Polyethylene mulches are widely used in vegetable production. Advantages include improving yields, controlling weeds, and enhancing quality. However, the removal and disposal of plastic mulch used for vegetable production represents a significant financial cost for farmers and can be detrimental to the environment. A study was conducted in Fall 2007 and Spring 2008 evaluating the performance of paper mulches for the production of summer squash (Cucurbita pepo ssp. ovifera) ‘Conqueror III’. Four paper mulches, 50-lb kraft paper, 50-lb polyethylene-coated kraft paper, 40-lb white butcher paper, and 30-lb waxed paper were compared with 1-mil black polyethylene mulch, bare-ground hand-weeded, and bare-ground nonweeded treatments. Mulches were placed using a traditional plastic mulch layer and seedlings were transplanted using a water wheel transplanter. Crop yield and quality, weed biomass, soil temperatures under the mulch (Spring 2008 only), and mulch degradation were evaluated. Most paper mulches were able to be placed with a mulch layer, but were not well suited for use with a water wheel transplanter. In Fall 2007, butcher paper and polyethylene-coated kraft paper controlled weeds as well as black plastic mulch. However, in Spring 2008, black plastic mulch provided superior weed control compared with other mulches. Yields among waxed, butcher, and polyethylene-coated kraft papers were similar to black plastic mulch in 2007, though yields in paper mulch plots were significantly less than plastic mulch in Spring 2008. The results of this study suggest that although paper mulches can be effective, cropping conditions and the environment will influence effectiveness.
Ten yellow squash (Cucurbita pepo) and nine zucchini (C. pepo) cultivars were evaluated in southwest Georgia during spring and fall growing seasons in 2014 and 2015. Plants were grown using plastic mulch and drip irrigation following standard production practices for squash in Georgia. Plants were harvested 10 to 13 times during each study season. Fruit were graded into fancy, medium, and culls. Virus pressure was low during the trials. For yellow squash yields, there were significant cultivar by season interactions; however, Solstice, a straightneck yellow squash, and Gentry, a crookneck cultivar, were consistently among the highest yielding yellow types. Despite having no documented virus resistance, ‘Gentry’ performed well during the fall season. However, ‘Precious II’, a yellow straightneck cultivar with the presence of the precocious yellow gene, experienced high cull rates in the fall due to virus effects on the fruit. There was a year by season by cultivar interaction for zucchini yield. Despite this interaction, ‘Respect’ was ranked among the highest yielding cultivars in all four seasons of the trial. Differences were also observed between seasons for yellow and zucchini squash, with fall yields generally being lower than those in the spring. The results of this study suggest significant differences in the adaptability of squash cultivars for spring and fall production in Georgia. In addition, virus resistance, while important, should not be the exclusive factor for determining cultivars for fall-planted squash in Georgia.
Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) has been increasingly used for the production of numerous agronomic crops and a limited number of vegetable crops. To determine the impact of SDI compared with surface drip irrigation (SUR), a study was conducted in 2011 and 2012 with ‘Table Queen’ acorn squash (Cucurbita pepo var. turbinata) with irrigation initiated at 75% and 50% plant available water (PAW). The study was arranged as a factorial randomized complete block design and plants were grown with two irrigation types (SUR or SDI) and two tensiometer-controlled irrigation regimes. Results from 2011 suggested that SDI used less water compared with SUR at each irrigation set point. However, in 2012, significantly more water was used in all treatments due to warmer temperatures and less rainfall. In 2012, SDI used more water than SUR treatments at the same irrigation set point. In 2012, yield was affected by irrigation treatment. Plants grown using SUR irrigating at 75% PAW had greater numbers of fruit compared with other treatments. Furthermore, the highest yielding treatment had more than twice the number of irrigation events than the other treatments though the average lengths of irrigation events were shorter. Although overall yields were greater in 2012, irrigation water use efficiency (iWUE) was lower than in 2011 due to increased water use. These results suggest that while SDI may have some advantages over traditional SUR, environmental factors during growth can significantly impact the efficiency and productivity of each system.
