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  • Author or Editor: Merritt Taylor x
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Many producers who have used conventional production methods for vegetables, and who want to convert to organic production, will have to pass through a 3-year transition period before their land can be qualified for organic certification. This transition can produce unique challenges. Use of several amendments has received interest for inclusion in organic production. How these affect vegetable production during the transition period was examined. Land was taken from perennial pasture and converted to production of the vegetables: bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.), cv. Jupiter; processing cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.), cv. Earli Pik; and sweet corn (Zea mays L.), cv. Incredible (se endosperm genotype) using organic materials and methods with comparison made to production using conventional methods. Conventional and transition to organic portions of the field were separated by 25 m with the buffer zone planted with the same sweet corn cultivar used in the experimental plots and minimally maintained by addition of organic fertilizer. To the organic portion of the field, three levels of humates (0, 112, and 224 kg·ha–1) and three levels of corn gluten meal (0, 448, and 896 kg·ha–1) were applied in nine combinations. Yields for all crops were determined for all years. In the first year, bell pepper yields for plants under conventional production were higher than for the plants in the transition plots. In the remaining 2 years, bell pepper yields were similar under the two production systems. In the first 2 years, cucumber yields for plants under conventional production were higher than for the plants under transition to organic production. In the last year, cucumber yields were similar under the two production systems. In all years, sweet corn yields for plants under conventional production were higher than for plants under transition to organic production. Humates and corn gluten meal did not benefit yields of crops. An economic analysis comparing yields, prices, and costs of production of the crops under conventional and the transition to organic indicated that conventional practices generally provided more net revenue than did transition to organic production. Net revenue for the three species under the transition to organic for the 3 years was $2749 for three hectares. Net revenue for the three crops under conventional production for 3 years was $61,821, a difference of $59,072. Costs, yield, and prices will have to be considered when decisions are made concerning the adoption of organic practices.

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The cost of transporting manure can affect profit. Manure was applied either annually or biennially to bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.), cv. Jupiter, cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.), cv. Earli Pik, and sweet corn (Zea mays var. rugosa Bonaf.), cv. Incredible (se endosperm genotype), produced using organic methods and compared with production of these crops using conventional methods and annually applied synthetic fertilizer. Conventional and organically maintained portions of the field were separated by a 25-m buffer zone planted with sweet corn, which was provided with manure. The experiment was conducted from 2005 to 2008 at Lane, OK. Nutrient contents of soil and edible portions were determined as were yields. Economic analyses comparing costs of production and profit were conducted. There were yield responses resulting from year. Bell pepper yield was little affected by type of fertilizer application. Cucumber and sweet corn benefited from use of manure over conventional fertilizer. There was no pattern of alternating increased or decreased nutrient content in edible portions or in the soil as a result of annual or biennial application of manure. Treatment with manure produced higher returns than did conventional fertilizer. Annual treatment with manure produced higher returns in bell pepper and sweet corn than did treatment with manure in alternate years; the opposite was true for cucumber. Annual application of manure appears to be necessary for most of the vegetable crops tested.

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This is the second year of research on the effects of grafting watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) onto rootstocks of squash and gourd. The study was conducted at Lane, Okla., in both 2004 and 2005. This report deals with the results from 2005. Treatments consisted of watermelon cultivars SF 800, SS 5244, SS 7167, SS 7177, and SS 7187 from Abbot & Cobb Seed Co., grown on their own roots, or grafted onto rootstocks of RS1330, RS1332, RS1420, or RS 1422. Additional controls consisted of nongrafted cultivars Sangria, Royal Sweet, Jubilee, and Jamboree. Two fields were planted, with three replications per field. Plants were grown on 1-m centers, with rows 3 m apart. Yields from grafted plants were higher than average farm yields in Oklahoma, but were lower than yields from the nongrafted plants in this experiment. Sugar content, measured as soluble solids, was in some cases lower with the grafted plants than with the nongrafted plants. Lycopene content of fruit from grafted plants was similar to that of fruit from nongrafted plants. Fruit firmness, as measured by a penetrometer, was significantly greater in the grafted fruit than in the nongrafted fruit. This increase in fruit firmness should be of significance to the fresh-cut fruit industry. Matching of scions with appropriate rootstocks was important, as interactions did occur. Rootstock 1332 generally had lower sugar content and yield than did the other rootstocks, but not with all scions. Certain combinations of rootstock and scion were significantly superior to other combinations.

