Supplemental water is necessary for good crop yields in fruit and vegetable production. Water quality is equally as important as water quantity when it comes to fruit and vegetable production. Unfortunately, water can transport harmful microorganisms from adjacent lands or other areas of the farm. The water source and how the water is applied influence the risk for crop contamination to occur.
Water is used for various purposes during production: harvesting, and handling fresh produce, irrigation, cooling, frost protection, as a carrier for fertilizers and pesticides, and for washing tools and harvest containers, hand washing, and drinking.
Washing lettuce. Photo Credit: Cornell University Extension
The FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) proposed water compliance date is not until 2022, but it will be here before you know it. Water quality is an important component of a Food Safety Plan. A good first step in ensuring compliance with FSMA water quality standards is to evaluate the water sources on the farm. For more information on compliance dates, please visit the Produce Safety Alliance’s Website.
The three common sources of water used on farms are surface water, well water, and municipal water.
Surface water includes ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams. It is at the highest risk for contamination because there is limited control on what flows downstream or from adjacent land. Wild and domestic animals, manure piles, and sewage discharges are all potential sources of contamination in surface waters.
The most common water source for North Florida farms is well water. Well water used for farming is at a moderate risk of becoming contaminated, when compared to surface water (highest risk) and municipal water (lowest risk). Wells are at a higher risk of becoming contaminated when located near flood zones, septic tanks, drainage fields, and manure/compost storage areas. The risk of contamination is further heightened if the well was not constructed properly, or if the casing is cracked. Wells should be properly sited, constructed, and maintained to keep contamination risks lower.
A recently installed well pump on a North Florida watermelon farm. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension
Well Design and Construction
- Preliminary Investigation – A preliminary investigation helps determine the design of a well. Existing wells in the area should be checked out to help determine depth and potential capacity. If records for the area aren’t available, then test holes should be drilled to determine the best location for water production.
- Casing – Casing material should be determined based on site characteristics. The casing needs to extend above the surface water level to reduce contamination risks. The casing is sealed in place with grout. A poor grouting job can also promote contamination. Casing diameter is selected based on well capacity.
- Well Screen – A commercially designed well screen should be installed to minimize hydraulic head loss. Screen diameter and material should be determined based on the preliminary investigation results. Gravel packing is recommended in some areas.
For more recommendations on well design and construction, please visit the University of Florida/IFAS publication: Design and Construction of Screened Wells for Agricultural Irrigation Systems
Please note that it is important to monitor your well water quality at least twice during each growing season. A list of FSMA approved water testing methods can be found at Cornell University’s Law School Website.
Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered new dicamba herbicide product formulations for making applications to dicamba tolerant cotton and soybean crops. As a result, many states were overwhelmed with drift complaints regarding sensitive crops. This led to the 2018 EPA announcement requiring that anyone who wishes to apply dicamba to dicamba tolerant crops MUST participate in an auxin herbicide training before making applications in 2018.
[warning]This training is required of anyone applying newer dicamba products registered for use on dicamba tolerant cotton and soybeans.[/warning]
Product examples include XtendiMax, Engenia, and FeXapan. Applicators using older dicamba formulations in other crops (corn, forages, small grains, sorghum, and turf) can still apply dicamba products without having this training but thoseproducts CANNOT be used on the dicamba tolerant crops. If you have questions regarding the use of these products or if you need the training, call your local Extension Office before making any applications.
On March 16, Extension Offices from across the state hosted an online two-hour dicamba training, which was broadcasted live from Gainesville. This training was overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), who determined that the CEU form received from completion of this training would serve as the official documentation of attendance. If applicators desire to use the form for CEUs towards renewal of their pesticide license, they are required to keep an additional copy in their possession as proof of completing the dicamba training.
The training was recorded live and made available to all participating Extension Offices (see below). If you plan to make dicamba applications to dicamba tolerant cotton or soybean, you MUST complete this training before making any applications. The training is not required before planting dicamba genetics, but without the training dicamba cannot be sprayed on the crop. If you plan to spray the crop with dicamba, or want the weed control option later in the season, the training is mandatory.
