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.
Last year we had a lot of watermelon fields infected with Fusarium from Winterhaven to Yuma, Wellton, and Mohawk Valley. Rain, and overwatering of fields when plants set fruits might have contributed to the disease development.
Fusarium wilt of watermelon, caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. niveum, is one of the oldest described Fusarium wilt diseases and the most economically important disease of watermelon worldwide. It occurs on every continent except Antarctica and new races of the pathogen continue to impact production in many areas around the world. Long-term survival of the pathogen in the soil and the evolution of new races make management of Fusarium wilt difficult.
Symptoms of Fusarium can sometimes be confused with water deficiency, even though there is plenty of water in the field. In Yuma valley we have seen fusarium problem in some overwatered fields.
Initial symptoms often include a dull, gray green appearance of leaves that precedes a loss of turgor pressure and wilting. Wilting is followed by a yellowing of the leaves and finally necrosis. The wilting generally starts with the older leaves and progresses to the younger foliage. Under conditions of high inoculum density or a very susceptible host, the entire plant may wilt and die within a short time. Affected plants that do not die are often stunted and have considerably reduced yields. Under high inoculum pressure, seedlings may damp off as they emerge from the soil.
Initial infection of seedlings usually occurs from chlamydospores (resting structure) that have overwintered in the soil. Chlamydospores germinate and produce infection hyphae that penetrate the root cortex, often where the lateral roots emerge. Infection may be enhanced by wounds or damage to the roots. The fungus colonizes the root cortex and soon invades the xylem tissue, where it produces more mycelia and microconidia. Consequently, the fungus becomes systemic and often can be isolated from tissue well away from the roots. The vascular damage we see in the roots is the defense mechanism of the plant to impede the movement of pathogen.
Disease management include planting clean seeds/transplants, use of resistant cultivars, crop rotation, soil fumigation, soil solarization, grafting, biological control. An integrated approach utilizing two or more methods is required for successful disease management.
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.
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://184.108.40.206:460
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.
Beet armyworm: Moth counts remain very low consistent with seasonal temperatures, but below average for this point in the season.
Cabbage looper: Slight increase in activity, but moth counts remain unusually low for late January.
Whitefly: Dult movement is at seasonal low consistent with temperatures and lack of melons or cotton.
Thrips: Activity remains lower than normal for this point late January. Increased movement noted in Roll/Tacna.
Aphids: Seasonal aphid counts peaked during the past 2 weeks, suggesting movement with recent winter storms and lack of desert vegetation. Counts were particularly high in North Yuma and Gila Valleys, and Bard. Above average for this time of year.
Leafminers: Adult activity remains light in most trap locations. Trap counts increasing slightly in the South Gila Valley.