Economically Viable Production of Vegetables in The Southern Region Using Low-input and Sustainable Techniques: A Data Base
1.) Determine the best content and format to make a manual on reduced-input vegetable production useful to farmers and extension workers as well as researchers, teachers, and students. Identify particular farmers as resources and/or reviewers for the manual.
2.) Compile database of information on commercial production of vegetables in the Southeastern U.S. using reduced input and organic techniques such as organic fertilizers, cover crops, rotations, cultivar resistances and IPM protocols.
3.) Evaluate the material compiled for usefulness and reliability and organize into a production Manual for the major vegetable crops grown in the southeastern U.S.
4.) Disseminate database in hardcopy form through the publication of an annotated bibliography and through a vegetable production manual.
During the first year of the grant (1991), after interviewing potential users and people who worked with potential users, we decided to concentrate on providing a low-cost printed version of the material. This decision was made based on our observation that there seemed to be many obstacles to electronic delivery at the farm level and even at the level of county extension offices when considering the entire southeastern U.S. As a result of these interviews, we also found that growers and extension agents had difficulty with weed control and found it difficult to obtain information on cover crops, living mulches and solarization.
We began collecting information in 1991. In fall 1992 we began circulating draft copies of chapters for technical review. Revised chapters have been circulated to some of the original reviewers and also selected new reviewers. The bulk of the information to be included was in final form by the time of the last annual report (December 1993). Last January and February we obtained final reviews on all the chapters and in March sent the entire 330 page document to 4 reviewers, an organic vegetable farmer, a researcher at Rodale, two extension specialists and an educational media specialist at NCSU. Their comments were received by the beginning of June, and appropriate revisions have been made.
AgAccess has agreed to publish and distribute the completed manuscript, assuming approval by reviewers they select. They estimate publication within a year and an approximate cover price of $20.00
In its current version this document is 330 pages long, double spaced. The first half consists of material applying to all crops. The soil management chapter describes ways to improve the physical characteristics and biological activity of the soil and how to substitute manures and composts for high-analysis fertilizers. The reader is referred to tables showing the average nutrient content of manures and other potential fertilizer or compost materials, including cover crops. The reader is, however, cautioned both in the crop chapters and on the tables of the necessity for testing the soil to determine the need for additional minerals and to also have the amendments tested to determine their actual content, rather than relying on the information in the table. The nutrient content of selected conventional fertilizers and liming materials is also given, along with the leaching risk and volatilization potential for N sources.
The cover crops chapter provides general guidelines for using cover crops and living mulches and discusses the advantages and disadvantages. It then lists 22 cover crops that can be grown in the southeastern U.S. along with their seeding rates, climatic and soil requirements and other useful information such as whether they are annual or perennial, whether they fix nitrogen and whether reseeding is a problem. IPM practices for insects, diseases and weeds are described in the next three chapters.
The insect and disease IPM chapters cover general principles and practices such as crop rotation and the use of beneficials, botanical and biocontrols. They then briefly describe the life cycle of some of the common insects and diseases of vegetables in the southeastern U.S. Nematode control is discussed in the disease chapter. Economic threshold, biocontrol or other useful information is also given, if available.
The weed IPM chapter presents information on prevention, critical weed-free periods and solarization, among other topics, but does not discuss specific weeds except as examples. In appendices, the reader is referred to additional resources for pest identification and for further discussion of many topics.
The second half of the document consists of crop profiles for 12 vegetable crops grown in the southeastern U.S. These are: beans (including limas, snapbeans and southern pea); cole crops; sweet corn; eggplant; watermelon; okra; peppers; pumpkins; squash; sweetpotato; potato and tomato.
For a crop to be included, at least 10% of the national production or 6% of the national production acreage had to be located in the Southern Region. In addition, to be included, the crop had to be grown on significant acreage in more than one state in the Southern Region.
If specific information was found on the use of cover crops or organic mulches or other sustainable practices on this crop in the Southeast, it is also included in the crop chapter. To help farmers make decisions on economic and marketing factors, each crop chapter contains information on where the crop is produced and trends in per capita consumption.
Since implementing sustainable practices successfully requires familiarity with the biology of the crop as well as the pest and knowledge of standard cultural practices, these background chapters also provide the reader with information on the soil, climate and irrigation and cultural requirements for each crop. Harvest and postharvest considerations are also described briefly.
If insect pollinators, trellising or other specific cultural practices are required, these are also described, along with the implications for growers using sustainable practices. For the major diseases, resistances, if any, are listed for current and some older cultivars. Where insect tolerances have been documented, these are also listed in the crop chapter.
An index and list of the almost 250 references cited have been compiled for the entire document and appendices prepared. The appendices consist of: maps of the soil and climate zones in the southeastern U.S.; a description of how to calculate heat units; an example of the economics of organic tomato production; a description of the organic certification process and the status of certification in the states of the Southern Region; a list of additional publications, the addresses of all publication distribution offices for the Cooperative Extension Services for the states of the Southern Region and a list of organizations active in sustainable agriculture in the Region.