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Mark G. Hutton and J. Brent Loy

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Mark G. Hutton and David T. Handley

Twenty-seven green bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) cultivars were evaluated over three growing seasons in Maine. Each year, plants started in a greenhouse were transplanted into double rows on raised beds covered with black plastic mulch. Overall yields were low compared with similar experiments in other regions of North America and varied considerably from year to year. ‘Ace’ and ‘New Ace’ consistently produced the largest crops by both weight and number of fruit. However, both of these cultivars had undesirable characteristics of small fruit size (<150 g), few lobes (two-three), and thin fruit walls (<6 mm), limiting their commercial market potential. Other cultivars, including ‘Vivaldi’, ‘Patriot’, and ‘Socrates’, had significantly better fruit quality but very low or inconsistent yield. The results of this study demonstrate the current limitations for growing economically viable crops of bell peppers in regions such as Maine that have short growing seasons and a wide range of seasonal temperatures. Further, the data underline the need for the development of cultivars better adapted to these growing conditions.

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Mark G. Hutton and David T. Handley

Bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) are an economically important yet difficult to grow crop in northern New England. Yields of bell peppers can be increased through the use of plastic mulches; however, refinements are needed to make bell peppers a more viable crop in regions with short, variable growing seasons. The objectives of this study were to (1) compare the effects of black mulch with white inter-row much, reflective silver mulch, and standard black plastic mulched beds on bell pepper yield and quality and (2) compare the effects of two in-row plant arrangements [single rows at 12-inch within-row spacing (7260 plants/acre) and double rows spaced 18 inches apart with 18-inch in-row spacing (9680 plants/acre)] on pepper yield and quality. Treatments were factorial combinations of three mulch treatments and two within-row planting arrangements. Double rows produced more fruit by number and weight than single rows; however, fruit harvested from the double-row plots tended to be smaller than fruit harvested from the single-row plots. Mulch treatments significantly influenced total marketable yield and yield of cull bell peppers grown in Maine. The plots receiving the inter-row white mulch or reflective silver mulch treatment produced significantly greater yield than standard black plastic mulch treatment. The reflective mulch treatment produced significantly more cull fruit per acre compared with the white inter-row mulch and black plastic.

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Mark G. Hutton and J. Brent Loy

A cold-germinable (CG) line of muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.) derived from PI 126156 was crossed to a noncold-germinable (NCG) line derived from `Delicious 51'. Seed of parents and reciprocal F1, F2, and BC families were incubated for 14 days on absorbent wadding in petri dishes at 15C. Days elapsed to radicle emergence among progeny from reciprocal crosses and segregating populations indicated the existence in the CG line of a cytoplasmic factor and recessive nuclear genes for cold germinability. Based on Fz and BC segregation, it appears that at least three or four recessive genes confer cold germinability. High levels of cold germinability in a seed population required the presence of both the cytoplasmic factor and nuclear genes for cold germinability.

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J. Brent Loy, R. Bruce Carle and Mark G. Hutton

A new leaf mutant, fused-vein, is described in Cucurbita pepo L. for use as a plant gene marker. Morphologically, the fused-vein trait is characterized by a partial fusion of the lateral leaf veins to the main central vein. Fusion begins at the distal point of the petiole and extends for 5 to 10 cm into the leaf blade, thereby delaying branching of the leaf veins and causing the dorsal leaf surface to appear puckered. The trait is expressed beginning at the fourth to sixth leaf stage and throughout vegetative growth. Preliminary inheritance data suggests a two gene, double recessive model. Data on segregation of the fused-vein trait in reciprocal F2 and backcross progenies will be obtained during the summer of 1990. This trait has been incorporated into hull-less seeded lines for use as a marker to identify rogue genotypes. Comparison of F5 sister lines with and without the fused-vein trait indicated that the trait does not affect fruit or seed yields.

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Tori Lee Jackson, Mark G. Hutton and David T. Handley

Corn earworm [CEW (Helicoverpa zea)] is one of the most important pests of sweet corn (Zea mays) in New England. Conventional management of this pest is achieved through repeated applications of chemical insecticides through the silking period. Organic growers, however, have few alternatives to prevent CEW infestation. Technology first developed in the 1930s and 1940s, using applications of mineral oil directly into the silk channel with an eyedropper, has been further researched in recent years using vegetable oils with and without pesticides, but pollination problems associated with these treatments have been observed. Several materials were evaluated for efficacy in controlling CEW populations and for phytotoxicity to the developing ear. Materials evaluated were corn oil, soy oil, carrageenan, corn oil mixed with Bacillus thuringiensis ssp. kurstaki (Bt), soy oil mixed with Bt, and carrageenan mixed with Bt. All treatments were compared with an untreated control. Treatments provided a range of 33% to 50% control of CEW infestation. The oil and Bt combinations provided some reduction in infestation compared with the untreated controls (33% vs. 100% infestation), but this level of control was inadequate for all wholesale markets and most direct markets. Additionally, oil-based treatments also caused significant injury to developing ears by reducing pollination quality, impacting the development of the kernels at the ear tip. This condition referred to as “cone-tip” is of concern since it may decrease marketability. The percent unmarketable ears due to cone-tips ranged from 0% to 13% for the untreated and carrageenan-based treatments. From 12% to 42% of ears were unmarketable due to the soy oil treatments. Corn oil treatments caused 10% to 50% cone-tips.

