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2001 Fruit and Vegetable Crops Research Report

Edited by Brent Rowell and John C. Snyder

Tree Fruits ! Small Fruits ! Vegetables ! Greenhouse Production ! Diagnostic Laboratory ! Appendix

Faculty, Staff, Grower, and Industry Cooperators



Jerry Brown

Richard Durham

Terry Jones

Brent Rowell

John Snyder

John Strang

Robert Anderson

Technical Staff

Larry Blandford

Sherri Dutton

June Johnston

Spencer Helsabeck

John Holden

Nathan Howell

Dave Lowry

Bonnie McCaffrey

Janet Pfeiffer

Kirk Ranta

April Satanek

Dave Spalding

Darrell Slone

William Turner

Dwight Wolfe


Amanda Ferguson

Stephanie Schmidt



Ric Bessin

Plant Pathology


John Hartman

William Nesmith

Technical Staff
Paul Bachi

Julie Beale


Dominique Saffray



David Ditsch

Kentucky State University

Community Research Service


Gary Cline

Technical Staff

Tony Silvernail

Cooperative Extension Service

Extension Agent for Horticulture

Tom Brass (Henderson County)

Extension Agents for Agriculture and Natural Resources

Greg Henson (McLean County)

Diane Perkins (Hancock County)

Grower and Industry Cooperators

Garry Eblen

Barry Eblen

Greg Hefton, Hanson Spreader Service

Charles Mulligan

Roger Postley

Michael Reeder

Demonstration Cooperators

Rick McQuerrey

Vicky Black

Joe Pasley

John Contini

George Hayden

Hope Hill Academy

Pat Robey

Anthony Knox

This is a progress report and may not reflect exactly the final outcome of ongoing projects.

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.

Fruit and Vegetable Program Overview

Dewayne Ingram, Chair, Department of Horticulture

The faculty, staff, and students in the University of Kentucky's vegetable and fruit program are pleased to offer the 2001 Fruit and Vegetable Crops Research Report. This report is one way we share information generated from a coordinated research program involving contributions from several departments in the UK College of Agriculture. The University of Kentucky is your primary land-grant university and, as such, our interdisciplinary teams of faculty, staff, and students focus their efforts on the complex needs and opportunities facing fruit and vegetable growers in the state. The research areas on which we concentrate reflect stated industry needs, expertise available at UK, and the nature of research programs in neighboring states and around the world that generate information applicable to Kentucky. If you have questions or suggestions about a particular research project, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We are excited about our new leadership at the University of Kentucky and within the College of Agriculture. President Lee Todd is providing exceptional leadership both on campus and throughout the state. In the College of Agriculture, we have a new dean, Dr. Scott Smith, who assumed that role in January 2001 after the retirement of Dr. Oran Little. Dr. Nancy Cox was hired to fill the Associate Dean for Research position that was vacated by Dr. Smith. Dr. Cox was previously at Mississippi State University. In addition, Dr. Larry Turner recently accepted the position of Associate Dean for Extension after the retirement of Dr. Walter Walla. Needless to say, we are excited about working with these new leaders in helping further develop horticultural industries and new horticultural opportunities in Kentucky.

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

Extension Highlights

Extension programs targeting Kentucky's fruit and vegetable industries include both highly visible activities and some more subtle ones. The statewide and area educational conferences and seminars and the on-farm demonstrations shown during twilight farm tours are probably the most visible. Print publications, Web documents, videos, slide sets, newsletters, magazine articles, newspaper articles, radio spots, and television programs are important, visible elements of our Extension program. Activities that you may not see, however, are things like the horticultural training programs for County Extension Agents, the work of the UK Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, and soil testing and interpretive services.

Although many facets of the Extension program are conducted by the team of subject matter specialists and county agents, this year we would like to highlight our revised publications on vegetable and fruit production. The Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers is updated and printed every two years. The 2002-2003 edition should be available in February or March of 2002. This new edition includes a number of significant changes including nutrient recommendations for organic production, new fertigation recommendations for several crops, variety updates, extensive revisions to disease and pest control sections, and a comprehensive list of the best vegetable production information on the Web. Although periodic updates can be made for specific crops on the Web version, the complete publication will not be printed again until 2004. As you plan your 2002 crops, make sure you are reading the latest information. Our Web site is <>. From this site you can link to the vegetable information sites at <>. The latest production information will also be available through presentations and workshops at the Kentucky Vegetable Growers Association and the Kentucky State Horticultural Society's 2002 annual meetings in Lexington.

