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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tobacco photo of the month

This image is from 1952, near Hanging Rock State Park in Stokes County, NC. I have had tobacco trials near this same location in 2008 and 2009, and will hopefully have another trial there this year.

NCSU Students win ESA President's Prize

Three NCSU entomology students were awarded the ESA President's Prize at the ESA National meeting held in Indianapolis, IN, December 13-16.

Nancy Maxwell, a PhD student working with Mark Abney, received the second place prize in Community and Spacial Ecology for her work on Plectris aliena.

Richard Reeves, a PhD student in my lab working on threshold revision for key tobacco insect pests, won second place in Trapping and Forecasting for his master's research on stink bug sample methodology in cotton (conducted at Clemson University).

Finally, despite a scheduling error that resulted in her placement in Phylogenetics and Evolution rather than Behavior, Eleanor Spicer, a PhD student working with Jules Silverman, won second place for her work on Dear Enemy pheromone in Asian needle and Argentine ants.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Linnaean Games Update

The NCSU Linnaean Games team beat Oklahoma State to move onto the semi finals where they will meet either Penn State or UC Riverside. A UCR match up would be a repeat of last year's finals. Congrats for a great showing so far and more to come!

The finals begin at 5:30pm Tuesday.

UPDATE: Despite a well fought effort in the semi finals, NCSU lost to UC-Riverside. Riverside then completed against the University of Illinois. Illinois was a force to be reckoned with, and won the 2010 championship. Congratulations!

Monday, December 7, 2009

2010 Tobacco Meeting Dates

I will be attending the following county tobacco meetings in 2009-2010 (links to meeting location):
December 7: Piedmont Regional Meeting, Winston-Salem, NC. 99 attendees.
December 8: NCSU Crop Protection School, Raleigh, NC. 35 attendees.
December 17: Caswell County tobacco production meeting, Yancyville, NC. 110 attendees.
January 5: Bertie County tobacco production meeting, Windsor, NC. 35 attendees
Martin County tobacco production meeting, Williamston, NC (I am not attending this meeting)

January 6: Person, Granville, Orange County tobacco production meeting, Roxboro, NC. ~150 attendees
January 11: Duplin County tobacco production meeting, Kenansville, NC. ~25 attendees
Wayne County tobacco production meeting, Goldsboro, NC.
~75 attendees
January 13: Eastern Regional Meeting, Rocky Mount, NC. ~80 attendees
January 14: Pitt County tobacco production meeting, Greenville, NC. ~35 attendees
Johnston County tobacco production meeting, Smithfield, NC.
~70 attendees
January 26: Lenoir County tobacco production meeting, Kinston, NC. 82 attendees
Craven County tobacco production meeting, New Bern, NC.
40 attendees
February 8: Cumberland County tobacco production meeting, Fayetteville, NC. 15 attendees
February 12: Green County tobacco production meeting, Snow Hill, NC. 60 attendees
February 10: Franklin, Vance, and Oxford County tobacco production meeting, Louisburg, NC. Note: Clyde Sorenson will be presented at this grower meeting in my place.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Winter tobacco meetings begin

The above image is from the Life Photo Archive, indexed by Google. There are amazing images of NC tobaccco production from the early 1900s through the present. By following the link and searching "NC tobacco" at the top of the page, you can find a wealth of other beautiful and fascinating images. You can even order reprints.

The first tobacco meeting of the winter extension season is tomorrow, December 7th, in Winston-Salem. We held Tobacco Day and tobacco agent training on December 3rd in Johnston County and now begins the round of winter meetings. A list of upcoming and past meeting dates can be found here. Meetings typically include pesticide applicator credits for those not directly engaged in tobacco production but in search of the last few credits needed to keep their license active.

Light Up Durham!

I get a big kick out of the name of Light Up Durham--Last Friday they lit the Lucky Strikes tower at the American Tobacco Campus for the holidays. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Department Linnaean Games Tournament

The NCSU Entomology Department Linnaean Games Tournament is scheduled for Thursday, December 10th at 5pm in the Steven's Room (3503 Thompson Hall). This is a chance to see our branch winning team members play with other department members and to send them off in style to the national meeting in Indianapolis! Contact Hannah ( to submit teams or ask questions.

Smithsonian Magazine covered the national tournament last year, and it's a good read to get excited for this year's contest!

Northern Piedmont Specialty Crop School - March 5th

The Northern Piedmont Specialty Crop School, an annual event organized by NCCE horticulture agent Carl Cantaluppi, is scheduled for March 5th, 2010. Registration information and scheduled speakers can be found in the school's brochure. This year's school will focus on high tunnel production of specialty crops, including caneberries, one of my favorite crops.

