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Joseph R. Heckman

Yield responses of `Blue Vantage' cabbage (Brassica oleracea L.) to P fertilizer and two commercially available biostimulants—ROOTS and ESSENTIAL-were evaluated on soils very high in P fertility. Head yield was not increased with P fertilizer when cabbage was transplanted into soil with Mehlich-3 soil test P indexes ≥ 112 ppm (112 mg·kg-1). Neither of the biostimlants applied as a root drench at transplanting influenced head yield or plant tissue nutrient analysis.

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Joseph R. Heckman, Steve Johnston and Win Cowgill

Field experiments were conducted with Cucurbita pepo L. `Howden' pumpkin in 2000 to 2001 to study the effects of silicon (Si) amendment of soil with and without the use of fungicides on yield and powdery mildew suppression. A Quakertown silt loam soil (fine-loamy, mixed, mesic Typic Hapludult) with an initial soil pH of 5.7 was amended with either CaCO3 or CaSiO3 at the rate of 7840 kg·ha-1 of calcium carbonate equivalent. Fungicides were applied on a 7-10 day schedule to half of the plots as a 2 × 2 factorial, beginning when the first powdery mildew lesions were detected in the field. Silicon amendment increased pumpkin yield by 60% in 2000 but Si did not influence yield in 2001. Infection with bacterial leaf spot reduced yield on all plots in 2001. Fungicide applications increased yield only in 2001. In 2000, Si amendment had the effect of delaying foliage senescence but it was not clear if this was the result of an effect of Si on disease activity or crop physiology. In Aug. 2001, Si amendment generally reduced powdery mildew severity, but only at the 10% level of significance. In Sept. 2001, the combination of Si amendment plus fungicide application was more effective in reducing powdery mildew severity than either Si or fungicide alone. Silicon amendment resulted in a 5-fold increase in plant Si concentration. Soil pH measured after harvest in 2001 indicated no significant difference in pH between plots amended with CaCO3 (pH = 6.8) and CaSiO3 (pH = 6.9). In New Jersey, the cost of these liming materials is similar. Thus, the selection of CaSiO3 as a liming material as needed for soil pH correction has the potential benefits of suppressing powdery mildew and increasing pumpkin yield without increasing the cost of production.

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Joseph R. Heckman, Ray Samulis and Peter Nitzsche

Sweet corn (Zea mays L.) growers evaluating new practices for N management, such as the presidedress soil nitrate test (PSNT), are interested in relating observations about crop performance at time of harvest to their N fertility program. For this purpose, the concentration of nitrogen (N) in the lower portion of sweet corn stalks was examined on the day of harvest as a basis for evaluating the crop N status. Sweet corn stalk tissue was collected from N-rate experiments by cutting a stalk section at 15 and 35 cm aboveground and removing leaf material from the resulting 20-cm segment. Samples were dried and analyzed for total Kjeldahl N. Relationships between crop yield and stalk N concentration indicated that concentrations <11 g·kg-1 are N deficient and underfertilized; N concentrations between 11 and 16.5 g·kg-1 are marginally deficient; and between 16.5 and 21 g·kg-1 the N status is optimum. Concentrations of N >21 g·kg-1 are above optimum and indicate that sweet corn was overfertilized with N. When soil nitrate concentrations (PSNT >25 mg NO3-N per kilogram) indicated sufficient N at time of sidedressing, stalk N concentrations generally indicated N sufficiency at harvest.

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Craig A. Storlie and Joseph R. Heckman

Scientists have sought to stimulate plant growth using carbonated irrigation water for more than 100 years. The mechanisms by which carbonated water may increase plant productivity and the influence of environmental and cultural growing conditions on those mechanisms are not completely understood. Several greenhouse and field studies have demonstrated that carbonated irrigation water can increase crop yield significantly while others have shown that carbonated irrigation water does not influence plant productivity. It is unlikely that carbonated irrigation water will be recommended commercially until the conditions are delineated under which a positive and economically advantageous growth response is ensured.

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Stephanie C. Hamel and Joseph R. Heckman

Recent changes in soil testing methodology, the important role of P fertilization in early establishment and soil coverage, and new restrictions on P applications to turf suggest a need for soil test calibration research on Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.), tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb), and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.). Greenhouse and field studies were conducted for 42 days to examine the relationship between soil test P levels and P needs for rapid grass establishment using 23 NJ soils with a Mehlich-3 extractable P ranging from 6 to 1238 mg·kg–1. Soil tests (Mehlich-1, Mehlich-3, and Bray-1) for extractable P were performed by inductively coupled plasma–atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP). Mehlich-3 extractable P and Al were measured to evaluate the ratio of P to Al as a predictor of need for P fertilizer. Kentucky bluegrass establishment was more sensitive to low soil P availability than tall fescue or perennial ryegrass. Soil test extractants Mehlich-1, Bray-1, or Mehlich-3 were each effective predictors of need for P fertilization. The ratio of P to Al (Mehlich-3 P/Al %) was a better predictor of tall fescue and perennial ryegrass establishment response to P fertilization than soil test P alone. The Mehlich-1, Bray-1, and Mehlich-3 soil test P critical levels for clipping yield response were in the range of 170 to 280 mg·kg–1, depending on the soil test extractant, for tall fescue and perennial ryegrass. The Mehlich-3 P/Al (%) critical level was 42% for tall fescue and 33% for perennial ryegrass. Soil test critical levels, based on estimates from clipping yield data, could not be determined for Kentucky bluegrass using the soils in this study. Soil testing for P has the potential to aid in protection of water quality by helping to identify sites where P fertilization can accelerate grass establishment and thereby prevent soil erosion, and by identifying sites that do not need P fertilization, thereby preventing further P enrichment of soil and runoff. Because different grass species have varying critical P levels for establishment, both soil test P and the species should be incorporated into the decision-making process regarding P fertilization.