Timothy Coolong and Kenneth Seebold
The effects of fungicide program and varietal resistance on the development of cucurbit powdery mildew [PM (Podosphaera xanthii)] in pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) were tested in 2009 and 2010 in Lexington, KY. Three fungicide programs consisted of a no-fungicide control, low input (chlorothalonil), and high input (chlorothalonil alternated with myclobutanil) were applied to three varieties of pumpkin with different levels of cucurbit PM resistance. Varieties tested were Howden, Aladdin, and Camaro, which had no, moderate, and high levels of cucurbit PM resistance, respectively. There were no significant variety by fungicide program interactions for yield, number fruit per acre, and average fruit weight in both years. In 2009 and 2010, variety significantly affected yield. Yield increases corresponded to the level of cucurbit PM resistance. The high-resistance variety, Camaro, had the greatest yields in both years, while Howden, with no PM resistance, had the lowest yields. In 2010, yield significantly increased with the intensity of fungicide program. With the exception of cull percentage in 2009, there were no fungicide program by variety interactions for yield parameters. In both years, PM disease severity, characterized by the area under the disease progress curve (AUDPC), was lowest on ‘Camaro’ and highest on ‘Howden’. In 2009, unsprayed ‘Camaro’ had similar AUDPC values as ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Howden’ treated with low- or high-input fungicide programs. In 2010, unsprayed ‘Camaro’ had less disease than ‘Aladdin’ or ‘Howden’ that had received the high-intensity fungicide program. These results suggest that yields can be maintained with a minimal fungicide program when using a variety with high cucurbit PM resistant in some environments. A high-input fungicide program may be necessary to maintain yields of varieties with low cucurbit PM resistance.
John Wilhoit and Timothy Coolong
Mulching between rows of plastic used for vegetable production can be an effective practice for controlling weeds. An existing round-bale unroller was modified to create an offset bale unroller, allowing round bales of hay to be unrolled between planting rows with a tractor. This modification has made the practice of mulching with round bales of hay or wheat straw more efficient. This offset round-bale unroller was used to apply hay and wheat straw mulch to between-row areas of ‘Crimson Sweet’ watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) in 2009 and 2010. Hay and wheat (Triticum sp.) straw mulches were applied at two thicknesses, corresponding one and two layers of mulch from the round bale, respectively. All of the hay and wheat straw mulch treatments controlled weeds significantly better than the non-treated controls in both years. There was a significant mulch-type by year interaction for weed control, with 1-year-old hay having less weed control in 2010 compared with 2009, whereas other mulches had improved weed control in 2010. One-year-old wheat straw and new hay had the lowest levels of weed biomass present compared with new wheat straw and the no-mulch control. Mulch thickness significantly affected weed control, with mulches applied in two layers having significantly less weed biomass than those applied in one layer. Weed pressure was significantly less in 2010 compared with 2009. The offset bail-unroller that has been developed to apply mulches to between-row areas of plastic-covered beds is a useful tool that can be used to efficiently unroll round bales of a variety of organic mulches for weed control.
Timothy Coolong and Mark A. Williams
Eight cultivars of onion (Allium cepa) representing, long, intermediate, and short-day types were evaluated for their ability to be overwintered in Kentucky. Onion seedlings were transplanted in Nov. 2007 and Oct. 2008. Plants were covered with spunbonded rowcovers or wheat (Triticum sp.) straw mulch in December and mature bulbs were harvested in June and July. Bulbing was initiated in ‘Yellow Granex’ (short-day) during transplant production, thus it was not planted in the field in either year of the experiment. The use of rowcovers compared with straw mulch increased survival rates in all cultivars. The intermediate-daylength cultivars, Candy, Superstar, and Expression, had greater percentages of bolting when grown under rowcovers compared with straw mulch. This resulted low marketable yields despite high survival rates. Rowcover/mulch treatment and cultivar interacted (P ≤ 0.05) to affect yields. The long-day cultivars, Olympic, Ailsa Craig, and Walla Walla had the highest yields when grown under rowcovers. ‘Olympic’, the highest yielding cultivar, produced a large percentage of jumbo-sized bulbs. The short-day cultivar, WI-131, had low survival rates and yields under rowcovers and straw mulch. Pungencies were lowest in ‘WI-131’ and ‘Olympic’. In general, long-day onion cultivars had high rates of survival, low rates of bolting, and higher yields compared with intermediate-day types. This suggests that they would be preferred for overwinter production in Kentucky.
Timothy W. Coolong and William M. Randle
Sandy soils in the onion (Allium cepa L.) growing region of southeastern Georgia are generally low in calcium (Ca). Bulbs grown in these soils are often soft and susceptible to postharvest diseases. Preliminary greenhouse studies have indicated that supplemental calcium chloride (CaCl2) can improve bulb firmness. The effects of supplemental CaCl2 on the quality of field-grown onions were therefore investigated. Other preliminary studies indicated that CaCl2 may inhibit sulfur (S) uptake in onion and decrease bulb pungency. Thus, ammonium sulfate (NH4)2SO4 and CaCl2 levels were varied to determine if CaCl2 could improve flavor at different levels of nitrogen (N) and S fertility. Onions, cv Georgia Boy, were grown with 0, 250, and 500 kg·ha−1 (NH4)2SO4 and 0, 115, and 230 kg·ha−1 CaCl2 in a factorial combination in 2005 and 2006. Total bulb yield increased with increasing (NH4)2SO4, but was unaffected by CaCl2. The percentage of diseased bulbs increased during storage in both years, and was affected by (NH4)2SO4 fertility in 2006. Bulb scale firmness increased with supplemental CaCl2 fertility and decreased significantly during storage in both years. Fertility treatments had little effect on bulb pectin composition, although total pectin concentrations fell during storage in 2005 and 2006. In addition, bulb pungency decreased with additional CaCl2 in 2006. However, CaCl2 had a limited effect on flavor precursor concentrations. There were no interactions between fertility treatments, but there were CaCl2 and (NH4)2SO4 by storage duration interactions affecting firmness and disease incidence, respectively. With the exception of yield, differences among years in the parameters measured were generally small.
