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Friday, February 26, 2010

Spring Strawberry Arthropod Management Reminders

No matter what the forecast says, spring is coming. Along with it, come greater management needs. Strawberries have been in the ground since last fall and are the first fruit crop harvested in spring. The cold winter has meant most of our plants have been under row cover for at least part of the winter and our arthropod (insect and mite) issues have been out of sight and out of mind.
Row covered strawberries at Vollmer Farms, Bunn, NC. Spring, 2009.

When these cover come off, the real arthropod management begins. Here are a few key steps to start the 2010 season out right (A note about pesticide recommendations):

Green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) on strawberry. Image from UC IPM.

1. Scout for aphids, but only treat if populations are high. Aphids can rapidly proliferate under row covers, but unless early spring populations are causing sooty mold build up, treatment is likely not needed. Later spring and summer populations are often kept under good biological control in NC. If aphid populations under the covers are producing sooty mold and exceed 10 aphids/newly expanded leaf on average, treatment may be justified. If systemic insecticides are your aphid management tool of choice, the time to use these is now (before covers come off). Once blooms are exposed to bees, the labeled systemic materials for aphids in strawberries can no longer be used.

Female twospotted spider mite, our most common spider mite pest in strawberries. Image from UC IPM.

2. Begin spider mite sampling. Spider mites are the key arthropod pest in southeastern strawberries. Mite activity is typically lower in winter months, but as temperatures warm, spider mites will become more active and reproduce faster. We are currently studying the impact of long term row cover on overwintering mite populations, but our working assumption is that row covers potentially increase mite populations over the winter. This winter, of course, all bets are off. It is important to track mite populations closely and be prepared to treat when they reach our recommended treatment threshold (5 mites/leaflet). This threshold is based on a random sample of 10 leaflets/acre. It is in grower's best interest to treat at threshold levels and not on a schedule basis, because virtually all of the labeled miticides have restrictions on the number of applications and/or amount of active ingredient that can be applied to strawberries per season. We want to keep as many good options in our tool box for as long as possible.

Phytoseiulus persimilis, one of the commercially available biological control agents for spider mites. Image from UC IPM.

Biological control is also an option for spider mites, but we are in the process of optimizing methods for NC and do not have concrete recommendations at this time.

I have heard a lot of rumblings about different materials being applied systemically for mites, and I want to be perfectly clear: There are no systemic miticides. None of the materials currently labeled for soil or drip applications in strawberries are either registered for or effective against spider mites. Our best chemical control for mites is over the top treatments of miticides. I also do not recommend the use of pyrethriod insecticides against mites. The pyrethriods registered in strawberries have either shown no effect in our trials or have actually increased mite populations because they are equally toxic to beneficial insects.

Strawberry clipper damage in Lee County, NC, 2009. Photo from Stephanie Romelczyk, Lee County Horticulture Agent.

3. Do not assume you will have clippers in 2010 just because you had them in 2009. I had several reports of clipper injury in 2009. We do not have a sense of what 2010 will look like with respect to clippers, but I am not recommended a preventative treatment just because damage was observed in 2009. Most strawberry varieties compensate to a certain extent for clipper damage, and rescue materials are available for clipper management. Pre bloom preventative applications may be too early to really protect plants. When scouting for clipper damage, remember, clippers only affect flower buds (as in the above photo), not leaves.

You can find more specific information about pesticides in the NC Ag Chem Manual and the Southeastern Strawberry IPM Guide.

I will post a mid season arthropod reminder for strawberries in May which will cover late season mite management, sap beetles, thrips, and the unusual occasionals we see as the weather gets warmer.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brown marmorated stink bug

This morning I'm kicking myself for not taking a closer look at the stink bug I scooped off my floor last night! Chances are, it was a brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive insect native to Asia (China & Japan). Brown marmorated stink bugs (Halyomorpha halys) are potential crop pests of fruits (grapes, caneberries, and peaches are the most likely hosts here), but have not been numerous in NC in recent years. Their feeding behavior and potential damage are the same as many native stink bugs, such as the brown, green, and southern green stink bugs, so changes in management practices will likely not be needed.

