May 5, 2021Summer Sanitation Is Important as Ever
To contact John Palumbo go to: jpalumbo@ag.Arizona.edu
When known weedy fields are ready to plant and labor is expected to be short, it is tempting to use all the preplant herbicides that are available. In lettuce, there are three preplant herbicides available and it is not uncommon to use 2 and occasionally all 3 on the same crop. All three of these herbicides use the same mode of action to kill weeds. There are slight differences between them but they all either stop or disrupt cell division in the roots and or stems of the weeds. They are normally safe to lettuce unless the crop is stressed or the rate, timing or placement are poor. The rationale for using multiple preplant herbicides in lettuce is often to broaden the weed control spectrum or guard against misses caused by misapplication or environmental conditions. There are some hazards, however, that sometimes outweigh the benefits. Potential crop injury is increased. All 3 use the same mode of action and the chance of injuring developing crop roots is compounded. Sometimes herbicides are added that contribute nothing but potential injury to the mix. If you look at the following chart you can see that many weeds are controlled by Kerb, for instance, that are not controlled by Balan or Prefar. Why add them? All three control grasses, goosefoot and purslane. If environmental conditions and applications are optimal it is often possible to use only one. Herbicides are much less expensive than labor, but it is possible to overdo it and cause more problems and expense.
It is about that time of the year/growing season when you start seeing bacterial diseases. With the rain we got last week and as plants get more vegetative growth bacterial issues become more prevalent. Cilantro and parsley are two crops grown in desert southwest that often suffer from bacterial leaf spots. Most times, the disease incidence is also high because of sprinkler irrigation used in these cropS. On both crops, initial symptoms of bacterial leaf spot are water-soaked lesions on leaves. The lesions develop into spots that are varying shades of tan or brown (see picture ‘B’ on parsley whereas advanced spots on cilantro can be black (see picture ‘A’ on cilantro). The lesions are usually limited by leaf veins and thus have an angular, square, or rectangular appearance, a typical feature of bacterial infection. Lesions tend to be relatively small about 1/8 to 1/4 inch (3–6 mm) in diameter and are visible from both the top and bottom of leaves. Under favorable conditions, free moisture from rain or sprinkler irrigation, leaf spots may coalesce and cause considerable blighting of the entire foliage.
Pseudomonas syringae pv. apii (Psa) and P. syringae pv. coriandricola (Psc). cause bacterial leaf spot on parsley and cilantro. Pseudomonas syringae pv. apii (Psa) can cause leaf blight in celery and fennel as well. Though the problem is documented as more of a problem in cilantro and less in celery, in severe condition the disease can result in unmarketable produce in any host. The bacteria are likely seedborne in both crops. However, water from rain, sprinkler irrigation, and heavy dews and fogs will splash bacteria from infected plants onto adjacent healthy foliage resulting in heavy infestation.
To manage the disease, always use tested/treated seeds, rotate crop with non-host to reduce inoculum level, switch from sprinkler to furrow irrigation to limit secondary spread, avoid excessive use of nitrogen fertilizer. Copper spray/copper based fungicide provide limited control against the pathogens.
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.
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://18.104.22.168:460
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.