conventionally managed fields, including: Creme de la Creme and San Juan ananas melon (C. melo var. reticulatus), Brilliant and Camposol canary melon (C. melo var. inodorus), Ginkaku and Sun Jewel asian melon (C. melo var. makuwa), Arava and Diplomat galia melon (C. melo var. reticulatus), and Honey Pearl and Honey Yellow honeydew melon (C. melo var. inodorus). ‘Athena’ cantaloupe (C. melo var. reticulatus) was included as a control. ‘Sun Jewel’, ‘Diplomat’, ‘Honey Yellow’, and ‘Honey Pearl’ were early maturing cultivars that were harvested 10 days earlier than ‘Athena’. ‘Athena’ had the highest marketable yield in the conventional field (10.7 kg/plant), but the yield of ‘Camposol’, ‘Ginkaku’, ‘Honey Yellow’, and ‘Honey Pearl’ did not differ significantly from ‘Athena’. Under organic production, ‘Camposol’ showed a significantly higher marketable yield (8.3 kg/plant) than ‘Athena’ (6.8 kg/plant). ‘Ginkaku’ produced the largest fruit number per plant in both organic (10 fruit/plant) and conventional fields (12 fruit/plant) with smaller fruit size compared with other melon cultivars. Overall, the specialty melon cultivars, except for asian melon, did not differ significantly from ‘Athena’ in terms of marketable fruit number per plant. ‘Sun Jewel’, ‘Diplomat’, and ‘San Juan’ showed relatively high percentages of cull fruit. ‘Honey Yellow’, ‘Honey Pearl’, and ‘Sun Jewel’ exhibited higher soluble solids concentration (SSC) than ‘Athena’ in both organic and conventional fields, while ‘Brilliant’, ‘San Juan’, and ‘Ginkaku’ also had higher SSC than ‘Athena’ under organic production. ‘Honey Yellow’, ‘Sun Jewel’, ‘Brilliant’, and ‘Camposol’ were less affected by powdery mildew (caused by Podosphaera xanthii) and downy mildew (caused by Pseudoperonospora cubensis) in the conventional field. ‘Honey Yellow’ and ‘Camposol’ also had significantly lower aboveground disease severity ratings in the organic field compared with ‘Athena’, although the root-knot nematode (RKN) (Meloidogyne sp.) gall rating was higher in ‘Honey Yellow’ than ‘Athena’.
eOrganic is the organic agriculture community of practice (CoP) and resource area for eXtension. eOrganic’s primary community of interest (CoI) is organic farmers and the agricultural professionals who support them. The 250 members of the eOrganic CoP include farmers, researchers, certifiers, and extension/other agricultural professionals. eOrganic’s mission is to build a diverse national CoP and use web technologies to synthesize existing information, emerging science, and practical knowledge into information resources and training materials for its CoI. eOrganic strategies to achieve that mission include collaborative publication, stakeholder engagement, community development, project management, evaluation, and fundraising. eOrganic’s public site currently offers 240 articles, 250 videos, 80 webinars and broadcasts, and 100 frequently asked questions (FAQs). eOrganic CoP members have answered more than 1000 “Ask an Expert” questions. eOrganic authors collaboratively develop articles in eOrganic’s collaborative workspace, which undergo review by two anonymous reviewers and National Organic Program (NOP) compliance review. eOrganic will offer online courses in 2012. eOrganic stakeholders evaluated eOrganic articles and videos in 2010 and overall they stated that they were relevant, science-based, and useful. Three quarters of webinar and broadcast participants said the webinar improved their understanding of the topic, and 83% said they would recommend the webinar to others. Sixty-nine percent of webinar survey respondents stated that they changed practices or provided others with information as the result of the webinar. eOrganic surveyed active CoP members in 2011. Members view eOrganic as important because it is the only national organic agriculture resource with direct ties to university research and they considered all of eOrganic’s core activities important. eOrganic is supported by small grants from eXtension and subawards in more than 20 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) research/extension projects. To enhance its financial sustainability, eOrganic will work to solidify its partnership with NIFA programs and diversify its funding sources to include course fees and underwriters.
Consumer demand for fresh market organic produce combined with the increasing market share of ready-to-eat products indicates the potential for expansion of an organic culinary herb market. Barriers to organic herb greenhouse production are high as a result of lack of available technical information and the low number of producers experienced in this area. There is a critical need for information and technologies to improve the management of organic soil and fertilizer amendments to optimize crop yields and quality, manage production costs, and minimize the risk from groundwater nitrogen (N) contamination. Because of limited information specific to organic culinary herb production, literature on organic vegetable transplants and conventional basil (Ocimum basilicum) production was also considered in this review. Managing N for organic crops is problematic as a result of the challenge of synchronizing mineralization from organic fertilizer sources with crop N demand. A combination of materials, including locally formulated composts, supplemented with standardized commercially formulated fertilizer products is one method to ensure crops have access to mineral N throughout their development. In experimental greenhouse systems, local raw materials are frequently used as media amendments to satisfy partial or complete crop fertility requirements. This makes comparisons among experiments difficult as a result of the wide variety of raw materials used and the frequent interactions of fertilizer source and planting media on nutrient availability. Nitrogen mineralization rates are also influenced by additional factors such as the environmental conditions in the greenhouse and physical and chemical properties of the media and fertilizer. Despite the variability within and among experimental trials, yields and quality of organically grown crops are frequently similar to, and occasionally better than, conventionally grown crops.