Hops and Aquaponics Workshops – November 1 & 2

Hops and Aquaponics Workshops – November 1 & 2

Laura Tiu, Marine Science Extension Agent, Okaloosa and Walton Counties

Aquaponics and Hops – Two New Crops for the Panhandle

The phone rings off the hook at the UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension Office.  Questions run the gamut from agriculture, residential gardening, commercial horticulture, family and consumer science, to youth development and marine science.  Extension agents strive to develop programs to bring the latest research-based science from the Universities to the Counties. In November 2018, two such educational workshops will be conducted.

hops cones

Hop cones. Credit: Evan Anderson, UF/IFAS

Hop Production
There has been a growing interest in growing hops in the Panhandle, for home brewing and potentially to supply the growing number of craft breweries in the area.  Researchers and Extension Specialists from the University of Florida and Ohio State University will be available to share the latest research updates and answer questions about what you need to consider before getting started.  The Hops Workshop will be November 1, 2018 at the UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension Office, 30 98 Airport Rd., Crestview, FL from 9:00 – 5:00 pm.  You can register here: Hops Workshop Registration

Credit: Green Acre Aquaponics

Aquaponics
Aquaponics is another food production method that offers an alternative to traditional soil-based culture. Aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponics to produce fish and produce in a water-conserving recirculating system. Join Extension Specialists from the University of Florida, Auburn University and The Ohio State University as we share the latest in aquaponic research and technology. A small scale, fully operational, hobby-scale system will be available for viewing. The Aquaponics workshop will be November 2, 2018 at the UF/IFAS Walton County Extension Office, 732 N. 9th Street, DeFuniak Springs, FL.  You can register here: Aquaponics Workshop Registration

If you have any questions, feel free to contact: Laura Tiu, lgtiu@ufl.edu, 850-6126197 for more information.

Plastic Mulch Retrieval Equipment Evaluation

Plastic Mulch Retrieval Equipment Evaluation

About a month ago I was lucky enough to attend North Carolina State’s Tomato Field Day, at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, NC.  Every summer crowds flock from all over the Southeast to learn what’s new in the world of tomatoes.  Since it’s not always convenient for you to drop what you’re doing to make a road trip to North Carolina, I’ll highlight something I learned from the field day.

NC State in cooperation with Waste Reduction Partners is conducting research on plastic mulch retrieval equipment.  The project is evaluating plastic mulch retrieval equipment from various manufacturers to development recommendations for use and plastic recycling.

CropCare Mulch Lifter

CropCare PR 2500 Plastic Mulch Lifter-Wrapper. Photo Credit: PBZ LLC, a Paul B. Zimmerman, Inc. company.

Project Goals

  1. To determine if plastic mulch retrieval costs can be reduced with well designed equipment.
  2. To reduce the amount of plant material left on the film after crop termination to allow for reprocessing of the plastic materials.
  3. To reduce the volume of plastic mulch bundles/rolls to lower transportation costs.

Retrieval Equipment Tested

Preliminary Testing Observations & Recommendations

  • The crop must be mowed before the mulch is retrieved.  A properly adjusted flail mower with a rear adjustable height roller worked best.
  • The mulch retriever must have features that allow for debris to fall off the mulch either by: 1) providing vertical space between the plow(s) and the winding device; 2) a PTO driven blower to push debris off the mulch; 3) an agitation device to knock debris off the mulch.
  • Detailed instructions for setup, adjustment, and operation.
  • Mulch retrieval is more successful in dry conditions, because mud slows collection process and adds weight to plastic bundles.
  • Drip tape must be collected separately for recycling.
  • 1 mil or thicker mulch is recommended to help prevent tearing with retrieval equipment.

When making a decision about purchasing new farm equipment, such as a plastic mulch retriever, it’s important that you evaluate the cost effectiveness for your respective operation.  For plastic mulch retrieval equipment, make sure a recycling facility is within close proximity to your farm.  Transportation logistics should also be considered.  For more information on this project and for collaborator contact information please visit NC State’s IPM Webpages.

Grafting Tomatoes for Disease Resistance and Improved Yield

Grafting Tomatoes for Disease Resistance and Improved Yield

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend North Carolina State’s Tomato Field Day, at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, NC.  Every summer crowds flock from all over the Southeast to learn what’s new in the world of tomatoes.  Since it’s not always convenient for you to drop what you’re doing to make a road trip to North Carolina, I’ll highlight something I learned from the field day.

