Feb 7, 2024Keep an Eye Out for Corn Earworm in Spring Head LettuceTo contact John Palumbo go to: jpalumbo@ag.Arizona.edu
Southwester Chile Production
The Southwestern (SW) Chile Belt extends from southeast Arizona, across southern New Mexico, into far-west Texas, and northern Chihuahua, Mexico. The SW Chile Belt is dominated by production of New Mexico-type chile, also commonly referred to as “Hatch chile” and also sometimes referred to as “Anaheim” type chile.
Recent acreages across the SW Chile Belt have consisted of approximately 7-8,000 acres in NM, 3-4,000 in TX, approximately 90,000 acres in Chihuahua, and about 300-500 acres in Arizona. Chiles are often associated with New Mexico, but Arizona also has a strong connection to this chile industry. For example, the Curry Chile Seed Company, based in Pearce, AZ, provides the seed for >90% of the total green chile acreage across the SW Chile Belt.
Chile peppers (Capsicum species) are among the ﬁrst crops domesticated in the Western Hemisphere about 10,000 BCE (Perry et al., 2007). The Capsicum genus became important to people and as result, ﬁve different Capsicum species that were independently domesticated in various regions of the Americas (Bosland &Votava, 2012). Early domestication of chile peppers by indigenous peoples was commonly driven for use as medicinal plants. Due to their flavor and heat characteristics, chile peppers are a populate food ingredient in many parts of the world, including Latin America, Africa, and Asia cuisines. Chiles have been increasingly important to the U.S. and European food industries, particularly as these populations become more familiar with chile (Guzman and Bosland, 2017).
There are five domesticated species of chile peppers. 1) Capsicum annuum is probably the most common to us and it includes many common varieties such as bell peppers, wax, cayenne, jalapeños, Thai peppers, chiltepin, and all forms of New Mexico chile. 2) Capsicum frutescens includes malagueta, tabasco, piri piri, and Malawian Kambuzi. 3)Capsicum chinense includes what many consider the hottest peppers such as the naga, habanero, Datil, and Scotch bonnet. 4) Capsicum pubescens includes the South American rocoto peppers. 5) Capsicum baccatum includes the South American aji peppers.
The Capsicum annuum species is the most common group of chiles that we encounter and there are at least 14 very different pod types in this single species that includes: New Mexico (aka Anaheim), bell peppers, cayennes, jalapeños, paprika, serrano, pequin, pimiento, yellow wax, tomato, cherry, cascabel, ancho (mulato, pasilla), and guajillo (Guzman and Bosland, 2017).
Plants vary tremendously in their physiological behavior over the course of their life cycles. As plants change physiologically and morphologically through their various stages of growth, water and nutritional requirements will change considerably as well. Efficient management of a crop requires an understanding of the relationship between morphological and physiological changes that are taking place and the input requirements.
Heat units (HUs) can be used as a management tool for more efficient timing of irrigation and nutrient inputs to a crop and also pest management strategies. Plants will develop over a range of temperatures which is defined by the lower and upper temperature thresholds for growth (Figure 1). Heat unit systems consider the elapsed time that local temperatures fall within the set upper and lower temperature thresholds and thereby provide an estimate of the expected rate of development for the crop. Heat units systems have largely replaced days after planting in crop phenology models because they take into account day-to-day fluctuations in temperature. Phenology models describe how crop growth and development are impacted by weather and climate and provide an effective way to standardize crop growth and development among different years and across many locations (Baskerville and Emin, 1969; Brown, 1989).
The use of HU-based phenology models are particularly important and applicable in irrigated crop production systems where water is a non-limiting factor. Water stress will alter phenological plant development and it is a major source of variation in crop development models. Accordingly, irrigated systems are more consistent in crop development patterns and HU models can be much more consistent and reliable.
Chiles are a warm season, perennial plant with an indeterminant growth habit that we grow and manage as an annual crop. The fruiting cycle begins at the crown stage of growth and continues until the plant reaches a point of “cut-out” with hiatus in blooming as the plant works to mature the chile fruit crop that has been developed.