The fruit crop team of faculty and staff at UK have been cooperating with the surrounding states in the development of commercial fruit spray guides. This saves funds and efficiently combines the expertise of specialists from several states into more comprehensive publications. Two updated spray guides will be printed and available at the 2002 Fruit and Vegetable Crops Winter Meeting: the Commercial Tree Fruit Spray Guide, 2002 and the Commercial Small Fruit and Grape Spray Guide. These publications also provide background information on the common pests and cultural practices to be used as part of a total pest management strategy.

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. Here are a few highlights of our undergraduate program in 2001:

The Plant and Soil Science degree program had nearly 100 students in the fall semester of 2001, of which almost one-half were horticulture students and another one-third were turfgrass students. Eleven horticulture students graduated in 2001.

We believe that a significant portion of an undergraduate education in horticulture must come from outside the classroom. In addition to the local activities of the UK Horticulture Club and field trips during course laboratories, students have excellent off-campus learning experiences. Here are the highlights of such opportunities in 2001:

Graduate Program Highlights

The demand is high for graduates with M.S. or Ph.D. degrees in horticulture, entomology, plant pathology, agricultural economics, and agricultural engineering. Our M.S. graduates are being employed in the industry, the Cooperative Extension Service, secondary and postsecondary education, and governmental agencies. 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 the fruit and vegetable industries. For example, graduate and undergraduate students present their research results at the Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Winter Meeting and at regional and national horticulture conferences.

State and Federal Funding for Horticulture Infrastructure in Kentucky

The Kentucky Horticulture Council was organized in 1991 as an umbrella organization representing the breadth of Kentucky horticulture, including the fruit and vegetable industries. It is comprised of the president and a representative from each of 13 industry associations related to horticulture in the commonwealth. The current officers of the Council are C.A. "Ottie" Pantle, Jr. (Chair), Charles Wilson (Vice-Chair), and Will Southerland (Legislative Committee Chair).

Over the past ten years, the Horticulture Council has been developing a strategic plan for the industry in cooperation with the UK Horticulture program and the Marketing Division of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. They have presented this strategic plan, the Prospectus for Horticultural Opportunities in Kentucky, to the state legislature and several agricultural leadership groups. In January 2001, the Council submitted a proposal for funding research, extension, and marketing infrastructure development to the Agriculture Development Board. The Agriculture Development Board has the responsibility to utilize Phase I Tobacco Settlement Funds to support the continued development of Kentucky's agriculture. In its September 2001 meeting, the Agriculture Development Board approved a revision of that proposal and authorized the Board staff to work with the Kentucky Horticulture Council to use $2.4 million in order to partially fund the proposal for a two-year period. The arrangements for this should be completed by the time this research report is in print. Details of the funded proposal will be available from the UK Horticulture home page <> and will be discussed at the 2002 Fruit and Vegetable Winter Meeting.

In addition, Senator Mitch McConnell helped obtain a special grant from the USDA budget to establish the New Crop Opportunities Center in the UK College of Agriculture. The UK Horticulture Department is serving a leadership role in this center and has allocated research funds to support four research projects in horticulture. The fruit and vegetable projects include blackberry production/marketing and pepper production and disease resistance. There is already a significant amount of new information on alternative crops available through the center's Web page <>. A display and informational materials about the New Crop Opportunities Center will be available at the Fruit and Vegetable Winter Meeting.

Getting the Most Out of Research Reports

Brent Rowell, Department of Horticulture

The 2001 Fruit and Vegetable Crops Research Report includes results of 24 field and greenhouse trials that were conducted at four 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, and Agronomy. This report also includes a trial conducted by faculty and staff at Kentucky State University. 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 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 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. Here 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 square feet. 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 not advisable 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 the 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 while letting 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 9).

Making Sense of Statistics

Most of the trial results reported here 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 1 on page 25). 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 another. 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 the table on page 25 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 3 on page 36). If yields of two varieties are followed by one or more of the same letters, they are considered to be identical (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 1 (page 25) 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 percent probability (expressed in the tables together with the LSD as P< 0.05 or P = 0.05). This means that there is a 95 percent 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 income1, varieties (see Table 1 cited above, page 25) 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 9, will help fill a need and best use limited resources at the research farms. The hot and specialty pepper trial on pages 26-30 and the specialty melon trial on pages 37-39 are 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 collected, 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 <>. Other useful sources of information for commercial vegetable growers can be found by following the links at <>. 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 <>.

