Tony Melton Retires After Long Career with Clemson

Long-time Horticulture Agent Tony Melton retired earlier this month, finishing out a 40-year career with Clemson University. Tony is best known for his passion for working with fruit and vegetable growers in the Pee Dee Region, as well as his frequent appearances on SCETV’s Making It Grow.

Tony first began his career with Clemson University in 1980 in the Horticulture Department before earning his Master’s degree in Horticulture and becoming an Extension Agent in 1989. He attributes his passion for horticulture to the time he spent working with the McLeod family of McBee, SC in his teens. To honor his dedication, the McLeods later created and funded a Clemson University scholarship in Tony’s name.

In addition to his work with the farming community, Tony worked closely with the Master Gardeners in the Pee Dee and wrote weekly articles for the Florence Morning News. He was also involved in fruit and vegetable research, managing 20 acres of research plots at the Pee Dee Research and Educations Center in Darlington. As part of this work, Tony was recently awarded a Specialty Crop Block Grant to develop heat tolerant butter beans.

Throughout his career, Tony has earned numerous awards including the Distinguished Public Service Award from the Clemson Alumni Association, the County Agent of the Year from the SC Beekeeper Association, and the Distinguished Service Award from the SC Association of County Agricultural Agents.

Tony is well respected by his peers and is known for his love of work and staying busy. He’s even been known to show up on farms before the sun comes up. His kind-hearted personality and vast knowledge will be greatly missed as we all wish Tony well in this next chapter. Thanks for everything you’ve done and the impact you’ve made, Tony!

Weekly Field Update – 7/19/21

Statewide

Dr. Tony Keinath’s remarks on fungicide stewardship:

Growers who are applying newer fungicides that are pre-mixes of two active ingredients do not need to add another fungicide to the tank mix. Pre-mixes can easily be identified by the two FRAC Codes on the label in the top right corner. Please consider the following points:

Quadris Top contains two fungicides: a group 11 and a group 3.
  • Many newer fungicides are sold as pre-mixes to reduce the risks of fungicide resistance in fungal and water mold pathogens. Mixing two active ingredients often is a way to prevent or slow resistance development, as long as both active ingredients work against the same disease.
  • Sometimes two active ingredients are mixed to expand the range of diseases controlled. For example, Quadris Top controls both anthracnose (the Quadris part) and gummy stem blight (the “Top” part, which is Inspire).
  • Mixing more than 2 pesticides, whether they are 3 fungicides or 2 fungicides plus an insecticide, increases the risk of pesticide injury (burn). Risks may be greater if a spreader-sticker is added, or when air temperatures are above 90 F.
  • Adding another fungicide to a pre-mix fungicide increases fungicide costs, often without increasing disease control.

Growers should contact their Extension agent before adding another fungicide, even a protectant, to a pre-mix fungicide to be sure it’s really necessary.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “Not much has changed in the midlands over the last week. We’ve received some scattered rain and it has been warm and humid. As a result, we are still seeing disease issues. We’re still picking tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet corn, and a few greens. We’re at an in-between stage in several fields where the spring crops have been finished and folks are preparing to plant fall crops. Some have already started fall cucurbit plantings. For anyone planting strawberries this fall, if you are still deciding which varieties to try, take a look at the NCSU’s 2020/2021 variety comparison data (pages 9 and 10).

Disease development like this anthracnose of watermelon is still being favored by the weather. Photo from Justin Ballew

Pee Dee

Bruce McLean reports, “Vegetable crops are looking pretty good across the Pee Dee. Fields that have received rain or are irrigated look very good. Fields that have missed the rain are a bit drought-stressed. Sweet corn, peas, butterbeans, tomatoes, squash, watermelons, cantaloupes, and cucumbers are all being harvested in good volume. Okra is just beginning to be harvested well. Growers are still fighting cucurbit downy mildew (CDM) on cucumbers. Fields that have been sprayed with fungicides for CDM (Orondis Opti, Gavel, Ranman, and Omega) are relatively clean and producing well. Fields that have not received those products are in severe decline. Cowpea curculio is still being a challenge. Some growers have asked about adding PBO8 (Piperonyl Butoxide) synergist to their insecticide application. Research has shown some efficacy, so it does help. But, it is not the silver bullet that everyone is looking for. There really is no alternative to having a robust spray program, spraying every three to five days starting prior to bloom.

