Weeds are especially problematic in highbush blueberry which has a long establishment period, shallow-fibrous roots, and poor competitive ability in obtaining water, nutrients and sunlight. Commercial approaches in certified organic blueberry fields compared horticultural management methods in two New Jersey sites. The trials utilized both new and established blueberry blocks having trickle or overhead irrigation. Commercial methods investigated included rotary cultivation, mowing, propane flaming, cover crops, landscape fabric, and various mulches. Mulch comparisons included pine bark mulch, hardwood mulch, coffee grinds, cocoa grinds, municipal leaf mulch, and composted tea leaves. 3' × 12' plots were replicated 4 times in 4 adjoining rows. Applications of 3-4 inches of these mulches within the crop row to a new planting of Duke highbush blueberry have provided a combined weed control level of ca. 95% without landscape fabric and ≈98% with landscape fabric during 2003. Walkway weed suppression in new plantings was achieved with the establishment of two types of fine leafed turf fescues and monthly mowings. Bare ground percentage decreased from 80% to <2% within one year's time as these fine fescues gradually out-competed annual weeds for space. These fescue cover crops increased ground coverage from 8% to >95% over the seven month growing season. Such varieties were selected because they have good germination, require little water, use limited nitrogen and can squeeze out weeds through allelopathy. Applied research studies indicate that several suitable methods can be utilized for effective weed management in organic highbush blueberry production systems.
Eggplant cultivars comprise one of the most diverse botanical groups in world foodcrop agriculture. Their dietary origins are in China, Japan, Thailand, Africa and Europe. Over the last 60 years in the United States, eggplant has transitioned from a minor ethnic crop into a major vegetable commodity. Four years of horticultural studies in New Jersey have compared 33 worldwide cultivars. Eggplant cultivars included: Asian types—Long Purple, Millionaire, Machiaw, Orient Charm, Bride, Pingtung Long, Ichiban, Thai Round Green, Thai Long Green, and Thai Hard Skin; Indian types—Kermit, Bharta, and Pushpa; African types—Bitterballs, Kinalia, Kinalia XL, and Gangan; European types—Megal, Red Egg, Bambino, Cloud Nine, Rosa Bianca, Comprido Verde Claro; and New York; and several Russian types. These studies utilized raised beds and black plastic with drip irrigation at 30' spacing between plants and five to six feet between single row beds. Two replications were used in initial screening surveys and with four replications for in-depth studies of superior candidates. Over 4 years, the sites were planted from June 5 to 20 June. Harvests began in mid-July and ended in mid-October. The selected eggplant cultivars all exhibited typical bi-modal bearing throughout the season in growth zones 7 and 8. Individual fruit weights ranged from 2.6 to 13.4 oz per fruit. Fruit length ranged from 2.3 to 10.7 inches. Basic fruit colors were white, red, green, purple, and black with several types having variegation and striping. Yields differed significantly among varieties and ranged from 10,000 to 40,000 pounds per acre over the course of the season with multiple harvests. Marketable yields ranged from 2,750 to 8,750 boxes per acre (30 pound boxes).
In a conventional sophomore level course entitled “Organic Farming and Gardening,” 114 undergraduate students registered from years 2007 to 2009. Due to high demand and insufficient classroom space, this conventional curriculum was reformatted with identical course content into both a hybrid and a fully online version in which 361 students registered from years 2010 to 2012 and 336 students from 2013 to 2015. In comparing conventional instruction with hybrid and fully online versions over a 9-year period, few significant differences were found in final grades involving 811 students. Final class grade averages of these three learning systems ranged from 85.5% to 89.6% over their first 3-year spans. Over their 6-year span, the conventional class average of 89.6% was higher compared with 88.3% for the hybrid format and 86.8% for the online format. Student evaluation surveys assessed faculty performance with eight evaluative questions on a 1 to 5 scale from years 2012 to 2014. No significant difference existed between teaching in person vs. remotely, averaging 4.35 for the hybrid and 4.17 for the online. An additional eight questions measured educational methodology, technology, student confidence, and class satisfaction. There were no significant differences in comparing the combined averages of 4.12 for the hybrid format and 4.00 for the online version. Student responses indicated a significant preference overall for hybrid and online course formats compared with conventional methods. Registration numbers indicated an overwhelming choice for online education with an average class enrollment of 91.0 students compared with 38.0 students for conventional classes and 25.2 students for the hybrid format.
