Friday, March 26, 2010

Herbicide Carryover: Bioassay

Last year, a grower that I work with was noticing some unusual growth habits and symptoms of his various vegetables. Many of these symptoms look almost like viral diseases of vegetable crops. However, the problems were seen on many different crops and they were widespread - nearly every plant was affected. This is not common of plant diseases caused by viruses.

It was discovered that he was using manure that he received for free from a neighbors horse operation. The manure was determined to be contaminated with the herbicide picloram (trade name Grazon), that is common in pasture management.

Here are some pictures of the damage.

Chlorotic (yellowing) lettuce damaged by herbicide.

Chlorotic (yellowing) peas damaged by herbicide.

Spinach leaf distortion and puckering due to herbicide damage.

Discoloration of tomato leaves caused by herbicide damage.

There is documentation that shows that this active ingredient can remain in the soil, causing problems for three years!

Today I went out and we took some samples for a bioassay to determine if there are still damaging levels of picloram in the soil.

First we walked through the contaminated field and took soil cores every few feet throughout the plot.

Then we mixed the soil all together and put it in small pots.

We planted three bean seeds in each pot.

Of course we included a control. Some soil from a field where manure was not applied.

The pots were set on separate trays and placed in different spots in the greenhouse.

Now, we wait. In three weeks, we will inspect the seedlings. If they do not germinate or the true leaves show symptoms we will know there is still residue of the herbicide present.

For the grower's sake, let's hope that these beans grow perfectly!
I will keep you updated on the progress.

Before you plant your garden this year, please be aware of the possible dangers of using manure. Question your source about herbicide use. To learn more about herbicide carryover, read about. Dr. Jeanine Davis's extension article, Herbicide Carryover in Hay, Manure and Grass Clippings.

**UPDATE MAY 2010**
New Herbicide Carryover publication now available!

Dr. Jeanine Davis just posted an article about this topic on her site, NC Alternative Crops Blog.

**I'd like to thank Amanda and Phillip for their assistance with the diagnosis of this problem last summer. You two are the greatest!**

Building a NC Beer Economy

Hops is an emerging crop in NC and has great interest in WNC. Last August, NC Cooperative Extension in WNC held a tour of two hops yards in Buncombe County and in November we also held an informational meeting on hops production.

Recently, I ran across a post on Twitter that read "Building a NC Beer Economy". Of course, I had to bite and follow a link to read more about this topic. The link took me to a blog I had never heard of on . The post was about a specialist at NCSU, Rob Austin, and his interest and insight into possiblity of a hops industry in NC. To view the post and great video, visit the following link: Planting Hops at NC State

There will be another educational opportunity for folks interested in growing hops. "Hops - A Cultivation Seminar for the Perspective, Beginner and Intermediate Grower" will be held next Tuesday and Wednesday (April 6 and 7) at AB Tech, Enka Campus.

Here is a description of the class:
Learn about successful business and cultivation strategies in the developing hops industry. You will explore issues from economics to integrated pest and disease management and gain insights and resources to further your business idea. Day one topics will include Economics of the Hop Yard, Pest Management and Disease Control and Nutrient Management Programs. On day two we will provide you with a simple step-by-step guide to the seasonal processes of hop cultivation followed by the unique perspective of a local brewer addressing the industries processes, quality needs and concerns. Following the close of class there will be an optional brewery tour on Tuesday, April 7th from 3:30PM-5:00PM.

Preregistration is currently open for the class. To read more, visit the Eastern Hops Guild Blog.

I hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Internet Marketing Series for Farmers Begins April 12!

The internet is rapidly becoming one of the best tools for businesses, including farms, to market their products. Over 77% of American adults use the internet. Of these, 81% are searching the web for information that will help them make decisions on what they purchase.

