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PR-470

2002 Fruit and Vegetable Crops Research Report

Introduction | Demonstrations | Small Fruits | Tree Fruits | Vegetables | Diagnostic Laboratory | Appendix A

Edited by Brent Rowell and John C. Snyder

Faculty, Staff, Student, and Grower Cooperators

Horticulture

Faculty:

Jerry Brown

Terry Jones

Joseph Masabni

Brent Rowell

John Snyder

John Strang

Area Extension Associates:

Shane Bogle

Clint Hardy

Nathan Howell

Chris Smigell

Dave Spalding

Horticulture Farm Manager :

Darrell Slone

Horticulture Farms Staff and Technical Staff:

Charles Back

Larry Blandford

Sherri Dutton

June Johnston

Dave Lowry

Janet Pfeiffer

Kirk Ranta

April Satanek

William Turner

Dwight Wolfe

Students:

Amanda Ferguson

Barry Duncil

Spencer Helsabeck

International Student Interns:

Witoon Jaiphong

Sopon Issaravut

Entomology

Faculty:

Ric Bessin

Students:

Karen Friley

Md. Sufian Yek

Plant Pathology

Faculty:

John Hartman

William Nesmith

Student:

Claudia Cotton

Professional Staff:

Paul Bachi

Julie Beale

Agronomy

Faculty:

David Ditsch

Agricultural Economics

Faculty:

Tim Woods

Professional Staff:

Matt Ernst

Kentucky State University Community Research Service

Faculty:

Gary Cline

Professional Staff:

Tony Silvernail

Berea College Agriculture & Natural Resources Department

Faculty:

Sean Clark

Michael Panciera

Student:

Wendell Garnett

Extension Agents for Agriculture and Horticulture

Chris Clark

Michael Keen

Kevin Lyons

Greg Henson

Annette Meyer Heisdorffer

Diane Perkins

Darrell Simpson

Ricky Yeargan

Grower Cooperator

John Bell

Demonstration Grower/Cooperators

Carry Barrett

Gary Cecil

Cole and Katie Clark

Chad Davis

Kevin Evans

Ken Johnson

Danny Miller

Sammy Monroe

Stephen Noe

Ottie Pantle

Mark and Louis Robertson

Mike Williams

About the cover: South American pepper Capsicum baccatum is a relative of bell and hot peppers commonly grown in the U.S. C. baccatum, a diverse species with unique characteristics, may have high value when sold as ornamental plants or as culinary specialty products. One activity of the New Crops Opportunities Center at UK (www.uky.edu/Ag/NewCrops) is an evaluation of the economic potential of this species for Kentucky growers. A number of selections of C. baccatum were grown at the UK Horticulture Research Farm in 2002. Photo: Brent Rowell

Important note to readers: The majority of research reports in this volume do not include treatments with experimental pesticides. It should be understood that any experimental pesticide must first be labeled for the crop in question before it can be used by growers, regardless of how it might have been used in research trials. The most recent product label is the final authority concerning application rates, precautions, harvest intervals, and other relevant information. Contact your county's Cooperative Extension Service if you need assistance in interpreting pesticide labels.

This is a progress report and may not reflect exactly the final outcome of ongoing projects. Please do not reproduce project reports for distribution without permission of the authors.

Mention or display of a trademark, proprietary product, or firm in text or figures does not constitute an endorsement and does not imply approval to the exclusion of other suitable products or firms.


INTRODUCTION

Getting the Most Out of Research Reports

Brent Rowell, Department of Horticulture

The 2002 Fruit and Vegetable Crops Research Report includes results of 25 field research trials and market surveys that were conducted at five locations in Kentucky (see map, below). The research was conducted by faculty and staff from several departments within the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, including Horticulture, Entomology, Plant Pathology, Agronomy, and Agricultural Economics. This report also includes collaborative research projects conducted with faculty and staff at Kentucky State University and Berea College. Most of these reports are of crop variety (cultivar) trials.

Growers usually put variety trials at the top of the list when rating projects at a public institution's research station. These trials provide a wealth of information not only to growers but also to County Extension Agents, researchers, and seed companies. The reports also provide us with much of the information we need in order to include varieties in our publication, Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers (ID-36).

The main purpose of variety evaluation is to provide growers with practical information to assist them in selecting the most suitable variety for a given location or market. Below are some guidelines for interpreting the results of fruit and vegetable variety trials.

Our Yields vs. Your Yields

Yields reported in variety trial results are extrapolated from small plots. Depending on the crop, our trial plot sizes range anywhere from 50 to 500 sq ft. Yields per acre are calculated by multiplying these small plot yields by correction factors ranging from 100 to 1,000.

These yields per acre may not be realistic, and small errors can be amplified when correction factors are used. For example, the calculations may overestimate yields because the plots harvested do not include empty spaces normally occupied by things such as drive rows in a grower's field. These empty spaces may result in a higher per-acre yield from the research plots compared to a grower's yield.

In some cases research plots may be harvested more often than is economically feasible in a grower's field. So don't feel inadequate if our yields are higher than yours. You should be concerned, however, if our yields are lower than yours. In that case, there may be good reason to suspect that the trial was conducted improperly.

It is best not to compare the yield of a variety at one location to the yield of a different variety at another location. The differences in performance among all varieties grown at the same location, however, can and should be used to identify the best varieties for growers nearest that locality. Results vary widely from one location or geographical region to another; a variety may perform well in one location and poorly in another for many reasons. Different locations may have different climates, microclimates, soil types, fertility regimes, and pest problems. Different trials at different locations are also subject to differing management practices. Only a select few varieties seem to perform well over a wide range of environmental conditions, and these varieties usually become top sellers.

Climatic conditions obviously differ considerably from one season to the next, and it follows that some varieties perform well one year and perform poorly the next. For this reason we prefer to have at least two years of trial data before coming to any hard and fast conclusions about a variety's performance. In other cases, we may conduct a preliminary trial to eliminate the worst varieties and let growers make the final choices regarding the best varieties for their farm and market conditions (see Rapid Action Cultivar Evaluation [RACE] trial description on page 7).

Making Sense of Statistics

Most trial results use statistical techniques to determine if there are any real (vs. accidental) differences in performance among varieties or treatments. Statistical jargon is often a source of confusion, and we hope this discussion will help. In many cases, our trials are replicated, which simply means that instead of taking data from only one plot from one spot in the trial field, we plant that variety (or repeat the spray or fertilizer treatments) in other small plots in several spots in a field. If we test 20 pepper varieties, for example, we will have a small plot for each variety (20 separate plots), and then repeat this planting in two or three additional sets of 20 plots in the same trial field. These repeated sets of the same varieties are called replications, or blocks. The result is a trial field with 20 varieties x 4 replications = 80 small plots. The yield for a variety is reported as the average (also called the mean) of yields from the four separate small plots of that variety. The average per-acre yields reported in the tables are calculated by multiplying these average small plot yields by a correction factor.

In most reports, we list the results in tables with varieties ranked from highest to lowest yielding (see Table A). Small differences in yield are often of little importance, and it is sometimes difficult to separate differences due to chance or error from actual differences in performance of varieties. The last line at the bottom of most data tables will usually contain a number that is labeled LSD, or Waller-Duncan LSD. LSD is a statistical measure that stands for "Least Significant Difference."

