36 articles tagged "Crop Culture".

Figure 2. Older leaves were pruned on cucumber plants.

Tomato is considered one of the most profitable crops grown in high tunnels, but continually growing one single crop leads to build-up of diseases. In addition, growers are facing more competition in selling tomatoes in the market. To enhance resilience of high tunnel system and increase access to consumers, crop diversification is important. In this article, instead of discussing tomatoes, we will focus on another high-value crop, seedless cucumber. Fresh consumed seedless cucumber is a popular crop in local food markets. It sells at a premium price in early seasons as does tomato. Seedless cucumbers grown under protected cultures are parthenocarpic, which do not require pollination. In addition, the climbing habit allows trellising, which maximizes the use of vertical spaces, making seedless cucumber an ideal crop for high tunnel production. Parthenocarpic cucumbers are available in different types. The long ones are often referred to as European, Japanese or English cucumbers. They have thin skins with longitudinal[Read More…]


As Indiana growers finish up the 2017 season, it is important to remember to clean and sanitize equipment and tools. In this article, I would like to discuss the importance of and how to sanitize. Bacteria and fungi that cause plant disease may survive on some types of equipment. Examples include: stakes, transplant trays, shovels, greenhouse benches etc. Equipment can be contaminated by diseased plants in close contact with the surfaces. For example, a tomato with bacterial canker may rub up against a wooden stake, transferring some of the bacteria to the stake. Such bacteria may cause disease problems next year. A transplant tray of cantaloupe with a damping-off problem may have the same disease next year if the tray is not properly cleaned and sanitized. It is important to clean the equipment of crop debris or soil prior to the use of one of the sanitizers described below. Equipment free of crop[Read More…]


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The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) strives to facilitate widespread adoption of cover crops throughout the Midwest, to improve ecological, economic, and social sustainability. The Cover Crop Decision Tool is an initiative by the MCCC to consolidate cover crop information by state to help farmers make cover crop selections at the county level. The tool makes seeding date recommendations based on county specific weather information, and sorts cover crop species by desirable attributes of the farmer’s choosing. Indiana was the first state in the Midwest to implement a decision tool for field crops and Michigan is currently the only state with a decision tool for vegetable crops. Indiana SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) is funding the creation of a decision tool for vegetable crops in Indiana this fall. Both the IN field crops tool and MI vegetable tool can be found on the MCCC website (mccc.msu.edu). Figure 1 is[Read More…]


Figure 3. The fungus on this senescent female pumpkin flower (Choanephora sp.) is growing on a flower which did not develop properly.

There has been some concern about poor fruit set in pumpkin fields that otherwise have healthy vigorous vines. This summer we have experienced above normal temperatures for much of the pumpkin fruit set season and I suspect that has played a role. This article will consider temperature as well as other factors that influence pumpkin fruit set. In order for fruit set to take place, male and female flowers must be open on the same day, pollinating insects must be active, the plant must not be too stressed and it must have an adequate level of carbohydrates. Growers can influence some of these conditions. High temperatures promote death of female pumpkin flowers while still in the bud stage. Varieties differ in the their sensitivity to high temperatures. To determine whether flowers have died early in development requires close inspection of the pumpkin vine. An aborted bud often dries up and[Read More…]


Figure 5: Tirreno, an Italian netted variety, orange flesh color

Indiana is a very important player in the domestic melon market. The total acreage planted in Indiana peaked in 1997 at 3,600 acres. In that year the total production was 455,000 cwt with an average income of $16.00 per cwt. The total farm value of production was $7,280,000 ($2,022 per acre). Yield has increased since 1997 from 130 cwt per acre to more than 200 cwt per acre in 2014. The Indiana melon growers have lost a significant share of the melon market since the 2011 and 2012 food borne illness outbreaks. Compared to 2011, the acreage planted and production in 2015 decreased by 900 acres and 52% (300,000 cwt), respectively. Quick Facts about Indiana Cantaloupe Transplant Production: March/April Planting Season: April – June Harvest Season: June – Sept. Plant Population (2.5 ft. x 6 ft.): 2,904 plants per acre Total acres planted: 2,100 acres (2013), 1,900 acres (2014), 1,800[Read More…]


Figure 2. Cross stitch with large lesions.

