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.
Botrytis rot is not considered a major problem in lettuce but it can cause significant damage/loss when the field conditions are favorable for the pathogen. Cool wet conditions are favorable for the pathogen. Symptoms include water-soaked, brownish-gray to brownish-orange, soft wet rot that occurs on the oldest leaves in contact with the soil. Old leaves are more susceptible than young leaves and the fungus can move into the healthy parts. Fuzzy gray growth can be observed in the disease area which is characteristic of the pathogen. In worse cases, the entire plant can collapse. Romaine cultivars, transplanted lettuce that are big and have leaves touching the soil are more susceptible.
The pathogen: Botrytis cinerea
Botrytis cinerea affects most vegetable and fruit crops, as well as a large number of shrubs, trees, flowers, and weeds. Outdoors Botrytis overwinters in the soil as mycelium on plant debris, and as black, hard, flat or irregular sclerotia in the soil and plant debris, or mixed with seed. The fungus is spread by anything that moves soil or plant debris, or transports sclerotia. The fungus requires free moisture (wet surfaces) for germination, and cool 60 to 77 F, damp weather with little wind for optimal infection, growth, sporulation, and spore release. Botrytis is also active at low temperatures, and can cause problems on vegetables stored for weeks or months at temperatures ranging from 32 to 50. Infection rarely occurs at temperatures above 77 F. Once infection occurs, the fungus grows over a range of 32 to 96 F.
Masses of microscopic conidia (asexual spores) are produced on the surface of colonized tissues in tiny grape-like clusters (see picture). They are carried by humid air currents, splashing water, tools, and clothing, to healthy plants where they initiate new infections. Conidia usually do not penetrate living tissue directly, but rather infect through wounds, or by first colonizing dead tissues (old flower petals, dying foliage, etc.) then growing into the living parts of the plant.
1. Buy high-quality seed of recommended varieties. Treat the seed before planting.
2. Practice clean cultivation. Plant in a light, well-drained, well-prepared, fertile seedbed at the time recommended for your area. If feasible, sterilize the seedbed soil before planting, preferably with heat. Steam all soil used for plantbeds at 180 F (81 C) for 30 minutes or 160 F (71 C) for one hour.
3. Avoid heavy soils, heavy seeding, overcrowding, poor air circulation, planting too deep, over-fertilizing (especially with nitrogen), and wet mulches.
4. Focus on healthy plant vigor. Do not over fertilize.
5. Use drop or furrow irrigation instead of sprinklers. If sprinklers have to be used, irrigate morning or early afternoon giving enough time for foliage to dry.
6. Apply recommended fungicides when conditions favor disease development. Make sure to rotate fungicide to avoid development of resistance.
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.
Results of pheromone and sticky trap catches can be viewed here.
We have started our Areawide Insect and DBM Trapping Network for the 2019-20 season.
We have added another trapping location in Bard, CA.
Area wide Insect Trapping Network VegIPM Update, Vol. 11, No. 20, Sep 30, 2020
Results of pheromone and sticky trap catches can be viewed here.
Corn earworm: Moth activity about normal for September but beginning to increase, particularly in Dome Valley and south Yuma Valley.
Beet armyworm: Moths remain active throughout the desert, especially in Texas Hill and Tacna growing areas- Staring to pick up in the south Yuma Valley.
Cabbage looper: Cabbage looper activity unusually low for mid-late September. Larvae just starting to show up in some fields.
Whitefly: Adult movement has been relatively light and about average for this time of year. Activity highest in Dome Valley.
Thrips: To date, thrips activity has been seasonably low at all trap locations; most activity found in Bard. Numbers beginning to slowly trend upward
Aphids: No aphids have been caught on traps thus far. Normal for this time of year. Still early, anticipate they will begin to show up in October.
Leafminers: Adult activity below normal for September, but moderate numbers caught in Wellton and south Gila Valley in areas where cotton was recently harvested and disked under.