Monday, November 30, 2009

New OMRI Approved fungicide

Many WNC producers battled this year with foliar diseases on their vegetable crops. Because of our wet season, we not only had trouble with bacterial spots on our peppers and tomatoes and downy mildew on cucurbits, but also the dreaded late blight on tomatoes.

There is a new material that organic and conventional growers can add to their toolbox for control of some of theses problems.

Marrone, Bio Innovations has just received their Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) registration for Regalia. Regalia is a bio fungicide made from an extract of Reynoutria sachalinensis, giant knotweed. Regalia activates the internal defense system of the host plant that prevents the growth of some foliar pathogens, such as powdery mildews, gray molds and even some bacterial pathogens. You can read the press release from Marrone here.

Disclaimer: Because this material is so new, I don't know if Regalia has been tested at NCSU efficacy trials or how well it will work for us here in WNC.

Has anyone tried Regalia, yet?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fee Waivers Available!: SSAWG Conference

The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group's (commonly known as SSAWG) "Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms" conference is coming up January 20-23, 2010 in Chattanooga, TN!

If you or someone you know is a current or future farmer who could benefit from atttending the
SSAWG conference on a fee waiver, please visit for information on how to apply.

I was lucky to attend this conference this past January and had an awesome time. Chattanooga is a great place for this conference. It is a very walkable town with a lot of interesting things to see and do.

The SSAWG conference is an invigorating and informative conference that brings together farmers, researchers, students and advocates of sustainable agriculture. A truly remarkable experience for all who attend.

Here are some comments from folks that have attended this event (from the SSAWG Conference webpage):

“Good practical info with real examples delivered by people with real experience.”

“I learned a ton about many different aspects in profiting off a farm operation.”

“Most useful thing was the affirmation and validation from others like myself. Renewed confidence in my initial decision to farm.”

I hope to see you there!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sustainable AgricultureConference in Black Mountain!

We are so lucky this year to have the Carolina Farm Stewardship's 24th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference (CFSA-SAC) in WNC! Last year I had an outstanding time at CFSA-SAC! Read about my experience here and here.

The CFSA conference registration deadline is Nov. 25. Don't delay!

Only six days to go to sign up at the pre-conference rate for CFSA's 24th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Black Mountain, NC. Dec. 4 to 6. Register today! (

Time is running out to reserve your place at this year’s conference. Day-of registration rates are 20% higher-- if any spots are open. Don’t miss this chance to lock in to the biggest sustainable agriculture conference in our region.

Besides a wide array of skill-building and policy workshops and panels, this is the premier opportunity to network with Carolina sustainable farmers and foodies --- and in a relaxed retreat setting. It has never been more important for us to get together as a movement, meet each other and pool our efforts. Don't miss this special weekend event. Come join us in the beautiful mountains to move the farm and food movement forward!

Already registered? Spread the word to others, bring a friend, and help this community grow.

Full workshop descriptions and speaker bios are at our website: The conference site, Blue Ridge Assembly ( is a majestic, historic retreat center with miles of hiking trails aside mountain creeks to peaks as high as 4,375 feet! On-site lodging is affordable and includes cabins, quads and rooms. We have yoga and breakfast each morning, and, of course, an all local and organic menu.

Lodging and food packages, farm tours and the children's program still have openings, but could sell out soon. Contact us if you have any questions, 919 542 2402.

We look forward to seeing you there!

P.S.: We are pleased to announce that Tim LaSalle from the Rodale Institute will be speaking on a Saturday morning panel, as well as at the Saturday keynote.

***An exciting event just in from Debbie Hamrick***

If you direct market your agricultural products through farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture, on-farm stands, or are just interested in farmers markets, then you are invited to a Listening Session to be held at Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s Sustainable Agriculture Conference on Saturday December 5 in Black Mountain, NC. The Listening Session will be from 3:30-4:40 pm in the Blue Ridge Center Chapel.

The 2009 Farm to Fork Summit Direct Marketing Working Issues Team identified their main “game changer” as “Develop a NC Direct Marketing Network - a structured network whose mission is to enhance existing local efforts and encourage new innovations in direct marketing across the state.” To see all of the ideas from the Direct Marketing WIT and other Farm to Fork Summit WITs, go to:

Do we need such a network? What are the potential benefits? What is the process for developing a direct marketing network and who should be involved? North Carolina enjoys a national reputation for its strong direct market farmers and as interest in buying local continues to increase dramatically, now is the time to examine how we can all work together to everyone’s benefit.

For more information, contact the Direct Marketing WIT facilitator, Debbie Hamrick, or Cell: (919) 302-9538.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hops Informational Meeting November 18

Come learn about the challenges and opportunities of growing hops, an exciting and new crop for Western NC!

Topics to be covered include:
  • Site Selection
  • Soil Fertility Requirements
  • Trellising Systems
  • Weed Management
  • Disease and Insect Management
  • Economics and Budgets
Current hops growers will be present to discuss their experiences!

When?: Wednesday November 18 from 1—5 pm
Where?: Camp New Life at the Mountain Research Station, Waynesville, NC
How much?: Meeting fee is $5. Payment accepted at the door.

Please RSVP to the Haywood County Extension Office:
Phone: 828-456-3575 or E-mail: or

Friday, November 6, 2009

Physiological, Nutritional and Other Disorders of Tomato Fruit

Tomatoes with 'rain check', due to excessive rainfall.