[important]The recorded training has been made available to all participating Extension Offices. Applicators are required to watch it at the Extension Office, where it can be proctored by an agent who is a certified CEU provider and can issue/sign the CEU form. There are no exceptions, you must watch the training at an Extension Office. In the Panhandle, participating Extension Offices with access to the training include: Calhoun, Escambia, Gadsden, Holmes, Jefferson, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Washington Counties. Contact information for the different offices can be found using the following link: Florida County Extension Offices.[/important]
Best management practices are vital to the successful production of sod by Florida producers who strive to be in compliance with governmental regulations. Credit: Bryan Unruh
Bryan Unruh, UF/IFAS Turf Specialist
Sod production in Florida contributes approximately $300 million to the state’s economy annually. As the economy continues to rebound and new houses are built to accommodate Florida’s population growth, sod will also see an increase in demand, which bodes well for Florida’s sod producers.
Best management practices (BMPs) provide producers with critical tools they need to produce quality turfgrass sod while complying with local, state and federal regulations. Sod production BMPs cover the gamut of production practices ranging from nutrient management, irrigation and water table management, water resource protection, integrated pest management, chemical waste management, and pollinator protection. An area of primary concern for sod producers is the protection of surface waters from pollutants, including fertilizer, and nearly every state in the U.S. is affected by Federal legislation such as the U.S. Clean Water Act, which was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972.
Water quality has been decreased by point and nonpoint source pollution. Section 502(14) of the U.S. Clean Water Act defines point source as any “discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, or vessel or other floating craft, from which pollutants are or may be discharged” (1). Conversely, nonpoint source pollution is defined to mean any source of water pollution that does not meet the legal definition of point source in the U.S. Clean Water Act. Nonpoint source pollution comes from many different sources including land runoff, precipitation, atmospheric deposition, drainage, seepage or modifications to natural waterways. Nonpoint source pollution occurs as rainfall or snowmelt moves over the surface and through the ground picking up natural and man-made pollutants and then depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters. Across the state of Florida, nonpoint source pollution is the leading cause of water-quality problems that adversely affect drinking water supplies, recreation, and marine life and wildlife.
A common approach to driving water quality improvement is the development and implementation of urban and agricultural BMP programs. The term “BMP” in Florida has a statutory definition:
Best management practice means a practice or combination of practices determined by the coordinating agencies, based on research, field-testing, and expert review, to be the most effective and practicable on-location means, including economic and technological considerations, for improving water quality in agricultural and urban discharge. (373.4595, F.S.).
This definition ensures that the BMPs are based on sound science that is verifiable and peer-reviewed and that they are not economically impractical to the sod producer.
In 2005, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services (FDACS) established a steering committee to guide the development of sod production BMPs. The steering committee, comprising regulatory officials and sod producers, worked closely with UF-IFAS faculty and other producers to publish the Water Quality/Quantity Best Management Practices for Florida Sod Manual in 2008. In 2017, FDACS initiated a revision of this statewide BMP manual for sod operations to clarify and update the practices in the original manual; the revision is forthcoming.
In 2017, The Florida Department of Agriculture formed a steering committee to clarify and update the practices in the original Sod Production BMP Manual published in 2008. Credit: Bryan Unruh
Benefits of Implementing BMPs
Benefits to enrolling in and implementing FDACS BMPs include:
- Maintaining support for this non-regulatory approach to meeting water quality and conservation goals through demonstrating agriculture’s commitment to protecting water resources.
- Some BMPs increase production efficiency and reduce costs.
- Eligibility for cost share (as available) and technical assistance to help with BMP implementation.
- A presumption of compliance with state water quality standards for the pollutants addressed by the BMPs.
- Release from fines for damages imposed under section 376.307(5), F.S., for pollutants addressed by the BMPs.
- Producers implementing BMPs gain certain protections since The Florida Right to Farm Act (section 823.14, F.S.) generally prohibits local governments from regulating an agricultural activity that is already adopted.
