Weekly Field Update – 2/13/23

We have lots of fruit and vegetable meetings coming up over the next couple of months, so check out the Upcoming Events tab for the complete lineup. This week, we have a Drip Irrigation Workshop on 2/17 at the Edisto REC.

Don’t forget to look at our Resources tab for links to crop handbooks, helpful websites, and related blogs. Also, check out the latest episode of the SC Grower Exchange Podcast.

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.


Tom Bilbo reports, “When scouting strawberry fields for spider mites, also keep an eye out for naturally occurring predatory mites, such as the [potentially] highly effective specialist predator Phytoseilus persimilis (see picture). Sampling conducted in spring 2022 across Lowcountry strawberry farms detected this predator in all 6 fields sampled, however in most cases, they appeared ‘too little, too late’ to suppress spider mites in a timely matter. Purchasing and releasing predatory mites can be a very effective approach, but most research to date has been conducted in the large strawberry systems of CA and FL. This spring, I am initiating research on how to release predators in SC strawberry fields to determine an approach that is both effective and economical. Whether predatory mites are naturally occurring and/or released into fields, the single most important factor in their success is the use of compatible insecticides. Pyrethroid insecticides (IRAC group 3) are highly toxic to predatory mites and are virtually guaranteed to kill them in your field. If needed, apply instead any number of the much more selective acaricides available that have been shown to be compatible with predatory mites, including the active ingredients bifenazate (Acramite), cyflumetofen (Nealta), and abamectin (Agri-Mek). Once the research is conducted for SC strawberries, I will write a separate post outlining specifically how to utilize predatory mites. Until then, you can find more info on predatory mites here from my research in NC tomatoes.

Several predatory mites (P. persimilis, red arrow) on a strawberry leaf covered in twospotted spider mites (black arrow) and their eggs. (T. Bilbo)

Matt Cutulle reports, “It is Valentine’s day week, which to a weed scientist means crabgrass is going to germinate in the Lowcountry and Midlands. This is a good time to get out your burn down herbicides and conduct the stale seed bed technique.”

Coastal Region

Rob Last reports, “The Lowcountry has had another warm week with some additional rainfall. Foliar diseases are evident in strawberries with low insect pressure. As we move further into February, our thoughts are turning to fertigation. When we start fertigating, we are approximately six weeks away from the harvestable crop. Typically, 5.25 lbs of N and K should be applied when fertilization begins in the first week. Further refinements can be made following the results from tissue sampling to dial in the required nutrient levels. If you are unsure how much fertilizer to apply, check out the Clemson drip fertigation calculator. The calculator is a great tool to help accurately apply fertilizer. Now is also an excellent time to apply boron to strawberry crops. We are looking to apply 1/8 lb (2 oz) of actual boron per acre, which equates to using  11 oz per acre of a 20.5% Boron product. This will help to prevent bullnose fruit.”

This instructional video show how to use the Clemson Drip Fertigation Calculator.

Zack Snipes reports, “Its wet. Strawberries are coming along and some growers are starting to protect blooms. Remember that once we cover plants, we are making a commitment to begin the season. That might mean many nights of putting row covers on and then taking them off. One grower estimates that putting covers on and taking them off costs about $400 each time this happens. This also means we must stay on top of keeping plants healthy by sanitizing dead or diseased tissue and preventively spraying our fungicides. The time it takes from a flower to fruit is about 35 days. I am getting a lot of questions about covering or not covering. Ask yourself, do you want to be open and picking berries 35 days from now? Another chore we should be doing as fields dry out is putting out an application of boron to help flowers develop properly and prevent ugly-looking fruit.”

