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  • Author or Editor: June F. Sudal x
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Heirloom tomato production is increasing in the Eastern United states as consumer demand increases. Pruning and suckering heirloom tomatoes have not been studied to see if there is any need for this labor-intensive activity. A 2-year study was undertaken to evaluate whether pruning or suckering would affect yield or fruit size for two heirloom cultivars (`Mortgage Lifter' and `Prudens Purple'). The treatments imposed on the cultivars were 1) removing all suckers from the second or third stem down after the flower cluster; 2) removing the bottom two suckers, or 3) removing no suckers. Pruning had no effect on early yield or fruit size (harvests 1–4). Mid-season (harvests 5–7) total and marketable yields were significantly higher for removing two suckers or not suckering over the other two treatments for year 1, but not year 2. The tomato fruit size was only reduced for the non-suckering treatment. There were no statistical differences among the pruning treatments for yield or fruit size for late season harvests (8-10) for both years. Marketable yields were statistically higher for no suckering over the two- and three-stem treatments, but not different from two suckers when all harvests were combined for the season for year 1. No statistical differences were observed in year 2. However, fruit size was reduced when not suckering compared to the other treatments. The cultivar `Prudens Purple' did have higher total and marketable yield than `Mortgage Lifter' for both early and total combined harvests, but not for mid- or late-season harvests in year 1. There were no statistical differences between the two cultivars for year 2.

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The cultivar `Mortgage Lifter' was planted in a 2-year trial to evaluate staking systems. All plots were established with black plastic and drip in a randomized complete block design with three or four replications. In year 1, treatments consisted of straw mulch and plants grown on 4 and 8 ft tomato stakes without straw mulch. In year 2, treatments were added to include topping plants at 4 and 6 ft, when plants grew to the top of the stake and down to touch the plastic or not topping. All were grown on 4-ft stakes. Additionally, plants were grown on 8-ft stakes, but topped at 5, 6, 7, and 8 ft. The first year there were no statistical marketable yield differences between plants grown on 4 or 8-ft stakes, but the yields were significantly higher than the straw mulch treatment after the seventh harvest. The straw mulch treatment did have significantly more cull fruit, lower percentage marketable fruit and a smaller marketable fruit size for all harvests compared to the staking treatments. In year two, there were no statistical differences for marketable yield among the treatments until the late harvests (9–12). For the late harvest, all treatments grown on 8-ft stakes had higher marketable yields than all other treatments. When all harvests were combined, the 6- and 7-ft treatments had higher marketable yields with the exception of the 5- and 8-ft treatments and the 6-ft treatment on 4-ft stakes. Cull fruit yields were only significant among treatments for the mid season harvest (5–8) with the straw mulch treatment having more cull fruit than all other treatments. There were no statistical differences for percentage marketable fruit for any harvest.

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In this study, the effects of six nitrogen fertility programs and two bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) cultivars were evaluated for marketable yield and incidence of skin separation in fruit. In 2006 and 2007, bell pepper cultivar Aristotle, which is tolerant to the crown rot phase of phytophthora blight (Phytophthora capsici), and a susceptible cultivar, Camelot, were established in a split-plot design with cultivar as the whole-plot factor and fertilizer regime as the subplot factor. Each year, fertility treatments included 1) 180 lb/acre of soluble nitrogen (N) plus phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) as 20N–8.7P–16.6K, 2) 300 lb/acre of soluble N (4N–0P–6.6K), 3) 180 lb/acre of soluble N (30N–0P–0K), 4) 135 lb/acre of soluble N (30N–0P–0K), 5) 180 lb/acre of granular N (43N–0P–0K), and 6) 135 lb/acre of granular N (43N–0P–0K). Soluble fertilizer treatments 1–4 were applied weekly through drip irrigation during the production season. Granular fertility treatments 5 and 6 were applied after bed making but before laying black plastic mulch each year. Additionally, all plots received 180 lb/acre each of P and K (0N–2.6P–4.9K) plus 2 lb/acre of boron distributed season-long in weekly fertilizer applications. In 2006 and 2007, cultivar had no effect on marketable yield or percent marketable fruit. In 2007, the percentage of harvested fruit with skin separation was significantly higher in fertility programs 1 and 2 compared with program 5. In 2006 and 2007, there were no significant interactions between cultivar and fertility program for marketable yield per plot, fruit with skin separation, percent marketable fruit, or marketable yield per acre. In both years, harvest date has a significant effect on marketable yield per plot, fruit with skin separation, percent marketable fruit, and marketable yield per acre. The percentage of harvested fruit with skin separation was higher in phytophthora-tolerant ‘Aristotle’ compared with phytophthora-susceptible ‘Camelot’ in 2006 and 2007. Results of this study suggest that the development of skin separation in bell pepper fruit is more influenced by genotype than N fertility program.

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