Make Improving Financial Recordkeeping a Goal in 2022

From Clemson Agribusiness Agent Kevin Burkett.

As we get started in a new year, resolutions abound, and we set our sights on making improvements over the previous year. A goal of the Clemson Agribusiness team is to help farms improve financial record keeping and in turn, be able to make decisions based on those records.

One question that’s important to answer is: why? Why should a producer care to record their transactions? There are several reasons, but one major factor is simply being able to make good decisions for the farm. It would be difficult to make decisions with incomplete information. Other benefits include records needed for tax and other reporting purposes, USDA program sign-ups, determining the value of the business, budgeting, and the ability to make improvements over time.

The most successful producers are generally the ones able to make incremental changes to their business year-over-year. Meaning a small reduction in cost and a small increase in revenue from last year could end up being the difference between being profitable or not. Good records enable producers to see areas where changes are possible and ways that the business can improve upon what they are currently doing. If you think you or someone you know could benefit from improving their farm financial records, reach out to Clemson Extension Agribusiness at kburke5@clemson.edu or 540-239-4602.

Weekly Field Update – 1/18/22

We hope everyone had a great holiday season and that 2022 is off to a good start! Remember to keep an eye on the Upcoming Events tab over the next couple of months. We have lots of fruit and vegetable-related meetings coming up. This week we have a couple in-person meetings and a virtual tomato and pepper meeting.

Coastal Region

Rob Last reports, “In our area, crops are developing well with few pest or disease issues currently. Some brassicas are displaying a reddening to the older leaves associated with reduced phosphorous uptake. Phosphorous uptake can be reduced in cold temperatures and will recover when we see some warm temperatures. There is no response to an additional application. Where strawberries are flowering or have fruit, it is advisable to remove those to minimize sources of Botrytis gray mold for later in the year.”

Zack Snipes reports, “Strawberry questions have begun rolling this week with the threat of lower temperatures at the end of the week. For growers in the coastal plains, I would not cover my berries. Temperatures are predicted to get into the low to mid-20s. At the stage of development we are in right now, it would take lower temperatures and extended periods of time to do crown damage. Will you lose berries and blossoms? Yes, but right now we shouldn’t be trying to save those anyway. After the weather passes, make sure to clean/sanitize your fields. I am seeing a good bit of botrytis (gray mold) on early fruit. Some growers are trying to save fruit but we have to keep in mind that it is mid-January and the plants need to size up and experience a few cold events. We have a long season ahead of us.”

Gray mold on a previously frozen berry. This berry has thousands of spores that are looking to infect your blossoms Photo from Zack Snipes
2-3 crown stage where most of our plants are right now. Photo from Zack Snipes.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “The weather has been strange over the last couple of weeks. The week after Christmas was very warm and caused strawberries to push out a lot of blooms that were then killed by the cold. We have a ton of dead blooms and fruit on the plants right now. Eventually, these will need to be removed from the plants, as they will become a significant source of Botrytis inoculum if allowed to remain. I’ve had some questions about whether we should cover the plants to protect them from the cold we’ll be experiencing over the next week. This shouldn’t be necessary, as the plants are hardy to the mid-teens (F) in the crown development stage. Plants are still a little behind due to late planting.”

Strawberry plants are a little bit behind right now, but otherwise, look healthy. Photo from Justin Ballew.
Some of the fruit on the plants look ok, but cold damage can be seen easily when sliced open. These fruit will become a major source of Botrytis inoculum as temperatures warm up. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Phillip Carnley reports, “We are thankful to have some rain in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties. There has been little insect pressure on greens in my area, and the harvest was average. Now is the time to start pruning muscadine vines as well as managing soil fertility. Strawberries have started flowering earlier than expected due to the warmer weather we had in December with some light fruiting being seen as well. I recommend if you have the ability, remove any early blooms and fruit to promote crown and root development. In my areas with the cooler temps being called for this weekend strawberries should be fine without being covered.”

Sarah Scott reports, “We have had some chilly temperatures in our area over the last few days but luckily no ice to speak of. The cold weather is helping with the accrual of chilling hours that are needed for a good peach crop this year. Crews are getting busy in the peach orchards, pruning and putting out dormant oil applications.