Tobacco Day attendance

This year's Tobacco Day, hosted by the Johnston County cooperative extension center drew over 280 attendees--the largest number of growers, agents, and industry leaders that have attended this meeting since I have been on the faculty. In addition to research updates from tobacco extension faculty, the annual Tobacco Greats awards were presented. This year's honorees were Tom Pharr, an ag. engineer who has helped develop much of our modern tobacco equipment, and Suzanne Bailey, a driving force behind the Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenley, NC. Mrs. Bailey was honored posthumously with her husband and family in attendance.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blueberry Meeting Scheduled for 12/4

An information meeting for blueberry growers, extension agents, and other interested parties will be held at 10am on Friday, December 4th at the Rowan Country Store & Grill in Ivanhoe, NC (16846 NC Hwy 210).

At this meeting, we will discuss:
  • Blueberry maggot management under quarantine protocols
  • NCDA & CS quarantine regulations
  • Spotted wing drosophila monitoring in blueberries
  • Just added: blueberry bud mite management--new regulatory questions
NCDA & CS regulators, NC cooperative extension agents, and NCSU specialists will be present to lead discussion and answer questions.

Contact Hannah (, 919-513-4344) for additional information.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Southeastern Strawberry Expo - A busy 3 days

The 2009 Southeastern Strawberry Expo wrapped up Tuesday. The meeting fostered lots of great conversation and research ideas. I always enjoy seeing growers who I have not encountered over the summer, including John Vollmer, who's farm we visited Sunday afternoon.

John and his family have been growing strawberries and other crops organically for 7 years, and come March 2010, his entire farm will be certified organic. John chose organic production to address a market need and has actively sought information on how optimize this system for his farm. This has lead John to cooperate with several extension specialists, including me. On Sunday, I shared some of the results for work we conducted on organic mite management in 2009 as well as some of the system-wide approaches to minimizing spider mites in organic strawberries.

John also detailed some of his other production practices and showed off a thriving winter cover crop of oats and red clover. Finding organically certified strawberry plugs has been a major challenge in recent years. This year, weather added another layer of difficultly. The California nurseries that John works with were flooded in late summer, resulting in a total loss of his intended plants. After much scrambling, John made the switch to cut off plants for his entire farm. Their first field leaves are just coming in, and they are smaller than John would like for this time of year, but they appear otherwise healthy.

On Monday, the NC Strawberry Association recognized its outstanding grower of 2009, Lee Berry (could you pick a better name?) of the Berry Patch. Lee shared his marketing strategy, which relies in no small part on his store, which he has dubbed the "world's largest strawberry". According to Lee, his only competition has been from "some folks in Iowa". Well, being that much of my extended family is from Strawberry Point, I am pretty sure I know where he's talking about! Lee's strawberry wins, hands down, despite the mid Western fondness for all things fiberglass.

Honored for their service to the industry were the NC Plant Disease & Insect Clinic at NCSU and a truly unsung hero of the NCSU strawberry horticulture program, technician Rocco Schiavone. I know I would have been lost without his advice many, many times.

My session on when not to treat strawberries is available in pdf form by request as are additional handouts. The 2010 Southern Region Stawberry IPM Guide will be online in January.

Slate rates fruits and veggies

Uniform, public information on agricultural production practices is limited, but even given that limited data, this Slate article has some large holes. Chief among them, California production practices for the fruits and veggies mentioned is often very different than those in other states. Pest pressure also differ greatly between California and the rest of the US--NC small fruit production certainly relies more on fungicides than CA production does. That said, the question of sustainability is trickling down from animal agriculture to commerical horticulture, and growers should be prepared to explain the reasons for their production practices.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

SWD Climate model and OSU work group

The map above is from a report complied by Martin Damus of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and hosted on the website for the Oregon spotted wing drosophila workgroup. It illustrates the areas with temperature suitable for spotted wing drosophila survival. The methods used to develop this map are summarized in the report and rely heavily on data from the fly's native range, but it is a striking illustration that the eastern US is potentially at greater risk that the west. This greater potential risk has not necessarily translated to greater emphasis on this on preventing and/or detecting this pest. I was impressed with the steps taken by the Oregon group and will be following their activities over the winter.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Aphids in tunnel berries

This is just a short note to mention that aphids have popped up in tunnel strawberries at one of the research stations we work on. They haven't been problematic in our plots, and it takes a lot of aphids per plant (10 per newly expanded leaf on average as a rule). Aphids are, however, one of the pests that will likely be more problematic in tunnels than in the field. There are several conventional and organic options for aphid management when they do exceed threshold levels, but the strategy used for each will be different--early and often is the mantra for organic aphid materials, while conventional materials can and should be used much less frequently.