The Master Gardener program in Monmouth County began in 1999. In order to justify the initiation of such a time and resource intensive program for Rutgers Univ., detailed records of participant activities throughout the county were compiled. The educational program consists of several components related to horticultural science. These classroom topics are basic horticulture, environmental factors for plant growth, soils and fertilizers, plant propagation, vegetable gardening, integrated pest management, turfgrass systems and practical horticultural techniques. Since 1999, 145 graduates have passed through the program and contributed a total of 35,274 volunteer hours. The key horticultural program segments that result in direct return on this substantial investment include: 1) horticultural helpline—answering home gardening questions; 2) horticultural help—promoting gardening programs in schools, parks, etc; 3) Community outreach—lectures and demonstrations, hort therapy; 4) horticultural research at university extension and education farms; and 5) laboratory assistance - plant and pest identification, test measurements. The calculated value of such volunteer help at $15.43 per hour leads to a horticultural contribution of $544,277 over 5 years. It is important to realize that many key programs would not have even been initiated without the ability to quickly assemble large numbers of skilled volunteers on a part-time basis. The training program and hands-on experience made these Master Gardeners capable of detailed data collection from ornamental and agricultural plant studies. This impact expands and synergizes the plant science programs of the professional staff on both a county and statewide basis.
Medical benefits derived from grape extracts and red wine have been recently documented. In these regards, fresh grapes were collected from six Italian table grape varieties grown at the Rutgers Fruit Research and Extension Center in Cream Ridge, N.J. These samples were analyzed for proanthocynidins (PACs) which are the nutraceutical compounds considered to be bioactive in grapes. Seeded red grapes, seedless red grapes, seeded purple grapes and seedless green table grapes were also purchased from a New Jersey supermarket and analyzed for PACs. An LC/ESI-MS analytical method under low CID level of 20% was used to quantitate the PACs. Separated proanthocynidins (PACs) were individually analyzed and determined by their molecular ion peaks under positive ion mode, and led to the identification of dozens of proanthocynidins (PAC). Using HPLC/ESI-MSD, the proanthocyanidin monomers, (+)-catechin (C), (-)-epicatechin (EC), (-)-catechin gallate (CG), and (-)-epicatechin gallate (ECG) in these fresh grape samples were quantified under MRM mode. These identified catechins are the same phytochemicals that exist in green tea which is renowned for these same healthful components. This research revealed that the total concentration of PAC monomers in the six fresh table grape samples from New Jersey grown grapes ranged from 0.009% to 0.04%, which is much higher than that found in the four fresh table grape samples purchased from supermarket that contained concentrations from trace level to 0.005%. While the New Jersey grown grapes could not be directly compared to the supermarket grapes, this study provides a base-line data of expected PAC levels from standard supermarket grapes, and shows that these Italian grape varieties grown in New Jersey were rich in PACs.
The rapid expansion of Asian populations in the United States presents significant opportunities and challenges for the eastern U.S. produce sector to take advantage of their close proximity to densely populated areas. Initial crop studies followed by ethnic consumer and crop surveys were conducted to examine vegetable, leafy green, and herb consumption and expenditures among Chinese, Asian Indians, and other Asian groups. Consumer choices were used to prioritize subsequent production trials. Family expenditures were determined for specific Asian produce types and total produce purchases. This market data were extrapolated to the east coast Asian populations to assess potential market size (90% confidence interval, error margin 5.6%). Chinese consumer values ranged from $245 to $296 million per annum and Asian Indians ranged from $190 to $230 million per annum. The average annual fresh fruit and vegetable expenditures by both Asian groups were 2 to 3.5 times respective national averages. Leading Chinese vegetables determined by average expenditures were baby bok choy, pak choy, oriental eggplant, snow pea, oriental spinach, and napa cabbage. Highest expenditure of leafy greens and herbs for Chinese consumers were chives and garland chrysanthemum. This market-driven survey reported consumption of over 100 Asian crops and 42 cultivars were ranked “feasible” to grow in the eastern section of the United States. Horticultural matrices of selection criteria narrowed the list to the most promising candidates for production. As a result, 28 cultivars were then grown in University research and demonstration plots at Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Florida in determining growth characteristics and yield to focus horticultural crop producers. Leading vegetable cultivars for Asian Indian consumers were bitter gourd, eggplant, fenugreek leaves, cluster beans, and bottle gourd. Leading leafy greens and herbs for Asian Indians were turmeric, fenugreek, sorrel spinach, and radish greens. Most of these Asian cultivars were demonstrated to grow well in the three main growing zones of 5, 7, and 9. Phytochemical attributes such as antioxidant activity, polyphenols, and mineral contents were analyzed for several of the leading crop candidates. This initial field and laboratory data shows that many of these ethnic crops can be grown in the eastern United States to direct production opportunities and are nutrient rich to help drive consumer demand.