REPORTS FROM THE FIELD (as of Sept. 12)
(W. Rutland) Two frosts this week, squash and flowers got blackened but beans, corn and tomatoes were spared. That is nice, but seeing that I ain't picked a tomato all year I would have preferred the tomatoes got killed. Winter rye is planted in all early fields and corn chopping continues. Good pumpkin and winter squash harvest under way. Demand for pumpkins best I've had this early in the year.
(Starksboro) It's hard to pay much attention to the fine tuning when the big picture has such gaping holes in it. Too wet, spotty frost on Sept. 5, shortage of help. We were lucky, and suffered very little from the frost. Other than browning of basil, no outright kills. Help was very short there for the week before Labor Day, but it was a serene respite from the mad panic of a dozen employees. Then just like clockwork, the day after Labor Day a pair of Phish Kids (as they term themselves) turned up fresh from the tour circuit ready and eager to help with harvest.
(Plainfield) Hooray for hot weather in September! Some winter squash and pumpkins ripe but there will be a reduced yield. Oriental brassicas, broccoli, kale and cabbage responding well to Dipel and Topcop with sulfur. Fish and seaweed in every spray. Top-dressing with an organic 5-3-4 has kept crops coming on quickly while it was cool. Hinder on carrots keeping the deer away (for now at least.) Nice red salad bowl lettuce to go with the fall foliage. May-planted greenhouse tomatoes finally ripening. Great hot and sweet peppers. No ripe melons yet. Interns have worked out well for the season. Demand for our produce strong, seems like all we do is harvest and deliver.
(Pittsford) Frost on Sept. 5 and 6 killed cukes, corn, and a lot of pumpkins. It's dry, irrigating berries regularly.
(Wilmington) Just finished picking blueberries it was a wonderful first PYO year for our farm. The mum and ornamental kale and cabbage crops look great. We have had one light frost but all of the unopened flowers in the PYO fields have survived and are now opening. We should be advertising for wreath makers soon I have a feeling it is going to be difficult to get workers this year. Looking to buy pumpkins for re-sale; if you have wreaths or balsam products including brush to sell wholesale please phone 802-464-5618 or e-mail email@example.com. Lets hope for a long fall!
(Amherst MA) Drier and slightly warmer conditions have helped to soften the rot of this season. We are harvesting lots of corn and tomatoes. Winter squash not quite ripe (another week) and onions just won't die (we need to break their tops this week). Everything is still 1 to 2 weeks later than last year. Leeks and potatoes look moderate, root crops look average. Fall leaf crops are small but starting to grow well. All will depend on a small fall hurricane season. Nitrogen needs are apparent all over the farm. Still have flea beetles in the field necessitating row covers for fall greens. Lots of corn earworms (being controlled beautifully by the "zea-later" oil applicator).
SMALL FRUIT GUIDES AVAILABLE
The 2000-2002 New England Small Fruit Pest Management Guide has finally been printed! In addition to general information on soils, pesticides and nutrients, there are sections on management of diseases, insects and weeds in: strawberries, highbush blueberries, brambles and grapes. Copies will be mailed out this week to members of the VT Vegetable and Berry Growers that ordered them (months ago). To order the 108-page booklet, send a check payable to UVM for $8.50 to: UVM Extension, 157 Old Guilford Rd., Brattleboro VT 05301.
ONION WOES (from Pete Everson, Applied Agricultural Technologies)
Carol Korey, sales rep for Stokes Seeds in Orange County, NY told me that late season rains have caused serious storage problems with the "home grown early" onion varieties. Buyers are refusing to purchase any of these selections because they fear neck rot and other bacterial soft rot conditions. Carol tells me that several growers have already thrown away many thousands of bags of onions. This so far only affects the "home grown earlies". There is no word yet on how the commercial hybrid storage onions are curing. Rich Maloney, sales person for Asgrow processor in New York, informs me that some 8500 acres of AgriLink sweet corn is in frost danger, this due to slow growth from the cold wet spring and summer in upstate New York.