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Grafting of watermelons has been used in many countries to provide control of, or resistance to, certain soil borne diseases such as Fusarium wilt. The impact of grafting on postharvest quality has not been thoroughly examined. This report deals with the comparison of the costs of production between grafted versus conventional watermelons and the potential net revenue of the two. A 2-year study was conducted on the effects of grafting watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) onto rootstocks of squash and gourd at Lane, Okla., in both 2004 and 2005. Details of the research methodology are outlined in “Year Two: Effects of Grafting on Watermelon Yield and Quality” by Roberts et al. Costs of using grafted transplants increased the costs of production from $1,209 to $1,914 or $705/acre at 1,500 plants/acre. Results of the 2-year study indicated grafted watermelons had slightly lower yields per acre, similar sugar in some grafted combinations the first year but slightly lower the second year, similar lycopene content, and much higher firmness. Results of a 10-day storage study indicated that firmness of fresh-cut flesh for all watermelons declined after ten days on the shelf. However, the grafted watermelon flesh was firmer after ten days than the nongrafted fruit at the beginning of the ten days. This improved shelf life should interest the cut-fruit industry and should lead to contract price enhancement for the growers. A market price of $0.02/lb for grafted watermelons above the market price of nongrafted watermelons would be needed to provide similar net revenues at the same yield per acre.

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Commercial organic vegetable production requires using soil improvement practices and effective weed control measures. Rye (Secale cereale) cover crops are known to suppress annual weeds. Research was begun in 2004 to measure crop yield, annual weed infestation, and weed control requirements for vegetable planting systems that begin with a rye cover crop. Poultry litter was used to supply nutrients and was applied based on a soil test and commercial vegetable recommendations. Rye `Elbon' was seeded 21 Oct. 2004 on beds with 1.8-m centers. Zucchini squash (Cucurbita pepo) `Revenue' was planted the following year using three crop establishment dates, such that transplanting occurred on 6 May, 3 June, and 29 June. Planting system treatments included: conventional tillage (CT), CT and plastic mulch (P), CT with stale seedbed, mow, mow and burn-down, mow and shallow till (ST), ST and burn-down. Following field preparation, squash was transplanted in a single row at the bed center with 0.77-m plant spacing. Drip irrigation was used in all plantings. Emerging weeds were removed by hoeing. Squash was harvested from each planting over approximately 3 weeks and total marketable fruit counts were determined. Marketable yields with P were approximately double those of the CT and ST treatments in the 6 May transplanting. Yields were comparable for CT and ST in the 3 June transplanting, but were significantly lower for the P treatment. There were no significant differences among the treatments that received tillage in the 29 June planting. However, the non-tilled treatments had significantly lower yields compared to tilled treatments.

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Plots were established at the Lane Agricultural Center in Lane, Okla., in 2003 for the purpose of conducting research in certified organic vegetable production. A field was selected that had been in pine timber since 1985. The field was cleared, plowed, disked, and land-planed. To establish a baseline for future reference, soil samples were collected on a 30 × 30 ft grid. Lime was added to adjust the pH. Poultry litter was added to the field as a fertilizer, and was incorporated by disking. Turnips were grown as a cover crop during the winter of 2003–04. In Spring 2004, the field was divided into four equal sections, which were planted with either tomatoes, sweet corn, watermelons, or southern peas. Tomatoes were planted using both determinate and indeterminate types. Plants were selected based on reported properties of interest to organic growers, such as disease resistance, pest resistance, or heat-set capabilities. The cultivars with greatest yield were Sunny, Solar Set, Classica, Sun Leaper, and Mountain Fresh. Visual disease ratings were taken throughout the season. Copper sulfate was used as a fungicide. The cultivars with the lowest disease ratings were Amelia, Peron, Celebrity, Florida 91, and Mountain Fresh. The major insect pest throughout the season was aphids. Aphid counts reached 6.9 aphids per leaf on 11 June. Two applications of AzaDirect, a neem extract, reduced aphid populations to 1.0 aphid per leaf on 17 June, 0.1 aphid per leaf on 25 June, and 0 aphids on 9 July.