Cross stitch of watermelons is a physiological disorder (not caused by an infectious disease) first reported in 1990s on watermelon fruit. It received the name because the symptom looks like cross stitch. One or more rows of oval-shaped lesions lie along with the longitudinal axis of the fruit. These lesions are normally more close to the stem end of the fruit (Figure 1). Sizes of the lesions range from a quarter inch to more than 2 inches. When the lesions are small, it normally does not affect interior flesh quality. However, if lesions develop into large gaps, it could lead to fruit rot (Figure 2). Cross-stitch symptom has been noticed in several watermelon production areas, however, causes of the symptom is still largely unknown. In most of the years, this is a minor problem. However, we have received more reports of cross-stitch  on watermelon fruit this year. In one case,[Read More…]


Figure 1. Strawberries grown inside a high tunnel at Southwest Purdue Agricultural Center. Photo was taken on April 16 2016.

We are familiar with strawberries grown as a perennial crop in Indiana. Bare root strawberry plants are set in the spring. Fruit is first harvested in the second year and the planting is renovated annually. Using this system, strawberry seasons last for three to four weeks from middle May through June. The traditional system has been replaced with an annual plasticulture system in the southern United States ever since the 1980s. In the annual plasticulture system, strawberry plugs (rooted runner tips) are transplanted in plastic covered beds in late summer or fall. Fruit are harvested in spring in the next year. After the fruiting season, the plants are removed. The annual plasticulture system is favored in the south because it has a longer harvest period and produces strawberries with better quality. In Indiana, trials established to test the annual plasticulture system had limited success because of short fall season and harsh[Read More…]


Last week, the highest temperature reached 110°F for a few successive days inside of our high tunnels. As a result, we observed some blossom drop on tomatoes. More information on high temperature effects on tomato fruit set can be found here. In addition to blossom drop, high temperature and high light intensity contribute to sunscald injury, uneven ripening, and cracking of tomato fruit. To protect tomatoes from damage caused by excessive heat, we placed 30% black shade cloth on top of the high tunnel. By installing the shadecloth, we expect there will be less cracking and more uniformly ripe tomatoes. Tomato marketability will increase. However, using shade cloth also has some negative effects. In this article, we review the effects of high temperatures on tomatoes, and discuss positive and negative aspects of using a shade cloth. Excessive high temperature (above 100°F) lasting for a few hours for successive days could cause tomato flower abortion and affect[Read More…]


Figure 2. Wilt cucumber plants in a high tunnel

  Last week, we were called by a few watermelon growers who reported their newly planted watermelon seedlings were dead (Figure 1 ). After closely inspecting the affected plants, we did not find any pathogens. This reminded us of what happened to our cucumbers back in early April in our high tunnel. We will review the cucumber story first, and rethink what might have happened to the watermelons. Cucumbers were planted on March 30 in a high tunnel located at Southwest PurdueAgricultural Center (SWPAC), Vincennes, IN. The lowest air temperature after planting was recorded at 37.5°F inside the high tunnel, which should not be low enough to cause frost damage. However, we lost 40% to 80% of the newly planted cucumbers depending on varieties. The symptoms were similar to water deficiency-caused plant wilt (Figure 2 ). Most of the dead plants had intact stems, however, we did find wire worms[Read More…]


Planting density plays an important role in the optimization of labor efficiency and productivity of your high tunnel. For the purpose of this article I will focus on tomato which is commonly grown as a high value crop on small farming operations. Usually growers select varieties according to customer (market) preference and then try to combine that with other attributes such as ease of production, disease tolerance/resistance and productivity (yield). Consumer preference usually helps to determine the fruit color, size and shape, and the sweetness (soluble solids) of the tomato variety to be grown. The grower again is interested in earliness, growth habit (determinate and indeterminate), and ease of pruning, trellising and picking. Most growers in Indiana choose determinate varieties for high tunnel production, because it has limited growth and is easy to stake and allows for early production (short production cycle), with most fruit ripening before field grown tomatoes[Read More…]


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