Friday, December 17, 2010

More 2011 Food Trends: More Fruits and Veggies!

On Monday, President Obama signed a bill to overhaul child nutrition standards. This move plus Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" anti-obesity campaign, may be what is contributing to Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert from ConAgra Foods to predict more nutritious foods, including fruits and vegetables for 2011.

Yesterday, I posted on the 'What's Hot' Restaurant Trends for 2011, which were also based on nutritious, locally-grown, sustainable foods. I'm glad this is catching on!

Ethnic Crop Opportunites for East Coast Growers

There is an interesting article in the Journal of Extension (JOE) dealing with some new, ethnic crop ideas for vegetable farmers.


We examined the potential for expansion of production of ethnic crops on the U.S. East Coast by commercial farmers from a market-first and economic perspective based on consumer demand. A survey of consumers from four ethnic groups showed that the ethnic crops in greatest demand are as follows: Chinese—Baby Pak Choy, Oriental Eggplant, and Smooth Luffa; Asian Indians—Bottle Gourd, Indian Eggplant, and Bitter Melon; Mexicans—Chili Jalapeno and Tomatillo; Hispanic—Aji Dulce, Batata, and Pepinillo/Bitter gourd. Results of the study have important implications to assist local growers in deciding to produce ethnic crops.

Read the full article at

The study was conducted by folks at Rutgers University and the University of Florida.
Ramu Govindasamy, Richard Van Vranken, William Sciarappa, Albert Ayeni, Venkata S. Puduri, Kim Pappas, James E. Simon, Frank Mangan, Mary Lamberts and Gene McAvoy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"What's Hot" Trends for 2011

The National Restaurant Association's annual survey of 1,500 professional chefs from the American Culinary Federation is here!

I find that this list is an important tool for growers to use during the planning for next season. This is especially important for producers who sell to restaurants.

Again this year we see local, sustainable and organic as some of the top trends. I hope this means these "trends" are here to stay!

Here are the top 10 overall trends:
  1. Locally sourced meat and seafood
  2. Locally grown produce
  3. Sustainability
  4. Nutritionally balanced children's dishes
  5. Hyper-local (e.g. restaurant gardens, do your own butchering)
  6. Children's nutrition
  7. Sustainable seafood
  8. Gluten-free/food allergy conscious
  9. Simplicity/back to basics
  10. Farm/estate-branded ingredients
Also making the top 20 is Locally produced wine and beer (#12), Organic produce (#14) and Fruit/Vegetable children's side items (#18).

The top 5 produce trends:
  1. Locally grown produce
  2. Organic produce
  3. Superfruits (acai, goji, purslane, mangosteen)
  4. Heirloom beans
  5. Exotic fruit (paw paw, passion fruit, durian, dragon fruit and guava)

Download the entire What's Hot for 2011 chef survey results (PDF).

NC Organic Production Assistance Deadline March 4, 2011


Date: December 14, 2010 Phone: 919.873.2107

Raleigh, NC –North Carolina organic producers and those transitioning to organic farming have until March 4, 2011 to sign up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the initiative. Under the EQIP Organic Initiative, approved applicants can receive up to $20,000 per year or $80,000 over six years.

A number of "core" organic conservation practices may be funded through the initiative including cover crops, conservation crop rotation, prescribed grazing, pest management and nutrient management. All conservation practices offered under "general" EQIP are also available through the EQIP Organic Initiative including but not limited to fence and watering facilities for rotational grazing, erosion control practices, field borders, etc.

Applicants who are currently certified organic will need to include their organic system plan (OSP) reviewed by a USDA accredited organic certifier when applying for financial assistance in the EQIP Organic Initiative. Applicants who are transitioning to organic will need to submit a self-certification form to the NRCS acknowledging that agree to develop and implement conservation practices for certified organic production that are consistent with an organic system plan. The self-certification form may be obtained at time of application from any NRCS Service Center.

For more information on NRCS, programs and the EQIP Organic Initiative contact your local field office or visit us on the Web at

Monday, December 13, 2010

USDA Reports Increased Diversification in Horticultural Operations

To read the full report click here.

Highlights from the article include:

The sale of food crops grown under protection, including fruits and vegetables in hothouses, as well as transplants for commercial vegetable production increased 149 percent since the last time the census of horticulture was conducted in 1998.

“Despite the recent economic downturn, the U.S. horticulture industry as a whole is showing resilience by increasing diversification of the products produced,” said Joe Prusacki, NASS Statistics Division director. “Food crop production has shown the largest growth in this sector of agriculture, possibly a link to increased consumer interest in fresh fruits and vegetables.”

“Overall, total sales of horticultural crops between 1998 and 2009 increased by 10 percent to $11.7 billion,” added Prusacki. “Looking at the entire agricultural industry however, this 10-percent increase lags behind the 60-percent increase seen for all agricultural crop commodities during this same time period.”

To read the full report click here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

High Tunnel Strawberry Workshop Nov 17

There will be a high tunnel strawberry workshop on November 17 at the Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury, NC.
Registration begins at 9:30 am.

