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Open access

Ravneet K. Sandhu, Nathan S. Boyd, Shaun Sharpe, Zhengfei Guan, Qi Qiu, Tianyuan Luo, and Shinsuke Agehara

Strawberry growers face rising production costs combined with competition from foreign imports. Relay cropping vegetables with strawberries is a unique approach that can diversify income and reduce the risk associated with strawberry production. Planting vegetable transplants on the same bed before strawberry crop termination enables continued berry harvesting while the new vegetable transplants become established. Relay cropping techniques of strawberry with eggplants were evaluated during the 2016–17 and 2017–18 seasons in Balm, FL. The strawberry crop was planted in September, and eggplant was transplanted into the beds either as a sole crop or with strawberry plants. Two experiments were conducted to optimize the planting date of strawberries and the termination date of strawberries. The objective of the research was to examine the competitive relationship between strawberry and eggplant crops and to define the optimal planting date for the eggplant and termination date of strawberries to minimize the competitive interaction and maximize the yield of both crops. Strawberry yields were unaffected (P = 0.938) by relay cropping or by the planting date of the eggplant. Eggplants grown without strawberries had 27% to 32% higher yields (P = 0.004) compared with relay-cropped eggplants, and eggplant yield decreased with later planting dates (P < 0.001). A partial budget analysis showed that transplant dates of 4 and 18 Jan. for eggplants with strawberries resulted in increased profits of $7320 and $3461 per ha, respectively, over the baseline treatment of strawberries alone, but later planting dates resulted in an overall economic loss ($7800–$16,000/ha). Strawberry termination dates did not affect eggplant yields. In conclusion, relay cropping eggplants with strawberries resulted in no effect on strawberry yields, reduced eggplant yields, but increased overall profits when eggplant were transplanted in early to mid-January. Relay cropping of strawberries with eggplants in early February to early March is less profitable than a monocrop of strawberries.

Open access

Ravneet K. Sandhu, Nathan S. Boyd, Lincoln Zotarelli, Shinsuke Agehara, and Natalia Peres

Florida vegetable growers are facing high production costs due to high input costs, lower profitability, and competition from foreign markets. Multi/intercropping allows growers to increase the yields and profits per unit area by producing multiple crops on the same beds. Experiments determining the effects of intercropping and plant spacing was conducted in Fall 2018 and 2019 at Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, Balm. Tomato and bell pepper were intercropped at low and high planting density on plastic-covered beds. Bell pepper shoot biomass was significantly (P < 0.001) reduced when intercropped with tomato, compared with monocropped bell pepper. However, tomato shoot biomass was significantly reduced when tomato plant density increased, but it was unaffected by bell pepper intercropping. Biomass of both crops was unaffected by relay cropping. Bell pepper yields when intercropped with tomato at low density (60 cm tomato-tomato and 38 cm pepper-pepper) had similar yields to bell pepper planted alone in low and high planting density. We concluded that bell pepper plants were more sensitive to interspecific competition, whereas tomato plants were more sensitive to intraspecific competition. Intercropping may be a viable option for growers at recommended plant densities used for monocrops. However, high plant density is not recommended.

Open access

Ravneet K. Sandhu, Nathan S. Boyd, Lincoln Zotarelli, Shinsuke Agehara, and Natalia Peres

Vegetable growers in Florida face rising production costs, reduced crop value, and competition from foreign markets. Relay cropping is a variant of double cropping, where the second crop is planted into the first crop before the harvest is finished. This cropping system may be a potential solution to lower production costs per crop by sharing some inputs for two crops. The objectives of this study were to determine the effect of cropping sequence and transplanting date of the secondary crop when relay cropping tomato and bell pepper. Two field experiments were conducted at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, FL, in 2018 and 2019. In the first experiment, tomato was grown as the primary crop and bell pepper was added as the secondary crop, with multiple transplanting dates (8 Aug., 23 Aug., 7 Sept., and 24 Sept.). The second experiment had the same setup but the reverse cropping sequence. Bell pepper yield as the secondary crop was reduced by 65% when grown with tomato as the primary crop compared with bell pepper planted alone. Transplanting date had no effect on bell pepper yield (P = 0.091). Tomato yield was unaffected by the presence of the secondary crop. In the second experiment, tomato yield as a secondary crop was 36% lower when grown with bell pepper as the primary crop compared with tomato crop alone (monocropped). However, tomato yield was significantly reduced by the presence of bell pepper only when tomato crop was planted within 30 to 45 days after planting bell pepper. Based on these results, we recommend relay cropping tomato as the secondary crop within 30 days of planting of bell pepper as the primary crop. However, we do not recommend relay cropping bell pepper as the secondary crop with tomato.