The LSD is the minimum yield difference that is required between two varieties before we can conclude that one actually performed better than the other. This number enables us to separate real differences among the varieties from chance differences. When the difference in yields of two varieties is less than the LSD value, we can't say with any certainty that there's any real yield difference. In other words, we conclude that the yields are the same. For example, in Table A cited above, variety X3R Aristotle yielded 25 tons per acre and Boynton Bell yielded 21.7 tons per acre. Since the difference in their yields (25 - 21.7 = 3.3 tons per acre) is less than the LSD value of 5.2 tons per acre, there was no real difference between these two yields. The difference between X3R Aristotle and X3R Wizard (25 - 18 = 7), however, is greater than the LSD, indicating that the difference between the yields of these two varieties is real.

Sometimes these calculations have already been made, and statistical comparisons among varieties are indicated by one or more letters (a, b, c, or A, B, C, etc.) listed after the yields in the tables (see Table B). If yields of two varieties are followed by one or more of the same letters, they are considered to be the same (statistically speaking, that is). Yields of two varieties are different if they have no letters in common. In this example, the average muskmelon fruit weight of Eclipse and that of Vienna are both followed by an "a," so they are not different, while values for Eclipse and Athena have no letters in common, indicating that the difference between them is real (that is, statistically significant).

What is most important to growers is to identify the best varieties in a trial. What we usually recommend is that you identify a group of best performing varieties rather than a single variety. This is easily accomplished for yields by subtracting the LSD from the yield of the top-yielding variety in the trial. Varieties in the table having yields equal to or greater than the result of this calculation will belong in the group of highest yielding varieties. If we take the highest yielding pepper variety, X3R Aristotle, in Table A and subtract the LSD from its yield (25 - 5.2 = 19.8), this means that any variety yielding 19.8 tons per acre or more will not be statistically different from X3R Aristotle. The group of highest yielding varieties in this case will include the 10 varieties from X3R Aristotle down the column through variety Lexington.

In some cases, there may be a large difference between the yields of two varieties, but this difference is not real (not statistically significant) according to the statistical procedure used. Such a difference can be due to chance, but often it occurs if there is a lot of variability in the trial. An insect infestation, for example, could affect only those varieties nearest the field's edge where the infestation began.

It is also true that our customary standard for declaring a statistically significant difference is quite high, or stringent. Most of the trial reports use a standard of 95% probability (expressed in the tables together with the LSD as P< 0.05 or P = 0.05). This means that there is a 95% probability that the difference between two yields is real and not due to chance or error. When many varieties are compared (as in the pepper example above), the differences between yields of two varieties must often be quite large before we can conclude that they are really different.

After the group of highest yielding, or in some cases, highest income,1 varieties (see Table A cited above) has been identified, growers should select varieties within this group that have the best fruit quality (often the primary consideration), best disease resistance, or other desirable trait for the particular farm environment and market outlet. One or more of these varieties can then be grown on a trial basis on your farm using your cultural practices.

Producers should also ask around to find out if other growers have had experience with the varieties in question. Growers who belong to a marketing cooperative should first ask the co-op manager about varieties because in some cases buyers have specified the variety to be grown and packed by the co-op. Good marketing plans start with the customer's (market) requirements and work backwards to determine variety and production practices.

RACE Trials

In cases where there are too many new varieties to test economically or when we suspect that some varieties will likely perform poorly in Kentucky, we may decide to grow each variety in only a single plot for observation. In this case, we cannot make any statistical comparisons but can use the information obtained to eliminate the worst varieties from further testing. We can often save a lot of time and money in the process. We can also provide useful preliminary information to growers who want to try some of these varieties in their own fields.

Since there are so many new marketing opportunities these days for such a wide variety of specialty crops, we have decided that this single-plot approach for varieties unlikely to perform well in Kentucky is better than providing no information at all. We hope that RACE trials, described on page 7, will help fill a need and best use limited resources at the research farms. See the 2000 and 2001 hot and specialty pepper reports for examples of such trials.

Hybrid vs. Open Pollinated

In general, hybrid varieties (also referred to as F1) mature earlier and produce a more uniform crop. They often have improved horticultural qualities as well as tolerance and/or resistance to diseases. Hybrid seed is usually more expensive than is seed of open-pollinated (OP) varieties. With hybrid varieties, seeds cannot be collected and saved for planting next year's crop. Hybrid seed is now available for most vegetable crops that are grown in the United States.

Despite the advantages of hybrids, there are some crops for which few hybrids have been developed (poblano peppers, for example) or for which hybrids offer no particular advantages (most bean varieties). Interest in OP varieties has resurged among home gardeners and market gardeners who wish to save their own seed or who want to grow heirloom varieties for which only OP seed is available. Lower prices for produce in traditional wholesale market channels, however, may dictate that growers use hybrids to obtain the highest possible yields and product uniformity. Selecting a hybrid variety as a component in a package of improved cultural practices is often the first step toward improved crop quality and uniformity.

Where to Get Seeds

A seed source is listed for each variety reported in the trials. Seed source abbreviations with company names and addresses are found in Appendix A at the end of this publication. Because seeds are alive, their performance and germination rate depend on how old they are, where and how they were produced, and how they have been handled and stored. It is always preferable to purchase certified, disease-free seeds from a reputable seed dealer and to ask about treatments available for prevention of seed-borne diseases.

Many factors are considered when making a final choice of variety, including type, fruit quality, resistance or tolerance to pests, how early the variety is harvested, and cost. Keep in mind that some varieties may perform differently than in our trials, especially under different management systems. Producers should test varieties for themselves by trying two to three varieties on a small scale before making a large planting of a single variety. This method will be the best means of determining how well suited a particular variety is for your farm and market.

Variety Information Online

This publication is available online at www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/pr/pr470/pr470.htm. Other useful sources of information for commercial vegetable growers can be found by following the links at www.uky.edu/Agriculture/Horticulture/veglinks.htm. In addition, results of some pepper and blackberry trials will are posted on UK's New Crops Opportunities Center Web site under current research at www.uky.edu/Ag/NewCrops.

Auburn University publishes a variety trial report twice a year in cooperation with several other universities. The 2001 reports have been posted in PDF (Acrobat) format at www.ag.auburn.edu/aaes/information/publications/fruitsnutsvegs.html.

 

Table B.

1 It is often desirable to calculate a gross "income" or gross return variable for vegetable crop varieties that will receive different market prices based on pack-out of different fruit sizes and grades (bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers). In these cases, yields in each size class/grade are multiplied by their respective wholesale market prices to determine gross returns (= income) for each cultivar in the trial.

Rapid Action Cultivar Evaluation (RACE) trials are:

How do RACE trials differ from "observation trials" conducted in the past?

