Friday, September 23, 2011

Tasti-Lee Tomato Hits the Florida Markets

New tomato coming to stores:

Tanya Arja FOX 13 News reporter

TAMPA - How to develop a "redder, juicier, sweeter tomato" has been 10 years in the making, and the man working on it thinks he has finally found a winner.

"Really, what I think makes it stand out, is its ability to produce good flavor, under a wide range of conditions," said Dr. Jay Scott, with the University of Florida Gulfcoast Research Center in Wimauma.

The tomato is called "Tasti-Lee." It has more Lycopene, an antioxidant, which makes it healthier. Plus, the color is more crimson than other tomatoes.

Inside the lab at the research center, scientists spend hours researching different tomato varieties. They pick leaves off the plants, freeze them, grind them up and then extract the DNA.

They check for genetic markers to see which plants they want to cross breed.

"The idea of getting a better tasting tomato, you go out and do a lot of work and make a lot of crosses. For instance, you might cross 20 different parent lines to make all kinds of hybrids," Scott explained.

Tasti-Lee is the cross breed of two plants. The tomato was ready four years ago, but it took time to find a seed company to produce it, farmers to harvest it and stores to sell it.

Publix now has exclusive rights to sell it in Florida, and the demand has been so high, supply is limited. But that should change in the next month, as the new harvest comes in.

Publix customer Peter Florence loves the tomato.

"Once you try it, you're just not going to go back to the others," Florence says.

He did his own taste test of the tomatoes in the store and says his food has never tasted better.

"It just has a more, old tomato-y flavor. Some of the tomatoes you buy, it's like...nothing."

Dr. Scott loves to hear that. He named the Tasti-Lee after his mother-in-law, who died five years ago.

"I know there are stories about mother-in-laws. But my mother-in-law was always very nice to me and was a tomato lover. And when she was dying, I told her I was going to name a tomato after her, so her name was Lee, so that's where the Lee came from," Scott explained.

He hopes his creation will bring more money to farmers and grocery stores. Right now, farmers in North Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina are growing the tomato.

Florida growers will start soon, as we come into tomato season here.

The Tasti-Lee's sell for about $1.99 to $2.49 a pound.

This news stories original link: New Tomato Coming to Stores

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Managing water, fertility boosts tomato yields, eliminate blossom-end rot

From the North Carolina Department of Agriculture

Southeast Farm Press


Clayton Garner Jr. has grown tomatoes for more than 20 years. For much of that time, blossom-end rot — a physiological disorder resulting from insufficient calcium — was a fact of life.

But today he has a finely tuned system of watering and fertilization that seems to be keeping the problem at bay and boosting yield as well.

Garner and his father were among the first in North Carolina to try growing crops on plastic to improve quality and manage resources. His goal is to provide his customers with delicious, red, ready-to-eat tomatoes.

To achieve it, he is always trying new varieties, fertility regimes, cultural practices, marketing and outreach strategies. He carefully selects the ones that work and makes them part of his routine. Even so, blossom-end rot persistently remained a problem.

“I was probably losing 10 percent of my crop each year,” Garner said. “I was looking for a solution.”

Dianne Farrer, a regional agronomist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, responded to Garner’s call. She visited his farm, and they talked about the problem.

“Blossom-end rot is basically a calcium deficiency, but its dynamics are somewhat complex,” Farrer said. “Even if sufficient lime has been applied and calcium is present in the soil, blossom-end rot can still occur, particularly in times of drought. A good watering regime is essential for plants to be able to take up the calcium they need.”

“Soil pH was something I had questions about,” Garner said. “My soil report said I didn’t need lime even though the pH was about 5.5 and my plants seemed to need calcium. To me, that didn’t make sense.”

As they discussed the issue, Farrer continued to emphasize the importance of steady water availability and appropriate fertilization in preventing blossom- end rot.

“Watering needs to be regulated and precise,” Farrer said. “Nutrients like nitrogen and potash should be applied in the correct amount and in a suitable form. They have an effect on calcium uptake.”

Nitrogen reduces calcium uptake

Nitrogen, especially in the ammonium form, reduces calcium uptake. When excess potassium or magnesium is present, the crop may take up these ions instead of calcium. Reduced calcium uptake due to a buildup of salts in the soil is more likely to occur with crops grown on plastic because fertilizer is applied through drip irrigation directly to a localized area.