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Heather D. Bryant, Mark G. Hutton, David T. Handley and Mary Ellen Camire

Some Maine tomato growers use unheated greenhouses or high tunnels to extend the short growing season. But, what varieties should growers choose? The objective of this trial was to test varieties of greenhouse and open field tomatoes to identify the best performers in high tunnels in terms of yield, quality, disease, and taste. Results showed that both open field and greenhouse varieties produced similar and acceptable yields of high quality marketable fruit. Open field varieties showed more disease than greenhouse varieties. There were some significant differences between individual varieties. Betterboy scored highest in sensory analysis, but lowest in yield/quality. Brilliante scored poorly on marketable yields, but well in terms of premium yields, quality, disease and taste. It may be well suited for direct marketing to repeat customers (e.g., farmers' markets). For commercial production Jet Star, Brilliante, Cobra, and First Lady II appear to be good choices based on overall scores.

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Haley Rylander, Anusuya Rangarajan, Ryan M. Maher, Mark G. Hutton, Nicholas W. Rowley, Margaret T. McGrath and Zachary F. Sexton

Organic vegetable farmers rely on intensive tillage to control weeds, incorporate amendments and residues, and prepare seedbeds. Intensive tillage, however, can lead to a decrease in long-term soil health. Placing opaque plastic tarps on the soil surface weeks or months before planting can reduce weed pressure and may facilitate organic reduced tillage strategies, but few studies have documented tarp effects on crop productivity. The effect of tarp duration and tillage intensity on weeds and beet crop yields (cultivar Boro) was evaluated at three locations (Freeville, NY; Riverhead, NY; and Monmouth, ME), for two planting dates and over 2 years (2017 and 2018), resulting in a total of 10 experiments. Tarps were applied for three durations before projected planting dates: 1) 10+ weeks (long), 2) 6 to 8 weeks (mid), and 3) 3 to 5 weeks (short), then compared with an untarped control (none). Three levels of tillage intensity were applied after tarp removal: 1) 10 to 20 cm (conventional till), 2) 3 to 8 cm (reduced till), and 3) left undisturbed (no till), to understand interactions between tillage intensity and tarping. Tarp use of three or more weeks lowered weed biomass for several weeks after beet planting and at-harvest across most locations and years, but tarp duration beyond 3 weeks did not result in further reductions. Tarp use lowered at-harvest weed biomass and increased crop yield for reduced- and no-till systems with results similar to conventional-till. Tarping for 3 weeks could improve the viability of reduced- and no-till approaches for organic vegetable production.

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Haley Rylander, Anusuya Rangarajan, Ryan M. Maher, Mark G. Hutton, Nicholas W. Rowley, Margaret T. McGrath and Zachary F. Sexton

Intensive tillage degrades soil structure, decreases soil organic matter, and can cause soil compaction and erosion over time. Organic vegetable farmers are often dependent on tillage to incorporate crop residue, control weeds, and prepare seedbeds. Black, impermeable, polyethylene tarps applied on the soil surface and removed at planting can help suppress weeds before planting and reduce farmers’ reliance on tillage. However, little is known about how black tarps affect planting conditions and how they can be used to advance reduced tillage production systems. This study investigated the effects of tarp use and tarp duration on the soil environment, surface cover crop residue, and weed suppression to assess the efficacy of using tarps to improve reduced- and no-till practices for organic vegetable production. Experiments were conducted at three sites in the northeastern United States (Freeville, NY; Riverhead, NY; and Monmouth, ME) for 2 years. Following the termination of an oat cover crop, tarps were applied over untilled soils and left in place for four time periods: untarped (control), 3 to 5 weeks (short), 6 to 8 weeks (mid), and 10 or more weeks (long) before two removal dates. Soil moisture and temperature, cover crop residue, soil inorganic nitrogen, weed seed survival, and weed percent cover were measured after tarp removal. Soil moisture and temperature were generally higher under tarps at the time of removal compared with untarped areas at 10% to 55% and 1 to 3 °C, respectively, but the effects were inconsistent. Tarps significantly increased soil nitrate concentrations by 2-times to 21-times with longer tarp durations, resulting in higher concentrations compared with untarped controls. Tarps did not affect the amount of soil covered by cover crop residue and had no consistent effects on weed seed survival of Amaranthus powellii S. Wats. or Chenopodium album L., two common annual weed species in the Northeast. Tarping for at least 3 weeks reduced the weed percent cover by 95% to 100% at the time of removal. Increasing tarp duration beyond 3 weeks did not affect any measures except soil nitrate concentrations. These results indicate that tarps can facilitate the use of reduced-till and no-till practices for organic vegetables by creating a nutrient-rich and moist soil environment free of emerged weeds before planting without soil disturbance.