If your potatoes are beginning to go down, dig up some plants and check your yield; if it appears to be sufficient consider killing the tops early to avoid the chance of late blight coming in and infecting your crop. Late blight is being reported in many locations in the northeast; the longer your crop is exposed, the greater chance of getting this disease, which can wreak havoc with spuds in storage. Potatoes can be harvested any time for eating. As the plants begin to mature at the end of the growing season, the vines will begin to yellow and die. If the potatoes are going to be stored instead of consumed immediately, it is important that the tubers be allowed to "harden" in the soil before digging. Hardening allows the skin to thicken, preventing storage diseases and shrinkage due to water loss. Vines should be killed or removed two weeks before digging the potatoes. A longer period of hardening should be avoided as it may increase the amount of black scurf (Rhizoctonia) which develops on the tubers. Vines may be killed by normal maturity or frost, or by flaming, mowing, beating or vine-killing chemicals (see the Vegetable Management Guide). On a small scale the vines may be hand-pulled or cut off at the soil line. During harvest, avoid bruises and injury, as these provide entry sites for storage diseases. After harvest, store potatoes for the first two weeks at about 65F to allow injuries to heal. For best results, tubers should then be stored at 35-40F in the dark for the remainder of storage. Two diseases are common in storage - soft rot and dry rot. Soft rot is a wet, mushy decay and dry rot is a dry, crumbly decay. Tubers which decay in storage should be removed to prevent the decay from spreading to the other potatoes. Once spuds are out of the field thoroughly chop and incorporate potato debris to promote decomposition and thus minimize over-wintering of diseases.
SQUASH BUGS GALORE
There seems to be a high population of squash bug in pumpkin fields this year. This light- to dark-gray insect attacks all vine crops, preferring squash and pumpkin. When feeding the squash bug injects a toxin into the vines that causes wilting that resembles bacterial wilt, sometimes the leaves turn light-colored. Eventually the vines and leaves turn black and crisp. Early in the season, small plants may be killed because they cannot support root development. Later, larger plants may have several runners affected and when the leaves die back, especially after light frosts, the squash bugs may congregate in dense clusters on fruits, and cause them to be unmarketable due to feeding scars.
The immature stages (nymphs) do not survive the winter. Adults hibernate under dead vines, leaves, clods, stones, piles of boards, and outbuildings. In spring the adults emerge during the first extended warm spell. By the time vines begin to run the adults will be flying into the fields, mating and laying masses of a dozen or more orange-yellow elliptical shaped eggs on the leaf undersides. The eggs turn bronze-brown just before they hatch, usually in 10 to 14 days. The nymphs pass through 5 instars, reaching maturity in 4 to 6 weeks. The overwintering adults continue laying eggs until about midsummer. New adults do not mate or lay eggs until the following year. There is only one generation per year.
Control strategies include keeping the margins of fields as free as possible of rubbish, piles of leaves, trash, and other winter shelter for the bugs. It is especially critical to reduce the overwintering population of squash bugs by working the soil and/or removing foliage and fruit immediately after harvest. This deprives nymphs of the necessary food source to complete their development. Also, recently-matured adults are denied a food source with which to build up enough food reserves required to see them through winter. Next year, rotate pumpkins and squash as far away as possible from this year's fields. Starting about mid-June, frequently scout plantings for the presence of adult bugs and for egg masses on the undersides of leaves. In larger plantings, effective control of squash bugs is contingent upon timely insecticide sprays coupled with thorough coverage. Treat with pyrethroids or carbaryl when most eggs have hatched and when nymphs are still small to medium in size. Organic growers can use pyrethrins. Adult squash bugs have a hard, protective shell which is impervious to insecticide treatments. Use high pressure when applying insecticides to ensure penetration of the dense plant foliage and thorough coverage to the nymphs which often are on the undersides of leaves. Subsequent treatments are usually required due to the continual presence of egg-laying squash bugs. In small plantings, boards and shingles may be placed among the plants and the bugs that collect under them at night may be killed the next morning.
RASPBERRY MANAGEMENT IN FALL (Adapted from UMass Extension)
Avoid use of nitrogen fertilizer, mowing of lush alleyway growth and supplemental watering in order to encourage hardening off of primocanes. Do not remove spent floricanes until later in the winter unless they are significantly infected with disease. Fall-bearing raspberries can still benefit from irrigation in dry weather to help maintain fruit size. Based on soil and tissue test results, apply non-nitrogen containing fertilizers and lime as needed. For example, phosphorus, sul-po-mag or epsom salts can be applied now so that fall rains wash them into the root zone. Fall is a good time to do a weed survey and identify problem species and their locations, which will help you develop an effective management plan next spring. Check plantings for crown borer and Phytophthora root rot if you have some wilting canes. Dig up several plants and check the roots for brick red discoloration in the core of the roots (Phytophthora) or the presence of a crown borer larvae in the crown. Rogue out infested crowns and eliminate wild brambles near the planting, since they will harbor more of this pest. See the New England Small Fruit Pest Management Guide for fungicide and insecticide options. Consider installing windbreaks on exposed sites to protect plantings from cold dry winds this winter. Windbreaks should be somewhat porous to slow wind but still allow air movement - snow fence is one possibility. A windbreak should run with not across a slope so that drainage of cold air will not be reduced in spring. Generally a windbreak provides some shelter for a distance of 8 times its height on the leeward side.