Farrer collected leaf samples to get a snapshot of the nutrient status of Garner’s tomato crop. A few days later, the NCDA&CS Plant Analysis Report confirmed that levels of nitrogen and magnesium were high.

Even though Garner’s soil report showed levels of calcium to be adequate, Farrer advised Garner to put out a pre-plant application of gypsum (calcium sulfate) prior to his next crop to give it a boost.

“On mineral-organic soils like Garner has in his fields, gypsum works better than lime at providing needed calcium,” Farrer said. “It is quickly available and adds sulfur as well.”

Garner continued to consult regularly with Farrer while refining his strategies for watering and fertilization.

He used to water heavily, wait 10 hours and then water again. Now, he waters in smaller amounts more frequently throughout the day so moisture inputs remain steady.

Today Garner has a strategy he can use from year to year.

A pre-plant application of gypsum is routine. He broadcasts fertilizer; plants field tomatoes in plastic-covered rows; waters regularly but sparingly, until fruit are the size of dimes; and then begins to add potassium nitrate through the drip irrigation system.

During flower and fruit, he uses plant tissue analysis on a bi-weekly basis to monitor the crop’s need for boron and potassium since low levels of these nutrients can limit fruit quality and taste even when there is sufficient water and nitrogen.

Farrer said the soils in Garner’s fields have high buffering capacity and hold nutrients fairly well. “But even so, we don’t want to take the risk of something not being there when the crop needs it,” she said. “Tissue test results tell a grower whether crop nutrient needs are being met.”

Plant tissue analysis involves collecting representative plant leaves from random locations throughout a reasonably uniform field. The sample is sent to the NCDA&CS Agronomic Services laboratory, where plant-nutrient content is chemically measured. The test is so sensitive that it can detect nutrient deficiencies before plants display any visible symptoms.

For this reason, tissue analysis plays a key role in optimizing the potential yield of high-value crops such as fruits, vegetables and crops grown on plastic.

“Since I changed my approach to water and fertilizer about three years ago, my yield has at least doubled,” Garner said.

“And this year was the best ever. There was virtually no blossom-end rot. I’m confident of the recommendations I get back on my agronomic reports. With that information, I know I can grow No. 1, grade-A, marketable fruit.”

Tissue testing through the NCDA&CS lab costs $5 (in state) or $25 (out of state) per sample. A few crops require additional tests that cost an extra $2. Testing is complete within two business days, and results are posted online at under the “Find Your Report (PALS)” option.

Source URL:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SARE Report: Breaking into Organic Hops with Blue Ridge Hops

Check out the report below on local, organic hops producers Rita and John from Blue Ridge Hops in Madison County. In 2009 the couple received a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant to help them with their 1/2 acre hops yard.

Breaking into Organic Hops Production

To learn more about Southern SARE grants click here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Local Grower is WLOS Person of the Week

Van Burnette, of Hop'n Blueberry Farm in Black Mountain was the WLOS person of the week last week. Van grows hops, blueberries and medicinal herbs in addition to having a butterfly flight house and milkweed nursery.

Van is also a blogger for his blog Hop'n Blueberry Farm News. In this post he blogs about the experience of being interviewed for this segment.

In addition to be an innovative farmer, Van is a great person and a wonderful friend to the NC Cooperative Extension Service. Way to go, Van!

Check out Van and Buncombe County Small Farms Agent, Melinda Roberts in the Person of the Week Segment below.

Asheville. NC :: Person of the Week - Van Burnette

The End of Phosphorus

From NPR

“A key ingredient in fertilizer, phosphorus is becoming more rare, more expensive -- which is stimulating some innovative ways to find more.

KAI RYSSDAL: You've heard, perhaps, of the theory of peak oil -- the idea that there's only so much crude out there to be had and when we start to run out, that's it.

There's another critical resource out there whose coming peak has gotten much less attention. But unlike oil, it has no alternative. We truly can't live without phosphorus. The vast majority of the world's supply is locked up in just one country. So how do we fight the coming phosphorus shortage?

The answer, says Marketplace's Jeff Horwich, lies not in our stars, but -- quite literally -- in ourselves.