Fruit and Vegetable Program Overview

Dewayne Ingram, Chair, Department of Horticulture

The faculty, staff, and students in UK's vegetable and fruit programs are pleased to offer this 2002 Research Report. This is one way we share information generated from a coordinated research program in the College of Agriculture. We focus multi-disciplinary teams of faculty, staff, and students on the complex needs and opportunities facing fruit and vegetable crop production and marketing systems. Such a comprehensive mission is unique to land-grant universities. The research areas on which we have concentrated reflect stated industry needs, expertise available at UK, and the nature of research programs in neighboring states and around the world generating information applicable to Kentucky. If you have questions and/or suggestions about a particular research project, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Although the purpose of this publication is to report research results, we have included some highlights of our Extension program and undergraduate and graduate degree programs this year that are addressing the needs of the fruit and vegetable industries.

Extension Highlights

Our statewide and area educational conferences and seminars are probably the most visible activities of our Extension programs targeted to Kentucky's fruit and vegetable industries. Publications, videos, slide sets, newsletters, articles in state and national industry magazines, newspaper articles, radio spots, and television programs are also important, visible elements of our Extension program. However, we are also engaged in a wide range of less visible, but vital activities. More subtle activities include training for County Extension Agents so they can more effectively serve our clientele, the Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic, soil testing and interpretative services, and diagnosis and problem-solving services.

Although there are many facets to the Extension program conducted by the team of subject-matter specialists and County Extension Agents, program expansion provided through a Kentucky Horticulture Council grant from the Agriculture Development Board (tobacco settlement) funds is highlighted this year. A significant portion of the initial grant has been invested to support expanded acreage of vegetables required by the new produce marketing cooperatives. These funds allowed us to hire six Extension Associates to work with faculty and County Extension Agents to conduct on-farm demonstrations and on-farm consultation. Five of these were focused on vegetable and fruit production/marketing. Thanks to a lot of advance work by the faculty and cooperating agents/growers, the Extension Associates hit the ground running. Special appreciation is given to Horticulture faculty Drs. Brent Rowell, Win Dunwell. and John Strang and County Extension Agents Annette M. Heisdorffer and Chris Clark. The five Extension Associates are:

Collectively, this group of Extension Associates, working with faculty, County Extension Agents, and farmers, have completed 19 on-farm commercial vegetable demonstration plots and conducted 27 field days and farm tours at these sites involving 700 farmers and 45 county agents. Two grape-pruning demonstrations were established. In addition, more than 350 farm visits were conducted by these five Extension Associates. This grant also funded an expansion of on-station research plots with commercial vegetable and fruit crops, the results of which are found in the following pages of this report.

Undergraduate Program Highlights

The department offers areas of emphasis in Horticultural Enterprise Management and Horticultural Science within a Plant and Soil Science Bachelor of Science degree. Following are a few highlights of our undergraduate program in 2001-02:

Graduate Program Highlights

The demand for graduates with M.S. or Ph.D. degrees related to Horticulture, Entomology, Plant Pathology, and Agricultural Economics is high. Our M.S. graduates are being employed in the industry, Cooperative Extension, secondary and postsecondary education, and governmental agencies. Last year, there were 10 graduate students in these degree programs conducting research related to fruit and/or vegetable crops.

Graduate students are active participants in the UK research program in fruit and vegetable crops and contribute significantly to our ability to address problems and opportunities important to Kentucky's industry. Two new graduate students began work for advanced degrees focused on vegetable crops in 2002: Amanda Ferguson recently began her work at the Horticulture Research Farm on high tunnels for winter greens production. Karen Friley (co-advised by faculty from Horticulture and Entomology) is examining the feasibility of biological insect control in bell peppers (see her report in this volume). Gayatri Patel completed her M.S. degree with George Antonious (Kentucky State University) and John Snyder on soil residues of organic pest control materials. Other graduate students are working on post-harvest problems in fruit crops. Graduate students presented research results at the Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Annual Meeting and at regional and national horticulture conferences.

The Robert E. McNiel Endowment

In the early 80s, the Horticulture Department realized that many of our graduates lacked exposure to the range of horticulture practices outside Kentucky. The faculty made a commitment to provide at least one study tour opportunity per year to our students. Fulfillment of that commitment has primarily been through Dr. Robert McNiel, often covering his travel expenses personally. He has led educational tours of industries and gardens throughout Kentucky, the United States, Europe, New Zealand, and China.

The Robert E. McNiel Horticulture Enrichment Fund is being endowed to honor Dr. McNiel and to provide support for faculty and student travel on our study tours. Dr. McNiel will be retiring within the next five years, and this is our opportunity to support future students wishing to participate in educational tours and activities. These study tours allow students to compare technology development at leading horticultural sites and research centers with application to horticulture in Kentucky and to determine the applicability of this technology to Kentucky's horticultural industries.

We are taking advantage of a unique opportunity through Kentucky's Research Challenge Trust Fund (RCTF). Any gift to this fund, or pledge made for payment over a five-year period, will be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis. However, in order to be eligible for the match, we must have a minimum of $50,000 in gifts and/or pledges. As a result of UK's hosting of the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) Student Career Days in 1999, there is a balance of $25,000, which ALCA has endorsed using for this effort. Therefore, we must raise $25,000 to match the $25,000 we already have in order to gain the RCTF match to create a permanent endowment of $100,000.

Reaching the $50,000 level is crucial, or we lose the $50,000 RCTF match. We need your help. Please consider the opportunity to provide lasting support of our students and their education. Additional information is available by contacting me in the Horticulture Department (859-257-1601) or by calling the College of Agriculture Development Office (859-257-7200).

Horticulture Research Farm

This year saw a significant increase in the participation of students in the summer field work at the Horticulture Research Farm (South Farm). Farm Manager Darrell Slone is to be congratulated for putting together a truly diverse, hard-working team that not only worked well together but also learned a lot in the process. These young men and women included Horticulture students and students from several other departments at UK. The group also included two special agricultural interns from Kasetsart University in Thailand, as well as students from Japan, Canada, and England. The Thai students returned to their country with a new knowledge and appreciation of agricultural research as well as some practical experience using drip irrigation.

The year also saw the completion of a master plan for the transformation of the "South Farm" to the UK Horticultural Research and Education Center. The plan, developed by Landscape Architecture professor Tom Nieman and Horticulture faculty Brent Rowell, focuses on the irreplaceable land resource of the "South Farm" and seeks to make it a permanent facility for horticultural research and education serving Kentucky farm families. The plan involves putting a new face on the farm with things like burial of power lines, new signage, and road improvements together with a new research and education center building. The plan also includes needed improvements in research infrastructure such as new greenhouses and expansion of coolers and facilities for post-harvest research. Portions of the plan will be accomplished through funds from the grant to the Kentucky Horticulture Council from the Agriculture Development Board.

*This position is currently vacant as Clint has accepted the position of Daviess County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

2001/02 Kentucky Produce Marketing Practices Survey

Matt Ernst and Tim Woods, Department of Agricultural Economics

Introduction

The 2001/02 Kentucky Produce Marketing Practices Survey was conducted as part of an effort to summarize the condition of the produce industry in the southeastern United States. The survey also represents the most comprehensive effort to date to analyze the marketing practices adopted among Kentucky fruit and vegetable producers. It also provided the most current information available at the beginning of 2002 about planting trends and intentions among Kentucky fruit and vegetable producers.

