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Juan C. Díaz-Pérez and K. Dean Batal

Soil warming is one of the benefits associated with use of plastic film mulches. However, under high temperature conditions during the summer, especially in the southeastern United States, some mulches warm the soil to temperatures that might be deleterious to plant growth. Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) plants grown in the field were exposed to a range of root-zone temperatures (RZTs), resulting from growing the plants in different seasons and by using colored mulches that differed in their soil-warming ability. The objective was to determine the relationship of mean seasonal RZT, as affected by different colored plastic film mulches, with plant growth and fruit yield. The study consisted of experiments carried out in three seasons: Fall 1999 (five mulches, one cultivar), Spring 2000 (eight mulches and three cultivars), and Fall 2000 (four mulches and three cultivars). Treatments were black (n = 2), gray, red, silver (n = 3), and white (n = 2) mulches, and bare soil. Over the season, mean RZT decreased in the fall (from 32 to 24 °C) and increased in the spring (from 20 to 29 °C). Daily mean values of RZT over the season under plastic mulches were higher (1 to 5 °C) than those of air temperature. The highest RZT at midday occurred under black mulch, and the lowest under bare soil and white mulch. Bare soil showed the largest diurnal RZT fluctuation. RZT at midday was up to 4 °C higher under black or gray mulch compared to the other mulches or bare soil. The degree of soil warming was correlated with reflectivity of the mulch. Black mulch had the lowest light reflectance [10% photosynthetically active radiation (PAR)] while silver mulch had the highest (55% PAR). There were, however, differences in reflectance among mulches of the same color depending on the manufacturer. RZT affected vegetative top fresh weight (FW), fruit yield, fruit number, and individual fruit FW. All these growth attributes fitted a quadratic relationship with mean RZT for the season, with an optimal that ranged between 25.4 and 26.3 °C. The effects of colored mulches on plant response depended on the impact of the mulch on RZT. Plant growth and yield were highest as RZT approached the optimal RZT for the plants.

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Juan C. Díaz-Pérez, K. Dean Batal, Darbie Granberry, Denne Bertrand, David Giddings and Hanu Pappu

Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) is a serious constraint to tomato production worldwide. Losses are significant because the disease is difficult to control and most of the commercially available tomato cultivars are susceptible to TSWV. This study was intended to provide information that could be used to design more appropriate disease management strategies. The objective was to determine the relationship of tomato plant growth and fruit yield with the time of TSWV symptom appearance. Experiments were carried out during Spring 1999 and 2000, using drip irrigation and plastic film mulched beds with black plastic mulch alone (1999) or different colored mulches (2000). The mulches used were black, black-on-silver, gray-on-black, red, silver-on-black, silver (painted) and white-on-black, and bare soil. The 1999 experiment included a single TSWV-susceptible cultivar (Florida-47), while the 2000-experiment included two TSWV-susceptible (Florida-91 and Sun Chaser) and one TSWV-resistant cultivars (BHN-444). Colored mulches and tomato cultivars affected the time between transplanting and appearance of first symptoms of TSWV. For all tomato cultivars, vegetative top fresh weight (FW), fruit number and total fruit yield increased linearly with the time the plants remained free from TSWV symptoms. Marketable fruit yield also increased as the time from transplanting to the first appearance of symptoms increased. When data for cultivars were pooled, vegetative top FW and total fruit yield were reduced by 2.1% and 2.3%, respectively, for each day prior to harvesting that plants showed TSWV symptoms.

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Robert J. Dufault, K. Dean Batal, Dennis Decoteau, J. Thomas Garrett, Darbie Granberry, Wayne McLaurin, Russell Nagata, Katharine B. Perry and Douglas Sanders

The experiment screened two spring and two fall planting dates in six regions within North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The objective was to extend the production over the southeastern United States rather than at a single location. Spring harvests lasted from mid-April to early July. Summer-to-winter harvests lasted from mid-August to late January. Collards were not harvested in any of the locations from late January to mid-April or from early July to mid-August. More extensive planting dates may further increase the longevity of production.

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Laurie Hodges, Douglas C. Sanders, Katharine B. Perry, Kent M. Eskridge, K.M. `Dean' Batal, Darbie M. Granberry, Wayne J. McLaurin, Dennis Decoteau, Robert J. Dufault, J. Thomas Garrett and Russell Nagata

Four bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) cultivars were evaluated for yield (total weight of marketable fruit) performance over 41 environments as combinations of 3 years, three planting dates, and seven locations across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Cultural practices, including trickle irrigation and double rows planted on black-plastic-covered beds, were uniform across all environments, except for fertilization, which was adjusted at each location based on soil tests. Comparing production over 3 years between the mountain location and the Coastal Plain location in North Carolina, yields were lower on the Coastal Plain. Spring plantings provided higher yields than summer plantings at both locations. Yield increases were obtained from hybrid cultivars over that of the open-pollinated (OP) standard [`Keystone Resistant Giant #3' (KRG#3)] in the summer planting in the mountains compared to the Tidewater Coastal Plain. Across the three-state region, hybrid cultivar yields were higher than those of the OP cultivar for the second spring planting date in 1986 and 1987. Although the hybrid yields were higher than that of the OP standard, the hybrid `Skipper' yielded less than the other hybrids (`Gator Belle' and `Hybelle'). `Gator Belle' generally out-yielded `Hybelle' at all locations, except in Fletcher, N.C. This difference may be related to the relative sensitivity of these two cultivars to temperature extremes, rather than soil or geographic factors, because there was a tendency for `Hybelle' yields to exceed `Gator Belle' in the earliest planting date. Based on the reliability index, the chance of outperforming KRG#3 (the standard) was 85% for `Hybelle', 80% for `Gator Belle', but only 67% for `Skipper'.