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Robert C. Hochmuth and George J. Hochmuth

The evolution of plastic uses (excluding glazing) in the production of greenhouse vegetables is presented. Plastics are used in almost every aspect of crop production, including providing a barrier to the soil, lining crop production troughs, holding soil and soilless media, and providing a nutrient film channel. Irrigation systems have become very elaborate, with various plastic products used to transport water and nutrients and to provide a means of emitting nutrient solution to the crop. The greenhouse environment is managed from several plastic components, including air distribution tubes, shade materials, and energy curtains. Plastics are now common in greenhouse vegetable crop training, insect monitoring, postharvest handling, storage, and marketing.

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Stephen M. Olson, George J. Hochmuth and Robert C. Hochmuth

Studies were conducted at the NFREC, Quincy, and AREC, Live Oak, Fla., to compare watermelon {Citrullus lanatus [(Thumb.) Matsum & Nakai]} plant establishment by transplanting and direct-seeding. Cultivars used were `Charleston Gray' in 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1989; `Jubilee' in 1988 and 1989; and `Crimson Sweet' in 1987 to 1990. Early yields were greater with transplants for all three cultivars in all years. With `Charleston Gray', total yields with transplants were higher in 1985 and 1989, but not in 1984 or 1986. The average fruit weights with transplants were also greater in 1985 and 1989 than in 1984 or 1986. With `Jubilee', total yield with transplants was higher in 1989, but not in 1988. Average fruit weight with transplants was greater in 1989 than in 1988. With `Crimson Sweet', total yields were higher with transplants in 1989 and 1990, but not in 1987 or 1988, but fruits were larger with transplanting compared to direct-seeding only in 1990. In all experiments, yields with transplants were never less than those with direct-seeded plants.

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Randal L. Shogren and Robert C. Hochmuth

Biodegradable mulches made from kraft paper coated with polymerized (cured) vegetable oils were compared to black polyethylene mulches for promoting the growth of watermelon in northern Florida. Data from three spring growing seasons have been collected. Yields of watermelon planted on paper-soy oil and paper-linseed oil mulches were similar to those obtained for the control polyethylene mulches. This was the case where the paper-oil was cured before field application as well as when the paper-oil was applied to the field wet and curing took place in situ. Paper-oil mulches containing carbon black effectively blocked nutsedge growth, while nutsedge pierced and grew through the black polyethylene mulch. Degradation of the buried tucks were more rapid initially for paper-soy oil than paper-linseed oil mulch, but both lasted long enough to hold the mulch in place until spring harvests (≈2.5 months). In conclusion, paper coated with polymerized vegetable oil appears to be an effective substitute for polyethylene mulch for growing watermelon in Florida, although drawbacks include messiness in handling oily paper, slower application speeds, higher initial costs than polyethylene, and variability in rates of curing and degradation depending on soil and weather conditions.

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Stephen M. Olson, Sal J. Locascio, George J. Hochmuth and Robert C. Hochmuth

Experiments were conducted in the spring of 1990 at Quincy and Live Oak, Florida and 1991 in Quincy to study the effect of 3 K sources (KCl, K2SO4 and KNO3) and 5 K rates (0, 75, 150, 225 and 300 kg ha-1) of yield of `Sunny' tomatoes. Preplant soil test K values were 37 and 54 ppm in 1990, respectively, and 44 ppm in 1991. These K concentrations are considered medium (36-60) for Florida mineral soils. K source had no effect on yield, fruit weight or percent marketable fruit in all studies. In 1990, total yields, yield of extra large (> 7.0 cm) fruit and percent marketable fruit were increased with application of 75 kg ha-1 of K but there was no further response to applied K at both locations. In 1991, total yield increased with applied K up to 150 kg ha-1 then decreased. Fruit size and percent marketable fruit increase with 75 kg ha-1 of K but no further response occurred. There was no interaction of K source and K rate.