For more information on the Florida BMP Program, and the BMPs identified for sod production, use the following links:
- S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2016. Clean Water Act, Section 502 General definitions. www.epa.gov/cwa-404/clean-water-act-section-502-general-definitions Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.
Today, August 11 is “National 811 Day,” so it is only fitting to share an Ag-Safety reminder to “Call or Click Before You Dig.”
There are pipelines and utility lines buried all over the place in rural areas. In fact, there are more than 1,250 miles of gas and hazardous liquid pipelines that run through the Panhandle from Jefferson to Escambia Counties. Many of these utilities are buried along highway right-of-ways, but some do cross through farm fields. If you have recently purchased or leased a new field, make sure you know where these lines are located. The markers are placed in the vicinity of the hazard, but may not be exact. If you plan to excavate for a pond, remove stumps, clean out a ditch, dig post holes for a fence, install drainage tiles in a field, or just are going to do some deep tillage, it is always a good idea to know exactly where pipe or utility lines are buried. Hitting a gas line can be extremely dangerous. Breaking a fiber-optic cable can stop service for thousands of people in your area. If you see the buried utility markers at the edge of a field, make sure you know exactly where and how deep they are buried by using the 811 system. Utility marking can require a few days to schedule with the specific utility involved, so this is something you should do several days before a project begins.
In 2005, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated 811 as the universal phone number for the 71 regions that coordinate location services for underground public utilities in the U.S. If you would prefer to make a location request online, instead of by phone, you can use the Florida 811 Service through their website: http://www.sunshine811.com/ If you see the markers on the edge of your field, make the call or make out an online location request ticket, at least two days before you dig or farm the field.
This is what can happen if you skip the 811 call:
For more information:
U.S. Click Before you Dig website that provides a link for utility marking requests in each state
Cotton is largely self-pollinating but attractive to bees. Pollination by bees can increase seed set per boll. Photo by Judy Biss
On January 12, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final “Policy to Mitigate the Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products.” This policy outlines EPA’s label statements designed to mitigate acute risks to bees from pesticides. The recent UF/IFAS publication, Pesticide Labeling: Protection of Pollinators, provides an in-depth look at the new EPA policy. This article provides an overview of the ways beekeepers, agricultural producers, and state and federal agencies all play an important role in sustaining this critical component of food production.
Why is Pollinator Protection Important?
Pollinator Protection was formally recognized at the federal level in 2014 when the President of the United States signed an official memorandum entitled: Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators which outlines specific steps needed to increase and improve pollinator habitat. These steps are geared towards protecting and restoring populations of not only honey bees, but native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies all of which are vital to our nation’s economy, food production, and environmental health.
“The western honey bee is conceivably the most important pollinator in American agricultural landscapes. The honey bee is credited with approximately 85% of the pollinating activity necessary to supply about one-quarter to one-third of the nation’s food supply. Over 50 major crops in the United States and at least 13 in Florida either depend on honey bees for pollination or produce more abundantly when honey bees are plentiful. Rental of honey bee colonies for pollination purposes is a highly demanded service and a viable component of commercial beekeeping and agriculture. Bee colonies are moved extensively across the country for use in multiple crops every year. There are also over 3,000 registered beekeepers in Florida, managing a total of more than 400,000 honey bee colonies and producing between 10–20 million pounds of honey annually.” UF/IFAS publication Minimizing Honey Bee Exposure to Pesticides
The Bee Informed Partnership nationwide, estimates of the total economic value of honey bee pollination services range between $10 and $15 billion annually. Other bee species are important pollinators as well.
“Growers also use other managed bees species, such as the bumble bee to provide field and greenhouse crop pollination services. Additionally, there are more than 315 species of wild/unmanaged bees in Florida that play a role in the pollination of agricultural crops and natural and managed landscapes. These include mining bees, mason bees, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, feral honey bees, and carpenter bees, among others.” UF/IFAS Publication Minimizing Honey Bee Exposure to Pesticides
How do pesticides harm bees and other pollinators?
