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Richard G. Snyder

Successful greenhouse tomato businesses are able to keep production and quality high while maintaining reasonable cost controls. One way of controlling costs is to use growing media that are locally available in good supply, and therefore of low cost. In Mississippi. as in other states in the southeast, pine bark is an available byproduct resource from the forestry industry; fines (<=95mm diameter) can be used as a growing medium following composting. Rice hulls are a readily available waste product from rice mills, especially in the Mississippi Delta region; these are suitable after being crushed and composted.

In comparison to plants grown in rock wool, yield from plants in pine bark fines, rice hulls, or sand were higher, while quality was not significantly different in the l-crop/year system. In a spring crop, yield and quality were higher from plants in pine bark, rice hulls, and rock wool than from those grown in sand. On a per plant basis, cost for the rock wool system, perlite system (pre-bagged), perlite (bulk), peat moss, sand, composted rice hulls, and pine bark lines are $1.50, $1.00, $0.35, $0.60, $0.24, $0.22 and $0.17, respectively. Pine bark and rice hulls are good choices for growing media for greenhouse tomatoes in areas where they are available.

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Richard G. Snyder

A successful greenhouse tomato crop depends on the optimization of several factors; among these factors are water, nutrition, and all facets of environmental control. Good pollination, however, is one of the most important requirements for the production of fruit of high yield and quality. Poor pollination causes fruit that are smaller, angular, or puffy, due to reduced seed numbers and poor gel fill in the locules. In Spring 1993, two 7.3 × 29.3 double plastic-covered greenhouses were used to compare the conventionally used electric pollinator to bumblebees for effective pollination; replicated variety trials were performed within each. In one greenhouse (12 replications, RCBD), `Trust' performed better than `Caruso' in yield and quality, although it was smaller in fruit size. In the other greenhouse (four replications, RCBD), `Match' and `Switch' were better than all others (`Belmondo', `Capello', `Laura', and `Rakata') for most yield and quality variables. Means across varieties were similar for the two pollination techniques, with marketable weights identical. For gutter-connected greenhouse ranges of 0.1 ha or larger, bumblebees are an economically viable option for pollinating hydroponically grown tomatoes.

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Richard G. Snyder

The greenhouse-tomatoes list was created to provide a method for commercial greenhouse tomato growers to communicate with each other to learn from others' experiences. Its purpose is to connect growers with vendors of greenhouses, fertilizers, seeds, and other supplies, and to facilitate networking among growers, agents, specialists, and researchers. The goal of the greenhouse-tomatoes list is to develop high quality discussion that benefits commercial growers and the entire greenhouse tomato industry. This is accomplished by promoting the list to growers; keeping the list small so that the traffic is manageable; avoiding promotion to hobbyists so the list does not become cluttered; avoiding SPAM. Excellent majordomo software has been 100% effective in the latter. The list was first offered to growers at the 2004 Greenhouse Tomato Short Course (GHSC) in Jackson, Miss. Then, it was promoted through other e-lists for vegetable specialists, new crops, greenhouse growers, hydroponics, etc. The final phase was to promote it at various grower meetings around the U.S., through trade magazines, and at the 2005 GHSC. Currently, the list consists of 141 members. Subscribers are from the U.S., Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Newfoundland, Pakistan, Romania, South Africa, Virgin Islands, and Thailand. Demographics are 31% university, 15% suppliers, 34% growers, 20% unknown. The greenhouse-tomatoes list is housed on a server at Mississippi State University with nearly all functions handled seamlessly by majordomo software. To subscribe: send e-mail to majordomo@lists.msstate.edu with the following message: subscribe greenhouse-tomatoes. You will get a confirmation email telling you that you must reply. You must be subscribed to send anything to the list. Once subscribed, to communicate with the whole group, address an email message to greenhouse-tomatoes@lists.msstate.edu and everybody on the list will receive it. To make this easy, the user can save that address to a nickname, such as ght or greenhouselist. More information can be found at http://www.greenhousetomatosc.com.

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Richard G. Snyder

Production of greenhouse tomatoes, while not new to Mississippi, has increased in the past 4 years to an industry of noteworthy size. This specialized industry in Mississippi has faded in and out of popularity over the years, as new growers have sometimes been stimulated by greenhouse supply companies looking for prospective customers. Often, rumors of incredibly high yields, consistently high demand and price, and minimal problems with pests and culture have encouraged novice growers to start in such a big way as to make it impossible to pay off their debts.

With strong support from the Extension Service and the Experiment Station in Missiippi, the number of grown has increased from a handful to 71, utilizing 224 free-standing or gutter-connected greenhouse bays, occupying 12 acres under plastic. This has placed Mississippi within the top 10 greenhouse vegetable producing states in the U.S. and has helped to build a $1.8 million industry. University support has taken the form of: 1) monthly Vegetable Press Newsletter, 2) annual Greenhouse Tomato Short Course each April, 3) Greenhouse Tomato Handbook (1992). 4) organized Greenhouse Tours. 5) a greenhouse tomato production video now in the planning stage, and 6) excellent support by Plant Pathologists and Entomologists.

