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Poster Session 5—Vegetable Crops Management–Cropping Systems 1 18 July 2005, 12:00–12:45 p.m. Poster Hall–Ballroom E/F

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Weed management is a major constraint of organic vegetable production and perennial weeds such as purple nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus) are particularly difficult to control. A study was initiated in 2005 to determine how summer fallow techniques impact purple nutsedge population density, tuber number and tuber viability; and to evaluate the impact of the treatments on the yields of two fall crops differing in canopy size and rate of development. Clean fallow treatments accomplished with weekly tillage or weekly flaming were conducted for 12 weeks. Two sets of summer cover crop treatments of sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea) were established by broadcasting 40 lb of seed per acre and were undercut at 13 weeks after seeding. Cover crop residue was either incorporated before transplanting or retained on the surface as mulch for the fall crops of lettuce and broccoli. Soil solarization was initiated on 2 July and the transparent solarization film was maintained in place until mid-October. A weedy fallow treatment was included as a control, which was tilled before establishing the fall crops. Before the initiation of the summer fallow treatments, no difference in viable tubers or nutsedge shoot density was observed. After fallow, flaming had the highest number of viable tubers, with all other treatments similar to the weedy control. Nutsedge shoot density was suppressed by all fallow treatments to lower levels than with the weedy control, but solarization was the least effective. Leaf-cutting insects eliminated the crops in the sunn hemp mulch treatment within days of being transplanted. Lettuce stands with all other treatments were similar and greater than with the weedy control. Highest broccoli stands were obtained with flaming, solarization, and tillage; but broccoli stand with incorporated sunn hemp was similar to the weedy control. Highest lettuce yields occurred with incorporated sunn hemp, solarization, and weekly tillage. However, lettuce yields with flaming and the weedy control did not differ statistically. Broccoli yields were greatest with flaming, solarization, and tillage. Broccoli development was delayed with the weedy control and incorporated sunn hemp treatments and no significant yield was obtained.

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This article summarizes the current status of organic vegetable production practices in California. The production of vegetables organically is growing rapidly in California, led in large part by growth in the market demand for organically grown produce. Key aspects of organic vegetable production operations such as certification and farm production planning, soil management, weed management, insect management, and plant disease management involve special practices. Many practices have not been thoroughly researched and the scientific base for some practices is still being developed.

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Production budgets for both field grown vegetables and ornamental crops, field and container grown, are fairly common. Container grown vegetables, other than transplants, are much less common and do not have specific budgets which would allow growers to set realistic prices for individual plants. A specialized budget was adapted from one developed for container nurseries. Specific production costs were taken from a budget for field grown vegetables. This process could be adapted for use with other specialty crops. It could be used for county or state fairs and other situations where individual vegetable plants need to be raised in containers.

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The development of polyethylene as a plastic film in 1938 and its subsequent introduction as a plastic mulch in the early 1950s revolutionized the commercial production of selected vegetable crops. Throughout the succeeding years, research, extension, and industry personnel, together with growers, have documented the advantages of using plastic mulch as one component of a complete intensive vegetable production system. Although a variety of vegetables can be grown successfully using plastic mulches, muskmelons, honeydews, watermelons, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, sweet corn, and cole crops have shown significant increases in earliness, total yield, and quality. Research continues on field evaluation of new formulations of degradable, wavelength-selective, and colored plastic mulches and on cropping systems to use best these specific improvements. The use of plastic mulches for the production of vegetable crops continues to increase throughout the United States and the world.

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A segment of the greenhouse crop market would like to obtain vegetables and herbs that are certified organic. The technology for the use of biological controls for insects and diseases is well-developed and a significant part of greenhouse vegetable production. Organic fertilizers, however, have not been well-utilized in organic greenhouse vegetable production. Common organic fertilizers were analyzed for the levels of nutrients when mixed with water for use in greenhouse fertigation. Products derived from algae-Algamin (liquid) and Ohrstrom's Garden Maxicrop (powder), Bat Guano, and products derived from fish waste-GreenAll Fish Emulsion (liquid) and Mermaid's Fish Powder, demonstrated nutrient levels comparable to typical water-soluble fertilizers used for greenhouse plant production. Although the organic fertilizers could not be used as a concentrate for injector systems, readings from a conductivity meter were directly related to nitrate nitrogen levels and could be used for fertilizer management in the capillary mat subirrigation system used for plant production.

