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.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Control Using Natural Enemies

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Control Using Natural Enemies

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.

Stink Bug Control by Dr. Jim Walgenbach

Distribution

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) was introduced into the United States from Asia.  The insect pest was first found in Pennsylvania and is suspected to have made its way to the US in packing material.  BMSB was first reported in 2009 in Hillsborough County, FL and since been found in additional Florida counties.  It has a wide host range including fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals.

Fifth instar nymph of the brown marmorated stink bug

Fifth instar nymph of the brown marmorated stink bug on raspberry in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  Photo Credit: Gary Bernon, USDA-APHIS

Identification

BMSB has a typical stink bug body shape and size with a mottled brown coloring.  The key identification feature is alternating dark and light bands on the last two antennal segments.

Trissolcus japonicus adults.

Trissolcus japonicus adults. Female to the left; male to the right. Photo Credit: FDACS – DPI

Biological Control with Natural Enemies

Dr. Walgenbach’s team is currently researching the impact of suppressing BMSB populations by native predators such as: katydids; jumping spiders; earwigs; and lady beetles.  Current observations indicate only a minor effect from these predators on BMSB.

Parasitized BMSB

BMSB egg masses parasitized by T. japonicus. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension.

Trissolcus japonicus Assessment

A regional effort has been implemented to monitor the introduction, spread, and efficacy of the Asian parasitoid Trissolcus japonicus.  Trissolcus japonicus is a tiny wasp that parasitizes the eggs of various stink bug species.  It was first collected from China and brought back to quarantine facilities in the US for evaluation, as a potential biological control agent.  Host-specific tests have indicated that T. japonicus prefers to parasitize BMSB eggs over eggs of other stink bug species.  It is suspected that release permits for the wasp will be available from the USDA in the near future.

Reporting in Florida

The brown marmorated stink bug overwinters in homes to keep warm.  If stink bugs are found in yuor home, they may be the BMSB and should be reported to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry.  Specimens should be collected for identification.

To follow the research of Dr. Walgenbach and his colleagues, please visit NC State’s Entomology webpage.

Art, Garden & Farm Family Festival – October 6

Art, Garden & Farm Family Festival – October 6

Bring the whole family for a fun day at the NFREC Art & Garden Festival and talk with agricultural scientists about new crops, methods and equipment for modern farming.

As the weather cools and plants perk up, join us for a day of fun activities for the whole family! View farm animals and equipment, and talk with agricultural scientists about new crops, methods and equipment for modern farming. Take a stroll through the new botanical garden or hop on a tractor-trolley for a tour highlighting fruits and nuts for our area. Speak with experts about all your gardening questions, or purchase unusual, hard-to-find, top-performing plants for your garden.  Children’s arts and crafts activities will take place in a huge “Kid Zone” located in a shaded area of the garden area.  Local arts and crafts will be for sale, and food and beverages will be available.

The University of Florida/IFAS will host the Art, Garden & Farm Family Festival on Saturday October 6, at the North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC), Quincy Campus. The event will be held form 9:00 am to 2:00 pm EDT. NFREC Quincy is located off Pat Thomas Highway, State Road 267, at 155 Research Road, Quincy, FL, just north of I-10 Exit 181,  or three miles south of Quincy, Florida.

The event is free and open to the public.  For more information: http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/art-and-garden/

Double Cropping Options for a Fall Vegetable Crop

Double Cropping Options for a Fall Vegetable Crop

Fruit and vegetable production on plastic mulch is a substantial investment.  To help justify the high input cost, farmers oftentimes choose to double crop.  This practice can provide a significant amount of additional income for the farm if a good farm management plan is in place, there is a demand for the product, and the weather cooperates.

plastic mulch bed

Plastic mulch beds. Photo Credit: Blake Thaxton.

Field Prep

Spring fruit and vegetable crops are usually grown on black plastic mulch, but fall crops are usually grown on white plastic.  Black plastic mulch helps absorb heat to warm the soil in the late winter and spring.  White plastic mulch helps reflect light to cool the soil in the late summer and fall.  In order to reuse black plastic from the spring, painting the mulch is recommended.  White interior latex paint can be diluted with water and sprayed on the plastic.  At least one study has shown the ratio of paint to water can vary drastically without any significant difference in yield.

Crop residue leftover from the spring crop should be removed to reduce the risk of plant and human pathogens and deter harboring of insect and rodent pests.  If pests are an issue or a potential threat, then the soil can be fumigated before the second crop is planted.  Also, it is important to continue to irrigate the beds during the time between the two crops.  This will ensure a good water distribution throughout the bed when the second crop is planted.

Fertilization

When double cropping, it is important to consider each crop’s fertilizer needs independently.  Never assume that excess fertilizer from the spring crop will be taken up by the fall crop.  Take a soil sample before the second crop is planted to determine nutrient deficiencies.  If phosphorus is required for the second crop, then phosphoric acid can be injected through the drip.

Stringing tomatoes. Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones UF/IFAS Communication Services

Crop Selection

It is never a good idea to plant members of the same plant family sequentially, such as tomatoes after an eggplant crop, or zucchini after a watermelon crop.  The Vegetable Production Handbook of Florida lists production practices for various crops by plant family.  Recommended fall crops to follow tomatoes include: squash; broccoli; or cabbage.  Recommended fall crops to follow watermelons and other cucurbits include: peppers; tomatoes; or broccoli.  Consider plant spacing when selecting a second crop.  Added holes in the plastic mulch will reduce it’s integrity and promote weed growth.  No matter what crop you choose to plant this fall, make sure you have a good marketing plan in place, with your buyers already lined up.

 

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.

*******************************************************************************

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