There are a number of pesticides approved for use on our agricultural crops. These pesticides are made up of different active ingredients designed to target different pest insects in a number of different crops. The effects of these pesticide products on bees varies from having no effect, to acute harm, quickly killing individual bees or entire colonies, to chronic and even sublethal effects, leading to long term physiological or behavioral impairment and eventual death. It is suspected that exposure to pesticides is one of the many environmental and biological factors causing elevated bee colony losses each year.
How can Beekeepers and Pesticide Applicators protect Pollinators?
There are a number of best management practices that both beekeepers and pesticide applicators can adopt to minimize or eliminate harm to both managed and wild pollinating insects. The following recommendations were provided in the UF/IFAS publication, Minimizing Honey Bee Exposure to Pesticides:
Recommendations for Beekeepers:
- Develop and maintain one-on-one communication with growers whose crops your bees are pollinating, or from which they gather nectar for honey production.
- Work with growers to reach written agreements providing permission to place hives close to crops for honey production, or for crop pollination. (see referenced publication for further detail).
- Stay in touch with the grower; clear and regular communication is the best way to avoid pesticide problems.
- Beekeepers should take the time, upon disclosure of the pesticides to be used, to understand the label and potential hazards to bees.
- Beekeepers should advise the grower immediately if they observe bee kills or any unusual bee conditions.
- Do not place bees in crops without a written agreement to do so from the grower.
- When granted permission to keep hives in or by a crop, do not “sublet” and allow other beekeepers to bring in their hives.
- Do not assume that because you have worked with a grower before, you can bring your hives in again without written permission.
- Beekeepers should be available and ready to be on location to work with the grower as needs may arise.
- Keep the grower informed of hive locations, status, and concerns, and be willing to remove hives promptly if the need arises. If a pesticide application must occur while the bees are on site, the beekeeper should be willing and able to move the bees to the agreed-upon holding zone, or out of the area altogether.
- Beekeepers should strive to understand the farm and crop dynamics of their chosen site.
- Hives should be escorted on and off the target bloom appropriately, so that target-pests can be treated during non-bloom times without risking damage to colonies.
- Follow regulations to register as a beekeeper with FDACS-DPI (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – Division of Plant Industry)
- Register hive locations with the “FDACS-DPI “Bee Locator” website. Ensure that the information is accurate and kept current. Also, the website can be used to locate alternative bee forage.
- Communicate with fellow beekeepers working in the area of the apiary to share information, facilitate communication with growers, encourage adoption of recommendations, facilitate movement of hives, and identify holding locations for temporary foraging.
- Be a good partner with growers. Be flexible and work to develop a long-standing relationship.
- If producing honey, reward growers who work with you. Consider financial remuneration or in-kind rewards.
- Recognize an apiary’s total potential foraging area and inform neighboring growers within the area of the presence of the colonies. Additional knowledge of potential pesticide exposure within the foraging area would be of benefit.
Recommendations for Pesticide Applicators:
- Pesticide applicators are required to follow the label. The label is the law, and it was written in such a way to minimize product impact on pollinators.
- Consult the FDACS-Division of Plant Industry (DPI) geographic information system (GIS) tool to identify beekeepers with hives in your area.
- Use pesticides only when needed.
- Develop a pest management plan that considers the likelihood of bees foraging during bloom.
- Do not contaminate water.
- Consider less toxic compounds.
- Consider less toxic formulations.
- Before treating a field with pesticides, determine the presence of other blooming plants and weeds (such as clover, Spanish needle, etc.) that might attract bees. In some instances, bees have been killed even though the crop being sprayed was not in bloom
- Know your farm and your crop. Understanding your crop and its pollination requirements might be the best tactic in deciding how to use pesticides and minimize the exposure to pesticides of non-target pollinators likely to be visiting your crop site and nearby areas.
- Notify beekeepers. If beekeepers are notified in advance of application, colonies can be moved away from the treatment area. Florida law requires every apiary or bee yard to be plainly marked with the owner’s name, address, and telephone number.