Where the brown marmorated stink bug has become a more serious concern is in the home. Much like their fellow Asian import, the multicolored Asian lady beetle, the brown marmorated stink bug aggregates in structures during the fall and winter and can be a nuisance pest. NCSU entomologists Stephen Bambara, Mike Waldvogel & Steven Frank have compiled information about the brown marmorated stink bug in NC, which can be found here.

A group at Rutgers has put together a really entertaining video highlighting this concern--it's worth a look:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Reminder - NE IPM Berry Webinar Wednesday!

Ripening blackberries at Killdeer Farms in Kings Mountain, NC.

A reminder that the NE IPM Berry Webinar concludes Wednesday, February 17 and is open to the public. All the details can be found in my previous post. I hope to "see" you there!

Virginia Berry Conference - March 11

The 3rd Annual Virginia Berry Production & Marketing Conference is scheduled for March 11, 2010 in Petersburg, VA. I spoke at this meeting last year, and the audience was great! Preregistration is required, and the deadline in March 1st. This year Bill Cline (blueberries), Barclay Poling, and Jeremy Pattison (strawberries) from NCSU will be presenting as part of the conference.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

SWD Monitoring Network Seeking Volunteers

As I posted at the beginning of the month, our SWD monitoring network, to be targeting initially in NC, SC, and VA, has been funded. We are now seeking volunteers interested in joining this network. The ideal volunteer is a county extension agent, master gardner, regional agronomist, or agricultural consultant, but any interested party is encouraged to participate.

We will provide training (via webinars) on SWD ID & trapping methods and regular updates on trap captures. All trapping materials and supplies will also be provided. Trap maintenance should take no more than 1-2 hours per week.

If this sounds like a project you would be interested in, please fill out the survey at this link. Training will begin mid March, and trapping will begin mid April. If you have questions, contact Hannah.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The down side of tunnels

Tunnel 4 at the Piedmont Research Station, Salisbury, NC on Friday, February 5th.

We have been assessing the overwintering ability of predatory mites in high tunnel strawberry plots for the last 2 winters with the goal of optimizing organic management recommendations. There is a local and wholesale market for high quality winter strawberries, and several growers have begun to take advantage of this. Among theses grower is Sonny Cottle, in Faison, NC, who has produced organic strawberries in high tunnels for several years and has experimented with predatory mites and other organic twospotted spider mite management methods.

There are a lot of benefits to working in tunnels. We never have to worry about getting rained out from a miticide treatment (or a harvest), it's usually a balmy 50 degrees in the winter, and, not the least, the Piedmont Research Station personnel are top notch. However, this year has provided a primer in the challenges of tunnel production.

The differences between seasons were apparent immediately. TSSM reached threshold in the 2009 season in mid November (2008), and predators were released soon after. Our 2010 tunnel was adjacent to caneberry plots, and the spider mites migrated into our strawberries right after transplant. Our first predator release in 2010 season was in mid October (2009), and was less successful in suppressing an already large TSSM population. A second release was conducted in November (2009) which provided greater suppression.

The winter of 2009 was excellent for tunnel production--cool, but moderate temperatures, and only one snow storm to content with. We had one significant cold event in January which required irrigated frost protection, but row cover was sufficient for the remainder of the season. In 2010, we have experienced one the coldest winters in recent memory. Row covers have been in place almost every day for the last 2 months, which, unfortunately, has lead to extensive predatory mite movement between plots. We can still gather data on our primary objective, determining the ability of predatory mites to overwinter and reproduce in tunnels, but our release plots are no longer contained.

Our latest challenge has been snow. Although it was nothing compared to the recent storms in Washington, D.C., North Carolina had its share of snow the last weekend in January 2010. The 5 inch accumulation was enough to warrant the removal of our tunnel's (Tunnel 4) plastic skin to prevent collapse. As of today, our plants are covered with black plastic and row cover, and the tunnel is uncovered. Plans are to get the plastic back up today (Tuesday, February 9th), and we intend to sample Thursday to see what the impacts on TSSM and our predators are.

