October 15, 2000
Compiled by Vern Grubinger, University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967

REPORTS FROM THE FIELD (last of this of Oct. 16)

(Charlotte) All's well that ends well.  End of a great season. A too-wet start put us a bit behind, but I don't feel that we had a wet season. Still harvesting leeks and lettuce and a few other things.  The CSA is over and everyone was very happy. Cover crops look great. Plan to chisel new ground for spring. Hope to plant garlic by end of week

(S. Royalton) At last harvest and clean up has slowed enough to relax a bit. In spite of the inclement weather we had our best season yet here, insect and disease pressure was tolerable and we were able to keep weeds under manageable levels for the most part. The crew we had did a great job and everyone even got to take some time off during the growing season. Sales at farmers markets with both bedding plants and vegetables were very strong. We're learning more about monitoring fertility better during wet summers and we got a good idea of how much we need to irrigate to get good crop response on our light soil if there isn't enough rain. Last but certainly not least we learned how humbling a 15 minute hail storm can make you feel just when you think everything is going well.

(E. Hartland) Wetter than normal and a cooler than normal year worked to our advantage this year on our very well drained sandy sites. The corn and late cucurbits on wetter sites suffered a little and didn't mature properly. Home gardeners struggled and I think that was the main reason our farm stand sales were so strong. U-Pick in the strawberries was strong and helped us get a fair crop off, although u-pickers are not picking the volumes per family unit that they did 10 years ago, apparently u-pick is moving towards entertainment rather than a way of "putting up" food at a lower cost to families. The bedding  plant and greenhouse end of the operation continues to show steady growth, enhanced by the great gobs of expendable income available to consumers. The Internet continues to be a presence but I think that we are unsure how it will dovetail with our marketing strategies. The high cost of  inputs - fuels, plastic, equipment-  and the ever-present issue of getting help are of concern to us, and make down-sizing one of the many options we are considering.

(Starksboro) The wholesale price for vegetables has not kept pace over the years with the cost of labor. Our average hourly wage has increased 33 percent over the last 5 years. You know that the prices we receive at the wholesale level have not increased that much. On prices, there's too much food produced in this county. Far too much. And that depresses prices. On labor, they're just not making as many people as they used to, and that inflates labor cost. You can be sure that if for the last 20 to 30 years birthrates had been holding steady rather than declining that there would be a lot more people looking for jobs. I'm not making a case for either starvation supply control or runaway birth rates. However it behooves farmers to recognize the broader trends
that influence their livelihood and to act accordingly.

(Argyle NY) This year certainly challenged us, but overall it was a great year. Our production remained stable through the wet months due to: 1) Our conversion to a compost-based system which suppressed diseases and made it easier to get seedings in between the raindrops  2) Investing in tile draining over the years, and 3) Our high diversity of crops which always allows good years for some and not-so-good years for others. Our sales are entirely with four farmers markets, and after a slow start to the year, sales sky-rocketed by late July. Previous sales records are continuing to be broken. We feel this is due to failed consumer' gardens to some degree, as well as an increased interest in local, organic products. This year taught us to be creative, to not be complacent in our planning, and to be flexible. When in the spring it was tough to adhere to our crop rotation, we threw the plan out the window and planted in the best organized method possible. Our season extension field houses (hoop houses) were crucial to having crops to sell as they had the only dry land inside for weeks and we even replanted in them for the first time!  When our income was down at the start of the season, we remained positive and optimistic. Extra fall crops (and even some new ones for us) were planted to make up the difference. With the extra challenges and longer hours, we gained more gray hairs, but we're still into farming for the long haul (will maybe downsize a little) and we will continue to enjoy this wonderful career.  Thanks for all the Extension assistance!

(adapted from Ontario Ministry of Ag)
This year, die-back of fruiting raspberry  canes just prior to harvest was extensive in southern Ontario. We suspect some of it was weather related. An early mild spell followed by a very cold snap in April may have caused sub-lethal damage to flower buds that had broken dormancy.  As a result, these buds collapsed and died sometime before harvest.

Similar symptoms could also result from attack by raspberry crown borer, which can build-up  unnoticed until a field is heavily infested. Loss of vigor and spindly, withered, dying canes are symptoms caused by this pest, which can be confused with root rot and diseases. Individual canes may be bent over with half-grown fruit attached.  Extensive damage to the crown occurs by the second summer.  Fruiting canes dry up as the connective tissue at the base of the cane is destroyed.  Primocane growth is often sparse from infested crowns.  Raspberry crown borer damage may increase susceptibility to winter injury and diseases. A good time to diagnose crown borer infestations is late summer and fall, before fruiting canes are pruned out. You will need a sturdy shovel and gloves. Dig up the crown and shake off the soil. Inspect the crown and base of the canes for holes, tunnels and sawdust-like frass. If damaged canes are pulled the second summer, they will break off at the base, sometimes revealing larvae inside.