Auburn University publishes a variety trial report twice a year in cooperation with several other universities. The 2000 reports have been posted in PDF (Acrobat) format at < /fruitsnutsvegs.html>. Auburn has also provided a good comprehensive database of thousands of vegetable varieties that can be found at < /vegetabl.htm>.

1 It is often desirable to calculate a gross "income" variable for vegetable crop varieties that will receive different market prices based on pack-out of different fruit sizes and grades (bell peppers, tomatoes). 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?

On-Farm Commercial Vegetable Demonstrations

Dave Spalding and Brent Rowell, Department of Horticulture


Eight on-farm commercial vegetable demonstrations were conducted in Central Kentucky in 2001. Grower/cooperators were from Boyle, Casey, Clark, Garrard, Marion, Montgomery, Nelson, and Powell counties. The grower/cooperator in Clark County grew 1 acre of bell peppers, the cooperator in Montgomery County grew 2 acres of bell peppers, and the cooperator in Nelson County grew 2 acres of bell peppers and 2.5 acres of staked tomatoes. In Boyle County, the cooperator grew 0.5 acres of staked tomatoes, while the cooperator in Casey County grew 1 acre of staked tomatoes. The grower/cooperator in Marion County grew 1 acre of muskmelons. In Garrard County, the grower/cooperator grew 0.5 acres of mixed vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, squash, green beans, melons, and cucumbers), and the cooperator in Powell County grew 1 acre of mixed vegetables (sweet corn, green beans, cucumbers, okra, and summer squash) for local farmers' markets.

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. Due to reductions in the program's operating budget, only selected cooperators could be provided with transplants, while the others provided their own transplants. 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 staked tomato demonstration plots were transplanted with the varieties `Mountain Spring' and `Mountain Fresh'. Tomatoes were transplanted into 6-inch-high raised beds covered with black plastic with drip lines under the plastic. Plants were transplanted 18 inches apart in single rows; raised beds were spaced 6 feet apart from center to center.

Tomatoes were pruned, staked, and tied using the Florida weave system. 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 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 feet from center to center.

Results and Discussion

The summer of 2001 was similar to the previous year after a relatively cool and wet start. Most plots were transplanted in a timely manner, but cool and damp conditions early in the growing season delayed maturity by about seven to 10 days.

The grower/cooperators who grew staked tomatoes sold most of their production locally at a better price than most tomato producers in the state even though their yields were not exceptionally high. Bacterial and fungal diseases seemed to be the biggest problem for the tomato growers in the program. In spite of these problems, tomato growers' returns were very high, ranging from $4,140 to $7,130 on a per-acre basis (Table 1).

Wholesale bell pepper prices were moderate early in the harvest season; however, heavy and persistent rains at peak harvest resulted in a lot of peppers being harvested wet, which contributed to stem rot and bacterial soft rot in most growers' harvests. As a result, most major wholesale buyers shunned Kentucky fresh market peppers for the rest of the summer. The Clark County cooperator did not control weeds and was not able to irrigate the crop properly, which resulted in extremely low yields. The Montgomery County cooperator was not able to market peppers through the Central Kentucky co-op after his second picking, and this is reflected in the low yield and returns (Table 2). On the other hand, the Nelson County cooperator sold mainly to a local wholesale distributor and was not affected as much as other growers by the rejections of Kentucky peppers; he netted about $3,250 per acre.

The cooperators who grew for local farmers' markets achieved very high returns (Tables 1 and 2); however, their costs do not always include unpaid family labor. The Powell County cooperator's data reflect only his costs and returns for one-third of an acre of green beans, which was the only crop in his mix for which we were able to obtain complete data. He achieved an excellent net return of $2,215 from that one-third acre plot ($6,645/acre, Table 3).

Overall, weeds again seemed to be the biggest problem for most growers. Bacterial spot and speck were also problems that reduced marketable yields for most growers again this year. The later maturing of most crops due to the cool, wet conditions early in the growing season also hurt crop prices and grower returns.

Most of the grower/cooperators were growing vegetables commercially for the first time, and those with positive returns indicated they will likely continue to grow vegetables.