Methodology

The Kentucky Produce Marketing Practices Survey was conducted in November and December of 2001 to collect 2002 planting intentions and 2001 marketing activity. During those months, 955 surveys were mailed to fruit and vegetable producers in Kentucky. The mailing list was compiled from a number of different sources including county Extension offices, farmers' markets, producer groups, marketing cooperatives, and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Two weeks following the survey mailing, a follow-up postcard was mailed thanking the participants and reminding them to return the survey.

Slightly more than 40% (385) of the producer surveys were returned. Nearly 34% (323) of the total surveys mailed were available for analysis. The remaining surveys returned (62, or 6.4%) represented addresses where produce was not marketed in 2001.

Results and Discussion

Demographics (Age, Experience)

Many of Kentucky's fruit and vegetable producers are relatively new entrants into the industry. One-quarter of the respondents had been growing produce for less than three years, and almost half (48%) of the commercial fruit and vegetable growers surveyed had less than seven years' experience producing commercial fruits and/or vegetables.

Older producers made up the majority of the more experienced growers. Two-thirds (78) of the 117 producers with more than 10 years' experience growing fruits and vegetables were over 50 years of age. Only nine of the 117 producers with more than 10 years' experience were under 41 years of age (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Fruit and vegetable producer age and experience.

Only a quarter (24%) of fruit and vegetable producers were under 40 years old. Almost half (145, or 46%) of the respondents were over 50 years ld. Producers between 41 and 50 made up 31% of those surveyed.

The producers who responded to this survey operated a diversity of farms, from "super-gardens," to large commercial operations. Produce crops have often been touted as tobacco alternatives. Indeed, tobacco was the most common farm product produced alongside produce on operations surveyed (Table 1). This may indicate that efforts to recruit tobacco farmers for the Kentucky produce industry have been successful.

Table 1. Other farm production.

 

n

%

Tobacco

137

44%

Cattle and/or horses

117

37%

Row crops

101

32%

Hay

34

11%

Flowers

12

4%

Nursery/Greenhouse

5

2%

Other livestock

5

2%

Honey

3

1%

Income

Of the 323 surveys available for analysis, 290 included responses categorizing both gross farm income and gross produce income. Each income category was broken down into four categories (under $20,000, $20,000 to $49,999, $50,000 to $99,999, and more than $100,000). The responses among these four broad categories indicate that produce sales comprise a minority of farm income, especially among producers with more than $20,000 in farm income.

Slightly more than one-quarter (27%) of those providing income information reported both farm and produce sales less than $20,000. These operations presumably rely on farm (and produce) incomes only to supplement outside incomes. Over one-third (36%) of those reporting gross farm income of more than $50,000 reported produce sales of less than $20,000. An additional 12% of those responding to the income questions reported gross farm income in excess of $100,000 and produce sales less than $50,000.

Future surveys may seek to more precisely gauge the percent contribution that produce sales make to gross farm income in Kentucky. The 2001 data, however, offer at least two generalizations. First, there is a significant portion of Kentucky's produce industry comprised of small, "hobby farms" or "super gardens." Second, produce sales contribute to no more than 50% of gross farm incomes among half (48%) of the farms surveyed. More detailed income questions would have been required to gauge the contribution of produce to farm incomes in the remaining 25% of respondents.

These demographic data show that produce in Kentucky is primarily grown as a supplement in households not relying on farm income for their livelihood or as a supplemental crop on relatively traditional farm operations. Recruitment of younger producers dedicated to produce crops as long-term, more primary means of income will be critical for continued expansion of Kentucky's produce industry.

Acreage Expansion

Kentucky's produce acreage, especially vegetable acreage, has increased dramatically in the past four years. Vegetable producers surveyed indicated an anticipated acreage increase of 9% in 2002. Factoring in producers who did not respond to this survey and marketing co-op acreage reported in Kentucky, a 5% to 6% increase in Kentucky's total vegetable acreage was probably realized in 2002.

Responding fruit producers, who were not as widely represented in this survey, indicated an acreage increase of 4% in 2002. Fruit acreage was underrepresented in the survey, especially grape acreage. Since there is an expected increase in Kentucky vineyard acreage to 450 bearing acres by 2004, this will dramatically increase the growth rate in the fruit sector over the next few years.

Organic Expansion

The producers surveyed indicated that organic fruit and vegetable acreage is increasing at a faster rate than Kentucky's total produce acreage. Of the acres included in this survey, 2% (60 acres) were used for organic production. This represented one-third of Kentucky's 180 organic fruit and vegetable acres.

The organic producers surveyed indicated that they would be expanding their acreage by 30% in 2002. However, changes in the organic certification program delayed producers realizing this acreage increase. This delay, combined with additional interest being generated in organic fruits and vegetables, is expected to contribute to a significant increase in organic fruit and vegetable acreage in Kentucky during 2003.

Factors Affecting Expansion

Respondents were asked to rank 16 potential factors for limiting produce expansion on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "not limiting" and 5 being "limiting." The leading factors for limiting expansion were prices received, market outlets, and harvest labor availability. Transportation and credit availability were cited as the least limiting factors (Table 2).

Table 2. Factors limiting expansion.

Factor

Score*

Prices received

3.25

Market outlets

3.24

Harvest labor availability

3.24

Cooling

2.85

Labor management

2.76

Weather

2.63

Other

2.46

Disease control

2.37

Irrigation

2.36

Labor housing

2.36

Insect control

2.19

Land

2.17

Equipment

2.12

Transportation

1.94

Credit availability

1.62

*

1 = not limiting, 5 = limiting

Respondents also ranked the importance of various factors in their decision process when considering a new crop to raise (Table 3). Interestingly, the top two factors (on average) both had to do with the direct buyer-seller connection: the buyer-seller relationship and meeting buyer standards. This reflects the importance of marketing viewed as both a limiting factor for expansion of existing produce crops and in considering a new crop.

Table 3. Average importance of factors in considering a new crop.

Factor

Score*

Buyer-seller relationships

4.24

Meeting buyer standards

4.21

Market location

4.17

Transportation

3.50

Volume requirements

3.49

Grading

3.34

Cooling

3.30

Other

2.76

Contracting

2.68

Broker/Packer fees

2.58

Insurance

2.49

*

1 = not important; 5 = important

Producers most often (78%) responded that they would ask other growers how to grow a new crop (Table 4). Closely behind other growers was the Extension Service, cited as a resource for information on how to grow a new crop by 71% of producers. Buyers were cited as the third most frequently consulted resource for growing a new crop, by 41% of producers.

Table 4. Sources growers asked about growing/marketing a new crop.

Source

Growing

Marketing

Other growers

78%

57%

Extension

71%

42%

Buyers

41%

41%

Co-op

N/A

23%

Grower organization

36%

22%

KY Dept. of Ag

25%

17%

Internet

25%

N/A

Input suppliers

20%

7%

FSA

11%

N/A

Farm Bureau

4%

2%

No one

4%

8%

Other farmers were also most frequently cited as a resource when marketing a new crop (57%). The Extension Service (42%) and buyers (41%) again followed other farmers.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has tried to maintain a very visible presence in the state, developing produce markets. However, among those producers surveyed, state and federal (FSA) programs were rated as being very little help to either production or marketing (Table 4). Overall, state department of agriculture marketing and regulatory plans were rated as being much less useful than university Extension agents.

