Battling Scab in Panhandle Pecan Trees

Battling Scab in Panhandle Pecan Trees

Pecan tree grove in North Florida. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.

Pecans are grown throughout the Panhandle of Florida. The western side of the Panhandle tends to be acreage dedicated to home gardeners, while the eastern counties have more commercial acreage. Regardless, many in the agriculture community are interested in pecans, because they either grow them commercially, or have some planted on their farm for local consumption. UF/IFAS Extension agents receive a steady stream of pecan questions throughout the year. A lot of the questions tend to focus on reinvigorating older orchards, remedying alternate bearing, and disease management. Pecan Scab is the most devastating of pecan diseases in the Southeastern United States.  Disease samples containing scab are frequently brought in to Extension Offices seeking assistance.

Pecan Scab symptoms on the nut shuck (Photo Credit: University of Georgia Plant Pathology , University of Georgia, Bugwood.org)

Pecan Scab is caused by a fungal pathogen called Cladosporium carygenum. Scab can reduce yields 50 to 100%, if not managed. Years in which pecan scab is worse tend to be years with excessive rainfall, much like 2017. Symptoms are small dark lesions (spots) on the leaves, twigs, and nut shucks. The lesions can grow together, and with extreme scab infections, the lesions started on either side of the leaf will eventually go through the leaf, and some even develop a shot hole appearance. Conditions of prolonged leaf wetness is the optimal environment for scab development.

The best way to manage pecan scab is to plant resistant cultivars. Specialists in Florida and Alabama have developed a list of recommended cultivars with some varying levels of scab resistance.  The varieties include Gafford, McMillan, Excel, Kanza, Adams 5, Philip, Gloria Grande, Lakota, Sumner, as well as several others listed in the chart below. Some of the recommended pollinator cultivars are Amling and Syrup Mill. The data in the chart were derived from Dr. Pete Andersen’s research of scab resistance in cultivars grown in Quincy, Florida, at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center.

Dr. Pete Andersen’s 3 year research data of scab resistance on several pecan cultivars in Quincy, FL.

Choosing appropriate cultivars is the best way for homeowner pecan growers to deal with scab, as spraying protectant fungicides is not an option for non-commercial growers.  For commercial growers a detailed spray schedule can be followed from bud-break to shell hardening. A plethora of fungicides can be used, but should be rotated to prevent resistance development. Some of the fungicides used for scab control include tebuconazoles, azoxystrobin, kresoxim-methyl, flutriafol, triphenyltin hydroxide, and dodine. Fungicide recommendations do change over time, so check with local Extension Agents to receive  the latest recommendations.

Sources for additional information on Pecan production:

The Pecan Tree

Pecan Cultivars for North Florida

UGA Pecan Production Website

UGA 2017 Commercial Pecan Spray Guide

Southeastern Pecan Growers’ Handbook

 

Where to Start with Marketing Fresh Produce?

Where to Start with Marketing Fresh Produce?

Marketing fresh produce effectively is key to business sustainability.

The local food movement has grown tremendously over the past several years. People have become more interested in how their food is produced and where it comes from. New farms have popped up to try to satisfy this demand. You might be one of these new farmers and you probably chose to take this endeavor on because you love marketing!….or probably not. Most beginning farmers are drawn to the industry because of the benefits of working for themselves, working with and in nature, and/or growing their own food. Those are all great aspects of growing fresh produce, but to make it a sustainable business you have to sell it to somebody for a price that will earn a profit.

Realizing that many new or beginning fresh produce farmers are not enamored with the idea of marketing, and maybe have even jumped into their project without fully exploring this important task, there are some practices that must be considered:

  1. Check with Local Municipalities for proper licensing and permits:

    The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is the regulatory authority for selling produce in Florida. FDACS does not require a license or permit to sell fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables to many markets. However, county and/or city permits may be required in your area to sell fresh, unprocessed produce.

  2. Food Safety:

    Foodborne illnesses are a serious issue that require the attention of growers and buyers. Considering the complexity of the food system, there is potential for widespread foodborne illnesses to occur because of contaminated produce. Food safety plans are required by the buyer for some markets (distributors, large retail groceries, etc.) while most direct to consumer sales do not require a written food safety plan. However, food safety plans are not difficult to make and will help prevent foodborne illnesses. There are also new federal regulations that growers must be aware of.  Read this article to see if your farm is exempt or not:  Things You Should Know About Farm Food Safety

  3. Insurance:

    Insurance is important for any farm or business. It can protect against accident related losses on the farm, or cover the farm products once they leave the farm. Communicate with the potential buyer to find the minimum requirements necessary to supply to their companies. After the requirements are discovered, consult with an insurance professional on your operations insurance needs.

