A Newsletter for Commercial Growers of Fruit and Vegetable Crops
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." --Aristotle
Address any questions or comments regarding this newsletter to the individual authors listed after each article or to its editor, Rick Weinzierl, 217-333-6651, firstname.lastname@example.org. To receive email notification of new postings of this newsletter, call or write the same number or address.
In This Issue:
...note the revised dates for tree fruit programs in southern and southwestern Illinois. Kudos to Elizabeth Wahle and the local Extension staff members who managed to reschedule these after last week's storm ...
Regional Updates (from Maurice Ogutu)
Specialty Crops and Local Foods Issues (Whole Foods seeking growers / suppliers; GAP and food safety notes from ISCAOC in January; AGR-LITE insurance)
Fruit Production and Pest Management (Cold hardiness and winter stress, woolly apple aphid management)
High Tunnel Production Systems (Questions and answers and data from the DSAC from 2010)
Many of the speakers from the 2011 Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, and Organics Conference have made their presentations from this year's conference available to us to post online. Most are in the form of PowerPoint presentations converted to pdf format. Keep in mind that these presentations do not contain audio or extra notes, but in many cases the slides contain adequate text and tables to convey key points. And, as the adage goes, "a picture is worth 1,000 words."
Here are the presentations that are available. A link to the presentations also is provided at the top of the home page for the Illinois Fruit and Vegetable News at: http://ipm.illinois.edu/ifvn/.
Dennis Norton, Pumpkin Production at Royal Oak Farm Orchard
High Tunnel Workshop
Jeff Kindhart, High Tunnels at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center: Insights and Results
Farmers Market Workshop
Stacy Miller, Expanding Farmers Market Opportunities
Conference Opening Session
Julie Fox, Are You Market Ready?
Mike Parker, Apple Production in North Carolina and the Use of SmartFresh on Apples for Retail Operations
Rick Weinzierl, Understanding Insecticides and Selecting the Best Options
Mohammad Babadoost, Effective Treatments for Basil Downy Mildew
Julie Fox, Social Media Marketing
Lisa Kivirist, Cultivating Diversity: A Recipe for Organic Opportunity (slides)
Enterprise Management and Marketing
In northern Illinois, winter weather still is making news. The area recorded 18-22 inches of snow on February 2 to 3, and lots of snow was already on the ground in many parts of the region. Recent high temperatures have been in the teens and low 20s, and overnight lows have ranged from the single digits to as cold as -19 F. Another reminder on upcoming programs ... The Stateline Fruit and Vegetable Conference is set for Monday, February 21, 2011, at Donley's Village Banquets, 8512 S. Union Road Union, IL. For more information, see https://webs.extension.uiuc.edu/registration/?RegistrationID=5306 or contact the McHenry County Extension Office at 815-338-3737 or Maurice Ogutu at 708-352-0109 (email@example.com). Later the same week the Kankakee County Vegetable Growers School is set for Friday, February 25, 2011, at the University of Illinois Kankakee County Extension Office, 1650 Commerce Drive Bourbonnais, IL. For more information, contact James Theuri at 815-933-8337 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or see http://web.extension.illinois.edu/kankakee/news/news19758.html.
Maurice Ogutu (708-352-0109; email@example.com)
Whole Foods Seeking Illinois Growers
Whole Foods Market is seeking to increase its selection of conventional and organic produce from farmers in Illinois and other nearby states. To do so, the company is deepening its local procurement partnership with FamilyFarmed.org, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization. Over the next month, the two organizations will meet with regional growers in the Peoria area and Lake County to discuss new sales opportunities and the need for distribution infrastructure. At these meetings, FamilyFarmed.org will also discuss opportunities to create regional packing houses in Illinois to aggregate produce. The dates for these meetings are February 21, 2011, at Morton, IL, and March 1, 2011, at Grays Lake. Contact information for reservations and questions is listed in the Upcoming Meetings section at the beginning of this issue. Whole Foods also has an application form for those who want to sell to them. For a copy, contact Jim Pirovano at 630-306-1361 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadlines for applications is March 1, 2011.
GAP and Food Safety
A preconference workshop prior to the Illinois Specialty Crop, Agritourism and Organic Conference covering information related to the new Food Safety Modernization Act and Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) was well attended and received positive feedback from participants. Requirements of commercial buyers to provide traceability and documentation of food safety protocol throughout the supply chain prompted the scheduling of the program.