Monday, November 2, 2009

NC Entomological Society Banquet Friday

Time is running out to preregister for the NC Entomological Society banquet. Early registration is over, but you can still attend. Find forms and details at the NC Entomological Society website.

NC Strawberry Expo: 6 Days and Counting!

The NC Strawberry Expo is just 1 week away! I have several sessions at the Expo. Sunday, I will be participating in Barclay Poling's "Months of Money" workshop. We'll be breaking down the choices that strawberry farmers make each month of the year and how these choices add up to make or cost growers money. Sunday afternoon, we will visit John Vollmer's strawberry farm where I'll discuss work on organic mite management (both miticides and biological control) we conducted with John last spring. John is a fantastic cooperator and a wealth of information. This tour will include discussions of the entire process of organic strawberry growing, which has its own unique challenges.

On Monday afternoon, I will spend an hour discussing insect management in strawberries. This session, called "When NOT to spray", will focus on the use of sampling and thresholds in strawberries as well as address insects that growers are concerned about but do not typically injure NC strawberries (Lygus bugs are a prime example). Because the decision NOT to treat is usually much more fraught than the decision to spray, I will try to give growers tools to let them sleep better at night after not firing up the tractor. Look for an Expo wrap up early next week.

My least favorite argument against GMOs

My colleague, Yasmin Cardoza, just forwarded a link to an NPR story about a Penn State researcher's work on the consequences of gene drift from GMO crop plants. The research is well thought out and certainly work that should continue, but that's not the point of this post. I was drawn more to comments section at the NPR website which were full of the typically polarized statements that go along with the GMO discussion. I am always amazed when I read comments about how "farmers can't save GMO seeds". Well, no, but most farmers cannot or do not save seeds as is...seeds (0r reproductive parts housing them) are what farmers sell, saving them isn't the point, selling them is. The harvested part of corn, watermelon, apples, cotton, and most of the other crops we grow are or contain the seeds. Even if farmers wanted to save their own seed to avoid buying it, weather in many of areas of the country render this impossible. There is a reason why our seeds come from California's central valley and southern Arizona. They have the longest field seasons, which allow plants to complete their entire life cycle, unlike most agricultural systems.

None of this is to imply that I am wildly in favor of GMO crops. My personal opinion is complicated, but simply stated, I think GMOs make sense in some situations and not in others and that the risk they raise in terms of gene flow should be weighed against other benefits to the systems (reduced pesticide use, etc). When I have the choice, I buy food from small, local growers and prefer them to mass market options. However, I don't do this to avoid GMOs. There are many well reasoned arguments against (and for) GMOs, and I dislike when misinformation clouds and interesting discussion.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Meet the predators

Last Wednesday (10/21/09), we released our predatory mites into our twospotted spider mite biological control plots at Piedmont Research Station. Two weeks ago, we treated all our buffer plots with miticide and we treated again about 1 hour before releasing the mites. This strategy worked will last year; we were able to maintain populations in our untreated control plots while suppressing populations in our predator release plots without noticeable movement between them. This year our spider mites showed up about a month earlier than last year, so we'll see if this same methodology works for smaller, younger plants that have a lot of growing left to do. The spider mite populations were so high, however, that waiting to release predators would have jeopardized the trial.

We released 20 predators/plot (that's 1/sq ft). This is higher than field rates, but for the sanity of the mite counter (me) 20 is as low as I wanted to go. Each species was released alone in a plot. Last year, we combined some predators (like in this trial) but our main goal this winter is to see which, if any, of the species released remain active in the protected environment of the tunnels over the winter. We know the spider mites do--less than 10% of the twospotted spider mites observed last winter were diapausing at any given time, and eggs were present all winter long in the tunnels.

The three predator species we released are the same as last year, and 2 have been used commercially in field grown strawberries for a while. (All the photos are from UC IPM, I need to get a camera for my microscope...)

Phytoseiulus persimilis (next to a female twospotted spider mite and her eggs) has been used in strawberries pretty extensively. We don't appear to have an established population in NC, but in parts of California, they move into strawberry fields on their own.

Neoseiulus (Amblyseius) californicus has gained in popularity in the last 10 years for use in strawberries. This is likely thanks to work done in Florida and the Pacific Northwest that has demonstrated its ability to reduce spider mite populations alone and in combination with P. persimilis.