Many varieties of blueberries have already finished up, with only mid-late and late rabbiteye blueberries going now. Blackberries have finished up, as well. Summer primocane tipping and floricane removal has begun. Be sure to apply a broad-based fungicide to all open wounds/pruning cuts to prevent disease development (I.e. cane blight, etc). Muscadines are sizing up pretty well. Grape root borer traps have been placed in vineyards, but no moths captured yet.

Upstate

Kerrie Roach reports, “Things in the Upstate were a little wet the last few days and it looks like showers will continue into the middle part of the week at least. Continue preventative measures for disease control and if/when a plant seems too far involved, remove and dispose of the entire plant to prevent further spread. Squash vine borer has been one of the continued problems in market garden production in the last 2 weeks. At this late point in the season and lifecycle, monitor plants closely and as soon as frass is seen, carefully cut the stem longitudinally and remove/kill the larval stage of the borer. You can mound soil on the cut part of the stem to help encourage new root growth. If done early enough, plants can continue to thrive despite the slice in the stem. New plantings of cucurbits set out in the last week or so should mature after the adults have finished laying eggs, but monitor closely for any wilting. Crop rotation, row covers, traps (yellow bowl of water), and pesticide applications can also be used as a part of a good IPM program. Check out the crop handbook for more specifics. 

Organic Upstate vegetable production. Photo from Kerrie Roach.

Andy Rollins reports, “We are having thrips issues on 3 crops peaches, pepper and cucumber. Thrips as seen in the picture cause surface damage to the outside make it aesthetically less appealing and marketable. On pepper they damage the leaves and can transmit viruses to the plant (on cucumber also). They are much worse in greenhouse and high-tunnel settings.  I have been recently concerned about presence of chili thrips and I am waiting on definite identification. This is a good website about this new pest. I also found a rare disease called foot rot of squash in the upstate. It was identified by Dr. Tony Keinath. Rotation is very important with all of our vegetable crops. We are picking some excellent quality peaches in the upstate. Cold damage has limited our wholesale picking.”

Thrips injury to peaches. Photo from Andy Rollins.
Fusarium foot rot of squash. Photo from Andy Rollins.

Weekly Field Update – 7/12/21

Coastal

Rob Last reports, “Crops are generally coming to market with good quality from cucurbits through corn, tomatoes and peppers. Be on your guard for foliar diseases, given the temperatures and humidity there are a large number of diseases present from anthracnose, powdery and downy mildew, and alternaria. Fungicide applications will help.to manage diseases applied in a timely manner.”

Zack Snipes reports, “The tropical storm brought some wind and heavy rain in some parts of the Lowcountry. We received 3.86 inches at the CREC in Charleston. Most fields have dried out and things are back to normal. I have seen an increase in bacterial spot on tomato and a rise in the spider mite population. Remember that using pyrethroids (group 3 insecticides) (Brigade, Bifen, Karate, Warrior, Tombstone, Mustang Maxx, etc.) will kill spider mites but will also kill all beneficial insects. In most cases, spider mite numbers are higher 5-7 days after a pyrethroid spray than they were before. There is also resistance to some pyrethroids in spider mite populations. Bottom line…don’t use pyrethroids to control spider mites. We have plenty of registered, spider mite specific products in our tool box.

A spike in spider mite numbers can be seen when pyrethroids are used. Choose wisely. Photo from Zack Snipes.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “Tropical Storm Elsa came through the midlands in the early morning hours Thursday and brought 1.3 inches of rain (at my house) with it. Disease is still the big story here in the midlands. It’s been very warm and humid and we’re still seeing plenty of downy mildew, powdery mildew, anthracnose, and bacterial spot. For anyone planting strawberries this fall, now is the time to start soil sampling. Some folks held onto their strawberries well into June this year. If that was you and you plan to replant the same fields this fall, start removing plastic and discing ASAP to destroy the crop residue.”

Plenty of disease such as powdery mildew of cucurbits here in the midlands. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Weekly Field Update – 7/6/21

Statewide

Dr. Tony Keinath reports, “Basil downy mildew was found in mid-June in Charleston. Symptoms start as faint yellowing of leaves, which eventually show brown spots surrounded by yellow areas. To see the spores, look on the bottom of a symptomatic leaf. Sometimes it helps to hold the leaf up to a light source (but don’t look directly into the sun). Seeing spores is useful to rule out nutrient deficiency or sunburn on leaves. Growers who use conventional fungicides should rotate two of these three labeled fungicides: Revus, Presidio, or Ranman. See page 203 of the 2021 Southeastern U.S. Vegetable Crop Handbook. Potassium phosphite products can be used as a preventative and by home gardeners. I do not know of any cultivars that truly are resistant or any organic biopesticides that are effective. Once downy mildew spores arrive in South Carolina, the disease will be present until frost kills the basil host.”

