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  • Author or Editor: Israel Joukhadar x
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Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a high-value crop cultivated worldwide. Harvested lettuce acreage in New Mexico, USA, trails the leading lettuce production states (California, Arizona), but growers in New Mexico are interested in expanding their production. For New Mexico farmers to increase lettuce production to reach new markets, information on heat-tolerant cultivar performance is needed. This study was conducted to evaluate six lettuce cultivars described as heat tolerant by seed suppliers or other sources. In 2020 and 2021, we assessed two butterhead types, ‘Anuenue’ and ‘Mikola RG10’; two green leaf types, ‘Muir’ and ‘Tropicana’; and two romaine types, ‘Parris Island Cos’ and ‘Sparx’, in the Jose Fernandez Garden at the New Mexico State University Heritage Farm in Las Cruces, NM. To determine which cultivars and types of lettuce are better suited for southern New Mexico, we measured these variables: marketable harvest weight, number of days from transplant to first bolt, and number of days from transplant to 50% bolted. In 2020, ‘Sparx’, a romaine-type lettuce, had, on average, 32% higher yield compared with the other lettuce types. In 2021 both romaine-type cultivars, Sparx and Parris Island Cos, produced 19% more marketable yield than the other lettuce cultivars. In 2020, ‘Sparx’ was the last to bolt and to reach the 50% bolted stage, whereas in 2021 ‘Mikola RG10’ and ‘Muir’ were the last cultivars to bolt and reach the 50% bolted stage. These results suggest that ‘Sparx’ would be a good potential candidate for farmers in southern New Mexico. ‘Mikola RG10’ and ‘Muir’, butterhead and green leaf type, respectively, demonstrated slower bolting in 2021, indicating they may be useful cultivars for extending lettuce harvest in New Mexico.

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New mexico pod–type green chile (Capsicum annuum) is one of New Mexico’s leading horticultural commodities. Cultivated acreage of green chile in New Mexico is threatened because of the high cost and insufficiently available labor for hand harvest. Therefore, mechanization is necessary to sustain the industry. Successful mechanization depends on harvester design coupled with plant architecture that optimizes harvest yield and quality. Harvested green fruit must be whole, unbroken, and unblemished for fresh and processed markets, so harvester design and plant architecture must maximize yield while minimizing fruit damage. In two trials conducted at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center in Los Lunas, six cultivars (AZ-1904, Machete, PHB-205, E9, PDJ.7, and RK3-35) were evaluated for plant architecture and harvest efficiency with a double, open-helix mechanical harvester with two counter-rotating heads. Cultivars were direct seeded on 17 Apr. 2015 and 14 Apr. 2016 and managed according to standard production practices. Plant architecture traits, plant width, plant height, height to first primary branch, distance between first primary branch and first node, basal stem diameter, and number of basal branches were measured before harvest. Mechanical harvest yield components, which included marketable fruit, broken fruit, ground fall losses, unharvested fruit remaining on branches, and nonpod plant material, were assessed after once-over destructive harvests on 2 Sept. 2015 and 31 Aug. 2016. Fruit width, fruit length, and pericarp thickness were measured from a representative sample of 10 marketable fruit. In 2015, ‘AZ-1904’ and ‘PDJ.7’ had significantly (P ≤ 0.05) more marketable yield than ‘Machete’ that had the least marketable yield. No statistically significant differences were found in marketable yield in 2016. When both years were combined, ‘PDJ.7’ had significantly more nonpod plant material harvested and the plants were taller than all other cultivars. We found mechanical harvest performance to be significantly affected by plant height, with shorter plants yielding less marketable fruit. Despite differences in fruit wall thickness, no significant differences were measured in broken fruit. In 2015, ‘AZ-1904’ had significantly less basal branches per plant, reducing obstruction for the picking mechanism. Harvest efficiencies (marketable harvested fruit yield as a percentage of total plot yields) ranged from 64.6% to 39.3% during this 2-year trial, with the highest harvesting cultivars PDJ.7 and AZ-1904. In the future, all new mexico pod–type green chile breeding efforts for mechanical harvest must incorporate desirable plant architecture traits to increase harvest efficiencies.

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