Address any questions or comments regarding this newsletter to the individual authors listed after each article or to its editors, Nathan Johanning, 618-687-1727, or Bronwyn Aly 618-382-2662, The Illinois Fruit and Vegetable News is available on the web at: To receive email notification of new postings of this newsletter, contact Nathan Johanning at the phone number or email address above.

In This Issue:

Upcoming Programs (listings for beginning and established growers)

News & Announcements (Reminder on Pesticide Drift Complaints)

Regional Reports (East central Illinois, St. Louis metro east, southern Illinois)

Fruit and Vegetable Production and Pest Management (Modified Growing Degree Days for Insect Development, Black Cutworm Moth, Nitrogen Notes: Choosing the Best N Source, Eastern Flower Thrips in Strawberries)

University of Illinois Extension educators and specialists in fruit and vegetable production and pest management

Upcoming Programs

Check the Illinois SARE calendar for a full list of programs and links for registration. and
Also see the University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Team's website at: and the calendar of events at   

News & Announcements

Reminder on Pesticide Drift Complaints

As the season gets going, also comes the time when we start to encounter issues with pesticide drift.  No matter what crop or product we are spraying (synthetic or OMRI approved) we are all responsible for making sure our pesticide applications stay where they are supposed to.  As always, good neighborly relations are a positive start for prevention, but sometimes we don't have those relationships.  In some cases, even when applicators are being careful, things can still happen.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDoA) is the lead agency in the state for pesticide drift.   If you suspect pesticide misuse and the situation results in your need to file a complaint, visit the IDoA "Pesticide: Use and Misuse" website at . From there, you can download a complaint form that must be completed and submitted to IDoA within 30 days from the time you notice injury.  If you don't have web access, you can still call 1-800-641-3934 (voice and TDD) or 217-785-2427 to request a complaint form.  Once IDoA receives the complaint form from you, an inspector will be assigned your case number.

Regional Reports

Pawpaw bloom, which are
pollinated by flies. The blooms
measure about 0.7-1.0" across.

From east central Illinois... In eastern and central Illinois, fruit trees are about done blooming and orchardists seem to be happy with the fruit set. Produce growers are shaping beds and laying plastic as the weather conditions allow. Early plantings of sweet corn were done between rains as well as some direct seeding of vegetables. Asparagus is in full production and yields are looking good.  Early reports of significant Black Cutworm (Agrotis ipsilon) moth captures in the area (see black cutworm article later in this issue) as well as True Armyworm (Pseudaletia unipuncta) moths are indicators that farmers may want to monitor plantings for cutting and feeding damage toward the beginning of May.






Doug Gucker (217-877-6042;

From the St. Louis Metro East...  It looks like in the St Louis Metro East we will have an opportunity to validate the old weather saying, "If it rains on Easter Sunday, it will rain every Sunday for 7 weeks."  Field operations of all types are readily obvious.  Most early season vegetables have been planted, including high-tunnel tomatoes.  Horseradish and main-season field tomatoes are going in now and asparagus is in harvest.  Apples and cherries are moving past petal fall. 

Elizabeth Wahle (618-344-4230;

From southern Illinois...We have stayed fairly mild with many days in the 70s and lows in the 50s.  We dodged some rain chances early the week prior to Easter which allowed our soils to dry and field work to take off.  We finally did get some rain in various amounts on Easter Sunday and Monday.  Here in Murphysboro we ended up with about 0.5" in total although some to the north did not receive as much and some field work has started to resume.  We have rain chances increasing late this week through the weekend with significant rainfall predicted this weekend and a brief cool down.

Parthenocarpic cucumbers in the High Tunnel
at the Jackson Co. Extension Office.
Photo. N. Johanning

With the break in the weather, here at the office we were able to get plastic laid for some pepper trials.  Asparagus harvest is in full swing.  'Millennium' and 'Pacific Purple' just are now really starting to produce compared to many of the Jersey varieties which have been in production for a good week or more before.  In the last week or so spear diameter has really increased with a greater number of ½"+ diameter spears.  Last Friday, I did spray for asparagus beetles right after we harvested.  They were numerous to say the least.  This Monday's harvest I only saw one the entire time harvesting.  Again (in case you missed it last issue), for more information on asparagus beetle management refer to an article I wrote in Volume 22:6 from last year for some pictures and management practices.