Basil downy mildew symptoms on the upper side of the leaves. Photo from Dr. Tony Keinath.
Basil downy mildew spores developing on the underside of a leaf. Photo from Dr. Tony Keinath.

Coastal

Zack Snipes reports, “Crops are still looking good coming off. Typically July 4th week is our busiest week in the field. One thing I saw this past week in some melon fields was crown decline. Crown decline is characterized by a yellowing of the crown leaves which makes the plant look weak overall. The disease can be mistaken for a nutrient deficiency. This disease is important to diagnose because yields can be reduced and fruit quality can be impaired at the middle to end of the season which can impact your bottom line. Read up on this disease and management options here. I am seeing some gummy stem blight and anthracnose in watermelon right now as well. Get your fungicides out before the tropical storm this week.

Crown decline appears late in the season and can be confused with a nutrient deficiency. Photo from Zack Snipes.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “Things are progressing well in the midlands. Temperatures have been pretty mild and we saw about half an inch of rain at my house Thursday afternoon. It looks like Tropical Storm Elsa will be coming through Thursday, so plant diseases will continue to be our major issue for at least a little while longer. I’ve been seeing plenty of downy mildew, powdery mildew, anthracnose, and bacterial spot over the last week. Japanese beetle numbers are pretty high right now also.”

Japanese beetles feeding on developing muscadines. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Pee Dee

Tony Melton reports, “Sweetpotato vines are covering the beds. We’re starting to harvest processing tomatoes. We’re planting fall butterbeans and peas and picking processing peppers for the second time.”

Weekly Field Update – 6/28/21

Coastal

Rob Last reports, “Peaches and blackberries are coming to harvest with good quality and volumes.  As yet we are not seeing any issues with spotted winged drosophila. Vigilance will be required as this pest can be troublesome in blackberries. Watermelons and cantaloupes are coming off well. However we are seeing cucurbit downy mildew in watermelons. Spray programs will need to be robust through to the end of harvest to manage the disease. The disease is characterized by brown or yellow spots on the leaves with a Grey’s purple sporulation on the underside of the leaves. Anthracnose is also starting to show up as angular lesions on the stems, leaves and fruit in some fields. Tomatoes and peppers are looking good with some anthracnose fruit rot being seen. There are active spider mites too in some crops. Vigilance and scouting is the order of the day to keep on top of disease and pest issues.”

Zack Snipes reports, “Everything from arugula to zucchini is coming in right now in the Lowcountry.  This next week is usually one of the busiest weeks for us as July 4th approaches. Cucurbit crops are starting to look rough after multiple pickings, disease pressures, and lots of rain.  The tomato crop and watermelon crops are coming off nicely.  I am seeing a good bit of blossom end rot and sunscald in pepper.  Blossom end rot is a calcium deficiency that is usually seen when we have uneven soil moisture levels.  When its hot and there is a heavy crop load, you may need to water more than you think.  In our sandy soils, more frequent, shorter irrigation cycles (45 minutes or so) is better than letting irrigation systems run all night. Sunscald is common when there is poor canopy coverage in the pepper allowing the sun to directly shine on the pepper.  This is usually a result of a root rot or poor fertilization which inhibits a good leaf canopy to develop.” 

Massive blackberries are coming in right now. Photo from Zack Snipes.
Sunscald symptoms on bell pepper. Photo from Zack Snipes.

Pee Dee

Tony Melton reports, “Picking peppers and tomatoes hard. Using a lot of sun protection products on crops. Thrips are really bad on peaches losing about 1/3 of #1s.  Weeds are bad because of all the rain we had when we should have been plowing – especially pickles and sweetpotatoes. Butterbeans and peas are in fair abundance.”