To support these growers, most of whom are new to greenhouse tomatoes, a number of culturally based experiments have been performed at the Truck Crop Branch Experiment Station. These have included evaluation of heating systems, media, varieties, biological control, fog cooling, and bumblebee pollination.

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Richard G. Snyder, Frank Killebrew, and Joseph A. Fox

Yellow squash (Cucurbita pepo L.) planted after early spring in Mississippi have a strong likelihood of developing green streaks and blotches on the fruit-symptoms of watermelon mosaic virus strain 2. Cultivars with the relatively new precocious yellow gene (PYG) tend to show such symptoms less prominently, and in some cases not at all, when infected. Field trials were conducted at two locations to evaluate several PYG cultivars and compare their WMV-2 symptoms to those of standard, non-PYG types. In both cases, the PYG cultivars had fewer unmarketable fruit due to WMV-2 symptoms, although they were not entirely immune to the virus.

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Richard G. Snyder, James E. Simon, Richard A. Reinert, Michael Simini, and Gerald E. Wilcox

Watermelon, Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum & Nakai cv. Sugar Baby, were grown in the field as a fall crop in open-top chambers (OTC) in southwestern Indiana with either charcoal-filtered (CF) or nonfiltered (NF) air. Ozone and sulfur dioxide were continuously monitored in OTC and ambient air. There was a significant decrease in marketable yield by weight (19.9%, P = 0.05), percentage of marketable fruit by number (20.8%, P = 0.10), and total yield by weight (21.5%, P = 0.05) from plants grown in the NF air treatment compared with those grown in CF air. Ozone-induced foliar injury was significantly greater on plants grown under NF conditions. Ambient concentrations of 03 in southwestern Indiana caused foliar injury (P = 0.10) and significant yield loss to a fall crop of watermelons.

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Richard G. Snyder, A. Brent Rowell, Thomas J. Koske, and R. Allen Straw

The protocol for agent training has always been for extension specialists to train agents within the same state in each aspect of agriculture. However, with ubiquitous cutbacks among universities, and extension in particular, it is no longer feasible for every state to provide expertise in each field. Consequently, agents cannot receive training in some specialized fields. With a partnership agreement from the USDA Risk Management Agency, the Greenhouse Tomato Short Course in Jackson, Miss., provided training for five to seven agents from each state in the region: Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi. Funding was made available to cover travel expenses, registration, and a resource notebook for 25 agents. As a result, these agents took part in 3 days of intensive training seminars, as well as a 1-day tour of greenhouses. Invited speakers from around the United States spoke to these agents, as well as current and prospective commercial growers from all over the United States. Topics included basics of producing a commercial crop of hydroponic greenhouse tomatoes, budget for establishing and operating a greenhouse business, marketing and promotion, principles of risk management, pest and disease identification and management, grower's point of view, heating, cooling, and ventilation of greenhouses, new technologies, diagnostics, recent research in greenhouse production, and alternative crops (lettuce, peppers, mini-cucumbers, galia melons, baby squash) for the greenhouse. With this training, agents from throughout the south-central region returned to their offices with the skills to assist growers in their counties to succeed in the hydroponic greenhouse tomato business. Complete information on the short course can be found at www.greenhousetomatosc.com.

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Kent E. Cushman, Richard G. Snyder, David H. Nagel, and Patrick D. Gerard

Evaluations of 21 entries (commercial cultivars and breeders' experimental hybrids) of triploid watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) were conducted in northern and central Mississippi during 2000 and 2001. The purpose of this research was to identify high-yielding, medium-sized triploid cultivars with good horticultural characteristics and consumer qualities for commercial production in Mississippi. Most entries were similar to `Tri-X 313' and had red flesh, oval shape, and a mottle stripe rind pattern. SXW 5052, `Triple Crown,' `Crimson Trio,' `SeedWay 4502,' and `Millionaire' produced the highest total marketable yields; however, SXW 5052 is no longer available. `Crimson Trio' produced slightly smaller-sized melons compared to other entries and `SeedWay 4502' produced melons with relatively low soluble solids concentration. Based on total marketable yield, average size of melons, soluble solids concentration, and lack of undesirable characteristics such as hollowheart, black and colored seed, and rind necrosis, `Triple Crown,' `Millionaire,' `Cooperstown,' `Summer Sweet 5244,' and `Crimson Trio' can be recommended as mid- to late-maturing cultivars for commercial production in Mississippi. Based on early marketable yield, and using the same criteria listed above, `Tri-X 313' and `Tri-X Carousel' can be recommended as early-maturing cultivars for commercial production in Mississippi. `Tri-X 313' exhibited only one undesirable trait, producing a relatively high number of black and colored seeds. `Diamond' had high early and total yields, as well as high soluble solids concentration, but it should be recommended only on a trial basis to determine its potential susceptibility to hollowheart.