This workshop will include sessions from NCSU specialists on:
  • Strawberry Breeding
  • Trials with High Tunnel Strawberries
  • Biological Mite Management in Winter High Tunnels
  • Demonstration on Low Tunnels
  • 'Camarosa' Outdoor Plasticulture Trials with Winter Row covers
  • Taste testing of Fresh High Tunnel ‘Albion’ Strawberries from Piedmont Research Station vs. Low Tunnel ‘Albion’ Strawberries from Upper Mountain Research Station
For more information and details visit the NCSU Strawberry Growers Information Portal Trainings and Events page.

The workshop is sponsored by NCSU and the NC Tobacco Trust Fund.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Organic Hops Growers Score Big!

Here is some exciting news for organic hops producers from the American Hop Grower Association webpage:

"The organic hop industry scored a big win on October 28, 2010 when the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) unanimously voted in favor of removing hops from the USDA National Organic Program’s National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances (section 205.606), effective January 1, 2013. Since hops were added to the National List in 2007, the production of organic hops in the U.S. has increased substantially...."

To read the entire article click here.

You may remember my post a few weeks ago entitled:"Should Organic Beers Contain Organic Hops?". I guess the National Organic Program Standards Board believes they should!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Greenhouse Growers Workshop

When?: Thursday, November 18. Registration starts at 8 am. Program runs from 9 am-4:30 pm

Where?: Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River

Who Should Attend?:
This educational program is geared toward both the ornamental and vegetable greenhouse grower.

How much?: Registration is $10 per person and includes lunch. Registration is required by Friday, November 12. Click here for the brochure and registration form.

About the Program: In the morning, all attendees will learn the newest container designs, latest substrate options from Fafard and about releasing biologicals in the greenhouse. During lunch, you will learn how to improve your greenhouse efficiency. There will be two afternoon sessions, one for ornamental and one for vegetable growers.

The vegetable session will include talks about Commercial Production of Vegetable Transplants, Vegetable Varieties and Soil Fertility.
Click here for the complete agenda.

Come see, ask questions and network with other growers, specialists and industry representatives!

NC pesticide credits will be available.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

NC Hops Project Has a New Website!

Check out Dr. Jeanine Davis's blogpost on the NC Alternative Crops and Organics Blog about the new NC Hops Project website.

This will undoubtedly be a great resource for individuals considering hops production in NC.

Check out the new website directly at

Monday, October 18, 2010

Should Organic Beers Contain Organic Hops?

Here is an article from the Yakima Herald-Republic via the Kitsap Sun website that was forwarded to me about the struggle for organic hops producers in the Pacific-Northwest to sell their crop.
For Organic Hops Farmers in Washington, Gov. Obstacles

The difficulty lies in the National Organic Program exemptions for some non-organic ingredients that are allowed in organic products.

I'd like to hear what you think about these exemptions. Use the the comments function below.

Friday, October 8, 2010

WNC Tailgate Market Video

The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) has created a great commercial for our local tailgate markets that are members of the Mountain Tailgate Market Association (MTMA). The purpose is to introduce our local tailgate markets to new clients. The commercial is visually stunning and features a local grower.

The commercial will run on cable channels (it will not run on Direct TV or Dish) in all counties where there is a market that is a member of the MTMA. The 30 second commercial began running this Wednesday. The commercial will also air in the Spring.

WNC Tailgate Markets are encouraged to embed this commercial to their websites, blogs or Facebook pages.

To view the commercial in YouTube visit:

To learn more about the MTMA or to sign-up your tailgate market to become a member, visit the MTMA website for details.

Farmers Markets: There's an App for That just reported on a new app that Apple iTunes store has just launched for smartphones that is designed for food lovers to locate farmers markets in their area.

Unfortunately, the "Farmers Market Finder" app will only help market lovers in California, Massachusetts, Florida, Delaware, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington D.C, Georgia, Maryland and New York.

We need this in North Carolina!

Below are some of the features of this neat new app (from the article "Smartphones and Farmers Markets"):

"Apptika’s Farmers Market Finder apps provide a comprehensive listing of farmers markets, farms/farmstands and CSAs with:

  • Address and Location Description
  • Amenities (i.e. fruit, veggies, meat, bakery, prepared foods, etc)
  • Months/days/hours of operation
  • Website, phone and/or email contact information, if available
  • Special information, when available, such as parking, winter hours, and“rain or shine” info
  • Ability to save to Favorites.

The app has a built-in interactive map that utilizes geolocation to:

  • Locate the farmers markets to your location
  • Browse an entire state, county or metropolitan area
  • Get turn-by-turn directions"

Monday, October 4, 2010

October 2010 Strawberry Grower Newsletter

The October 2010 Strawberry Grower Newsletter is now available.

In this issue:
  • The NC Strawberry Growers Association Receives Grant for Marketing and Promotion
  • Southeast Strawberry Expo in Virginia Beach
  • Scientists and Chefs: A New Strawberry Partnership
  • Dr. Barclay Poling: My Impending Retirement
  • New Processing Plant for Strawberries
  • October-November Growers Checklist
  • Grant Programs for Farmers, Researchers and Extension
  • Study on Organic Strawberry Farms
  • Calendar
  • Intensive Workshops
  • and more!
Want to learn more about the NC Strawberry Growers Association? Visit

Farm Equipment Auction, Oct 9

There will be a farm equipment auction on Saturday October 9 at the WNC Ag Center in Fletcher, NC starting at 9 am.