Boron is essential for flower development and healthy, pretty-looking fruit. Boron is a great herbicide if excessive rates are used so be careful not to overdose. (Z. Snipes)


Justin Ballew reports, “We got around 2.5 inches of rain around the Midlands over the weekend. According to our weather station in Lexington, we’ve already received almost 12 inches of rain in 2023. We’ve had a few frosts in low lying areas, but for the most part the weather has been mild. I’m predicting we will be picking a few strawberries by the 2nd to 3rd week of March. We’re still seeing a fair amount of leaf spot on some farms. Be sure to send samples to the disease lab so we can see if is is Gnomonia leaf spot or the newer Neopestalotiopsis. Sanitizing these diseased leaves will be important as we move into bloom.”

A lesion on a strawberry leaf from either Gnomonia leaf spot or Neopestalotiopsis. When you find this, send it to the disease lab to determine which disease is present. (J. Ballew)

Sarah Scott reports, “The Ridge area received, on average, between 2 and 2.5 inches of rainfall last week. Field conditions are still pretty muddy, which makes work a bit slower. Peach trees are still being planted, and pruning continues. We are a little behind this on year’s chill hour accumulation, not at 800. Trees with an 800 chill requirement and above could have a reduced crop. One thing growers can do is put off pruning these varieties as long as possible, especially inner portions of the tree that would be more protected in a late freeze event. If we wait to prune, we can get a better idea of crop size and avoid pruning off potential fruit buds. Warm temperatures in the forecast are going to really encourage movement on the buds, and we are likely done accumulating any chill this season.”

Carored is an early season variety requiring around 650 chill hours. Buds are moving. (S. Scott)

Pee Dee

Bruce McLean reports, “Wet… that is my comment today for the conditions around the Pee Dee. The region got a good soaking this weekend, with some areas getting over 3” of rain. This, combined with pretty moist soil conditions from recent rains, has caused some water to pond in some fields. If you have water standing, do what you can to move the water off of your fields and keep a close eye on your crop. Excess moisture can lead to root rot issues. Corrective measures to treat root rot may be necessary. Heavy rainfall can also create erosion issues or soil crusting issues (when the soil begins to dry out). Light cultivation may be needed to re-bed rows and break up surface crusting, but be sure to wait until the soil dries enough to be able to run a tractor back through the field. Working the soil while it is still wet can cause more problems than it’s worth. Strawberries are showing a good bit of fungal leaf spot, as of late. Be sure to step up your fungicide spray program during periods of favorable (disease) weather… like we are having (rainy, moist, mild conditions). If you see anything that looks unusual or something that doesn’t look like it is responding well to your fungicide applications, be sure to reach out to your local Extension Agent. Also, if you haven’t already, go ahead and try to secure your seed for this year. It sounds like seed quantities are low on certain crops and varieties. Right now, fertilizer availability is good, and prices may be a little less than last year.”


Andy Rollins reports, “In the upstate, we are seeing some movement in peach varieties. The picture below shows some bloom in the unusual low chill variety, Gulfking. This marks the beginning of bloom, and caution for oil use is recommended. For this reason, we need to consider reducing our mineral oil percentages from 2-4% for dormant trees to 1-1.5% for partially dormant trees (SE Peach Spray Guide). Even before bloom, if varieties have buds that have swollen, you need to reduce those concentrations. Diazinon is one example of an insecticide that can be mixed with oil, but several others exist. Diazinon is an organophosphate similar to Lorsban, which is no longer available. Some labeled versions only go up to 1 1/2 pints per acre rate. Refer to the guide linked above for other options. Strawberry growers need to be careful about leaving covers on too long. One Upstate grower left theirs on way too long, and now has entire field is in full bloom. It is a little early for that here. Growers with especially small plants will want to consider beginning fertilization injections. Phytophthora has been found on many farms and has been treated already. If you are one of those, you may want to consider applying again if plants are still in an uneven growth pattern.  Orondis gold and Ridomil would be excellent choices.”

Low chill peach variety Gulfking has begun to bloom. (A. Rollins)

Question of the Week

For this week’s questions, take a look at the images below. What has been feeding on this neglected Napa cabbage? Hint: It’s not diamondback moth.

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

2 responses to “Weekly Field Update – 2/13/23”

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