Vermont Vegetable and Berry News Ė October 15, 2005
Compiled by Vern Grubinger
University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967 ext.13


Phytophthora blight has been a big problem this year in some pumpkin fields, and it seems to be on the increase in Vermont. This disease can cause serious losses and is worth paying attention to, even if you do not have it on your farm! Managing it is all about prevention, using the following practices. Phytophthora causes plant collapse, fruit rot, and usually gets started in low, wet areas of a farm.

If you have the disease, donít spread it between fields. It is critical to clean equipment and boots after working in an infested field. Movement on soil may account for occurrence of the disease in fields with no previous history of susceptible crops. If you arenít sure if a crop is infected, find out by sending a sample to the UVM Plant Diagnostic Lab. Donít assume that itís something else.

Plan your rotations carefully, aiming for a minimum of 3 years between planting susceptible crops in a given field. That can be a challenge because crops that host the disease include all the cucurbits, pepper, eggplant, tomato, and beans. Also, avoid planting susceptible crops next to previously infested fields, because the disease can move over on soil carried by wind or water.

Take steps to promote good drainage and prevent standing water on your farm. The disease thrives in wet soil, so managing water is essential to preventing it. Orient raised beds so they will not collect water between them. Disrupt hardpans and plowpans that interfere with drainage by subsoiling before planting. If necessary, subsoil between rows again after planting to improve drainage. Subsoil along driveways if needed.

Assure that excess water following heavy rains can leave the field, by leveling land if possible, installing drainage tile, swales, ditches or other means of removing water. If there are areas in a field that have not drained well in the past, and probably never will, donít plant them at all; instead, plant a perennial cover. This winter, map out on paper all those areas on your farm where standing water and/or poor drainage has been a problem and develop a simple plan on how you are going to deal with those areas.

Even though the growing season is over, donít make compaction worse by driving on wet soil. If future, limit traffic on your fields by establishing permanent driveways.

During the growing season, normal irrigation should not cause a problem, but over-irrigating, or leaks in the irrigation system, can provide enough excess soil moisture for the disease to get established. Be sure not to irrigate from a pond that contains waters that drained from an infested field!

Do not put discarded cull fruit in the field, whether itís diseased or just over-sized or over-ripe. Fruit that look healthy should be harvested from infested fields promptly, especially before rain. After harvest, check fruit for developing symptoms so they can be discarded before the fungus spreads further. Any fruit that looks OK at harvest but was infected should develop symptoms within a week.

When displaying pumpkins for sale, donít place them in contact with the ground if they come from an infected field, or if they are displayed in an area where Phytophthora had occurred in previous years.


Soil surveys provide detailed information about land and its suitability for different types of farming, wildlife management, wetlands identification, and soil or water conservation.  Many of you are familiar with the soil survey County maps and data that USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers. Most of these are now available for free on a new website at Soil survey data and maps have been posted for ten counties in Vermont. The remaining four counties, Chittenden, Essex, Orleans and Caledonia, have only soils data available.


A new publication that is a must for organic growers is the Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management. It includes information on crop management practices in brassicas, cucurbits, lettuce, solanaceous crops and sweet corn plus detailed fact sheets on the characteristics and effectiveness of different organic pesticides for insect and disease management, including B.t., copper, kaolin clay, neem, and oils. The entire publication is on-line at, or it can be purchased for $5 (plus $4 shipping) from Cornell University Communications Services, NYSAES, A117 Barton Laboratory, Geneva, NY 14456-0462. Phone 315-787-2248.


Four practical videos highlighting the knowledge of experienced vegetable growers are available. The latest, ďFarmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping TechniquesĒ  features nine farmers from 5 states demonstrating different planting systems that combine cover crops and cash crops. The other video topics are: Ecological Sweet Corn Production Practices, Diversified Horticultural Marketing Strategies, and Mechanical Weed Control. Specify VHS or DVD format for the cover crop video, all others are VHS only. Send $15 per video, which includes postage, to: Center for Sustainable Agriculture, University of Vermont, 63 Carrigan Drive, Burlington, VT 05405-0004. (802) 656-5459.


Farmer/Grower grants are available for exploring innovative production or marketing practices that could help farms be more profitable, environmentally sound, and beneficial to their communities. Applications can address a broad range of issues, such as adding value, pest management, soil and water conservation, agroforestry, and new production techniques. Last year there were 24 farmer projects funded in the Northeast, averaging  $5,800. The most you can apply for is $10,000. Any full- or part-time commercial farmer in the Northeast region can apply. Applications and more information about eligibility and writing a good proposal are on the Northeast SARE web site: or information can be requested by calling (802) 656-0471. The proposal deadline is December 6, 2005. (Please feel free to ask me for help developing your proposal.)

(adapted from a longer article by Leslie Huffman in Ontario Berry News, Sept. 05)

Some perennial weeds are impossible to control in strawberries and need to be handled in rotational crops before strawberries are planted. Well-planned approaches are needed to clean them out of strawberry fields before planting. Pay close attention to their life cycles (especially their propagation method eg. seed, rhizomes, spores, etc.) to hit them when it hurts. Mowing of field edges and patches of these weeds and seeds can keep problems from getting worse.

Toadflax: Tillage is also useful to suppress this weed, but avoid dragging roots to clean fields. Oxalis (wood sorrel): Use frequent tillage to knock down small seedlings, and try to prevent seed set by mowing where possible (e.g. field edges). Yellow nutsedge: Rotate to corn or a vegetable crop where you can use labeled herbicides. Cultivate before nutlets begin forming in July, and avoid dragging nutlets into uninfested fields. This is a weed that is never eradicated forever, but try to start with clean strawberry fields.

Some other weeds are difficult to control in strawberries, but can be eradicated in the preplant year with glyphosate. Here are the keys to helping glyphosate work: Apply to actively growing weeds. Use clean water and low water volumes. Choose the correct rate for the weed: high labeled rate for most broad-leaved perennials, medium rate for quackgrass, low rate for annual weeds. Apply at the specific growth stages for each weed. After you have worked fields in the spring, and have had rain, your weeds may be approaching the proper stage for glyphosate: Bindweed - apply at 10% to full flower Milkweed - apply at early flower bud. Canada thistle - apply at early flower bud. Quackgrass - apply at 3-6 leaves. Coltsfoot - apply at full leaf.  Consider buying a wick wiper (around $50) and spending a little time each month targeting patches of problem weeds rather than spraying the whole field. An ounce of preventionÖ..

Mention of pesticides is for information purposes only, no endorsement is intended nor is discrimination against products not mentioned.