A worker applying an oil spray to peach trees. Photo from Sarah Scott.

Pee Dee

Bruce McLean reports, “A lot of strawberry growers are looking at a strawberry crop that is well behind where it should be. There are a number of reasons that can be pointed to, but really the main contributor is the cool spell that we had back in the fall, right after planting. Seems like the plants that were planted in the first week of October just look much better than the plants planted a little later – much better sizing, crown count, and vegetative development. Some other problems that have been seen include root rot, j-rooting, and just generally a few weak plants from the nursery. So far, spider mites have not been an issue. Many of the growers (with plants that are really behind) have asked how they can “make up ground” with the crop. Unfortunately, there is not a tremendous amount that can be done to “make up ground”. The plant has to have that period of fall growth to be able to set sufficient crown count and thereby make a crop come spring. Unfortunately, yield will be off. From here on out, manage the crop the best you can to maximize what harvest you will have coming in the spring.”

Upstate

Kerrie Roach reports, “Cold temperatures, ice, and snow have been the name of the game in the Upstate the last few days, and that same theme seems like it’s going to continue into this weekend. Growers with high tunnels and greenhouses should be removing the snow load to prevent collapse. Young fruit trees may need to be shaken to remove ice and snow loads to prevent breakage. Now is a great time to make sure all your equipment is ready and in great shape for the season; tune-up, sharpen blades, check fluid levels, etc.”

Won’t be playing basketball for a few days after 6 inches of snow fell in Oconee County over the weekend. Photo from Kerrie Roach.

Chlorpyrifos Food Tolerance Cancellation Rapidly Approaching

On February 28, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) food tolerances for chlorpyrifos are set to expire. This means growers will not be allowed to apply chlorpyrifos to any food crop after this date. Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate used to manage insects in a number of fruit and vegetable crops. It has been on the market since the 1960s under trade names such as Lorsban, Dursban, Eraser, Govern, Hatchet, Whirlwind, and numerous others.

Chlorpyrifos products have been helpful in managing tough-to-kill insects in fruit and vegetable crops since the 1960s. Due to health concerns, its food crop uses are coming to an end.

Corteva ceased production of chlorpyrifos products in 2020, though it is still available from numerous other manufacturers. Since the EPA is revoking the food tolerances but not actually canceling chlorpyrifos, it will still be available for a limited number of uses, such as Christmas tree and sod production.

A summary of the EPA’s ruling can be found here.

Answers to frequently asked questions about the ruling can be found here.

2022 SCDA Hemp Farming Applications Now Available

The application period for the 2022 hemp growing season is now open and will run through February 28, 2022. Applications must be completed online here. Processor and Handler permit applications are also available on the SCDA Hemp Farming Program website.

This year, the SCDA announced the 2022 fees for a grower permit will be reduced from $1000 to $500. The application fee is $100. A list of all other fees can be found here.

In their recent news release, the SCDA also announced their new residue lab is nearing completion and will offer THC analysis starting the summer of 2022. “Hemp farming permit holders must have their hemp tested before harvest to ensure it does not exceed THC levels set by law, so the opening of an affordable, nationally certified state-run lab will help farmers cut costs and improve operations. The SCDA Seed Laboratory is also now equipped for hemp seed germination and purity analysis.”

For more information, please see the full SCDA news release.

Weekly Field Update – 12/13/21

Today’s update will be the last of 2021. We will take a short break for Christmas and get started again on January 18th, 2022. We want to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday and we look forward to a great 2022 growing season!

Coastal Region

Rob Last reports, “Pest and disease activity remains low in the area.  Disease pressure may increase following some welcome rainfall last week.  Remember to keep scouting.  I would also like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “We finally got some much-needed rain in the Midlands. Temperatures turned cooler towards the end of the week, but the previous warm weather allowed a few strawberry plants to push out some blooms. This is a good time to remind folks to periodically sanitize dead leaves and blooms from the plants. Once a leaf or bloom dies, it becomes a great source of Botrytis inoculum. Now is also a good time to pull any weeds that are coming up in the plant holes. It’s best to pull them before they become big enough to outcompete and reduce the growth of the strawberry plants. Most plants I’ve looked at still have only one crown, but I am starting to see some plants develop a second. Plants are developing slowly, but at least we’re not seeing any real disease or mite issues.”