Bruce McLean reports, “Vegetable crops have been growing well, as of late. Sweet corn, peas, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, snap beans and zucchini are all being harvested in good volumes. There have been a couple of tomato fields where Southern Blight was seen pretty widespread across the field. Cucurbit Downy Mildew (CDM) is widespread across the Pee Dee, as well as Cowpea Curculio. Growers that are spraying more targeted (management) fungicides for CDM (like Orondis Opti, Gavel, and Ranman) are controlling the disease much better than those applying preventative sprays like Bravo and mancozeb. Seems like everyone is having trouble controlling the Cowpea Curculio, though. Watermelon, cantaloupe and okra should be ready for harvest in about a week. Blueberries are still going pretty strong with good volumes and quality. Blackberries are winding down. Muscadines are coming along, but the crop looks like it may be a bit short this year.”

Cowpea Curculio found feeding inside the shell. Not a sight that the grower wants to see, nor the consumer. Photo from Bruce McLean.
Cowpea Curculio damage is extensive even with 5-day spray intervals. Photo from Bruce McLean.

Upstate

Kerrie Roach reports, “Strawberries are finished and blueberries are king in the upstate. Weather in the region has be varied, and irrigation is key to smaller market producers right now. Spotty showers across the area have left hit & miss spots that may need supplementation. Summer pruning is on the horizon for apple producers… more info to come on a meeting in July.”

Statewide

Dr. Keinath reports, “Cucumber growers should consider adding Presidio back into their fungicide rotations to manage downy mildew. Isolates of downy mildew in Charleston were sensitive to Presidio in 2018, 2019, 2020, and again in 2021. In spring and fall 2020, susceptible slicing cucumber cultivar, Speedway, sprayed with a weekly rotation of Presidio and Bravo had the lowest diseased leaf area and yielded 2.6 times more than nonsprayed cucumbers. Profits were about $3600/acre with Presidio/Bravo compared to $1000/acre with no fungicide calculated after all production costs were accounted. The same efficacy was seen again in spring 2021. It is risky to rely only on two fungicides, Ranman and Orondis Opti, to manage cucumber downy mildew. Adding another fungicide to the rotation will reduce the likelihood that cucurbit downy mildew will become resistant to Ranman or to Orondis.”

Non-sprayed cucumber, June 2020. Photo from Dr. Tony Keinath.
Cucumbers sprayed with Presidio/Bravo, June 2020. Photo from Dr. Tony Keinath.

Weekly Field Update – 6/21/21

Coastal

Rob Last reports, “Given the rainfall and humidity levels, we are seeing increases in foliar and fruit diseases on a range of crops. This includes cottony leak in cucumbers, anthracnose in pepper, tomatoes, and cucurbits. Also, please be aware cucurbit downy mildew is very active now. As a result, it is going to be really important to maintain fungicide programs in both a timely manner and to be robust. That being said, we have some great quality melons, both cantaloupe and watermelons, coming to harvest, as well as good volumes of quality peaches, blackberries, and a host of other vegetable crops.”

Zack Snipes reports, “We had some heavy downpours this past week which has beat some crops up. Hopefully everyone got their fungicides out ahead of the rain. The CREC hosted their annual Field Day last week. A special thanks to all that attended. I learned a good bit about herbicide carryover damage and direct herbicide damage from Dr. Matt Cutulle. I think the cool weather this spring made our plants and herbicides have some unusual reactions.”

Plant specimens showing herbicide carryover damage at the CREC Field Day. Photo from Zack Snipes.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “After a pretty dry week, Tropical Depression Claudette came through over the weekend and dropped a lot of rain (a little over 3 inches at my house). More rain is forecast for this week, so again, be sure to stay on top of fungicide sprays. This past week we started seeing bacterial spot on tomatoes, anthracnose fruit rot on peppers, and Southern blight remains active on several crops. We’re getting close to the end for the spring brassica crops. Tomatoes, squash, zucchini are being harvested and sweet corn will be coming soon.”

Anthracnose fruit rot on bell pepper. Photo from Justin Ballew

Pee Dee

Tony Melton reports, “Thank goodness the rain was not as heavy as predicted for the tropical storm. We are fighting belly rot and downy mildew on pickles with all the possible controls. Hard to get sweet potatoes laid-by and fertilized with the wet conditions. Snap beans are doing and yielding well but processors are having trouble keeping up because of labor problems. Bad thrips problems on peaches losing 1/3 of #1 yield.”

