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.
With the end of lettuce season, it does feel like a relief from the recent INSV (Imaptiens necrotic spot virus) breakout we had. However, we have to keep in mind that INSV has a very wide host range. It is a common virus in ornamentals. Below is just a small list of ornamental plants that could be a host of INSV. If you have these plants and see any concerning symptoms, please bring them to the plant clinic to test for INSV.
INSV is the first virus to be recorded from a fern (the glasshouse ornamental Asplenium nidus-avis).
|Dendranthema x grandiflorum||Eustoma grandiflorum|
|Gladiolus||Imaptiens (New Guinea, Balasam)|
|Senecio cruentus||Sinningia speciose|
This is the second in a series of articles discussing technological advances being made by manufacturers of automated thinning and weeding machines. This is a fast-moving space and innovations are entering the marketplace constantly. One of these on the near-term horizon is a robotic thinner/weeder being developed by Tensorfield Agriculture, San Francisco, CA that uses hot vegetable oil to kill weeds. The idea is to spray a “micro-dose” of hot oil (320 °F) onto the targeted plant/weed with high levels of precision. Why vegetable oil and not water or steam? Sufficient levels of heat from any source will rupture cell membranes and kill plants, but the advantage of vegetable oils is that they adhere to plant surfaces better than water and can be raised to much higher temperatures before boiling. Soybean oil for example, has a boiling point of 450 °F which is much higher than that of water at 212 °F. Consequently, vegetables oils transfer more heat faster than hot water and kill plants more effectively. A limitation of steam is the difficulty in concentrating the heat energy onto the target plant.
The concept of using hot vegetable oil to control weeds with an automated machine is not new and has some merit. Vegetable oil degrades naturally in the soil and thus can be used in commercial and organic crop production. Researchers at UC Davis developed and tested a prototype, hot oil based micro-dosing sprayer for automated weeding in tomato crops (Giles et al. 2005, Zhang et al., 2012). They found the technique effective at controlling weeds (>90%), but computing speeds were too slow for the integrated automated weeding machine to be commercially viable at the time.
Tensorfield Agriculture is rejuvenating the idea using modern computers, artificial intelligence and automation. The company has built a micro-dosing sprayer that delivers heated oil to target weeds at the 1/2” scale level of precision (Fig. 1). The sprayer assembly is mounted on an autonomous, robotic platform (Fig 2 - please note that the robotic platform depicted is a first-generation design developed for testing and debugging purposes and that a commercial style unit is forthcoming). Computer imaging and artificial intelligence are used to detect crop plants and weeds. The company will be testing and debugging the system this winter in California with carrot, spinach and romaine crops. The aim is to have prototype commercial systems available for the spring of 2021.
Some of you may have visited Tensorfield Agriculture’s booth or seen their technical breakout-session presentation at the 2020 Southwest Ag Summit in Yuma, AZ. They have an interest in working in the Yuma area and with the University of Arizona. It will be interesting to see how this technology progresses over the winter and how killing weeds with heated vegetable oil may benefit weed management systems.
As I mentioned, automated thinning and weeding technologies are advancing at a very rapid pace. If you know of a new technology that would be of interest and appropriate for this publication, please feel free to contact me.
 Reference 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.
Fig. 1. Custom built sprayer modules for delivering high temperature vegetable oil (350 °F) to kill weeds organically. The units are designed for precision weed control (1/2” scale of resolution) by Tensorfield Agriculture, San Francisco, CA (Photo credit – Tensorfield Agriculture).
Fig. 2. Autonomous robot for thinning and weeding using heated vegetable oil. The unit is a first-generation prototype designed for testing and debugging purposes by Tensorfield Agriculture, San Francisco, CA (Photo credit – Tensorfield Agriculture).
Giles, D.K., Lanini, W.T. & Slaughter, D.C. 2005. Precision weed control for organic and conventional specialty crops. In Buy California Crop Block Grant Program Final Report. Sacramento, Calif.: California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Zhang, Y., Staab, E.S., Slaughter, D.C., Giles, D.K. & Downey, D. Automated weed control in organic row crops using hyperspectral species identification and thermal micro-dosing. Crop Protection 41: 96-105.
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.
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.