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Christian A. Wyenandt, Joseph R. Heckman and Nancy L. Maxwell

A key to profitability in many “u-pick” pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) farm operations is producing attractive, marketable fruit while maintaining suitable field conditions for consumer entry during periods of inclement autumn weather. The use of municipal leaves collected from urban areas may help improve fruit quality and field conditions in u-pick pumpkin operations. In 2005 and 2006, an experiment (randomized complete block design) was conducted to compare four different production systems on pumpkin yield and fruit quality. Treatments consisted of no leaf mulch (bare soil) plus herbicide with 25 lb/acre nitrogen (N) sidedressed (treatment 1), leaf mulch without herbicide with 25 lb/acre N sidedressed (treatment 2), no leaf mulch (bare soil) with herbicide with 75 lb/acre N sidedressed (treatment 3), and leaf mulch without herbicide with 75 lb/acre N sidedressed (treatment 4) during the production season. In 2005, there were no differences in the total number and weight of harvested fruit and weight of orange fruit between production systems. Although the presence of leaf mulch reduced the total number and percentage of orange fruit harvested, there were no significant differences in average weight of orange fruit between production systems. Average weight of orange fruit was significantly higher and similar at both sidedress N rates in both leaf mulch production systems compared with bare soil. In 2006, there were no differences in total number of fruit, number of orange fruit, and percentage of orange fruit at harvest between production systems. Total weight, weight of orange fruit, and average fruit weight of pumpkin fruit was significantly higher and similar at both sidedress N rates in both leaf mulch production systems compared with bare soil. Sidedress N should be applied in accordance to plant growth and environmental factors to overcome any expected N deficiency from N immobilization because of the presence of the leaf mulch and other environmental factors. Applying municipal leaves to the soil surface exhibited a marked advantage over bare soil in producing clean fruit. In both years, the percentage of clean fruit at harvest was higher in both leaf mulch production systems compared with bare soil.

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Joseph R. Heckman, Thomas Morris, J. Thomas Sims, Joseph B. Sieczka, Uta Krogmann, Peter Nitzsche and Richard Ashley

The pre-sidedress soil nitrate test (PSNT) was evaluated in 27 fields in New Jersey, 6 in Connecticut, 5 in Delaware, and 2 on Long Island in New York for its ability to predict whether sidedress N is needed to grow fall cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata) as a double crop. Soil NO3-N concentrations measured on 20 field sites on the day of transplanting and 14 days after transplanting indicated that NO3-N concentrations over this time period increased, and that residues from the previous crop were not causing immobilization of soil mineral N. The relationship between soil NO3-N concentration measured 14 days after transplanting and relative yield of marketable cabbage heads was examined using Cate-Nelson analysis to define the PSNT critical level. Soil NO3-N concentrations ≥24 mg·kg-1 were associated with relative yields >92%. The success rate for the PSNT critical concentration was 84% for predicting whether sidedress N was needed. Soil NO3-N concentrations below the PSNT critical level are useful for inversely adjusting sidedress N fertilizer recommendations. The PSNT can reliably determine whether fall cabbage needs sidedress N fertilizer and the practice of soil NO3-N testing may be extendable to other cole crops with similar N requirements.

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Yuan Li, Arend-Jan Both, Christian A. Wyenandt, Edward F. Durner and Joseph R. Heckman

Although not considered an essential nutrient, silicon (Si) can be beneficial to plants. Si accumulator species such as pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo var. pepo) can absorb Si from soil. Si uptake may reduce plant susceptibility to fungal diseases such as cucurbit powdery mildew (Podosphaera xanthii and Erysiphe cichoracearum). We previously reported that wollastonite, an Organic Materials Reviews Institute–approved natural mineral, can increase soil Si level, increase soil pH, provide pumpkin plants with Si, and increase their resistance to powdery mildew. In this study, we examined the optimum application rate of wollastonite for pumpkins grown in pots and exposed to cucurbit powdery mildew. We confirmed that wollastonite has liming capabilities similar to regular limestone. Regardless of the application rates, wollastonite and limestone showed similar effects on soil chemistry and plant mineral composition. Pumpkin plants grown with the lower doses of wollastonite amendments (3.13 and 6.25 tons/acre) had the greatest tissue Si concentrations and demonstrated the greatest disease resistance. We conclude that wollastonite is a useful material for organic cucurbit (Cucurbitaceae) growers who want to increase soil pH and improve plant resistance to powdery mildew at the same time. Applying wollastonite at rates beyond the amount required to achieve a desirable soil pH for pumpkin production did not further increase Si uptake, nor did it further suppress powdery mildew development.