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High tunnels can facilitate production of ripe colored bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) in locations with short growing seasons by extending the length of the growing season and protecting fruit from biotic and abiotic stressors. We grew 10 cultivars of bell pepper over 3 years in a high tunnel in Durham, NH. Yields of marketable colored fruit ranged from 1576 to 2285 g/plant in 2015, from 1194 to 1839 g/plant in 2016, and 1471 to 2358 g/plant in 2017. Significant differences in marketable yield among cultivars existed only in 2015 and 2017. Of the 10 cultivars evaluated, those developed for controlled environments produced greater marketable yields than those developed for production in the field or unheated tunnels (P < 0.0001). The seasonal production patterns were similar among cultivars in all 3 years: a single peak in production occurred between 159 and 175 days after seeding, followed by much lower but steady production until frost ended each growing season. Our results demonstrate that reasonable yields of colored bell peppers can be produced in high tunnels in locations with short growing seasons. We suggest that further work may be needed to identify optimal pruning and canopy management strategies to maximize yields and fruit quality.

Open Access

We evaluated the performance of several sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) cultivars grown on raised beds covered with biodegradable black mulch in New Hampshire. Six cultivars were evaluated over 4 years, and an additional four cultivars were evaluated in 2 or 3 years. Cultivars showed significant differences in marketable yield, percent cull, and percent small roots. The cultivars Covington and B94-14 Beauregard consistently produced high yields, whereas Vardaman consistently produced the lowest yields. ‘Georgia Jet’ exhibited variable performance, with marketable yields among the highest in 1 year and the lowest in another, largely because of a high percentage of cull roots due to severe cracking. Yields measured in our study compare favorably with average U.S. yields, with several cultivars producing over 400 50-lb bushels/acre in all years in which they were grown. In a 2-year study with the cultivar Beauregard, biodegradable mulch increased overall yields (marketable, cull, and small roots) as compared with bare ground production on raised beds. However, the percentage of culled roots was higher in mulch treatments, primarily due to breakage during digging, and the observed increases in marketable yields were not statistically significant.

Free access

Winter sprouting broccoli [WSB (Brassica oleracea var. italica)] is a biennial crop that is typically planted in the fall and harvested in the spring in the United Kingdom. To evaluate their suitability as an early spring crop in the northeastern United States, 10 cultivars of WSB were grown in replicated experiments inside an unheated high tunnel over 2 years in Durham, NH. Results showed that the use of a secondary low tunnel covered with heavy rowcover (1.25 oz/yard2) significantly increased winter survival, yields, and earliness of all WSB cultivars. Cultivars differed in terms of days to maturity, yields, and shoot quality. For September planting dates, broccoli shoots were harvested from March to early May. Across cultivars, days to harvest range from 190 to 216 days in 2008–09, and from 209 to 238 days in 2009–10. Season-long yields ranged from 150 to 238 g/plant. The cultivars, Santee, Red Spear, White Sprouting Early, and Late White Star, were among the highest yielding cultivars that produced attractive and tender shoots, spanning the entire harvest season. Our experiments established that fall plantings of WSB may be overwintered in an unheated high tunnel for a spring harvest in USDA Hardiness Zone 5 sites.

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We compared the performance of Brussels sprout (Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera) cultivars in New Hampshire and evaluated the effects of topping (apical meristem removal) on marketable yields. A total of 23 cultivars were evaluated in the study, with 8 to 16 cultivars evaluated in any given year. We identified several cultivars that produced moderate to high yields of well-spaced, uniform sprouts that had few Alternaria blight (Alternaria sp.) symptoms, and identified many others, including all red cultivars evaluated, that produced very low yields consistently. In 2013, 2014, and 2015, we used a replicated split-plot experimental design with cultivar as the main plot and topping treatment as the subplot, to evaluate the effects of topping plants. Early and midseason cultivars showed increased yields in response to topping, unless topping was performed too early. Cultivars with sprouts that did not reach marketable size within our growing season generally produced low yields, and topping had no effect on yields. To explore the effects of topping at different dates, we evaluated three cultivars on seven different topping dates plus an untopped control in 2015 and 2017. In addition to reducing stalk height by limiting late-season growth, topping affected marketable yields by affecting the number of sprouts that were either undersized or oversized. The ideal topping date window for minimizing defects and maximizing yields varied slightly for each cultivar, ranging from early to late September.