Tomato producers face challenges every year. Some of these problems are pests and diseases, but some are related to nutrient deficiencies, some are caused by environmental conditions or genetic variations and some are physiological in nature.

The publication "Physiological, Nutritional, and Other Disorders of Tomato Fruit" by Dr. Stephen M. Olson of the University of Florida is an excellent resource. Dr. Olson describes these problems and gives possible causes or explanations for them, as well as possible control measures. The publication has some great pictures!

(Heather, I know you're reading this. You must be very proud!)

Asparagus Disease

Recently, an organic asparagus grower brought in some diseased ferns. The grower was going to mow off the ferns and burn them, but wanted to identify the problem first to make sure that was the correct thing to do and to minimize problems next year.

It wasn't hard to find the reddish, circular lesions on the stems and discolored needles.

Lesion on asparagus stem.

Discoloration of asparagus fern.

Some of the lesion were older and inside of them, dark black fungal structures were present.

My initial thought was that it had to be either Cercospora blight(Cercospora asparagi) or Purple Spot (Stemphylium vesicarium). The NCSU factsheet on Commercial Asparagus Production mentioned Cercospora blight as a problem in NC, but did not mention Purple Spot.

After looking under the scope, I didn't find any spores that looked like the ones produced by Stemphylium vesicarium, but I did see some other, very elongated spores that almost looked like leaf hairs. Sorry I didn't take a picture, but here is a link to another Cercospora species' spores.

After doing a little more research I found an APSnet Feature Article on Economically Important Asparagus Diseases in the United States. This article stated that Cercospora blight and Purple Spot are easily confused, so I decided to send it into the NCSU Plant Disease and Insect Clinic.

During the next few days, the lesions got larger and coalesced.

Luckily for me, Dr. Averre, whose pictures were included in the above article, was available to do the diagnosis! He identified that the problem was, in fact, Cercospora blight.

There are no known sources of resistance to Cercospora blight, though Jersey Gem does have tolerance to Cercospora. As a result, management must include an integrated approach of sanitation and fungicide applications. Fall removal or burial of the year's fern residue can delay the onset of disease development. This was just what the grower was going to do! Heavily infected ferns should be removed.

Cultural management techniques that reduces leaf wetness are very important for the management of Cercospora blight. These techniques include:
  • Using drip or furrow irrigation to decrease leaf moisture. If overhead irrigation must be used, it should be scheduled so that the foliage has time to dry before nightfall.
  • Increasing row spacing. This will improve air circulation within the planting.
  • Plant asaparagus in areas with good air movement to encourage leaf drying.
To learn more about asparagus production in NC, review the horticulture leaflet Commercial Asparagus Production.

Also, Oklahoma State University has a nice factsheet on Cercospora blight of asparagus.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Free Workshop: Sustainable Agriculture with Joel Salatin

Interested in organic gardening or pursuing a career in sustainable agriculture? The Western Piedmont Community College (WPCC) Sustainable Agriculture Program and Burke County Cooperative Extension will host a workshop entitled “Entrepreneur’s Guide to Success in Sustainable Agriculture with Joel Salatin”.

Events will include a panel discussion, farm projects tour, exhibits by area organizations involved in sustainable agriculture and a presentation by Joel Salatin.

Salatin is the owner/operator of Polyface Farms in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. A third generation alternative farmer, Salatin
carries his message of environmentally sustainable farming practices to audiences nationwide. Salatin’s farming methods have been profiled in the film Food, Inc. and in the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma by investigative journalist Michael Pollan. Salatin has written several books about farming including You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start and Succeed in a Farming Enterprise.

This free workshop will be held on Monday, November 16 from 1-5 P.M. at the Burke County Cooperative Extension Office in Morganton.

Registration is from noon to 1 P.M. and space is limited, so be sure and arrive early. For more information about this event or if you or your organization would like to have a free exhibitors table, please contact Chip Hope at or 828 448-3554 or Donna Teasley at or 828 439-4460.

This event is being held in conjunction with WPCC’s Fall Speakers Forum. This year, the theme is “Food for Thought: Reinventing Our Food System for a Healthier World”. Speakers on international food issues will appear at Western Piedmont’s Leviton Auditorium from Monday, November 16 through Thursday, November 19. Joel Salatin, author and food activist Anna LappĂ© and Joel Bourne of National Geographic will speak at 7:15 on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings respectively. Chip Hope, Coordinator of WPCC’s Sustainable Agriculture Program, will speak on Wednesday, November 18 at noon. For more information about the forum, contact Mary Charlotte Safford at or 448-3539.

**All events are free and open to the public. Sign Language Interpreters will be at each event. Western Piedmont complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and will make every effort to honor reasonable requests made by individuals with qualifying disabilities. Accommodations must be requested three (3) business days in advance of school events or activities through the Disability Access Office in room 103 Hildebrand Hall or call 828.448.3153.**

Monday, November 2, 2009

Biochar Webinar Nov. 3

Well, it seems like webinars are all the rage these days! Here is another one:

Webinar: Introduction to Biochar

November 3, 2009
12 – 1pm ET
The webinar will address the questions of:

– What is biochar?
– How can it be used for soil amendment and carbon reduction?
– What are the opportunities for agriculture and forestry?

Presentations will be given by:

Julie Major
Agriculture Extension Director
International Biochar Initiative


Joseph James
Founder and President
Agri-Tech Producers

The webinar is free, but pre-registration is required. To register, visit:

For more info about the webinar, visit the NC Altenative Crops and Organics Blog.