Jonathan Kressin, a PhD candidate in Plant Pathology at NC State, is researching the effects of grafted tomatoes on bacterial wilt management.  Jonathan is not only researching rootstock varieties, he is also looking at cultural practice impacts on bacterial wilt.

Grafted Tomato Transplant

A recently transplanted grafted tomato plant. Photo Credit: Josh Freeman, University of Florida/IFAS

Materials and Methods

Jonathan selected 12 rootstock varieties for trials at the 3 tomato growing regions in North Carolina (Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal Plains).  The cultural practice he is studying is transplant depth.  He wants to determine if burying the graft union has any effect on bacterial wilt tolerance in grafted plants.

Bacterial Wilt in a Tomato Field

A tomato field in Florida with severe incidence of bacterial wilt. Photo credit: Mathews Paret, University of Florida/IFAS

Results

  • Several of the tested rootstocks performed equally well across the 3 regions.  To help with disease resistance, it is important to rotate rootstock varieties and suppliers.
  • The rootstock variety ‘Shield’ displayed the least bacterial wilt resistance overall.
  • The rootstock variety ‘CRA66’ is recommended for open-pollinated varieties.
  • Transplant depth (burying plants below the graft union compared to above the union) did not have any effect on bacterial wilt occurrence.
  • Grafted plants have the potential to increase yield and average fruit size.

Future Research

  • Studies will be conducted to validate and understand the effect of transplant depth on bacterial wilt occurrence.
  • Genetic testing will be conducted to help develop rootstock rotation recommendations.

Grafted transplants significantly increase the cost of production, but as agricultural automation becomes more prevalent, transplant costs should come down.  Grafted tomatoes have the potential to increase yields and reduce inputs.  It’s exciting to see what the future holds for the ever adapting business of tomato farming.  More details on NC State’s tomato research can be found at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center’s Tomato Production website.

New North Carolina Tomato Varieties Offer Disease Resistance and Better Flavor

New North Carolina Tomato Varieties Offer Disease Resistance and Better Flavor

Dr. Randy Gardner discussing NC State tomato varsity trials. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend North Carolina State’s Tomato Field Day, at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, NC.  Every summer crowds flock from all over the Southeast to learn what’s new in the world of tomatoes.  Since it’s not always convenient for you to drop what you’re doing to make a road trip to North Carolina, I’ll highlight something I learned from the field day.

New Varieties with Dr. Randy Gardner and Dr. Dilip Panthee

Dr. Randy Gardner is a retired tomato breeder from NC State with more than 30 years of experience.  Dr. Dilip Panthee is NC State’s newest tomato breeder.  Both are working on developing new cultivars with both disease resistance and an added emphasis on flavor.  The three main diseases they are focusing on for resistance and/or tolerance are Late Blight, Bacterial Spot, and Verticillium Wilt Race 2.  See the list below of some of their newest releases.  Just remember that these varieties were developed for North Carolina growing conditions, so it’s recommended that you give them a try on a small scale to evaluate them for your area.The varieties listed in the table above are available in the market.  For a sneak peak of what’s in store for the future, check out this poster developed by Dr. Panthee:  NC State Tomato Variety Replicated Trials 2018.  More details on NC State’s tomato research can be found at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center website.  Thanks to NC State for an excellent field day!

Dr. Randy Gardner and Dr. Dilip Panthee, NC State tomato breeders, are working on disease resistance with an added emphasis on flavor. Photo credit: Dr. Dilip Panthee, NC State

 

Friday Feature:  Flexnet Drip Irrigation System

Friday Feature: Flexnet Drip Irrigation System

This week’s featured video was produced by Netafim to introduce their FlexNet™ drip irrigation system.  Unlike traditional layflat tubing systems that must be pierced for drip-line tubing attachment, their FlextNet plastic tubing has built in connectors to prevent leaks at the hose source. These connectors can be customized to match a farmers specific row spacing from 12-40″.  This innovative irrigation system could be useful for irrigation of vegetables, cucurbits, or other crops with drip irrigation in the row beds.