Finally, Neoseiulus fallcis were released. These mites occur in North Carolina, and according to Jim Walgenbach (On Wisconsin!) in our department, they are also found in apple orchards feeding on European red mite. The fact that these guys like cool, humid weather best was the basis for including them in this trial, although they are not widely used in strawberries.

All of our mites were from Rincon-Vitova Insectaries. There are several other suppliers as well, but we could get all 3 of the mites used from them, which will hopefully minimize variability. We do our first post release count next week.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

VA Berry Conference Online

One the highlights of my spring meetings in 2009 was the March Virginia Berry Conference, organized by Reza Rafie and Chris Mullins of Virginia State University. Over 120 attendees from across the southeast listened to presentations on small fruit production and management. Meet the Farmer, a program that documents local farming systems, was also in attendance and assembled sections of the talks for one of their programs.

My section is about 23 minutes in, but all the segments are worth taking in if you have time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A busy day in the tunnels

My technician, Anna Chapman, and I spent the morning at the Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury visiting high tunnel biological control plots. We will release predators next Wednesday, and today, we collected pretreatment samples in our test and treated buffer plots. This is the second year of this trial, and in addition to assessing reductions in twospotted spider mite numbers, we will also be periodically testing the ability of our selected predator species to remain active in tunnels over the winter. Samples from last week and this week suggest that our releases from last year may have established populations of at least 2 of the predator species in these tunnels. This may complicate our experiments, but it's certainly an interesting development!

After collecting our samples, we visited Patterson Farms where Barclay Poling and Jeremy Pattison have a collaborative project with the growers, funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation, to study the dynamics of scaling up tunnel strawberry production.

The plants look great, but I found several interesting insects crawling around. Particularly, there were lots of Lepidopterans (caterpillars).

Cutworms, likely variegated, were scattered throughout the tunnels. Only one was observed feeding on flowers (top image), which is more problematic than their typical feeding behavior (small holes on leaves and cutting of leaves as larvae grow).

In addition to cutworms, which can be fairly common in fall strawberries, there were several fuzzy (Arctiidae) caterpillars, including wooly bears (not shown). These larvae are probably moving in from weedy vegetation in surrounded woody areas. These larvae will pupate soon and not develop into crop pests.

Several stick mimicking Geometridae were also present in the tunnels--they are responsible for the small holes in the leaves on the above plant.

Although there were many caterpillars present, I do not think the density or damage justified treatment. The larvae present now will pupate soon, and the plants are large enough that they are not threatened by the small amount of feeding damage.

Also roaming around the tunnel were several southern corn rootworms (above). These may feed lightly on leaves, but will soon overwinter as adults, perhaps around the base of the plants. We're learning more about what expect in tunnel berries where we go for full out growth right away. All sorts of interesting, probably incidental, insects are moving into the same space to overwinter or grab a quick bite to eat before winter sets in. It remains to be seen what, if any, of these insects will cause damage we need to worry about it, but we're keeping eyes open.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Check out the newest Small Fruit News

The latest edition of the Small Fruit News has just been posted at the Southern Region Small Fruit Consortium's webpage. I contributed an article on the spotted wing drosophila to this quarter's edition which expands on my previous post here. The most interesting article to me was contributed by Phil Brannen, University of Georgia plant pathologist, which briefly discusses 2 viruses new to eastern blueberry production.

Blueberry scorch and blueberry shock have been detected in locations in Michigan, the nation's largest blueberry producer. Among these locations is the Trevor Nichols Research Complex, where much of the blueberry research in the state is conducted. Blueberry scorch is vectored by aphids (likely non persistently), although the potential vectors are unclear. Blueberry shock is a pollen borne virus whose spread is mediated by bees. These viruses have yet to be detected in the southeast, but their movement across the US from the Pacific northwest to Michigan raises concern.

More information on Blueberry scorch and shock is Michigan can be found here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Southeast Strawberry Expo - Registration open

Registration is open for the Southeastern Strawberry Expo, which will be held in Durham, NC, November 8-10. I will have results from our organic trials this summer and will have a full session on insect and mite management. My main emphasis in this session will be to discuss with growers when NOT to treat insects and mites with pesticides. The decision not to spray is often the hardest, but we'll be discussing tools that can minimize the number of pesticide applications needed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A new field season

Strawberry plots from 2008-2009 biological control trials at Salisbury (Piedmont Research Station). These trials are being repeated in 2009-2010, with our first treatments being applied next week!