Open Access

Day-neutral strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) cultivars show promise for extending the fruiting season and increasing production in the northeastern United States, but published research on cultivar yield in the region is lacking. Furthermore, few studies have investigated the effects of low tunnels on yield, fruit, and plant characteristics. We evaluated eight day-neutral cultivars (Albion, Aromas, Cabrillo, Monterey, Portola, San Andreas, Seascape, and Sweet Ann) on open beds and under low tunnels in two separate experiments conducted in 2017 and 2018. Cultivars began producing ripe fruit within 10 weeks of planting in both years, and continued producing fruit without interruption for 20 weeks (2017) and 18 weeks (2018). Annual total yield ranged from 234.9 to 497.8 g/plant and marketable yield ranged 126.4 to 389.1 g/plant, depending on cultivar and year. Cultivar significantly affected the percent marketable yield, late season yield, fruit size, soluble solids content (SSC), runner emergence, and plant size. Except for the cultivar Sweet Ann, low tunnels did not increase season-long marketable or total yield, but did increase the percent marketable yield for all cultivars in 2017, and most cultivars in 2018. Furthermore, marketable yield was significantly greater under low tunnels than open beds during 6 late-season weeks in 2018. Fruit SSC was greater under low tunnels in 2018, and low tunnels reduced runner emergence for certain cultivars. Season-long average air temperatures were higher under low tunnels, but the greatest temperature differences occurred when low tunnels were closed. We demonstrate that day-neutral cultivars can produce high annual yields in New England, but that cultivar selection is paramount.

Open Access

Day-neutral (DN) strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) cultivars have potential to produce high yields in New England and greatly extend the period of regional strawberry production each year. However, DN strawberries have primarily been evaluated as an annual crop in cold climates; thus, winter hardiness and subsequent second-year spring yields are not well understood. Separate DN plantings were established as dormant bare-rooted plants in Durham, NH (U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 5b) in 2017 and 2018. During their first year of growth and fruit production, plants were grown under one of two cover treatments: a plastic-covered low tunnel or the traditional open field environment (open beds). In November, plants were covered with either straw much (Winter 2017–18) or rowcover (Winter 2018–19) for low-temperature protection during the winter months. In the spring of the second year when winter protection was removed, the same cover treatments (low tunnel or open bed) were re-administered to plants. Plant survival was affected by year and cultivar, with average survival rates of 82% and 98% in Spring 2018 and Spring 2019, respectively. Plant survival ranged from 34% (‘Monterey’) to 99% (‘Aromas’) in 2018, and 92% (‘Albion’) to 100% (‘San Andreas’ and ‘Seascape’) in 2019. Cultivar significantly affected total and marketable yields in both years, and marketable yields ranged from 35.8 to 167.3 g/plant in 2018 and 121.6 to 298.6 g/plant in 2019. The greatest marketable yields were produced by ‘Aromas’, ‘Cabrillo’, ‘San Andreas’, ‘Seascape’, and low-tunnel ‘Sweet Ann’. In 2019, ‘Cabrillo’, ‘San Andreas’, and ‘Seascape’ produced greater marketable yields during the 6-week second-year season than they had during the plants’ first year of fruit production the previous year, which spanned 18 weeks. Low tunnels hastened fruit ripening in the spring and result in earlier fruit harvests, and in 2019, marketable yields were significantly greater under low tunnels for the first 1 to 3 weeks, depending on cultivar. Total and marketable yields were unaffected by low tunnels in 2018, but were significantly greater under low tunnels in 2019. For cultivars in the 2019 experiment, the increase in marketable yield under low tunnels (compared with open beds) ranged from 92.3 to 166.5 g/plant, except for Sweet Ann, for which marketable yields were 256.6 g/plant greater under low tunnels than on open beds. Using a conservative direct market rate of $4.50/lb, the second-year spring yields produced in the present study had a direct market value of between $3899/ha and $95,647/ha, depending on cultivar and year. We demonstrate that it is not only possible to overwinter DN strawberry plants in northern New England, but that the second-year yield may even exceed first-year production. The results from the present study indicate great potential for profitability from an overwintered DN crop.

Open Access

We grew eight cultivars of eggplant (Solanum melongena) over 2 years in four experiments conducted in high tunnels located in Durham, NH; North Haverhill, NH; and Ossipee, NH, USA. The marketable yields of eggplant harvested over 14 to 15 weeks ranged from 925 to 3269 g per plant (2.5–8.8 kg⋅m–2), depending on year and cultivar. Significant differences in marketable yield among cultivars were observed in three of the four experiments, but trends were not consistent. Parthenocarpic cultivars developed for greenhouse production, including Angela, Annina, Aretussa, Jaylo, and Michal, did not produce significantly greater yields than the cultivars developed for field production (Nadia, Traviata, and White Star). In two experiments, using a subset of cultivars, we explored the effects of training plants to four leaders compared with the standard practice of no pruning. Pruning treatment did not impact significantly the number or weight of marketable fruit, or the percentage of cull fruit, and there was no cultivar-by-pruning treatment interaction. In three separate experiments in Durham NH, USA, weight loss, browning, and softness were evaluated after 2 weeks of storage in one of three conditions: within the ideal range of temperatures (average of 50–64 °F), too warm (63–73 °F), and too cool (38–49 °F). Overall, responses to conditions that were warmer or cooler than ideal were as predicted, and weight loss, softness, and browning were all minimized when fruit were stored at 50 or 60 °F. We did, however, see some differences among cultivars in susceptibility to common postharvest storage problems. In conclusion, we found that cultivar choice can be important for high-tunnel eggplant producers, especially if postharvest storage conditions are not ideal. We also found that pruning and parthenocarpy did not enhance marketable yields, allowing growers to reduce labor and seed costs without impacting yield or fruit quality negatively.