Here are some more staggering statistics about the use of social media and traditional internet sites:
  • Facebook users increased 145% from January 2009 to January 2010.
  • The number of Facebook users over the age of 55 increased 922.7% from January 2009 to January 2010.
  • 35-54 year olds are the most rapidly increasing demographic using Facebook. This demographic roughly doubles every two months.
  • More than 1.5 million pieces of content are shared on Facebook...daily.
  • There are approximately 50 million tweets everyday on Twitter.
  • That is 600 tweets per second!
  • There are over 200,000,000 blogs.
  • 54% of bloggers post or tweet daily.
  • 34% of bloggers post opinions about products or brands.
  • 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations.
  • Only 14% of consumers trust advertisements.
More statistics can be found here and here.

The NC Cooperative Extension Service is offering training for growers and farmers market managers who are interested in using the internet to help market their products, market or experience.

  • April 12: Facebook and Twitter
  • April 19: Blogs
  • April 26: Websites
  • May 3: Using Videos to Enhance Your Site
All trainings are hands-on and participants are encouraged to BYOL (bring your own laptop).

Each class is limited to 25 participants, so register early!

The class will be held at the Earth Fare in West Asheville from 10 am-noon.

The fee for the classes is $10/class or $35 for the 4-week series.

To register, contact Erin Bonito at the Buncombe County Cooperative Extension Office. or 828.255.5522

View the flyer for this event.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cucumbers and Pollinators: (Some) Questions Answered

When I first started my job in WNC in 2008, I was so excited to see that vegetable producers were growing cucumbers. Cucumber was the crop I worked with in my graduate work, so it was the only crop I felt mildly comfortable talking about (though it was still awkward at first).

To my surprise, in many of these production fields, I never saw a beehive. The areas that I had experience with in eastern NC, brought in at least one strong hive per acre of production. To learn more about bees, read Beekeeping and Cucumber Pollination.

How were these folks getting cucumbers? A cucumber flower must be visited multiple times by a pollinator to optimize fruit set. The answer was wild populations on pollinators and the nice sunny, warm weather that promotes activity and foraging of pollinators.

But, in 2009, growers noticed that yields were reduced and that fruit formation was off. The same varieties were grown and there was not downy mildew or other diseases in their early season crops. So what was different?

We were cool, cloudy and wet. How could you forget? The fact is, bees don't aggressively begin to forage until temperatures reach 70 F and they prefer dry conditions.

Could this lack of fruit also be due to a reduced population of wild pollinators? At this point we don't know, but it was obvious that the growers needed to do something. That something was to bring in some honey bee hives.

Here are some pictures of a female cucumber (top) and male cucumber flower (bottom), courtesy of

Below is an improperly pollinated fruit.

To see more pictures, visit's Cucumber Pollination: Visual Aids.

But, the growers were concerned. Bringing bees into their production was new and they had many questions - especially in regards to applying pesticides.

Here are a few of the questions that I received. Most answers are from NCSU Beekeeping Note 2.12.

  • Where can I find honey bee hives to rent?
The NCDA&CS Apiary Services and NCSU Apiculture Program have developed Bee Linked, an online market for beekeepers and growers.
You can also find local beekeepers through the North Carolina Beekeepers Association Website.

  • When should I apply pesticides to protect the bee hives?
Pesticides that are considered toxic to bees should be applied in the late afternoon (after 3:00 pm) or in the evening. Most honey bees have stopped foraging and have returned to the hive by 3:00 pm. This precaution will allow maximum time for the pesticide to break down before the bees come into contact the next day.
  • What other considerations are important when applying pesticides?
Do your best to minimize drift. Drifting of the pesticide from the target pest and/or crop to areas frequented by bees should be minimized and pesticide formulation is the key to this problem. "Dusts" are prone to drift and are generally more dangerous to bees that sprays or granular applications. For more specifics, read Beekeeping Note 2.12.

Aerial applications are generally more dangerous than ground equipment. This is directly related to drift. Air-blast sprayers are more dangerous that pressurized pump sprayers. Never apply pesticides when wind velocities exceed 8 miles per hour.

Never apply any pesticide directly over a beehive.

