September Vegetable Observations

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist;

Lima Beans
Lima bean harvest is fully underway across the region and the following are some observations in this challenging year. Late May, June, and some early July plantings lost the first set almost completely (heat induced blossom and small pod abortions). The second set is extremely variable and in many fields, economic yields will depend on what happens with the third set. Growers have commented that they are letting fields advance well above the 10% white/dry seed level that is normal for harvest to allow the later set to fill. Some fields are being harvested at the 20-30% dry seed stage (coming from the earlier set). For harvest considerations, it is better to lose a set completely and harvest the later set than to have a bad split set.

There is still considerable dry land lima bean acreage and I am always amazed at how much drought that lima beans can stand without wilting or showing outward water stress. Plants may be smaller but they survive drought and heat very well. Unfortunately, even though lima beans can survive drought, pod set will be limited. Research has shown over and over again that irrigation is necessary to achieve high lima bean yields. In a year such as 2010 where excess heat is also an issue, pod set can be adversely affected, even under irrigation.

We should emphasize again that water is still the most important nutrient for high lima bean yields. In a research plot area where we were looking at residual effects of biofumigant crops and compost this year, we planted snap beans and lima beans in early June as test crops in a dry land situation. After several weeks of drought and heat the snap beans were wilting during the day and were stunted while the lima beans kept on going. To rescue the plots (so that we could get data), we installed drip irrigation between every 2 rows. The snap beans did recover somewhat but with permanently stunted plants, poor bean quality, and a severe split set. In contrast, the lima beans lost the first set but did put on a decent second set and had good plant health and plant size.

Snap Beans
Summer planted snap beans for September harvest are yielding much better than the summer harvested crops. We are seeing yields in the normal 4 ton/A or better range where there was adequate irrigation (compared to summer yields in the 1-2 ton range).

Pickle Cucumbers
Late crops of pickle cucumbers are variable, largely due to stand loss and inadequate water in fields planted during summer high heat periods. In addition, downy mildew has hit a number of later fields adversely, even where fungicides were applied in a timely manner. Pickle harvest should be completed in the next 7-10 days.

I am amazed at how long some watermelon fields have produced this year where attention has been paid to vine health, nutrition, and water. This certainly is the year where you are able to evaluate the yield potential and longevity of main season varieties and effectiveness of pollenizers. On another note, watermelon fields with good weed control (morningglory in particular), had much better later yields.

Tomatoes had a difficult year in 2010 with most fields having much shorter harvest periods due to the extra heat stress. This is especially evident where beds were allowed to dry out at any time during these stressful periods. Somewhat surprising also is the presence of more disease than would be expected in a dry year.