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Desire Djidonou, Zhifeng Gao and Xin Zhao

In addition to controlling soilborne diseases, grafting with selected rootstocks has the potential to enhance growth and yields in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) production. However, information is rather limited regarding its economic viability in different production systems in the United States. The objective of this study was to compare the costs and returns of grafted vs. nongrafted fresh-market tomato production under common management practices in fumigated fields in northern Florida. The field trials were conducted in Live Oak, FL, during Spring 2010 and 2011. ‘Florida 47’ tomato was grafted onto two interspecific hybrid tomato rootstocks: ‘Beaufort’ and ‘Multifort’. Grafted and nongrafted ‘Florida 47’ plants were grown on fumigated raised beds with polyethylene mulch and drip irrigation using recommended commercial production practices for nutrient and pest management. The estimated costs of grafted and nongrafted transplants were $0.67 and $0.15 per plant, respectively, resulting in an additional cost of $3020.16 per acre for using grafted transplants as compared with nongrafted plants. Grafting also led to higher costs of harvesting and marketing tomato fruit as a result of yield improvement (1890 to 2166 25-lb cartons per acre for grafted plant vs. 1457 to 1526 25-lb cartons per acre for nongrafted plant). Partial budget analyses showed that using grafted transplants increased tomato production costs by $4488.03–$5189.76 per acre depending on the rootstock and growing season. However, compared with nongrafted tomato, the net farm return of grafted tomato production was increased by $253.32–$2458.24 per acre based on the tomato shipping point prices. Sensitivity analysis further demonstrated that grafting would be more profitable as the costs of grafted transplants decreased and the market tomato prices increased. These results indicated that although grafting increased the total cost of production, the increase in marketable fruit yield generated significant gross returns to offset costs associated with the use of grafted tomato transplants. Nevertheless, further research is warranted to provide more production budget and net return data about the economic feasibility of grafted tomato production based on a wide range of commercial growing conditions in Florida.

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Zhifeng Gao, Marilyn Swisher and Xin Zhao

Farmers’ markets (FMs) are perceived as ideal places for consumers to purchase fresh, local, and organic produce; for small- and midsized farmers, to gain reliable income; and for stimulating the local economy. However, with the organic and local food movements gaining momentum, it may be hard to keep up with all the expectations for FMs. This is because the rapid growth of FMs may provide more opportunities for vendors who use misleading labels and statements to attract consumers. The objective of this study was to determine consumer perception and knowledge of FMs as well as consumer persistence of shopping at FMs after finding out that the FM products do not meet their expectations. The results indicated that FM shopping atmosphere, environmental consciousness, product freshness, and local production were the main reasons for consumers shopping at FMs. This study showed that the majority of consumers had limited knowledge of individual FM vendors; most consumers would continue to shop at FMs even after purchasing products that did not meet their expectations; and consumers who believed buying locally at FMs was important were more likely to stop shopping if dishonest vendor practices were revealed than were consumers who used FMs mainly as places for socializing and meeting friends.

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Charles E. Barrett, Xin Zhao, Charles A. Sims, Jeffrey K. Brecht, Eric Q. Dreyer and Zhifeng Gao

Grafting has many purposes in vegetable production. It is used for control of soilborne pathogens, season extension in protected culture, and improving productivity in cucurbitaceous and solanaceous crops. Consumers desire heirloom tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) for their perceived excellent flavor. Heirloom tomatoes are susceptible to many soilborne diseases and may benefit from grafting onto more robust, disease-resistant rootstocks especially under organic production. In this two-year study, heirloom tomato ‘Brandywine’ was grafted onto tomato hybrid ‘Survivor’ and interspecific tomato hybrid ‘Multifort’ rootstocks to determine the effects of grafting on fruit quality attributes such as soluble solids content (SSC), pH, total titratable acidity (TTA), and vitamin C. Nongrafted and self-grafted ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes were included as controls. Consumer sensory tests were also conducted to assess the effects of grafting on overall appearance and acceptability, firmness, tomato flavor, and sweetness. No significant differences in vitamin C, SSC, pH, or TTA were found in fruit from the nongrafted, self-grafted, and ‘Brandywine’ grafted with the two rootstocks either year. The SSC of all tomatoes in 2010 was lower than that of 2011. In 2010, fruit from ‘Brandywine’ grafted onto the rootstock ‘Survivor’ was scored significantly lower in appearance, acceptability, and flavor than the nongrafted ‘Brandywine’ treatment. All grafted treatments resulted in a significant decrease in acceptability ratings in the consumer sensory test. No significant differences were observed between nongrafted and grafted treatments in 2011. Consumers who reported more frequent consumption of fresh tomato tended to give lower ratings for most sensory attributes evaluated. Harvest time and fruit ripeness need to be considered in future research to better understand the influence of grafting with selected rootstocks on fruit composition and sensory attributes of heirloom tomatoes.