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Grafted cucurbits are commonly grown in various Asian and European countries, but only rarely in North America. Disease control in fields where crop rotation cannot be practiced is a common justification for grafting cucurbits. In the present study, grafting is being examined as a methyl bromide alternative, which may allow cucurbits to be grown in fields where heavy disease pressure would make production of nongrafted cultivars impractical. A study with watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) grafted onto rootstocks of squash and gourd was conducted at Lane, Oklahoma in 2004. Treatments consisted of watermelon cultivars SF 800, SS 5244, SS 7167, SS 7177, and SS 7187 from Abbot & Cobb Seed Co., grown on their own roots, or grafted onto rootstocks of RS1330, RS1332, RS1420, or RS 1421. Controls consisted of nongrafted cultivars Sangria, Royal Sweet, Jubilee, and Jamboree. Two fields were planted, with three replications per field. Plants were grown on 1 m centers, with rows 3 m apart. Yields of grafted plants were generally equal to or greater than the nongrafted plants. Sugar content, measured as soluble solids, was affected minimally, if any, by grafting. Lycopene content of fruit from grafted plants was equal to, or marginally better than, fruit from nongrafted plants. Fruit firmness, as measured by a penetrometer, was significantly greater in the grafted fruit than in the nongrafted fruit. The firmest fruit occurred with SS 7167 scions, grafted onto RS 1420 rootstock, which had a value of about 2.0 × 105 Pascals. The nongrafted plants had values of about 1.0 × 105 Pascals, or less. Matching of scions with appropriate rootstocks was important, as interactions did occur. Certain combinations were significantly superior to other combinations. We estimate that the cost to purchase a grafted seedling plant from a seedling supplier would be $0.75 to $1.00, which would include the cost of the seed and the grafting operation. This cost would compare favorably with the cost of applying methyl bromide to the soil and then planting nongrafted seeds or transplants. Higher plant survival due to disease resistance along with planting fewer plants per hectare is anticipated with grafted plants. The high values in fruit firmness in grafted fruit should be of particular interest to the fresh-cut industry.

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Squash (Cucurbita pepo) producers could benefit from additional herbicide options that are safe to the crop and provide effective weed control. Research was conducted in southeastern Oklahoma (Atoka County, Lane, OK) during 2010 and 2011 to determine the impact of pelargonic acid (PA) on weed control efficacy, crop injury, and squash yields. The experiment included PA applied unshielded postdirected at 5, 10, and 15 lb/acre, plus an untreated weedy control and an untreated weed-free control. ‘Enterprise’ yellow squash was direct-seeded in single rows into raised beds. Weeds included smooth crabgrass (Digitaria ischaemum), cutleaf groundcherry (Physalis angulata), spiny amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus), and yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). Pelargonic acid was applied each year in mid-July and then reapplied 8 days later. The maximum smooth crabgrass control (98%), broadleaf weed control (94%), and yellow nutsedge control (41%) was observed with the 15-lb/acre PA treatment at 9 days after initial spray treatment (DAIT), 1 day after sequential treatment (1 DAST). Pelargonic acid at 15 lb/acre provided equal or slightly greater smooth crabgrass and broadleaf (cutleaf groundcherry and spiny amaranth) control compared with the 10-lb/acre application, and consistently greater control than the 5-lb/acre rate and the weedy control. Pelargonic acid was less effective at controlling yellow nutsedge than smooth crabgrass and broadleaf weeds. Yellow nutsedge control peaked at 9 DAIT (1 DAST) with 10-lb/acre PA (41%). As the rate of PA increased from 5 to 15 lb/acre, yellow nutsedge control also increased significantly for all observation dates, except for 28 DAIT. Increasing the PA application rate increased the crop injury rating at 1 and 3 days after each application (1 and 3 DAIT, 1 and 3 DAST). Maximum squash injury occurred for each application rate at 9 DAIT (1 DAST) with 4.4%, 8.0%, and 12.5% injury for PA rates 5, 10, and 15 lb/acre, respectively. The 10-lb/acre PA treatment produced the highest squash yields (kilograms per hectare) and fruit number (fruit per hectare) compared with either the 5- or 15-lb/acre rates, and equivalent yields and fruit number as the hand-weeded weed-free treatment. The 10-lb/acre PA rate applied in a timely sequential application has the potential of providing good weed control with minimal crop injury resulting in yields equivalent to weed-free hand-weeding conditions.