The recent warm weather caused a few plants to develop blooms. As the cold kills these blooms, it will be important to remove them from the plants to keep them from becoming a source of Botrytis inoculum. Photo from Justin Ballew.
Be sure to remove weeds from the plant holes so they do not outcompete the strawberry plants. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Upstate

Kerrie Roach reports, “Things have officially settled down with disease and insect pressure remaining fairly low for winter crops. Dormant pruning for tree fruits has begun and will continue over the holidays. Pruning out dead, diseased and damaged as well as unproductive wood will increase the health and production of the trees overall.”

Here’s a great video from NC State Extension on pruning mature peaches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u42z2WuC4Nw

Here’s a great video from University of Tennessee Extension on pruning apples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEFbZTEcUeY

Weekly Field Update – 12/6/21

Coming up this Thursday (12/9) will be Part 2 of the Organic and Sustainable Vegetable Grower Meeting. Speakers will be discussing bed formation and alternative fertilizers. This virtual meeting will start at 9 am. Click here to register.

Coastal Region

Rob Last reports, “Pest and disease activity in the area remain low with overall good development of crops. Strawberries continue to develop well with very few issues. Given the misty mornings we are seeing, disease pressures may begin to pick up. Remember to keep scouting regularly.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “The weather last week was beautiful and we had our first real chance to accumulate some growing degree days in our strawberries. This is much needed as I’ve been getting several complaints of plants being small and slow-growing. Late planting and cool weather definitely have held us back so far this season. We have seen a little downy mildew in brassicas that may worsen with the heavy dew we’ve had the last few mornings. Other than that, brassica crops are looking great.”

We have some beautiful, healthy collards in the midlands right now. Photo from Justin Ballew
Downy mildew symptoms on the upper side of a collard leaf. Photo from Justin Ballew

Phillip Carnley reports, “Everything is fairly quiet in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties. With the lack of rain, disease pressure has been borderline nonexistent. The strawberries here are still a little behind due to the later planting but seem to be growing out well with no spider mites currently present. I have seen a decrease in the population of diamondback moth caterpillars in my area, but that does not mean stop scouting.”

Weekly Field Update – 11/29/21

We are currently evaluating the SC Grower site to determine any updates or upgrades that are necessary to better serve our viewers. To help with this, we would love to have your feedback. This quick survey should take about 5 minutes to complete and is completely anonymous. Please take a minute to share some of your likes, dislikes, or suggestions for the SC Grower.

Also, tomorrow (11/30), Bruce McLean will be giving a short, virtual presentation about the progress of the heat-tolerant butterbean breeding project going on at the Pee Dee REC. The presentation starts at 12:30. Click here to register.

Coastal Region

Rob Last reports, “In our area, pest and disease pressure have reduced in response to cooler dryer conditions. Keep an eye on soil moisture and continue to regularly scout crops.”

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “We had a couple good freezes over the past week that took out the remaining fall cucurbits, tomatoes, and peppers. Strawberries are doing well considering we were late planting and we haven’t accumulated many growing degree days (GDD) over the last few weeks. I’m not seeing any spider mites yet and it has been quite dry, so I’m not seeing any disease either. For anyone using row covers right now, this week looks to be a little warmer, so it would be a good time to take the covers off and let the plants get more light. Research from NC State suggests we only want to keep row covers on for about two weeks in the fall.”

Strawberries are looking pretty good considering the cool weather and being planted a little late. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Sarah Scott reports, “We had some really cold temperatures last week and Tuesday night finally froze out any remaining warm-weather crops. Land has been fumigated and plowed for new peach crop plantings. Strawberries are coming along nicely.”