Raspberry crown borer has a two-year life cycle, but there is a very narrow window for control of this pest. The larva will spend approximately 18 months inside the roots and crown, where it is protected from all insecticides and predators. However, young larvae are very susceptible to insecticides, and can be controlled in the fall or early spring of the first year, before they bore into the crowns. Growers should note that diazinon is no longer recommended for fall application, but can still be applied in early spring. Guthion can be used in fall or early spring but should not be applied with hand-held equipment.  With either product, thorough spray coverage is needed at the lower cane and base of the plant.  If you are using a boom sprayer, spray both sides of the row.  Use a high volume of water and relatively low pressure.  Infested plantings require treatment for two years in a row.  Removal of affected canes having galls at their bases and the elimination of nearby wild brambles can help reduce future infestations of healthy plants. At present, organic growers do not possess effective tools for controlling this pest other than removing infested canes. However, researchers are trying to identify the sex pheromone for raspberry crown borer. This  may someday be used to disrupt the ability of males to locate females, reducing or eliminating the need for conventional chemical controls.

END-OF SEASON WEED SCOUTING (Adapted from UMass Extension)
A quick weed scouting this time of year can identify problems that will be expensive to solve if they get out of control and can provide clues that will help in designing a weed management program for next year. Mapping weedy spots, and keeping a record of your annual weed surveys lets you evaluate your weed management over the years. Make a map of each field and record the following: 1) How many weeds and how dense are they? If weeds are very dense, they may be having an impact on yields, especially if these weeds emerged early in the season, when competition is greatest. If weeds were actively growing during the period of greatest crop growth, consider changing the weed management program. 2) Which Weeds? Identifying weeds can help identify potential problems before they get out of hand, and can help you decide if you need to modify your weed control program. Weeds like yellow nutsedge, hedge bindweed, and quackgrass are spreading perennials, which have underground parts that enable them to spread throughout whole fields. Because these weeds can be very damaging, and are very difficult to control, they are worth "nipping in the bud."  In addition, keep an eye out for annual weeds which are new to a field or are increasing in numbers. Some weeds can be very difficult to control in some or all of the crops in your rotation. Galinsoga, for example, is hard to control in cole crops, peppers, and squash. Nightshades are difficult to control in tomatoes for growers who rely on herbicides for control, because they are in the same family as tomatoes. Velvetleaf is hard to control in sweet corn. 3) What worked? Look at the whole field and evaluate the effectiveness of your weed control. If some weeds are "escaping", identify them, since they may point to weaknesses in your herbicide or cultivation program. If mostly grasses, or mostly broadleaves are escaping, it may require an adjustment of either the rates or the timing of grass or broadleaf herbicides. The New England Vegetable Management Guide contains a chart listing the effectiveness of vegetable herbicides on most of the common weeds in New England. Use this to find an herbicide labeled for your crop which might give better control than the one that was used. 4) Where are the weeds? Weeds in the rows or planting holes are much more damaging to crop yields than between-row weeds. Weeds in rows may be an indication that cultivation equipment needs adjustment, or cultivation needs to be done earlier.

November 4, 2000, 10 am-4 pm. Comfort Inn Conference Center, Portsmouth, NH.
(Located at Rte 1 By-pass, 2 miles south of Portsmouth Traffic Circle ). The program: Sweet Corn Herbicides Update;  Evaluation of Greenhouse Soil  Mixes; Pest Management on Vegetable Transplants in the Greenhouse; Meet the Deans from UNH; Varieties and Planting Schedules for Small Diversified Farms;  Ebb and Flow Greenhouses;  Pepper, Supersweet Corn, and Onion Variety Trials. There will also be an onsite grower survey of favorite tomato varieties. To register call Dominic Marini at 508 378-2546. Registration $10 for non-members of NEV&BGA. Walk-in registration OK. Preregister by Oct. 28 to reserve lunch.

Équiterre is sponsoring a conference on Community Supported Agriculture, Nov. 16-18, about 90 minutes north of Montreal. Call me for a brochure or E-mail

January 19 - 21, 2001. Saratoga Springs, NY. Instructors: David Cohlmeyer, Cookstown Greens (Cookstown, Ontario, Canada), Pete Johnson, Pete's Greens (Greensboro, VT), Steve Moore, Sonnewald Natural Foods (Spring Grove, PA), and Robin Ostfeld and Lou Johns, Blue Heron Farm (Lodi, NY). Year-round season extension strategies to keep cash flowing and markets open. Also relevant to growers who want to deepen their understanding of season extension options, but who do not plan to grow or market in the winter. Topics include greenhouse design and winter operation; and storage vegetable facility design and operation. Limited enrollment, affordable tuition, catered natural food meals, with inexpensive lodging available.  Contact the Regional Farm and Food Project, 148 Central Avenue, 2nd Floor, Albany, NY 12206, (518) 427-6537.