Types of items to be auctioned include:
  • Tractors
  • Sprayers
  • Transplanting equipment
  • Bedder
  • Equipment trailers
To view the details of the auction at

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sustainable Insect Management Workshop

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Sustainable/Organic Insect Management for Vegetable Growers Workshop in Clinton, SC. Our first stop was Parson Produce, a certified organic farm located at Bush River Farm.

Here we were greeted by Daniel Parson, a young and gregarious farmer who has been farming for 12 years. Daniel is a great presenter and has a Master's degree from Clemson University. Some of you may know Daniel from his presentations at SSAWG.

Daniel discussed his farm and showed us his farming equipment, which he stated is a piece of his pest management strategy. In true organic fashion, his production is a whole-farm system and pest management starts with productive soils, adequate not abundant nutrition, cover crops and good weed management.

Next, we moved to the field where Dr. Powell Smith (Extension entomologist and vegetable specialist from Clemson University) showed us some insect collection tools. These include sweep and butterfly nets, aspirators (used for catching small insects by sucking them into a container) and fabric sheets.

Below you can see Daniel's cover crop mixture of sorghum-sudangrass and buckwheat.

A great place to find insects!

Check out this field of pure buckwheat! A quick summer cover crop and insect attractor.

Insects, especially those that are predators to some plant-eating insects love the small buckwheat flower and will visit often for a source of food.

Daniel allows his buckwheat to go to seed and therefore re-seed the field.

Here is a group of workshop participants learning about the insects they collected in the buckwheat.

Next, we moved on to look at the broccoli to see what kind of insects we could find in this crop.

Here we saw some bad insects, but also some natural predators. We also learned about 'banker plants'. 'Banker plants' are plants that have some kind of problem and attract crop destroying insects and the predators that feed on them. Daniel has chosen to leave his 'banker plants' in order to keep the good insects in the planting. His 'banker plants' had lots of aphids (typically a sign of excess nitrogen). In addition to the aphids, they contained aphid predators. Below is a lady beetle larva feeding on the aphids.

Syrphid fly larvae were also present and feeding on the aphids(below). These insects are known as "aphid killers".

We also found harlequin bugs, a yearly problem on brassica crops. Below are nymphs of the piercing/sucking pest.

Exploring the eggplant crop we noticed a lot of flea beetle damage. Management for flea beetles is difficult. Some have found that row covers are effective for crops that do not require pollination. The covers cannot have open spaces for the beetles to enter. This control method is not effective if the flea beetle larvae are present in your soil. If they are, you will be trapping them in and may have a big problem on your hands.

Below you can see some flea beetle damage (the shot holes). The insect pictured below is an adult two-lined spittlebug, which is a plant-feeding insect.

Another plant-feeding pest that we found on the eggplant was a some kind of leaf-footed bug (below).

Thrips damage was also noted on the eggplant crop. Thrips are usually found in the flower of crops. These insects have rasping mouthparts. Damage on eggplant appears as green to brown streaking on the fruit. Sorry, I don't have a picture.

After all of our fun in the field, we enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by the owners of Bush River Farm and Bed and Breakfast.

After lunch the group headed to Presbyterian College to learn some more about insect pest management and to do some more insect identification. Dr. Powell Smith discussed the different characteristics of identifying insects and the major plant-feeding and beneficial insect groups. The group discussed management options and the importance of attracting beneficial insects, as well as learning about the life cycle of an insect pest.

Overall, managing insects in vegetable crops organically is similar to a conventional IPM approach. Like discussed above, healthy soils, adequate nutrition and weed management will go along way. IPM includes cultural control methods (including proper selection of vegetable varieties for your area, avoiding insects by changing planting date, eliminating insect overwintering areas, attracting beneficial insects, planting trap crops, etc), using mechanical or physical control methods (tillage to disturb life cycle, row covers, hand picking or vacuuming) and finally the use of organically approved insecticides. Keep in mind that many insecticides will also kill or disturb your beneficial insects, that is why it is your last line of defense.

To learn more about attracting beneficial insects and biological control, visit NCSU's Biological Control Information Center or the Biological Control Resources page on

Overall, the day was successful. We learned a lot about identifying insects, management options and even got to take a few specimen home with us. Below you can see our insect collection.

I took a wheel bug (a predator in the assassin bug family), a leaf-footed bug and larva, a squash bug and a running ground beetle (a voracious eater in the Carabidae that will feed on cutworms) home with me!

To learn more about insect identification, insect collection and insect control visit the following links:

ATTRA's Links to Insect Management
Growing Small Farms Links to Insect Management Web Resources
Collecting and Preserving Insects and Arachnids

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The 10% Campaign: Pledge to Buy Local

There are some pretty exciting things going on in NC in the world of local food.

Have you heard about the 10% Campaign? The 10% campaign was created by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) and is a partnership between the NC Cooperative Extension Service and the Compass Group, the world's largest food service company.