The first step in developing a phenological guideline for chiles would be to look for critical stages of growth in relation to HU accumulation. Figure 2 describes the basic phenological baseline for New Mexico – type chile and was developed from field studies conducted in New Mexico and Arizona (Silvertooth et al., 2010 and 2011; Soto et al., 2006; and Soto and Silvertooth, 2007).
Water and nutrient demands coincide with the fruiting cycle and efficient management of irrigation water and plant nutrients is enhanced by tracking crop development in the field. The use of HUs (86/55 oF thresholds) can be applied since the thermal environment impacts the development of all crop systems, including chiles, (Figures 2 and 3).
Use of HUs to predict chile development is considered superior to using days after planting due to the simple fact that the crop responds to environmental conditions and not calendar days. This approach, using phenological timelines or baselines, works best for irrigated conditions where crop vigor and environmental growth conditions are more consistent than in non-irrigated or dryland situations where irregularity in year-to-year rainfall patterns can alter growth and development patterns significantly.
Crop Phenology Relationship to Nutrient and Water Demand
Phenological guidelines can be used to identify or predict important stages of crop development that impact physiological requirements. For example, a phenological guideline can help identify stages of growth in relation to crop water use (consumptive use) and nutrient uptake patterns. This information allows growers to improve the timing of water and nutrient inputs to improve production efficiency. For some crops or production situations HU based phenological guidelines can be used to project critical dates such as harvest or crop termination. Many other applications related to crop management (e.g., pest management) can be derived from a better understanding of crop growth and development patterns.
Arizona Hosts the 2022 International Pepper Conference (IPC), 26-28 September 2022, Tucson and Pearce, Arizona.
Registration for the International Pepper Conference. Registration and additional information can be found at https://extension.arizona.edu/ipc/
Here’s a note from the conference Chair and Host, Mr. Ed Curry:
With the final countdown to the 25th biennial International Pepper Conference just days away, we want to encourage everyone who grows, processes, conducts research, educates about, or just enjoys chile peppers to get on board!
The early bird pre-registration discount ends August 26th!
We are also excited to announce that for anyone interested in only the field day portion of the event (Sep. 27th), a stand-alone, one-day registration is available for $200 with walk up/ same day attendees welcome!
The conference will have an active schedule with many educational opportunities including:
• Farm level breeding programs
• Mechanical harvest technology
• Pepper diseases and their management
• Basic crop management science, heat units, fertility, and irrigation protocols – Dr. Jeff Silvertooth, University of Arizona
• Breeding mechanical harvest type plants with Dr. Stephanie Walker, New Mexico State University
• How to grow any type of PEPPER for mechanical harvest with Dr. Ben Villalon, Texas A&M Professor Emeritus
• Disease prevention at a molecular level with Dr. Steve Hansen, New Mexico State University
• Pepper flavor at the molecular level with Dr. Randy Hauptmann, BioGold LLC
• Biopharmaceuticals at a molecular level with Dr. Bhimu Patel, Texas A&M
And the list goes on......
What we hope to encapsulate in our program is the integration of basic on-farm agriculture and advanced technologies to demonstrate the importance of both approaches in moving forward the multifaceted and beautiful world of 🌶PEPPER!
WE CORDIALLY INVITE ANY AND ALL PARTICIPANTS. WALK UP REGISTRATIONS WILL BE WELCOME! I AM EXCITED TO SEE YOU THERE!
YOUR HOST OF THE 2022 INTERNATIONAL PEPPER CONFERENCE,
Figure 1. Typical relationship between the rate of plant growth and
development and temperature. Growth and development ceases when
temperatures decline below the lower temperature threshold (A) or increase
above the upper temperature threshold (C). Growth and development increases
rapidly when temperatures fall between the lower and upper temperature
Figure 2. Basic phenological guideline for irrigated New Mexico-type chiles.
Baskerville, G.L. and P. Emin. 1969. Rapid estimation of heat accumulation from maximum and minimum temperatures. Ecology 50:514-517.
Bosland, P.W., E.J. Votava, and E.M. Votava. 2012. Peppers: Vegetable and spice capsicums. Wallingford, U.K.: CAB Intl.
