Johnny Morgan | 6/22/2011 5:59:08 PM
BATON ROUGE – Interested gardeners braved hot temperatures to hear the latest research-based information at the LSU AgCenter Burden Research Center field day on June 18.
Participants from as far away as Natchitoches came to learn about new varieties of fruits and vegetables and to taste watermelon and tomatoes grown at the center.
This is the second year the fruit and vegetable field day has been held at the Burden Center in Baton Rouge.
Last year the event was small, but it was successful, so the decision was to give it another try, said Burden Center resident coordinator Jeff Kuehny.
“We wanted to highlight especially the vegetable research that we’re doing here with Kiki Fontenot, LSU AgCenter gardening specialist, and Don Ferrin, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist,” Kuehny said. “The other part of the field day is to just get both growers and consumers out to see what we’re doing.”
The field day also provided the LSU AgCenter with an idea of preferences for some of the watermelons and tomatoes grown at Burden.
A blind taste test of tomatoes and a watermelon tasting area were set up to gauge consumer preferences.
“Since there are so many varieties of tomatoes and a lot of people think they like the heirloom varieties, we decided to do the taste test to see if that’s true,” Kuehny said.
The heirlooms are less disease-resistant and harder to grow, and their yields are not as good, he said.
“We have extensive vegetable variety trials going on right now,” Kuehny said. “We also wanted to get people out to look at the ornamental aspects since we do a lot of horticulture out here.”
Fontenot gave information on her tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, corn and watermelon demonstration plots.
“We gave an overview of what varieties grow best in our area as far as tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, corn and watermelons,” Fontenot said.
Ferrin discussed the biology and management of diseases on tomatoes and peppers.
LSU AgCenter horticulturist Charles Johnson discussed the many fruit varieties being grown at the center and told participants about newer varieties and their proper maintenance.
“Having a research station in the middle of a city, you expect a lot of consumers in addition to producers, and that creates a challenge with the questions being asked,” Kuehny said. “We have to make sure we’re able to answer both types of questions.”
People come to a field day for different reasons,, but learning about new varieties and diseases brought Daniel and Eddie Romero from their orchards in New Iberia.
“If I can learn one thing new, the trip is worth it to me,” Eddie Romero said.
Eddie Romero and his brother both own orchards with fruit and vegetable production 12 months a year.
Equipment dealers also were on hand to demonstrate their products, and numerous exhibitors provided useful information to the public.