Table 1. Staked tomato costs and returns, 2001.
Inputs Boyle Co.
(0.5 acre)
Casey Co.
(1 acre)
Nelson Co.
(2 acres)
Plants 168.00 875.00 450.00
Fertilizer 82.00 27.20 112.00
Black plastic 73.00 126.00 260.00
Drip lines 90.00 140.00 290.00
Fertilizer injector 55.00* 55.00* 55.00*
Stakes 120.00* 160.00* 480.00*
Twine 20.00 30.00 55.00
Herbicide 60.00 7.38 52.00
Insecticide 54.20 74.48 164.00
Fungicide 178.10 135.35 285.00
Water 260.00**
(290,000 gal.)
(560,000 gal.)
(1,100,000 gal.)
Labor 1,065.00***
(460 hrs.)
(270 hrs.)
(860 hrs.)
Machine 68.88 (14 hrs) 73.80 (15 hrs.) 177.12 (36 hrs.)
Total expenses 2,294.18 3,064.21 8,140.12
Yield 23,600 lb 28,600 lb 68,000 lb
Income 5,859.00 8,238.80 16,420.00
Net income (Loss) 3,564.82 5,174.59 8,279.88
Net Income/acre 7,129.64 5,174.59 4,139.94
Dollar return/Dollar input 2.5 2.7 2.0
* 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 labor.

Table 2. Bell pepper costs and returns, 2001.
Inputs Clark Co.
(1 acre)
Montgomery Co.
(2 acres)
Nelson Co.
(2 acres)
Plants 780.00 1,520.00 1,480.00
Fertilizer 334.74 112.00 134.00
Black plastic 125.00 250.00 250.00
Drip lines 140.00 280.00 280.00
Fertilizer injector 55.00* 55.00** 55.00*
Herbicide 46.60 28.00 34.00
Insecticide 80.00 84.00 104.00
Fungicide 100.00 140.00 112.00
Water 210.00**
(140,000 gal.)
(320,000 gal.)
(410,000 gal.)
Labor 543.00***
(147.0 hrs.)
(234 hrs.)
(790 hrs.)
Machine 39.36 (8 hrs.) 137.76 (28 hrs.) 369.00 (75 hrs.)
Total expenses 2,453.70 4,806.76 8,118.00
Yield 4,980 lb 27,090 lb 66,250 lb
Income 533.46 3,589.76 14,625.00
Net income (Loss) (1,920.24) (1,217.00) 6,501.00
Net Income/acre (1,920.24) (608.50) 3,253.50
Dollar return/Dollar input 0.2 0.7 1.8
* 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 labor.

Table 3. Muskmelon and mixed vegetable costs and returns, 2001
Inputs Marion Co.
(1 acre)
Garrard Co.
(0.5 acre)
Powell Co.
(0.33 acre)
Plants/Seeds 326.00 110.00 15.00
Fertilizer 48.00 12.50 14.00
Black plastic 126.00 73.00 42.00
Drip lines 140.00 90.00 46.00
Fertilizer injector 55.00* 28.00 35.00*
Herbicide 28.00 -0- -0-
Insecticide 42.00 24.00 11.00
Fungicide 34.00 -0- -0-
Water 208.00**
(210,000 gal.)
(112,000 gal.)
(60,000 gal.)
Labor 430.00***
(100 hrs.)
(145 hrs.)
(126 hrs)
Machine costs 103.32 (21 hrs.) 39.36 (8 hrs) 24.60 (5 hrs)
Total expenses 1,540.32 642.86 1,124.10
Yield 3,860 melons 12,600 lb 126 bu.
Income 864.00 2,320.00 3,339.00
Net income (Loss) (676.32) 1,677.14 2,214.90
Net income/acre (676.32) 3,354.28 6,644.70
Dollar return/Dollar input 0.6 3.6 3.0
* 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 labor.

On-Farm Commercial Muskmelon (Cantaloupe) Demonstrations

Nathan Howell, Department of Horticulture


Four on-farm commercial cantaloupe demonstrations were conducted in Central Kentucky in 2001. Grower/cooperators were located in Barren, Grayson, Hart, and Logan counties; all participants were members of the Green River Produce Marketing Cooperative located in Horse Cave, Kentucky. Each grower/cooperator came from a tobacco production background, and this was the first year for each to produce cantaloupes in an effort to diversify farm operations. All cooperators grew the Athena cantaloupe variety and marketed commercial melons through the Green River Produce Marketing Cooperative. Each demonstration plot consisted of approximately 1 acre.