A few colleagues and grad students have been asking me lately "Is your field season winding down?", and the answer is, it's time for a whole new field season! August and September are typically my slowest months, unless there are tobacco trials that need yield assessment. There's still some tobacco out in the field, but most of the insect issues are routine this time of year. Blueberries are long gone and only leafhoppers are left to treat. Blackberry primocanes are still going strong but until we ramp up our virus vector studies, fall is quiet for Rubus. I don't have any current grape projects, but their harvest is also winding down.

So what new season is starting? Strawberries, of course! Three trials that I am collaborating on are in the ground and spider mite assessment will start next week. My own strawberry trials at Clayton, NC will be planted on Tuesday, October 6th.

What are we looking at in this trials? At Salisbury at Laurel Springs, I am piggy backing on 2 of Barclay Poling's row cover trials. We are trying to determine the impact of different row cover durations on overwintering twospotted spider mite populations. Barclay has shown a significant advantage to row covers under certain conditions, but I want to be sure that mite issues are not exacerbated under these row cover regimes. If they are, we'll then need to develop management strategies that take this into account.

We are conducting the 2nd year of winter biological control assessment for twospotted spider mite in one the high tunnels at Salisbury. At Clayton, we will be conducting threshold validation studies for twospotted spider mites and playing around with a few other row cover strategies.

Why so many mite trials?
All of these trials are focussed on twospotted spider mites for a reason; they are the key arthropod pest of strawberries in North Carolina. Their feeding activity can significantly impact plant health and yield. Spider mites can also be challenging to control--if miticides are used, good coverage is essential. If biological control is used, timing is important.

Why are you starting now?
Although it feels counterintuitive, twospotted spider mite damage results in the greatest yield reduction when it occurs early in the season, pre fruiting, when the plant is setting up the number of fruit it will produce the following spring. So, mite management following planting through the beginning of harvest is key.

Where will the information from these trials be available?
Here, for one. I will post regular updates on mite densities and any other interesting information that results from these trials. I will also present data from these trials in next summer's strawberry preplant meetings, and next spring's strawberry field day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An emerging pest, on the march!

Spotted wing drosophila on raspberry in Northern California. Males have spots on the ends each of their wings, while females do not. Image from the UC ANR Strawberry and Caneberry Blog, courtesy Ed Show.

Formerly known as the cherry vinegar fly, the
spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) has rapidly progressed from recently detected invader to significant pest of fruit in California. The fly was first detected in fall 2008 and was confirmed in backyard and commercial cherry plantings in spring 2009. Experts in California believe it has been present for at least a year prior to that detection. On August 4, 2009, the spotted wing drosophila was detected in Hillsborough County in central Florida.

What makes the spotted wing drosophila a concern to growers and entomologists alike is the fact that its serrated ovipositor (egg laying devise) allows it to attack sound fruit. Of the nearly 1500 known drosophila species, only 2 are pests of sound fruit, one of which is the spotted wing drosophila. Most other drosophila flies feed on the microorganisms that inhabit rotting fruit or plant tissue, and therefore are not typically crop pests.

Any soft fruit is likely at risk for damage by this pest, which includes caneberries, strawberries, peaches, grapes, blueberries, and figs. Research in California indicates that the fly completes a generation in approximately 2 weeks. Infested fruit appears bruised from the outside, and small (1-2 mm) larvae feed internally.

Because they are present in Florida, it's only a matter of time before the spotted wing drosophila makes it way to North Carolina. I will be working with county agents this winter to establish a monitoring network in high risk counties. Please contact your county agent or myself if you suspect spotted wing drosophila damage in your fruit.

You can find more information on spotted wing drosophila at the following links:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blog role

In updating posts and catching up with email this morning, I came across a few blogs I hadn't seen before. Some were so impressive I decided they were worth sharing. I am also including links to some the blogs I regularly visit.
In the field: An NCDA blog with great, regular updates on agriculture, marketing, and outreach.

Deep Fried: T-minus 30 days and counting...this is the official blog of the NC State Fair. I know I, for one, will be putting something together for the Deep Fried ambassador contest.

Western NC Vegetable and Small Fruit News: Sue Colucci is an area horticulture Agent in western NC, and her blog is what convinced me that this effort was worth trying out.

NC State Insect Museum: Colleague Andy Deans and crew maintain a funny, informative blog on all things entomological. Keep an eye out for their annual insect haiku contest and the NC Entomological Society photo contest, just announced!

Myrmecos: I recently rediscovered a grad school classmate's website. Alex Wild is now at the University of Illinois Entomology Department and is also an accomplished photographer who archives his images here.

It's wine and grape appreication month!

