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Kelly Gude, Cary L. Rivard, Sara E. Gragg, Kimberly Oxley, Petros Xanthopoulos and Eleni D. Pliakoni

Specialty crop production in high tunnel systems has greatly expanded in the central United States. Strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) may be a viable high-value crop for high tunnel growers, but fall-planted production systems have a high opportunity cost in regard to winter production space. This study investigates the feasibility of spring-planted day-neutral strawberry cultivars in a high tunnel production system in Kansas. Furthermore, the goals of this report are to identify day-neutral cultivars that are successful in this production system and investigate the utility of evaporative cooling (EC), as they relate to fruit yield and marketability as well as incidence of gray mold (caused by Botrytis cinerea). High tunnel trials were conducted at the Kansas State University Olathe Horticulture Research and Extension Center during 2014 and 2015. Six commercially available cultivars were evaluated: Albion, Evie 2, Monterey, Portola, San Andreas, and Seascape in both years. Mature fruit (90% to 100% red) were harvested twice weekly for total and marketable (fruit with no defects) fruit yield. The results indicate that ‘Portola’ had the highest total fruit weight in both years at 0.60 and 0.51 kg/plant, respectively, and was significantly higher than ‘Monterey’, ‘Albion’, and ‘San Andreas’ in both years (P < 0.05). In 2014, ‘Portola’, ‘San Andreas’, and ‘Albion’ produced the largest total fruit average weight (grams/fruit) and were significantly larger than ‘Seascape’ and ‘Evie 2’ (P < 0.05). In 2015, ‘Portola’ had significantly larger fruit than all the other cultivars except San Andreas (P < 0.05). Marketability percent by weight ranged from 76.5% to 88.6% across both years and the highest marketability was observed with ‘Albion’ (89% and 83%) and ‘Monterey’ (85% and 84%) in 2014 and 2015, respectively. An examination of fruit production during the early, mid-, and late seasons was used to determine seasonal dynamics of each cultivar and the high tunnel system. The overall trend was that total fruit weight was highest during the midseason and total average fruit weight was largest in the early season. However, ‘San Andreas’ and ‘Seascape’ had similar levels of production between the early and midseason and had the lowest level of production in the midseason, particularly in the 2015 trial. In our trials, the use of EC did not affect fruit weight or gray mold incidence on strawberry fruit. Based on the crop productivity observed in our study, this production system has the potential to extend the season for strawberry growers in the central United States or provide a high-value rotational crop for existing high tunnel growers that does not require winter production space.

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Zachary N. Hoppenstedt, Jason J. Griffin, Eleni D. Pliakoni and Cary L. Rivard

Sweetpotatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are nutritious, easily stored, and well adapted to a variety of organic farming operations. This widely consumed root crop is propagated through the use of cuttings, known as slips. Slips are commercially grown primarily in the southeastern United States, and growers in the central United States still have limited access to sweetpotato planting material. Production of organic slips in high tunnels (HTs) could be a profitable enterprise for growers in the central United States given the season extension afforded by controlled-environment agriculture, which could allow growers to diversify their operations and facilitate crop rotation. In trials conducted in 2016 and 2017 at two research stations in northeast and south central Kansas, a systems comparison was used to evaluate the yield and performance of organic sweetpotato slips grown in HT as compared with the open field (OF), with four to six replications at each location. Propagation beds planted with ‘Beauregard’ seed roots in 2016 and ‘Orleans’ in 2017 were established in HT and OF under similar cultural methods and planting schedules. Slips were harvested from both treatment groups and transplanted to field plots to investigate the impact of production system on transplant establishment and storage root production. Slip yield from HT was greater than OF at both locations in 2016 (P ≤ 0.001), but this trend was inconsistent in 2017. Slips grown in HT were on average 12% less compact (slip dry weight per centimeter length) with fewer nodes than their OF counterparts in 2016. Nonetheless, mean comparisons for vine length, stem diameter, and total marketable storage root yield were not significant between HT and OF treatments (1.7 and 2.1 lb/plant, respectively). Similarly, the number of marketable storage roots for HT and OF groups was comparable (3.4 and 3.8 storage roots/plant, respectively). Although more research is needed to evaluate the feasibility of slips grown in HT and to determine recommendations for seed root planting densities, results from this study suggest that HT organic sweetpotato slip production could be a viable alternative to OF production as it relates to slip performance. According to this study, HT production could be a useful mechanism for growing sweetpotato slips, which could provide regional growers more control over planting material. Furthermore, HT slip production could promote the adoption of an underused vegetable crop that can be grown throughout many parts of the United States.