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Outcomes and Impacts: Department of Horticultural Science, Part Three
North Carolina State University Research Conducted on Research Stations

view this document, 2011 Research Station Outcomes & Impacts, as a pdf >>
read 2010 Research Stations Annual Report (pdf) >>

giant reed, Arundo donax

Research efforts have been initiated to evaluate the performance of perennial grasses, cold hardy sugar canes and giant reed (Arundo donaxas bioenergy crops in North Carolina and to develop production practices and recommendations, breed and develop improved varieties, and improve efficiency of bioprocessing and cellulosic ethanol conversion. Continuation and expansion of these activities will support new economic development and a sustainable bioenergy industry in North Carolina.
Tom Ranney, Department of Horticultural Science, N.C. State University

sweet potato breeding The ‘Evangeline’ sweetpotato variety,  recently released by the Louisiana Research Experiment Station, was evaluated in 2009 for commercial potential in North Carolina both on-farm
and on the Horticultural Crops Research Station in Clinton. A variety test and a potash study provided positive results that ‘Evangeline’ might be a potential alternative variety for the sweetpotato industry. Good production capabilities in conjunction with its elevated levels of sucrose make ‘Evangeline’ an attractive variety for microwaving and an alternative variety option for North Carolina growers.
Jonathan Schultheis, Department of Horticultural Science, N.C. State University

Important production research has been conducted on research stations on new varieties for the commercial sweetpotato industry. ‘Hatteras’, recently released by N.C. State University, is the newest variety that has received research attention. With the emergence of stem end disorder a few months prior to significant plantings of ‘Hatteras’ production acreage by the sweetpotato industry, the research focus became the incidence and cause of this disorder. Tests were conducted on research
sweet potatoes stations in Clinton and Kinston to better understand this disorder. After one year of testing, Zvezdana Pesic-VanEsbroeck, Plant Pathology Department, and
Jonathan Schultheis, Horticultural Science Department, found that the incidence of the disorder was prevalent in roots, with cured roots having a higher incidence of the disorder than noncured roots. Carryover of the symptoms was not related to roots that previously had the disorder. In other words, the disorder was not vegetatively transmitted. No pathogen has been associated with
the disorder. The findings from these tests have provided convincing evidence that growers should avoid this variety until there is a better understanding of the problem and its sweet potato harvesting
control. Although lack of adoption of a new variety is generally considered a negative impact, the very minimal acreage grown commercially, in part because of these studies, literally saved the North Carolina sweetpotato industry millions of dollars and potential future market loss.
Jonathan Schultheis, Department of Horticultural Science, N.C. State University
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sweet potato showing skinning damage A sweet potato variety called 'Covington' is now grown on nearly 80% of North Carolina's commercial acreage because of its high quality, yields, and exceptional pack out. 
Although 'Covington' has many positive attributes, sometimes a darkening or necrosis occurs at the proximal end of the root. Initial research in conjunction with the weed science and postharvest programs evaluated an ethylene compound (Prep or Ethrel) to reduce the skinning of sweetpotato roots. Most of the initial work was done with a variety called ‘Beauregard’; and Ethrel reduced skinning of ‘Beauregard’ in some cases. However, skinning research conducted on ‘Covington’, demonstrated that this variety is prone to internal necrosis when Ethrel is applied. Internal necrosis continues to be a concern, since it occurs in the absence of Ethrel application prior to harvest. Recent additional investigation at the Cunningham Research Station into the cause of internal necrosis in ‘Covington’ revealed that high moisture conditions do not enhance additional necrosis. While we have learned that exogenous application of ethylene can cause internal necrosis of sweet potatoes, we realize future on-station tests will be important to better understand the cause of this malady, which is a concern for North Carolina’s $130 million sweetpotato industry.
Jonathan Schultheis, Department of Horticultural Science, N.C. State University

Sweet potato production requires a lot of hand labor: planting and harvest are two of the more expensive functions. We are working to reduce hand labor costs by using cut seed pieces, rather than transplantings, for planting. Several more years of research are needed to determine whether this planting method is feasible. Studies are being conducted on research stations, and the stations are integral to the research.

sweet potato harvesting

Planting is about 25% of sweetpotato production costs; so growers would realize considerable savings if cut seed piece planting becomes feasible.
Jonathan Schultheis, Department of Horticultural Science, N.C. State University

harvested sweet potatoes backed in large boxes for transport from the field
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pumpkins on wagon Another very important part of Jonathan Schultheis' program is the evaluation of various cucurbit cultivars. His team evaluates melons, pumpkins, zucchini, yellow
squash and watermelon cultivars. The pumpkin trial is conducted at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville and is a collaborative effort between the University of Tennessee and N.C. State University, which helps conserve resources by not doubling research efforts. This trial provides growers in each state the latest information for North Carolina and Tennessee with respect to those cultivars that produce prolific yields, have good disease resistance, and have unique qualities for commercial markets. The melon cultivar tests are conducted at the Cunningham Research Station in Kinston, while the squash and watermelon tests are conducted at the Central Crops Research Station in Clayton.
The watermelon test is one of the largest in the United States. Results from the annual watermelon studies are well respected by industry across the nation, cut watermelon varieties showing color variations
and new cultivars are often validated by seed companies for release from this test. New improved cultivars such as ‘Crunchy Red’ and ‘Firm and Red’ are being grown more widely by commercial growers
watermelon varieties in part due to validation from this test. Utilization of these higher quality, unique cultivars keeps North Carolina growers more competitive in the market.
Jonathan Schultheis, Department of Horticultural Science, N.C. State University

A new hybrid pickling cucumber named ‘NC-Danbury’ has been released by the cucurbit breeding project at N.C. State University.
This hybrid is intended for
hand pollination for cucumber breeding
use as a pollenizer, a long-season variety, or a patio container cucumber. As a pollenizer, it provides pollen for fruit set in our medium- ('NC-Davie') and long- ('NC-Duplin') fruited varieties released earlier. Growers should be able to test the hybrid in small areas in 2010. The cucurbit breeding program uses the research stations extensively to conduct research.
Todd Wehner, Department of Horticultural Science, N.C. State University

The ornamentals breeding program at N.C. State University has been working on the development of new compact, sterile forms of Buddleia (butterfly bush), and new improved ornamental forms of redbud, a widely grown small landscape tree. The majority of this work has been conducted at the Sandhills Research Station, Jackson Springs, over the past 13 years. From these efforts, we have released five new varieties to the North Carolina nursery industry.
Buddleja Blue Chip shrub 'Blue Chip' & 'Miss Ruby' are new varieties of butterfly bush that demonstrate compact stature and reduced seed set. They are being widely grown by many
North Carolina nurserymen and have contributed to the economy of North Carolina wholesale and retail nurseries and garden centers. Three new redbud cultivars ('Ruby Falls', 'Merlot', and 'Whitewater') each demonstrating a unique combination of ornamental traits, have been released. These new tree varieties have been widely embraced by nurseries in North Carolina and nationwide, and we anticipate they will have a significant positive impact on the economy of the nursery and landscape industry.
Dennis Werner, Department of Horticultural Science, N.C. State University
Note:  Outcomes & Impacts presented in this document represent only a portion of the outcomes and impacts of research conducted by faculty in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at N.C. State University.