May 18, 2022Weeds and Insect Management in Desert ProduceTo 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.
Rewriting this article with additional information because of the higher incidence of bacterial fruit blotch we are seeing as we approach the fruit season of melons. Bacterial fruit blotch (BFB) of melon is caused by the bacterium Acidovorax avenae subsp. Citrulli. The bacteria produces large olive green to brown water-soaked lesions on fruit, making them unmarketable.
Symptoms of BFB on seedlings begin with water-soaked areas on the lower surface of the cotyledons and inconspicuous lesions on leaves. BFB lesions will become necrotic often with yellow halos. Lesions are frequently delimited by veins. Infected seedlings collapse and die.
Greenhouse conditions are usually favorable for dispersal and establishment of pathogen. Thus, good greenhouse practices and sanitation is extremely important. Clean transplant trays must be used (disinfect trays if they will be reused) and new soil. Destroy any volunteer seedlings and keep the area in and around the greenhouse weed free. Avoid overhead watering if at all possible, or water in the middle of the day so that the plants dry thoroughly before evening. The bacterium can spread on mist and aerosols. Relative humidity should be kept low through proper watering and good air circulation in the greenhouse. Separate different seedlots, to reduce lot-to-lot spread. Monitor these isolated seedlings daily and destroy trays where symptoms develop. The remaining trays should be sprayed with a labeled bactericide and the applications continued until the plants are transplanted to the field.
The pathogen can be seedborne, so growers should only use seed that has been tested for the presence of the pathogen by a reputable testing facility. Management of BFB includes a combination of preventing the introduction of the pathogen, sanitation to eliminate any inoculum present, and the use of bactericides if the disease appears. There are no commercially available watermelon cultivars that are resistant to bacterial fruit blotch, but there is some variation in susceptibility among cultivars.
More information on bacterial soft rot in cucurbits:
Over the last several years, Dr. Steve Fennimore, Extension Specialist - Weed Science, UC Davis and I have been collaborating on investigating the use of band-steam for controlling in-row weeds and soilborne pathogens. 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.
This spring, we completed fabrication of a second-generation prototype band-steam applicator that is simpler in design and easier to operate than our first prototype. Steve has been demonstrating the device to growers on their farms in the Salinas valley this summer (Fig. 1). Similar to Yuma trials, application of band-steam is being found to provide very good weed control in the treated band (Fig. 2). Stay tuned for reports of full trial results including hand weeding labor savings, control of Sclerotinia lettuce drop and crop yield in future articles.
The band-steam machine will be back in Yuma in a couple of weeks! If you are interested in testing the device on your farm, please contact me. I’d be happy to work with you.
This work is supported by the Crop Production and Pest Management grant no. 2021-70006-35761 /project accession no. 1027435 from USDA-NIFA. 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. On-farm demonstration of a prototype band-steam applicator in Salinas,
CA. The machine injects steam into the bed in narrow beds centered on the
seedline prior to planting for control of weeds and soilborne pathogens. (Photo
credits: Steve Fennimore, UC Davis)
Fig. 2. Weed control with band steaming in lettuce. Steam was applied
in a 4-inch band centered on the two seedlines marked by the red
arrows. The weeds outside of the treated band are in areas that were
not steamed, but can be cultivated out easily because they are not
close to the crop seedline. Trials conducted by Steve Fennimore, UC
Davis, in 2022 in Salinas, CA. (Photo and caption credits: Steve
Fennimore, UC Davis).
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.