May 18, 2022Weeds and Insect Management in Desert ProduceTo contact John Palumbo go to: jpalumbo@ag.Arizona.edu
In a recent edition of this newsletter on 20 April 2022, I presented a cantaloupe phenological (crop growth and development) model based on heat units accumulated after planting (HUAP, 86/55 Fo thresholds) as shown in Figure 1.
The benefits of working with and using a model like this include being able to describe and predict important stages of crop growth and development (crop phenology) and harvest dates. This can also be a good tool for improving crop management (e.g., fertilization, irrigation, harvest scheduling, pest management activities, labor and machinery management, etc.).
Included in our work with the development of this phenological model, we have also conducted nutrient uptake studies and water use studies to develop a better understanding of nutrient and water demand for desert cantaloupe production (Silvertooth, 2003; Soto et al., 2006; and Soto, 2012).
Figure 2 presents the nitrogen (N) uptake and portioning patterns for desert cantaloupes (melons), Silvertooth, 2003 and Soto et al. 2006. This data describes total N uptake for cantaloupes at ~ 140 lbs. N/acre. From this data, maximum N flux (N uptake/day) period extends from early fruit development to the netting stage.
Water use by desert cantaloupe production was also measured in these studies and patterns of water use followed the crop coefficient (Kc) patterns provided by the Arizona Meteorological Network (AZMET) and conformed to the Kc values from FAO 56 (Allen et al., 1998) and Grattan et al. (1998).
Considering N uptake and water demand patterns in relation to cantaloupe crop phenology, we can insert the overlaps as shown in Figure 1, with the red and blue lines for N and water management, respectively. Maximum N demand occurs from approximately 500 to 1,000 HUAP, which coincides with primary fruit development. Accordingly, the N application window for optimum N uptake is from approximately 300 to 800 HUAP, which is from early flowering to the netting stage of the crown fruit. The N application window is recommended in advance of the optimum N uptake period to provide for N mineralization and the plant-available forms of N for plant uptake and utilization.
Considering the N application window described in Figure 1 and a maximum seasonal uptake and demand of ~ 140 lbs. N/acre, early and split applications during this period of cantaloupe crop development can help achieve optimum utilization of fertilizer N inputs.
The period of maximum water demand extends from early fruiting stages of development through the maturation of the crown fruit, 300 to 1300 HUAP.
Considering the conditions we are experiencing these days in desert crop production with water shortages and extremely high prices of fertilizers, we have an abundance of motivation to manage our crop production systems with the highest efficiency possible. Understanding crop water and nutrient demand for each crop we are working with and using that knowledge to manage our crops most effectively, is to our benefit agronomically, economically, and environmentally.
Nitrogen is the plant nutrient required in largest amounts by most non-leguminous crops and it is important for us to manage that nutrient for a crop in a careful and deliberate manner. Water and N interactions are a critical aspect of crop growth, development, and management in any system, but particularly in an irrigated crop production system. Thus, the focus offered in this article on water and N management for desert cantaloupe production.
I encourage those who are working with spring cantaloupe production this season to test and evaluate this crop phenology model, particularly in relation to nutrient and water management under field conditions with various planting dates, varieties, and soil types. We appreciate your feedback.
Figure 1. Heat Units Accumulated After Planting (HUAP, 86/55 oF)
Figure 2. Cantaloupe (melon) N uptake and partitioning patterns. (Soto, Silvertooth, and Galadima 2006). Note: kg/ha * 0.89 = lbs/acre
Grattan, S.R., W. Bowers, A. Dong, R.L. Snyder, J.J. Carroll, and W. George. 1998. New crop coefficients estimate water use of vegetables, row crops. California Agriculture 52(1):16-21.https://doi.org/10.3733/ca.v052n01p16
Allen, R.G., L.S. Pereira, D. Raes, and M. Smith. 1998. Crop evapotranspiration - Guidelines for computing crop water requirements - FAO Irrigation and drainage paper 56. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome (FAO). https://www.fao.org/3/x0490e/x0490e0b.htm
Silvertooth, J.C. 2003. Nutrient uptake in irrigated cantaloupes. Annual meeting, ASA-CSSA-SSSA, Denver, CO.
Soto, R. O. 2012. Crop phenology and dry matter accumulation and portioning for irrigated spring cantaloupes in the desert Southwest. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, University of Arizona.
Soto-Ortiz, R., J.C. Silvertooth, and A. Galadima. 2006. Nutrient uptake patterns in irrigated melons (Cucumis melo L.). Annual Meetings, ASA-CSSA-SSSA, Indianpolis, IN.
