Field Update – 3/16/20

COVID-19 has become a concern for fruit and vegetable growers, especially those expecting to open U-Pick operations in the coming weeks.  It is unknown at this time how the virus, quarantines, and closures will affect produce sales.  Updates will be shared on the SC Grower each week in regards to this issue.  In the meantime, please take the necessary precautions to protect yourselves, your workers, and customers.

Coastal

Dr. Matt Cutulle reports, “I received a couple samples of the aquatic weed Eurasian Watermilfoil this month from irrigation and other water-filled ditches. This invasive weed has been moving South and can block up waterways. Sonar herbicide is effective against this weed. Draining the ditches and allowing the weed to dry out can reduce the viability of this weed as well.”

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Eurasian watermilfoil foliage. Photo from Dr. Matt Cutulle.

Zack Snipes reports, “Things are warming up and drying out in the Lowcountry.  Everyone is very busy preparing land and planting.  Tomato planting will continue this week.”

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “Last week was mostly warm and sunny and there’s been lots of pine pollen in the air.  Believe it or not, we have some places that are dry and are being irrigated.  We have some ripe strawberries around that are ready to pick and I have been pleasantly surprised with the taste so far.  It won’t be long before U-Pick operations are open.  The dry weather has allowed spider mite populations to pick up and lots of folks have put out miticides.  Be sure to scout regularly and stay on top of sanitation.”

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Sandy soils in the midlands have dried out and these young collards have started to wilt.  Photo from Justin Ballew.

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Strawberry harvest will begin soon in the midlands.  Photo from Justin Ballew.

Sarah Scott reports, “Most peach trees in the middle part of the state are well into bloom if not beyond. A break in the rain has given growers a chance to get into the field and spray for blossom blight as well as begin herbicide sprays in some orchards. There appears to be very little damage from previous cold nighttime temperatures but we will still have to wait to get the full scope until fruit development begins. Vegetable plastic has gone in later than usual due to muddy, wet field conditions. Spring brassicas are being planted and potatoes are still going in as well.

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Peach trees near full bloom.  Photo from Sarah Scott.

Pee Dee

Tony Melton reports, “Hurrying to get greens planted before the rain.  Most sweet potato beds are in.  Picking strawberries, but botrytis is bad because of all the rain and cloudy weather.  Some are looking to start planting butterbeans soon to get ahead of the summer heat.  Soil temperatures are good but, we never know about late frosts.  It looks like we have some thinning of flowers/fruit on peaches with the cold temperatures, however, right now we still have a good crop.”

Upstate

Kerrie Roach reports, “We are starting to see some beautiful peach blooms here in the Upstate. The ‘Belle of Georgia’ blooms are at about 80% in Long Creek as of Thursday. Lots of honeybees were out doing their work.”

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Honeybee foraging peach blooms. Photo from Kerrie Roach.

COVID-19 Protective Measures for U-Pick Farms

From Clemson Food Safety Agent, Chad Carter.  Chad has also distributed these plans (Handwashing_station_instructions-1) for constructing handwashing stations for field workers and U-pick customers. 

As COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) is being monitored across the State of South Carolina, growers have questions as to whether to continue operations, especially at U-Pick farms. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN reports that “While COVID-19 is not known to be a foodborne illness, usual good practice as regards handling of animals and good food hygiene throughout the food chain are essential for public health and will aid in the prevention and control of infectious diseases.”  It is important that growers enforce good personal hygiene policies on farm which include frequent and proper handwashing, not working on or visiting farms when ill, and covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends these basic protective measures.

  • Wash your hands frequently

Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub.

Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands. It is important to pay close attention to thoroughly cleaning the entire surface of your hands and paying attention to areas between the fingers, knuckles and the back of your hands.

  • Maintain social distancing

Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.  Remember, that the virus must enter your body through some mechanism for you to become contaminated – that includes being near someone else who is sick or touching your face with contaminated hands.

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

  • Practice respiratory hygiene

Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.

 

Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider

Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.

 

For Additional Information:

WHO: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

FAO: http://www.fao.org/2019-ncov/en/

SCDHEC: https://www.scdhec.gov/health/infectious-diseases/viruses/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

EFSA: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/news/coronavirus-no-evidence-food-source-or-transmission-route

Cornell Ag Workforce Development: https://agworkforce.cals.cornell.edu/2020/03/12/novel-coronavirus-prevention-control-for-farms/?fbclid=IwAR33L94TtqPQYynR0nHh7VliLGawWaeRCcM_APvei8c2ExtIYEZZWBWjg38