- Agreements and notification. Cooperation between applicators, growers, beekeepers, Extension workers, and government officials is necessary to control problem crop pests and protect pollinators from pesticide exposure.
What are some of EPA’s Activities to Protect Pollinators?
Below are a few of EPA’s actions to protect pollinators from pesticide exposure as listed on their website: EPA Pollinator Protection. Please visit their web-page for the complete list.
- Implemented a policy in 2017 that protects bees from agricultural pesticide spray and dust applications, while the bees are under contract to provide pollination services. The policy also recommends that states and tribes develop pollinator protection plans and best management practices.
- Prohibited the use of certain neonicotinoid pesticides when bees are present.
- Expediting the re-evaluation of the neonicotinoid family of pesticides, as well as other pesticides.
- Temporarily halted the approval of new outdoor neonicotinoid pesticide uses until new bee data are submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete.
- Expediting the review of new Varroa mite control products.
- Established guidance and best practices for regional, state and tribal inspectors conducting FIFRA inspections of apparent cases of pesticide-related bee deaths.
- Developing a new risk management approach for considering the impacts of herbicides on monarch butterfly habitats and protecting milkweed from pesticide exposure.
- Working with pesticide manufacturers to develop new seed-planting technologies that will reduce dust that may be toxic to pollinators during the planting of pesticide-treated seed.
How does EPA’s “Policy to Mitigate the Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products,” Protect Pollinators?
The following highlights are taken from the UF/IFAS publication: Pesticide Labeling: Protection of Pollinators:
- The EPA finalized its Policy to Mitigate the Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products in January 2017. It describes methods for addressing acute risks to bees from pesticides. Applications of acutely toxic pesticides would be prohibited under certain conditions when bees are most likely to be present. While the restrictions focus on managed bees under contract pollination services, the EPA believes that these measures will also protect native bees and other pollinators that are in and around treatment areas.
- The policy generally applies to all products that meet all of the following criteria:
- liquid or dust formulations as applied;
- outdoor foliar use directions on agricultural crop(s) that may utilize contract pollination services; and
- maximum application rate(s) that result in risk estimates that exceed the acute risk LOC (level of concern) for bees of 0.4 (based on contact exposure). The acute risk LOC of 0.4 is the level that is 40% of the dose that caused one half of bees to die in relevant acute toxicology studies.
- The EPA intends that with the 2017 policy, pesticide registrants with labels for products registered for foliar application to a flowering crop(s) with an application rate that exceeds the honey bee acute risk level of concern (LOC) of 0.4, submit amended labels to reflect the acute risk mitigation language.
- The label restrictions outlined in the policy would not replace more restrictive chemical-specific, bee-protective provisions (e.g., pre-bloom restrictions) that may already be included on a product label.
- The policy provides label language for pesticides categorized as Acute Risk, Low Risk, Indeterminate Crop Grown for Seed Risk, and Public Health Application Risk.
Please refer to Pesticide Labeling: Protection of Pollinators for a list of pesticide active ingredients that are subject to this policy.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – Division of Plant Industry-Bureau of Apiary Inspection is the lead regulatory agency for beekeepers in Florida and provides a number of resources for assisting beekeepers and growers in protecting pollinators. These resources can be found on the website: Honey Bee Protection in Florida
As is evident, everyone has a role to play in protecting the pollinators that assist in providing the abundant harvests of food from agricultural producers to backyard vegetable gardens. With planning and open communication both crop farmers and beekeepers can remain productive for years to come.
For more information, please see these resources used for this article:
Perennial peanut producers have encountered numerous weeds that are difficult to control with 2,4-D amine and Impose (imazapic). GlyStar Plus now provides another option for perennial peanut producers to use to reduce weed populations in their hay fields. Photo credit: Doug Mayo
Brent Sellers, UF/IFAS Extension Weed Specialist
Over the past several years, perennial peanut producers have encountered weeds that are much more difficult to control with the standard broadleaf and grass herbicides such as 2,4-D amine and Impose (imazapic). We had observed perennial peanut tolerance to glyphosate when attempting to maintain our research plot alleys to a specific size; we realized that perennial peanut was relatively tolerant to glyphosate than previously known. This prompted some research that was conducted over the past few years.
