One of the greatest challenges in growing tomatoes in an intensive production system is keeping up with the plants high consumption of potassium during fruit production. Past recommendations have been based around beginning to increase potassium applications along with the first tissue test starting at the onset of flowering. This often results in our chasing potassium levels over 2-4 weeks in order to get them above 3% by dry matter. Very often some of the first fruit are yellow shouldered. The heavy consumption of potassium actually starts about 2 weeks before the first flowers are visible. The concept of ‘banking’ potassium or applying extra a bit earlier seems indicated in order to reduce packing house losses.
I have received calls recently from growers seeing timber rot in their high tunnel tomatoes. This spring often had ideal weather for the occurrence of this disease in a tunnel but the shift to warmer and drier weather has removed the chances for further infections of the disease. While the risk of infection is gone, now is the time to start your prevention program for next season.
Can we eliminate spring tillage, capture nutrients and prevent erosion with cover crops without compromising early spring vegetable yields? Maryland and Pennsylvania researchers and farmers recently trialed no-till planted spinach and other vegetables into winter killed radish and oat cover crops.
It seems that black cutworm moths just keep coming. This season has been a big year for flights of black cutworm moths in Pennsylvania and other northern states; thus, it seems wise to recommend that corn growers should scout their fields for cutting damage in the coming weeks.
Watercress has always been considered a niche crop, but recent studies have elevated it to a “Super-food” status by many nutrition researchers. Research findings suggest that short-term and long-term watercress ingestion has potential antioxidant effects against exercise-induced DNA damage and lipid peroxidation (Fogarty MC, Hughes CM, Burke G, Brown JC, Davison GW. Br J Nutr. 2013 Jan 28; 109(2):293-301. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512000992. Epub 2012 Apr 5). Additional research documents the presence of anti-cancer fighting compounds in watercress which may target colon, breast, and certain oral cancers. The elevation of watercress to “Super-food” status has spurred an increase in the demand for this cruciferous herb in the marketplace.
Do you have this pesky type of stink bug on your farm? Here are some notes about this pest and an update on some new research on its biology and control.
Every fall I receive a few calls regarding scurf on sweet potatoes. While this is a relatively minor vegetable crop in the state, I hear about more people planting this crop each season. Scurf is only a superficial discoloration of the roots and it does not affect eating quality. However, sweet potatoes with scurf are more difficult to market and also loose quality faster in storage. If you plan to grow sweet potatoes this year know that it is easier to try to prevent scurf rather than trying to eradicate it when it infects your crop and fields.
Cool, wet, slow-growing spring weather is great for maggot pest problems. Plants are less able to outgrow the maggot feeding. Planting in warm soils is the best management option, but that may prove difficult this year. If you have to plant in cool soils, avoid planting into an abundance of decaying organic matter. Incorporate organic matter well, several weeks prior to planting. Be prepared to replant if you have significant stand loss. Check if the maggots are young (less than 3/8 inch), and if they are, wait another week or two for them to pupate before replanting.
Extension colleagues and I have recently visited a number of heated high tunnels and greenhouses where air pollution from the heating system was damaging the crop. Tomatoes are very sensitive to ethylene, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. All of these chemicals are part of the brew that is generated in the combustion chamber of our heating systems through burning coal, heating oil, propane, natural gas, or wood. Our prolonged cold period this spring is starting to wear crops down in situations where either the heating system is poorly vented, not vented at all or poorly engineered. This is especially so in high tunnels where heaters are often a second thought and only used to prevent temperatures from dropping below 45F at night. Diagnosing plant injury based on heater-generated pollutants can be confusing as the damage can mimic other symptoms and the pollutants are gases that can pool in areas of reduced air circulation.
Recently, there has been a lot of press related to pollinator health, and some troubling information indicates that certain fungicides, when used during bloom, can negatively affect the health of honey bees. This is a complicated problem with the solutions relying on understanding the detailed relationships among chemicals, pollinators and pest management needs. It is not prudent to treat this topic with a broad brush with statements such as "All neonicotinoid insecticides are bad for all pollinator species," or "No fungicides should be sprayed during bloom." Research is on-going, and we do not know all of the details yet. However, there are a number of facts we do know.
While pumpkins and ornamental gourds require many of the same inputs throughout the growing season, some gourds require a nighttime visitor to produce.
Our berry good question this month brought to mind a number of other questions about fertilization that we are frequently asked. So more questions and answers follow this first question from Sarah Blevins, S.J. Blevins Berries, etc. Thanks for asking, Sarah!
It’s easy for weeds to surprise you with the amount of competition they can provide in the springtime, especially when they've been protected under snow or plastic and row covers. Here we'll discuss control of some of our common winter annual weed problems, and also two perennials.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the expansion of the Farm Storage and Facility Loan program, which provides low-interest financing to producers. The enhanced program includes 22 new categories of eligible equipment for fruit and vegetable producers, and makes it easier for farmers and ranchers around the country to finance the equipment they need to grow and expand.
Sweet onion production has soared in Pennsylvania in recent years and bacterial disease challenges have grown right along with production. Steve Bogash provided interview-type questions to Emily Pfeufer, Ph.D. candidate working with Beth Gugino, Vegetable Pathologist due to her four years of research into sweet onion bacterial diseases.
Q. Can we expect reduced SWD pressure this season due to our extremely cold weather? A. We didn’t have an answer to this one; and we weren’t alone on that. Dr. Greg Loeb, grape and small fruit entomologist at Cornell spearheading work on SWD in NY and the NE region, didn’t either, but provided the following thoughts on the topic:
The production of early potatoes for direct marketing or sale to consumers can be a very lucrative enterprise for many growers who only grow 3-5 acres of potatoes in Pennsylvania.
Soil-borne diseases can be devastating to vegetable crops. In the Northeast alone 1,687,080 tons of fresh market and processing vegetables on 264,490 acres, worth $701,377,000 suffer 10-15% losses from soil borne diseases (NASS Crop Profiles, 2007). Disease suppressive cover crop rotations may provide an additional tool for managing soil borne disease. Researchers have documented significant increases in yield after sudangrass, brassica, millet and other cover crops. Here we describe recent results of a two season on-farm case study using cover crops to suppress Verticillium wilt in tomato.
One option for avoiding injury from spotted wing drosophila (SWD) is to plant earlier-maturing varieties. This article discusses some cultivars that might fit the bill.
In 2012-13 we evaluated 24 cultivars of bicolor and white synergistic cultivars of sweet corn in 3 locations across Pennsylvania. This article presents our methods and results.