May 5, 2021Summer Sanitation Is Important as Ever
To contact John Palumbo go to: jpalumbo@ag.Arizona.edu
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.
Damping off is a common problem in spinach. This season we have observed the occurrence of the disease from Imperial valley, to Yuma and all the way to Wellton.
Symptoms of damping‑off and root rot consist of poor seed germination, preemergence death of seedlings, postemergence death of newly emerged seedlings, stunted plants, yellowed lower leaves, general poor growth, wilting, and eventual collapse and death of older plants. The upper taproot may be girdled by a necrotic lesion, or the tip of the taproot may be necrotic. In severe cases, nearly all roots may be girdled or rotted off. Damping-off is problematic in spinach production areas throughout the world. Severity is influenced by cultivar, soil texture, irrigation, and pathogen populations. Severe damping-off is associated with clay or poorly draining soils with a history of frequent spinach production. While all stages of spinach can be infected by root rot organisms, newly emerging plants and young seedlings are very susceptible.
Symptoms are more prominent in areas with poor drainage. These spinach problems are caused by a complex of pathogenic soil fungi that include one or more of the following: Fusarium oxysporum, Pythium (several species), and Rhizoctonia solani. These fungi are present in most soils and can get aggressive and cause loss when the environment is favorable. However, aboveground symptoms of plants that are overwatered are similar to symptoms of root rot. Excess water can damage roots, causing tan to brown, water‑soaked symptoms on roots even if no pathogen is present.
Plant spinach in well draining soils. Prepare seed beds so that even, rapid germination is enhanced. Carefully manage the irrigation schedule to prevent flooding and saturated soil conditions. Plant seed that is treated with fungicides and fumigate the beds. Preplant application of mefenoxam will only control damping-off caused by Pythium. Avoid planting consecutive spinach crops and practice good crop rotation.
Always remember the disease triangle, the necessity of a susceptible host, the favorable environment, and virulent pathogen. To create unfavorable environment avoid overwatering, do light but frequent irrigation to avoid standing water in the field, schedule watering in the morning or earlier part of the day. Addition of soil amendments to increase microbial activity can be helpful.
Two years ago, Alphabet’s (Google) X-Labs initiated one of their infamous and far reaching “moonshot” projects focused on growing food sustainably on global scale. As you might expect, the project has been, and is kept pretty secret, but the company recently unveiled some details about the project through a company blog article (Grant, 2020) and their newly established website (https://x.company/projects/mineral/). The project is called “Mineral” and according to project lead Elliot Grant, the team has been working “alongside experts in the field – literally and figuratively…developing and testing a range of software and hardware prototypes based on breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, simulation, sensors, robotics and more”.
One of the tools the team has developed is a self-propelled “plant buggy” equipped with multiple cameras, sensors, GPS and other electronic equipment (Fig. 1). According to Mineral’s website, “Over the past few years, the plant buggy has trundled through strawberry fields in California and soybean fields in Illinois, gathering high quality images of each plant and counting and classifying every berry and every bean. To date, the team has analyzed a range of crops like melons, berries, lettuce, oilseeds, oats and barley—from sprout to harvest.” Stated objectives of Mineral’s software are to combine and analyze data collected from the field, soil health information and weather data to 1) predict how different varieties of plants respond to their environments, 2) allow growers to treat individual plants with fertilizers and pesticides to optimize production and reduce inputs and 3) help growers predict the size and yield of their crops.
It is exciting that a cutting-edge tech company like Alphabet is taking on an agricultural project like this. It will be fascinating to see what technical breakthroughs and solutions the company will be able to achieve for all crops, including vegetables.
Grant, E. 2020. Mineral: Bringing the era of computational agriculture to life. X Development LLC blog article. Mountain View, CA: X Development LLC. Available at https://blog.x.company/mineral-bringing-the-era-of-computational-agriculture-to-life-427bca6bd56a.