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Chapter 8 Organic and Sustainable Vegetable Production

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8

Organic and Sustainable Vegetable

Production

Introduction

Background of conventional and organic systems

Organic vegetable production is often considered as an alternative to what is variously called high input

“conventional” farming, “modern” agriculture, or

“traditional” farming. Actually, organic production pre-dates the advent of modern vegetable production.

World War II caused many to realize that food was a strategic resource. Limited manpower and the need to maximize food production during the war lead to agricultural research and policies that accelerated the ascendancy of “modern” agrichemical systems of crop production that began in the early 1900s (Welbaum et al., 2004). The new technologies included synthetic concentrated fertilizers, mechanization and chemical weed control to increase production efficiencies.

Another part of this system was the development of plant cultivars that were increasingly more dependent upon the support of agrichemistry in the subsequent post-war period (Welbaum et al., 2004).

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Chapter 15 Family Convolvulaceae

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Family Convolvulaceae

SWEETPOTATO

Origin and History

The sweetpotato is an ancient crop of the New

World. The sweetpotato was an important food crop of the Mayan and Inca cultures long before the arrival of the Europeans in South and Central

America. In Central America, sweetpotatoes were domesticated at least 5,000 years ago while in

South America, Peruvian sweetpotato remnants date back as far as 8000 bc (Austin, 1988).

The center of origin of the sweetpotato may have been somewhere between the Yucatán Peninsula of

Mexico and the mouth of the Orinoco River in

Venezuela (Austin, 1988; Zhang et al., 1998).

Molecular genetic comparison studies suggest that

Peru–Ecuador was a secondary center of origin for sweetpotato (Zhang et al., 1998).

Sweetpotatoes were introduced to Spain by

European explorers about 1600, to western Africa by Portuguese traders and later into India, the

East Indies, China, and Japan (Woolfe, 1992). The sweetpotato has been cultivated in Virginia since at least 1648 (O’Brien, 1972). The introduction of the sweetpotato in North America is unclear.

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Chapter 2 Tillage and Cropping Systems

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Tillage and Cropping Systems

Tillage

Soil preparation is an important aspect of vegetable preparation. There are different approaches to field preparation and the dealing with residue left behind by the previous crop. Plowing has been associated with crop production for much of recorded history. A plow is an agricultural implement with a sharp surface used for cutting and/or turning soil. Plows allow the soil to be broken so seeds can be planted. The plow may have first appeared around 1000 bc in the Near East and existed as early as 500 bc in China (Lal et al.,

2007). Moldboard plows were known in Britain after the late 6th century (Hill and Kucharski,

1990). The moldboard design consists of a curved plate with a sharp edge that turns over the soil so the top layers are buried and moist friable layers are brought the surface (Fig. 2.1).

Animals were initially used to pull these implements. Wooden plows remained the standard until

Jethro Wood invented a cast-iron plow with interchangeable parts in the early 1800s. John Lane invented the steel plow shortly thereafter. In 1865,

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Chapter 11 Family Solanaceae

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Family Solanaceae

POTATO

Origin and History

The potato is an ancient crop. Potatoes were used as food at least 8,000 years ago according to carbon dating of starch grains found in archaeological excavations in the Andean regions of Peru and

Bolivia (Brown, 1993). The potato was unknown to the outside world until the Spanish explorer and conqueror Gonzalo Jiminez de Quesada (1499–

1579) and his men took it to Spain. The Spanish thought the potato was a kind of truffle and called them “tartuffo”. However, potatoes soon became a standard supply item on the Spanish ships because sailors who ate them did not suffer from scurvy

(Brown, 1993).

Both wild and cultivated potato plants survive well in soil because of their high moisture content and starch and other nutrient reserves, which enable repeated regeneration of shoots. Unharvested tubers remain dormant in the soil but sprout under favorable conditions, enabling continued survival without replanting. The Inca’s ability to preserve harvested potato tubers as chuño, a product made by the mashing and naturally drying tubers during repeated freezing and thawing cycles at high-elevations, increased their versatility as a food crop.

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Chapter 12 Family Asteraceae

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Family Asteraceae

Origin and History

LETTUCE, ENDIVE, AND CHICORY

Asteraceae is a very large and widespread family with more than 23,000 species, spread across

1,620 genera (Jeffrey, 2007). Family members are annual or perennial herbs, many are weeds or wild flowers, and a few are woody but are not usually classified as trees. Asteraceae contains many familiar ornamental plants including aster, marigold, calendula, daisy, chrysanthemum, dahlia, and zinnia and medicinal plants including grindelia, echinacea, yarrow, and many others

(Duke, 2013).

The Latin name “Asteraceae” is derived from the

Greek word for “star”. Compositae is an older family name that still appears in the literature and is derived from the word composite, which refers to the characteristic inflorescence found in only a few angiosperm families.

A characteristic of many Asteraceae species is milk-like latex contained in its tissues. Latex from dandelion roots can be used as a source of rubber. During World War II, some European nations grew dandelions for rubber production when tropical sources were unavailable. Today, several species of dandelion, most particularly

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