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Bee Ling Poh, Aparna Gazula, Eric H. Simonne, Robert C. Hochmuth and Michael R. Alligood

For shallow-rooted vegetables grown in sandy soils with low water-holding capacity (volumetric water content <10%), irrigation water application rate needs to provide sufficient water to meet plant needs, to avoid water movement below the root zone, and to reduce leaching risk. Because most current drip tapes have flow rates (FRs) greater than soil hydraulic conductivity, reducing irrigation operating pressure (OP) as a means to reduce drip emitter FR may allow management of irrigation water application rate. The objectives of this study were to determine the effect of using a reduced system OP (6 and 12 psi) on the FRs, uniformity, and soil wetted depth and width by using three commercially available drip tapes differing in emitter FR at 12 psi (Tape A = 0.19 gal/h, Tape B = 0.22 gal/h, and Tape C = 0.25 gal/h). Reducing OP reduced FRs (Tape A = 0.13 gal/h, Tape B = 0.17 gal/h, and Tape C = 0.16 gal/h) without affecting uniformity of irrigation at 100 and 300 ft lateral runs. Flow rate was also reduced at 300-ft lateral length compared with 100 ft for all three tapes. Uniformity was reduced [“moderate” to “unacceptable” emitter flow variation (q var) and “moderate” coefficient of variation (cv)] at 300 ft for Tape B and C compared with “good” q var and “moderate” to “excellent” cv at 100 ft. Using soluble dye as a tracer, depth (D) of the waterfront response to irrigated volume (V) was quadratic, D = 4.42 + 0.21V − 0.001V 2 (P < 0.01, R 2 = 0.72), at 6 psi, with a similar response at 12 psi, suggesting that depth of the wetted zone was more affected by total volume applied rather than by OP itself. The depth of the wetted zone went below 12 inches when V was ≈45 gal/100 ft, which represented ≈3 h of irrigation at 6 psi and 1.8 h of irrigation at 12 psi for a typical drip tape with FR of 0.24 gal/h at 12 psi. These results show that, for the same volume of water applied, reduced OP allowed extended irrigation time without increasing the wetted depth. OP also did not affect the width (W) of the wetted front, which was quadratic, W = 6.97 + 0.25V − 0.002V 2 (P < 0.01, R 2 = 0.70), at 6 psi. As the maximum wetted width at reduced OP was 53% of the 28-inch-wide bed, reduced OP should be used for two-row planting or drip-injected fumigation only if two drip tapes were used to ensure good coverage and uniform application. Reducing OP offers growers a simple method to reduce FR and apply water at rates that match more closely the hourly evapotranspiration, minimizing the risk of leaching losses.

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Danielle D. Treadwell, George J. Hochmuth, Robert C. Hochmuth, Eric H. Simonne, Lei L. Davis, Wanda L. Laughlin, Yuncong Li, Teresa Olczyk, Richard K. Sprenkel and Lance S. Osborne

Consumer demand for fresh market organic produce combined with the increasing market share of ready-to-eat products indicates the potential for expansion of an organic culinary herb market. Barriers to organic herb greenhouse production are high as a result of lack of available technical information and the low number of producers experienced in this area. There is a critical need for information and technologies to improve the management of organic soil and fertilizer amendments to optimize crop yields and quality, manage production costs, and minimize the risk from groundwater nitrogen (N) contamination. Because of limited information specific to organic culinary herb production, literature on organic vegetable transplants and conventional basil (Ocimum basilicum) production was also considered in this review. Managing N for organic crops is problematic as a result of the challenge of synchronizing mineralization from organic fertilizer sources with crop N demand. A combination of materials, including locally formulated composts, supplemented with standardized commercially formulated fertilizer products is one method to ensure crops have access to mineral N throughout their development. In experimental greenhouse systems, local raw materials are frequently used as media amendments to satisfy partial or complete crop fertility requirements. This makes comparisons among experiments difficult as a result of the wide variety of raw materials used and the frequent interactions of fertilizer source and planting media on nutrient availability. Nitrogen mineralization rates are also influenced by additional factors such as the environmental conditions in the greenhouse and physical and chemical properties of the media and fertilizer. Despite the variability within and among experimental trials, yields and quality of organically grown crops are frequently similar to, and occasionally better than, conventionally grown crops.

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Carlene A. Chase, William M. Stall, Eric H. Simonne, Robert C. Hochmuth, Michael D. Dukes and Anthony W. Weiss

