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  • Author or Editor: Sudeep Bag x
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There is an increasing interest in producing organic tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) in high tunnels (HTs) in the southeast United States. HTs are unheated, passively cooled structures that allow tomato growers to harvest high-quality fruit out of season. However, excessive temperatures inside HTs may negatively impact tomato plant growth and fruit yield. Shade nets have been reported to reduce temperatures inside the HTs. Plastic mulch color has also significantly influenced plant growth and yield under high-temperature conditions. This study aimed to determine the effects of shade net color and plastic mulch color on plant growth, fruit yield, and incidence of tomato yellow leaf curl disease (TYLC) in ‘Red Snapper’ tomato grown in HTs under elevated temperatures (summer-fall) in southern Georgia, USA. Organic ‘Red Snapper’ tomato seedlings were transplanted in HTs in 2019 (Season 1) and 2020 (Season 2). The design was a split-plot randomized block where the main plots were externally mounted shade nets (black, silver, and unshaded; 30% shade factor), and the subplots were plastic mulches (black and white). Compared with black mulch, white mulch improved plant height and stem diameter but did not influence fruit yields. Shade nets reduced HT air temperature and root zone temperature (RZT) but did not affect plant height and stem diameter. The diminished photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) under the shade nets reduced marketable fruit yield. Thus, shade nets are not recommended once heat challenges do not limit HT tomato production in Georgia (after about mid-October). Shade nets and plastic mulch inconsistently affected TYLC incidence, severity, and area under the disease progress curve (AUDPC). Additional fruit yield reductions occurred due to TYLC because the incidence was 100% 6 weeks after transplanting. Preliminary insect data showed that shade net treatments had similar sweetpotato whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) numbers. The high TYLC incidence indicates that ‘Red Snapper’ may not be suitable for fall HT tomato production in the southeast United States. More research on shading and heat stress management in HT organic tomato production is necessary.

Open Access

Summer squash (Cucurbita pepo L.) is a major vegetable crop produced in Georgia and Florida during the fall season. This production is vulnerable to whitefly (Bemisisia tabaci Genn.)-transmitted viruses that lead to severe yield losses. Over the past several years, whitefly populations have increased during the fall, thus leading to an increase in whitefly-transmitted viruses such as Cucurbit leaf crumple virus (CuLCrV) and Cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus (CYSDV). Whitefly management for summer squash relies on the use of insecticides and can be costly without providing adequate management of the viruses. Deployment of host resistance to whiteflies and their transmitted viruses (CuLCrV and CYSDV) is the best strategy for mitigating yield loss of summer squash; however, no resistant cultivars are commercially available. In the current study, resistance or tolerance to whiteflies, CuLCrV, and CYSDV was determined for squash germplasm from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), university breeding programs, and commercial companies in Georgia and Florida across 2 years. In both locations and years, visual virus symptom severity scores were collected and a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was used to determine the CuLCrV viral load and CYSDV presence in Georgia. Whitefly-induced feeding damage was evaluated by directly assessing the intensity of silverleaf symptoms and visual counts of whitefly adults on the foliage in the field or in photographs. Virus symptom severity was lower in C. moschata Duchesne ex Poir. genotypes, namely, PI 550689, PI 550692, PI 550694, PI 653064, and Squash Betternut 900, than in other evaluated genotypes. Two C. pepo accessions were common between both locations for viral severity (PI 442294) or viral severity and viral load (PI 171625). Lower CuLCrV loads were identified in C. ecuadorensis Cutler & Whitaker (PI 540895), and C. okeechobeensis (Small) L.H.Bailey (PI 540900) than other evaluated genotypes. Four genotypes tested negative for CYSDV during both years: C. pepo (PI 507882), C. moschata (PI 483345), C. ecuadorensis (PI 390455), and C. okeechobeensis (PI 540900); they are potential sources of resistance. Six C. moschata accessions (PI 211999, PI 550690, PI 550692, PI 550694, PI 634982, and PI 653064) showed high tolerance to silverleaf disorder and had the lowest adult whitefly counts. Collectively, the accessions identified in the current study are potential sources of resistance or tolerance to whitefly and whitefly-transmitted viruses (CuLCrV and CYSDV).

Open Access