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.
This year we have 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.
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.
Herbicide resistant Palmer amaranth is becoming increasingly problematic in Arizona cotton production. Cultivation is an effective way to control the pest, but standard cultivators do not remove in-row weeds. Finger weeders are an in-row weeding tool made from flexible rubber. Pairs are centered on the seed row and overlapped slightly to remove in-row weeds. In a two-year study, Dotray et al. (2021) evaluated the use of finger weeders for controlling in-row weeds in cotton at the Texas A&M research station in Lubbock, TX. In the study, a cultivator configuration developed by organic cotton grower Carl Pepper, Lubbock, TX was utilized. The device uses 34” wide, shallow pitched sweeps followed by finger weeders mounted on a spring-loaded arm (40” row spacing) (Fig. 1).
In the trials, use of finger weeders was compared to standard tillage, and an XtendFlex system where multiple herbicides were applied throughout the growing season (trifluralin – preplant incorporated; prometryn – preemergence; dicamba, S-metolachlor, glyphosate – early postemergence; dicamba, dimethenamid, and glyphosate second post emergence application). Six cultivations and two spray applications were made each year as dictated by weed pressure. Weed counts were recorded following cultivation and/or herbicide application on the dates indicated in Table 1. Hand weeding operations were performed twice during the season to control weed escapes.
The results were very promising. Control of Palmer amaranth with finger weeders was as good as chemical control using the XtendFlex system and significantly better than standard tillage. The authors also reported 95% in-row weed control when Palmer amaranth was ≤ 3 inches, and about 50% when plants were 3-4 inches tall. Crop injury due to cultivation was minimal, even in seedling cotton (1-3 leaf).
Some observations that are key to making the setup successful are that: 1) sweep blades are oriented such that the end of the sweep is pointed towards the crop row rather than away from it. This facilitates fracturing of soil toward the crop row making it easier for the finger weeders to loosen in-row soil and at a deeper depth, and 2) small diameter (9”) finger weeders made from relatively firm, yet flexible rubber are used and oriented at a steep angle. This configuration promotes soil penetration and loosening in firm soil.
A video of the device canhere or by clicking on the image below.
Dotray, P.A., Keeling, J.W., & Russell, K.R. 2021. Precision cultivation with finger weeder systems. Project No. 20-190 Final Report. Cary, N.C: Cotton Inc.
hanks are extended to Peter Dotray, Wayne Keeling and Kyle Russell, Texas A&M University for sharing their project findings. Credit and thanks are also extended to Kyle R. Russell, Texas A&M University, for recording and sharing images and video.
Project funding provided by Cotton Inc. Their support is greatly appreciated.
Table 1. Palmer amaranth population at various dates throughout the growing season following cultivation and/or spray application in 2020 and 2021.
Fig. 1. Cultivator configuration used in Texas A&M studies investigating the use of finger weeders and wide sweeps to control in-row and between-row weeds in cotton. Cultivator design and setup credit: Carl Pepper, Lubbock, TX.
Fig. 2. Video of finger weeders and wide sweeps operating in seedling cotton to control in-row and between-row Palmer Amaranth. Video credit: Kyle R. Russel, Texas A&M University. Cultivator design and setup credit: Carl Pepper, Lubbock, TX. Click here to see the video.
Last Thursday April 28, 2022 the EPA issued a notice of intent to suspend (NOITS) DCPA, which when effective, will prevent the sale, distribution, and use of the technical-grade product containing the pesticide dimethyl tetrachloroterephthalate (DCPA).
Please see all details of the NOITS by clicking the following link:
Dacthal was first registered in 1958 and we are constantly adjusting it to our changing cultural practices. Recently some evaluations were done of Dacthal’s safety to iceberg lettuce applied Pre and Post-Transplanting. The product showed promising results. It is a mitotic inhibitor and kills germinating weeds by stopping cell division. This mode of action is similar to preemergence herbicides such as Prowl, Kerb, Balan, Trifluralin and others but its chemistry and how it moves in the soil differs. Dacthal is absorbed by both shoots and roots of germinating seedlings although most of the activity is from shoot absorption. When absorbed by the shoots, it will move upward into the plant. It is not absorbed by foliage and can be safely applied over the crop. Dacthal adheres strongly to soil particles. The best time to apply Dacthal is when the soil is moist but not saturated.
We are also including in this update the statement from registrant AMVAC Corporation for more information regarding notice of intent to suspend DCPA: https://www.amvac.com/news/amvac-regulatory-issues-statement-regarding-dachtal-dcpa.
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.