Apples and tart cherries are at or after petal fall.  At home our tart cherries have a very good crop so far; hopefully the hail will stay away this year.  Late blueberries like Chandler and Elliott are still in bloom while others are at petal fall.  We planted our first sweet corn about 10 days ago and it is just starting to come up.  About that same time I got potatoes planted as well. About a month ago, I frost-seeded some oats and red clover.  The oats are really taking off and the red clover is slowly getting going underneath. 

Out in the high tunnel local growers have tomatoes that are in bloom and even with some small fruit set.  Here at our high tunnel, we just got our tomatoes and greenhouse cucumbers transplanted.  We have 3 different parthenocarpic (seedless) cucumber varieties we are looking at: a slicer ('Lisboa'), pickler ('Excelsior') and mini ('Picolino'). We started these in 4" pots to get a larger transplant (2-3 fully expanded leaves).  We have them planted in a single row 1 ft apart and we will be training them to a single stem on trellised on twine.  We will trellis them to "V" pattern alternating which side of the row we train them to at the top.  As you can see, if you look closely at the picture, we already have some female flowers forming.

Nathan Johanning (618-687-1727;

Fruit and Vegetable Production and Pest Management

Modified Growing Degree Days (Base 50°F, January 1 through April 16) for Insect Development

Station Location

Actual Total

Historical Average (11 year)

One- Week Projection

Two-Week Projection






St. Charles













































Rend Lake










Dixon Springs





Insect development is temperature dependent. We can use degree days to help predict insect emergence and activity.  Degree day accumulations calculated using the Illinois IPM Degree-Day Calculator (a project by the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois and the Illinois Water Survey).

Kelly Estes, State Survey Coordinator, Illinois Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (217-333-1005;

Black Cutworm Moths Have Arrived

Black cutworm moths have arrived in Illinois on southerly winds this spring. The potential for egg-laying exists in fields with high densities of winter annual weeds. After the eggs hatch, the small larvae feed on these host plants. Although primarily a pest of corn, black cutworm can also be a problem in vegetable crops including tomatoes, cucurbits, and sweet corn.

Black cutworm larvae pass through 6 or 7 instars (stages of larval development). Their rate of development depends upon temperature; the larvae develop more quickly when the weather is warm. The first three instars are very small, and the feeding injury they cause as young larvae appears as small holes or bites in leaves. In corn, the fourth through seventh instars cut the plants off at or just below the soil surface. If the soil is dry and crusted, the larvae remain below the surface and drill into the base of the plant. If the growing point is destroyed or the plant is cut below the growing point, the plant will not survive.

Black cutworm larvae vary in color from light gray to black, and are about 1 1/2 inches long when fully grown. Numerous convex skin granules of different sizes give the cutworm a somewhat "greasy" and rough appearance. The moths are dark gray, with a black, dagger-shaped marking toward the outer edge of the forewing and a wingspan of about 1 1/2 inch.

Left to Right: Black cutworm adults, larva and early instar feeding

After the larvae finish feeding, they pupate. The moths then emerge from the soil and begin mating and laying eggs for another generation; there may be 3 or 4 generations each year.

Flights of black cutworm moths can be monitored with the use of pheromone traps or light traps. Evidence of a "significant" moth flight (9 or more moths per pheromone trap in two consecutive nights) is used as a biofix to start a degree-day model, and scouting for cutting is recommended beginning about 300 base-50 degree-days later. Monitoring of moth flights and regular field scouting are good management strategies for the black cutworm. Black cutworm is monitored as part of the Illinois Pest Monitoring Network. Based on pheromone trap captures around the state, the projected cutting dates (accumulation of 300 degree-days and the time to begin scouting) are below. Readers can follow up to date pest information via Twitter (@ILPestSurvey). Information will also be shared through the Illinois Fruit & Vegetable News and Illinois Pest Management and Crop Development Bulletin

Kelly Estes, State Survey Coordinator, Illinois Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (217-333-1005;

Nitrogen Notes: Choosing the Best N Source

As the season gets off to a start, it is time to think about how we are going to supply Nitrogen (N) for our crops.  Remember that all plants take up nitrogen in the form of NH4+ (ammonium) or NO3- (nitrate).  Generally, our crop plants like a balance of nitrate and ammonium, however, some have preferences for one versus another.  There are many fertilizer options and below I have outlined a few considerations for some of the common N sources.

These are just some of the most common synthetic N fertilizers.  Also, we have many different organic sources of N such as blood meal, compost and many others.  Hopefully, this gives you some added insight in to the pros and cons of these different nutrient sources to help keep your crops healthy!