In summary, producers considering either growing or marketing a new crop are most likely to obtain information from other growers or university sources. They view university Extension agents as much more useful in their operation than state department of agriculture marketing and regulatory programs. Continued research and support from university personnel is viewed by producers as a critical component in Kentucky produce industry expansion.

Marketing and connecting producers with markets continues to be the critical element in Kentucky's produce expansion. Expanding the amount of Kentucky-grown produce marketed to buyers whom producers trust and have a good relationship with will be critical to the expansion of Kentucky's produce industry. Efforts may also be needed in improving producer perception of the support provided by the State Department of Agriculture.

Marketing Channels

Producers use a variety of channels to market their produce (Table 5). The first most frequently utilized marketing channel is direct marketing, used by 78% of the 301 producers who responded to this question. The second most frequently utilized channel is cooperatives or marketing associations, used by 27% of the responding producers.

Table 5. Sales via specific market channels by number of producers responding.

Market Channel

Percentage of Sales

0%

0-10%

10-25%

25-50%

50-99%

100%

 

Number of Producers

Direct markets

66

11

29

19

85

91

Cooperative/Marketing association

221

1

9

10

21

39

Direct to retail market (grocery, etc.)

197

26

47

19

8

4

Wholesale (non-co-op) market

260

7

12

13

8

1

Direct to local restaurants

258

23

14

2

4

0

Shipper/Packer (sell to another grocer)

293

1

4

2

1

0

Internet

299

1

1

0

0

0

Processor

298

2

1

0

0

0

Community supported agriculture

286

2

6

2

3

2

Auctions

276

8

9

2

4

2

It is more likely that producers using co-ops will market all their produce through co-ops than those producers using direct marketing will market all their produce through direct channels. Among those producers using co-ops, 49% (39 of 80 producers) said that they used co-ops to market 100% of their produce. Among those who use direct marketing, 39% (91 of 235 producers) said that they used direct channels to market 100% of their produce.

This survey indicated that nearly 90% of producers use either direct markets or cooperative/marketing associations to market their produce. The remaining market channels—including direct to retail, wholesale, restaurant, grocer, Internet, processor, CSA, and auctions—account for only a small fraction of produce marketing in Kentucky.

Direct Marketing vs. Wholesaling

Comments throughout the surveys reflected an overall reluctance by direct marketers to be involved in wholesaling (Figure 2). Lower prices were cited by 54% of direct marketers as a barrier to wholesaling. Volume and quality requirements, as well as market availability, were also seen as barriers to wholesaling. Other barriers perceived by more than 10% of the respondents were labor and time requirements of wholesaling, as well as the buyer/seller relationships necessary in a wholesale market.

Figure 2. Perceived barriers to wholesaling cited by direct marketers.

  • Lower Prices 54%
  • Volume/Quality Requirements 24%
  • Availability of Markets 22%
  • Labor/Time Requirements 17%
  • Buyer/Seller Relationships 12%

Only 19 of the 323 respondents (5.8%) said that they had transitioned from direct to wholesale markets. Six of these producers had started wholesaling because they had identified a new market, while five producers said that they had started wholesaling through a co-op. Six other producers said the market had just "come to them" or that they needed a way to move excess production. Only two of these 19 producers had shifted to wholesaling for profitability reasons.

Changes related to direct marketing were cited by 15% of the respondents as being in store for the 2002 year. These changes are frequently occurring as producers seek greater profits. Of the producers responding to the survey, one-third pay someone else a fee to sell their produce.

Produce handling and processing equipment is not often used on the farms represented by this survey. Only boxes were cited by more than half (57%) of respondents as being used. Sorting tables and washing equipment were used by 29% and 25% of the respondents, while retail packing and holding coolers were used by about one-fifth of those responding.

In order for Kentucky producers to expand wholesale production, profitable wholesale marketing agreements and good relationships with buyers will need to be established. Furthermore, post-harvest handling equipment is not common on Kentucky produce farms. Packing, grading, sorting, and harvesting efforts that combine the assets of a group of producers may therefore be critical to continuing wholesale market expansion in Kentucky.

Conclusion

The 2001 Produce Marketing Practices Survey showed that marketing, as well as recruitment and education of growers, continue to be the primary issues involved in expanding Kentucky's produce acreage. Significant expansion in Kentucky's organic produce industry is expected in 2003. However, without the development of adequate markets and infrastructure, produce expansion in Kentucky could slow in 2003 from the rapid growth rate witnessed in the past five years.


DEMONSTRATIONS

On-Farm Commercial Vegetable Demonstrations in Central Kentucky

Dave Spalding and Brent Rowell, Department of Horticulture

Introduction

Eight on-farm commercial vegetable demonstrations were conducted in Central Kentucky in 2002. Grower/cooperators were from Harrison, Marion, Nicholas, Scott and Woodford counties. There were two grower/cooperators from Harrison County: one grew 2 acres of bell peppers and the other grew 1 acre of slicing cucumbers with one-half trellised and the other half grown on the ground. Raised beds, black plastic, and drip irrigation were used in both plots of cucumbers. In Marion County, the grower/cooperator grew 1 acre of bell peppers on raised beds with plastic mulch and trickle irrigation and 0.5 acre of bell peppers on bare ground with overhead irrigation. The grower/cooperator in Nicholas County grew 1 acre of slicing cucumbers with one-half of the production trellised and one-half grown conventionally. In Scott County, there were two grower/cooperators, with one cooperator growing 1 acre of bell peppers and the other cooperator growing 1 acre of slicing cucumbers for the early season market and 1 acre of cucumbers for the late market. One-half of each planting was trellised and the other-half grown on the ground. The grower/cooperator in Woodford County grew 0.75 acres of mixed vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, squash, green beans, melons, cucumbers, and herbs) for the local farmers' market.

Materials and Methods

As in previous years, grower/cooperators were provided with black plastic mulch and drip irrigation lines for up to 1 acre and the use of the Horticulture Department's equipment for raised-bed preparation and transplanting. The cooperators supplied all other inputs, including labor and management of the crop. In addition to identifying and working closely with cooperators, County Extension Agents took soil samples from each plot and scheduled, promoted, and coordinated field days at each site. An Extension Associate made regular weekly visits to each plot to scout the crop and make appropriate recommendations.

The bell pepper demonstration plots were transplanted using three different bacterial spot-resistant varieties: Lexington, Enterprise, and Aristotle. Peppers were transplanted into 6-inch-high raised beds covered with black plastic and drip lines under the plastic in the center of the beds. Plants were transplanted 12 inches apart in an offset manner in double rows that were 15 inches apart. Raised beds were 6 ft from center to center. Plots were sprayed with the appropriate fungicides and insecticides on an as-needed basis, and cooperators were asked to follow the fertigation schedules provided.

The slicing cucumber plots were set up to look at trellising versus rowing of the vines on the ground as has been the conventional production practice. The plots were planted using the slicing cucumber variety Speedway. All cucumbers were transplanted into 6-inch-high raised beds covered with black plastic and drip lines under the plastic. Two plants were transplanted at 18-inch intervals in the center of each bed, and the beds were 6 ft apart. Half of each plot was trellised using stakes spaced 3 ft apart in the center of each bed with strings running from stake to stake at 6- to 8-inch intervals. There was also some experimenting with rows of stakes on each side of the bed 6 ft apart and arranged in an offset manner. The vines were trained to climb the strings as they grew in the trellised plots. Vines in the conventional plots were rowed to keep them on the plastic mulch. Plots were sprayed with the appropriate fungicides and insecticides on an as-needed basis, and cooperators were asked to follow the fertigation schedules provided.