The signing of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act provided timely food safety information to the program. While many details are yet to be defined, growers and processors now have a general idea of where the industry is heading where food safety is concerned. The legislation has empowered FDA to order recalls where they could only negotiate with businesses for voluntary recalls in the past. FDA is also charged with developing safety regulations for "high risk" foods and increased inspections of domestic and foreign food facilities. A threat of burdensome and costly food safety requirements for small specialty crop operations was a point of contention during the debate over this bill, resulting in the addition of the Tester Amendment which provided exemptions for "small" growers and processors. Farm exemptions are offered to operations with annual sales less than $500,000 who market directly to consumers, grocery stores and restaurants within 275 miles or in-state. Sales to third party brokers are not exempt regardless of farm size, and there is a possibility that local grocery stores or restaurants could adopt individual delivery standards as part of their risk management strategy. Regardless of exemption status and because food safety risks are not correlated with farm size, it is important that all producers become familiar with GAPs and risk assessment as they strive to deliver the safest and highest quality produce possible.
To inform growers about GAPs and risk assessment, John Atsaves, USDA inspector, provided information on developing a Food Safety Plan, which is the first step to prepare for a third party farm audit. The goal of this plan is to minimize the risk of food borne pathogens in farm produce, and the food safety plan is a written guide outlining the practices that will be followed to minimize that risk. These plans include policies (what you do), procedures (how you do it), records (who did what when), maps (where it is) and flowcharts (how it works) specific to the farm. Due to differences in production practices, crops grown, equipment, and other variations from one farm to another, food safety plans will be unique to the operation, as will farm audits. Since the food safety plan is used by third party inspectors as a guide to the farm audits they conduct, producers should be thorough in plan development but ensure that only issues specific to their own operation are included. Some resources available to aid in developing the food safety plan may include issues that are not applicable to some operations or may not address very unique aspects of other operations. Atsaves also offered information about different types of on farm audits, as well as USDA audit procedures. A producer panel provided growers' perspectives about food safety plans and audits which led to good discussions that clarified the process further.
PowerPoint files from the GAP workshop are available online and include ...
Additional resources concerning food safety and GAPs can be accessed on the following websites:
John Pike (618-453-5563; email@example.com)
Insuring Diversified and Specialty Farms: Is USDA's AGR-LITE Insurance Program Right for You?
On January 20, Jeff Schahczenski, Agricultural Economist and Conservation Specialist at the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)/ ATTRA presented a webinar to demonstrate a tool for assessing AGR-Lite Insurance options. The webinar discussed the benefits of the AGR-Lite insurance program and demonstrated a new free online assessment tool that can help farmers determine if AGR-Lite crop insurance is right for them.
AGR-Lite is a whole farm revenue product that insures a percentage of a farm's historical adjusted gross revenue based on tax records rather than historical crop yield information. Since specialty crop farm revenue may be based on organic or other price premiums, their revenue might be higher than conventional operations of similar size. AGR-Lite is also one of the few federally subsidized insurance products that also insure revenue from livestock.
Farmers with diverse crop and livestock operations or organic or specialty crops face special hurdles in today's crop insurance market. These farmers may raise crops or livestock that are little understood by mainstream crop insurance brokers. Highly diverse, organic and specialty crop operations are often unable to reduce their risk by carrying traditional crop insurance. Fortunately there's a new computer-based decision tool that helps diversified farmers assess AGR-Lite.
You can view the webinar at http://attra.ncat.org/video/index.php#agr-lite or get slides in a pdf format at http://attra.ncat.org/video/pdf/AGR-LITE_webinar_01.18.11.pdf . Free copies of the AGR-Lite assessment tool are also available at NCAT's ATTRA National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website or by calling 1-800-346-9140.
Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant (217-968-5512; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Woolly Apple Aphid Management
Woolly apple aphid (WAA) infestations have become increasingly common and severe in Illinois and nearby states in recent years. I've done only limited work on this insect and have little data from Illinois, but I surveyed other fruit entomologists in the eastern part of the United States and received some valuable updates from David Biddinger of Penn State University and from Art Agnello of Cornell University at Geneva, New York. Some general background information and some specific recommendations for managing this insect in 2011 (including findings from Biddinger and Agnello) are:
Hosts and life cycle: Colonies of WAA appear on shoots of American elm, apple, hawthorn, and mountain ash. All WAAs on apples are female; when mature they give birth to live young without mating (parthenogenic reproduction). Nymphs overwinter below ground on roots; movement to and from shoots occurs throughout the growing season. Production of males, mating, and egg-laying occurs only on American elm. Parthenogenic reproduction on apples sustains populations. Nymphs tend to settle at the bases of root suckers and around pruning wounds and cankers on limbs and trunks; colonies are visible first at these sites. Colonies may begin to build as early as petal fall (though often slightly later).