Upstate

Kerrie Roach reports, “Things are looking pretty good in the ‘golden corner’ area. Heavy rains over the weekend have caused some ponding and erosion, but nothing major. Disease pressure continues to be high with the perfect conditions (humid and warm), so growers should continue to practice preventative control methods. Insect pressure has still been considerably low for this time of year, but we’ve seen a subtle increase in populations in the last 2 weeks. Monitoring is extremely important for management strategies to be successful, in general nymphs or the juvenile form of most insects are much easier to manage than adults. Strawberries are just about done, with most growers doing some final pickings this week.”

Grapes are coming along nicely this season. Photo from Kerrie Roach.

Andy Rollins reports, “Phytophthora can be a devastating disease of Pepper. We have suffered extreme losses on one farm. The worst fields had been planted for 2nd year in pepper which is not recommended. Rotation is highly encouraged. Grower had treated with Ridomil twice and used phosphite repeatedly. It is believed there is resistance in this field to Ridomil, but testing hasn’t been completed yet. Dr. Tony Keinath has a complete description of this disease and control options in this article. We are mostly finished with strawberries at this point and preparing for next year. We are picking some peaches in the upstate although picking is very light do to extreme cold damage from April 3rd.  We are picking some tomatoes in high tunnels. Early blueberry crop was observed last week but picking is very light there also.”

Wilted pepper plants due to phytophthora. Photo from Andy Rollins.
Discolored vascular tissue in pepper stem from phytophthora. Photo from Andy Rollins

Weekly Field Update – 6/14/21

The Coastal Research and Education Center Field Day is coming up this Thursday, June 17 beginning at 8:30. You must have registered to attend this year.

Coastal

Zack Snipes reports, “We received some welcomed rain but 5+ inches in a day or so was a bit much. Conditions this week will dry things out. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get out fungicides once you can get in the fields. I saw a few squash fields going downhill last week. Upon closer examination, I found thousands of squash bugs. They tend to congregate on the crown of the plant and will hide under the plastic when you look for them. 

Squash bugs can quickly take down a healthy squash crop. Photo from Zack Snipes.
Multiple life stages of the squash bug seen on this plant. Photo from Zack Snipes.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “More rain fell in the midlands this past week. We’re up to a little over 4 inches of rain at my house for the month of June, more than March and April combined. Some places have received much more. Crops have been loving the rain, but it does come with a cost. As expected, we’ve seen diseases pop up here and there. We’ve seen some Southern blight and bacterial wilt in tomato fields, fusarium in watermelons, and more black rot in brassicas. Weeds are loving the moisture as well. Keep up with fungicide applications, as diseases can get out of hand in a hurry in these conditions.

Southern blight developing at the base of a tomato plant. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Pee Dee

Bruce McLean reports, “Vegetable crops are growing well. Sweet corn, squash, cucumbers are being harvested in good volumes. Downy mildew was observed in a smaller planting of cucumbers. Powdery mildew was seen on a smaller planting of squash. Tomato harvest is just beginning. Blossom end rot has been an issue on some early tomatoes. This can be contributed to environmental stresses to the plants (high UV, extremely low humidity, high air temps) from a couple of weeks ago. Blueberries are being harvested in good volumes. The quality of the blueberries is good (for the most part), but a bit undersized. Blackberries are looking good, but botrytis (gray mold) is likely right around the corner. Muscadines are looking good in most locations. Even with the frequent rains, calyptra release has been good. Thrips activity has been low so far. Some early-season ALS (Angular leaf spot) is starting to show. Rally is a good product to control ALS. Some fields are getting a bit wet, limiting equipment and harvest activity in the field.

Placing a sheet of paper underneath the cordon of your muscadine vine and bumping the vine with your fist gives you a good opportunity to look at calyptra release, early fruit drop and thrips activity. Photo from Bruce McLean.
Japanese beetle activity in muscadines looks worse than it actually is. Japanese beetles are foliage feeders… and muscadines have more than enough foliage to spare. Japanese beetle typically are only a concern on newly planted vines. Photo from Bruce McLean.

Tony Melton reports, “Peppers and tomatoes are rotting at bottom of the plants from too much rain. Belly rot and Pythium leak is bad on cucumbers. Pickleworm is here and needs to be controlled. Southern stem blight is getting bad on tomatoes. Peas that are flowering need to be sprayed for cowpea curculio. Lots of potassium phosphide, metalaxyl, and mefenoxam are being used to keep down rots. Started side dressing, laying by, applying bifenthrin, and boron to sweet potatoes.”