Results and Discussion

The 2002 growing season was fairly typical for recent years in the Central Kentucky area, with the promise of an early spring interrupted by a frost on May 20. Most of the bell peppers survived the frost, but their development was set back by a few days. The slicing cucumbers did not fare as well, and most had to be replanted.

The grower/cooperators who grew bell peppers experienced an exceptionally good price year for their product. After the late-season frost, growing conditions were good for most growers in the area, and a number of growers had exceptionally good yields to go with very good prices. Among the grower/cooperators, one had problems with the timeliness of watering and keeping weeds under control, which substantially lowered the anticipated yield. Another had soil fertility problems that were not detected until it was too late to correct; those yields were also less than expected. The grower/cooperator in Marion County had better success with production on raised beds with plastic mulch and drip. This cooperator had more than four times the yield from the drip system compared to bare ground production (See Table 1). The Woodford County cooperator grew a mixture of crops for the local farmers' market and some area restaurants. Although this grower had been producing for these markets for a few years, this was the first time using raised beds with plastic mulch and drip irrigation. Production from essentially the same acreage this year was more than doubled that of last year. Returns were nearly triple those of last year, which had been considered a good year (Table 2).

Table 1. Bell pepper costs and returns of grower/cooperators.

Inputs

Scott

County

(1 acre)

Harrison

County

(2 acres)

Marion

County

(1 acre)

Marion

County

(0.5 acre, bare ground)

Plants

$1,080.00

$1,600.00

$720.00

$390.00

Fertilizer

88.00

147.24

127.00

54.45

Black plastic

125.00

250.00

125.00

---------

Drip lines

140.00

280.00

140.00

---------

Fertilizer injector

55.00*

55.00*

55.00*

---------

Herbicide

---------

129.50

37.00

---------

Insecticide

84.00

460.00

102.00

51.00

Fungicide

46.50

116.28

22.13

11.06

Water

360.00** (170,000 gal)

564.00** (266,400 gal)

378.00** (186,000 gal)

104.00 (96,000 gal)

Labor

1,125.50# (384.0 hrs)

3,161.50*** (538.5 hrs.)

1,470.00*** (245.0 hrs.)

396.00*** (66.0 hrs.)

Machine

116.00 (22.0 hrs)

464.65 (88.0 hrs.)

211.20 (40.0 hrs.)

84.50 (16.0 hrs.)

Total expenses

3,220.00

7,228.42

3,387.33

1,091.01

Yield

10,110 lb

34,785 lb

31,785 lb

3,705 lb

Income

1,756.05

8,559.78

9,171.20

1,185.60

Net income (loss)

(1,463.95)

1,331.36

5,783.87

94.59

Net income (loss)/acre

($1,463.95)

$665.68

$5,783.87

$189.18

Dollar return/dollar input

0.55

1.18

2.71

1.09

*

Costs amortized over 3 years.

**

Includes the cost of fuel and 5-year amortization of irrigation system.

***

Does not include the cost of unpaid family and operator labor.

#

This was a school project that did not include pay for supervisor’s time and labor.

Table 2. Grower/cooperator’s costs and returns for mixed vegetables.

Inputs

Woodford County

(0.75 acre)

Plants and Seeds

$1,566.00

Fertilizer

50.00

Black Plastic

93.75

Drip Lines

105.00

Fertilizer Injector

55.00*

Herbicide

20.00

Insecticide

50.00

Fungicide

---------

Water

560.00** (92,000 gal)

Labor

*** (1,680 hrs.)

Machine

591.36 (112.0 hrs.)

Total Expenses

3,091.11

Income

12,800.00

Net Income

9,708.89

Net Income (loss)/acre

$12,945.19

Dollar Return/Dollar Input

4.14

*

Cost amortized over 3 years.

**

Includes cost of water and 5 year amortization of irrigation system.

***

All labor was unpaid family labor and includes many hours spent at a farmer’s market.

Unfortunately, yields from the trellised and non-trellised cucumber plots could not be graded separately at the co-op and were not kept separate by the cooperators. Part of the problem was that cucumbers were harvested at a time when the grading line was busy with bell peppers. Without yield data, we have only anecdotal evidence regarding the benefits from trellising, and further research is required.

Slicing cucumber yields were good for both the trellised and conventional production methods, and prices were strong for both early- and late-season production. It was the grower/cooperators' impressions that for the early season, production and quality did not seem to be much different for trellised compared to conventional cucumber production. However, for late-season production, they thought that the trellised production method resulted in a much higher marketable yield than the conventional method and that the additional cost of trellising was offset by the higher marketable yields. In light of this year's experience, a more detailed evaluation of trellising is warranted.

On-Farm Commercial Vegetable Demonstrations in South-Central Kentucky

Nathan Howell, Department of Horticulture

Introduction

Five on-farm commercial vegetable demonstrations were conducted in South-Central Kentucky in 2002. Grower/cooperators were located in Barren, Green, Hart, Logan, and Monroe counties; all participants were members of the Green River Produce Marketing Cooperative located in Horse Cave, Kentucky. The grower/cooperators in Barren and Monroe counties each grew approximately 1 acre of seeded and seedless watermelons. In Logan County, the cooperator grew 5 acres of cantaloupe, while the cooperator in Green County grew 2 acres of cantaloupes in a colored plastic mulch trial. The cooperator in Hart County, located on the Barren County line, produced approximately 1 acre of pumpkins with drip irrigation and 1 acre without drip irrigation. Each grower/cooperator came from a tobacco production background. This was the first year for each to grow each individual crop for commercial production in an effort to diversify farm operations.

Cooperators grew the Athena cantaloupe variety. Revolution seedless watermelon variety and Sangria and Sugar Baby seeded varieties were grown. Appalachian was used as the pumpkin variety. Cooperators marketed through the Green River Produce Marketing Cooperative and through local vendors.

Materials and Methods

Grower/cooperators were provided with 7,200 linear ft of black or green plastic mulch and drip irrigation lines (enough for 1 acre of harvested melons). Equipment for raised bed preparation and transplanting was provided by Green River Produce Marketing Cooperative for a nominal fee. Field preparation was followed by fertilizer application according to soil test results and recommendations provided by local fertilizer dealers and/or the University of Kentucky. Plastic for the cantaloupe and watermelon demonstrations was laid in late April and early May just a few weeks before transplanting. Weather conditions were very wet early in the season, making it difficult to lay plastic without wind damage and packed mud beds. The plastic was laid in rows with drip irrigation lines no longer than 500 ft and with 6 ft between bed centers; this allowed the producer to use the 7,200 linear ft of plastic on a 1½ acre plot. The drip irrigation systems used in the demonstrations used city water and groundwater. All cooperators provided their own transplants that they grew themselves or that were grown by greenhouse operators in the region.

