May 5, 2021Summer Sanitation Is Important as Ever
To contact John Palumbo go to: jpalumbo@ag.Arizona.edu
Clovers can be very difficult to control weeds here, but it is also a major crop and common ornamental. Clovers can survive under poor growing conditions and are not controlled with glyphosate and seem to get worse every year. There are more than 50 types and 300 species of clover and they can be easily misidentified. They are all in the legume (Fabracea) family and can use a bacterium (rhizobium) in the soil to convert nitrogen in the atmosphere to a form that they and other plants can use for fertilizer. There are only 4 or 5 clover species that are agricultural pests here. The ones we get the most questions on are white and yellow sweet clover. These are in the Melilotus family. White sweet clover (Melilotus albus) is tall for a clover and can get 3 to 5 foot in height. The leaves are thinner than most clovers and this difficult to control weed lives at least 2 years and sometimes longer. Glyphosate and most of the contact herbicides do not control it. The plant growth regulator herbicides work best. Yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis) is less common here. The flowers are yellow, and it is not as tall and vegetative as white sweet clover. Yellow is more common at higher elevations. California burclover (Medicago polymorpha) and Black medic (Medicago lupina) are in the same genus as alfalfa and are more of a problem in landscapes, parks and golf courses than in agricultural fields here. They do not grow upright and spread below the crop or turf. The true clovers are in the Trifolium genus and include white and strawberry clover. These creep along the ground and root at the nodes of the stem. These are more of a urban landscape weed and not considered an agricultural problem. Creeping woodsorrel or Oxyalis looks like a clover but it is not related. It is a turf weed that spreads rapidly along the ground and can live for several years. Preemergent herbicides are effective against all these clovers before they become established. The postemergence herbicides that are most effective in controlling these clovers are the plant growth regulators. Contact herbicides and glyphosate are generally ineffective.
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.
Weed escapes are easy to spot in vegetable fields at harvest time. Some growers have these weeds pulled, bagged and removed by hand from the field because they are unsightly and to reduce seedbank loads. This can be a costly operation. An alternative solution might be to use high voltage electricity to kill these weeds. The idea of using electricity to “zap” weeds is not new. Machines for agriculture applications were developed decades ago and commercially available in the late 1970’s. Although the devices worked, they were not widely adopted due in part to the availability of low cost and efficacious herbicides.
Because of environmental concerns, herbicide resistant weed issues and increased organic production, non-chemical, high voltage weed control technology is seeing a resurgence. There are now five companies, three established within the last four years, offering or developing machines for commercial agriculture. Although configurations differ, all machines operate using the same principles. To explain, consider the example of the machine shown in Fig. 1. The unit comprises high voltage electrodes (8-15 kV) positioned above the crop canopy, an electric generator and a soil engaging coulter connected to ground. During operation, when an electrode touches a weed protruding above the canopy, current flows through the plant back to the generator via the ground contacting coulter. Current flow combined with electrical resistance in the plant causes rapid heating and plant fluids to vaporize. This ruptures cell walls and kills the plant. Although there are few recent reports in the literature, prior research on dated machines showed that the technique can provide better than 98% weed control in moderate weed densities (15,000 weeds/acre) at travel speeds of 2 mph (Diprose & Benson, 1984).
Modern approaches that utilize high voltage electricity in combination with smart machines to spot treat weeds are being developed. The idea is to use camera imagery and artificial intelligence to locate weeds and high voltage electricity to kill them. One such machine being developed by the MASCOR Institute1 and the Zasso Group is an autonomous robot equipped with cameras, on-board computers and robotic arms (Fig. 2). As the machine moves through the field, high voltage electrodes mounted on the movable, computer controlled robotic arms zap weeds. Another unit is being developed by Stekettee and RootWave. It is tractor pulled and designed to travel at 3 mph. Stekettee’s machine vision system identifies the weeds and RootWave’s high voltage electric technology shocks the weed with a pulsed 5 kV charge. Power is supplied by a generator connected to the tractor’s PTO. Both systems are in late stages of development with field tests conducted in 2020.
These systems appear promising and if they prove to be effective and economical, may be something to look for in the future.
1Reference to a product or company is for specific information only and does not endorse or recommend that product or company to the exclusion of others that may be suitable.
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.