The goal of the10% campaign is to challenge individuals, businesses and communities to pledge that they will spend 10% of their food dollars on locally grown and produced foods. We spend $35 billion dollars per year on food. If we pledge to spend 10% on local products, that would mean $3.5 billion dollars would be available to our local economy!

To learn more about the 10% Campaign, to see who has already pledged or to make a pledge yourself to "Make a choice. Make a difference. Make it Local", visit

Read about the NC State University Dining's comittment to buying local and joining the 10% Campaign. University Dining has pledged that 10% of the food served will be locally grown and produced by 2012.

Read about the NC State University's Campus Farmers Market in Raleigh.

Exciting event: Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project's Local Food Institute on October 13-14 in Asheville. This two-day program is designed to share information and strategies on ASAP’s innovative approach to creating environments where local food economies thrive.

To see more information including the conference agenda and speaker bios and to register go to

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Organic Vegetable Workshop in Waynesville August 31

Organic Vegetable Production Workshop at the NEW Mountain Organic Research and Extension Unit

When: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM (Registration opens at 9:30 AM)

Where?: Mountain Research Station, 265 Test Farm Road in Waynesville, NC

Come visit the NEW Mountain Organic Research and Extension Unit and see our first year trials with peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli. Do you have questions about varieties suitable for the western mountain region, or organic weed and disease management? We will be showing off (and tasting!) heirloom and heirloom-type tomato varieties along with several varieties of grafted tomatoes. See which barrier and cover crop methods do the best job managing weeds in peppers and also the opportunities and challenges of growing fall broccoli. At the end, enjoy a light lunch including a tomato testing, attend a trade show, and provide your input for the future plans of the Mountain Organic Research and Extension Unit. Also, help us come up with a good name for it!

This workshop is free and open to the public.

This project is led by Dr. Jeanine Davis in the Department of Horticultural Science and funded by a USDA Specialty Crops Block grant administered through the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.

Sponsorship for lunch was provided by Brandt Consolidated, 5th Season Gardening Co., Reems Creek Nursery, Inc., the Waynesville Farmers CO-OP, and others.

For more information, contact Emily Bernstein, phone: 828-684-3562,
email:, or look online at:

Directions to the Mountain Research Station can be found online at

Insect Pests Plaguing Vegetable Growers

This article is from the latest edition of NC Pest News from Entomology Extension Specialist, Dr. Mark Abney.

"A variety of insects are currently plaguing vegetable growers across North Carolina. Armyworms and corn earworms have been abundant and moth flights are continuing. European corn borers have been abundant in many of our research trials this year after several years of low numbers. Heavy European corn borer infestations occurred in sweet corn at the Central Crops Research Station in Clayton and large numbers were seen in bell pepper trials near Kinston and in the mountains near Fletcher.

Melon growers have not been immune to insect problems, and there have been a couple cases recently of corn rootworm larvae feeding on the undersides of cantaloupes. We do not see this on a regular basis, but it seems to happen somewhere every year. Larvae feed on the undersides of fruit, usually after a heavy rain, and there is no technology currently available to effectively control the problem.

As we approach late August, home gardeners and commercial growers alike will be faced with managing pickleworms in cucumber and squash. Commercial growers are forced to rely on preventative insecticide applications as tolerance for pickleworms in harvested produce is essentially zero. Home gardeners are faced with an uphill battle against this pest as management options available are not likely to provide good control. The best advice for gardeners is usually to plant early and harvest before pickleworms arrive from the south each year.

Another perennial foe of the cucurbit grower, the squash bug, is making its presence known in backyard gardens, commercial organic production, and in research trials. Large populations recently moved into research plantings of squash and cucumber at the Horticultural Crops Research Station near Clinton. It only takes a couple squash bugs to kill a young squash plant, so scouting and timely management are critical. These bugs can be difficult to kill, and the adult stage is particularly tough to control. Targeting the nymphs is important.

Scouting vegetables is absolutely essential to prevent losses due to insects and to maximize the effectiveness of insecticide applications. For control recommendations in specific crops, please refer to the North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual ("

Thursday, July 29, 2010

2nd Annual WNC Hops Farm Tour Saturday!

The 2nd Annual WNC Hops Tour is this Saturday, July 31st!

We had such a fun time last year, we decided to do it again!

This year we will visit Winding River Hops in Clyde, NC in Haywood County. You may remember this farm from when I did some hops stringing this spring. After Winding River Hops we will travel to Black Mountain to visit Hop'n Blueberry Farm. Both of these growers are WNC AgOptions grant recipients.

There is a lot to see this year, the hops yards look great and some of your favorite local breweries are making beer from the local hops!

After the tour at Hop'n Blueberry Farm, we will travel to French Broad Brewing Company for a special tour and tasting.

Here are the details:

When?: Saturday, July 31. Registration starts at 8 am. Tour begins at 9 am.

Where?: Winding River Hops Farm, 3949 Thickety Rd in Clyde, NC. Parking at Oak Grove Baptist Church. Signs will be posted. Download the tour flyer for complete directions.