An evaluation of the effect of bed width (24, 28, 32, and 36 inches) on the control of a mixed population of nutsedge [yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus) and purple nutsedge (C. rotundus)] was conducted with an emulsifiable concentrate formulation of a 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D) and chloropicrin (CP) mixture (1,3-DCP) for application through drip irrigation systems. Beds were mulched with either 1.4-mil-thick virtually impermeable film (VIF) or 0.75-mil-thick high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and 1,3-DCP was applied at 35 gal/acre by surface chemigation or via subsurface chemigation 6 inches deep within the bed. HDPE was more permeable to gaseous 1,3-D than VIF so that 1 day after treatment (DAT), 1,3-D gas concentration at the bed centers under VIF was significantly higher than under HDPE. Dissipation of 1,3-D gas with HDPE occurred within 7 DAT, but dissipation with VIF took ∼10 days. In bed centers, 1,3-D concentrations 1 DAT were in the range of 2.3 to 2.9 mg·L–1 whereas in bed shoulders concentrations ranged from 0.1 to 0.55 mg·L–1. In 2002 and 2003, 1,3-D concentration in shoulders of narrower beds was significantly higher than in the wider beds, but dissipated more rapidly than in wider beds. Lower initial 1,3-D concentrations were observed with HDPE film in shoulders than with VIF and the rate of dissipation was lower with VIF. At 14 DAT, nutsedge plants were densely distributed along bed shoulders (19 to 27 plants/m2) with little or no emergence in the centers of beds (fewer than 5 plants/m2), but with no response to bed width. Nutsedge density increased with time, but the nature of the increase differed with bed width. The most effective nutsedge suppression was achieved with 36-inch beds, which had densities of 11–13 plants/m2 on bed centers and 53 plants/m2 on bed shoulders by 90 DAT. Nutsedge suppression was initially more effective with VIF than with HDPE film, so that no nutsedge emerged in the centers of beds mulched with VIF compared with 2–7 plants/ m2 with HDPE by 14 DAT. On bed shoulders there were 2–7 plants/m2 with VIF and 32–57 plants/m2 with HDPE. Increase in nutsedge density with time was greater with VIF so that by 90 DAT nutsedge densities on bed centers and shoulders were greater than with HDPE in 2002 and the same as with HDPE in 2003. Subsurface chemigation did not consistently improve suppression of nutsedge when compared with surface chemigation. Concentrations of 1,3-D in bed shoulders irrespective of bed width were nonlethal. Initial superior nutsedge suppression with VIF did not persist. Nutsedge control in a sandy soil with 1,3-DCP chemigation is unsatisfactory with one drip-tape per bed.

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Bee Ling Poh, Aparna Gazula, Eric H. Simonne, Francesco Di Gioia, Robert C. Hochmuth and Michael R. Alligood

Increasing the length of irrigation time by reducing the operating pressure (OP) of drip irrigation systems may result in decreased deep percolation and may allow for reduced nitrogen (N) fertilizer application rates, thereby minimizing the environmental impact of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) production. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of irrigation OP (6 and 12 psi), N fertilizer rate (100%, 80%, and 60% of the recommended 200 lb/acre N), and irrigation rates [IRRs (100% and 75% of the target 1000–4000 gal/acre per day)] on fresh-market tomato plant nutritional status and yields. Nitrate (NO3 )–N concentration in petiole sap of ‘Florida 47’ tomatoes grown in Spring 2008 and 2009 in a raised-bed plasticulture system was not significantly affected by treatments in both years and were within the sufficiency ranges at first-flower, 2-inch-diameter fruit, and first-harvest growth stages (420–1150, 450–770, and 260–450 mg·L−1, respectively). In 2008, marketable yields were greater at 6 psi than at 12 psi OP [753 vs. 598 25-lb cartons/acre (P < 0.01)] with no significant difference among N rate treatments. But in 2009, marketable yields were greater at 12 psi [1703 vs. 1563 25-lb cartons/acre at 6 psi (P = 0.05)] and 100% N rate [1761 vs. 1586 25-lb cartons/acre at 60% N rate (P = 0.04)]. Irrigation rate did not have any significant effect (P = 0.59) on tomato marketable yields in either year with no interaction between IRR and N rate or OP treatments. Hence, growing tomatoes at 12 psi OP, 100% of recommended N rate, and 75% of recommended IRR provided the highest marketable yields with least inputs in a drip-irrigated plasticulture system. In addition, these results suggest that smaller amounts of irrigation water and fertilizers (75% and 60% of the recommended IRR and N rate, respectively) could be applied when using a reduced irrigation OP of 6 psi for the early part of the tomato crop season. In the later part of the season, as water demand increased, the standard OP of 12 psi could be used. Changing the irrigation OP offers the grower some flexibility to alter the flow rates to suit the water demands of various growth stages of the crop. Furthermore, it allows irrigation to be applied over an extended period of time, which could better meet the crop's needs for water throughout the day. Such an irrigation strategy could improve water and nutrient use efficiencies and reduce the risks of nutrient leaching. The results also suggest that OP (and flow rate) should be included in production recommendations for drip-irrigated tomato.