Upstate

Andy Rollins reports, “Bacterial canker of peach is much worse this year in the upstate. This disease is caused by a Pseudomonas sp. that is different than the bacteria that causes bacterial spot (Xanthomonas sp.). It is common in younger plantings, 3 to 6 years old. A common tell is dead blooms that remain on the tree. This is one of many sites where the bacteria will invade the plant. Fall pruning is a huge mistake as it creates even larger openings for bacteria to enter. This disease can be part of a disease complex (Peach tree short life) or can act independently. The presence of ring nematode would contribute in this case. Cold damage from southwest injury to the trunks is very common and also provides entry. Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done to remedy this problem after being found. Trying to limit the above mistakes is helpful and some research has shown positive results from painting pruning wounds. Other Rutgers research recommended early winter copper applications for bacterial canker in cherry.

A young peach tree suffering from bacterial canker. Photo from Andy Rollins.
Bacterial canker can significantly reduce the life of peach trees. Photo from Andy Rollins.

Weekly Field Update – 6/7/21

The Coastal Research and Education Center Field Day is coming up on June 17 beginning at 8:30. You must register to attend this year. Registration may be found here.

Statewide

Dr. Matt Cutulle reports, “The coastal rain events of  the past week resulted in a lot of weeds popping up. For fields not planted yet this is a perfect opportunity to burn down  the flush of weeds to reduce the weed seed bank in the field.”

Coastal

Rob Last reports, “After some welcome rain in the area over the weekend, crops are looking good. However, given the humidity and rainfall, we are likely to find disease pressure increasing. Strawberries are all over. The wet humid conditions have spiked infections of botrytis and water soaked berries. Blueberries, blackberries and peaches are all coming to market with good quality and volumes with few insect or disease pressures being seen currently. Watermelons and cantaloupes are developing well with some early planted crops coming to harvest. In response to rainfall and increased humidity, keep an eye out for diseases such as bacterial spot in pepper and tomatoes. In addition, some cantaloupe crops are beginning to show Alternaria leaf spot. Make sure fungicide timings are good using a robust program.”

Zack Snipes reports, “We finally got a little bit of rain last week which knocked the dust down some. We could use more and hopefully we will get some this week. Incidence of Southern blight increased last week in tomato. Make note of these fields and avoid planting them in tomato, eggplant, pepper, squash, or melons next season. Overall, the crops look solid. We are in the thick of things when it comes to tomato harvest and rabbiteye blueberry harvest is starting this week as well. We have really humid and wet conditions coming this week so don’t forget to use protectant fungicides. I know everyone is busy, but during the busy season is when most of our insect and disease pressure spiral out of control.”

Classic signs of Southern Blight on tomato. Knowing the difference in Southern Blight and Bacterial Wilt is critical to management. Photo from Zack Snipes.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “We finally got some significant rain in the midlands this past week. I’m up to 1.8 inches at my house and there is a good chance in the forecast for more. It has been warm, overcast, and very humid the last several days, which is the perfect recipe for disease development. Make sure you are using preventative fungicide where necessary. Insects seem to be picking up a bit as well. Caterpillars are going strong, we’re still seeing plenty of mites on various crops, and I’m getting reports of stink bugs here and there. We’re harvesting brassicas, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and herbs.”

Tobacco hornworm egg on a tomato leaf. Hornworms start out small, but eat significant amounts of foliage as they grow. Photo from Justin Ballew.
Two adult diamondback moths making more diamondback moths. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Sarah Scott reports, “Much needed rain has occurred throughout the area this week with more predicted. With rain may come an increase in disease cases, growers should be aware of brown rot as it has been seen in several orchards this week. Removing fruit mummies and diseased fruit if possible can remove some inoculum from the field and limit future spread. Bacterial spot still isn’t being seen on a widespread basis, but again, after the moisture moving in for the extended forecast, growers should keep an eye out. Strawberries are wrapping up with some harvest still happening. Peppers and eggplants are progressing nicely and will also benefit greatly from some rain.”

Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs can be a problem for peach growers as they are hard to treat especially for organic growers. Entomologist Dr. Brett Blauuw will discuss these pesky pests on an upcoming podcast episode. November2019Newsletter.pdf (uga.edu). Photo from Sarah Scott.
Brown Rot on peach. The diseased fruit, most likely infected during blossom, did not fully develop and size and is now an inoculum source for disease in the field. Samples of diseased fruit can be sent in for fungicide resistance profiling to help growers better manage for this disease in the future. Contact your extension agent for details. Photo from Sarah Scott.

