Field Update – 4/6/20

At this point, only a few cities (Columbia, Charleston, and Myrtle Beach) have issued shelter-in-place orders.  The Commissioner of Agriculture, Hugh Weathers, has drafted a Notice of Essential Food and Agriculture Employee form that farms in these areas may fill out for each employee certifying them as an essential employee.  They should keep this letter with them while commuting to and from work.  Commissioner Weathers also sent this letter to the law enforcement community in regards to his notice.

Coastal

Zack Snipes reports, “A beautiful week of weather for working outside this past week.  Our spring crops look great as well as our early summer planted crops. Tomatoes look great and have really jumped.  I found some cranberry fruit worm in highbush blueberries last week that all blueberry growers will want to keep an eye out for.  Local produce sales are in great demand right now with lots of growers finding new ways to sell to new clientele.  Strawberry season is in full swing with U-pick operations having trouble keeping up with demand.  I’ve seen lots of makeshift handwashing stations at U-Pick farms, which I applaud growers for.  Had a few calls about thrips in strawberry this past week so keep an eye out for damage.  In every strawberry field that I was in this past week, I saw hot spots of spider mites.  Scout your fields, the entire field, daily and treat the hot spots before you have to treat the entire field.  It will save you money on both treatment and potential yield loss.”

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Handwashing stations at U-Picks are protecting both growers and customers. This one was set up for around $70. Photo from Zack Snipes.

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Thrips damage on strawberry will leave the berry with a bronzed look and the outside of the berry will be hard resembling a plastic coating. Photo from Zack Snipes.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “The weather was a little cooler this past week than the week before.  We also had a little rain early in the week and dew several mornings. These were perfect conditions for Botrytis and anthracnose to develop in strawberries and both showed up in a number of places.  We have a lot of blooms and green fruit out there right now, so make sure to stay on a good spray schedule and rotate MOA’s.  Spider mite pressure remains high in some places. Strawberry yields have not picked up yet and growers are easily selling everything they pick. Brassicas are growing fast in this beautiful weather. Caterpillar pressure is still up requiring widespread sprays. Keep scouting.”

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Botrytis developing on a strawberry.  Weather conditions have been perfect for Botrytis and anthracnose recently. Photo from Justin Ballew.

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Strawberry yields have not picked up yet, but we have lots of blooms and green fruit coming on. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Sarah Scott reports, “Peach trees continue to progress,  thinning of fruit is happening for some varieties now. Strawberry crop is beginning to pick up. Cooler night temperatures last week slowed ripening some. Vegetable crops continue to be planted including eggplant and peppers.”

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Broccoli plants growing well in Saluda County. Photo from Sarah Scott.

Pee Dee

Tony Melton reports, “Full speed planting processing vegetables.  Pickles, green beans, Butterbeans, peas, peppers, tomatoes are being planted.  Having trouble getting all the strawberries picked.  2nd Butterbean planting going in. 3rd sweet corn planting going in.”

Upstate

Kerrie Roach reports, “With beautiful skies and warm weather this past week, our upstate market gardeners are beginning to put things in the ground. While a little early for some, others are hedging their bets with multiple plantings over the next few weeks. Apples and peaches are continuing to progress with most apple varieties now in or near full bloom.”

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Tomato transplants for sale at a local garden supplier. Photo from Kerrie Roach.

 

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