Brown, P. W. 1989. Heat units. Bull. 8915, Univ. of Arizona Cooperative Extension, College of Ag., Tucson, AZ.
Guzmán, I. and P.W. Bosland. 2017. Sensory properties of chile pepper heat - and its importance to food quality and cultural preference. Appetite, 2017 Oct 1;117:186-190. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.06.026.
Perry, L., Dickau, R., Zarrillo, S., Holst, I., Pearsall, D. M., Piperno, D. R., et al. 2007. Starch fossils and the domestication and dispersal of chili peppers (Capsicum spp. L.) in the Americas. Science, 315, 986-988.
Silvertooth, J.C., P.W. Brown, and S. Walker. 2010. Crop Growth and Development for Irrigated Chile (Capsicum annuum). University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Bulletin No. AZ 1529
Silvertooth, J.C., P.W. Brown and S.Walker. 2011. Crop Growth and Development for Irrigated Chile (Capsicum annuum). New Mexico Chile Association, Report 32. New Mexico State University, College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Science.
Soto-Ortiz, Roberto, J.C. Silvertooth, and A. Galadima. 2006. Crop Phenology for Irrigated Chiles (Capsicum annuum L.) in Arizona and New Mexico. Vegetable Report, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Report Series P-144, November, University of Arizona.
Soto-Ortiz, R. and J.C. Silvertooth. 2007. A Crop Phenology Model for Irrigated New Mexico Chile (Capsicum annuum L.) The 2007 Vegetable Report. Jan 08:104-122.
As the lettuce plants start to grow and get bigger in the field, you might start seeing the symptoms of bacterial soft rot. Though it rarely takes down the whole field, the symptom are not so pleasant. Bacterial soft rot in lettuce can occur in the field as well as post harvest.
It is caused by several types of bacteria, but primarily subspecies and pathovars of Erwinia caro-tovora and E. chrysanthemi. Other bacterial species that cause soft rot include Pseudomonas cichorii, P. marginalis, and P. viridiflava. They have a wide host range host range and includes genera from nearly all plant families
In lettuce fields, the symptoms are observed close to the harvest time. The tissue, mostly around inside the head of head lettuce softens and becomes mushy or watery. Slimy masses of bacteria and cellular debris frequently ooze out from cracks in the tissues. Decaying tissue, which may be opaque, white, cream-colored, gray, brown, or black frequently gives off a characteristically putrid odor. The odor is caused by secondary invading bacteria that are growing in the decomposing tissues.
The bacteria overwinter in infected fleshy tissues in storage, in the field, garden or greenhouse, in the soil (especially in the rhizosphere around the roots of many plants), and on contaminated tools, equipment, containers, and in certain insects. The bacteria enter primarily through wounds made during planting, cultivating, harvesting, grading, and packing and through freezing injuries, insect and hail wounds, growth cracks, and sunscald. They may also follow other disease-producing organisms. Uninjured tissues may become infected when the humidity approaches 100 percent or when free moisture is present. Rains, poorly drained or waterlogged soils, and warm temperatures favor infection in the field, as does high humidity in storage or transit.
The bacteria multiply rapidly by dividing in half every 20 to 60 minutes under ideal conditions at temperatures between 65° and 95° (18° and 35°C). Minimum temperatures for development is between 35° and 46°F (2° and 6°C); and maximum between 95° and 105°F (35° and 41°C.
The bacteria are spread by direct contact, hands, tools and farm machinery, insects, running or splashing water, contaminated, water in washing vats, clothing, and decayed bits of tissue.
Promptly and carefully destroy infected plants. Maintain well aerated field, avoid close planting and overhead irrigation.
To minimize post harvest losses, avoid mechanical injusry after harvest, packing and shipping. Do not pack produce when wet. Store and ship produce at temperatures near 4°C (39°F).
Last fall, we established trials investigating the use of band-steam to control weeds and Fusarium wilt of lettuce in iceberg and romaine lettuce. Band-steam is where, prior to planting, steam is injected in narrow bands, centered on the seedline to raise soil temperatures to levels sufficient to kill weed seed and soilborne pathogens (>140 °F for > 20 minutes). After the soil cools (<1 day), the crop is planted into the strips of disinfested soil.