The cantaloupe demonstrations (Table 1) were transplanted during the last two weeks of April and the first week of May with three- to four-week-old plants spaced 24 inches apart in the row. This resulted in a plant population of 3,600 plants per acre. Good stands of these high populations were reported. One cantaloupe demonstration also included a colored mulch trial: green infrared transmitting plastic was used to compare growth and yields to those from the traditional black plastic. Alternate rows were laid with black or green mulch so that an acre of green plastic and an acre of black plastic were used. Unfortunately, a very late killing frost in the region damaged approximately 75% of the crop, thereby ending the demonstration. Nevertheless, I did note that most of the surviving plants were on green plastic mulch. As a result of this observation, a study is planned for next year to look at the possibility of using green plastic mulch as protection against late freezes, which could possibly bring melons to market earlier.

Table 1. Muskmelon (cantaloupe) costs and returns, 2002.

Inputs

Logan County

(5 acres)

Plants/Transplants

$1800.00

Fertilizer/Lime

424.00

Black plastic

608.00

Drip lines

543.00

Herbicides

335.00

Insecticides

1119.00

Fungicides

660.00

Pollination

320.00

Machine*

750.00

Irrigation/Water**

670.00

Labor***

3722.00

Freight to co-op

1313.00

Co-op 15% commission

3503.95

Box/Pallet fee

3603.15

Co-op membership

50.00

Harvest bin rental

360.00

Total expenses

19,781.10

Yield

29,677

Income co-op

23,359.70

Income non–co-op

2345.00

Net income (loss)

5923.60

Net income (loss)/acre

$1184.72

Dollar return/dollar input

1.30

*

Machine rental, fuel and lube, repairs, and depreciation.

**

Includes cost of fertilizer and 5-year amortization of irrigation system.

***

Includes hired labor and unpaid family labor.

After plants were established for the remaining cantaloupe demonstrations, insecticides were applied to prevent damage from cucumber beetles and other insects. Admire, Thiodan, and Pounce were used for cucumber beetle control. Admire was applied as a soil drench and was effective for about four weeks. Either Thiodan or Pounce was then used alternately on a weekly basis until harvest. Quadris and Bravo Weather Stik were applied weekly for disease control. The University of Kentucky's recommendations from Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers (ID-36) were used for insecticides and fungicides. Plants were irrigated weekly or according to tensiometer readings. Seventy pounds per acre of calcium nitrate were fertigated each week.

Cantaloupe harvest began in early July and ran until the end of the month. Melons were harvested every day during that period. Melons were not harvested by the "slip" technique but by observing a subtle color change (referred to as the "breaker" stage when netting turns a little yellow, but skin color is still green).

The watermelon demonstrations (Table 2) were under the same extreme weather conditions as the cantaloupe trials. The Monroe County demonstration had extremely poor fruit set, possibly due to weather conditions in the region. The plastic was laid in rows no longer than 500 ft with 6 to 7 ft between centers using 7,200 linear ft of plastic on about 2 acres of land. Two- to three-week-old transplants grown by local greenhouse managers were transplanted to the field in mid- to late May at a spacing of 36 inches within the row. For adequate pollination of the seedless varieties, about one-third of the plants in the field were of a seeded variety. These seeded varieties were planted 10 days before the seedless variety and were placed in the outside rows and in every third row of the field thereafter. It was important to have a seeded variety with fruit that looked different from the seedless variety. This allowed them to be harvested separately for different markets.

Table 2. Seeded/seedless watermelon costs and returns, 2002.

Inputs

Barren County

(0.9 acre)

Monroe County

(0.7 acre)

Plants/Transplants

$194.40

$341.65

Fertilizer/Lime

190.00

105.00

Black plastic

123.00

90.72

Drip lines*

117.60

85.68

Herbicides

26.00

33.00

Insecticides

114.00

49.00

Fungicides

100.00

70.00

Pollination

-------

-------

Machine**

255.00

25.00

Irrigation/Water

40.00

10.00

Labor***

161.00

150.00

Co-op 15% commission

596.40

-------

Box/Pallet fee

761.60

------

Co-op membership

50.00

50.00

Harvest bin rental

30.90

------

Total expenses

2759.90

1010.05

Yield (seeded)

200

90

Yield (seedless)

1120

245

Income co-op

3976.00

------

Income non–co-op

100.00

925.00

Net income (loss)

1316.10

(85.05)

Net income (loss)/acre

$1462.00

($121.50)

Dollar return/dollar input

1.48

0.92

*

Includes irrigation drip tape fittings and flat tube poly.

**

Machine rental, fuel and lube, repairs, and depreciation.

***

Includes hired labor and unpaid family labor.

After plants were established, insecticides were applied to prevent insect damage. Pounce and Thiodan were used alternately on a weekly rotation for cucumber beetle control. BravoWeather Stik and Quadris were also applied at 10- to 12-day intervals for disease control. UK's recommendations (Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers, ID-36) were used for insecticides and fungicides. Plants were irrigated bi-weekly or according to readings from a Watermark® soil moisture meter. Seventy pounds per acre of calcium nitrate were fertigated each week after vines began to run.

Harvest began mid-August; each field was picked twice. Approximately 75% of the melons were harvested in the first week. Time of harvest for watermelons was determined by the dead tendril or curl method and by observing the yellowish undersides of the melons. These melons were harvested mid-August for sale to Kentucky school systems through the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's "Farm to School" program.

Plastic mulch was not used in the pumpkin demonstration; however, drip irrigation tape was placed down each row. Seeds were planted 3 ft apart in the row with rows 6 ft apart. One seed was planted per hill, about 1 inch deep. There was no benefit from drip irrigation in this planting this year. It rained almost every day after planting the pumpkins, and irrigation was not needed.

Pumpkins were planted in mid-June and sprayed on a weekly schedule with insecticides and fungicides. However, due to the extreme wet weather, diseases such as powdery mildew and fusarium fruit rot severely reduced yields. This was also the case in other parts of Kentucky in 2002 with a midsummer drought followed by very wet weather in much of the state. Harvest was in mid-September; only those pumpkins with good strong handles and a dark orange color were harvested (Table 3).

Table 3. Pumpkin costs and returns, 2002.

Inputs

Barren County

(2 acres)

 Seed

$212.00

Fertilizer/Lime

------

Drip lines*

122.00

Herbicides

30.00

Insecticides

100.00

Fungicides

95.00

Pollination

------

Machine**

40.00

Irrigation/Water

50.00

Labor***

340.00

Co-op 15% commission

183.12

Box/Pallet fee

290.25

Co-op membership

50.00

Harvest wagon rental

50.00

Total expenses

1562.37

Yield

1750

Income co-op

1254.15

Income non–co-op

1000.00

Net income (loss)

691.78

Net Income (Loss)/acre

$345.89

Dollar return/dollar input

1.44

*

Includes irrigation drip tape fittings and flat tube poly.

**

Machine rental, fuel and lube, repairs, and depreciation.

***

Includes hired labor and unpaid family labor.