Notify beekeepers who have beehives near an area to be treated, so that they may attempt to protect their bees from inadvertent exposure.
  • Are there pesticides that are less toxic to honey bees?
Most pesticides are at least somewhat toxic to honey bees; however, the degree of toxicity varies considerably from product to product. Insecticides are generally the most likely to cause a bee kill. Below are some common pesticide active ingredients listed based on their toxicity to honey bees for a more complete list, see Beekeeping Note 2.12.

  1. Highly Toxic: Severe bee losses may be expected if these products are used when bees are present. Abamectin, aldicarb, avermectin, azinphos-methyl, carbaryl, carbofuran, chlorpyrifos, dimethoate, imidacloprid, malathion, methomyl, pemethrin, spinosad...
  2. Moderately Toxic: These pesticides can be used in the vicinity of bees IF dosage, timing, and method of application are correct. Bifenazate, disulfoton, endosulfan, fluvalinate, oxamyl, propamocarb, pyrethrum, tartar emetic, temephos, terbufos, thidicarb, zephyr...
  3. Relatively Non-Toxic: These pesticides cam be used around bees with a minimum injury IF dosage, timing and method of application are correct. Bacillus thuringiensis, chlordimeform, cryolite, cymiazole, dicofol, dinobuton, esfenvalerate, methoxychlor, myriproxyfen, nicotine, Nosema locustae, pyrethrum, rotenone, tebufenozide, trichlorfon.
Visit the NCSU Apiculture Website for more details on honey bees.

To learn about cucumber production in NC: Fresh Market Production Cucumbers and Commercial Production of Pickling & Slicing Cucumbers in North Carolina.

To learn more about Bee Colony Collapse Disorder, read a scholarly article about the problem in Colony Collapse Disorder: A Descriptive Study.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Southeastern US Vegetable Crop Handbook

Each year, university specialists across the Southeast gather together to update and improve the Southeastern US Vegetable Crop Handbook.

This resource is invaluable to growers, extension agents, industry folks and everyone else who is involved with growing vegetable. The best part is - it is free!

The handbook is also available on-line. You can find it on the new NC MarketReady Website in the Field Production Section, along with other great resources for vegetable producers. The entire resource is available in both high resolution and low resolution.

You can also pick up a copy at your local NC Cooperative Extension Office.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

CSA On-Line Resource

I came across this CSA on-line resource today reading "Growing for Market" and would like to know if any Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) producers are using it.

The CSA Tool was developed by David Haynes, who helped to manage the largest CSA in Utah, and is supposed to help growers save time. From the website:

"With the tools in this Toolbox you can communicate easily with your customers, quickly do your paperwork and handle your billing, take payments and contact only those members you want to notify. This will help you cut down the time spent in the office allowing you to do what you enjoy, farming. We have tips, highlights and ideas that will help you increase your income with the crops you are already growing."

  • Membership Management,
  • Pick-Up Site Management,
  • Share Management,
  • Email Broadcaster,
  • Billing Systems, and
  • Reporting Systems
Let us know if you use this resource to manage your CSA or are thinking about using the CSA ToolBox.
Or if you have another resource that helps to save you time on the farm, let us know about it.

Farmers Market Training Event - Fletcher

A Successful Season: A Training Opportunity for Farmers Market Managers & Vendors

Date: Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Time: 9:45 am - 3:00 pm
Location: Virginia Boone Building, WNC Ag Center, Fletcher, NC
Cost: $25, covers food and materials
Registration Deadline: April 13, 2010

Who should attend?:

  • Vendors and managers of existing community and municipal farmers markets
  • Growers interested in participation in one or more area farmers markets
  • Community leaders considering starting a farmers market
What you will learn:
  • Tips on how to merchandise your stall to sell more product
  • Tips on providing excellent customer service
  • Ideas on driving more traffic to your farmers market
  • Ways to maintain good relationships among vendors and managers
  • Updates on regulations that affect vendors and managers
To view the complete agenda: Successful Season Agenda
To register: Successful Season Registration

For more information, contact: Annette Dunlap,, 919.733.7887 ext. 257