Glyphosate was applied at 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 oz/acre during the summer growing season at Zolfo Springs (weed-free; ‘UF-Tito’) and Ona (not weed-free; ‘Ecoturf’, ‘Florigraze’, ‘UF-Tito’). Two weeks prior to herbicide application, perennial peanut was clipped to 3 inches. Both locations consisted of an established stand of perennial peanut. However, rhizomes were harvested from the Zolfo Springs location within 12 to 18 months prior to application.
Injury at the Zolfo Springs location was less than 20% when Glystar Plus was applied at less than 32 fl oz/A (Figure 1).
Injury at Zolfo Springs did not exceed 40%. Perennial peanut yield was 19-27% lower than the untreated control at 60 days after treatment when applied at 16-32 fl oz/A, and yield was 58% lower when applied at 64 fl oz/A (Figure 2).
Results were slightly different at Ona with a fully established, non-disturbed stand that was planted in 2005. Injury from Glystar Plus did not exceed 20% at rates of 32 fl oz/A or less (Figure 3).
Additionally, injury was transient, and began to decrease from 30 to 60 days after treatment. Perennial peanut biomass was not affected by Glystar Plus application at rates of 32 oz/A or less, and was reduced by only 22% at 64 fl oz/A (Figure 4).The reason for the lack of differences between the untreated control and Glystar Plus at 32 fl oz/A may be due to the presence of weed competition within the plots. Weed biomass following application of 32 and 64 fl oz/A was similar, indicating that increasing the rate from 32 to 64 fl oz/A was not advantageous based upon the weed species present in this study. The predominant broadleaf weed present at the Ona location was goatweed, which is fairly tolerant to glyphosate at these application rates.
These data, along with other data collected throughout the years, were used to submit an application to FDACS for a supplemental label for use in perennial peanut, which was approved in mid-June, 2017. Producers must use this specific glyphosate product, as it is the only one that has a supplemental label for use in perennial peanut. This approval allows the use of Glystar Plus during the dormant season, through wiper applications during the growing season, and in-season broadcast applications if the height difference between the weeds and perennial peanut is not sufficient for effective control with a wiper (Table 1). The links to the supplemental and full herbicide label are provided below:
Download the supplemental and full labels for complete use instructions:
Highlights from the GlyStar Plus
Supplemental Perennial Peanut Label
This product is a post-emergent, systemic herbicide with no soil residual activity. It is generally non-selective and gives broad-spectrum control of many annual weeds, perennial weeds, woody brush and trees. It is formulated as a water-soluble liquid. It may be applied through most standard industrial or field-type sprayers after dilution and thorough mixing with water or other carriers according to label instructions.
AVOID CONTACT OF HERBICIDE WITH FOLIAGE, GREEN STEMS, EXPOSED NON-WOODY ROOTS OR FRUIT OF CROPS, DESIRABLE PLANTS AND TREES, BECAUSE SEVERE INJURY OR DESTRUCTION MAY RESULT.
Restrictions for use in Perennial Peanut
- 14 day grazing restriction after wiper application
- 56 day grazing or hay harvest restriction for spot treatment or post-clip applications
- Do not apply more than 2 Quarts/Acre for Pre-plant application
- Do not apply more than 1.5 Quarts/Acre for Dormant season application
- Do not apply more than 1.5 Quarts/Acre for all In-Season applications
- Do not apply more the 5.0 Quarts/Acre per year for all uses combined
Table 1. Types of applications and rates for Glystar Plus in perennial peanut in Florida.
Please let me know if you have any questions:
Brent Sellers, Extension Weed Specialist
UF-IFAS Range Cattle Research and Education Center
863-735-1314 ext 207