Friday, August 22, 2014

Pest Management for Sustainable Season Extension

Having trouble with pests in your greenhouses and high tunnels? Interested in learning more about using biological control to manage them? Read SARE's new fact sheet, Sustainable Pest Management in Greenhouses and High Tunnels, to learn how beneficial insects can protect crops in season-extending structures and enhance the sustainability of your operation.

SARE-funded researchers at Cornell University found that with a combination of controls, greenhouse and high tunnel pests could be managed effectively and, in some cases, eradicated.

Highlights of 23 New York case studies include the development of an effective combination of parasitic wasps (Aphidius colemani and Aphidius ervi) to eradicate an aphid infestation on winter greens and peppers. And predatory mites (Amblyeius cucumeris) used in conjunction with minute pirate bugs (Orius insidiosus) helped eradicate thrips on cucumbers. Researchers also found that the two-spotted spider mite was effectively managed by applying a parasitic mite (Phytoseiulus persimilis) on eggplant and strawberries. The Nile Delta wasp (Encarsia formosa) helped manage, and in some instances, even eradicate whiteflies on tomatoes.

The fact sheet includes an introduction to biological control, along with colorful photos that can be used to identify pests and their associated crop damage. It also provides specific how-to information on scouting for pests along with detailed release information, including optimal temperature, quantity of natural enemies and timing of release relative to pest populations. Management strategies for control agents, such as predatory mites and parasitic wasps, and a supply list for obtaining biological control agents are also found in the fact sheet.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Crop Rotation Could Help Reduce Disease Incidence on Your Planted Crops

Crop rotation involves planning where to grow a crop in a given production area when transitioning from one harvest cycle to the next. There are three key reasons that growers rotate crops in their fields.  First, it balances soil fertility by maintaining or improving the soil organic matter content. Second, it helps to reduce diseases and pests. Lastly, it controls soil erosion.

Growers usually know that continuous planting of crops from the same families on the same spot results in a buildup of plant pathogens (disease-causing agents). To reverse this situation and avoid pathogen buildup, wait at least three to five years before planting crops of the same family in the same location. When a non-host crop is planted, the pathogen germinates; however, it will not be able to penetrate, infect and reproduce. When denied its susceptible host, such an inoculum (fungal or bacterial spore) gradually dies in the soil. Over time, the inoculum levels are greatly reduced.

Crop rotation can be an effective disease management tool, especially if the pathogen overwinters in crop residue or soil. It works less well for airborne foliar (leaf) diseases, such as powdery mildew or rusts. Also, this method works well when the pathogen causing the disease has a narrow host range, affecting only one or few plant families. The rotation plan will work even better if combined with very good sanitation. This includes proper removal of diseased plant residue and any alternate hosts of a disease (e.g., weeds). When planning alternating crops on a piece of land, remove any plant residue from the previous crop. Use of cover crops, including growing some brassica (of the family including broccoli, cabbage, radish, etc.), will also minimize soil borne diseases for the next season.

An effective crop rotation plan is often based on one of two options: botanical family or the plant parts that are eaten. Plants in the same family usually are prone to similar diseases and pests. As a general rule, crops in the same family should not follow one another in rotation. Rather than using botanical family, crops can be grouped based in their edible parts, such as fruit and seed, leaf and stem or root and bulb. This plan is a simple and easy way to avoid any overlap of consecutive plants from the same family.

Here are some important aspects to consider for an effective rotation plan:

1. Available space: The area that can be allotted to each crop depends on the available space and on the nature of the crop.

2. Growing season: Cool-season crops need cool soil and air temperatures; they are grown in the spring or fall. They also tend to be shallow-rooted and susceptible to drought. They are usually cultivated for their leaves or roots. Warm-season crops need warm soil and air temperatures to germinate, grow and mature. They are deep-rooted and resistant to drought. These crops are usually raised for their seed or fruit. Alternating cool- and warm-season crops allows a producer to include a cover crop or grow multiple crops during the same growing season. For example, a cool-season pea could be followed by a buckwheat cover crop in summer. This could be followed by a fall planting of onions or radishes.

3. Nutrient demands: Having two nutrient-depleting (heavy feeding) crops follow one another robs the soil. It can result in poor yields. Heavy feeding crops should be sequenced with light feeders or a soil-building cover crop such as hairy vetch.  Legumes are good to rotate after heavy feeding crops, such as sweet corn or tomatoes. Another example is growing the grass family (sweet corn), followed by the pea family (bean or pea), then the mustard family (cabbage, broccoli, mustard, radish) and finally the nightshade family (tomato, pepper, potato).

4. Rotation length: Flexibility can be built into longer rotations.  For example, rotation periods of several years might be needed to suppress soil borne pathogens. Longer rotations also allow for perennial crops, such as grass or legume hay, to be added. This results in healthier soil; it builds organic matter and improves soil aggregation (allows soil particles to bind together to form granular structures).

