Summer is finally over. Brassica transplants are in the ground, and direct-seeded broccoli and lettuce plantings are now beginning. In the past week, I’ve observed or received reports from PCAs of key insect pests beginning to show up (or not) on melon and early produce crops in the desert.
Seedling pests: Flea beetles (FB) are beginning to show up in transplanted crops like they always do, but pressure has been light so far. We haven’t seen much in our experimental plots at YAC either. Remember, FB adults lay eggs in the soil of their favored local host plants (i.e., alfalfa, cotton, purslane, pigweed and nightshade) where larvae feed on the roots to later emerge as adults. So, keep in mind, the source of that FB infestations hitting your new stands may not just be freshly cut hay, defoliated cotton, or disked weeds. In some areas (Yuma Valley), crickets seem to be very abundant. Crickets like moisture and are often found under sprinkler pipes but can also be found in cracks in soils around fields or in drainage areas.
Bagrada bug: We’ve already had reports of bagrada bug adults on two transplanted cauliflower fields in Dome Valley. Not sure whether they arrived with the transplants or are moving from surrounding crops. However, it’s still early and they might surprise you as the season progresses. Look for those fresh feeding signs on cotyledons and young leaves. Experience suggests that they are most abundant after the humidity breaks.
Lepidopterous Larvae (worms): Worm pressure seems to be below normal. Trap catches so far show that Cabbage looper moths are almost non-existent, and no reports on melons to date. They should pick-up as we approach October. No reports of Beet armyworm larvae on the earliest transplants yet, and areawide pheromone traps suggest that moth activity is below normal. But they will show up sooner or later, so get ready. You have numerous insecticide alternatives at your disposal to control them. Have had a couple of reports of Diamondback moth larvae on newly transplanted brassica crops. However, we’ve yet to capture moths on pheromone traps which suggests that adult immigration on high altitude winds associated with storms has not occurred. Remember, DBM disappear each summer and reestablish on desert crops via transplants or migrate in on monsoon/tropical storms. I strongly stress that you check your Cole crops closely this fall, particularly following storms or on plants originating from coastal CA.
Whiteflies: Area wide sticky trap captures have been about normal for early September, but whiteflies can migrate long distances on high winds. Adult numbers increased on my melon plants last week and remain high. Reports in area melons range from light to moderate numbers so far, but there is still a lot of cotton out there yet to be picked. The good news is there are several insecticide alternatives to control them in produce.
Late blight of celery is caused by fungi Septoria spp. The disease is named late blight as it is mostly seen at the later in the growing season, but don’t be surprised if you see the symptoms in early season when the weather is conducive. Leaf spots are dark, circular to irregular in shape, and 3-10 mm in diameter. Dark colored fruiting bodies (pycnidia) of the fungus which form in the center of leaf spots give the spots a grainy appearance. In case of severe infection, large number of spots are formed and can significantly reduce yield. Sometimes, angular spots are seen as the symptoms are restricted by leaf venation. The stalk or petiole of the plants can also be infected and large number of pycnidia observed in the stalk. Pycnidia is basically huge amounts of asexual spores in dark fruiting bodies and are formed on the older lesions and their development is encouraged by moist weather.
The pathogen is seed borne but will survive in soil in decomposing celery tissue for months. Cool and wet weathers favor the disease. Temperatures below 75 F are conducive to disease formation. High humidity allows abundant production of spores and epidemics are initiated by splashing spores or by movement of spores by contact. Rain, heavy dew or fog, and sprinkler irrigation when temperatures are above 70°F encourage disease development; splashing water disperses spores and aids in spore germination and infection
Acquiring clean seeds is the best management practice for the disease. Hot water treatments are effective but might interfere the germination percentage. Clean cultivation, not planting new crop next to the infected crop field, crop rotation, and fungicides can be used to manage the disease. Avoid sprinkle irrigation after symptoms are observed. Copper sprays can be used in organic farming.
