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James W. Borrone, Cecile T. Olano, David N. Kuhn, J. Steven Brown, Raymond J. Schnell and Helen A. Violi

Avocado (Persea americana Mill.) possesses a unique flowering mechanism, thought to promote out-crossing, in which the male and female parts of the perfect flower function at different time periods. Cultivars are classified as Flowering Type A, where flowers are functionally female the morning of one day and functionally male the afternoon of the next day, or Flowering Type B, where flowers are functionally female in the afternoon and functionally male the next morning. Avocado growers typically interplant cultivars of opposite flowering types to maximize yield. Recently, it has been hypothesized that 90% to 95% of avocado flowers are self-pollinated in southern Florida. However, this hypothesis does not address whether mature, marketable avocado fruit in Florida are the result of outcrossing. To determine whether avocado fruit in southern Florida result from self-pollination or outcrossing, fruit were harvested from a commercial orchard in Miami-Dade County, Florida, from a block consisting of two cultivars, Simmonds (Flowering Type A) and Tonnage (Flowering Type B), interplanted in approximately equal numbers. Seeds were germinated and the resulting progeny were genotyped using eight fully informative, microsatellite markers. Seventy-four percent of the ‘Simmonds’ progeny and 96% of the ‘Tonnage’ progeny were judged to be the result of cross-pollination, with an estimated overall outcrossing rate of 63% to 85% within this particular block of the orchard. Seedlings judged to be the result of cross-pollinations between ‘Simmonds’ and ‘Tonnage’ are being maintained at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, Subtropical Horticulture Research Station and are being evaluated for segregation of important agronomic and horticultural traits.

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Robert L. Meagher Jr., Rodney N. Nagoshi, James T. Brown, Shelby J. Fleischer, John K. Westbrook and Carlene A. Chase

Sunn hemp, Crotalaria juncea L., is a warm-season legume that is planted before or after a vegetable cash crop to add nutrients and organic matter to the soil, for weed-growth prevention, and to suppress nematode populations. Sunn hemp flowers may also provide nectar and pollen for pollinators and enhance biological control by furnishing habitat for natural enemies. Despite these benefits, adoption in the United States has been limited because of restricted availability of seeds, particularly in temperate climates. Experiments were conducted in north-central Florida to compare flowering and seed production of domestic and foreign sunn hemp lines across different seeding rates and planting dates. Our objectives were to test whether a low seeding rate would result in the production of higher numbers of flowers and to test whether planting earlier in the season would also result in higher numbers of flowers. Our results over a 2 year period showed that the domestic cultivar AU Golden is capable of substantial flowering and seed production in the test region, confirming the compatibility of local environmental conditions. Seed costs suggest that ‘AU Golden’ is comparable with sunn hemp lines grown in foreign countries and is much less expensive than the standard cultivar Tropic Sun from Hawaii. The results demonstrate the potential economic viability of early flowering cultivars of sunn hemp as a cover crop alternative in Florida to improve soils in agricultural landscapes.

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Garry G. Gordon, Wheeler G. Foshee III, Stewart T. Reed, James E. Brown and Edgar L. Vinson III

Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus ‘Clemson Spineless’) was grown on an Orangeburg sandy loam soil in Shorter, AL. Okra was direct-seeded in single rows. Treatments consisted of five mulch colors: black, white, red, silver, and blue installed either with or without spun-bonded row cover. Soil temperatures were 4 to 7 °C lower than air temperatures in all treatments. The use of darker (black, blue, red) -colored plastic mulches increased early and total yield of okra compared with bare soil with and without row cover. Increased soil and air temperatures did not always correlate to an increase in yield. It can be concluded that the use of dark plastic mulch is advantageous to growers of okra in climates that do not have cool springs, but the added use of row covers to plastic mulch has no effect on growth and yield. The profit of marketable okra produced using a row cover was $1.37 versus $1.35 per pound without a cover in 2003 and $1.28 versus $1.29 per pound in 2004. Blue plastic mulch is ≈$0.08 per foot more expensive than black plastic. Our data do not show an economic advantage for blue over black mulch for okra, but the positive effect cited by other authors may be more pronounced with leafy vegetables.