5. Rooting depth: Take advantage of the variable rooting depth of plants in a crop rotation. Follow deep-rooted plants with shallow-rooted plants to allow for more complete use of the nutrients within the entire soil profile. For example, follow spinach (shallow-rooted) with potatoes (deep-rooted) or a rye cover crop. The table below gives the rooting depth of a number of vegetables.

(By Dr. Zelalem Mersha, Lincoln University, State Extension Specialist - Plant Pathology)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Spruce Up Your Farmers’ Market Booth

Midseason is a good time to make some upgrades to your farmers’ market booth.  The changes attract new and returning customers.  Here are some suggestions for you to consider:

 ·         Cover your tables with new washable vinyl tablecloths in a solid, neutral color. Vinyl tablecloths are stain resistant and can be easily wiped down for repeated use. Solid colors do not distract from your products as a patterned tablecloth might.
·         Hold a raffle at your booth. Raffle off a special product or gift basket from your booth to increase foot traffic.  Purchase ready-made perforated raffle tickets at any office supply store. Sell the tickets for 50 cents apiece. State that the drawing will be held at a specific time. Pull the tickets and offer the prize.
·         Publicize special events, such as holidays, with eye-catching decorations and activities for children. An example is to host an Easter egg hunt at your booth. Last year, one of the vendors at the St. Louis Farmers’ Market brought a flat of wheatgrass and hid small chocolate eggs in the grass. A cute plastic chick and flat was placed at eye level for small children. It caught their interest. When a child found an egg, they were given a flower as a prize. On Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, place photographs of your loved ones in the booth. Offer a discount to US military members during the Veteran’s Day weekend or small pumpkins for carving at Halloween. Extend a discount of perhaps 10 percent for customer appreciation on your farm’s anniversary date.
·         Maintain the appearance of abundance.  Move your product from larger containers to smaller baskets when your stock is low. Half-empty large containers make it seem that your booth is sold out, which tends to discourage shoppers.
·         Offer free samples of your product, if your market allows. Check with your market master to make sure that you are following the market rules. Remember to keep cold items cold. Always use tongs when handing out samples.
·         Hand out recipe cards featuring the products you sell.
·         Bring photos of your farm. This can be a simple photo album with legible captions, a bound self-published book from Shutterfly ( or an electronic digital photo frame that cycles through a series of farm photographs.
·         Update all signs and promotional material to reflect your current contact information and products available for sale.
·         Get a Square® credit card reader for your booth so you can accept debit and credit card sales ( The Square® reader plugs into your smart phone or iPad. The company charges a 2.75 percent transaction fee, which is easily passed on to the customer; there is no charge for the device. You will have to link your checking account information to the company’s secured accounting network. According to marketing professionals, customers spend 20-25 percent more when they use a credit card.

Here are a few more guidelines to enhance your sales:
·         Smile and greet people in a friendly way.
·         Stay standing. To be ready to serve customers, do not keep chairs in the booth.
·         Do not wear sunglasses; customers like eye contact!
·         Wear neat, stain-free clothes.
·         Display your business cards; they are a cost-effective form of advertising.
·         Do not eat or smoke in the booth.
·         Maintain an email list of your regular customers; keep them updated about your farm and product availability.
(By: Miranda Duschack, Lincoln University Small Farm Specialist)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Apps Do You Use on Your Farm?

As mobile technology becomes more accessible to rural areas and more farmers are adopting this technology, mobile applications for agriculture are becoming increasingly popular. We asked some of our farmer friends and collaborators which apps they use on farms. What apps do use on your organic farm or in your work with farmers? Send us an email at – we’ll compile and send out the results in our next update.

Several farmers commented about their use of Google Docs and Sheets to record information and for note taking. One farmer reported using a separate email account that workers can email to report activity for issues on the farm. Still popular is taking hand written notes and transfering that information to Excel later. 

Josh Volk of Our Table Cooperative writes about his use of a smartphone, "I use DropBox sometimes to look up some of my planning sheets, but it’s rare. I use the calendar a lot for record keeping noting what I do when and more details in the notes where needed. I use the note pad mostly for short term notes that need to be transferred somewhere else. I occasionally use reminders to create to do lists and remind me of things that need to be done at a specific time. I use the timer on the clock to remind me to turn off water and the stopwatch for time trials in the field."

Some eOrganic member researchers and educators have either been involved in developing apps, or use them in their work with farmers. Examples include the following:

Heather Darby, University of Vermont Extension agronomist and eOrganic's Dairy Team leader, has recently developed a nutrient management app called goCrop™ The app helps dairy farmers develop nutrient management plans used to monitor crop nutrient demands as well as meet state and federal regulations. Learn more at: Heather is currently working on expanding the app to specifically address the needs of organic livestock operations.

