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Vegetable Research

Potatoes

Potato

Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) and dry beans are the only specialty, high-value crops in North Dakota with production acreage greater than 1,000 acres. Potato acreage in North Dakota has generally declined over the past several years, but appears to have stabilized after hitting a low of 82,000 planted acres in 2005. The amount of irrigated potato, west of the traditional dryland area of the Red River Valley has remained constant in order to meet the needs for two processing plants in the state. Processors’ contracts reflect the need for high-quality potatoes with incentives for specific potato weight categories and disincentives for potato quality issues such as hollow heart and dark ends or sugar ends. Growers throughout the region need to reduce sugar-end development and maximize quality if they are to produce profitable processing potatoes. Contracts are constructed so that any potential gain from a high-yielding potato crop can quickly disappear or even become a loss due to quality issues such as sugar-ends.

A potato breeding program at North Dakota State University began in 1930. The program has been very successful releasing four introductions within the past seven years. One of the objectives of the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station is to develop and release adapted high-yielding and high-quality crop cultivars with diverse pest resistance. Understanding how each advanced selection will respond to various production practices can play an important role in the cultivar development and grower acceptance. Cultural and physiological studies on advance selections will help to develop cultivar specific profiles that will serve as production guidelines for growers.

With the introduction of Roundup Ready crops in the 1990’s and the explosion in the adoption of glyphosate-resistant crops, the acreage receiving more than one application of glyphosate has increased dramatically nation-wide. Glyphosate label additions allowing pre-harvest applications to several non-glyphosate-resistant crops has further increased the acreage treated with glyphosate. Currently, glyphosate is the largest-selling single crop-protection chemical product in the market. Non-target injury from glyphosate drift to non-glyphosate-resistant crops has been a concern since the introduction of glyphosate-resistant crops. Most research has shown detrimental effects when drift occurred early in the growing season and that nontarget monocot crops are more sensitive than dicot crops. However, since this chemical is translocated within a plant, there is potential injury to the current season growth as well as tubers used for seed the following year. Potato seed producers as well as commercial growers need to be educated on the potential risks associated with glyphosate applications near a potato field.

Onions

onion

The North Dakota vegetable industry has potential for significant growth in the near future. An onion peel plant built near Dawson, ND provides growers with a local market opportunity. In addition, the cost of transportation for onions from the Pacific Northwest to the east coast is so high, that production and shipping from North Dakota is advantageous for processors.

Variety and broadleaf weed management trials continue to be producer concerns. Currently, the major issue limiting onion yield potential is the inability of growers to adequately control early season weeds. Cultivation is not an option because of the shallow onion root system. Pre-emergence herbicides have been used, but the few products that are registered for use on onion primarily control annual grasses and usually weed escape problems still exist. Post-emergence herbicides are available for midseason control, but during the onion’s most critical development period from emergence to the two-leaf stage, there is no labeled herbicide. Trials have been conducted to investigate the effect of repeat applications at reduced herbicide rates.

Results so far have been promising, but require the investigation of adjuvants, timing interval, cultivar response, and interactions with environmental conditions during the early spring in order to gain a better understanding of the potential benefit from the micro-rate application technology. In addition, research has shown the benefit from a companion crop early in the growing season. However, this companion crop may not be needed if strip-tillage is performed in the fall. This conservation tillage practice may allow enough residue/stubble in the untilled areas that problems associated with high winds prior to onion emergence may be eliminated.

Other Vegetables

pumpkin

Many vegetables can be successfully grown in North Dakota. Variety and production trials have been conducted on edamame soybeans, cabbage, and pumpkins, and will continue as new cultivars come to the market and production issues arise. Weed management strategies that will provide environmentally and economically viable alternatives will continue to be an emphasis. Reducing herbicide inputs and improving early-season weed control through the use of micro-rate technology has been shown to be an alternative weed management strategy for many vegetables. Research will continue to develop these strategies as part of a sustainable vegetable production system.

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