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Angela R. Davis, Charles L. Webber III, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Julie Collins and Vincent M. Russo

Cultural practices have been reported to affect quality and phytonutrient content of watermelon. Knowing which varieties perform best under various production systems, and how these systems affect quality, yield, and phytonutrient content, is imperative to ensure high quality and yield. There is limited information on how watermelon [Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai] varieties perform when grown with organic practices. Production characteristics of six watermelon varieties from certified organic seed sources were compared under high-(black plastic and mechanical cultivation for weed control) and low-input (no-till) organic culture. The high-input method utilized black plastic mulch and mechanical cultivation for weed control. The low-input utilized no-till planting. `Triple Star' was the most productive seedless variety in terms of number of fruit and marketable yield when data were combined across locations. `Early Moonbeam' produced the largest number of fruit, and the smallest fruit, of the seeded varieties. `Allsweet', a seeded variety, had the best marketable yield due to its larger size. `Triple Star' had the best quality (lycopene and °Brix content) when data were combined across locations. Among the seeded varieties, `Allsweet' had the best quality at both locations; however, average lycopene content on a per-fruit basis under low input production was not significantly different when compared to `Sugar Baby'. High-input production methods almost doubled the number of fruit produced for all varieties, producing greater yields, and heavier average fruit weights, but lower °Brix and lycopene content compared to the low-input production method.

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Christine M. Bradish, Gad G. Yousef, Guoying Ma, Penelope Perkins-Veazie and Gina E. Fernandez

High tunnels have been widely adopted for red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) production in the United States to extend the harvest season and increase yields. In this study, effects of high tunnel production on contents of plant secondary metabolites (anthocyanins, carotenoids, tocopherols, and ellagitannins) in red raspberry fruit were determined for three fall-fruiting cultivars (Autumn Britten, Caroline, and Nantahala) grown at three locations in North Carolina under field and high tunnel cultivation systems. Cultivar was the primary contributing factor to variation in phytochemicals, with minor effects of location and production system. The anthocyanin cyanidin-3-glucoside and the carotenoids α-carotene, β-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin were higher in fruit produced in field compared with tunnel cultivation (P < 0.01). Accumulation of total anthocyanins and tocopherols in fruit were unaffected by high tunnel cultivation in comparison with traditional field cultivation. Carotenoid content varied by genotype and production system. ‘Autumn Britten’ and ‘Caroline’ showed no difference, but were higher than ‘Nantahala’ for α-carotene, β-carotene, 9-cis-β-carotene, and lutein + zeaxanthin (P < 0.0001). Phytochemical differences among field and tunnel produced fruit have important implications for breeding with increased nutritional value in mind, and also the understanding of the relationships of plant pigments to light and temperature.

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Edgar L. Vinson III, Floyd M. Woods, Joseph M. Kemble, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Angela Davis and J. Raymond Kessler

Mini-watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.)] cultivars Valdoria and Vanessa were evaluated at 20, 30, 40, or 50 days after anthesis to determine maturity at harvest. Fruit circumference, weight, ground spot color, and number of senescent tendrils were measured as external indicators for each watermelon. Soluble solids content (SS), pH, and SS:total acid ratio (SS:TA) of each watermelon were determined to provide an indication of internal maturity. Regression and Akaike Information Criterion fit statistics analyses were performed to determine significant relationships and best predictors for external indicators of internal maturity factors. In this study, external predictors were most closely linked to fruit pH rather than to SS or SS/TA. Of the external indicators tested, fruit weight, circumference, number of senescent tendrils, and International Commission on Illumination (CIE) b* color coordinate values of the ground spot were best related to fruit pH. According to the regression models, two completely senesced tendrils, a circumference of 53 cm, weight of 3 kg, and CIE b* coordinate ground spot value of 40 are each sufficient to predict maturity when pH is used as the internal indicator of maturity under the conditions of this experiment.

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Chen Jiang, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Sylvia M. Blankenship, Michael D. Boyette, Zvezdana Pesic-VanEsbroeck, Katherine M. Jennings and Jonathan R. Schultheis

A series of studies were conducted to better understand the occurrence and causes of internal necrosis (IN) in ‘Covington’ sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas). Assessment of the problem among the industry was done for 2 years and revealed that IN was widespread in commercial storage facilities throughout the state of North Carolina; both incidence and severity were generally low (<10% incidence with minimal severity of symptoms). A few storage rooms had a high percentage of IN with severe storage root symptoms but results were inconsistent across years and among rooms. Preharvest studies with commercially used insecticides did not induce IN, but the harvest aid ethephon consistently induced IN with an incidence higher than 50%. Internal necrosis symptoms were not detectable at harvest, and earliest consistent incidence was observed 6 days after harvest (DAH) during the curing phase. Symptoms became more prevalent and severe at 30 DAH. However, in commercial storage rooms, no relationship was found between IN incidence and postcuring storage temperature or relative humidity (RH) conditions. Sweetpotato storage roots stored in air-tight barrels and exposed to 100 ppm ethylene after curing showed no relationship between the presence of ethylene gas in storage and incidence of IN. Our results indicate that IN incidence of ‘Covington’ is erratic with no obvious cause among storage rooms and that initiation of IN may occur most frequently during the first week following harvest.