Nathan Johanning (618-687-1727;

Eastern Flower Thrips in Strawberries

Eastern flower thrips, Frankliniella tritici, make their presence known in strawberry patches annually in Illinois.  Damaged fruit is typically tan, brown or yellow-brown in color, hence the term "bronzing."  The disorder occurs annually to some extent, but timing of its occurrence and severity varies from year to year.  Bronzing of strawberry fruit often occurs in late spring and summer in Illinois.  In some years, bronzing can result in a total loss due to unmarketable or undesirable fruit. 

The eastern flower thrip is a tiny, slender, cigar shaped insect.  Nymphs and adults have the same general shape.  Nymphs are wingless, whitish yellow when small, and yellow when fully grown.  Adults are yellowish brown, 1/16 inch long, and have narrow wings that are fringed with hairs.  While resting, the wings are folded lengthwise over the back. 

Adults are attracted to flowers of many different plants, including many plants in the Rosaceae family.  Adults and nymphs feed using rasping-sucking mouthparts to obtain sap.  On strawberry fruit, they begin feeding on seeds soon after the buds open.  They feed on the tissue between the seeds as the fruit expands.  Bronzing results from surface cells being killed.  Eastern flowers thrips are not thought to overwinter in Illinois, but populations are thought to develop every year throughout the state as a result of long-distant migrations from southern states on high-level winds associated with weather fronts. 

There are two active nymph stages and two inactive pupal-like nymph stages.  The life cycle can be completed in several weeks, resulting in several generations per year.  Because eastern flower thrips are very small, they are difficult to view with the naked eye. To aid in their detection, tap flowers onto a white or very dark plate, and look for the slender yellow thrips. Thrips are also visible within the strawberry flower structure with the aid of a 10x magnifying lens. 

Thrips immigration is not a one-time event, so control has to be maintained throughout the critical bloom period of strawberries.  Although thresholds have not been determined for the Midwest, data from outside growing areas suggests that control is warranted if counts of thrips exceed 2 per blossom. Of the insecticides labeled for use in commercial strawberry production, Brigade (bifenthrin) should work very well, and it has a 0-day PHI (no waiting period required between application and harvest).  Among other effective insecticides, Danitol (fenpropathrin) has a 2-day harvest restriction.  For a complete listing of control options, see the 2017 Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide.   Once harvest is already under way, control is recommended for unaffected fruit less than dime in diameter when thrips are detected at or above the threshold level.

Elizabeth Wahle (618-344-4230;

Less Seriously...

I happened to be looking through some old files, and stumbled upon this slide that Jeff Kindhart had included a few times in presentations.  If I remember correctly, he would have used it in the mid 90s or so, but I'm sure it resurfaced on and off through the years.  Good ole Jeff, always able to make us laugh!  - Bronwyn

Top 10 Reasons for Starting a Specialty Crop Business:

10. Cheaper than joining a gym.
9. Christmas cheer all summer long with all the hoe hoe hoeing.
8. Get to employ kids not sharp enough to get a summer job indoors.
7. Nothing quite as special as the smell of 2 acres of rotting strawberries in your own backyard.
6. Get to work with the public.
5. Beats the hell out of selling Amway.
4. Being a farmer, personnel manager, market developer, researcher and the hundred other required staff positions will surely be easier than your current job.       
3. You just can't lose $3000 an acre on row crops.
2. Keeps you from having to worry about where you were going on your summer vacation.

University of Illinois Extension Specialists in Fruit and Vegetable Production & Pest Management

Extension Educators – Local Food Systems and Small Farms

Bronwyn Aly, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Pope, Saline, and White counties


Bill Davison, Livingston, McLean, and Woodford counties


Laurie George, Bond, Clinton, Jefferson, Marion, & Washington counties


Zachary Grant, Cook County


Doug Gucker, DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt counties


Nathan Johanning, Franklin, Jackson, Perry, Randolph, & Williamson counties


Grant McCarty, Jo Daviess, Stephenson, and Winnebago counties


David Shiley, Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Moultrie and Shelby counties


James Theuri, Grundy, Kankakee, and Will counties


Extension Educators – Horticulture

Chris Enroth, Henderson, Knox, McDonough, and Warren counties


Richard Hentschel, DuPage, Kane, and Kendall counties


Andrew Holsinger, Christian, Jersey, Macoupin, & Montgomery counties


Extension Educators - Commercial Agriculture

Elizabeth Wahle, Fruit & Vegetable Production


Campus-based  Extension Specialists

Mohammad Babadoost, Plant Pathology


Mosbah Kushad, Fruit & Vegetable Production