Results and Discussion

The 2002 growing season seemed abnormal during the early stages of plant growth. Extreme rains in early April prevented many producers from laying plastic mulch in a timely fashion. Once plastic mulch was down, cold, hard-packed soil led to poor growth. Many cooperators could not transplant into wet fields and were forced to transplant overmature plants. This may have resulted in reduced fruit set. A late killing frost also plagued cantaloupe producers in the region, and total losses were experienced by a couple of growers. After a normal mid-growing period, extremely wet and foggy weather fell on producers yet again in late summer. Many cucurbit plantings fell victim to downy mildew and other diseases four days to a week before harvest. These diseases defoliated the plants and left the fruit susceptible to sunburn.

Wholesale market prices for cantaloupe seemed to hold steady throughout the season at around 50 cents per fruit. With the addition of a new grading line and an upgrading of the cooler, together with regular classes for producers on proper growing and harvesting techniques, the Green River Produce Marketing Cooperative was able to ship nearly twice as many produce loads as last year and with few rejections. A new market for seedless watermelons through the "Farm to School" program, coordinated by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, provided cooperators with an outstanding market at a price of nearly $7 for a two-pack case. The major issues facing some of the watermelon cooperators were conflicts regarding seedless and seeded varieties that were too similar to separate during harvest. It was very important to have distinct differences between seedless varieties and their seeded pollinators.

Overall, weeds seem to be the biggest concern for most growers. Some growers found that sowing rye grass between the beds of plastic was an excellent control strategy. Admire seemed to provide adequate control of cucumber beetles for three to four weeks after transplanting. Downy mildew was also a problem, even with weekly spray schedules. This problem led to sunburn and reduced marketable yields. Of the cooperators who grew for Green River Produce, those with positive returns indicated interest in producing vegetables on a commercial basis next year.

On-Farm Commercial Vegetable Demonstrations in Western Kentucky

Shane M. Bogle and Joseph G. Masabni, Department of Horticulture

Introduction

Three on-farm commercial vegetable demonstrations were conducted in Western Kentucky in order to attract tobacco growers to new opportunities such as commercial vegetable production. The grower/cooperators were located in Caldwell and Muhlenberg counties. In Caldwell County, one grower planted 0.7 acre of summer squash, and another grower planted 0.3 acre of cantaloupe. In Muhlenberg County, the grower/cooperator planted 0.6 acre of mixed vegetables (bell peppers, green beans, staked tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, squash, and cucumbers). All growers came from a tobacco background and were looking for innovative ways to diversify their operation and supplement their tobacco income.

Materials and Methods

The growers were provided with black plastic mulch, drip irrigation lines, and the supervised use of UK Department of Horticulture field equipment for raised-bed preparation, mulch laying, and transplanting. Soil fertility was tested at the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center (UKREC), and fertilizer was applied according to soil test results and recommendations. The growers bought their own transplants and provided labor for pesticide sprays and crop harvests. Either well water or county water was used for drip irrigation at all three locations. The Extension Associate made weekly visits to each plot throughout the growing season to scout for diseases, address growers' concerns, and make recommendations. The County Extension Agents also worked closely with the growers. The agents were very helpful in scheduling, promoting, and coordinating field days at each location, during which the general public was invited to participate.

The squash demonstration plot was planted from seed with varieties Fortune, Liberator, Cougar, and Multipik. Raised-bed preparation, plant spacing, and drip irrigation installation were similar to that of tomatoes and according to UK recommendations in Extension publication, Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers (ID-36). Black plastic was used on half the beds. while the other half was mulched with white (white on black) plastic.

The cantaloupe demonstration plot was transplanted with varieties Athena, Eclipse, Ambrosia, and Superstar Burpee. Cantaloupes were transplanted on 6-inch-high raised beds covered with black plastic mulch with drip lines under the plastic. Plants were spaced 24 inches apart in rows that were on 6-ft centers.

Two varieties of tomato, Mountain Delight and Better Boy, were transplanted on May 23. In-row spacing was 18 inches apart in 6-inch-high raised beds covered with black plastic with drip irrigation lines under the plastic. The raised beds were spaced 6 ft apart center to center. Tomatoes were staked and tied using the Florida weave system. The peppers were also transplanted into 6-inch-high raised beds spaced 6 ft apart center to center with plants spaced 12 inches apart in an offset manner in double rows 15 inches apart.

All plots were sprayed with appropriate fungicides and insecticides on an as-needed basis, and each cooperator followed a weekly fertigation schedule provided by the University of Kentucky.

Results and Discussion

The 2002 growing season was much like the previous two years, with a wet and cool spring followed by a hot, dry summer. Plastic was laid on the day of transplanting at all three locations with 100% plant survival through the first week.

The squash grower sold his entire crop through the Fairview Auction in Fairview, Kentucky, and was subject to major price fluctuations. In addition, sales receipts indicated no differences between squash plants grown on white or black plastic. The cantaloupe grower sold the majority of his crop to local grocery stores and the remainder at a local farmers' market. The grower who raised mixed vegetables sold his produce mostly through local farmers' markets and roadside stands, with some sales to grocery stores and restaurants. This grower was able to achieve very high returns. However, the data do not reflect the loss of more than 500 cantaloupes that could not be sold due to uneven ripening, attributed to poor varietal performance. Costs and returns data from the three demonstration plots are presented in Table 1. These data do not include marketing costs, a consideration when comparing these results to results from other demonstrations in which marketing costs may have been accounted for.

Table 1. Costs and returns of three commercial vegetable demonstration plots in western Kentucky, 2002.

Inputs

Caldwell County

 

Muhlenberg County

Squash

(0.7 acre)

Cantaloupe

(0.3 acre)

Mixed Vegetables

(0.62 acre)

Plants

$87

$100

 

$717

Fertilizer/Lime

82

80

 

34

Black plastic

88

12.5

 

78

Drip lines

98

14.0

 

87

Fertilizer injector

88

200

 

170

Herbicide

-----

-----

 

9

Insecticide

52

100

 

84

Fungicide

29

50

 

100

Water

40

(42,000 gal)

-----a

 

500

(170,000 gal)

Laborb

200 (25 hr)

1,100 (110 hr)

 

2,200 (310 hr)

Machine

125 (12 hr)

100 (10 hr)

 

220 (12 hr)

Box fee

374

-----

 

308

Total expenses

1,263

1,757

 

4,507

Yield

559 boxes

2,900 melons

 

21,000 lb

Income

2,190c

3,150

 

7,800

Net income

927

1,394

 

3,293

Net income/acre

$1,324

$4,647

 

$5,311

Dollar return/ dollar inputd

1.73

1.79

 

1.73

a

Water from well at no cost to the grower, 50,000 gallons used; these costs of pumping, etc., have not been accounted for in this report.

b

Includes hired labor and unpaid family labor.

c

A 10% commission to the auction house is factored in.

d

Dollar return/dollar input = Income/total expenses.

In general, the biggest concern experienced by all growers throughout the season was weed pressure between the rows of plastic. Moreover, as nighttime temperatures dropped and day-length shortened later in the season, tomato maturity slowed, and growers could not meet the market's demand of high-quality produce. With high disease and insect infestation due to the wet and cool spring, all three growers sprayed fungicides and insecticides frequently to keep insect and disease pressures at manageable levels. All three growers had positive experiences this year and plan to expand their operations next year. As a result, we plan to recruit more tobacco growers for next year.


Equal opportunity statement