Pee Dee

Bruce McLean reports, “Fall vegetable crops are continuing to look good with few problems. Stink bugs are still lingering around, and diamondback moths are just starting to become prevalent. Be sure to scout weekly and spray accordingly. Strawberries are a little behind where they should be. This is due to a somewhat late planting for much of the crop and the onset of somewhat cooler temperatures. Some growers are trying to push the strawberry crop by managing them with row covers. Other than that, the strawberry crop seems to be well established and starting to grow. Perennial fruit crops (blueberries, blackberries, muscadines, peaches, etc.) seem to be defoliating well and going into dormancy. Be sure not to begin winter pruning until the plants have reached full dormancy. Looking at the long-range weather forecast, sometime after the first of the year will likely be a good time to begin.”

Well maintained field of mixed brassicas. No herbicide applied… just cold steel (a sharp hoe and well-timed passes with the cultivator). Photo from Bruce McLean.
Butterbean planting at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center is loaded up with a crop and ready to defoliate. Harvest will begin in about a week to 10 days. Photo from Bruce McLean.

Weekly Field Update – 11/22/21

We are currently evaluating the SC Grower site to determine any updates or upgrades that are necessary to better serve our viewers. To help with this, we would love to have your feedback. This quick survey should take about 5 minutes to complete and is completely anonymous. Please take a minute to share some of your likes, dislikes, or suggestions for the SC Grower.

Coastal Region

Rob Last reports, “Crops are continuing to develop well with few insect or disease problems to press. The disease pressure may increase given the welcome rainfall forecast today. Please remember to scout regularly and thoroughly. Problems caught early are easier to manage.”

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “We enjoyed the beautiful fall weather last week. Growers are harvesting lots of brassicas right now. Thanksgiving is a big time for collard sales, so folks are going to be busy over the next few days. Most brassicas look great. We haven’t had much rain this fall, so disease is very low. Caterpillar pressure is high in some places. Just a reminder, diamondback moths can develop insecticide resistance very quickly. Monitor population levels closely and always base treatment decisions on thresholds. Do not spray just because it’s been 7 days since the last application. Make sure the population level justifies the application. Also, avoid spraying the same material twice within a 30 day period and NEVER use a pyrethroid or organophosphate when caterpillars are the only pests present.”

Insecticide resistance to multiple modes of action has allowed the diamondback moth population in this field to cause severe damage. Multiple pyrethroid and organophosphate applications have also wiped out beneficial insects. It is unlikely a field like this can recover. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Phillip Carnley reports, “Just like much, if not all the state, it has been exceptionally dry in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties. Despite that, crops are looking good and growing well. Strawberries here are a little behind like much of the state due to late planting, but thanks to being dry, we are not seeing any fungal problems yet. I have seen some death/decline of crowns due to J rooting, but that has not been significant. There have been some flaring populations of diamondback caterpillars in collards exacerbated by the use of broad-spectrum insecticides, which left few to no beneficials in the field. When dealing with diamondback caterpillars, make sure to scout early and often and use more targeted MOA’s to give your beneficial insects a helping hand. One or two applications of the various broad-spectrum insecticides can be detrimental and cause a boom in DBM populations.

J-rooting kept this strawberry plug from getting established. J-rooting is one of the most common reasons plants fail or are slow to get established. Photo from Phillip Carnley.
Severe damage from diamondback moth in collards. Photo from Phillip Carnley.

Weekly Field Update – 11/15/21

We are currently evaluating the SC Grower site to determine any updates or upgrades that are necessary to better serve our viewers. To help with this, we would love to have your feedback. This quick survey should take about 5 minutes to complete and is completely anonymous. Please take a minute to share some of your likes, dislikes, or suggestions for the SC Grower

Coastal Region

Rob Last reports, “Crops in the area are developing well, with few disease problems. In brassica crops, we are still seeing increased insect pressure from diamondback moths and whiteflies. Please remember to rotate insecticides with different modes of action. Following cooler weather, some brassicas are displaying some reddening to the leaves. This phenomenon often concerns the plant closing down phosphorous uptake. It is not necessarily indicative of a phosphorous deficiency in the soil. Generally speaking, the plants will ‘green up” as the temperatures increase.”