Phosphorus binds our DNA together. There's no substitute for phosphorus in agriculture or in biology -- we can't just swap something else in there, that's not going to work. That's why it's a critical ingredient in fertilizer. If you buy "10-10-10," say for your garden, that middle number -- that's phosphorus. Here's the problem: The world uses so much fertilizer, and so much phosphorus -- and there's only so much in the ground. Morocco is the kingpin of phosphate right now -- 85 percent of the global phosphate reserves are

now identified in Morocco.

So what usually happens when you have insatiable demand and closely held supply? Well, phosphate prices are up 150 percent since 2007; 60 percent in just the last year. Fertilizer is already too expensive for many farmers in Africa. American farmers and consumers feel that same pinch.

So other than digging in Morocco, where do we get more phosphorus?

Here's a hint: the symbol for phosphorus on the periodic table... is "P." And there it is -- the valuable byproduct. All over the place.

Recycling in the face of resource scarcity is not a new idea. It's just we now will probably have to do this with phosphorus.”

You can listen to the full story at the link below.

American Public Media/ Marketplace, aired on NPR, Monday, September 12, 2011.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blueberry Producers: New Website from NCSU

A new blueberry growers information portal is now available as a one-stop shop resource to agents, growers, home gardeners and others. The portal includes information on the management, production and marketing of blueberries. The information represents the work of several departments.

The blueberry growers information portal ( , along with other growers information portals -- strawberry, blackberry/raspberry, tomato -- are part of the Plants for Human Health Institute website ( You'll find the growers information portals in the Extension (N.C. MarketReady) section. The blueberry portal was supported by a grant from the N.C. Rural Center and the Agricultural Advancement Consortium.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bioenergy Field Day Wednesday 14 Sept

This event may be of interest to some of you:

Event: Western North Carolina Bioenergy Field Day

Date: September 14, 2011

Time: 12:30 Registration, 1:00-5:00 Educational Presentations and Demonstrations

Contact: Ron Gehl,, 828-684-3562 x129

North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services invite you to attend this event designed to provide a time for researchers to share the latest information of the work being conducted on energy crops in Western NC. Tours of research plots and processing equipment demonstrations will help extension personnel, growers, researchers, and private industry learn how we are working to meet the state’s renewable fuels and energy goals of the future. The afternoon event will cover topics including the science of cellulosic fuel production, production of energy grasses, cultural management of bioenergy crops, high-oil crops and biodiesel production, sorghum production for biofuels, breeding efforts and genetic improvements of biomass crops, and short rotation woody biomass and southern hardwoods for bioenergy. Speakers include NC State University researchers in Soil Science, Horticultural Science, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and Forestry and Environmental Resources. Field demonstrations will include biomass pelleting, oilseed crushing and biodiesel production, and sorghum harvest, squeezing, and distillation.

The field day is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit or contact Ron Gehl at of 828-684-3562 x129.

Also, the Western NC State Fair will be going on that week, about 2 miles from the station, so you can make an afternoon and evening enjoying NC Agriculture!

Producer Grants Available for Sustainable Agriculture

GRIFFIN, Georgia – Calls for Proposals for the 2012 Producer Grants, intended for farmers/ranchers and farmer/rancher organizations throughout the Southern region, are now available from the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program.

Proposal submission deadline is 11:59 Eastern Standard Time on Nov. 15, 2011. Announcement of grants will take place in February 2012.

Producer Grants are used to conduct projects that solve problems farmers face and to develop information on what works and what doesn’t so that other farmers and ranchers facing those same problems can benefit from the results of the funded project. The grants are not designed to pay a farmer to farm. They are designed to take some of the financial risk away from trying a solution.

Projects may be funded for up to two years for a project maximum of $10,000 for an individual producer or $15,000 for a producer organization. Producer organizations should be comprised primarily of farmers/ranchers and must have a majority farmer representation on their governing board.

Log on to to download the current Calls for Proposal. The Calls for Proposal includes application information, program priorities, use of funds, proposal submission instructions, and contact information. Be sure to carefully follow the information in the Calls for Proposals when submitting your grant. Failure to follow the submission guidelines may result in your proposal being rejected.

Focus areas for Producer Grants include beneficial insect habitat, alternative crops/livestock, organic agriculture, sustainable marketing products, sustainable grazing systems, soil organic matter, building/protection/management, increasing sustainability of existing farming practices, appropriate technology and agroforestry/water quality.

