Date of this Version
The relationships between shelterbelt (tree windbreak)-induced microclimate and muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.) growth and development were investigated at the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln Agricultural Research and Development Center near Mead, Nebr., during the 1992 and 1993 growing seasons. Wind speed, wind direction, air and soil temperatures, relative humidity, and soil moisture were monitored in both sheltered and nonsheltered areas. Plant growth parameters (plant height, vine length, plant dry weight, and leaf area) were measured at various stages of development. Shelterbelts provided improved growing conditions for muskmelon transplants. Direct wind damage and duration of higher wind speeds were reduced 47% to 56% in sheltered areas. Air temperatures in sheltered areas were slightly higher during daytime and slightly lower at night, and significantly so early in the growing season. Relative humidity was increased significantly in sheltered areas in 1992 and, while higher in 1993, the difference was nonsignificant. Soil moisture content was not affected significantly by wind protection. Sheltered plants exhibited earlier development and faster growth. The first female flower appeared 2 days earlier in sheltered areas in both years. The first fruit set, as indicated by fruit swelling and retention on the vine, occurred 6 days earlier and matured 5 and 6 days earlier in sheltered areas in 1992 and 1993, respectively. Leaf areas and dry-matter accumulation of sheltered plants were greater than those of exposed plants. The shoot relative growth rate of sheltered plants increased earlier in the growing season, but decreased slightly later in the growing season. The earlier development and faster growth of sheltered plants were related mainly to the reduction of wind speed, higher total accumulated air temperatures during the daylight hours (sum of daily average daytime air temperatures based on hourly averages), and higher soil temperature in sheltered areas. Total yields were not affected significantly in either year; however, early yields were significantly greater in sheltered areas in 1993. If earlier maturity and increased yield are possible in large sheltered fields, this practice would provide an economic benefit to producers.