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “It was a little warmer last week, though we had some cool nights. We got a little rain (.3” at my house) and we could use more. Strawberries are continuing to get established and are looking decent so far. Some folks have opted to cover their plants for a couple weeks to accumulate more growing degree days. I’m glad to see that since we planted late and it’s been cool. I’ve already seen some deer feeding damage. It doesn’t take them long to find the plants once new leaves start growing. Get fencing in place before deer feeding begins. I don’t know of any repellants that work as well as a fence.”

This plant just barely had enough time to push out a couple new leaves before the deer found it. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Sarah Scott reports, “We’ve had some areas of patchy frost just as some of the crops like eggplant and bell peppers are starting to wind down. Broccoli harvest is wrapping up and this season turned out to be a good one. Fumigation has been done on fields where new peach trees will be planted and growers are plowing and preparing for planting. “

Broccoli that is ready for harvest. Photo from Sarah Scott.
Peach trees with fall color. Photo from Sarah Scott.
Cover crops in between rows to be hilled for new peach plantings. Photo from Sarah Scott.

Upstate

Kerrie Roach reports, “With the first real cold nights over the weekend, things have officially begun to crawl as far as production is concerned. However, soil sampling, land preparation, and winter chores have started off with a bang. This is a great time to get things going with soil sampling. Results are typically available within 2 weeks and adjustments can be started and made in time for planting. Check out the Clemson site for information, or contact your agent for help!”

Andy Rollins reports, “I am still in process of inspecting all upstate strawberry plantings for this new year of production. Plants should have leaves with three leaflets (like clover). Occasionally, you may find one plant here or there with four leaflets, this is within reason. You should not be finding nearly every plant with this abnormal growth. There can be several issues that can cause this. The use of runner stimulating hormones by plant producers and phytoplasmas (a type of bacteria) can also cause this effect. I have only found this problem on ‘Camino Real’ on one farm this year, but I am looking everywhere.  In a previous year when this was found, we later had deformed berries that looked more like a mangled up leaf than a strawberry. We have had some more root rot issues in fall crops and we are preparing new ground for peach plantings now.”

Strawberry leaves with 4 leaflets are ok if seen occasionally, but it is not normal to see this on every plant. Photo from Andy Rollins.

Timely Diagnosis

From Clemson Plant Pathologist Tony Keinath.

Plants are a rich source of food for microorganisms—for aggressive plant pathogens, for weak pathogens, and for common saprophytes (the 90% of microorganisms that feed only on dead plant parts). Once a pathogen kills parts of leaves or side roots and we see dark brown spots, things change. The normal ways plants defend themselves from pathogens shut down, and it’s a “free for all” for any microorganisms on the leaf, fruit, or root. These weak pathogens and saprophytes suddenly can grow on parts of the plant that weren’t accessible to them when the plant was healthy. It’s part of the natural succession of the phytobiome, the community of microorganisms that live in, on, and around plants.

Although Alternaria leaf spot can still be recognized by the round, brown spots with concentric rings, saprophytic Alternaria growing on the yellowed areas makes diagnosis more difficult.

For a diagnostician, it’s infinitely easier to find a pathogen at the early stages of disease, when suspicious yellow spots appear on a leaf, rather than on a dead leaf, because you’re not “looking for a needle in a haystack,” or more accurately, a pathogen in a forest of microorganisms. Cucurbit leaves, for example, tend to have the same three saprophytes on them, Alternaria, Epicoccum, and even Fusarium. An experienced diagnostician knows to ignore them or use them as forensic clues that the tissue has been dead for some time. I tend to suspect spray burn when I see these fungi growing in distinct spots on leaves.

Every diseased plant sample collected for diagnosis, whether it is for in-person delivery or mailing, should be carefully selected and handled by following these guidelines. Samples collected during the summer or on sunny days at any time of the year should be placed in a cooler with an ice pack after collection. This usually means taking the cooler into the field. Proper handling of samples will help the diagnostician provide an accurate answer or avoid asking for another (better) sample.

As another saying goes, “early is on time.” An early diagnosis is a timely diagnosis.