REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
Due to weather, warm season crops are generally a week or two behind but cool season crops are thriving. Marketable sweet corn yields are down significantly on many farms because of uneven stands, slow growth and intense corn earworm (CEW) pressure that took some growers by surprise. Next year think about putting up a pheromone trap to monitor for CEW, and for small-scale plantings the Zea-Later oil applicator is worth considering for control (contact Ruth Hazzard for info: email@example.com or 413-545-3696). There is a lot of rust showing up in corn, too. Look for information on resistant varieties when buying seed for next season. Frequent rains have promoted foliar disease on many crops including tomatoes. Wide row spacing, staking and good nutrition including sidedressing N have helped on some farms, as have timely and consistent fungicide applications, organic or conventional. Leafhoppers appear to have done severe damage to fall raspberries and new plantings of strawberries in some locations. Mummy berry problems are widespread in blueberries (see below). Stunt virus is reported on one farm and plants showing signs of infection are being removed. Garlic yields are high but wrapper appearance is reported to be poor by several growers. Septoria leaf spot identified on one farm in Romaine lettuce. Variegated cutworm injury reported in greenhouse tomatoes, as well as Sclerotinia and bacterial canker on different farms. (Vern Grubinger and Ann Hazelrigg)
(West Rutland) Zucchini and summer squash almost gone. They started late but in the end yielded well. Cukes still going strong. Good crop of pumpkins and winter squash growing. Two plantings of beans left and they look nice. This year we grew an acre of beans and had very little deer damage. I remember killing many deer during past growing seasons, but this year they left me alone. Sweet corn has been good and bad. First crop was late, second crop matured on time, third crop rotted, fourth crop no weed control and corn borers, fifth crop army worms, and the rest that is coming looks ok but it ain't been picked yet.
(Shaftsbury) We are still getting about 1 CEW moth a night. Our oil plus B.t. applications with the Zea-Later are time consuming, but they appear to be working. Various cabbage worms are noted and we have been using B.t. Pumpkins look pretty bad. Lots of late season cuke beetles. Should have used pyrethrin sprays. Planted 2500 'Chandler' Strawberry plants on August 25. Watered them in well. Business still going well waiting for the post-labor day crash.
(Starksboro) We've averaged over 5 inches of rain per month in June, July and August. I was surprised to hear Grand Isle had only 2 inches in August. We had a great strawberry season, but it drew attention and resources away from other crops and as a result we have a few fields that are fiercely and humblingly weedy. Most fall crops are clean as a whistle, and that is some consolation. All the rain has made it a tough year for tomatoes. The fall looks dangerously tight on labor, but as sure as the leaves change and the snow falls, people will be looking for a job once summer is over on Labor day, and we usually turn up enough people to fill out the crew.
(Killington) Third planting of string beans coming on, plenty of green peppers, picking some red peppers and looking forward to harvesting more. Have been picking hoop house tomatoes since first of July and still producing well. Mildew is now starting to slow down tomato production. Starting mixed green seedlings for growing in the hoop house for late fall and early winter. Meat chickens selling well at our farm stand.
(Charlotte) Thank goodness for greenhouses. Field tomatoes looking pretty sad. Best potatoes ever. Never sprayed for anything and we haven't seen leafhoppers. In general things look great. Flea beetles never take a break this year. CSA going strong. They can barely carry the stuff.
(Wilmington) Blueberries are STILL ripening ,is this the longest season on record? I need pumpkins for resale.
(E. Hartland) Winter squash, pumpkins, sweet corn, melons, field tomatoes and fall raspberries are anywhere from 10 days to three weeks late. Spraying corn for CEW and Fall Armyworm, trying to keep early blight from completely engulfing the tomato crop. Dug onions and potatoes this week, both are very large in size and very clean, no Rhizoctonia on the spuds. Sales at the farm stands very strong this year, people having the same problems we farmers have in the home gardens. Another season of climactic extremes. Please tell me what a normal summer is?
(Montreal PQ) For the first time in 4 years we have been struck by late blight racing through the heirloom tomato patch. A real mess.
(Amherst MA) The farm is drying out this week. We haven't had a significant rain in at least 10 days, what a relief. We are picking lots of corn (still ripening unevenly), tomatoes, watermelons, peppers, chard, kale, and some big early (sandwich) onions. The bug pressure is still there, but not intense. The greens are covered with row covers to protect from flea beetles, leafhoppers still on strawberry plants, beans are being affected by bean beetles. We can see strong effects of earlier cold wet conditions. There are patches of fields where crops stopped growing in late July/early August. Lettuce, cauliflower, beets are obviously starved for nitrogen. Broccoli, tomatoes, are being affected by rot, alternaria is in the summer carrots. Cucumbers and summer squash have been tough for us all season. We are using sources of quick organic nitrogen (blood, etc.) to give fall lettuce, greens, and spinach a fighting chance. Cover crops going in. A big customer response as always in the middle of September is expected. We will be glad when this season really starts wrapping up!
