NEARLY 100 people attended the Annual Meeting of the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers in Rutland on February 16. The Association presented awards and standing ovations to Dr. Otho Wells, University of New Hampshire, who will be retiring this year, and Dr. Bertie Boyce of UVM who retired last year. Between them they have served our industry for over 70 years!
TRANSPLANT VIGOR will be enhanced if trays are kept up off the ground by placing on benches, pallets, etc. This increases the ventilation and temperature around seedlings, lessening the risk of damping off diseases. Also, hanging up the business end of hoses between waterings rather than dropping nozzles onto bare soil can reduce the spread of soil-borne diseases.
USING TEMPERATURE TO MANAGE TRANSPLANT HEIGHT in the greenhouse is a technique called DIF (based on the difference between day and night temperatures). Warm day temperatures and cool night temperatures promote plant height increases and sometimes leads to 'legginess'. If night temperatures are increased so that it's warmer during the night than during the day many plants will remain short and stocky. DIF temperatures suggested for warm season crops like pepper and eggplant are 65 degrees day and 70 degree night; for tomatoes and many cool season crops 60 degrees day and 65 degrees night. However, maintaining day temperatures lower than night temperatures can be a challenge, especially later in the spring as the days get warmer. Since the most important time for daytime cooling has been found to be the first two hours of the morning, early morning venting, starting before sunrise, can be used to provide some height control. Plant reaction to DIF varies, and leaves may become pale in color. Simply maintaining equal day and night temperatures may provide significant height control with less risk of changes in leaf appearance. (Adapted from Long Island Fruit and Vegetable Update)
A CROP ROTATION, cover cropping and weed control system for vegetable production was described by Anne and Eric Nordell at the recent Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture Association conference, where they were honored as PA's Sustainable Farmers of the year. They alternate cover crops and cash crops every year, and use a summer fallow technique to suppress weed growth. The result is highly fertile soil and excellent weed control with minimal inputs of material and labor. Although they cultivate 6 acres using horse-drawn equipment, the principles they outline can be adapted to farms of any size and different equipment. The Nordells have a video describing their farming system available for $10 postpaid from Beech Grove Farm, RD 1 Box 205, Trout Run, PA 17771.
UPDATE ON NATIONAL ORGANIC STANDARDS (adapted from minutes of the most recent National Organic Standards Board meeting.) A number of decisions have been finalized by USDA including: prohibition on genetically-modified organisms, irradiation, and biosolids in organic; prohibition on therapeutic and sub-therapeutic antibiotic use for organic livestock production; no restrictions on eco-labels; only NOSB recommendations will be on the National List of allowed materials; pasture will be required, particularly for ruminants, with temporary exemptions under strict conditions; and 100% organic feed required for livestock production with temporary exemptions under strict conditions. The regulations are in final revision, the preamble is being drafted and a process has been determined for internal and external clearance. Late spring still seems to be the deadline for completion but it is still unclear if that will be completion within USDA or completed review by Office of Management and Budget.
Organic farm plans will be required to include a closed nutrient-cycling plan to budget nutrients for plant production; maintain or improve the condition of soil; properly use manure as a plant nutrient; minimize agricultural non-point source of pollution of water; and prevent contamination of crops and water by nitrates and pathogenic bacteria. Raw manure must be composted except that raw animal manure may be applied to land used for a crop not intended for human consumption. On land used for crops intended for human consumption raw manure can be applied provided that the manure is incorporated into the soil; applied to provide sufficient time to ensure the crop is safe for human consumption. In no case shall raw manure be applied less than 120 days prior to harvest of product likely to be eaten raw or less than 90 days prior to harvest of product protected by a husk, pod or shell. (Note: in 1999, Vermont Organic Farmers certification will require 36 days between the thorough incorporation of non-composted manure and the harvest of a food crop.)
NEW 'BIOPESTICIDES' were described in the September 98 issue of The Grower, and several of you called me about Greenleaf Plant Defense Booster, labeled for control of downy mildew, powdery mildew and gray mold on cucumbers, grapes and strawberries. This product, which contains natural Chitosan, has been re-named Elexa, with many fruit and vegetables crops and diseases on the label. It is manufactured by SafeScience, Inc., 800-260-6843. However, the company tells me that distribution has not been set up on the east coast yet. Another biopesticide called Cinnamite contains a cinnamon oil constituent as the active ingredient. It has an EPA label for control of mites and aphids on a wide variety of vegetable, herb and ornamental crops. It's manufactured by Mycotech 800-383-4310, and should be available through Griffin Greenhouse once state registrations are approved.
STRAWBERRY PRODUCTION GUIDE for the Northeast, Mid-West and Eastern Canada is a 178-page notebook with 37 illustrations, 47 tables and adjustable Exel spreadsheets on diskette. Published by NRAES and edited by Marvin Pritts of Cornell and David Handley of UMaine, this is a 'must have' for commercial growers. Available from my office for $55 including postage.
BLADEX REGISTRATION has been revised by EPA to allow a maximum of 3 pounds per acre of active ingredient (Cyanazine) to be applied to sweet corn or field corn in 1999. Next year the maximum application will drop to 1 pound per acre. That means that up to 3 quarts of Bladex 4L may be applied, or up to 3.3 pounds of either Bladex 90DF or Cy-Pro 90DF in 1999. Next year, the maximum rates will drop to 1 quart and 1.1 pounds of these materials. After December 1999 these products will not be sold, and after December 2002 their use is prohibited. For more info contact Jeff Comstock at 802-828-2431.
TOP VEGETABLE STOPS ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB is an excellent 1-page summary of Internet sites that feature production, pest management, specialty crops or marketing. Rick Van Vranken of Rutgers Extension passed it out at the annual meeting. Contact me for a copy.