Materials and Methods

Grower/cooperators were provided with 7,200 linear feet of black 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 the University of Kentucky. Plastic mulch was laid in mid-April, nearly one month before transplanting. Weather conditions were very cold and windy at the time; however, there was little wind damage. The plastic was laid in rows that were no longer than 400 feet with 5 feet between centers; this allowed each producer to use the 7,200 linear feet of plastic on about an acre and a half plot of ground. The drip irrigation systems used in the demonstrations used city water, well water, or groundwater.

All cooperators provided their own transplants. Either the cooperator or local greenhouse managers in the region grew the transplants. Plants were transplanted during the first week of May, with three- to four-week-old plants spaced 24 inches apart in the rows. These spacings allowed each cooperator to attain a plant population of nearly 3,600 plants with projected yields of two marketable melons per plant. Almost every cooperator reported a 100 percent stand after the first week.

After plants were established, insecticides were applied to prevent cucumber beetle and other insect damage. Pounce, Asana, or Endosulfan were used on a weekly rotation for cucumber beetle control. Close to the period of fruit setting, Bravo Weather Stik was applied weekly for disease control. The University of Kentucky's recommendations (Publication ID-36) were used for both insecticides and fungicides. Plants were also irrigated bi-weekly or according to tensiometer readings. Forty pounds per acre of calcium nitrate was fertigated each week.

Harvests began in early July and ran until the end of the month for most cooperators. Harvests were every other day for the first week of harvest, every day during the second and third weeks, and every other day again during the final week. Melons were harvested at three-quarters to full slip.

Results and Discussion

The 2001 growing season was abnormal during the early stages of plant growth. Early settings in May went through 88 to 91 degree temperatures; after two weeks in the field, temperatures dropped to 65 to 70 degrees for a week during bloom set. Such conditions early in the growing season may have reduced fruit set.

Marketing issues also plagued cooperators in 2001. Brokers had requested that melons be harvested at three-quarters to full slip; however, half way through the harvest, these same buyers changed their harvest maturity criteria. The second request was for melons at an earlier maturity stage based more on color (more greenish) than slip. These melons were referred to as "breakers." These changes, together with a cooler failure and a line breakdown at the co-op, resulted in the loss of many cantaloupes that would have otherwise been marketable. Nevertheless, half of the cooperators were able to meet projected yields and were able to obtain a net return of 56 cents per melon ($1,700 to $2,300 net returns per acre, Table 1). These results are based on only those melons marketed through the cooperative. Many cooperators sold melons outside the co-op that did not meet commercial quality or maturity requirements. Actual returns may have been higher than the net returns shown in Table 1.

Overall, weeds and irrigation seemed to be the biggest concerns for most growers. Bacterial wilt and cucumber beetles were also problems that reduced marketable yields for most growers this season. An over-mature product that could not be shipped also hurt yields and returns. Of the four cooperators who grew cantaloupes commercially for Green River Produce Marketing Cooperative, two plan to increase their production in 2002, while the other two plan to look at other endeavors.

Table 1. Muskmelon costs and returns for 1 acre demonstration plots, 2001.
Inputs Barren Co. Grayson Co. Hart Co. Logan Co.
Plants 378.00 350.00 378.00 180.00
Fertilizer/Lime 174.00 389.34 427.57 122.92
Black Plastic 135.00 135.00 135.00 135.00
Drip Line 132.00 132.00 132.00 132.00
Herbicides 39.00 26.50 39.00 --------
Insecticides 94.00 149.53 80.04 80.00
Fungicides 95.00 117.33 ------ 40.00
Pollination ------ 50.00 ------ ------
Machine* 360.00* 397.00* 256.48* 170.00*
Irrigation/Water 60.00 175.00 217.00 60.00
Labor** 466.00** 175.00** 393.00** 450.00**
Co-op 15% Commission 282.07 66.10 56.81 292.56
Box/Pallet Fee 675.00 121.50 162.00 784.56
Co-op Membership 50.00 50.00 50.00 50.00
Bin Rental 60.00 40.00 40.00 60.00
Total Expenses 3000.07 2374.30 2366.90 2557.04
Yield 6715 melons 1530 melons 1315 melons 6773 melons
Income 4720.65 1044.40 955.21 4870.00
Net Income (Loss) 1720.58 (1329.90) (1411.69) 2312.96
Dollar Return/ Dollar Input 1.57 .44 .40 1.90
* Includes machine rental, fuel and lube, repairs and depreciation.
** Includes hired labor and unpaid family labor

Tree Fruits ! Small Fruits ! Vegetables ! Greenhouse Production ! Diagnostic Laboratory ! Appendix

Equal opportunity statement