  4. Volume/Supply:

    The amount of product can be a limiting factor for beginning growers. Some markets prefer to purchase in large quantities, such as by the pallet or by the truckload. Typically, small growers sell low volumes of product for premium prices at specialty markets where customers are willing to spend more to purchase directly from the grower. Because of this, specialty market growers generally can be successful on a smaller area of cultivated land. Conversely, when selling to wholesale buyers and distributors, the farmer can expect to receive less for their goods, but will make up for it in the quantity in which they sell. It sometimes requires a different mindset than many small growers have, and this must be heavily considered before entering these types of markets.

    Supply must be consistent throughout the harvesting season when using the wholesale and distribution markets. Small growers who sell directly to consumers have experience with this as they strive to bring the variety of different products to their customers each and every week. In the same manner, a grower selling to larger markets must not only have consistent supply, but have it in the larger quantities in order to satisfy the buyer, and make a profit with lower prices. Multiple plantings, continuously bearing crops, and communication on availability are all key in providing the buyer with realistic expectations of the products the farmer will have or currently has in hand.

These are just a few of many subjects related to marketing that need to be pondered before ever planting a crop. The Gulf Coast Small Farms team of UF/IFAS Extension faculty have created short checklists for six different types of marketing opportunities for fresh produce growers looking to enter specific markets. These publications will not give all of the information necessary to begin to sell in the market, but will give new producers a good starting point.

Produce Marketing Checklists:

These publications and more are available at the Panhandle Produce Pointers website.  For more information on marketing fresh produce grown on your farm, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Agent.

 

Using the Linear Bed Foot System for Vegetable Fertilization

Using the Linear Bed Foot System for Vegetable Fertilization

Some production systems, particularly vegetables, utilize wide row spacing (anywhere from 4 to 8 foot wide). In these systems it is of economic and environmental importance to fertilize the crop root zones evenly, and not fertilize the row middles, where nutrients will go to waste or could even become a pollutant. The linear bed foot method (LBF) is utilized in order to help growers with mulched beds apply the correct amount of nutrients based on soil test recommendations.

Plastic mulch-bed systems utilize the linear bed foot method. (PC:Blake Thaxton)

Plastic mulch-bed systems utilize the linear bed foot method. (PC:Blake Thaxton)

Different row spacing are used by growers, so the LBF system standardizes the rate regardless of the chosen row spacing. The LBF system uses the fertilizer recommendation, usually expressed in a pounds to the acre (lbs of NPK/Acre) format, and the “typical row spacing” for the crop being grown. The “typical row spacing” can be found in Table 1 below, and will also be supplied by UF/IFAS extension soil testing reports.

Using this information, you can calculate that in an acre planted with a six foot row spacing (center to center), 100 linear bed foot will fit 72.6 times.

  • 43,560 square feet in an Acre/6 ft row spacing = 7,260 LBF
  • 7,260 LBF/100 = 72.6 (100 ft of row)

On the same acre a grower could have 100 linear bed foot fit 108.9 times with a four foot row spacing.

  • 43,560 square feet in an Acre/4 ft row spacing = 10,890 LBF
  • 10,890 LBF/100 = 108.9 (100 ft of row)

Although, there will be more total fertilizer applied to the field with the 4 foot row spacing, each 100 foot of row will receive the same amount of fertilizer regardless of the row spacing.

Once the grower has a fertilizer recommendation based on soil testing, that information can be used to acquire the amount of fertilizer to apply per 100 linear bed foot (or 100 feet of row). The fertilizer recommendation will be expressed in pounds/acre. This number can be converted to the lbs/100 linear bed foot by using Table 2 below. Using this conversion table will allow growers to apply the same amount of fertilizer per plant, regardless of the chosen row spacing. This is accomplished by expressing the amount of fertilizer to be applied in 100 linear bed foot increments.