Pee Dee

Tony Melton reports, “1 pickle worm was found in a local squash. Processing and fresh market peppers will be ready to harvest on the week of June 13. Early tomatoes are just beginning to ripen. The rains have been mostly very beneficial but some spots have had excessive. Mudding through to pick pickles in spots. Very difficult to apply timely application of chemicals and some have to be reapplied after rains.”

Upstate

Kerrie Roach, “Things are looking good in the Upstate with warm season crops starting to come off. It’s still early for too many disease and insect issues, but high humidity and a couple days of spotty rain will most likely increase pressure significantly.”

Squash are beginning to set fruit in the Upstate. Photo from Kerrie Roach.

Weekly Field Update – 6/1/21

Coastal

Rob Last reports, “On the whole disease pressure in most crops remains low. The exception is cucurbits where we are finding powdery mildew in cucumbers as well as downy mildew. Cucurbit bacterial wilt has been found in isolated fields. This disease is characterized by wilting of one vine or the whole plant. Once cut the stem will ooze a sticky sap from the wound. It is transmitted by the feeding activities of cucumber beetles. Strawberries are beginning to slow down while tomatoes peppers and peaches are doing very well.”

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “We had an unseasonably hot week last week followed by a much cooler weekend. Some places received a little rain early in the week and some places received a little on Saturday. However, the Midlands are very dry overall. Crops responded well to the heat last week. Brassicas and cucurbit crops progressed extremely quickly. Squash and zucchini are setting fruit and some are being picked. Brassica and herbs are still being harvested. Tomatoes are setting fruit, but we still have a little time before picking on a large scale.”

Squash has grown rapidly in the last week in the Midlands. Photo from Justin Ballew
A bumble bee pollinating a squash blossom. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Sarah Scott reports, “Peaches are still going strong in the Ridge. Some varieties are showing more cold damage than anticipated, but there is still a good crop out there. It seems that the very early varieties and then some of the very late varieties are the ones with the most damage. Some bacterial spot is showing up but not near as bad as last season, mainly due to dry conditions. We’ve had some really hot days but this past week we finally got some relief from the temperatures and some cloudy days. Hopefully rain is in the future as growers are irrigating heavily now. Some second croppings of Camarosa strawberries are still being harvested this week. Squash, zucchini, and cucumbers are producing well. Insect pressure is starting to occur more heavily, but disease, for the most part, is still at bay.”

Pee Dee

Bruce McLean reports, “Blueberry harvest, after getting a late start, is starting to provide good quantities. Strawberry harvest is winding down for most. Last week’s heat caused much of the strawberries to become soft and unmarketable. Some varieties are still holding up though, with limited harvest. Some early blackberries are being harvested in good volume, with very good quality. Peach harvest is light and fruit is a bit small. Tomato harvest should begin late this week/early next week. Tomatoes have been experiencing some environmental stress (heat, low humidity, high UV), causing some leaf curl. This should subside with the increased moisture and lower temperatures. Squash are starting to be harvested. Cucumbers harvest isn’t far away. Peas and beans have been affected by thrips, but are growing out of that damage. Sweet corn harvest is getting near. Vegetable planting is starting to resume with the recent moisture and reduced temps.”

Although small and difficult to see, thrips (larva pictured above) can be a limiting factor for yield in muscadines. Thrips feed upon the blooms of the crop, damaging the flowers and early developing fruits. Checking for their presence during bloom is critical for their control. Placing a sheet of white paper underneath the clusters of blooms and forcefully bumping the wire or cordon with your fist should dislodge the insect, allowing it to drop onto the paper for detection. The size of the insect is small – about 0.5 – 1.0 mm in length.

Tony Melton reports, “Peppers and tomatoes are setting fruit. Harvesting pickles consistently. Applying downy mildew and pickleworm materials regularly. Finishing up first cut of collards for processing. Started 2nd cut of processing turnips. Harvesting processing cabbage. Snap beans and butter beans are flowering. Setting sweet potatoes as fast as slips become available.”