Damage: Above-ground colonies feeding on shoots cause galls, bark splitting, and "blind wood" (portions of twigs with no foliage). Aphids also enter the calyx end of fruits, and contamination, honeydew, and sooty mold result from these infestations. WAA can transmit perennial apple canker. Feeding on roots causes root galls and proliferation of fibrous roots. Where normal root growth is inhibited, trees may be more easily uprooted during storms. Heavy infestations on roots can kill small trees.
Why have infestations increased in recent years? The two recurrent themes in answers to this question are: (1) key insecticides that previously killed this insect are no longer labeled for use after bloom; (2) insecticides used to kill codling moth also kill the natural enemies of WAA (a predaceous fly and a parasitic wasp) but not the pest itself, allowing it to increase in the absence of natural controls. Lorsban and Penncap M are two the products that used to give some postbloom control of WAA but are no longer labeled for such use. On the natural enemy side of the story, David Biddinger of Penn State University has linked repeated applications of Delegate or Rimon to increases in WAA infestations, and preliminary evidence indicates that Delegate kills the parasitic wasp and possibly the syrphid flies that are important natural enemies of WAA. He notes that Delegate sprays are not always causing WAA flare-ups, but they increase the probability of flare-ups. (By the way, it appears that the parasitic wasp that is important in WAA control was resistant to Guthion and Imidan in at least some areas, so although these compounds did not control WAA, they also did not disrupt its natural control.)
What can be done to manage WAA? I don't think anyone is yet confident in recommending a "best" sequence of reduced risk insecticides to avoid killing the natural enemies of WAA (although Dr. Biddinger's data shows Altacor to be less detrimental than Delegate to the parasitic wasp that attacks WAA) ). For now, being aware of rootstock and varietal differences in susceptibility to WAA, following a few cultural control guidelines, and timing applications of effective insecticides to control it are clearly important.
Host plant resistance: David Biddinger has summarized WAA resistance ratings for rootstocks as follows:
Cultural controls: Art Agnello offered these recommendations on cultural practices that discourage WAA. (1) Remove root suckers to eliminate an early colonization site. (2) Remove water sprouts on major scaffold limbs early in the season (June). (3) Paint large pruning cuts to discourage aphid colonies. (4) Summer pruning in August can remove larger colonies.
Insecticides: For insecticidal control of WAA, based on the combined summaries of David Biddinger, Art Agnello, and others (they get the credit ... I get the blame for any misinterpretations), effective approaches appear to be:
See http://www.nysipm.cornell.edu/factsheets/treefruit/pests/waa/waa.pdf for Cornell University's fact sheet on woolly apple aphid.
Rick Weinzierl (217-244-2126; email@example.com)
Cold Hardiness and Winter Stress
With recent temperatures in central and northern Illinois falling below zero on a few occasions, it may be timely to expand on an earlier discussion of this topic. How quickly temperatures drop and the cold-hardiness of various species determines the impacts of cold temperatures.
When the weather cools slowly, free water within cold-hardy plants such as apples and pears moves out of the cells into the open spaces between the cells (intercellular space) where most of it is lost to transpiration. However, if the temperature drops rapidly to below freezing, while the plants are still active, the water within the cells freezes causing ice crystals to form. The ice crystals puncture the cell membranes, causing leakage and disorganization of the cells' components, which can be lethal. A slow drop in temperature also causes hardy plants to tie-up water to other molecules inside their cell so it does not freeze. Slow movement or tie-up of water inside the cells causes other physiological and biochemical changes inside the cells, such as thickening of the cell membrane, conversion of sugars to starch, build-up of growth-inhibiting hormones such as abscisic acid, and loss of growth stimulating hormones such as gibberellins and cytokinins. Very hardy plants also produce a polymer material that acts like anti freeze to inhibit water from freezing inside their cells. Contrast this to annual or perennial "cold-tender" plants that form seeds and then die or the top of the plants die but the underground organs do not.
