Weekly Field Update – 3/14/22

Weekly Field Update – 3/14/22

Coming up this week is the Farm Safety Day for Women on 3/18. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our lineup of winter/spring meetings here.

Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to see this week’s Question of the Week and check back on Thursday for the answer!

Statewide

Dr. Matt Cutulle reports, “I saw my first nutsedge plants this year pop up in the plastic mulch of a fellow researcher’s trial last week in Charleston. Soil temperatures in plastic mulch systems are going to be higher, which may lead to earlier sprouting of yellow nutsedge tubers. POST applications of Sandea are effective for controlling emerged yellow nutsedge plants. New tubers begin forming four to six weeks after a new shoot emerges. Individual nutsedge plants may eventually form patches 10 feet or more in diameter, thus it is important to practice field sanitation once an infestation is recognized.”

Coastal Region

Rob Last reports, “Temperatures in the area dropped to 23F as a low with 20% humidity with wind speeds 15 to 20 mph. The freezing temperatures started by 9pm and lasted until mid-morning Sunday. As far as last night goes the overnight lows hit 29F with much higher humidity and lower wind speeds. Damage assessments will begin this week.”

Zack Snipes reports, “Only time will tell the extent of the wind and cold we had this past weekend.  We had 26 F on one station on the coast this weekend. The extended period of time below 32 F is really going to hurt us. The wind gusts may have done more damage than the cold. We hit 50 mph gusts, which ripped off row covers on strawberries, ripped up plastic in the field and on greenhouses. Overall, I think the strawberry crop pulled through fine where folks used and kept row covers down. Blueberries got hit hard. The rabbiteyes were in full bloom and the highbush had lots of berries on them. I expect 50% losses or more in highbush and more than that in rabbiteye varieties. It is imperative that we do a good job cleaning up with sanitation and using both protective and systemic fungicides after this cold and wind. Remember that Georgia and Florida were both impacted by this weather too. They will get the first shot at transplants so I am expecting plant shortages for our growers.”

Row covers in the tree-tops after 50 mph wind gusts. (Z. Snipes)
Rabbiteye blueberries were in peak bloom and are not looking good for this season’s crop. (Z. Snipes)

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “The temperature in Lexington early Sunday morning got down to 23.9 degrees (according to our weather station). Row covers haven’t been removed from strawberry fields yet, so we don’t yet have a full understanding of how they weathered the cold. Theoretically, 1.2 oz covers should have minimized damage. Another weather station just east of Newberry read 19.4 degrees Sunday morning, so we do expect to see some damage in that area. Young brassica transplants suffered some damage to their older leaves, but for now, the growing points appear to be alive. We’ll know more in a couple days, but we’re optimistic they’ll be able to grow out. Mustard and turnips also have some damaged leaves, but again, the growing points appear to be alive, so we are hopeful here also.”

Growers did a good job of anchoring the edges of their row covers. This was necessary as Saturday was extremely windy. (J. Ballew)
Young brassica transplants like this cabbage suffered cold damage to the older leaves. As of Monday morning, the growing points appear to be alive, so hopefully, they will be able to grow out of the damage. (J. Ballew)

Pee Dee

Bruce McLean reports, “‘Well, that didn’t take long.’ was the comment from one of the blueberry growers on a text/picture sent to me. It showed damage to existing eraser-sized fruit, pad fruit, and leaves. This damage was observed only hours after the temperature had started to rise on Sunday morning. Many growers chose not to frost protect for the freeze event due to very windy conditions overnight. Those gusty conditions subsided early Sunday morning (around 1-3 am) allowing the temperature to continue to drop and frost to develop. About all of the Pee Dee experienced temperatures in the mid to low twenties. The lowest temperature I have heard of was 22 degrees in the Loris area, but I am sure lower temps were probably observed. Freeze events, like this, are extremely difficult to protect against. Often, running overhead freeze protection leads to worse damage than not protecting at all. In contrast, the localized freeze that occurred Sunday night/Monday morning was much more conducive to having ideal freeze protection. Unfortunately, blueberry growers have experienced these conditions more over the last few years. For all growers, it may take a few days for cold injury to fully reveal itself. Special attention in the way of a fungicide application (to guard against fungal development) and some hand labor may be required. In other news… strawberry growers, be on the lookout for increased fungal activity due to the increase in moisture. Botrytis has really started to show up this past week. Leaf spot is on the rise, too. Be sure to remove any cold-damaged flowers and tissue, and any infected tissue. Also, fungicides targeted for Botrytis are likely needed. Getting a handle on Botrytis early in the season will pay off on maximizing fruit quality and pack-out come harvest season.”

Damage to the eraser-sized fruit, pad fruit, and leaves was evident shortly after temperatures began to rise Sunday morning. (B. McLean)

Upstate

Kerrie Roach reports, “The effect of the past weekend’s freeze event will not be fully known for a while yet. At one of the weather stations in Long Creek, SC, it was below freezing for about 20hrs, and below 25 degrees F for about 12hrs. As far as apples are concerned, we did have some early varieties like Mutsu in ‘tight cluster’ stage at some orchards, but most of the crops were in ‘half-inch green’ or earlier. There will definitely be damage from the cold temperatures, but it’s unknown if it will be a thinning of varieties or loss. I would be confident in saying that any of our peaches that were in bloom are a loss. Mid and late-season varieties should be ok, but again we will not know the damages until a week or so. The biggest thing for us in the Upstate is that it’s still March, we still have over a month to go before we’re in the clear of potential frost/freeze events.”

Mutsu apple tree with buds in ‘tight cluster’ before the freeze event. (K. Roach)

Andy Rollins reports, “Farms spent last week preparing for the freeze event.  Winds came in earlier than expected with near-freezing temperatures at 5pm Saturday, March 12th.  Winds were still so high that growers chose not to turn on sprinklers. Strawberry growers were advised to put on every row cover they had and make sure they were secure. This farm has them weighted down almost every step all the way around the field. We still suffered some damage under the cover as temperatures dropped to 20f covers only held us at 26f. Some peach farms ran wind machines. We started around 11:30pm while others started earlier at 10pm. As soon as the sun dropped, temperatures dropped and winds slowed earlier than predicted. Blooms from those fields do look better than those not protected but temperatures were so low, we’re not sure how much damage was done yet.  I will be looking at other crops this week to assess damage.”

Row covers over strawberries had to be weighted down well to keep them from blowing around in the wind. (A. Rollins)
Temperatures dropped quickly once the sun went down and wind machines were used in some peach orchards to keep air circulating. (A. Rollins)

Question of the Week

For this week’s question, take a look at the photo below. What is growing on the branch of this cedar tree?

Answer in the comments below and check back on Thursday to see the answer.

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