Weekly Field Update – 5/24/21

Coastal

Rob Last reports, “As we mentioned last week, cucurbit downy mildew has been confirmed in cucumber crops locally. All cucurbit growers should be applying downy-mildew specific fungicides such as Ranman tank mixed with either chlorothalonil or mancozeb. Other pests and disease levels in cucurbits remain low. Tomatoes and peppers are developing well with good fruit development and low pest and disease pressure. A little bacterial spot is beginning to show in untreated crops. Applications of mancozeb or copper can help to hold the disease. Note applications are unlikely to “cure” bacterial disease. Fruit crops continue to progress with good quality and low disease. Strawberries are showing a little botrytis and anthracnose, but this is at a low level. Peaches are coming to market along with blueberries and blackberries.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “Dry weather has returned to the midlands. Strawberries have slowed down and while we’re still picking a few, we are seeing very few blooms. The heat we’re expecting this week is likely to cease bloom production. The heat could be a problem for tomato and cucurbit pollination as well, as we may see some blooms die. Brassicas have been growing well. There has been an increase in diamondback moth activity over the last week. If you start seeing large DBM populations on your farms, contact your local agent about doing a bioassay to test for insecticide resistance. This is a great way to figure out which materials may work best on your farm. We don’t charge anything for this service. Don’t forget downy mildew was found this past week in cucumber in multiple places in the coastal plain, so it’s time to start preventative fungicide sprays in cukes if you haven’t already.”

An adult diamondback moth has just finished pupating and has not yet dispersed. Remember, insecticide applications should target the larval form rather than the moths. Photo from Justin Ballew

Sarah Scott reports, “We are in full swing with early variety peach harvest. Some peaches are developing a little smaller in size partly due to previous cold weather events. Something spotted in the field has been some nutrient deficiency. Growers may have been tempted to dial down nitrogen or calcium nitrate applications on peach blocks that suffered cold damage as they thought those blocks would not produce a viable harvest, however this could lead to leaf drop and less reserves for next year’s crop. If you skipped out on some of your fertilization keep in mind yellowing, spotting and leaf drop could occur. A soil application of calcium nitrate at 30lb/acre now and another in late July can help those trees recover some foliage and build up a nutrient supply for next year’s reserve. Be careful if you want a quick result and try foliar applications, as this could burn the leaves and cause more drop that you may not be able to afford.”

Nitrogen deficiency on a mid season peach variety. Photo from Sarah Scott
Discoloration from nitrogen deficiency looks similar to copper burn but has smoother edges and more rounded spots on leaves. A nutrient analysis can be taken around July to determine accurate levels. Photo from Sarah Scott.

Pee Dee

Bruce McLean reports, “Irrigated vegetables are looking good for the most part. Seeing some stress to tomatoes with a heavy fruit load – likely from very low humidity and very high UV. Nonirrigated crops are starting to show some drought stress. Strawberries are starting to wind down. Blueberries are finally starting to be harvested, much later than usual. Blooming on muscadines appears to really stretched out due to the Easter freeze. Early flower clusters on growth from primary buds appears to be somewhat on time. But, flower clusters developing from secondary buds are really behind… possibly 3-4 weeks (easily). Soil is really starting to get dry in many areas.”

Green beans are really coming along. Photo from Bruce McLean
Now is a good time to walk the fields and pull weeds. Over-the-top herbicides are limited for most vegetable crops, and often hand weeding is the only viable option. Vigorous weeds like pigweed can quickly overtake a field. Photo from Bruce McLean.

Tony Melton reports, “The higher temperatures have started to speed-up crops. We will start to harvest pickles this week. Spraying downy mildew fungicides on cucurbits. Some farmers are starting to apply insecticide for pickleworm. They don’t want to put out insecticides this early but they see the gamble of an entire field of pickles being rejected because of 1 pickleworm as too much of a gamble. These farmers think we need a system set-up to detect pickleworm in the southern part of the state to give them a better indication of when pickleworm arrives. Harvesting greens, cabbage, and broccoli as quickly as possible. Started planting sweetpotatoes. Many farmers getting deer depredation permits for peas, beans, and sweetpotatoes. Also, many farmers are applying acephate and dimethoate to control thrips with the added benefits of repelling deer. Peppers and tomatoes are begin to load with fruit. Many farmers still harvesting strawberries.”

Upstate

Kerrie Roach reports, “Things in the ‘Golden Corner’ are looking up for vegetable producers, despite the dismal projection for tree fruit crops because of the cold events in April. For market growers, cool season crops are at their absolute last with 90+ degree temps forecasted for this week. Warm season crops are starting to really get growing, and many growers are starting to see some potential harvests this week. With higher than normal temps projected, make sure irrigation is consistent, scheduled and set for early morning to avoid leaf wetness late in the day and overnight and reduce disease incidence.”