Timothy Coolong, William Randle and Ronald Walcott
Onion (Allium cepa L.) is an economically important vegetable in the United States. Though considered a minor crop in terms of total acreage, onions have high value when compared to other crops and, nationally, their value approaches $800 million. Because harvested onions are routinely stored for long periods, disease can be a major obstacle to the industry. The primary disease reported in stored onions is botrytis neck rot caused by the fungus Botrytis allii (syn. B. aclada). Losses from neck rot can approach 35% of the stored crop. In order to accurately quantify the level of B. allii inoculum in bulbs at harvest to be able to predict potential botrytis neck rot in storage, a quantitative real-time PCR test to quantify levels of B. allii DNA present in onion bulb tissue has been developed. We have employed the TaqMan real time PCR assay and report log-linear (R 2= 0.9915) relationship between B. allii DNA concentration and cycle threshold (Ct) value with a detection limit of 5 pico gram/microliter DNA. In addition, a log-linear standard curve plotting mycelial dry weight against Ct value has been developed to allow prediction of mycelial weight in onion tissue at harvest. Currently, the ability of this test to predict botrytis neck rot during storage is being tested.
Luke Miller, George Vellidis and Timothy Coolong
A new smartphone irrigation scheduling application (VegApp) was compared with current irrigation scheduling recommendations and an automated soil moisture sensor (SMS)–based irrigation system in southern Georgia during Spring 2016 and 2017. Plants were grown using plastic mulch and drip irrigation following standard production practices for watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) in Georgia. The VegApp irrigation regime was based on evapotranspiration (ETo) values calculated from real-time data collected from a nearby weather station. Current irrigation scheduling recommendations use a water balance (WB) method. The WB method uses historic averages for determining ETo rates for the season. Water applied, soil water tension at 6-, 10-, and 14-inch depths, yield, and fruit quality were evaluated. In 2016, the SMS-based irrigation plots applied the least water. In 2017, the lowest amount of water was applied to plants grown using the VegApp. Total marketable yields were not significantly affected by irrigation regime. However, 45-count fruit yields were affected by irrigation in 2017. Plants grown using SMS-based irrigation had significantly higher yields of 45-count fruit than those grown using the WB method. Irrigation water use efficiency (IWUE) was affected by irrigation treatment and year. The SMS-irrigated plants had the greatest IWUE, although it was not significantly different from plants grown using the VegApp irrigation program. Internal quality parameters including, firmness, hollow heart, and total soluble solids (TSS) were not significantly affected by irrigation scheduling during the study. The results suggest that overall water applications may be reduced and yields maintained when using VegApp compared with traditional WB methods of irrigation scheduling.
Timothy Coolong, Susmitha Surendran and Richard Warner
Soil moisture-based, high-frequency, low-volume (pulsed) irrigation management strategies have saved water while maintaining yields of vegetables grown in coarse textured soils. However, little is known regarding the efficacy of soil moisture-based pulsed irrigation on finer textured soils. Therefore, five tensiometer-based, automated irrigation treatments were tested for tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) grown in a Maury silt loam soil in 2009 and 2010 in Lexington, KY. Irrigation treatments consisted of paired-tensiometer systems with on/off setpoints of −30/−10, −30/−25, −45/−10, and −45/40 kPa in both 2009 and 2010 and a single-tensiometer system with setpoints of −35 kPa in 2009 and −40 kPa in 2010. In 2009, the pulsed systems (−30/−25, −45/−40, and −35 kPa) irrigated more frequently but for a shorter duration than non-pulsed systems (−30/−10 and −45/−10 kPa). Soil moisture measurements in 2009 suggested that probes set at a depth of 6 inches were more closely matched to irrigation setpoints than those at 12 inches. In both years, the −45/−40 kPa setpoint treatment used the least amount of water while maintaining total marketable yields that were not significantly different from other treatments. Yields were significantly higher in 2009 than 2010, though atypical air temperatures in 2010 may have been the cause. Leaf water potential and relative water content were measured predawn and midday throughout the growing season in 2009 and 2010. Leaf water potential was not significantly affected by the treatments in either year, though leaf relative water content was affected in 2010. In this trial, an automated, soil moisture-based irrigation system maintained yields and saved water when compared with a non-pulsed irrigation system using similar irrigation setpoints for tomato grown in a silt loam soil.