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  • Author or Editor: Shufang Tian x
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Despite the growing interest in high tunnel organic vegetable production, limited information is available regarding optimizing nutrient management for organic leafy greens. This 3-year study examined the impacts of cowpea cover crop as well as different organic fertilizers and composts on yield, leaf mineral nutrient content, and phytochemical properties of organic leafy greens produced in high tunnels under Florida sandy soil conditions. The experiment was arranged in a split-split-plot design with three replications. The whole plots consisted of a cowpea (Vigna unguiculata ‘Iron & Clay’) cover crop and a weedy fallow control, with fertilization treatments in the subplots, including preplant application of granular fertilizer vs. weekly injection of liquid fish fertilizer at the same seasonal rates of nitrogen (112 kg/ha), phosphorus (9.8 kg/ha), and potassium (74.4 kg/ha). The sub-subplots included yard waste-based compost (22.4 Mt/ha), cow manure-based compost (22.4 Mt/ha), vermicompost (5.6 Mt/ha), and no compost control. Cowpea was broadcasted (112 kg/ha) in early July or mid-August and terminated 51 to 53 days after seeding. Pac choi (Brassica rapa var. chinensis ‘Mei Qing Choi’) was transplanted in mid-Sep. or mid-Oct. and harvested after 33 to 36 days. Baby spinach (Spinacia oleracea ‘Corvair’) or baby leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa ‘Outredgeous’) was direct seeded subsequently as a catch crop. Each experimental unit remained in the same location across the 3 years of the study. Cover cropping had little influence on yields, leaf mineral nutrients, ascorbic acid content, total phenolics, and total antioxidant capacity of pac choi and baby spinach/lettuce. Compared with preplant application of the granular organic fertilizer, weekly liquid organic fertigation improved pac choi marketable yield and dry weight by 16.8% and 5.4% on average, respectively, and enhanced leaf nitrogen and phosphorus contents on a dry weight basis. Relative to the no compost control, yard waste compost consistently improved marketable yields of pac choi by 11.6% on average and led to higher yields of the baby spinach/lettuce catch crop in years 1 and 3, suggesting that compost applications may enhance seasonal nutrient availability to better meet crop demand. However, compost application exhibited inconsistent effects on crop mineral nutrient and phytochemical contents across the years, which could be attributed to the different nutrient compositions of the composts applied in each season, as well as the legacy effects from the previous season. Furthermore, the compost benefits may be influenced by the fertilization program as indicated by their interaction effects observed in this study.

Open Access

With the phase-out of methyl bromide because of its impact on ozone depletion and the shift to a more protected culture system in organic vegetable production, grafting practice has gained greater attention in the United States because it may be considered a viable disease control method in organic vegetable production. However, there is a lack of information on the economic feasibility of using grafting in organic tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) production in a protected culture system such as a high-tunnel system. Using 2-year on-station trial data collected in Citra, FL, we examined the effect of using grafting on the economic returns of organic tomato production in high tunnels. Our analysis suggests that grafting tends to increase the marketable yield of organic tomato production in high tunnels. However, the enhanced yield does not necessarily increase the net return, depending on market conditions and the relative performance of grafted transplants. In addition, our results indicate that the net return of grafted production is highly sensitive to the tomato selling price. Obtaining a price premium is essential for increasing the profitability of grafted organic tomato production in high tunnels.

Open Access