There's never a dull moment in agriculture--even in the "off" season!

Friday, February 5, 2010

EQIP High Tunnel Program in North Carolina

Doors being added to high tunnels at the Piedmont Research Station. Salisbury, NC

NC State researchers have been developing high tunnel production techniques for fruits and vegetables for several years. In our lab, we have been optimizing biocontrol strategies for twospotted spider mites in winter strawberry production. Now, it may be easier for growers interested in expanding to tunnel production to get started. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has expanded it's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP) to include incentives for new high tunnels designed to enhance local markets and extend seasons. Part of the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" program, these incentives are based on tunnel square footage. Up to 40 states are participating in this program, including NC and VA. The deadline for NC applications, February 12, is approaching fast, so contact your local NRCS office for more information. North Carolina information can be found here, and Virginia information can be found here.

Hexapod Haiku Challenge

I'll write a poem
about my favorite bug
and send to Andy.

The 3rd Annual NCSU Insect Museum Hexapod Haiku Challenge has been announced. This a fun and creative way to express your love, wonder, or excitement about insects. All the important details can be found here.

UPDATE: More press for the Hexapod Haiku Challenge from NCSU Communication Services.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

NEIPM Berry Webinar Concludes Feb 17th

An unhappy Japanese beetle feeding on a ripe Ouachita blackberry. Kinston, NC.

The final session in the Northeast IPM Berry Webinar concludes February 17th when Dr. Donn Johnson, University of Arkansas, and myself will be presenting a session on caneberry pest management. Sessions are free and open to the public, but registration is required. These webinars use Adobe Connect, a very user friendly web conferencing tool. Registration and topic information can be found here.

On Feb 17th, Donn and I will be covering:
Raspberry Crown Borer
Japanese and Green June Beetles
Broad Mites
Raspberry and Rednecked Cane Borers
Spider Mites
Stink Bugs

If there's a caneberry pest not listed that you would like to know more about via the webinar, let me know!

If you missed previous sessions, they are all archived and can be viewed online. This is a great resource, and I am excited to be a part of it!

Blueberry pollination sites being sought

In 2009, we began a multi year project to assess pollinator diversity and efficiency in southeastern blueberries. Although excellent work has been done Georgia, Mississippi, and Michigan blueberry production systems, the mid southeast (NC, SC, and VA) differ both in climate and production system. The vast majority of blueberries grown commercially in NC are southern highbush, while in GA, mostly rabbiteye varieties are grown. Bloom phenology and flower morphology differ between these species, and its reasonable to assume that pollinator interactions may differ as well.

Observations in 2009 highlighted the differences between southern highbush and rabbiteye blueberries. In 2010 and 2011, we will be conducting detailed, on farm observations of pollinator diversity and abundance, primarily in NC. We are currently seeking grower cooperators who are interested in participating in this project. Grower participation will entail allowing us to sample and observe pollinators, allowing caging of ~50 branches prebloom, and allowing sampling of ~1000 fruit. Interested growers can contact Hannah Burrack with questions or to get involved.

This project will also include video capture of pollinators in action, which will be shared online (including here), starting Fall 2010.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Burley Tobacco Day - February 16th

The program has been finalized for Burley Tobacco Day 2010 at the Madison County Cooperative Extension Center. The meeting will begin at 9am, February 16th.
On the program:
9:00am - Registration
9:30am - Opening Remarks, Dr. Tom Melton
9:35am - Burley Tobacco Fertilizer Recommendations, Dr. Greg Hoyt
10:05am - Black Shank Management, Stanley Holloway & Dr. Mina Mila
10:30am - Burley Variety Update, Dr. Sandy Stewart

10:55am - BREAK

11:10am - Using New Insecticides in NC Tobacco - Dr. Hannah Burrack
11:35am - Curing Strategies to Improve Marketability - Danny Peek
12:00pm - Burley Stabilization Update - Charlie Finch

12:20pm - LUNCH

12:45pm - Burley Tobacco Outlook & Situation - Dr. Blake Brown
1:15pm - Accessible Markets - Randy Collins

I hope to see you there!