Open Access

The impact of photoselective films on strawberry plants in a low tunnel system has not been well investigated in the northeastern United States, nor have there been studies looking at the effect of mulch color in a plasticulture system. During two separate years (2016 and 2017), we evaluated ‘Albion’ in an annual system with three ground mulch treatments (black plastic, white-on-black plastic, and no plastic) and under six cover treatments. Five of the cover treatments were low tunnel films that varied in their ultraviolet, photosynthetically active, and near-infrared radiation transmission profiles: Tufflite IVTM (TIV), KoolLite Plus (KLP), Trioplast (TRP), and custom-manufactured UV-transparent (UVT) and UV-blocking (UVO) films. The sixth cover treatment was the traditional open bed environment (no low tunnel). ‘Albion’ produced fruit for 18 to 19 continuous weeks during both years until as late as Thanksgiving (24 Nov.) in 2016. Overall, the average marketable yield was greater in 2017 (486 g/plant) than in 2016 (350 g/plant), and it was greater on black mulch than on no mulch (445 vs. 380 g/plant, respectively); white mulch was intermediate (419 g/plant) (P ≤ 0.05). There was not a significant increase in marketable yield under low tunnels compared with open beds. The average fruit mass was greater under KLP and UVO than open beds (TIV and UVT were intermediate), and greater on beds with no mulch than black mulch (white mulch was intermediate). Across cover treatments, plants on black mulch produced more runners than plants on white or no mulch, and the black mulch/open bed treatment generated the greatest number of runners in both years, more than double most other treatments in 2016. The present study demonstrates that mulch selection is important for maximizing the yield of ‘Albion’ in the Northeast region, and that both mulch and cover impact runnering and fruit size. For plant propagators producing ‘Albion’ tips in a field environment, the results of this study suggest they are likely to maximize runner quantity by cultivating plants on black mulch without low tunnel cover.

Open Access

Fall planting of spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) into high tunnels for harvest from late fall through early spring is widely practiced in the northeastern United States, but replicated studies focusing on this production system are lacking. The objectives of our study were to understand the effect of fall planting date (PD) and cultivar on yield and soluble solids content (SSC) of spinach. Three cultivars (Regiment, Space, and Tyee) were transplanted in unheated high tunnels in Durham, NH, in 2014–15 (Year 1) and 2015–16 (Year 2) at six different fall dates: 20 Sept., 30 Sept., 9 Oct., 19 Oct., 30 Oct., and 9 Nov. Five additional cultivars (Carmel, Corvair, Gazelle, Emperor, and Renegade) were included at the third date (9 Oct.) to compare yield and SSC among cultivars during winter months. A randomized complete block design with four replications was used for all experiments. Year and fall transplant date had a significant effect on total yield. Total yield of Year 2 was nearly double that of Year 1 for all PDs and cultivars. In both years, total yield decreased with later planting, such that yield from the 20 Sept. date was greater than a minimum of three of five subsequent PDs, depending on year. Total yield in spring (January through April) did not differ among the first four PDs in Year 1 or among any dates in Year 2, suggesting that a wide range of PDs will work well for those primarily interested in spring harvests. Combined analyses of the data from both years showed no significant differences in total yield among the eight cultivars planted only on 9 Oct. However, of the three cultivars grown at all PDs, Regiment produced significantly higher yields than Tyee. Harvest date, cultivar, and harvest date × cultivar affected leaf and petiole sap SSC in both years. SSC was most strongly negatively correlated with air and soil temperatures at a 10-day interval in Year 1 (R 2 = 0.61 and 0.64, respectively) and a 7-day interval in Year 2 (R 2 = 0.78 and 0.69, respectively). ‘Gazelle’ and ‘Emperor’ contained among the highest SSC in both years. Our work demonstrates total yield is highly dependent on fall PD and the growing conditions of a given year.

Free access

Living mulch systems allow cover crops to be grown during periods of cash crop production, thereby extending the duration of cover crop growth and associated beneficial agroecosystem services. However, living mulches may also result in agroecosystem disservices such as reduced cash crop yields if the living mulch competes with the crop for limiting resources. We examined whether the effects of an Italian ryegrass [Lolium multiflorum (Lam.) Husnot]–white clover (Trifolium repens L., cv. New Zealand) living mulch on broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. var. italica) yield and yield components were dependent on fertilizer rate in field experiments conducted in Durham, NH, in 2011 (Expt. 1) and 2012 (Expt. 2). Drip-irrigated broccoli was grown under a range of organic fertilizer application rates in beds covered with plastic, with and without a living mulch growing in the uncovered, interbed space. Broccoli yields were similar in the living mulch and bare soil controls under the highest rates of fertilizer application in Expt. 1. In Expt. 2, living mulch reduced broccoli yields from 28% to 63%, depending on fertilizer rate. Differences in leaf SPAD values suggest that yield reductions were attributable, in part, to competition for nitrogen; however, other factors likely played a role in determining living mulch effects. Despite yield reductions, the living mulch reduced the prevalence of hollow stem in broccoli in Expt. 1. Organic fertilizer may have inconsistent effects on broccoli yields in living mulch systems.

Free access