How much?: $10 per carload. CASH ONLY.

Who should attend?: Folks interested in growing hops, commercial and home brewers and beer and hops enthusiasts.

What else?: Specialists from NC State University and NCDA & CS including Dr. Jeanine Davis, Dr. Hannah Burrack, Mr. Rob Austin and Mr. Bill Yarborough will be on hand to discuss current hops projects and research. Chris Reedy and other grower members of the Southern Appalachain Hops Guild will also be at the tour discussing this year's crop and the work they are doing.

For more details download the tour flyer.

I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Late Blight Confirmed on Tomatoes In Henderson County

Late blight has been positively identified in Henderson County on tomatoes. With the afternoon showers and reports from other parts of the eastern U.S. it was only a matter of time.
Growers are encouraged to scout their fields and begin with control measures.

Sorry I don't have a lot of time to put details in this afternoon, but review my post from last year for some basic information.

Recommendations for conventional producers are chlorothalonil as a preventative if late blight is not found in your field or nearby. If late blight has been identified in your field applications of cyazofamid (Ranman at 2.1-2.75 fl oz/acre), fluopicolide (Presidio at 3-4 fl oz/acre) or mandipropamid + difenoconazole (Revus Top at 5.5-7 fl oz/acre) are recommended. Always read and follow the label when using pesticides! The label is the law.

For organic recommendations, see this article from Alex Stone on eXtension.

More to be reported later. Sorry again for the short note.

This just in from NCSU Plant Pathologist Dr. Kelly Ivors:

"Hey Everybody-
This morning we found and confirmed late blight (by microscopic examination) in one small shaded area of a conventional tomato field in Henderson County. We have not been able to confirm its presence anywhere else in the tomato production areas of NC this summer, so I believe this is the start of the tomato late blight epidemic in WNC. We've had some rains recently and I'm sure it's out there elsewhere now, or soon to arrive.
Fungicide recommendations for controlling late blight on fresh market tomatoes start at week 9 in the NC tomato foliar fungicide guide.
It can be found at this link.
In addition, there is information (fact sheet) on this disease in North Carolina, including pictures of the symptoms at this link.
Check out the different diseases and select the one under Tomato Late Blight.
Please make sure to get your preventative sprays on as soon as possible if you grow tomatoes in late blight prone areas. Chlorothalonil works well as a protectant if you do not yet have the pathogen in your field. If already established in your tomato field, it would be best to apply something more than a protectant like Presidio (+ chlorothalonil) or Ranman.
If you need a confirmation of late blight in your fields, please do not hesitate to call your agent or my lab to submit a sample.

Friday, July 23, 2010

WNC Strawberry Pre-Plant Meeting, July 28

It's hard to believe its already time to start planning for the 2011 strawberry season!

Planting will start in a few short weeks so come and get some great tips and information on strawberry production at the WNC Strawberry Pre-Plant Meeting. Details below.

What?: WNC Strawberry Pre-Plant Meeting When?: Wednesday July 28, 6:30 pm

Where?: Mountain Horticulture Research and Extension Center, 455 Research Dr. in Mills River, NC

Who should attend?: All strawberry producers who are looking for the most up-to-date information on strawberry production in WNC and the entire region.

  1. Day neutral varieites and high tunnel production for WNC - Dr. Barclay Poling, NCSU Dept. of Horticultural Science. Work is sponsored by the Tobacco Trust Fund.
  2. Integrated Pest Management for Strawberries - Dr. Hannah Burrack, NCSU Dept. of Entomology.
  3. Disease Management and Fumigation Changes - Mr. Rob Welker, NCSU Dept. of Plant Pathology
1.5 Pesticide Credits are available in the categories of N, O, D and X

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blackberry Borers Can Mean Big Problems

From the latest issue of North Carolina Pest News:

"From: Hannah Burrack, Extension Entomologist

Blackberry Borers Can Mean Big Problems

Gina Fernandez, the North Carolina State University caneberry specialist, has just returned from sabbatical and has wasted no time getting out for field visits. Yesterday, she brought me several samples from blackberry fields in Guilford County that were in severe decline. Their problems were almost all insect related. There were more cane boring pests from these few sites than I have seen my entire time at North Carolina State University! I'd like to use these samples as an overview of the key cane boring insects in North Carolina, what symptoms to look for, and what the management strategies for these pests should entail.

Evidence of borer damage is often visible from a distance. Plants will appear weakened, and in the case of raspberry crown borer, floricanes will be loose and easily removed. There are 3 key cane boring insects in North Carolina, and these locations had all of them!

Rednecked Cane Borer

The rednecked cane borer (Agrilus ruficollis) is part of a family of beetles known as metallic wood boring beetles. The adults ( lay their eggs on the surface of primocanes and the larvae bore into them. When used, insecticide treatments target the adults, since the larvae do not spend time outside the plant. Larval rednecked cane borer feeding produces galls on the canes. The larvae are flat and found within the cane. As they grow, larvae will tunnel above the gall and reduce plant vigor and yield.