Third Annual NC Commercial Blackberry and Raspberry Growers Association Meeting

This is a great organization for growers interested in or starting out in caneberry production. Blackberries can be grown throughout NC, while raspberries are restricted to the mountains for the time being. Gina Fernandez, caneberry breeder, has an active program to develop raspberries which can tolerate our hot summers and erratic winters.

Cleveland County Cooperative Extension Auditorium

February 18, 2010

10:00 AM

10:00 to 10:30…...Registration

10:30 to 10:35…..Opening Remarks and Welcome

Daniel Shires, Agriculture Extension Agent, Cleveland County

10:35 to 11:00…..Understanding Soil Fertility

Steve Dillon NCDA Regional Agronomist

11:00 to 11:45…..Blackberry Disease Update

Dr. Phil Brannen, Dept. of Plant Pathology, University of Georgia

11:45 to 1:15…….Lunch, Trade Show and NCCBRGA business meeting

1:15 to 1:45………Blackberry Insect Update

Dr. Hannah Burrack, Dept. of Entomology, NC State University

1:45 to 2:00………Labor Update

Norman Sykes, Agriculture Employment Consultant, NC Employment Security Commission

2:00 to 2:15………Blackberry Promotion Opportunity

Ervin Lineberger, President of the North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association

There will be a $10.00 registration fee for the meeting. Please call one of the secretaries at the Cleveland County Cooperative Extension office at 704-482-4365 to register by February 12th. You must RSVP in order to be included in the meal. Prior to the meeting there will be a registration table set up to collect registration fees and your 2010 NCCBRGA membership dues. Membership dues for 2010 are $15.00. Those who attend will receive pesticide credits in X category.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Spotted Wing Drosophila monitoring to begin in April!

Female SWD. Image via

The Southern Region Small Fruit Consortium has recently funded monitoring efforts for the spotted wing drosophila (D. suzukii) in the southeast. Our work will rely upon a volunteer network of agricultural professionals, including county cooperative extension agents, master gardeners, and certified crop consultants. Monitoring efforts will be on a volunteer basis, but training, support, and materials will be provided. Training sessions will begin in March 2010, and monitoring efforts are targeted to begin in April. Monitoring locations will include backyard gardens and non commerical plantings of potential host plants (ie. peaches, strawberries, grapes, blueberries, and caneberries). We will avoid be monitoring commercial small fruit farms in the first stage of this project, because of potential regulatory implications. If and when SWD are detected and confirmed in a region, we may include commerical grower sites if there is sufficient interest.

This project will initially focus on North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina, but training and methods will be available to interested parties from other states upon request. If you are interested in participating in monitoring efforts, contact Hannah Burrack.

Monitoring information will be collected via Google Documents and shared via this website and others.

We will now include commercial farms as possible monitoring sites.

Tobacco Growers Association meeting at the Southern Farm Show

For the past several years, Dr. Bill Collins has organized a tobacco production short course for young growers, and the 2010 session runs this week and ends as the students attend the NC Tobacco Grower's Association annual meeting Friday, at the Southern Farm Show. Talks at the Tobacco Grower's Association meeting will focus on FDA regulation and its implications for NC tobacco production. This has been the topic of interest all winter long, and will remain so for some time. Government regulation will likely move slowly. A scientific advisory panel is in the process of being formed, and no real decisions will be made until this panel is in place. Much more information from the FDA on regulatory progress can be found here. The pace of regulatory guidance leaves lots of room for industry and grower insecurity, which has been apparent this winter.

Grower concern has been obvious at the county tobacco meetings. At some, growers had yet to receive contracts and were unsure if they would even be growing tobacco this year. These groups had few questions for myself and the other specialists. As January moved on, however, and meetings took me to counties along the I-95 corridor, growers were more engaged. In Johnston, Wayne, and Wilson Counties, folks will continue to grow tobacco, although who they sell to may change.

The mood at the Tobacco Workers Conference was also more subdued than in previous years, but the consensus remains tobacco is a crop for which demand will continue. And growers will continue to need our expertise to produce their crops in an economical, environmentally sound, and safe manor.