Sunbelt grapes (a V. lubrusca variety similar to Concord) ready to harvest at Kildeer Farms in Kings Mountain, NC on August 5th. These even ripening grapes are an addition to grower Ervin Lineberger's fresh market muscadines and seem to do well in NC. They're really tasty, too, but they ripen uniformly and are only available for about a week in August!

I posted earlier this month about upcoming muscadine grape events, but I somehow missed the announcement that September is Wine & Grape Appreciation month in NC! I can think of several good ways to celebrate!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Answering questions about hops in NC

Early season hop yard in the Yakima Valley, WA (image via Wikipedia:

There's been a noticeable buzz about hops in NC lately, and I have been receiving more questions about pests and management. I am typically conservative when comes to recommending that growers plant a crop about which we still have a lot to learn (from culture to market demand), but several small growers have vines in the ground and have seen pests appear this season. If these growers persist and other join them, I'll be ready with as much help as I can provide. The biggest challenge for many of these growers will be their desire to produce hops organically--there are good market reasons for this decision, but many of the pests of hops will be particularly hard to manage organically.

Fortunately, a friend at WSU works some on hops and has been an early resource, but as he pointed out in our first conversation about hops--we have this thing here called humidity that they don't content with in the high desert. Because NC growing conditions are so different from the places where hops are typically produced, we need to be careful when adapting management recommendations from Washington and Idaho. We may have pests they don't and visa versa.

I do have a sense of what was out there this year based on clinic submission and emails, and some them are the usual suspects. A short list of what to watch for on hops:

Twospotted spider mites: TSSM (as I like to call them) are polyphagous pests. This means they feed on lots of plants from strawberry to tomato and from Japanese maple to hops. Mite feeding causes leaf stippling and yellowing with severe infestations resulting in defoliation. This leaf injury then can impact yield. Idaho recommendations suggest treating when mites reach 1-10 per leaf. Because organic materials behave differently, I would err on the more conservative side. I hope to gather some data on predatory mites in hops next summer, and I think these may be a viable option. I am not aware of any work done on pred. mites in hops, so I can't say what they real benefit would be yet. Organic pesticides are marginal against mites and their use will be challenging with the large hop canopy (an air cannon sprayer would be a good investment for the serious grower).

Hop aphid: Hop aphids do occur in NC, and they are a pest both because they vector disease (it's unclear how big an issue these diseases will be here) and because they feed in hop flowers--the harvested part of the plant. Aphids and the sooty mold they produce render cones unmarketable, which makes them a very serious pest. Aphid feeding behavior also makes them very hard to control completely in an organic system (there are very effective conventional controls). Biological control agents typically only move in when aphid populations are established and do not provide sufficient control. Organic pesticides need to contact aphids to kill them, since they do no move within the plant. I suspect the plan for organic aphid management will be to "treat early, and treat often"--a situation we typically try to avoid.

Leafhoppers: I have heard lots of complaints of early season leafhopper populations in hops, but I haven't seen any samples. This mean that I don't know what species we're dealing with or the damage it's creating (if any). Leafhopper do not appear to be hop pests in the western US (where most commercial hops are grown), so this a problem we will have develop information on here.

I'm keeping an ear to the ground to see where hops go in NC, and I'll keep posting.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Muscadine Field Day a Success!

The Muscadine Field Day at Castle Hayne had a great turn out Wednesday! Even though advertising budgets are tight and the field day was only publicized electronically, about 70 growers, agents, NCDA & NCSU attendees heard talks from Jim Ballington, Barclay Poling, Connie Fisk, me, and Bill Cline.

Poling discussed pruning technics in muscadines (also in the NC muscadine production guide--which will be getting a much needed update this winter).

Bill Cline discussed late season diseases (mainly ripe rots) and some problems that are NOT disease related like the injury on these Carlos, which appears to be due to a broad mite. There's always something new to learn about!

Muscadine grapes have the fewest severe insect threats of all the crops I work on. The most common questions I get in reference to muscadines this time of year are about bees and wasps on ripe fruit. Most growers and homeowners want to know if they can treat these bees and wasps, which I highly discourage. I did manage to find some other interesting insects in the variety block (while conducting a very scientific flavor comparison).

The upper photo show a leaf roller larva (these are caterpillars which feed on leaf tissue), and the bottom photo is likely a grape berry moth larvae found inside a grape. Although grape berry moth (GBM) can be serious pests of grapes, they are generally rare in NC, and Bill says this is first he's seen in this block. I suggest that growers concerned about GBM use pheromone traps to monitor whether they are present before deciding whether to treat.

No field day would be complete without dessert! Connie provided ice cream with muscadine dessert sauce from Duplin Winery.