Resistance to cold stress is a complex process, but simply put, most experts agree that the reason for cold stress is not low temperature, per se, but the formation of ice crystals inside cells. For this reason, knowing how cold-hardy plants escape injury is important in identifying cultural practices that help the trees survive freezing. Cold-hardy plants avoid winter stress by going through a developmental phase called dormancy. Dormancy implies inactivity, however most physiological processes for the tree survival continue during this stage, but at a reduced rate (most important of which is respiration). Dormancy can be divided into two phases, quiescence and rest. Quiescence is the failure of the plants to grow because of cold weather. It is a reversible phase. In other words, if the weather warms up, trees in the quiescent stage will start to grow. Also, at this stage trees will break buds when they are injured by pruning or fertilized with nitrogen, especially if the weather warms up for a few days. Trees are in a quiescent state in early fall or late winter. The second phase is rest. Rest is not reversible by warming up of the weather until the trees have accumulated a sufficient amount of chilling hours. In late fall and early winter, depending on cultivar and temperature, trees transition from the quiescent phase into the rest phase after 30 to 40 days of temperature below or slightly above freezing. The same happens in late winter and early spring; trees transition from rest into quiescence after 20 to 40 days of temperature above freezing (see model below).
Dormancy Model: Quiescence (fall and winter) → Rest → (late winter to early spring) Quiescence
For these reasons, trees exposed to a few days of warm temperature during early fall and late winter may break bud, while trees exposed to the same temperature in midwinter will not. Trees exposed to warm temperature followed by very cold temperature during quiescence are more likely to be injured severely than trees exposed to the same regime in the rest phase during the middle of winter. Again, the reasons are many and are driven by water movement, hormonal and solute build up, and morphological changes at the cellular level. Growers who are interested in pruning in the early fall or late winter must know about these processes. Know that trees are likely to be injured if they are pruned during the quiescence stage but not at the rest stage.
During winter, temperate fruit trees such as apples, pears, cherries, and peaches, have to accumulate a certain number of hours of temperature between 32 and 45 F as shown below. These hours are needed before the buds can break dormancy. Some trees need less than others, and those are the ones that are likely to be injured by severe winter weather or when the weather warms up then freezes in winter or early spring.
Chilling hours required to break rest.
A few tips on how to reduce injury to fruit trees. For peaches and apricots, delay pruning until spring in order to reduce the potential for winter injury. Avoid pruning young trees less than 10 years old and trees on sub dwarfing rootstocks (M.27 EMLA, P.22) during the quiescent phases. Also, avoid pruning trees in quiescence if they were pruned heavily the year before or if you applied a heavy nitrogen dose in the summer. Avoid pruning trees that lost major scaffolds to wind or other mechanical damage during quiescence. Avoid pruning tender fruits at quiescence; these include apricots, plums, Asian pears, and some peach varieties. Peaches should be pruned in early spring after bloom or the last frost.
Mosbah Kushad (217-244-5691; firstname.lastname@example.org)
This is the first installment of a new section to the Illinois Fruit and Vegetable Growers News aimed at providing information for specialty crop growers that are considering or already using high tunnels on their farms. We will strive to provide timely information as well as post questions we receive and their subsequent answers. The results from the 2010 tomato trial conducted in a high tunnel at DSAC are listed in the table below. Growers planning on producing tomatoes this spring in high tunnels should be ordering seed or already have completed this task. Growers planning on providing supplemental heat and planting in early March (this is no longer technically a high tunnel at the point when supplemental heat is provided but none the less we see growers doing this) have already started their transplants. Growers shooting for end of March plantings should soon be sowing seeds for their tomato transplants. The shorter days and typical cooler temperatures in the greenhouse often result in taking 6 weeks for transplant production compared to the typical 4 weeks that would be common when producing the transplants in April for field production.
Yield results from the 2010 DSAC high tunnel tomato trial. Data are given for 5 plant plots.
Question and Answers
What crops are best suited for high tunnel production?
Although many different crops respond positively to the protected culture afforded by a high tunnel, growers typically have a few criteria, examples listed below, for selecting what they raise in their high tunnels.
Less seriously ... haunting questions
University of Illinois Extension Specialists in Fruit and Vegetable Production & Pest Management
Integrated Pest Management
College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Crop Sciences | Entomology
Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences
Illinois Natural History Survey
Illinois Fruit and Vegetable News
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