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In 4 years of research comparing production of short-day onions (Allium cepa L.) on plastic mulch versus bare ground in southern Florida, greater marketable yields were obtained when onions were grown on plastic mulch. Results showed that in a semitropical environment, white-on-black plastic mulch provided the greatest yield enhancement from increased weight and bulb size. Yield loss due to splitting, while apparent, was not sufficient to reduce the impact of mulch on the increase in individual bulb weight. Adopting plastic mulch for sweet onion production will add between $400 and $500/acre ($988 and $1,235/ha) of additional operating expenses. While this may increase cash-flow burdens and heighten overall financial risks, the added value from increased yields by weight and greater percentages of jumbo sized bulbs suggest that plastic mulch has an excellent chance to increase a grower's overall net return. Using conservative yield and market price assumptions, an economic analysis showed an increase in grower's net return of more than $120/acre ($296/ha).

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Several experiments were conducted in commercial tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plantings during the 2004–05 and 2005–06 seasons in Immokalee, FL, to understand types of plant damage and potential yield reductions caused by hurricanes. Expt. 1 involved ‘Florida 91’ tomato seedlings damaged during 2004 by hurricane Frances, 15 days after transplanting (DAT). Individual plants were rated and categorized as best, good, or fair, 34 DAT according to plant size and vigor/severity of injury. Ten plants from each category were removed with roots intact, and dry weights were recorded. During 2005, 23 DAT or 8 days after hurricane Wilma, Expt. 2 was conducted to compare rescued and replanted ‘Soraya’ tomato seedlings. Rescued seedlings were left in place after the hurricane and others were removed and replaced with new transplants of the same variety. Expt. 3 (‘Florida 47’) and 4 (‘BHN 586’) involved the contrast of two yield seasons without a hurricane (2004–05) and with hurricane Wilma (2005–06) to estimate the effect of the hurricane damage on tomato 65 and 45 DAT. Fruit was counted, graded by size, and weighed for each experiment from 10 plants/plot. Injury caused by hurricane winds was most evident in Expt. 1 mostly in stem damage below the soil surface showed callous tissue at the site of injury due to plants being whipped around in the planting hole. Plants rated “best” showed greater plant and root dry weight, stem diameter below the injury point, and higher yield of extra large and total marketable fruit at first harvest than plants rated good or fair. Total marketable yields from rescued plants in Expt. 2 were double than that from replanted plants, and fruit matured 20 days earlier for rescued plants indicating that plants injured by Wilma recovered quickly. Hurricane-damaged crops during 2005–06 in Expts. 3 and 4 yielded 60% lower than that of undamaged crops during 2004–05. In the extra large size category, the yields were reduced between 34% and 12% from the previous season. However, hurricane-damaged loss of yield in the extra large category was offset by increased yield in the medium category. It appears that hurricane-damaged plants, when young, were capable of full recovery and normal yields, whereas hurricane-damaged plants, when older at the time injury occurred, were not able to fully recover and eventually produced only half the normal yield.

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The development of best management practices (BMP) and the alloca-tion of pollution among land users in a watershed (TMDL) requires an understanding of the effect of cultural practices on both yields and nutrient leaching below the root zone. `Florida 47' tomato and `La Estrella' tropical pumpkin were grown on plasticulture using combinations of UF–IFAS recommended N and irrigation rates in a 1-ha field in 2004. Average N and irrigation rates over the whole field were 100% and 80%, respectively. Nitrate movement was assessed with twenty-four 1-m-long drainage lysimeters in each plot and ten 7-m-deep wells in and around the field Lysimeters and wells were sampled every 2 and 3 weeks throughout the year, respectively. Leachate volume and concentration in the drainage lysimeters were highly variable. Except shortly after the 25-cm rain due to hurricane Jeanne, most leachate volumes were <1 L·m–1. Annual NO3-N mean treatment load ranged between 7 and 15 kg·ha–1, but these differences were not significant due to high variability (CV = 175%). Single-lysimeter annual highest load was 39 kg·ha–1 of NO3-N (17.5% of N applied). In 2004, NO3-N concentration in well water was <1, ranged between 15 and 35, ranged between 0 and 10 mg·L–1 NO3-N in the up-stream control, inside, and perimeter wells, respectively. These concentrations are in the same ranges as those observed in this field in previous years (1997–2003) and often exceeded the 10 mg/L drinking water standard. Because NO3-N discharge into the environment may occur after the growing season, BMPs should be implemented on a year round basis. The methodology used in load measurement should be improved to better account for spatial variability.

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