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Francis X. Mangan, Claire Kozower and William Bramlage

Latinos are 6% of the population of Massachusetts and are the largest and fastest-growing ethnic minority in this state. Due to the increase in Latinos and other ethnic groups, farmers in Massachusetts are diversifying their crops to meet the demands of these new markets. Cilantro is a popular herb in Latino cuisine; however, many farmers in Massachusetts are not familiar with production and postharvest practices for this plant. A factorial experiment was initiated on a commercial farm in eastern Massachusetts to ascertain more information about short-term postharvest treatments. This experiment was performed on three dates in the fall of 1999, which served as replications. There were three main effects: cilantro harvested the same day and stored in the sun, cilantro harvested the same day and stored in the shade, and cilantro harvested on previous day and stored in the shade. For each main effect there were six sub-effects for cilantro storage: roots intact, roots removed, roots intact and plants in sealed plastic bag, roots removed and plants in sealed plastic bag, roots intact and plants in water, roots removed and plants in water. Cilantro bunches were given a visual quality number every hour from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm on each date. No difference in visual quality was observed between cilantro with roots intact compared to cilantro with roots removed. Cilantro stored in the direct sun had a lower visual quality index than cilantro stored in the shade. Cilantro stored in water or in a sealed plastic bag and kept in the shade showed little decrease in visual quality after 7 hours on the day of harvest. The results of these experiments will help farmers in Massachusetts to produce and market cilantro to meet the growing demands for this product.

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Francis X. Mangan and Stephen J. Herbert

Field research was conducted in Deerfield, Mass. to study the effects of leguminous cover crops on sweet corn yield. Oat was planted alone and in combination with four leguminous cover crops August 8, 1990. Cover crop residue was disked once and sweet corn seeded April 23, 1991. Each cover crop combination had three rates of nitrogen added in two applications. Sweet corn seeded into stands of hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) yielded the highest of the cover crop combinations. All leguminous cover crop treatments yielded higher than oat alone or no cover crop when no synthetic nitrogen was added. Cover crop combinations were seeded again in the same field plots August 12, 1991. Oat biomass in November was greater where there had been leguminous cover crops or high rates of synthetic nitrogen. Legume growth was retarded in the plots that had previously received high nitrogen. It is thought that legume growth was reduced in the high nitrogen treatments due to increased oat growth and higher soil nitrogen levels which could inhibit root nodulation.

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Francis X. Mangan, John Howell and Stephen Herbert

Hot cherry peppers were grown after incorporation of the following three winter cover crop regimes in Summer 1994—hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) plus winter rye (Secale cereale), hairy vetch alone, and no cover crop. For each main effect there were three N rates applied to peppers in three applications over the course of the season: 0, 85, and 170 kg·ha–1. The pepper yield was significantly higher with hairy vetch plus rye than rye alone or no cover crop. There was also no significant yield increase with the addition of N fertilizer to the peppers grown with hairy vetch. Soil nitrate–N levels taken just prior to N sidedress were significantly higher in plots that had hairy vetch plus rye compared to other treatments. There was also a significant linear relationship of the soil nitrate–N levels among the three N rates. Based on the results of this study, sidedressing peppers would be recommended when soil nitrate levels are above the 25 ppm that is the current threshold for other crops. SPAD readings were taken several times during the season. There was a high correlation of SPAD readings to pepper yield very early and very late in the season. The correlation of SPAD readings to pepper yield was poorest when taken at the time of N sidedress.

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Francis X. Mangan, Charles S. Vavrina and John C. Howell

The effects of transplant depth on lodging and yield were evaluated in five experiments in Florida and Massachusetts. `Cherry Bomb', `Jupiter', and `Mitla' pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) transplants were set at three depths so that the soil surface was even with the top of the rootball, the cotyledon leaf, or the first true leaf. Seedlings set to the depth of cotyledon leaves or to the first true leaf lodged less than did those set to the top of the rootball. No yield differences were recorded among treatments in Massachusetts; however, total weight of red fruit was greater in treatments that lodged less in 1 of the 2 years, suggesting that lodging delayed maturity. Soil temperature in Massachusetts declined at the level of the rootball as planting depth increased.

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Matthew T. Rulevich, Francis X. Mangan and Anne K. Carter

Field studies were conducted in 1998 and 1999 in Massachusetts to assess the effects of transplants, black polyethylene mulch, and polyester spun-bonded row cover on early fruit set and total yield of two squash (Cucurbita moschata Duchesne) cultivars: `C42 × La Segunda' calabaza and `Waltham' butternut. Treatment comparisons included direct-seeded or transplanted squash, with or without black polyethylene mulch, and with or without the addition of a row cover in all combinations. The use of transplants was more effective at stimulating early fruit set and highest total yield than the use of mulch and row cover. The initiation of fruit set using transplants was advanced 9 days relative to direct-seeding. Mulch and row cover treatments significantly advanced early fruit set by 7 and 5 days, respectively, but only in 1998. Yields for both winter squash were 45% higher using transplants compared to direct seeding, 19% higher using mulch compared to bare soil, and 16% higher using row cover compared to no row cover. Total yields were higher for both cultivars in 1999 (warm, dry season) than in 1998 (cool, wet season). Use of transplants with plastic and row cover compared to the use of direct seed with neither plastic nor row cover increased yield of calabaza by 100% in both 1998 and 1999. Only the direct seeded plus plastic plus row cover treatment had yields that were similar to any of the transplanted treatments. Transplant treatments also increased number of fruit per plant and fruit size for both calabaza and butternut.

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Francis X. Mangan, Stephen J. Herbert and Mary Jane Else

Cover crops have been used in agricultural systems for thousands of years and are still an important part of vegetable production in the Northeast. Winter rye (Secale cereale) is by far the dominant cover crop species on conventional vegetable farms in the New England states. It is use is primarily for erosion control. Winter rye is popular since it is cheap, easy to establish, can overwinter in the harsh winters of northern New England, is efficient in “capturing” excess nitrogen at the end of the cash crop season, and it can produce substantial amounts of organic matter in the spring. As many positive attributes that winter rye has, it is important to be aware of many of the other potential cover crop species that are available to us. For example, many conventional growers are exploring the use of leguminous cover crops as an alternative to chemical nitrogen fertilizers which are more readily leached and are only going to get more expensive. Cover crops can also be seeded and managed in innovative ways to suppress weeds and other pests, add organic matter and conserve soil moisture.

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Francis X. Mangan, Mary Jane Else and Stephen J. Herbert

Field research was conducted in Deerfield, Mass. to study the effects of different cover crop species seeded between plastic mulch on weed pressure and pepper yield. A complete fertilizer was applied before plastic was laid on Sept. 13, 1991. Two cover crop treatments were seeded Sept. 13, 1991: white clover (Trifolium repens) alone and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) in combination with winter rye (Secale cereale). On May 27, 1992 the vetch and rye were mow-killed with the biomass left on the soil surface. Annual rye (Lolium multiflorum) was then seeded on the same day as the third cover crop treatment. The remaining two treatments were a weedy check and a hand-weeded check. Peppers were transplanted into the plastic on May 31. Both the annual rye and clover were mowed three times over the course of the experiment with the biomass left between the plastic mulch. The white clover and annual rye were much more competitive with weed species than the dead mulch of vetch and rye. The three cover crop treatments had pepper yields that were severely depressed compared to the hand-weeded treatment. Among the three cover crop treatments, only the annual rye yielded more peppers than the weedy check.