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George E. Boyhan

Watermelon variety trials have been held in Georgia for the past 8 years (1998–2005). Over this period of time, 165 varieties have been evaluated in the trials with 43 entries in the trial ≥2 years. Average yields have ranged from 13,267 lb/acre in 2005 to 45,867 lb/acre in 2002. Lower average yields reflect problems such as poor weed control. There was a concomitant increase in coefficient of variations (CVs) with lower average yields. Over the 8 years, the CV has ranged from 26% to 78%. Soluble solids have ranged from 8.7 in 1999 to 10.8 in 2004. Soluble solids CVs, however, remained relatively constant and ranged from 8% to 14%. The percent triploids ranged from 9% to 64% of entries over the 8 years. Trends over the 8 years included increasing percentage of triploids and the introduction of mini melons.

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George E. Boyhan

Plot size and number of replications were evaluated for watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.)] over a 3-year period. Four different methods were used, including plotting basic unit plots against changes in cvs, Hatheway’s method for detecting a true difference as a percent of the mean with a 20% threshold, Bartlett’s homogeneity of variance test, and computed least significant differences (lsds). An initial evaluation was done in a trial with several varieties. Plotting cv against number of basic units using plots with different watermelon varieties suggests a plot size of ≈7 basic units (1 basic unit = 3.34 m2). With a single variety and basic units of 6.69 m2 for inside rows, the plot size was ≈4 basic units and for the outside row 5 basic units. With plot sizes of 2.23 m2, the number of basic units per plot was estimated at ≈5 basic units. Bartlett’s test suggests larger basic unit plot sizes of 14 to 20 with a 3.34-m2 basic unit size with multiple varieties. With a single variety, 4 to 8 basic unit plot sizes are required with 6.69-m2 basic unit size. Results were unreliable with 2.23-m2 plot sizes using Bartlett’s test. Computed lsds, which were 5% of the mean or less, could be achieved with plots sizes of 10 basic units and five replications with 3.34-m2 basic unit plots and using multiple varieties. Other combinations meeting these criteria included 14 basic unit plots and two or three replications. With a 6.69-m2 basic unit size, plots of 6 basic units and four replications would meet the 5% criteria. Finally, with the 2.23-m2 basic unit size, a plot size of 8 basic units and three replications would result in an lsd of 5% of the mean. Results with Hatheway’s method were similar to plots of basic units against cv. Hatheway’s method also has an estimate of number of replications and with 3.34-m2 basic unit, the 20% threshold of detecting true differences occurred with 10 to 14 basic units and four replications. For fruit size, firmness, and soluble solids, the basic unit plot sizes ranged from 5 to 7. Plot size estimates were larger with 6.69 m2 compared with 2.23 m2 for fruit characteristics.

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George E. Boyhan and Reid L. Torrance

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George E. Boyhan and C. Randy Hill

This study evaluated poultry litter, commercial organic fertilizer, and compost for organic production of onion (Allium cepa) transplants within the Vidalia onion growing region of southeastern Georgia. Two field experiments were conducted. The first experiment tested six rates of poultry litter (0–10 tons/acre). The second experiment tested a factorial combination of two rates of nitrogen (N) (0 and 130 lb/acre) and three rates of compost (0, 5, and 10 tons/acre). Seedling weight, length, and diameter were measured ≈10 weeks after sowing. Poultry litter had a significant increasing linear effect on plant weight and diameter. There was also a significant increasing quadratic effect on plant length. Commercial organic fertilizer (3N–0.9P–2.5K) at 130 lb/acre N had a significant effect on plant length, but compost at 0, 5, or 10 tons/acre did not affect plant length. There were organic fertilizer by compost interactions for plant weight and diameter. There was a significant effect on plant diameter with organic fertilizer (130 lb/acre N) and 10 tons/acre compost, but there was no fertilizer effect on plant diameter at 0 or 5 tons/acre compost. The interaction effect on plant weight indicated there was a significant effect from fertilizer with 5 and 10 tons/acre compost, but not with 0 tons/acre. Based on this study, nutrition should not be a problem in producing organic onion transplants in southeastern Georgia. Four to 6 tons/acre fresh poultry litter should be adequate for producing good quality transplants. An alternative approach of using organic fertilizer at a rate of 130 lb/acre N with 5 to 10 tons/acre compost can also be used to produce good quality transplants.

