May 5, 2021Summer Sanitation Is Important as Ever
To contact John Palumbo go to: jpalumbo@ag.Arizona.edu
Pigweeds are some of the most common summer annual broadleaf weeds in the low deserts. Although they are often lumped together, there are 4 different species of pigweed that are common here and more than 10 species that occur as weeds in California and Arizona. Their growth habits and response to herbicides are similar. It is easy to identify them by physical characteristics but one species of pigweed can hybridize with another and become less distinguishable.
Palmer Amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) is probably the most common pigweed species found in this region. It is very aggressive and fast growing and can become 6 feet tall or higher if uncontrolled. It has one thick stem and several lateral branches. The leaves are lance shaped, hairless and have distinctive white veins on the underside. It has flowering tassels that become stiff and spiny. This species has become resistant to Glyphosate in many parts of the county.
Redroot Pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) is probably the second most common pigweed species. It is shorter and the seed heads are smaller, in clusters and have stiff spine-like scales. It has leaf hairs on the margins and the veins are often reddish. The lower stems are often reddish. This species will hybridize with Palmer Amaranth and become less distinguishable.
Tumble Pigweed (Amaranthus albus) is very different from Palmers or Redroot. It grows lower to the ground and has many branches that turn upright. The leaves are much smaller and narrower. The numerous stems are light green rather than red. The seed heads are small, spiny and at the base of the leaves rather than in long terminal spikes. When mature, the branches are sticky, stiff bristles that break off at the ground and tumble with the wind.
Prostrate Pigweed (Amaranthus blitoides) is very similar to Tumble Pigweed but the stems are more prostrate, grow close to the ground and form mats. The stems and leaves are smaller and reddish rather than light green.
Downy mildew has always been one of the major problem for PCAs and growers in the desert southwest. The symptoms observed are green to yellow angular spots on the upper surface of the leaves and fluffy growth on the lower side (See Picture). Symptoms usually start from older leaves. As disease progresses the lesion turn brown and dry up and in some occasions, the disease can become systemic causing dark discoloration of vascular tissue.
Favorable condition for disease development:
The pathogen Bremia lactucae thrives in damp, cool condition, with moisture present on leaves. Spores are short-lived but dispersed efficiently by wind during moist period. Cultivated lettuce is the main host of the pathogen but it has also been reported to infectartichoke, cornflower and strawflower.
Why is downy mildew difficult to manage?
One of the main reason that hinders the disease management is the complexity of the pathogen. Bremia lactucae consists of multiple races (pathotypes), and new races continue to occur as pathogen evolves. The pathogen is one of the fastest evolving plant pathogen. And each pathotypes have developed insensitivity to fungicides to different extent.
One of the best practice is to grow resistant cultivar, but there are limitations. As the pathogen is highly variable and dynamic, resistant cultivars are not a permanent solution as the pathogen overcomes the resistance by evolving into virulent strains and isolates.
Preventative application of fungicides are effective to some extent. Reducing leaf wetness and humidity by using drip or furrow irrigation can be helpful. However, weather condition like rain during cool weather as we had in past couple of weeks is conducive to development of epidemics and we have very little control on that matter.
It Takes a Village:
And better yet the whole nation or world! Downy mildew is a bigger problem than we think. It is just not a problem in Arizona and California, it is a nationwide, worldwide problem. Thousands of plant pathologist/scientists/labs are working hard everyday to combat the disease.
Dr. Michelmore’s lab in University of California-Davis has been working on downy mildew for years and they need our help to build the database for next several years. Please let me (Bindu Poudel) or anyone in University of Arizona know if you see symptoms in the field. We can come collect the samples and send it to UC-Davis. The goal is to racetype as many isolates as possible to understand the genetic variability, the more information we have about the pathogen, the more it helps the scientific community come up with better management practice, better resistant cultivars etc.
Learn more about the Bremia Project:
Bremia Project Database:
Vol. 12, Issue 7, Published 4/7/2021
Over the last several years, there has been a tremendous amount of research activity towards the development of autonomous agriculture vehicles. A quick internet search will reveal over 50 companies or university research groups working in this space. A question I get often from groups developing such platforms is “What is a good agricultural application for our lightweight “robot”?”. It’s a great question, and for Arizona vegetable production, it’s also one that I’m not sure I have a satisfying answer for.
The calls I get regarding autonomous robots are mostly related to automated weeding applications. Automated weeding machines are commercially available, but their adoption has been limited not because of labor costs for tractor operation, rather it is the lack of the development of a functional and cost-effective means for identifying and removing weeds.
For decades, researchers have been attempting to develop sensing systems that are able to reliably detect weeds. Techniques such as 2-D and 3-D color imaging, x-rays, hyperspectral sensing and artificial intelligence have been tried (Slaughter, 2014; Bender et al., 2020). The best performing systems provide about 96% accuracy, meaning that 4% of the crops plants are identified as weeds and would be destroyed by the weeder. For high value vegetable crops like lettuce with gross revenues of roughly $10,000 per acre, killing 4% of the crop equates to $400 per acre of losses. Economically, this does not make sense as hand weeding labor costs are typically $300 per acre or less. The other main issue is that current automated weeding technologies are not highly precise and provide only partial control. Our studies with these types of machines have shown that these systems remove only about 1/3rd of the in-row weeds (Lati, et al., 2016) and a follow up hand weeding operation is often necessary. To be highly cost effective, elimination of the hand weeding step is needed.
In short, my recommendation to research groups asking about applications for autonomous robots is that their time and technical skills would best be served developing reliable crop/weed differentiation systems and a technique to remove a very high percentage of weeds.
Bender, A., Whelan, B. & Sukkarieh, S. 2020. A high‐resolution, multimodal data set for agricultural robotics: A Ladybird's‐eye view of Brassica. J. Field Robotics. 37(1): 73-96.
Lati, R.N, Siemens, M.C., Rachuy, J.S. & Fennimore, S.A. (2016). Intrarow Weed Removal in Broccoli and Transplanted Lettuce with an Intelligent Cultivator. Weed Technology, 30(3), 655-663.
Slaughter, D.C. The biological engineer: Sensing the difference between crops and weeds. Autonomous robotic weed control systems: A review. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture 61(2008): 63-78.
The Yuma County Leaf Wetness Network remains in place for the 2018/19 vegetable season. Growers and PCAs may access information generated by the network by entering the following internet address: http://188.8.131.52:460
Upon entering the address above, you will be transferred to internet page that provides a series of tabs at the top of the page. Simply click on the tabs to access the information of interest.
Results of pheromone and sticky trap catches can be viewed HERE.
Results of pheromone and sticky trap catches can be viewed HERE.
Corn earworm: CEW moth activity increased a bit in the past 2 weeks but remains well below average for late spring.
Beet armyworm: Moth counts increased slightly, but remain very low consistent with seasonal temperatures, and below average for this point in the season.
Cabbage looper: Significant increase in activity in Dome Valley, Gila Valley and Tacna, but moth counts remain unusually low for this time of year, as they have all season.
Whitefly: No adult movement recorded across all locations and overall low numbers consistent with temperatures.
Thrips: Thrips adult movement beginning to pick up considerably, particularly in Yuma and Dome Valleys. Movement is below average for late March.
Aphids: Seasonal aphid counts down considerably compared with the Feb and Jan. Counts highest in Bard and Gila Valley. Below average movement for this time of year. Majority of species found on traps were green peach aphid.
Leafminers: Adult activity up slightly in some locations, but well below average for late season.