PUMPKIN AND SQUASH HARVEST TIPS (adapted from UMass Extension)
Once pumpkins are turning orange in the field, it is worthwhile to cut and windrow them, then bring them out of the field. This allows the handles to cure and protects fruit from insects, animals, and disease. If you need to leave pumpkins in the field for pick-your-own, cut the handles from the vine to save them from advancing powdery mildew and to reduce shrinkage. When harvesting, handle the fruit with care to avoid bruising or cutting the skin. Despite a tough appearance, winter squash and pumpkin fruit are easily damaged. Once the rind is bruised or punctured, decay organisms will quickly invade. Curing can improve storage life. This may be done by putting fruit in windrows in the field during a series of warm, dry days, or by placing them in a dry, warm place (ideally at 70- 80 F) such as a greenhouse for up to two weeks. This permits rapid drying of the outer cells, which, when followed by dry storage, inhibits infections. Removal of the stem from squash (butternut, Hubbard, etc.) will also decrease fruit spoilage because the stems frequently puncture adjacent fruit, facilitating infection. Take care to avoid chilling injury that occurs at temperatures below 50 F, as it increases the likelihood of breakdown in storage. Pressure bruises can also reduce storage life, so avoid tightly packing or piling fruit too high. Under ideal conditions of 50-55 F and relative humidity of 50-70% fruit should have a storage life of 8-12 weeks. If it is difficult to provide ideal conditions, then storage in a shady, dry location is preferable to leaving fruit out in the field.
TOMATO RIPENING PROBLEMS (adapted from Ohio Extension)
Cool night temperatures can cause tomatoes not to ripen as quickly as normal, or to ripen with irregular fruit color. Tomatoes ripen poorly if the temperature falls below 60 degrees F. Problems with tomato fruit color can be attributed to a condition called blotchy ripening and/or gray wall.
Symptoms are first observed as flattened, blotchy, brownish-gray areas that develop on green fruit. As the fruit mature, these blotchy areas remain gray or turn yellow while the rest of the fruit turns red resulting in uneven ripening. Internally, there may be some browning of the vascular
tissue. While the disorder is not well understood, certain conditions seem to favor its' development, including: plants that are growing rapidly, high nitrogen, low potassium, high soil moisture, high humidity, temperature fluctuations, low light intensity, low temperatures and soil compaction.
MUMMY BERRY MANAGEMENT (compiled from several Extension sources)
Mummy berry severity varies from year to year, and this year was a bad one. The disease is caused by a fungus that attacks new growth, foliage, and fruit. The fungus overwinters in mummified fruit on the ground. The following spring, these mummies form cup or globe-shaped structures which produce spores that infect young tissue and cause rapid wilting. This is called leaf and twig blight, or bud and twig blight, and looks a lot like frost injury. These first infections then form more spores, which are spread by rain, wind and bees to blossoms and other young tissue. The fungus infects developing fruit. The fruit becomes malformed and turns salmon or grey by midsummer. By fall, these fruit have dropped to the ground where they turn to mummies, ready to produce spores the next spring. Cultural practices help prevent mummy berry. After fruit has fallen to the ground, mummies should be buried with a new layer of mulch that is at least 2 inches deep. Shaping the mulch in concave fashion will keep mummy berries that fall from the plants from rolling into the aisles. Cultivation of the mulch in early spring to disturb or cover the mummies has been reported to be effective to prevent spore formation. Cultivation between plants and raking under plants to disturb or cover mummies should be done as early as possible in the spring and repeated after each hard rain until after bloom. If just a few mummies are missed, they can produce enough spores to infect the planting. Combining cultivation and an application of 50% urea prills in the spring speeds destruction of the mummies. Urea should not be applied to areas where there is standing water, as this may cause fertilizer burn. Apply urea to drier parts of the field and return to the undrained areas later.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Sept. 2 Southern VT Garlic Festival, 10 am-5 pm, rain date Sept. 3. Junction of Routes 9 and 100 in Wilmington. (802) 368-7147
Sept. 2 Farm Composting and Soil Building Seminar with Will Brinton. Merck Forest and Farmland Center, Rupert VT. 10 am-4 pm, $20. (802) 394-7836
Sept. 6 ‘Twilight' meeting, VT Vegetable and Berry Growers Assn., Lakeside Berry Farm, Route 78W in East Alburg, just west of the old Missisquoi Bay bridge, 4-6 pm. 796-3691.
Sept. 23-27 National Agricultural Plastics Congress, Hershey PA. (814) 863-2251
Oct. 1 Seed Saving Workshop, High Mowing Organic Seed Farm, Wolcott VT. Must pre-register, call NOFA at (802) 434-4122
Oct. 16-18 New England Greenhouse Conference, Worcester
MA. (860 )872-2095