According to the FlexNet™ website, this system offers the following advantages over traditional layflat systems:

  • Quick Assembly
    Integral welded connectors ensure a secure, leak-proof connection between distribution pipes and laterals (with no teflon or glue required when using Netafim fittings)
  • Agro-Machinery Friendly
    When not pressurized, it’s so durable it can be stepped on or driven over
  • Low Expansion Rate
    Pipe lays flat, has zero axial elongation and will not tangle or bend

FlexNet is simple, flexible and light-weight for maximum portability and quicker movement from field to field. It can be used in surface or subsurface applications and requires no specialized tools for installation.

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If you enjoyed this video, you might want to check out the featured videos from previous weeks:  Friday Features

If you come across an interesting or humorous video, or a new product innovation related to agriculture, please send in a link, so we can share it with our readers. Send video links to:  Doug Mayo

 

Utilizing Compost to Boost Crop Productivity

Utilizing Compost to Boost Crop Productivity

Tractor front loaders make turning large amounts of compost possible for farmers. Photo by Turkey Hill Farm.

International Compost Awareness Week is May 6-12 this year. This educational initiative, promoted by the Composting Council Research and Education Foundation, was started in Canada in 1995, and has continued to grow in popularity as communities, businesses, municipalities, schools, and organizations celebrate the benefits of compost and composting. But perhaps the most important people involved in composting are the farmers who produce compost to grow the food we eat.

Compost can be produced and used on the farm as a valuable soil amendment, capable of providing not only a source of slow-release nutrients for crops, but also a way to improve soil structure, increase soil moisture-holding capacity, promote biological activity to enhance plant nutrient availability, suppress weeds, and even help combat some plant diseases.

Farmers can source compostable materials from many businesses, including fish waste from seafood markets. Photo by Turkey Hill Farm.

Although creating on-farm compost can take a lot of time and energy, it can be worth a farmer’s effort, if it keeps soil fertility costs down. One way many farmers produce enough compost to meet their fertility needs is to collect waste products generated by their surrounding community. If a system for collection and transportation can be developed, and non-compostable waste can be excluded, farmers can use waste from grocery stores, restaurants, food processing facilities, breweries, seafood markets, horse stables, dairy operations, and chipped trees collected by power line crews as they clear encroaching tree canopies.

Once a farmer has secured sources for compostable materials, next comes the step of mixing the materials to generate heat, up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately for the farmer, microorganisms do most of the work in the decomposition process. But it is the farmer’s responsibility to provide enough –  and the proper balance of – air, moisture, and nitrogen and carbon-rich food to fuel the aerobic microbial oxidation process. The volume needed to generate favorable composting conditions can be anywhere from about one cubic yard up to 40 cubic yards, depending on these factors.

This is why farmers, who depend on compost to supply a majority of their crops’ nutrient needs, often rely on a dump trailer and tractor front-end loader to move compost ingredients, turn compost piles, and spread the finished product on row beds. With experience, farmers learn the correct ratio of ingredients, proper volume and porosity of their piles, when temperatures plateau and piles need to be turned, and when the compost is finished and ready for use.

Spreading compost on crop rows provides a source of nutrients, improves soil structure, increases soil organic matter content, suppresses weeds, and provides many other benefits. Photo by Turkey Hill Farm.

High quality finished compost typically has an organic matter content of about 50 percent, a carbon to nitrogen ratio of around 20:1, near neutral pH, low soluble salts, and is free of weed seeds and plant phytotoxins. Compost nutrient content by volume is relatively low, and availability can vary greatly depending on soil and climatic conditions, so it is important for the farmer to monitor crop nutrient requirements and use additional amendments as needed. But when compost is used as a long-term strategy for improving soil health and building soil organic matter, its benefits can be appreciated for generations.

Interested in learning more about compost? Leon County Extension is hosting a “Got Compost?” workshop May 8, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST, in celebration of International Compost Awareness Week. This workshop is tailored more for home-composters, but will also touch upon ways to up-scale compost production and will discuss small farm compost production strategies. To find out more and to register, visit the Leon County Extension Eventbrite Page.

Additionally, the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance – a non-profit organization of over 50 farmers within a 100-mile radius of Tallahassee – is promoting International Compost Awareness Week on its website and Facebook page. If you utilize compost on your farm, upload a short compost video to the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance Facebook Page for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to the Red Hills Online Market.