SPRING FARM: Edisto REC out front on fruit, vegetable studies | Special Sections

The Edisto Research and Education Center has served as a place where scientists have studied and developed agricultural production practices for 85 years.

This year EREC will continue its studies with a specific focus on chickpea production, Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation (ASD) watermelon trials; organic fungicide trial for collard production; fungicide trial for watermelons, as well as pumpkin and sweet potato variety trials, according to Clemson University EREC Area Vegetable Specialist Dr. Gilbert Miller.

Chickpea production

This year will be the beginning of a two-year study of chickpea production at the EREC.

“At EREC, we will evaluate chickpea production and management practices for South Carolina and at the conclusion of the two-year study, understand the potential of this crop for South Carolina producers,” Miller said.

Nine varieties were planted Feb. 2.

“Chickpea prefers cool weather and are frost tolerant,” Miller said. “Yields are best when daytime temperatures are 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. We anticipate harvest sometime in early May.”

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Miller said chickpea production can be devastated by a foliar disease, Ascochyta blight.

“How severe this disease and others will be on chickpeas grown at this time in the Southeast is unknown.

“Using certified, disease-free seed of resistant varieties is critical to preventing and controlling Ascochyta blight,” said Miller. “Judicious use of foliar fungicides and planting treated seed will also help.”

Chickpeas originated in what is now southeastern Turkey and Syria and were domesticated about 9,000 BC

Most US production is in California and the Pacific Northwest. About 10,000 acres of garbanzos are grown per year in California, with yields averaging 2,300 pounds per acre.

In the US, chickpeas commonly are used fresh in salads, hummus and cooked in stews and curry.

ASD and watermelons

Another experiment at the EREC will be on Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation (ASD) and watermelons.

“Soil-borne diseases, nematodes and troublesome weeds such as nutsedge are problematic in intensive vegetable production,” Miller said. “Anaerobic soil disinfestation is a process which has shown to be effective against a wide range of soilborne pathogens, including bacteria, fungi, nematodes and some weed seed.”

ASD is a three-step process which soil is amended with a carbon source, irrigated to saturation and covered with plastic mulch for several weeks, Miller said.

“During the ASD process, beneficial soil microbes break down the added carbon source, deplete oxygen in the soil and produce toxic byproducts that kill soilborne pathogens,” Miller said.

Various organic materials and agricultural byproducts have been shown to be effective soil amendments for ASD, Miller said.

“For our study at EREC, we are incorporating four different organic materials: cotton seed meal; broiler litter with molasses; chopped up rutabaga and cabbage; and chopped up rutabaga, cabbage and rice hulls,” he said.

The ASD materials were applied and incorporated Feb. 16. Plastic mulch and drip irrigation were applied and a saturating irrigation program was begun.

Soil sensors were installed, which will monitor soil temperature, soil oxygen levels and production of volatile organic compounds. The ASD process will take up to six weeks.

“When conditions are suitable, which we anticipate will be early April, watermelon transplants will be planted,” Miller said.

Trial for collard production

Another trial of note this year at the EREC will be an organic fungicide trial for collard production.

“Black rot and peppery leaf spot are two foliar diseases which attack collards and other cruciferous vegetables,” Miller said. “The diseases can be problematic for all production methods but are particularly troublesome for organic production.”

Collards, Top Bunch 2.0 variety, were planted Feb. 17.

The collard plants will be inoculated with the black rot pathogen in early March. Immediately prior to and weekly following inoculation, the plants will be treated with three different Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) approved foliar fungicides.

“During the growing season the incidence and severity of foliar diseases will be evaluated, and the effectiveness of the foliar fungicides will be determined,” Miller said. “The total marketable yield of collards grown under each foliar fungicide will be measured at the season end.”

Fungicide trial for watermelons

A fungicide trial for watermelon production will also be done.

Gummy stem blight, anthracnose, downy mildew and powdery mildew are diseases found almost annually in watermelon fields.

The diseases, if left unchecked, can completely devastate a field of watermelons, Miller said.

“At EREC, we will be evaluating some new fungicides and will determine how effective they control various watermelon diseases,” he said.

Pumpkin variety trial

In cooperation with New Zealand Hybrid Seed Company, Miller said scientists will be evaluating 40 pumpkin varieties for production in the state.

It will be the eighth year the EREC has conducted the trial. The pumpkin varieties vary from small to large, ornamental and edible.

Some of the varieties tested have shown to be suitable for production in the state can be found by going to

Sweet potato variety trial

For the fifth year the EREC will participate in the Sweet Potato Collaborators Trial.

“This is a sweet potato variety trial conducted in many Southeastern and bordering states,” Miller said. “The suitability of new sweet potato varieties is compared to currently commercially available varieties. Ten varieties will be included in the 2022 trial. The varieties will also be grown with and without drip irrigation for comparison.

Watermelon Field Day

The EREC will host a watermelon field day July 14.

Registration and the indoor sessions will begin at 8 am Attendees will go out to a field to view and discuss research plots around 10 am

Participants will be able to view and taste more than 50 watermelon varieties. There will be seedless, mini seedless and heirloom seeded varieties available.

More details will be available closer to the event time.


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