For growers in the mid-Atlantic states, GMO vegetable varieties are no longer future products in the pipeline. GMOs such as B.t. sweet corn and virus resistant summer squash are here now, and more varieties are coming soon. Growers need to understand what GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are, and how their customers and others may perceive them, in order to make informed decisions about whether or not to grow them, and how to talk to their customers about them.
Last year, several of us planted demonstration plots of an assortment of day-neutral varieties in PA, MD, and WV. Varieties included some from the U.C. Davis breeding program (Portola, San Andreas, and Monterey), and a variety from Lassen Canyon Nursery (Sweet Anne).
While many of you have already started on your winter pruning, some of you from more northern or central areas may not have begun due to snow cover and cold weather. Below is an excellent article by Mario Sazo and Terrence Robinson. The article primarily deals with orchards that lost their crop and the potential for the trees to have a heavy bloom. Their thoughts revolve around trying to accomplish some crop reduction via pruning to reduce the dependency on post bloom chemical thinning. They have some good ideas if you are in a similar situation, but I would like to add some comments as they pertain to Pennsylvania.
Replanted orchards may suffer from poor establishment, stunted growth, reduced yield, or a shortened productive life. While some replant problems are well understood, others are not and remain a mystery. Regardless of the cause, the factors responsible for replant problems developed gradually over the life of one or more previous orchards on the same site as a result of cultural practices and changes in soil chemistry and biology.
The more than decade-long effort to eradicate the Plum Pox Virus has been a success after required monitoring shows the disease has not reappeared.
CHEMSWEEP is a program administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) to provide pesticide applicators and dealers with a viable means to dispose of cancelled, unwanted, or unused pesticides. Participation is free if you are a grower, farmer, retired farmer, or private applicator. Participation is also free if you are a pesticide application business or pesticide dealer wishing to dispose of less than 2,000 pounds of waste pesticides. Businesses wishing to dispose of more than 2000 pounds may enroll and will be billed at PDA’s contract price for any amount over 2000 pounds.
Registration is now open for an upcoming All-Day Blueberry School. This school will cover blueberry production from A to Z in one intensive day. Topics to be covered include basics on blueberry plant requirements and establishment; irrigation; fertility; varieties; disease, insect, and weed management; bird control; economics; and marketing pointers.
It seems that we are experiencing more unusually warm periods during mid- and late-winter, so trees may be more susceptible than in the past to moderately low winter temperatures. Lessons from years in which there was a sudden drop in temperature indicate that trees most injured were those that lacked adequate vigor, those that were too vigorous, and those that had been pruned before the cold event.
On January 4, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a draft Produce Safety Rule as required under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011. This proposed regulation would establish mandatory practices that farmers must take to prevent microbial contamination of fresh produce. Below are highlights of requirements FDA would issue in the final regulation.
The Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention, held January 29 to 31 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, has become the premier grower meeting in the Northeast combining three days of six or more concurrent educational sessions with a large industry trade show and numerous networking opportunities - all designed to enable fruit, vegetable and berry growers as well as direct marketers to stay on the cutting edge of their industries. About 2,200 persons from throughout the mid-Atlantic region and beyond gather each year at Hershey for the Convention. Registration is open to all interested commercial fruit, vegetable and berry growers, direct marketers and allied industry personnel.
Sweet cherry production has undergone a radical shift in the last few years with the introduction of the Gisela dwarfing rootstocks. These rootstocks require a new mind set when it comes to pruning. The rootstocks are much more precocious and tend to set more fruit than our standard Mazzard or Mahaleb rootstocks used in the past. If the trees are not pruned properly they tend to stop growing and produce a lot of small size fruit. Once that happens it is extremely difficult to re-invigorate the trees.
Penn State Extension has nine educational meetings planned this winter for tree fruit growers throughout Pennsylvania. The meetings are designed to address current challenges with the latest research based information.
The Orchard Spray Spreadsheet has been updated for the upcoming 2013 season. Overall the spreadsheet is still the same with easy drop down menus and most commonly used sprays for record keeping convenience, however a few new features have been added.
Meadow and pine vole populations can erupt periodically unless food sources and habitat cover are reduced and their numbers are kept in check. Control of vegetation around tree trunks and regular mowing limit cover and food sources and expose voles to natural predators. Population reduction strategies are applied after harvest before damage begins and before snowfall. To successfully manage deer damage, it is important to monitor behavior and apply controls before feeding or antler rubbing habits are established.
Zaprionus indianus Gupta (Diptera: Drosophilidae), commonly known in Brazil as the African Fig Fly (AFF), is an invasive species recently found in Pennsylvania for the first time. First discovered by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in early October in Grape and Tomato Pest Survey traps, it was found immediately after by Dr David Biddinger at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville. Adult flies were found in apple cider vinegar traps used for the seasonal monitoring of Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), another recently introduced invasive pest of small fruit crops in Pennsylvania that Dr. Biddinger first detected in Pennsylvania and Maryland in July of 2012.
Winter workshops for commercial fruit growers have been scheduled for nine locations throughout the Commonwealth. Program highlights include: Fungicide Resistance Management Strategies for Apple Scab, Powdery Mildew and Brown Rot; The Impact of BMSB Management on IPM Systems in Fruit Orchards; Managing Perennial and Other Hard-to-Control Weeds in New and Established Pome and Stone Fruit Orchards; Adjusting Orchard Practices to Climate Changes; and Pesticide Applicator Training.
Focus on Fruit Quality & Safety is an in-depth workshop for commercial fruit producers that will address horticultural practices that affect fruit quality and ensure product safety. Topics include: Horticultural Practices Focused on Fruit Quality, Ensuring Food Safety for your Customers, Effective Use of Plant Growth Regulators and Monitoring Fruit Maturity for Optimum Marketability. Featured speakers are Dr. Chris Walsh and Donna Pahl, University of Maryland, and Dr. Rob Crassweller and Dr. Jim Schupp, Penn State. Growers will also share their perspectives on growing and packing high quality fruit.
The 2013-14 Mid-Atlantic Berry Guide is now available both in print and on-line. The guide has contributors from Penn State University, Rutgers University, The University of Delaware, The University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, West Virginia University and USDA-ARS.
It’s getting a little late in the season to do much about Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) for this year, but here are some observations that you might want to consider as you make plans for next year. If you have nearby wild berries, you might want to treat them with a herbicide this fall, cut them back this winter, and keep the areas mowed next spring. As you plan where you are going to plant next year’s crops, consider the following information regarding farm layout.
The shift to more selective pesticides has complicated orchard pest control in many ways for fruit growers. While greater opportunities for biological control of some apple pests exist, we are seeing a greater diversity of generalist predators. We have also noticed increases of nuisance pests such as ticks, deerflies and mosquitoes in orchards as broad-spectrum insecticide use declined. The most dangerous resurgence directly affecting humans, however, has to be that of increased numbers of hornets and yellow jackets.