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George E. Boyhan and Joseph D. Norton

Muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.) breeding line AC-82-37-2 was identified as having resistance to alternaria leaf blight caused by Alternaria cucumerina (Ell. and Ev.) Elliot. An analysis of this resistance with a three-factor scaling test indicated that both additive and dominance effects were highly significant. The x2 value indicated that there were epistatic effects as well. The six-factor scaling test revealed no significant dominance effect, but the additive and homozygote × heterozygote epistatic interaction effects were highly significant.

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George E. Boyhan, Raymond Hicks and C. Randell Hill

There has been interest in producing Vidalia onions organically among both conventional and organic growers. In the 2000–01 season we began to look at producing onions organically. Starting with conventionally produced transplants that were transplanted at standard commercial spacings on beds prepared with 10.2–15.2 cm of incorporated compost and 2,802 kg·ha–1 rate of fresh poultry litter. This was sidedressed with an additional 2,500 less/acre (2,802 kg·ha–1) poultry litter. Yields were about half of conventional onion production. In 2002–03, production of organic transplants with 10.2 cm of incorporated compost with 2.24 t·ha–1 rate of poultry litter, which was followed by an additional sidedressing of 2.24 t·ha–1 rate of poultry litter resulted in similar findings. The weight of harvested transplants was about half that of conventionally produced transplants. In the 2002–03 and 2003–04 seasons various natural mulches were evaluated for weed control. They included wheat straw, oat straw, Bermuda hay, pine straw, and compost. None of these performed better than hand weeding and the wheat straw, oat straw, and Bermuda hay actually reduced yields apparently due to allelopathic effects. Finally in the 2003–04 season rates of poultry litter from 0–22.4 t·ha–1 were evaluated for transplant production with rates of 13.4, 17.9, and 22.4 t·ha–1

yielding plants comparable to conventional transplants. Work continues in the area of organic Vidalia onion production. One of the greatest challenge for future work will be finding a cost-effective and practical method of controlling weeds in transplant production.

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George E. Boyhan, Reid L. Torrance and C. Randy Hill

This is a compilation of several studies that were performed to address specific grower concerns or questions about onion fertilization, to assess onion fertility, to make adjustments in soil test recommendations, and to test specific fertilizers for clients covering the 1999–2000 to 2004–2005 seasons. The synthesis of these studies was to evaluate levels of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) fertilizers and their effect on yield, graded yield, and leaf tissue nutrient status in short-day onions over 6 years. In addition, various fertilizers were evaluated for their effect on these parameters. There was a significant increasing quadratic effect on yield from increasing N fertilizer from 0 to 336 kg·ha−1 with an R2 of 0.926. Maximum calculated yield was at 263 kg·ha−1 N fertilizer; however, the yield at this rate did not differ, based on a Fisher's least significant difference (P ≤ 0.05), from our current recommendations of 140 to 168 kg·ha−1 N. Jumbo (7.6 cm or greater) yield performed in a similar fashion. Phosphorus fertilizer rates from 0 to 147 kg·ha−1 had no effect on total yield, but did affect jumbo yields, which decreased linearly with an R2 of 0.322. Evaluations of P fertilizer in the 2001–2002 and 2002–2003 seasons only, when the exact same P fertilizer rates were used, showed a decreasing quadratic effect for jumbo yields with the lowest jumbo yields at 83 kg·ha−1 P fertilizer and jumbo yields increasing with 115 and 147 kg·ha−1 P fertilizer rates. Potassium fertilizer rates from 0 to 177 kg·ha−1 had a quadratic affect on total yield, with the highest yield of 52,361 kg·ha−1 with 84 kg·ha−1 K fertilizer rate. As would be expected, N and P fertilizer rates affected leaf tissue N and P levels, respectively. In addition, N fertilizer rates affected leaf tissue calcium (Ca) and sulfur levels. Potassium fertilizer rates had a significant linear effect on leaf tissue K 3 of 6 years. In addition, K fertilizer rates had a significant effect on leaf tissue P levels. Several fertilizers, including Ca(NO3)2 and NH4NO3, along with complete fertilizers and liquid fertilizers, were used as part of a complete fertilizer program and showed no differences for total yield or jumbo yield 4 of 5 years of evaluation when applied to supply the same amount of N fertilizer. Based on the results of this study, soil test P and K recommendations for onions in Georgia have been cut 25% to 50% across the range of soil test levels.

