Location: Southern Horticultural Research2012 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
Develop strategies for developing new and improved germplasm, cultural practices, pest control, and management techniques for ornamental and vegetable crops adapted to the Gulf States Region which will increase yields and net income, minimize production losses, improve crop quality, and conserve use of natural resources.
1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Develop new and superior methods of germplasm improvement, pest control, planting systems, irrigation, and crop production management strategies for ornamental and vegetable crops adapted to the Gulf Coast Region. Determine factors that regulate plant diseases, growth characteristics, and tolerance to environmental stress in ornamentals and vegetable crops.
3. Progress Report:
Fall/winter, winter/spring, and spring/summer variety trials with seed-grown and cutting-grown annual flowers were conducted at the South Mississippi Branch Experiment Station in Poplarville, Mississippi, to evaluate new and upcoming varieties for landscape performance in the mild winter and warm, humid summer climate of south Mississippi. Two additional breeding companies joined the variety trials during the year. The experiment station continues to serve as an All-American Selections flower trial garden, as well as an All-American Selections display garden showcasing award-winning varieties from past years. The variety trials were open to the public throughout the year and outstanding varieties were highlighted at the station's annual Ornamental Horticulture Field Day in October. A study was conducted at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, MS, to identify and quantify species occurrence and frequency on nearly 2 acres of green roof at the facility. Preliminary data indicate that of the 13 species planted on the roof, only about 75% of the species survived in the first 18 months. Poor establishment was probably due to under-education of the facility’s maintenance staff concerning proper care. Presently, Mississippi State University (MSU) scientists are working with the facility to develop care and maintenance protocols as well as make recommendations for new plantings. An early okra trial was established in Spring 2011 using high tunnel production practices at the Beaumont Horticultural Unit in Perry County, MS. Strong winds incurred devastating damage to the high tunnel structure and the trial was replanted in winter 2012. Results indicate that okra grown under high tunnel conditions can be brought to market 2-3 weeks earlier than field-produced varieties. To expand on this study, plans are being developed to halt summer production and rejuvenate the planting for a fall harvest. A heat-set or heat-tolerant tomato trial was established in July 2011. Varieties included ‘Bella Rosa’, ‘Talladega’, ‘Amelia’, and ‘Applause’. Summer 2011 data proved to be inconclusive regarding the viability of these varieties for mid-summer tomato production. The test is being replicated in July 2012. An experimental planting of ‘Prime-Ark 45’ blackberries was established in cooperation with the Beaumont Horticultural Unit in Perry County, MS. The trial consists of several pruning treatments to promote fall-bearing fruit production. The trial is being replicated in Verona, MS. A demonstration garden was planted at the Beaumont Horticultural Unit for display and education. The Unit is always open to the public. The garden includes several ornamental examples. Vegetables in the garden are grown using commercial production practices including plastic mulch and drip irrigation. Production of traditional cultivars, heirloom varieties, and Asian vegetables were demonstrated. The annual Vegetable Field Day was held at the Beaumont Horticultural Unit in June, 2011. Approximately 75 growers, Extension personnel, and Master Gardeners attended. Opportunities for Mississippi growers were discussed including marketing, production, pest control, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) high tunnel cost share program. Participants were encouraged to interact with MSU and USDA personnel. Lagerstroemia and Rhododendron hybrids continue to be evaluated for market potential and selected Lagestroemia are being evaluated for disease resistance.