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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Establishing Best Agronomic and Pest Management Practices for Vegetable and Fruit Growers Along the Gulf Coast with Emphasis on Local And...

Location: Southern Horticultural Research

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
The objective of this cooperative research is to evaluate commercial and experimental vegetable and fruit cultivars for local adaptation along the Gulf Coast under different pest and agronomic management practices.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
A variety of local and potentially new vegetables and melons will be planted in field plots at the Beaumont Horticultural Unit in Perry County, MS. Additional experimental plots will be planted at the Mississippi State University (MSU) Experiment Station near McNeil, MS. Pest and beneficial insect populations will be evaluated including, but not limited to, tomatoes, edamame, green beans, southern peas, sweet corn, okra, and watermelons. Various production practices as well as insect pest population dynamics for vegetables will be evaluated in high and low tunnels as well as small garden foot prints. In addition, various cover crops will be evaluated during the off-season to maximize soil productivity.


3.Progress Report:

A Post-doctoral Research Associate was added to the program January 2013 and is working primarily on vegetable production within high tunnel systems. A Ph.D. student, who began a program of study in Fall 2012 and is also a full-time County Extension Agent in Hancock County, MS will base his project on his experience with growers in the area.

The goal of the project is to evaluate the efficacy of pest management strategies for small scale tomato production. Tomatoes were chosen for this project as they are widely grown on small scale. Small scale production, generally for direct to consumer markets, is important both due to its providing additional economic input as well as increasing availability and affordability of nutritious food, particularly in rural communities. Production of fruits and vegetables is, traditionally, highly pesticide intensive and management costs represent a significant expense for fruit and vegetable growers. Evaluation and improvement of management techniques is important to increase the viability of small scale vegetable production. Most small scale producers rely on a spraying according to a calendar schedule for providing control of pests. Many small producers lack access to restricted use pesticides or resistant cultivars. This study will evaluate the economic impact of calendar pesticide sprays, spraying according to economic thresholds using conventional pesticides, and treating according to economic thresholds using organic management techniques. The cost of treatments in terms of materials and time will be considered in addition to the yield of marketable produce from each treatment. Given the wide range of available tomato cultivars, the effect of plant phenology on management will also be considered by evaluating the effect of the above treatments on an early and late maturing tomato variety.

In addition, the effect of high tunnels on populations on aphid, whitefly and thrips populations will be evaluated. High tunnels allow for earlier planting dates than in traditional production as well as allow for the season to be prolonged later in the year. The effect of these alterations to planting practice on insect populations is not well understood. Research locations for this project include Kiln (Hancock County), Biloxi (Harrison County), Poplarville (Pearl River County), USDA substation (Stone County), and Beaumont (Perry County).

Vegetable research is on-going at the Beaumont Horticultural Unit (BHU) in Perry County. Multi-year variety trials are on-going in southern peas and sweet corn (yellow and bi-color). A new variety trial was installed to evaluate hops production in the deep South. Ten varieties were planted along a 12’ tall trellis system. The demonstration “garden” plot continues to serve as an educational tool for both farmers and gardeners. Nearly 80 participants attended the 2012 Vegetable Field Day. The BHU has also hosted several school groups as well as local garden groups.


Last Modified: 10/21/2014
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