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Francesco Di Gioia, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Jason Hong, Nancy Kokalis-Burelle, Joseph Albano, Xin Zhao, Zack Black, Zhifeng Gao, Chris Wilson, John Thomas, Kelly Moore, Marilyn Swisher, Haichao Guo and Erin N. Rosskopf

Anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD) is considered a promising sustainable alternative to chemical soil fumigation (CSF), and has been shown to be effective against soilborne diseases, plant-parasitic nematodes, and weeds in several crop production systems. Nevertheless, limited information is available on the effects of ASD on crop yield and quality. Therefore, a field study was conducted on fresh-market tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) in two different locations in Florida (Immokalee and Citra), to evaluate and compare the ASD and CSF performances on weed and nematodes control, and on fruit yield and quality. In Immokalee, Pic-Clor 60 (1,3-dichloropropene + chloropicrin) was used as the CSF, whereas in Citra, the CSF was Paldin™ [dimethyl disulfide (DMDS) + chloropicrin]. Anaerobic soil disinfestation treatments were applied using a mix of composted poultry litter (CPL) at the rate of 22 Mg·ha−1, and two rates of molasses [13.9 (ASD1) and 27.7 m3·ha−1 (ASD2)] as a carbon (C) source. In both locations, soil subjected to ASD reached highly anaerobic conditions, and cumulative soil anaerobiosis was 167% and 116% higher in ASD2 plots than in ASD1 plots, in Immokalee and Citra, respectively. In Immokalee, the CSF provided the most significant weed control, but ASD treatments also suppressed weeds enough to prevent an impact on yield. In Citra, all treatments, including the CSF, provided poor weed control relative to the Immokalee site. In both locations, the application of ASD provided a level of root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne sp.) control equivalent to, or more effective than the CSF. In Immokalee, ASD2 and ASD1 plots provided 26.7% and 19.7% higher total marketable yield as compared with CSF plots, respectively. However, in Citra, total marketable yield was unaffected by soil treatments. Tomato fruit quality parameters were not influenced by soil treatments, except for fruit firmness in Immokalee, which was significantly higher in fruits from ASD treatments than in those from CSF soil. Fruit mineral content was similar or higher in ASD plots as compared with CSF. In fresh-market tomato, ASD applied using a mixture of CPL and molasses may be a sustainable alternative to CSF for maintaining or even improving marketable yield and fruit quality.

Open access

Lijia Shi, Jinghui Wang, Zhifeng Gao, Xin Zhao, Francesco Di Gioia, Haichao Guo, Jason Hong, Monica Ozores-Hampton and Erin Rosskopf

With the phase-out of methyl bromide due to its impact on ozone depletion, research has focused on developing alternative chemical and biologically based soil disinfestation methods. Anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD) was developed to control plant-parasitic nematodes, weeds, and soilborne pathogens. However, whether farmers will adopt ASD methods on a large scale is unknown. This study evaluates the economic viability of using ASD in open-field, fresh-market tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) production, drawing on data from field experiments conducted in 2015 in Immokalee, FL, and Citra, FL. The experiment included three treatments: chemical soil fumigation (CSF), ASD1 [the standard ASD treatment with 1482 gal/acre molasses and 9 tons/acre composted poultry litter (CPL)], and ASD0.5 (the reduced rate ASD treatment with 741 gal/acre molasses and 4.5 tons/acre CPL). Results from the economic analysis show that ASD treatments require higher labor costs than CSF regarding land preparation and treatment application. However, yields from ASD treatments are higher than those resulting from CSF, and the improvement in yield was enough to offset the increased labor costs. Relative to CSF, ASD0.5, and ASD1 achieved additional net returns of $630.38/acre and $2770.13/acre, respectively, in Immokalee, FL. However, due to unexpected conditions unrelated to soil treatments, the net return of ASD1 was lower than that of CSF in Citra, FL. Breakeven analysis indicates that ASD treatments would remain favorable even with an increase in the molasses price. However, when the tomato price is low, ASD could potentially lose its advantage over CSF.