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George E. Boyhan, Suzzanne Tate, Ryan McNeill and Jeffrey McConnaughey

Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is a popular crop among organic growers, particularly open-pollinated varieties; however, there is a lack of information evaluating these varieties in comparison with commercial F1 hybrids. This study was undertaken to compare conventionally produced commercial F1 tomato varieties available in the southeastern United States with open-pollinated varieties popular among organic growers. Nineteen tomato varieties were evaluated in 2011 and 2012 using the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program guidelines; however, the land used had not been in 3 years of organic production. Staked tomatoes were grown on plastic mulch. Data collected included early and total graded yield. In general, F1 hybrid, determinate or semideterminate varieties, had the best early and total yields compared with open-pollinated varieties. HSX 8115H and ‘Celebrity’ had the highest early total yield. ‘Costoluto Fiorentino’, an open-pollinated variety, also had good early total yield, but significantly less than HSX 8115H or ‘Celebrity’. ‘Costoluto Fiorentino’ was the only open-pollinated variety among the five highest yielding varieties for early total yield. In addition, ‘Celebrity’ had the greatest total yield of all the entries tested. All of the top five varieties for total yield were F1 hybrids and either determinate or semideterminate types. ‘Costoluto Fiorentino’ had total yield of 22,046 lb/acre, which was 14.3% lower than the lowest yielding variety in the top five yielding varieties. ‘Florida Pink’ had the largest average fruit weight, which also had the lowest total yield of all the entries. Although the open-pollinated varieties, popular among organic and local growers, yielded less than F1 hybrids, they may possess characteristics of color, flavor, or texture that are desired and were not evaluated in this study. This may be an opportunity for plant breeders to develop varieties desired by local organic growers that have unique characteristics, in addition to high yields and disease resistance.

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George E. Boyhan, Ray Hicks and C. Randell Hill

This study was undertaken to evaluate natural mulches for weed control in organic onion (Allium cepa) production where current practices rely on hand-weeding or plastic mulch. Three experiments were conducted over 2 years, with two experiments conducted on-farm in different years and one experiment conducted on-station. Treatments consisted of hand-weeding or mulches of wheat (Triticum aestivum) or oat (Avena sativa) straw, bermudagrass hay (Cynodon dactylon), compost, and needles of slash pine (Pinus elliottii) and longleaf pine (P. palustris). All of the mulches with the exception of compost tended to lodge in the onion tops due to their close spacing. Wheat straw and bermudagrass hay reduced plant stand and yield. Compost settled well around the onion plants and initially smothered weeds, but over time the compost treatment became very weedy. Pine needle mulch (referred to as pine straw in the southeastern U.S.) showed the most promise with less stand loss or yield reduction, but did tend to lodge in the tops. None of these mulches were acceptable compared to hand-weeding.

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Manish K. Bansal, George E. Boyhan and Daniel D. MacLean

Vidalia onions (Allium cepa) are very susceptible to infection from pathogens and diseases compared with other types of onions. Botrytis neck rot (BNR) (Botrytis allii) is the most common and destructive storage disease, whereas sour skin (Pseudomonas cepacia) can cause significant bacterial losses, particularly, for late season cultivars. The objective of this study was to assess the effects of different fungicide and bactericide drenches on marketability of Vidalia onions using the cultivar Savannah Sweet grown, harvested, and graded for high-quality onions. Six different fungicide treatments were evaluated, including fludioxonil at two different rates, fluopyram and pyrimethanil in combination, and pyraclostrobin and boscalid in combination with a water-only and an untreated entry. In addition, four different bactericide treatments were evaluated, including copper hydroxide and copper sulfate pentahydrate with a water-only and untreated control. Treatments were applied by drenching the onion bags with 1 gal of solution at the desired concentration. Onions treated with fungicide were inoculated with the pathogen that causes BNR, whereas the bactericide treatments were inoculated with the pathogen that causes sour skin by placing a single inoculated bulb into each bag. Half of the bags were heat-cured for 48 hours and all of the onions were stored immediately under refrigerated conditions at 34 to 36 °F for 2 or 4 months. Bactericide treatments were not heat-cured the second year of the study. Onions were evaluated after 1 and 14 days of shelf life. For both years, all the fungicide applications were effective with more marketable onions compared with the controls. Fludioxonil, fluopyram/pyrimethanil, and boscalid/pyraclostrobin had the highest percentage of marketable onions compared with the water or untreated controls. Fluopyram/pyrimethanil and boscalid/pyraclostrobin fungicides had significantly higher percentage of marketable onions than the controls but were similar to the low rate of fludioxonil. Bactericide applications were not effective in reducing losses when compared with the controls.