Low levels of rednecked cane borers can be managed with cultural control, specifically by removing and destroying all infested canes during the fall. The larvae overwinter inside the cane, so pruning will remove next year's generation of adults. For large infestations, chemical control of the adults may be necessary (for chemical information, see the Southern Region Brambles IPM Guide online at Dr. Donn Johnson, University of Arkansas fruit entomologist, has also had success removing primocanes in the early summer after the adult beetles laid their eggs (a June removal date worked the best in Arkansas and did not impact fruiting). This strategy may work well in North Carolina, because our long growing season allows plenty of time for primocane regrowth.

Raspberry Cane Borer

Raspberry cane borers (Oberea bimaculata), members of a family known as long horned beetles due their prominent antennae (, were also present in the Guilford County plantings. The adult beetles create paired girdles at primocane tips in summer. These tips wilt and will eventually fall off, and the entire cane may die. Larvae tunnel downward from the tip and have a 1 to 2 year life cycle in the southeast.

Cultural control, via pruning, is also an effective means of managing raspberry caneborers. Insecticide treatments may be targeted to the emerging and ovipositing (egg laying) adults just after bloom in cases where large infestation exist.

Raspberry Crown Borer

Raspberry crown borer (Pennisetia marginata) is perhaps the most severe pest of caneberries in the southeast. The larvae of this clearwing moth feed on the roots and crowns of caneberry plants and can kill an entire plant. Because they spend most of their 1 to 2 year larval stage underground, they are extremely hard to manage. Work conducted in Arkansas demonstrated that late fall or early spring soil drench pesticide treatments are most effective at reducing raspberry crown borers. These timed treatments target the early instar larvae before they are ensconced in the crown.

Insecticides are, at this time, the most effective means of raspberry crown borer management. Infested plants should be completely removed, since mature larvae will not be impacted by pesticide treatments.

In addition to the damage caused by these three wood boring insects, there were also several canes with damage at the tip that were dying back.

It is possible that this damage was cause by raspberry cane borers, but no larvae were found in the canes, and what tunnels there were stopped several inches from the top. If this was raspberry cane borer injury, we would expect to see tunnels continuing to the soil level or larvae present. These canes may have been injured during tipping and then feed on be opportunistic secondary pests. I dissected one of these canes, and there was fungal growth in the gallery, although this may also be secondary.

Wood boring insects are a fact of life for caneberry growers and can easily get out of control if a planting is not management carefully. There are abundant feral and wild brambles in the landscape, which serve as hosts for all three of these insects. Carefully scouting, good cultural management, and insecticide treatment when needed will keep borers from destroying caneberry plantings.

For the latest information on insect management in small fruits in North Carolina, see the NC Small Fruit, Specialty Crop, and Tobacco IPM blog at"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cost-share grants for organic certification still available

RALEIGH -- Organic growers in North Carolina can still apply for partial reimbursement of the cost of becoming certified or recertified producers through a program offered by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“We still have about a third of the grant funds available, so I would encourage organic producers who have gone through the certification process to submit their application for reimbursement,” said Kevin Hardison, marketing specialist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “The deadline to apply is Sept. 30.”

Growers who are certified or recertified before Sept. 30, can apply for assistance. The program will pay 75 percent of the cost of certification, up to $750.

The program is funded through a $30,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

To apply, growers must fill out an authorization form that can be found online at The completed form, a copy of the farm’s certification and a copy of the receipts from the certifying agency should be mailed to the NCDA&CS Division of Marketing, Attn. Kevin Hardison, 1020 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1020. The invoice must show the total cost of certification and the 75 percent portion that is eligible for reimbursement.

Growers with questions can call Hardison at (919) 733-7887.

“As consumer interest in certified products has grown, so has the number of organic producers statewide,” Hardison said. “North Carolina has more than 6,000 certified organic acres, and these farms produce a variety of vegetables, livestock, herbs and other products.”

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Downy Mildew on Cucumber in WNC

Well, this has been a very exciting week to be a plant pathologist! First, downy mildew on basil, now downy mildew on cucumbers.
*These are two different disease problems, just because they have the same name DOES NOT mean that these two disease are caused by the same organism and will cross-infect one another!*

Cucurbit downy mildew, caused by pathogen Pseudoperonospora cubensis, has been confirmed on pickling cucumbers in Henderson County. Growers are advised to scout their cucurbit plantings which include cucumber, squash, melons and other gourds. Last year we found the downy mildew in Henderson County late in July.

Symptomatic downy mildew cucumber leaf. Angular lesion are first light green and then turn brown with age.

The underside of a downy mildew infected cucumber leaf. You can see the dark spores of the pathogen as they arise from the angular lesions which are bound by the leaf veins.

Downy mildew of cucurbits has the potential of spreading very quickly. Its wind-borne spores can spread easily throughout the region - especially on cloudy days. The pathogen prefers cool temperatures and wet conditions, which we certainly have not had in WNC as of late! I believe that recent hot, dry and sunny conditions are the reason that the downy mildew on cucurbits is not widespread at this time. For example, large cucumber plantings just miles away from where I initially found the disease are unaffected at this time.

