Weekly Field Update – 3/8/21

Statewide

Dr. Matt Cutulle reports, “Anyone planting spring broccoli should be wary of the cold weather we have had regarding soil herbicide interactions. Be careful with Pre-transplant applications of Devrinol and to a lesser extent Dual Magnum, as they can cause some stunting when soil temperatures are cooler. Goal or Goaltender is the safest pre-transplant herbicide applied when the soil temperatures based on field studies in Charleston.”

Coastal

Zack Snipes reports, “We had some sunshine last week which really brightened everything up. The last few nights have been cool with some frost on the ground in the mornings. Things are starting to green up and fields are drying out enough to plant. We are still direct-seeding crops around the region and will begin transplanting tomatoes in some areas this week. I spent last week checking strawberry fields to make sure things were good to go before they really bust out. I have been helping folks calibrate their drip fertigation systems for the upcoming season. If you think you need a hand with this please let me know. Dialing in exactly how much fertilizer to use each day or week can really increase yields and lessen the amount of fertilizer that is leached. Leaching fertilizer means your plants aren’t taking it up, thus costing you money.”

Venturi type fertigation injector on a strawberry farm.  Dialing in your fertility can really increase yields and reduce leaching of fertilizer. Photo from Zack Snipes.
A nice patch of ball clover in the drive row of strawberry.  We planted this to hold the soil, reduce sand on the berries, withstand foot traffic, and bring in early season beneficials to help with thrips control. Photo from Zack Snipes.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “We had several beautiful, sunny days last week. The warm days seemed to really push plants along. Last night got cool (29 degrees at my house) and strawberry growers had to pull row covers over the fields to protect the blooms. We have some small, developing fruit now that would easily be damaged without row covers. I’m seeing very few spider mites in fields, even though conditions have turned dry here in the midlands. Remember that Botrytis spore production is high when temperatures are in the 60 to 70 degree range, so we need to be staying on top of our spray programs right now. In other news, brassica planting continues and for now caterpillar pressure seems to be light.”

Small developing strawberries like this one can be damaged easily by cold. Photo from Justin Ballew
Internal discoloration of the two strawberries on top indicate cold damage. These fruit will not ripen and will become excellent sources of Botrytis inoculum. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Pee Dee

Bruce McLean reports, “Boy, it got a bit chilly last night. Still looking at temperatures for the area, but it would be a safe bet that much of the area saw 28 degrees or lower. Strawberries were covered, so little problems there. Blueberries did see some damage on blooms that had fully opened. Most of the flowers were still in the Early Pink Bud stage or at Budbreak, so no damage to those blooms. Frost protection could have saved those flowers and potential fruit, but it is still early in the season. Keeping our fingers crossed that we don’t see any more nights of freezing temperatures.”

Early pink stage in bluberry flowering. Photo from Bruce McLean.
Damaged corollas (flowers) on blueberries. Likely experienced 28 degrees or lower. Photo from Bruce McLean.

Field Update – 3/9/20

Coastal

Zack Snipes reports, “Finally we have a break from the rain!  I lost count of how many inches of rain we had.  In fields with clean ditches and water furrows, water drained off pretty quickly, however, some fields suffered from all the rain.  If your fields are wet, try to stay out of them until they dry.  One of the worst things that can happen is when fields are entered when wet and soggy, causing compaction issues in the soil.  I am seeing lots and lots of disease in strawberry and blueberry.  The cold weather a few weeks ago killed many developing fruit and blossoms leaving them vulnerable to fungal infection. With over a week of consistent rain/cloudy weather and mild temperatures, the fungal pathogens have exploded.  If you can get into your fruit fields then both protectant and systemic fungicides should be applied.

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Freeze damage on early blueberry varieties is a perfect place for fungal pathogens to attack. Photo from Zack Snipes.

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It will be a while before this field can be worked again.  Photo from Zack Snipes.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “We had lots of rain last week, but a very nice weekend and I saw the first bit of pollen on my windshield Saturday afternoon.  Despite the rain, spider mites are starting to build up in strawberries in several places, requiring treatment.  This is probably a result of having the row covers on for so long.  Conditions are still perfect for disease development and we are seeing lots of Botrytis as well as some anthracnose fruit rot.  More rain is coming this week, so be timely with fungicide applications and be sure to sanitize dead leaves, flowers, and fruit from the plants.  These become sources of inoculum as disease develops, so get that material out of the field.

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Two-spotted spider mites can appear red in the winter.  Leaving row covers on for long periods of time can create the perfect conditions for spider mites. Photo from Justin Ballew

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This strawberry has anthracnose spores (orange mass on the left) as well as Botrytis (grey mass) developing on it. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Pee Dee

Tony Melton reports, “Fields are rapidly drying – hopefully, it doesn’t rain until later this week so we can finally get some greens planted. We have got some acres planted but there are thousands left to be planted.  Peaches are still up in the air.  Some varieties are totally lost but others are fine.  Growers are running wind machines and burning hay bales most nights to protect blooms from the cold.  Covering and watering to protect strawberries and some growers have been picking for weeks, though others want to wait until they have enough fruit to open. With all the rain, Botrytis is tough on strawberries. Some growers are spraying twice a week, while others are letting it go and will pick-off bad fruit with the good fruit and sell what they can.

Upstate

Kerrie Roach reports, “Last week was the annual ‘Upstate Fruit Grower Meeting’ in Oconee County. Extension Agent, Kerrie Roach, along with Extension specialists from Clemson and NC State presented on topics to more than 30 attendees. Topics covered included apple diseases, PGRs, peach disease management, insect & disease ID, fungicide resistance, blackberry PGR research, the MyIPM app. along with much more. Lots of great networking and conversations were had over lunch and continued after the meeting. The Upstate is looking forward to a great growing season!”

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Last week’s Upstate Fruit Grower Meeting was a success.  Photo from Cory Tanner.