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Charles L. Webber III, Angela R. Davis, James W. Shrefler, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Vincent M. Russo and Jonathan V. Edelson

The increasing perception by consumers that organic food tastes better and is healthier continues to expand the demand for organically produced crops. The objective of these experiments was to investigate the impact of different weed control systems on yields of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus) varieties grown organically. Six watermelon varieties were transplanted at two locations (Lane and Center Point, Okla.). The six varieties included three seeded varieties (`Early Moonbeam', `Sugar Baby', and `Allsweet') and three seedless varieties (`Triple Crown', `Triple Prize', and `Triple Star'). The weed control system at Lane utilized black plastic mulch on the crop row, while the area between rows was cultivated to control weeds. The no-till organic system at Center Point used a mowed rye and vetch cover crop, hand weeding, and vinegar (5% acetic acid) for weed control. When averaged across watermelon varieties, Lane produced significantly more fruit per plant (4.2 vs. 2.3 fruit/plant), greater marketable yields (16.0 vs. 8.4 kg/plants), and higher average marketable weight per fruit (6.1 vs. 4.0 kg) than at Center Point. When comparing locations, four of six varieties had significantly greater number of fruit per plant and higher marketable yields at Lane than at Center Point. Except for `Early Moonbeam', all other varieties produced significantly heavier fruit at Lane than at Center Point. In contrast, the Center Point location produced a greater percentage of marketable fruit for all varieties except `Allsweet'. Fruit quality (lycopene and °Brix) was as good or greater when harvested from the weedier Center Point location.

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Edgar L. Vinson III, Elina D. Coneva, Joseph M. Kemble, Floyd M. Woods, Jeff L. Sibley, Esendugue G. Fonsah, Penelope M. Perkins-Veazie and J. Raymond Kessler

The development of more cold-tolerant short-cycle banana cultivars has made subtropical production possible, but fruiting may be unreliable in colder margins, such as the coastal region of Alabama, as a result of cold winter temperatures and other suboptimal growing conditions. Thus, the objectives of this study were to determine plant growth parameters that predict flowering, and to evaluate vegetative and reproductive growth of Cavendish and non-Cavendish banana cultivars. Pseudostem circumference and the height-to-circumference ratio (HCR) for tall cultivars and HCR for medium cultivars exhibited linear or quadratic relationships when regressed to the number of days from planting to inflorescence emergence (DPE), and hence were the best predictors of inflorescence emergence. The banana cultivars Double, Grand Nain, Cardaba, Ice Cream, and Goldfinger demonstrated cropping potential by producing mature bunches in the cooler environment of the subtropics and currently offer the best possibilities for banana production in Alabama.

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Matthew B. Bertucci, Katherine M. Jennings, David W. Monks, Jonathan R. Schultheis, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Frank J. Louws and David L. Jordan

Grafting watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is a common practice in many parts of the world and has recently received increased interest in the United States. The present study was designed to evaluate early season growth, yield, and fruit quality of watermelon in response to grafting and in the absence of known disease pressure in a fumigated system. Field experiments were conducted using standard and mini watermelons (cv. Exclamation and Extazy, respectively) grafted onto 20 commercially available cucurbit rootstocks representing four species: giant pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima), summer squash (Cucurbita pepo), bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria), and interspecific hybrid squash [ISH (C. maxima × Cucurbita moschata)]. Nongrafted ‘Exclamation’ and ‘Extazy’ were included as controls. To determine early season growth, leaf area was measured at 1, 2, and 3 weeks after transplant (WAT). At 1 WAT, nongrafted ‘Exclamation’ produced the smallest leaf area; however, at 3 WAT, nongrafted ‘Exclamation’ produced the largest leaf area in 2015, and no differences were observed in 2016. Leaf area was very similar among rootstocks in the ‘Extazy’ study, with minimal differences observed. Marketable yield included fruit weighing ≥9 and ≥3 lb for ‘Exclamation’ and ‘Extazy’, respectively. In the ‘Exclamation’ study, highest marketable yields were observed in nongrafted ‘Exclamation’, and ‘Exclamation’ grafted to ‘Pelops’, ‘TZ148’, and ‘Coloso’, and lowest marketable yields were observed when using ‘Marvel’ and ‘Kazako’ rootstocks, which produced 47% and 32% of nongrafted ‘Exclamation’ yield, respectively. In the ‘Extazy’ study, the highest marketable yield was observed in nongrafted ‘Extazy’, and ‘Kazako’ produced the lowest yields (48% of nongrafted ‘Extazy’). Fruit quality was determined by measuring fruit acidity (pH), soluble solids concentration (SSC), lycopene content, and flesh firmness from a sample of two fruit from each plot from the initial two harvests of each year. Across both studies, rootstock had no effect on SSC or lycopene content. As reported in previous studies, flesh firmness was increased as a result of grafting, and nongrafted ‘Exclamation’ and ‘Extazy’ had the lowest flesh firmness among standard and mini watermelons, respectively. The present study evaluated two scions with a selection of 20 cucurbit rootstocks and observed no benefits in early season growth, yield, or phytonutrient content. Only three of 20 rootstocks in each study produced marketable yields similar to the nongrafted treatments, and no grafted treatment produced higher yields than nongrafted ‘Exclamation’ or ‘Extazy’. Because grafted seedlings have an associated increase in cost and do not produce increased yields, grafting in these optimized farming systems and using fumigated soils does not offer an advantage in the absence of soilborne pathogens or other stressors that interfere with watermelon production.