With rain possible this weekend, it is very important to prevent downy mildew from infecting your cucurbits, especially cucumber. Growers are advised to protect their plants using fungicides. For conventional producers, review the June 4th North Carolina Pest News or review my blogpost from June 2009 for control recommendations.

Management of downy mildew on cucurbits is tricky for organic producers. There are a number of OMRI-listed products that are labeled for the control of downy mildew on cucurbits, including copper, OxiDate, Serenade and neem. In research studies, copper products were proven to be the best option (only option, really) for managing downy mildew on cucurbits. Copper is only efficacious in plants that are not yet infected or exhibit only mild symptoms.

Visit the Cucurbit Downy Mildew Forecasting Website to see where the disease is currently located and where the team predicts it to show up next.

If you need help diagnosing a problem on your cucurbits, please contact your local NC Cooperative Extension Office.

To see more pictures of the downy mildew on cucurbits and to learn more about the disease, visit my previous posts.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Basil Downy Mildew

Sporulation of Peronospora behlbarii, causal agent of basil downy mildew.

Basil downy mildew is a new disease that has been causing headaches for growers in the eastern US for the past two seasons. Basil downy mildew was reported in South Florida in October 2007. This disease has the potential to be very destructive to basil producers. European producers have been dealing with the disease since 2001. The disease is thought to have been introduced in the US from infected seed from Europe

The first confirmed case of the disease in NC occurred last summer in Chatham County. Agriculture agent, Debbie Roos, did a great post on the diseases with wonderful pictures last August.

The disease has been found in several locations in WNC this year. This is surprising because we have been so hot and dry and downy mildew pathogens tend to like cooler temperatures and wet and humid conditions. Apparently, basil downy mildew is the exception - it likes moderate to warm temperatures!

Basil downy mildew is so devastating because the discoloration of the leaves makes the basil unmarketable. Eventually the leaves will become black or necrotic and die completely.

Slight yellowing of basil plants that are infected with Peronospora behlbarii, causal agent of basil downy mildew.

Discoloration of basil leaf caused by downy mildew.

The basil downy mildew pathogen, Peronospora belbahrii, is spread by contaminated seed, marketing infected plants or leaves and wind-borne spores. This pathogen also infects other plants of the Lamiacea family which inculdes basil, sages, and mints. The spores of the pathogen are abundant on the underside of the leaf.

Discoloration of basil leaf caused by downy mildew, P. behlbarii.

Notice the fuzzy growth on the underside of the leaf. This was the first tip that what we were dealing with was downy mildew. Also, note the black dying tissue.

Dark sporulation of the pathogen P. behlbarii that causes downy mildew on basil on the underside of the leaf.

This disease can often be mistaken for sunburn on basil leaves, which I have also noted this year.

Sunburned basil leaves.

There is a similar downy mildew pathogen that infects coleus, but this pathogen has been shown to be genetically different than the pathogen on basil and the ornamental hosts are no longer considered alternative hosts to the basil disease. To read more about the specifics of basil downy mildew, visit Cornell Plant Pathologist Dr. Meg McGrath's on-line factsheet Basil Downy Mildew - A New Disease to Prepare For.

Management of basil downy mildew requires an integrated approach. Using seed that is not contaminated with the pathogen, selecting less susceptible varieties and applying fungicides are the primary practices. Management should also include increasing airflow through the plant canopy in order to minimize leaf wetness and humidity in order to suppress the disease. This is especially true in greenhouses. Dr. McGrath outlines management steps, including variety trials from New Jersey, in her factsheet.

Fungicides used for downy mildew on basil include OMRI-approved Actinovate and OxiDate, which are labeled for use. Many other conventional fungicides do not yet have the label required to control this disease on basil, with the exception of K-Phite and ProPhyte. It is expected that this will change in the near future. Fungicides should be applied frequently and prior to first symptoms if possible in order to control downy mildew on basil effectively. This is of course tricky, especially in areas without history of the disease.

If you suspect that you have downy mildew on your basil, visit your local NC Cooperative Extension office for help identifying and reporting the disease.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Small Fruit News July 2010

Natchez blackberries.

The latest edition of the Southern Region Small Fruits Consortium's Small Fruit News is now on-line.

You can find it here.

In addition, have you checked out NC MarketReady's great new websites available to strawberry, blackberry and raspberry and muscadine growers?

Check them out!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Webinar 7/1: Late Blight Management on Organic Farms

There is still time to register for tomorrow's 2010 eOrganic Late Blight Webinar!

Are you an organic producer who battled with late blight last year? Late blight hasn't been found in NC, yet, but if you want some tips and to learn management options for late blight control, this webinar is just for you.

What: Late Blight Management on Organic Farms 2010

When: July 1, 2010 at 8 PM Eastern Time (7 PM Central, 6 PM Mountain, 5 PM Pacific)

Space is limited.

Click here to register

Late blight reached epidemic proportions on U.S. farms in 2009. Join eOrganic presenters Dr. Sally Miller of Ohio State University and Dr. Meg McGrath of Cornell University for a free Webinar to hear an update on late blight in 2010. Learn about the late blight disease cycle, how to scout and diagnose the disease, and how to manage late blight on organic farms.