I'm also looking for a good grape for my yard, and Southern Home (an "ornamental" muscadine) is at the top of my list. They have interesting foliage--fig leaf in horticultural parlance--and sweet aromatic black fruit. Now to find a spot to plant one.

What does IPM mean?

It's in the title of this blog and it's something I spend most of my day thinking about, but when I talk to folks outside the university system, I'm not always sure IPM is understood as well as we think it is. This year is the 50th anniversary of one of the most influential papers in entomology (and agricultural biology) and the paper that introduced the integrated management concept. "The integrated control concept" by Stern, Smith, Van Den Bosch, and Hagen was published in 1959 in the University of California journal, Hilgardia. Integrated control in this paper was defined as "pest control which combines and integrates biological and chemical control". While revolutionary for the time, this definition is somewhat limited in comparison to how we think of IPM today (it's not just biological and chemical control).

In the last 50 years, the term "control" has been replaced with "management" to acknowledge the fact that we're a player in agricultural systems, not necessarily in charge.

Other definitions of IPM include:
EPA: IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.

UC IPM: Integrated pest management (IPM) is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties. Pesticides are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed according to established guidelines, and treatments are made with the goal of removing only the target organism. Pest control materials are selected and applied in a manner that minimizes risks to human health, beneficial and nontarget organisms, and the environment.

Radcliff's IPM World: Integrated pest management can be defined as the practice of preventing or suppressing damaging populations of insect pests by application of the comprehensive and coordinated integration of multiple control tactics.

All of these definitions have the same core and get their message across with varying degrees of brevity, but maybe because I like things catchy, I found myself wanting a different way to explain IPM when I spoke to growers and the public. Last year, while driving (which I do a lot for work) I thought about the 3 word that really mean IPM to me: Minimize, Monitor, and Manage.

These broad action categories crystalize the concepts in the definitions above (and many, many others). We should first minimize the likelihood of pests (insect, disease or weed--IPM covers the whole range--it's not insect pest management!). We minimize by selecting good cultural practices: resistant varieties, water management, planting date, nutrition, and many others. We then need to monitor our plants, for pests and for general health. Sometimes these monitoring programs are systematic, sometimes they are as simple as walking through your feed and noticing what's going on. Monitoring also includes correct ID of pests--if you don't know what you have, you can't know what do about it! Monitoring (or knowing a pest population density) is also important when using thresholds. Typically, pest populations have to reach a certain density before you start loosing money--treating before that threshold actually costs more than the good it does. Finally, management. This is where Stern's ideas come back. Management options include biological, cultural, and chemical. As a rule chemical control should be our last choice and should be used in a way to cause the fewest additional problems.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A note on pesticide recommendations

Hands down, the most common question I am asked as an extension specialist is "what do I spray to control X?" I knew this would be the case from the get-go, and I enjoy helping growers and the public make good decisions about what, when, and how to use pesticides on their crops. That said, this blog will not be a forum for making those recommendations. Pesticide labels change frequently and vary by state. Because I don't know where you (hopefully there's a you) are from, what's available in NC may not be available or legal for your use. NC residents can refer to the NC Ag Chem Manual for recommendations for specific crops or can contact me directly for more detailed information. Interested parties outside NC are welcome to also contact me, and I will do my best to put you in contact with the right folks for recommendations in your state.

Caterpillars in blueberries (and other woody perenials)

Redhumped caterpilars (Schizura concinna), Lacy L. Hyche, Auburn University, Bugwood.

As weather really starts feeling like fall, caterpillars are showing up in NC blueberries. Most common and noticeable are redhumped caterpillars and yellownecked caterpillars.

Yellownecked caterpillars (Datana spp.), from Debbie Roos, Growing Small Farms:

I had a phone conversation about these insects with Bill Cline, blueberry and muscadine pathologist, immediately preceeded by an email from Benny Bloodworth, his technician. Both had the same question: what are these caterpillars and what should growers do about them?

Both species of caterpillars can aggregate when feeding and large populations can result in defoliation of the plants they are feeding on. The real question about what to do depends on the grower. Most large, commerical blueberry growers apply fall treatments for sharpnosed leafhoppers at the end of September or the beginning of October. Some pesticides used for leafhoppers will also effect caterpillars. If a large caterpillar infestation is present this time of year, one of these materials should be selected as the leafhopper treatment of choice. See the NC Ag Chem Manual for more information.  A note on pesticide recommendations.

