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Dealing with a Rexless Summer?

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CropKing
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Hydroponic Bibb Lettuce

For growers, there exists something of a codependent relationship between them and their cultivar of choice. Due to uncertainties in seed production and demand, there is always the possibility of seed shortages or movement by the industry away from the ‘old faithfuls’. For bibb growers, the popular cultivar Rex is likely going to be less available this summer and early fall and so the questions of what other options to grow certainly are coming to our attention. While it is never possible to guarantee other cultivars will seamlessly replace current ones, CropKing’s trialing and research program is carried out to assist decision making in these areas. So, the best way for me to help growers decide what to grow is to show you what I have observed and measured in our greenhouses here in Lodi.

Investigating impacts of Electrical Conductivity in Nutrient Solutions

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CropKing
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In recirculating systems producing leafy crops, one of the main factors in the control of the grower is the nutrient solution electrical conductivity (EC). In many systems, total EC, rather than single elements are controlled due to economics. In most commercial systems using electronic controllers and dosing pumps, concentrated fertilizer solution is added to the nutrient solution any time the solution goes below target EC. So, maintaining consistent EC levels is fairly straightforward, the main question becomes: What is the best EC? The answer to this question is based on two separate factors. The first relates to maintaining needed nutrients in solution. Essentially, the important question is how close to calculated nutrient levels does the solution remain over time. If there are large amounts of ions already in the source water (sodium, sulfate, or calcium for instance), this can cause the nutrient solution to become out of balance more rapidly meaning that ideal ratios of nutrients are not maintained. The second factor involves the movement of water through the plant. At lower EC, it is easier for plants to take up and transpire water. Therefore, under high light and temperature, and low humidity, lower solution EC levels makes it easier for the plant to move water. So, the EC that we use in our systems needs to address these two issues: 1) Maintain adequate levels of plant nutrients, and 2) not stress the plant too much in terms of taking up water needed for transpiration.

Summer to Fall Mixed Leafy Trial

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CropKing
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Hydroponic Leafy Lettuce

While lettuce fills a large majority of the spaces in most greenhouse nutrient film technique (NFT) systems in the US, there are many other crops that can be profitable for growers in these systems. In addition to herbs, other leafy crops, such as kale, cress and endive are currently being investigated by growers to address specialty markets. In recent years, more growers are experimenting with these varied leafy crops. However, less is known about crop productivity and timing in relation to both cultivar and seasonal impacts. It is also important to note that unlike bibb and some other lettuce types, most kale, endive and cress are not specifically bred and developed for controlled environment production. So, there is a potential for greater seasonal variability in production than is seen in some of the common bibb lettuce crops. This trial was designed to evaluate a selection of kale and other leafy crops through a range of summer to fall conditions to evaluate their potential for greenhouse growers in the Midwest and Northeast. This trial obviously only used a portion of the cultivars available, but was intended to provide information for future more extensive trials.

Beefsteak Cultivar Trials- Part 2 (The Numbers)

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CropKing
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•This evaluation was carried out both to increase our knowledge
of several available beefsteaks and to provide information for
growers who may be considering these tomato cultivars.
Cultivars were obtained from a variety of seed suppliers to
represent a broad selection.
•Ten cultivars were trialed in small 4-plant blocks with two replications.
•The whole evaluation was completed in one row of a 22’ x 64’ x 10’ greenhouse
•Seeded 12/18 (All seedlings)
•Transplanted 1/14 (~ 4 ft2 per plant)
•First harvest 4/8
•Growing point removal 11/11
•Last harvest occurred on 12/16
•Data analyzed with Proc GLM and means difference letters calculated by LSD (different letters represent
statistically different cultivar averages)

Beefsteak Cultivar Trials- Part 1 (The Pictures)

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CropKing
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Greenhouse tomato production in the United States now encompasses a wide spectrum of fruit types and cultivars. Producers desire both attractive and distinctive crop cultivars to meet consumer demand, but consistency in both productivity and quality is still a key. Even with the increasing desire for specialty cultivars, many small to mid-scale growers still often establish and maintain their a large portion of their sales with beefsteak tomatoes. For many US consumers, high visual and taste quality in beefsteak tomatoes is the basis for greenhouse tomato price premiums. Because many greenhouse vegetable producers rely on a few specific cultivars, the production and reliability of those cultivars is essential. Additionally, over time their customers become accustomed to the taste and appearance of a certain cultivar and change must be carefully weighed. However, cultivars are sometimes discontinued or unavailable due to seed shortages, so being familiar with other options is quite important for growers. We generally encourage tomato growers to trial small sections of different cultivars on a consistent basis to remain up to date on new offerings and to be prepared if they are forced to switch cultivars. It is obviously important for us at CropKing to be familiar with cultivar options for growers. So, this evaluation was carried out both to increase our knowledge of several available beefsteaks and to provide information for growers who may be considering these tomatoes as options for their current crops. Cultivars were obtained from a variety of seed suppliers to represent a broad selection of cultivars available to greenhouse tomato producers.

Dialing in on the Downy: Dealing with Basil Downy Mildew in your Greenhouse

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CropKing
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Some basic facts on basil downy mildew

Basil downy mildew (Peronospora belbahrii) is a disease that is rapidly getting the attention of many of hydroponic greenhouse growers. Over the last couple months, we have heard from growers in several states who are now facing this disease. So, I want to take an opportunity in this blog to introduce growers to the threat and present some information as well as sites for further research. Knowledge and preparation are some of the best steps to prevent or mitigate losses in our greenhouse
basil crops.

Spring to Summer Romaine Lettuce Trial

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CropKing
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Romaine lettuce can sometimes be a challenging lettuce crop to produce in the greenhouse due to its susceptibility to tipburn and related quality deterioration. However, there often appears to be a solid market for high quality, locally produced, romaine. In addition to environmental challenges, romaine cultivars specifically bred and developed for controlled environment production are less common than bibb cultivars. This trial was designed to evaluate a selection of romaine lettuce cultivars through a range of spring and summer conditions to evaluate their potential for greenhouse growers in the Midwest and northeast.

The attraction of opposites: Using both soil and soilless production to enhance diversified vegetable and fruit operations - Part 2

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CropKing Admin
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Farm

On this mid-summer morning in central Pennsylvania, it turned out that tomatoes were not the first thing on Ammon Martin’s mind. While Ammon and his son Dave were certainly willing to discuss their greenhouse hydroponic tomato production with me, he explained with a smile that right now it was peach picking season. So, it was going to be the orchard that would consume much of their time over the next few days.

Grass Fed Beef

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CropKing Admin
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In my opinion one of the preeminent benefits of utilizing a hydroponic fodder feed system is the ability to more closely re-create our animal’s natural diets. This is especially true when considering a ruminant animal such as a cow. A cow’s digestive system has specially evolved to efficiently digest and convert grasses into a food source; a feat that those of us with only one stomach cannot accomplish. Traditionally all beef was grass fed, but with a skyrocketing population a need to speed up production time became evident; this is where grain-feeding came into play.

The attraction of opposites: Using both soil and soilless production to enhance diversified vegetable and fruit operations - Part 1

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CropKing Admin
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Yarnicks

For horticultural crop producers, the balance between specialization and diversification on their farms must be continually managed. These days, the concept of diversification does not just apply to the types of vegetables planted in the field or varieties of trees in the orchard. Horticultural growers around the country have a wide variety of growing systems available to them to enhance the selection of crops they market and the seasons in which they are able to harvest and sell.

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