Thank you and hope you can make it!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Downy Mildew on Cucumber Confirmed in Eastern NC!

Downy mildew has been confirmed on cucumbers in Columbus County (May 27) and Duplin County (June 1). Both of these counties are located in eastern NC.

Downy mildew
has not been found on cucurbits in WNC yet this season and current forecasts do not indicate risk to our production. If the forecasts show risk for our area, or downy mildew is found in our region, I will update the blog.

The Cucurbit Downy Mildew Forecasts can be found at

Current recommendations for cucurbit downy mildew can be found in the latest issue of North Carolina Pest News.

Recommendations for powdery mildew on cucurbits can be found in this issue, as well as information on late blight of tomatoes.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Nematode Sampling in Blackberries

Blackberry production in Henderson County is really gaining ground. Currently we have about 85 acres of blackberries in production. Because this is a new crop for the area (some of our plantings will be harvesting for the first time this season) we are busy learning the ins and outs of blackberries.

Last year, Dr. Zvezdana Pesic-VanEsbroeck (I just call her Dr. Z), who is the director of the Micropropagation Unit at NCSU, came to the county to assess the presence of virus diseases on blackberries. We found virus in every one of our fields to some extent. Below I have posted some pictures of virus disease symptoms on blackberry.

There are many viruses that affect blackberries, some haven't been identified and described yet. Virologists are unsure how some of these viruses are transmitted to blackberries.

We do know that some of these viruses are spread by plant parasitic nematodes, microscopic worms that feed on plant roots. As a result, it is important to take soil samples prior to planting in order to determine levels of plant parasitic nematodes.

We are specifically concerned with a nematode known as Xiphenema, the dagger nematode. Xiphenema is known to transmit the nepoviruses, tomato ringspot virus, tobacco ringspot virus and grapevine fan leaf virus (a devastating disease in vineyards). Xipehema is also known to be a problem in newly planted apple orchards.

Last year a blackberry grower in Henderson County noticed mottled leaves and mishapen berries. Concerned that it might be a virus, he sent it to four different labs across the U.S. Each test came back with the same result, tobacco ringspot virus.

Symptomatic leaf and blackberries caused by tobacco ringspot virus.

Close-up of mishapen blackberry fruit caused by tobacco ringspot virus.

Concerned with dramatically reduced yields and unmarketable berries, the grower has decided to either replant the field in blackberries or to chose a different crop. The first thing we need to do to decide if blackberries should be replanted in the field was to determine the nematode levels in the soil. This is also an important step to help us determine if the virus developed in the field or came in with the plants.

So, I got my nematode/soil samling supplies together. A clean bucket, soil probe, nematode sample boxes from the NCDA&CS, quart plastic bags, a permanent marker, pen and notebook (not shown).

Nematode sampling supplies.

The grower has two fields, one where the virus problem has been identified and one that appears healthy. Both fields were once in apple production. The problem field is in a lower site and all the plants came from one particular nursery. The healthy field is slightly uphill from the problem field and the plants here came from another nursery. The plants in the healthy field were planted a few months later than the problem field.

Problem field. Notice the sporadic growth and stunted plants.

Plants in the healthy field. Notice uniform growth of the blackberries.

In taking the nematode samples, I made sure to sample both the healthy field and the problem field. I took samples from the healthy field first, making sure not to contaminate it with soil or nematodes from the problem field.

I took 20-25 soil and root cores from the beds. The samples were taken from 8-10 inches. Because Xiphenema is usually found in the root zone soil (they are migratory ectoparasites, meaning they move from root to root piercing them to feed), I took the samples as close to the plant and drip-line as possible. This required some major work getting into that dense plant canopy. I took samples throughout the planting, making sure to get a representative collection.

Next, I took 20-25 cores from the problem field. Again taking samples close to the plant and drip-line. For this site, I made sure to take the samples from symptomatic plants.

Soil for the nematode assay. Note the nematode sample boxes from NCDA.

I am anticipating the results from the nematode test. If it comes back with levels of Xiphenema that are high, the grower has a few options.
  1. Plant a different crop in this site for a few years (Xiphenema reproduces once per year and can live four to five years) before replanting in blackberries. Brassica crops are a good option. They are known to have some properties that may decrease the levels of plant parasitic nematodes.
  2. Plant this site in a new crop entirely. Xiphenema has a wide host range, which includes perennial orchards, grapes, strawberries, grasses, forest trees (spruce, pine) and even some weeds. I am having a hard time finding crops it doesn't do damage.
  3. Use a fumigant to treat the land prior to planting. Fumigants labeled for blackberry nematode control are metam sodium and telone. These need special equipment for application and may have an 8 week pre-plant interval. Refer to the NC Ag Chem Manual for more details.
In addition to taking nematode samples before planting blacberries and preparing your soil for planting, it is very important to purchase tissue culture plants. Ask the nursery if the plants are true tissue culture and not cutting from tissue culture plants. This will help to make sure you are not bringing diseased plants into your field (which is very important for a perennial crop like blackberries).

For more details on nematode sampling, visit the NCDA&CS site.
Your local Cooperative Extension office can provide the test boxes and assistance.