Organic management is more challenging. There are effective organic controls for caterpillars (a lot of them), but there are little to no materials for leafhoppers. As I mentioned when talking to Bill today, organic blueberry growers are going to have to think differently about their production system than conventional growers. It will not be possible to just take a "spray schedule" and translate it into organic pesticides. These growers will need to maximize cultural management (in this case removing infested plants immediately upon noticing infection) and monitor carefully for pests because organic pesticides behave differently than conventional ones and must be carefully timed to be effective. Of course, conventional growers should be monitoring pests and minimizing pressure via cultural control, too! My IPM mantra is minimize, monitor, and manage, which I'll address in more detail in a post over the weekend.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tis the season for muscadines: upcoming events

A late fall shot from 2007, the last muscadines of the season hanging in there!

It's less than a week until the muscadine field day, and other muscadine events are also on deck this month. The Castle Hayne Research Station will host NCSU's annual Muscadine Field Day on Sept. 16. Morning sessions will be devoted to cultural, disease, and insect management presentations (expect lots of hands on information from me!). Following this talks, we will tour the station's muscadine trials and have the opportunity to taste test selections in the variety trial (always my favorite part).

For those of you that can't wait until next week (or can't make the trek to Castle Hayne), the State Farmer's Market in Raleigh is celebrating Grape Day on Friday, Sept. 11th. Rounding out the month, the NC Muscadine Festival will take place Sept. 26th in Kenansville, NC.

Connie Fisk, NC Extension Associate for muscadine grapes, maintain a great website with this information and more.

BugFest this weekend!

The country's largest insect themed event takes place this Saturday, Sept. 12th at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. This year's theme is butterflies and moths, and will feature exhibitors from NCSU's Entomology Department, among many, many others. Exhibit information and more can be found at the BugFest website.

NC Entomological Society Membership Drive Underway

The annual North Carolina Entomological Society Membership drive is underway now! This organization brings together entomologists from throughout North Carolina at our annual banquet, November 6, 2009. This year, our plenary speaker will be NCSU's own Rob Dunn, who's recently published book Every Living Thing is a fascinating read for scientists and non scientists alike. We are trying to broaden and invigorate our membership to include entomologists (and amateur insect enthusiasts) from throughout North Carolina, not just those in proximity to Raleigh. You can learn more about the society, our activities, and find membership information at the NC Entomological Society website. (2006 NC Ent Society Best in Show Insect Photo Contest winner, photographer: Bill Fisher)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The changing face of extension

NC Extension is under going major shifts, including the retirement of many of our most experienced and knowledgeable agents. Among them, Karen McAdams, Orange County NCCE agent, who retired at the end August. The Raleigh News & Observer has a great article on her career, linked above.

Karen presented as part of an extension seminar taught by myself and Mark Abney in spring 2009, and her experiences had a real impact on the students. She has been a real asset to NC extension, and will be missed!

Linnaean games practices start Sept 8th!

The NC State Linnaean Games Team after winning the 2009 SEB ESA tournament and earning a spot in the national competition.

After a great organizational meeting last Thursday, regular practices for the NC State Linnaean Games team will begin on Tuesday Sept. 8th at 1pm in Gardner Hall. We will also meet Thursdays at 5pm, also in Garnder. All students are welcome, and encouraged to attend. The National ESA meeting is Dec. 13-16 in Indianapolis, IN, where the Southeastern Branch champs (NCSU) will compete for the national title.

The department Linnaean Games tournament will be Dec. 10th--more details to follow. Wondering what the Linnaean Games are? Check this out.

Late season tobacco pests pop up again

Tobacco flea beetle damage on an upper stalk tobacco leaf, August 20, 2009.

Last summer, several growers (mostly large) reported flea beetle, and to a lesser extent, aphid injury on partially harvested tobacco. This summer, we are again seeing patchy incidences of heavy flea beetle feeding on plants held in the field. This feeding is most prominent on the lowest leaves but has shown up on the entire plant. Because this is often the most valuable portion of the plant, growers are understandably concerned about the yield and quality impacts of flea beetle feeding. We lack good thresholds for late season injury, and I am particularly concerned about additional pesticide use so close to harvest.
Tobacco flea beetles congregated at the top of a tobacco plant, August 20, 2009.

Recently, a PhD student, Richard Reeves, has joined my lab and will be addressing this and other questions pertaining to thresholds for insect injury in tobacco. This work will begin in earnest in 2010.

For the time being, there are treatment options, but they should be used cautiously on a case-by-case basis.

Friday, September 4, 2009


After years of resistance, I am finally expanding my online presence to include a more rapid communication tool, this blog! I will be posting about once daily with current topics and events in the ever changing world of integrated pest management!