May 5, 2021Summer Sanitation Is Important as Ever
To contact John Palumbo go to: jpalumbo@ag.Arizona.edu
Lettuce dieback is a soil-borne disease caused by two closely related viruses from the family Tombusviridae Tomato Bushy Stunt Virus (TBSV) and Lettuce Necrotic Stunt Virus (LNSV) that has been reclassified as Moroccan Pepper Virus (MPV). The disease has been observed throughout the main lettuce producing areas of California and Arizona.
Since December in 2019, we received some samples that looked like lettuce dieback disease. The samples came positive for a new virus tentatively named as Lettuce dieback associated virus. We have been seeing symptoms in resistant cultivars (with Tvr1 gene) which suggests that the new virus is involved in the symptomology.
Little is known about the virus as of now, as it is still a work in progress. What we know so far, is that the virus is soilborne, and has been found to have more correlation with the dieback disease more than Tomato bushy stunt virus.
Dr. William Wintermantel (pictured above, firstname.lastname@example.org ) has been working on the virus and has developed protocol for virus testing.
Dr. Wintermantel has also shared the protocol with Trical Diagnostics so if you want rapid molecular diagnosis please contact Steve Koike (SKoike@trical.com).
If you have plants showing symptoms of Tomato bushy stunt virus, please bring the samples to Yuma Plant Health Clinic for diagnosis.
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.
VegIPM Update, Vol. 11, No. 7, Apr 1, 2020
Corn earworm: Moth activity decreased during the past 2 weeks and is comparable to what we’ve seen in the past 5 years at the end of the produce season.
Beet armyworm: Moths remain active, and about average for the end of the season.
Cabbage looper: Cabbage looper moths declined in most trap locations over the past 2 weeks. Below average activity for the end of the season.
Whitefly Adult movement at seasonal lows and relatively absent; typical for this time of the season.
Thrips Thrips activity has increased in most trap locations, but still below average for this time of the season.
Aphids: Adults beginning to disperse again; above average abundance for this time of the year.
Leafminers Adult activity increased significantly in Yuma and Gila Valleys; about average for end of the season.
DBM adult captures decreased slightly in most trap locations as crops begin to terminate. The exception is in Bard/Winterhaven where trap catches increased significantly near seed crops. Trap catches overall have been stable during March, but higher than the previous two seasons.
Area-wide Diamondback Moth Trapping Network
In response to the recent outbreaks of Diamondback moth (DBM), Plutella xylostella in Yuma, we have established a pheromone trap network designed to monitor the activity and movement of adult populations of DBM. PCAs have had difficulty controlling DBM in cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower since October 2016. Traps have been placed in Roll, Wellton, Dome Valley, Gila Valley and Yuma Valley in locations where cole crops are presently being grown or in areas where infestations were known to occur in the fall.