Read more about the Linear Bed Foot system and additional examples of how it is used in the following UF/IFAS publication:

Calculating Recommended Fertilizer Rates for Vegetables Grown in Raised-Bed, Mulched Cultural Systems

 

High Tunnel Exclusion Systems for Improved Pest Management

High Tunnel Exclusion Systems for Improved Pest Management

net house crops1feat

Author: Jose Perez, UF/IFAS Small Farms Extension Coordinator

Majumdar_AyanavasmallDr. Ayanava Majumdar is an Extension Entomologist for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University. His work focuses on finding practical solutions for managing insect pests that affect peanut and vegetable crops. “Dr. A,” as he is commonly known, has developed a very strong relationship with growers across Alabama. In recent years, he has gotten a lot of requests from high tunnel growers who are growing vegetables using sustainable agricultural practices. He is an expert in the field of alternative pest management tactics with emphasis on trap crops, pest exclusion, and organic insecticides.

“Protected agriculture has grown in the state for various reasons, especially due to the increasing consumer demand for local foods. Consumers are more aware and want to know who grew the food they consume,” Dr. A said.  Growers are using high tunnels to extend the season during lean times and supply local food to consumers year-round. High tunnels help farmers take advantage of two specific periods. During winters, these structures allow farmers to plant crops earlier than normal and during hot and humid summers, when pests and diseases thrive, they are able to produce crops by regulating temperatures and the amount of rain entering the system.

Protected structures, however, are not exempt from pest problems. “Pest management in high tunnels can be challenging because the diseases and insects take advantage of the growing conditions inside the tunnels,” Dr A said. For example, problems with spider mites and leaffooted bugs have exploded. “These pests really love the heat and the close proximity of plants inside a tunnel. They are very good at exploring their environment and causing rapid crop loss.” he said.

The High Tunnel Exclusion System

Dr. A is pioneering the use of high tunnel pest exclusion systems (HTPE) as a permanent or long-term solution to pest problems. High tunnels are not usually completely closed systems, as the sidewalls and sometimes the ends are open or movable for ventilation purposes. The HTPE technique basically consists of placing a 30-50% shadecloth on these sidewalls under the roll up plastic and at the ends to exclude large insects while allowing beneficial insects to pass through and provide adequate ventilation. This means that the shadecloth material covers about 25% to 33% of the whole structure. The shadecloth is relatively inexpensive and its cost compares well with some expensive organic insecticides. It’s very important to install the shadecloth correctly and seal tightly, otherwise it will not be effective.

ht2Farmers See the Benefits

Dr. A. said that he has seen dramatic reductions in numbers of leaffooted bugs, armyworm moths and other important insect pests as a result of installing an exclusion system. This technique will not exclude all the insects, but the pest pressure overall decreases. “We are currently researching this system in six farms located across the state and this technique has dramatically improved the quality of their crops”, Dr. A said. “We are learning with farmers and have seen that farmers can easily recover the costs within the first season, especially with high value crops such as lettuce or tomatoes,” he said. Dr. A is a believer that his farmer partners are key to validate and spread the technology with other farmers. “After seeing this system work, farmers won’t go back to open high tunnels,” he said. On the other hand, “if farmers don’t like it, they can easily take off the shade cloth and use it elsewhere.”  Dr. A’s research findings are available in the form of videos and publications on the Alabama Vegetable IPM website.

IMG_5115smallOrganic and Alternative Systems

Dr. A is looking at providing solutions for organic and alternative systems. “Customers are asking what the farmers are spraying. The growers have to be more responsible since they are talking to very aware customers.” As a result, he has seen small farmers spending a lot of money using insecticides approved for organic production.  The exclusion technology will help, but it’s not a silver bullet. Dr. A is currently studying the release of beneficial insects in these systems. “Pest prevention is the goal in organic systems. Once the pest is there, there are very few tools you can use,” he said.

Learn from Dr. A

Dr. A. will be a speaker at the Panhandle Fruit and Vegetable Conference on October 11 in Marianna, FL. He will teach two different Integrated Pest Management (IPM) workshops. The first one will be focused on open field conventional vegetable production. The second workshop will focus on organic alternative IPM systems using the Pest Exclusion system. During the event, he will be providing free copies of the High Tunnel Crop Production Manual for New and Beginning Farmers and the Alternative Vegetable IPM Slide Chart and insect scouting guides. Don’t miss the talks!

Pandhandle SFC2To register and find out more information about the conference visit: https://pfvc.eventbrite.com. Early bird registration is $40 and ends September 5. Your registration includes breakfast, lunch, refreshments, educational materials and transportation to farm tour locations. The event is sponsored by UF/IFAS Extension and support in part by a Florida Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant.