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Growers producing new crops often do not understand how to price individual items. The prices of common container nursery stock items may be listed in monthly trade publications. Prices for fruits and vegetables fluctuate on a daily basis. A production budget for containerized specialty vegetables was adapted from one developed for ornamental nurseries, using some specific costs for field-grown vegetables. This gave a realistic way to calculate prices for individual products. Once the crops had been sold, the authors were able to validate the model by comparing actual costs with projected costs.

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Abstract

Coincident with the world food shortage, ever-increasing food prices and the shortage and high and rising costs of energy, attention is now being directed to the energy-efficiency of agricultural production (1, 5, 6, 12, 13, 18, 30, 31, 34, 40, 45, 47, 48, 52). Although the energy used annually for agriculture in the United States (48) and Canada is not a large percentage of the national totals some feel that to ensure energy supplies “agriculture must stake a claim” (27). The “claim” must stress the form of energy because current agricultural technology is so dependent on liquid fuels for machinery operation and natural gas for the production of nitrogen fertilizers (40). As an important segment of the agricultural industry, horticulturists must also “stake a claim” to energy if they believe fruits and vegetables make a legitimate contribution to food supplies. Fruit and vegetable production is considered energy-extravagant because of the high energy inputs needed compared to the usable energy output (13, 47), although few studies of the energy relationships of individual horticultural crops have been reported. Presented herein are energy calculations for the production of some fruits and vegetables for which production data in Ontario are available with a discussion of the place of fruits and vegetables in a food supply system and the flaws inherent in judging production efficiency solely on an energy basis.

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Fresh fruits and vegetables produce ethanol when they are held in atmospheres containing low concentrations of oxygen. Ethanol concentrations in the headspace of fresh Brassica vegetables held 24 hours in nitrogen at 20°C ranged from 5 to 110 mmol·m–3. The absence of oxygen induced anaerobic respiration and the production of ethanol in these vegetables. However, other stresses, including heat and high concentrations of carbon dioxide, can also stimulate the production of ethanol in fresh fruits and vegetables held in aerobic atmospheres. Fresh heads of broccoli dipped in 52°C water had increased concentrations of headspace ethanol 2 hours after treatment when held at 20°C in air. Concentrations were 6, 160, and 490 times greater in broccoli treated for 1, 2, or 3 minutes than in nontreated controls, respectively. Fruit of three highbush blueberry cultivars held in 25% carbon dioxide for 6 weeks at 0°C had 80 to 190 times more ethanol than fruit held in air. The 25% carbon dioxide atmosphere also induced blueberries to soften and develop off-flavors. Ethanol may be a fast and easy-to-measure indicator of physiological stress in stored fresh fruits and vegetables. Monitoring induced ethanol production could identify injurious storage environments or postharvest treatments. Possible mechanisms of stress-induced ethanol production will be discussed.

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Advantages of no-till (NT) production systems are acknowledged throughout the world. During the 1990s, production of NT vegetable crops has increased for both direct seeded and transplanted crops. Increased interest in reduced-tillage systems among research workers and vegetable growers is attributed to: 1) development and commercialization of NT transplanters and seeders, 2) advancements in the technology and practice of producing and managing high-residue cover crop mulches, and 3) improvements and acceptance of integrated weed management techniques. Results from research experiments and grower's fields over the years has shown that success with NT transplanted crops is highly dependent on achieving key production objectives, including: 1) production of dense, uniformly distributed cover crops; 2) skillful management of cover crops before transplanting, leaving a heavy, uniformly distributed killed mulch cover over the soil surface; 3) establishment of transplants into cover crops with minimum disturbance of surface residues and surface soil; and 4) adoption of year-round weed control strategies.

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