In the study, we utilized the prototype band-steam applicator (Fig. 1) described in a previous UA Veg IPM articles (Vol. 11 (13) to inject steam into the soil as beds are shaped. The steam applicator was configured to treat a 4” wide by 3” deep band of soil. Three rates of steam (Low, Standard, High) were applied by varying travel speed. The “Standard” rate was where steam was applied at rates needed to reach the target soil temperatures (>140 °F for > 20 minutes). Higher and lower applications rate were examined to ensure target temperatures were met/exceeded to get a better understanding of the efficacy of steam treatment, and to determine if higher travel speeds (less fuel consumption) could be used and still provide effective pest control.
Results showed that application of steam was highly effective at controlling weeds (nettleleaf goosefoot predominant species). At the Standard application rate, over 80% of the weeds were controlled. At High application rates, weed control approached 100%. What was particularly encouraging was that at the Low steam application rate where travel speeds were 60% faster than Standard, and target temperatures were not met, weed control was still very good – about 75%.
Steam treatment was also effective at controlling Fusarium wilt of lettuce. Disease incidence in iceberg and romaine lettuce were reduced by more than 50% as compared to the untreated control (Table 2). Crop plants were noticeably larger and more vigorous throughout the growing season in all steam treated plots (Fig. 2). At the Standard and High application rates of steam, this translated into significant yield increases in iceberg (>300%) and romaine (>90%) lettuce. Significant yield increases were also found at the Low application rate of steam – iceberg (>200%) and romaine (>60%).
The results are very promising, but it is important to note that steam treatment is not an end-all cure for Fusarium wilt disease. At the trial site, disease inoculum levels were considered moderate. However, when inoculum levels are very high, our trials have shown that a 4” wide by 3” band of soil is not effective at controlling the disease. We hypothesize that a wider and/or deeper band of treated soil is needed for effective control. This fall, we will be initiating trials to examine this. We will also be investigating the use of band steam to control pythium and nematodes in carrot. Trial results will be presented in future articles - so Stay Tuned.
As always, if you are interested in seeing the machine operate or would like to test the machine on your farm, please feel free to contact me.
This work is supported by 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.
Fig. 1. Band-steam applicator principally comprising a 35 BHP steam generator mounted on a bed-shaper applicator sled.
Fig. 2. Iceberg lettuce planted in beds treated with steam (left) prior to planting and untreated (right).
As we continue to be impacted by the drought in Arizona with a 21% reduction in the Colorado River water allocation, we need to reconsider every option for water conservation in our agricultural operations.
We know that weeds compete with our crops for water, nutrients, and space causing yield reductions. However, how much water are we loosing due to high weed infestations?
Some researchers have concluded that weeds use more water than various crops and consider them “water wasters”. Therefore, good weed control can contribute to raise available water for our crops. Transpiration of some of the most common annual weeds is approximately four times higher than crop plants. It has also been reported that weeds use up to three times the amount of water to produce a pound of dry matter. A study showed “common lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) requires 658 pounds of water to produce one pound of dry matter, common sunflower (Elianthus annus) requires 623 pounds, and common ragweed 912 pounds, compared with 349 pounds for corn and 557 pounds for wheat1.” It has been reported that increase from 0 - 8 plants / row meter of Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) densities in corn decreased soil water available and the water use efficiency (WUE) of corn.
Uncontrolled weed growth can add direct irrigation costs of more than $50/ha while even weed densities below economic thresholds can add ~$20/ ha in production costs depending upon the cropping system and water cost (Norris,1996).
Under stress condition such as we experience yields can be reduced more 50% just by moisture competition. Other factors that influence water loss are weed densities, transpiration rate, other weed characteristics like root system and depth. For example, perennial weeds with a well-established root system are more drought resistant because they can explore better the soil profile.
Some report that weeds can potentially cause 34 percent of crop loss worldwide. We have seen how weeds cut the water flow in irrigation ditches and cause more evaporative loss. We believe weed control is essential for water conservation purposes and further research is needed in this matter.