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.

Weekly Field Update – 1/19/21

Remember to check out the “Upcoming Events” tab for upcoming meetings. The next one is this Wednesday (1/21/21) at 6pm. Dr. Brian Ward will be discussing fertility for organic crops.

Statewide

Dr. Matt Cutulle reports, “Burndown herbicide efficacy can be reduced in colder weather, especially systemic products such as glyphosate (Reduced translocation in the cold means herbicide does not move through the plant as much). A contact herbicide like Gamoxone is not significantly impacted by cold weather, thus it might be a good option to use on medium to small weeds. If you have to use glyphosate make sure that the formulation is loaded with a non-ionic surfactant (NIS) and then add 2.5% Ammonium Sulfate (AMS).  If the glyphosate formulation is not loaded with NIS, added an NIS product (should contain at last 90% active ingredient) such as Induce at 0.25% (quarter of 1%) in the tank mix.”

Coastal

Zack Snipes reports, “Now is the perfect time to gear up for the upcoming season with preventative maintenance on sprayers and tractors.  Proper spray coverage is absolutely essential when spraying expensive pesticides and nutrients.  Why would you buy a jug of pesticide for $800 and not have it properly applied?  I was at a farm last week working on a spray trial and we took a few hours to clean out screens, filters, and orifices in the sprayer.  The sprayer I was working on had 5 out of 10 nozzles completely clogged and corroded.  We would only get half or less coverage since the nozzles were so clogged.  Once we cleaned everything, we needed to recalibrate our sprayer since we were actually putting out product through all of the nozzles.  Take the time and get things ready for the year.”

Proper spray coverage on a nice looking crop of strawberries.  Photo from Zack Snipes.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “Last week stayed pretty cool (high temps in the 50s), wet, and cloudy. Crops aren’t growing very fast right now. We still have a few greens being harvested, but we’ve slowed down from the New Years rush. Most of the strawberries I’ve looked at are still around the 2-3 crown stage. We’re seeing some aphids here and there, but those are rarely anything to be concerned about. Instead, keep checking for mites. Spider mites are active when daytime temperatures are over 50 degrees, so even though it’s chilly to us, they’re active for most of the winter. Fields planted adjacent to tomatoes back in the fall need to be scouted especially well.”

Great stand of rye between the rows of this strawberry field. This will help tremendously with weed suppression. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Pee Dee

Bruce McLean reports, “Be sure to get out and scout your strawberries. Starting to see a fair amount of Phomopsis in the fields. Captan will give some control, but Rally is a better option. Also, starting to see some Botrytis showing up on ripening fruit… that fruit that has been able to escape frost events and develop. Removal of infected fruit and dead leaves will help reduce pathogen when it comes time to flower and fruit. Across the northern portion of the Pee Dee the strawberry crop is pretty varied in development and appearance. Some plantings are well behind others. This is primarily due to the frequent and heavy rains since planting. Any plants that may have been set (even the least bit) low, experienced loose soil to be washed down around the crown, burying the crown too deep. With the crown being buried, the plants were either stunted or killed. Stunted plants can recover, but likely will not develop and yield properly come spring. Now is the time to begin winter pruning of blueberries, blackberries and muscadines… as well as many fruit trees. Proper winter pruning will go a long way towards improving yield, plant health, overall plant architecture and size management. Ideally, winter pruning for perennial fruiting plants should be performed between early January through early March.”

Botrytis already showing up on strawberries. Photo from Bruce McLean.

Tony Melton reports, “Wet, wet, wet.  Badly need to start bedding for stale-bed-culture.  Putting off bedding sweet potatoes until March.  I have seen a lot of spider mites on strawberries and started to spray to get them under control.  However, too wet to get tractor in fields so many farmers are using backpack mist sprayers to get job done.”