Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Asparagus Update

I received a message today from someone who has seen similar symptoms on asparagus to those in my last post. The caller believes that the wilting symptoms could possibly be due to frost. What an excellent observation! It is so easy to forget about frost damage when you visit a farm when it is 80 degrees and sunny out. But, we have had some cold evenings and mornings in the last week or so.

Description of Frost Damage in Asparagus
Spears appear slightly darker green, water-soaked and break off easily. Soft-rotting bacteria can enter the damaged tissue. New spears take several more days to emerge. Temperatures below 33 degrees Fahrenheit may damage the spears.

Though the symptoms I presented in my last post don't exemplify frost damage exactly, I think that having such cold temperatures and wet weather combined didn't help out this particular planting.

Thank you so much for calls and comments. Please leave comments on the blog if you have something useful to add!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Asparagus Does Not Like Waterlogged Soils

Asparagus is a very interesting and exciting perennial vegetable crop. I have to admit, everything I learn about asparagus is new to me, but luckily we have some great asparagus growers here in WNC. Danny McConnell, a grower in Henderson County, was featured prominently in a recent article, Dana Farmer Spears New Market, in the Times-News.

On a recent visit to another area farm, we noticed that the asparagus crowns were wilting (see pictures below). The wilting spears were also hollowed out. The first thing that we noticed was the lack of internal drainage of the soil where the crowns were planted. The soil was very moist and from the reading I had done, I remembered that asparagus prefers well-drained soils.

Because of the wilting, I was tipped off that there was something going on underground. Upon digging into the soil, we noticed it was still very wet from the recent rains. There were also pillbugs or sowbugs present signaling very moist conditions. Luckily, at this point, the roots did not appear brown or unhealthy.

In order to learn more about this problem, I contacted another extension agent in Granville and Person Counties, Carl Cantaluppi (yes, indeed another Italian-American ag agent in NC- its an underground organization. I've already said too much). Carl has a lot of experience with asparagus and even authored and excellent factsheet from Ohio State Univeristy, Growing Asparagus in the Home Garden. After I explained the situation, Carl knew the cause.

The spears were in fact wilting because of the waterlogged soils. Excess nitrogen will only exacerbate the problem. Waterlogged soils will also lead to Fusarium root rot.

So what could this grower do?
  • Let the soil dry out, the plants will recover slightly
  • Do not replant the established crowns because they will become quite stressed resulting in crown death
  • For the recently planted (within the last month) crowns, transplant into raised beds or amend the soil with sand to improve the soil's internal drainage
Ultimately, because asparagus is a long-lived perennial, starting out with the correct soil conditions is key. Get your soil tested to determine phosphorous and potassium needs and to determine the pH. Asparagus requires a soil pH or 6.5-7.5.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NCDA&CS Encourages Farmers to Register with

RALEIGH – Interest in buying locally grown fruits, vegetables and meats continues to grow as consumers look to support local growers and find foods that haven’t traveled very far from the field to the table.

To tap into this growing trend, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is ramping up its efforts to help shoppers find locally grown farm products in their area through promotions and updates of the department’s Web site.

The Web site is as a tool where consumers can search for retail farms, roadside stands, farmers markets, community-supported agriculture operations, nurseries, retail garden centers and similar outlets in their area that sell directly to the public. Listings can be searched by the type of commodity being sold, by county or by region. has been active for around five years and lists more than 1,000 farms, 119 certified roadside stands and 116 farmers markets. The site has traditionally focused on fruits and vegetables, nursery products and Christmas trees; however, farmers who sell meat and dairy products can now sign up to be listed.

“Farmers who market their products directly to consumers are encouraged to sign up now so they won’t miss this marketing opportunity,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “As our marketing efforts draw more and more shoppers to the Web site looking for farms in their communities that sell direct, this will be a simple and easy way for farmers to promote their products and potentially increase their sales. Best of all, it is free and easy to do.”

The department will soon launch a statewide advertising campaign encouraging consumers to use the Web site to find local vendors. The campaign is being funded by special grants from the Golden Leaf Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as cooperative funding from commodity associations.

Farmers can register their farms by logging on to and following the links on the home page. They may also contact NCDA&CS at (919) 733-7887 for more information or assistance. Farmers interested in joining the Goodness Grows in North Carolina program or becoming a certified roadside stand can also contact the department at the number above.

Monday, April 13, 2009

April Edition of Small Fruits News

The latest edition of the South Region Small Fruit Consortium's Small Fruit News is now available.

In this edition:
  • New informationof emerging blueberry diseases
  • Strawberry association research grants
  • Vineyard record-keeping
  • Choosing blackberry varieties
  • Management of gray mold/Botrytis rot in strawberries in early harvest season
  • Bunch grape nutrition management
  • Bramble (caneberry) seasonal checklist
  • Quarterly strawberry plasticulture checklist

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Agriculture and Social Media

The folks at NCDA's In The Field blog were kind enough to interview me on how I feel social media, such as blogging, is playing a role in agriculture.

Click here to check out the article and interview.

If you want to follow my tweets on Twitter, my name is SuzyNCSU.

See you on the internet!