At an Extension event.
Matthew J. Orwat Is the Horticulture Extension Agent for Washington County, Florida. His mission is to provide educational programming to meet the diverse needs of and provide solutions for homeowners and small farmers with ornamental, turf, fruit and vegetable gardening objectives.
He holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology, with an emphasis in Botany, from University of Texas Arlington and a Masters in Horticulture from Texas A&M University.
Matthew started gardening at an early age when growing up in Fort Worth, Texas. He grew lots of fruit trees and vegetables with his father, and helped his grandfather in his grape orchard and pecan grove. His passion for roses developed out of a passion for native trees, of which he learned to identify all types in his area when he was 12. When he was 13, his mom brought home one rose bush and the rest is history. By high school, he was growing 83 rose bushes and had already competed in local rose shows. Besides roses, Matthew enjoyed studying native plant ecology, prairie preservation and greenhouse production of tropical plants. In college he managed the teaching greenhouses for the University of Texas at Arlington Biology Department. He found this work rewarding, inspiring him onto furthering his career in horticulture.
Matthew was interested in gardening from a young age
He has been an avid rose grower since 14 years old and worked with the Texas A&M Rose Breeding and Genetics program in graduate school evaluating genetic traits for disease resistance. He also began working with Texas Agrilife Extension at this time, teaching about sustainable vegetable and rose gardening for both college students and master gardeners. He started his career with UF / IFAS in 2011 and is the Horticulture Extension Agent for Washington County Florida, in Chipley. He believes that roses can be grown in the coastal South, with minimal spraying, if careful cultivar selection is made. A good starting point for this is reviewing historic records and texts, particularly the chapter on roses in Hume’s “Gardening in the Lower South”. Also the findings of the Texas Earthkind Rose Selection Program provide good insight for rose gardeners in Northwest Florida.
He enjoys working with his small, but active, group of Master Gardener Volunteers on various youth projects and educational classes.
He has a passion for fruit and nut production and endeavors to assist growers throughout the Northwest District with production of crops such as blueberries, citrus, peaches, muscadines and other fruit crops. He also is involved with the UF / IFAS Honeybee Extension Lab’s statewide Beekeeping program. He believes that there are lots of untapped niche markets for small and medium sized farms in Northwest Florida and aims to help enterprising agricultural entrepreneurs find those niches.
Matt teaching other extension agents about roses
In late July, Larry Kinsolving, a Jackson County Master Gardener, noticed an insect pest in the beautiful, large azalea bushes that frame the front entrance to his home in Marianna, Florida. The azalea caterpillar is found in Florida from late summer to early fall on azaleas and other plants including blueberries. If left undetected, the caterpillars can defoliate (eat up the leaves) of much of a plant. In general, caterpillars seldom kill the plants they feed on, but the stress caused by defoliation can reduce flowering or fruiting the following spring, if it becomes a serious problem. Larry shows you how easy it is to find and remove this pest from your azalea bushes. While the caterpillar appears hairy, it is harmless to humans and can be handled without concern.
Citrus Rust Mite “sharkskin” closeup – Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF / IFAS Extension
In recent years, not a summer has gone by in which I did not see citrus rust mite (CRM) damage in a garden. I thought this year would be the first. Unfortunately, recently I saw my first rust mite damage of the year.
Unlike the myriad of pests that have been recently introduced into Florida from abroad, the citrus rust mite (Phyllocoptruta oleivora) has been documented as present in Florida since the late 1800s. Along with its companion, pink citrus rust mite (Aculops pelekassi) It can be a major summer pest for satsuma mandarins grown in the Florida Panhandle gardens.
Citrus Rust Mite (CRM) damage manifests itself on fruit in two ways, “sharkskin” and “bronzing“. Sharkskin is caused when mites have fed on developing fruit, and destroyed the top epidermal layer. As the fruit grows, the epidermal layer breaks and as the fruit heals, the brown “sharkskin” look develops. Bronzing occurs when rust mites feed on fruit that’s nearer to mature size. Since the skin is not fractured by growth, the fruits develop a polished bronze look. In both cases, the interior of the fruit may remain undamaged. However, extreme damage can cases cause fruit drop and reduced fruit size. Regardless of the condition of the interior, damaged fruit is not aesthetically pleasing, but fine for slicing or juicing.
“Sharkskin Damage” to fruit caused by past feeding by the Citrus Rust Mite. Image Credit, Matthew Orwat
If a CRM population is present, they will begin increasing on fresh spring new growth in late April, and usually reach peak levels in June and July. By August the damage has often already been done, but is first noticed due to the increased growth of the fruit. Depending upon weather conditions, CRM can have a resurgence in October and November, just as Satsuma and other citrus is getting ready to be harvested, so careful monitoring is necessary. For more information, check out this publication: Guide to Citrus Rust Mite Identification.
Sun spot resulting from where citrus rust mite avoids feeding on most sun exposed portion of the fruit. Image and Caption courtesy of EDIs publication HS-806
If control of CRM is warranted, there are several miticides available for use, but it is not advisable for home gardeners to use these on their citrus plants since they will also kill beneficial insects. Horticultural oil is an alternative to miticide, which is less damaging to beneficial insects. Several brands of horticultural oil are formulated to smother CRM, but care must be taken to not apply horticultural oil when daytime temperatures will reach 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Application of oils at times when temperatures are at this level or higher will result in leaf and fruit damage.
Although Citrus Rust Mite (CRM) has the potential to be aesthetically unsightly on citrus fruit in the Florida Panhandle, strategies of monitoring and treatment in homeowner citrus production have been successful in mitigating their damage.
Veteran Master Gardener, Les Furr shares an idea he and his wife had to hide an ugly debris pile following Hurricane Michael. He planted a temporary sunflower screen to block something ugly with something beautiful. Sunflowers can be planted along a road or fence, and provide a lovely addition to your property. The seed can be saved and frozen to provide beauty to your property year after year.