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W.F. Whitehead and B.P. Singh

Conventional production of tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) requires substantial investments, intensive management and high inputs of nitrogen. High N rates invariably leave residual soil NO3-N with the potential of polluting ground water and posing health hazard to humans and animals. The objective of this study was to examine the value of cover crops as a substitute to synthetic N fertilizer in growing of tomatoes. The experimental treatments consisted of control (no N fertilizer or cover crop), Abruzzi rye (Secale cereale L), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), or crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.) cover crop, and fertilization of N at 90 or 180 kg·ha-1. The treatments were replicated four times over 2 years in a randomized complete block experiment for growing `Mountain Pride' tomato on a Greenville fine sandy loam soil. The parameters used to evaluate the performance of tomato consisted of leaf area index (LAI), gas exchange (GE), above ground plant dry weight, number of fruits, dry weight of fruits, and marketable fruit yield. Tomato LAI was similar under legumes and N fertilizers. Hairy vetch and applied N at 90 kg·ha-1 influenced net photosynthesis (Pn) and transpiration (E) the most in both years at all stages of growth. Highest number of tomatoes were produced in hairy vetch and applied N at 90 kg·ha-1 plots. There was no significant difference in the above ground plant dry weight, fruit yield and dry weight of fruits between legumes and N fertilizers. The results suggested that the legume cover crops compared favorably to N fertilizers in promoting tomato growth and development and may have potential of substituting N fertilizers in fresh-market tomato production.

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W.F. Whitehead and B.P. Singh

Two studies were conducted to assess the effects of leaf aging on gas exchange in okra [Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench] leaves. Gas exchange was measured at 6- to 10-day intervals starting 15 days after leaf emergence (DFE) and continuing until senescence at 50 DFE. Rates of transpiration (E), stomatal conductance (gs) and CO2 exchange (CER) increased as leaves matured up to ≈25 DFE, about full leaf expansion. Transpiration rate, gs, and CER declined after 25 DFE and as leaves aged further. Internal leaf CO2 concentration (Ci) was higher in old than young leaves. This study suggests that the most efficient okra canopy would maximize exposure of 25-day-old leaves to sunlight.

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W.F. Whitehead and B.P. Singh

A 2-year field study was conducted to determine the effects of within-row spacing (WRS) on CO2 exchange rate (CER), leaf-area index (LAI), and yield of okra [Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench]. Okra cultivar Clemson Spineless was seeded at WRS of 8, 16, 24, 32, 40, and 48 cm in a randomized complete-block design replicated three times. CER and LAI were measured five times at about biweekly intervals between first flowering and final harvest. Fruits were harvested three times weekly for 7 weeks. There was no year-to-year variation in CER or LAI. Plants at 8 cm WRS attained maximum CER by 56 days after planting (DAP), while all other spacings took longer. CER at all WRS declined after 85 DAP. In 8 and 16 cm WRS, maximum LAI developed by 56 DAP, but 69 DAP were required at all other spacing. Depending on the spacing, LAI regressed linearly or cubically on DAP. Fruit number/plant (FNP), fruit fresh and dry weight/plant (FFW and FDW), and fresh and dry fruit yield/ha (FFY and DFY) were greater in 1991 than in 1990 as a result of more favorable weather during 1991. There was a linear increase in FNP, FFW, and FDW as WRS increased. Conversely, FFY and DFY were highest at 8 cm and decreased linearly in 1990 and quadratically in 1991 as WRS increased. Results of this study suggest that okra plants reach maximum CER and LAI earlier and produce higher fruit yield per unit area when spaced close together in the row.

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W.F. Whitehead, J. Carter, and B.P. Singh

Field studies were conducted during 1992 and 1993 to determine the effect of six monthly planting dates from April to September on gas exchange, plant height, and leafy fresh and dry yields of vegetable amaranth (Amaranthus tricolor L.). Vegetative growth was satisfactory for May to August planting. Seeds planted in April failed to germinate due to low soil temperatures. Plant growth was significantly reduced in the September planting possibly due to low fall temperatures and shortened day length. Soil and air temperatures 25 °C or higher promoted optimal stand establishment and growth. The vegetative growth of June seeded amaranth took place during the warmest part of the summer and as a result had maximum CO2 exchange rate (CER), plant height, and leafy fresh and dry yields. The relationship between planting date and CER, transpiration rate (E), stomatal conductance (gs), plant height, and leafy fresh and dry yields was quadratic, while a cubic equation provided best fit between the planting date and internal leaf CO2 concentration (Ci). The results suggest that it is possible to stagger the planting of Amaranthus tricolor in the southeastern United States to assure availability of fresh leafy greens throughout the summer. However, the crop produces maximum leaf biomass when grown during the warmest part of the summer.