Controlling Disease and Weeds with Band-Steam – Yuma Trials Show Good Promise
In previous articles (Vol. 11 (13), Vol. 11 (20), Vol. 11(24)), I’ve discussed using band-steam to control plant diseases and weeds. Band-steaming is where steam is used to heat narrow strips of soil to temperature levels sufficient to kill soilborne pathogens and weed seed (>140 °F for > 20 minutes). The concept is showing good promise. This past season, three trials were conducted examining the efficacy of using steam for disease and weed control in Yuma, AZ. In the studies, steam was applied in a 4-inch-wide by 2-inch-deep band of soil centered on the seedline using a prototype band-steam applicator (Fig.1). The band-steam applicator is principally comprised of a 35 BHP steam generator mounted on top of an elongated bed shaper. The apparatus applies steam via shank injection and from cone shaped ports on top of the bed shaper.
Trial results were very encouraging as the prototype applicator was able to raise soil temperatures to target levels (140°F for >20 minutes) at viable travels speeds of 0.75 mph. Steam provided better than 80% weed control and significantly lowered hand weeding time by more than 2 hours per acre (Table 1). Results also showed that Fusarium colony forming units (CFU) were reduced from 2,600 in the control to 155 in the 0.75 mph and 53 in the 0.5 mph treatments, respectively (a more than 15-fold reduction). A significant difference in Fusarium wilt of lettuce disease incidence was not found, however disease infection at the field site was low (< 2%) and differences were not expected. At 0.5 mph, fuel costs were calculated to be $238/acre which was considered reasonable and consistent with the values reported by Fennimore et al. (2014).
An unexpected finding was that plants in steam treated plots appeared to be healthier and more vigorous than untreated plots (Fig. 2). This trial is still in progress and it will be interesting to see if this improved early growth translates into increases in crop yield.
In summary, early trial results are showing good promise for use of band-steam as a non-herbicidal method of pest control. We plan on conducting further trials in this multi-year study. If you are interested in evaluating the device on your farm and being part of the study please contact me. We are particularly interested in fields with a known history of Fusarium wilt of lettuce and/or Sclerotinia lettuce drop that will be planted to iceberg or romaine lettuce.
As always, if you are interested in seeing the machine operate or would like more information, please feel free to contact me.
This work is supported by Crop Protection and Pest Management grant no. 2017-70006-27273/project accession no. 1014065 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Arizona Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Arizona Iceberg Lettuce Research Council. We greatly appreciate their support. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A special thank you is extended to Mellon Farms for allowing us to conduct this research on their farm.
Fennimore, S.A., Martin, F.N., Miller, T.C., Broome, J.C., Dorn, N. and Greene, I. 2014. Evaluation of a mobile steam applicator for soil disinfestation in California strawberry. HortScience 49(12):1542-1549.
Click link below or picture to see the band-steam and co-product applicator in action!
Although it is not vigorous or vegetative, Shepardspurse is one of the most widespread and difficult to control broadleaf weeds worldwide. I used to think that it spread when there was more alfalfa here and because it is not controlled with 2,4-DB (Butyrate & Butoxone) but it has continued to spread in vegetable crops. It likely has become worse each year because of its growth habits more than its tolerance to herbicides. It germinates from on or just below the soil surface. Herbicides that move or are placed below the surface often miss it. It is difficult to control with Kerb, for instance, because it leaches easily with overhead sprinklers. The seed is less than 0.1 inch in diameter and moves easily in wind and water. It is very small, and the cotyledon leaves are hardly ever seen. By the time you see it, it is at the 3 or 4 leaf stage. It grows rapidly in a rosette that is low to the ground and often covered by the crop. Herbicide coverage is difficult. It soon puts up a thin seed stalk and several seed pods (“purses”). Unlike many annual broadleaf weeds, it can produce several generations in one season. It can grow year round in many regions but has a difficult time surviving the summers in the low desert.