 

Satsumas Return to North Florida

Satsumas Return to North Florida

satsuma

Author: Jose Perez, UF/IFAS Small Farms Extension Coordinator

Tour a Satsuma Grove on October 11

There was a time when citrus production was booming in North Florida. In the 1920’s, Jackson County, Florida, was known as the Satsuma capital of the World. Satsuma is a citrus variety with excellent eating quality that is cold heady and matures early. Back then, there were about 3,000 acres of satsumas growing in the region, and the town of Marianna organized yearly satsuma festivals. That all changed in 1935 when hard freezes devastated the industry by killing the trees. The satsumas did not come back, and producers turned to other crops for income.

MackGlass

Mack Glass

Satsumas were missing from the North Florida landscape until farmer-pioneer Mack Glass became interested in this crop as a way to diversify his farm. Federal payments for agronomic crops started to slide in the 1990’s and the time was right to look for alternative crops. In 1999, Mack attended an agricultural summit where the take-away message was, you either become a mega farm or you pursue niche production. “I decided to pursue a niche product,” said Mack, who decided to plant 6 acres of satsuma mandarins in the year 2002 with the help of UF/IFAS faculty. Along with two other farmer friends, they formed the Cherokee Citrus Cooperative. Mack estimates that there are now about 30 acres of satsumas growing in the region.

Innovative Freeze Protection

Freezing temperatures destroyed the industry in the 1930’s and according to Mack, it continues to be the major threat to the industry. However, one of the main factors that convinced him to give satsumas a try was a micro-irrigation technology that could help the trees withstand the hard freezes in North Florida. The freeze protection system works because heat is released when water turns into ice. The ice protects the tree and allow them to survive.

In January 2003, a year after he had planted the satsuma trees, his grove passed its biggest test to date. The temperature was 15 degrees, but thanks to the micro-emitters, he only lost one tree. “Some years we haven’t used the frost protection irrigation at all, like last year. On the other hand, there was a year where we had to use it three days straight,” he said.

grove

Mack’s satsuma grove

Interest in Growing Satsumas Is Increasing

There are a few more growers planting satsumas in the region, which is encouraging said Mack. “The more growers we have, the better.” Mack is not shy about sharing his experiences with others and encouraging them to plant satsumas.” I think the acreage of satsumas will continue to grow in the future, he said. Besides the threat of freezes, problems with labor availability is an important factor that makes many growers think twice about planting satsumas.

Citrus greening has not been a concern in this part of the state, and Mack reported that no disease had been detected. The low winter temperatures in the region help break the lifecycle of the Asian citrus psyllid, the vector that transmits citrus greening.

Satsumas for Lunch

mack school

Mack visiting Santa Rosa County schools

There was no market for satsumas, but Mack and his fellow farmers have worked hard to put satsumas in the region’s school lunch menus. “I introduced Mr. Glass to Santa Rosa County’s Sodexo manager and they are now serving his satsumas for the county’s schools,” said Christina Walmer, a Food Systems Coordinator for the Farm to School, Farm to Community FNP-UF/IFAS Program. “We did whatever was needed to serve this market. We got insurance, food safety certification, and worked with Fresh From Florida to make this happen, we are fortunate” said Mack.  “Even when satsumas are part of the school lunches for only November and December, they have become the favorite item for many children” Mack often goes to schools and shares with students the history of satsumas and how this locally grown fruit is coming back. Some fruit is also sold through organizational fundraising events.

Mack was one of the first producers in Jackson County to become GAP (good agricultural practice) trained in food safety. Mack has now built a USDA approved citrus packing facility, and is hoping to join forces with more growers in the future.

Visit Mack’s Satsuma Grove on October 11

The Panhandle Fruit & Vegetable Conference is scheduled for October 11, 2016 in Marianna, FL. The event will give participants the chance to tour Mack’s grove through an afternoon farm tour. By that date, everyone will be able to see fruit beginning to turn color. Mack will lead a tour of his grove showing various aspects of his operation, including how the freeze protection works.  The conference will also offer a Protected Agriculture tour, practical workshops, conference sessions, and a trade show. A highlight of the event will be farmer and author Richard Wiswall as the Conference Keynote Speaker.

For more information and registration visit: https://pfvc.eventbrite.com. Early bird registration is $40 before September 6. Your registration includes breakfast, lunch, refreshments, educational materials and transportation to farm tour locations. The event is sponsored by UF/IFAS Extension with support in part by a Florida Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant. We look forward to seeing you there!