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- Author or Editor: Darrin M. Parmenter x
The Atlantic hurricane season stretches from June to November, and the vegetable growing season in South Florida begins in August. This means that pre-plant, planting, and early harvesting operations are performed during hurricane season. Three major hurricanes striking our area during two consecutive growing seasons have helped to teach us how to give vegetable crops the best chance of survival. On a 4-ha farm growing diversified vegetable crops, there have been clear differences in crop survival. Tiny seedlings of most crops were generally killed by driving rains and strong winds. However, 7- to 10-cm-tall transplants in plastic cell trays survived surprisingly well when placed on the ground in an area that did not flood and was protected from flying debris. During the hurricane with the highest winds, large plants, such as tomatoes and squash, were defoliated. Even plants that survived defoliation and regrew were injured, so they were vulnerable to diseases later in the season. It actually appears to be best not to stake crops in extremely high winds. Staked and tied tomatoes often broke off at the top string. In winds of over 90 knots, unstaked eggplants fared best of any mature crops. They fell over immediately and, lying on the ground, were protected from the high winds. After the storm passed, they were pulled upright, staked and tied, and produced excellent yields. Sweet corn also fell over, but, over a period of a week, gradually returned to about a 45° angle where it produced about 30% of the normal yield. Of course, each hurricane has different characteristics; what works in one may not be the best during others. We are, however, hoping not to have a chance to learn more about how crops survive hurricanes.
Twenty-five varieties of bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) were transplanted in commercial pepper fields in Immokalee and Delray Beach, Fla., to evaluate horticultural characteristics and resistance to race 3 bacterial spot of peppers caused by Xanthomonascampestris pv. vesicatoria. All cultural and management procedures were based on commercial best management practices. Eighty to 90% of marketable fruits had three or four lobes. Total marketable fruit yield from three harvests ranged from 4596 to 7089 kg·ha-1 and marketable fruit number ranged from 20,571 to 31,224 fruit/ha. Most fruit were slightly elongated with length to diameter ratios between 1.1 and 1.2. Seminis 7602 had a ratio of one, while lines ACR 252, PRO2R-3, and PR99R-16 had ratios of 1.40, 1.36, and 1.28, respectively. Significant differences were observed for fruit wall thickness, with those grown in Delray Beach having thicker fruit walls that averaged 7.5 mm vs. 5.3 mm for the Immokalee site. Bacterial spot infection at both sites did not affect yield, due to late natural infection of the field. Susceptible control `Jupiter' had a mean foliage disease incident rating of 26% after the final harvest and was surpassed only by 7682 and 8328 from Enza. The most resistant lines with disease ratings of <3% were 5776, 7141, and 8302 from Seminis, and Telstar from Hazera.