One of the most difficult farm tasks is collecting field data. What was planted where? Where was the broccoli with clubroot last year? How weedy is the carrot field?  How long did it take to harvest potato field number two?  What is damaging the lettuce in field 10? Alex Stone of Oregon State University works with some farmers who use Evernote to track and photograph what goes on in the field from soil prep to planting, weeding, pest scouting, and harvest. Using smartphones or tablets, farm personnel document field activities and crop problems and successes in a single note (for example, one for each field or crop) while out in the field.  Farm staff can also share information such as maps, pesticide and fertilizer labels, equipment calibration protocols, and seeding rates. To organize and find information, notes can be organized into notebooks and tagged with keywords. In addition, all of the text in notes is searchable.

APS Plant Health/Tomato MD
The Plant Health app from the American Phytopathological Society (APS) has a Tomato MD component, which is an interactive reference that helps gardeners, professional growers, and consultants identify and manage more than 35 key diseases, insects, and physiological disorders of tomatoes. Tomato experts have peer-reviewed all content to ensure the images and information are accurate, but it is published in an easy-to-use, non-scientific format. After you download the free Plant Health app, the Tomato MD app is available for $1.99. Learn more about the app here. Note: Since some of the control methods in this app may not be compliant with organic regulations, always check with your certifier before applying any inputs and read the eOrganic article Can I Use this Product for Disease Management on My Organic Farm?

NRCS SoilWeb

SoilWeb, which was developed by UC Davis and the NRCS provides GPS based, real-time access to USDA-NRCS soil survey data, formatted for mobile devices. It retrieves graphical summaries of soil types associated with the user's current geographic location. Images are linked to detailed information on the named soils. The app is available for iPhone and Android users, and Google Maps and Google Earth also interface with this application. More NRCS online maps and and apps can be found at

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How Worms Can Help Your Soil

This video is amazing.  We all hear that worms are great for the soil but here is evidence of just what they can do.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

MU Plant Diagnostic Clinic Helps Farmers

If you have the sniffles or a bad infection, a visit to your doctor can usually put things right. Plants can get sick too and the University of Missouri Plant Diagnostic Clinic is where you can turn for help.

“Farmers can put a lot of time, energy and care into growing their crops. So if those plants get sick, the clinic is a good place to come to learn what’s going on and to learn how to control or manage the problem,” said clinic director Patti Wallace.

Before you can treat, control or manage a disease or pest problem, you need to correctly identify what’s wrong.

“People should not just dump chemicals on their plants without first knowing what they are trying to treat,” Wallace said.

Mark LaTorre, an agricultural crop consultant who dropped off samples of ailing corn at the clinic, says using the wrong treatment on a plant is a bad idea.

“The chemicals that you can use are typically disease-specific, so you wouldn’t want to use a product that treats a disease if you have a nutritional problem,” LaTorre said. “It can get expensive if you’re buying and using the wrong chemical.”

The process starts when you send a sample of the troubled plant to the clinic. Wallace says it’s best if the sample includes both normal and diseased parts of the plant. Don’t send in dead plants.

“A dead plant will attract fungi and bacteria that feed on dead tissue, which can mask the original problem,” she said.

There is a nominal fee for each sample. “For homeowners, it’s $15 for a general diagnosis, which includes looking at the sample with a microscope or doing a humidity-chamber incubation for 24-48 hours,” Wallace said.

The $15 fee helps cover the cost of testing materials. Wallace says it is a small investment that can save a homeowner a lot of time and money.

Test results are typically available within one to two days. Specialized testing can take longer to get results, Wallace said.

There are several ways to submit a sample to the MU Plant Diagnostic Clinic.  You can drop off the sample at the clinic between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays, take the sample to your local MU Extension office, or mail the sample to MU Plant Diagnostic Clinic, 28 Mumford Hall, Columbia MO 65211.

For more information, including instructions and forms for submitting samples, go to

Monday, August 11, 2014

The 15th Central Missouri Vegetable & Greenhouse Tour

The 15th Central Missouri Vegetable & Greenhouse Tour is approaching fast,, August 27th.  Consistent with previous years, we will meet at the Central Missouri Produce Auction and visit nearby growers.  It will occur "Rain  or Shine”.
This event is free and open to all.

Tentative schedule (you are welcome to arrive up until noon)
10:00   AM                 Gather & visit ‘on your own’ the auction
11 until 11:45              Grab lunch if you want some
Noon to 12:30 PM
12:30 to 4 PM           Field visits

Three or four farms will be featured, with a variety or vegetables, growing structures, and some small fruit. IPM will be featured with discussion of new invasive insects and a booth from MU’s Diagnostic Clinic.

To register or for more information:  call 573-378-5358 or e-mail
Just let us know you are coming and how many will be in your party. Free lunch is limited to the 1st 70.
Sponsored by: Morgan Co. Extension, Lincoln University, Missouri Vegetable Growers Association, Central Missouri Produce Auction, MU Extension

This is the produce auction web site which includes directions.

For those that do e-mail but not internet, here is the address:

37808 Highway E
Fortuna MO 65034