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Pepper (Capsicum annuum) producers would benefit from additional herbicide options that are safe to the crop and provide effective weed control. Research was conducted in southeastern Oklahoma (Atoka County, Lane, OK) during 2010 and 2011 to determine the impact of pelargonic acid on weed control efficacy, crop injury, and pepper yields. The experiment included pelargonic acid applied unshielded postdirected at 5, 10, and 15 lb/acre, plus an untreated weedy control and an untreated weed-free control. ‘Jupiter’ sweet bell pepper, a tobacco mosaic virus-resistant sweet pepper with a 70-day maturity, was transplanted into single rows on 3-ft centered raised beds with 18 inches between plants (9680 plants/acre) on 28 May 2010 and 27 May 2011, respectively. Weeds included smooth crabgrass (Digitaria ischaemum), cutleaf groundcherry (Physalis angulata), spiny amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus), and yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). Pelargonic acid was applied postdirected each year in mid-June and then reapplied 8 days later. The 15-lb/acre pelargonic acid treatment resulted in the maximum smooth crabgrass control (56%) and broadleaf weed control (66%) at 1 day after the initial spray treatment (DAIT), and 33% yellow nutsedge control at 3 DAIT. Pelargonic acid at 15 lb/acre provided equal or slightly greater smooth crabgrass and broadleaf (cutleaf groundcherry and spiny amaranth) control compared with the 10-lb/acre application, and consistently greater control than the 5-lb/acre rate and the weedy control. Pelargonic acid was less effective at controlling yellow nutsedge than smooth crabgrass and broadleaf weeds. As the rate of pelargonic acid increased from 5 to 15 lb/acre, yellow nutsedge control also increased significantly for all observation dates. Increasing the pelargonic acid application rate increased the crop injury rating. The maximum crop injury occurred for each application rate at 1 DAIT with 7%, 8.0%, and 13.8% injury for pelargonic acid rates 5, 10, and 15 lb/acre, respectively. There was little or no new crop injury after the second postdirected application of pelargonic acid and crop injury following 3 DAIT for application rates was 2% or less. Only the 15-lb/acre pelargonic acid application produced greater fruit per hectare (4784 fruit/ha) and yields (58.65 kg·ha−1) than the weedy control (1196 fruit/ha and 19.59 kg·ha−1). The weed-free yields (7176 fruit/ha, 178.11 kg·ha−1, and 24.82 g/fruit) were significantly greater than all pelargonic acid treatments and the weedy control. Pelargonic acid provided unsatisfactory weed control for all rates and did not significantly benefit from the sequential applications. The authors suggest the pelargonic acid be applied to smaller weeds to increase the weed control to acceptable levels (>80%).

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Corn gluten meal (CGM) is a non-selective preemergence or preplant-incorporated herbicide that inhibits root development, decreases shoot length, and reduces plant survival. The development of a mechanized application system for the banded placement of CGM between crop rows (seed row not treated) has increased its potential use in organic vegetable production, especially in direct-seeded vegetables. The objective of this research was to determine the impact of CGM applications (formulations, rates, incorporation, and banded applications) on direct-seeded squash (Cucurbita pepo) plant survival and yields. Neither CGM formulation (powdered or granulated) nor incorporation method (incorporated or non-incorporated) resulted in significant differences in plant survival or squash yields. When averaged across all other factors (formulations, incorporation method, and banding), CGM rates of 250 to 750 g·m−2 reduced squash survival from 70% to 44%, and squash yields from 6402 to 4472 kg·ha−1. However, the banded application (CGM placed between rows) resulted in significantly greater crop safety (75% survival) and yield (6402 kg·ha−1) than the broadcast (non-banded) applications (35% survival and 4119 kg·ha−1 yield). It was demonstrated that banded applications of CGM can be useful in direct-seeded squash production and other organic direct-seeded vegetables.

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