SARE is a competitive grants program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote research and education about sustainable agriculture. Southern SARE is administered by a host consortium consisting of the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Oklahoma.

For more information on Southern SARE, log on to, follow us on Twitter at, or fan us on Facebook at

Attention Strawberry Growers: Phytophthora cactorum

By Dr. Frank Louws, NCSU Dept. of Plant Pathology with contributions by Dr. Barclay Poling, Professor Emeritus, NCSU Dept. of Horticultural Science; Dr. Chuck Johnson, Virginia Tech, SPAREC; Dr. Powell Smith, Clemson Extension, Lexington Co.; and David Dycus, NCDA Regional Agronomist

Berry Alert No. 99

September 9, 2011 (Friday)

Subject: Frequently Asked Questions about Managing Phytophthora cactorum (Pc) in strawberry tips and plugs


Since the Labor Day weekend, a NC nursery plant supplier with runner tips grown on PEI, Canada, has been in touch with their customers to inform them of a problem with Phytophthora cactorum (Pc), which is the causative agent of Phytophthora root and crown rot.

Growers who have received such a call from their plant supplier are understandably concerned, and in many instances, they have in turn called their local extension agent, NCDA field agronomist, or various specialists here in the Mid-south at NC State, Clemson and Va Tech. This is not a new problem for our industry, and quite frankly this particular disease does lend itself to some "cures". As Dr. Powell Smith wrote to a South Carolina grower on Wednesday this week:

"If you have suspicious-looking tips (necrotic [decayed] looking), you can send those to the Clemson Plant Problem Clinic. They will be able to find the Pc on the tips if it is there. Also, any plants looking to be suffering from root rot in the plug house, send those immediately to the PPC for diagnosis. Time is of the essence; there are cures."

Indeed, there are some "cures", and this where I think many growers need realize that this is a situation that can be reasonably well managed, and one important step is to get a "proper diagnosis" if you are seeing some suspicious-looking tips. If you are having any question on where to go with strawberry tips/plugs for diagnosis, let us know!

In North Carolina, we have the Plant Disease and Insect, and here is the website to get directions for submitting a plant sample:

Here is the form for Clemson:

Phytophthora problems in plug plants. Notice the distinct black lesions. Botrytis will be brown and usually have gray fuzz. Also, note the poor root formation resulting in plant collapse as the misting frequency decreases.

(photo courtesy of Dr. Frank Louws)

In the interest of time today, we review below questions we have received in the last day or two about this situation:

Question 1. We have received some tips from the nursery that has reported having some Pc on the tips/plugs, and we are seeing plugs at our location that are doing fine, and rooting well after 8 days. We have no idea how we could dip 60,000 tips now that they have been set and we were told that Aliette was our best option. We need your advice!

Answer 1. First: Aliette is a fungicide product that is in the phosphorous acid family of fungicides. Since Aliette is off-patent, multiple other products have been registered and include Prophyt, Phostrol and others. These are commonly referred to as phosphonate or phosphite fungicides and do not provide any nutrient benefit to the plant. These products are not to be confused with products in the phosphoric acid family commonly used as a source of nutrients to the plant (e.g. Nutri-Phite and similar products). The label for the phosphite fungicides is written with perennial or field production systems in mind and therefore it is very difficult to directly interpret the label for this type of need. “Preplant dips” are allowed and applications within 14 days”after planting” are allowed. Thus, timing in plug facilitates is unclear but the label does not prohibit use of treating transplant trays or other “nursery” type setting.

Second, it is encouraging that you are not seeing suspicious-looking tips (necrotic [decayed] looking)! The moment symptoms appear, it would be productive to send samples to the local clinic for diagnosis asap. You are quite correct in questioning how you might go about dipping 60,000 tips, as you are already past that point! If you were just now receiving an order of tips for plugging, then perhaps a dip of a phosphite fungicide would be in order. In your case, the plugs have now been growing 8 days, and it turns out that phosphite fungicide treatment even at 4-7 days should be helpful, and a second treatment may be appropriate 4 to 7 days before going to the field (usually plugs root for a full 4 weeks, and for the first full week they are typically under some type of misting schedule in the day, and by about 7-8 days, the plugs have established enough of a root system so that much less misting is required). In one experiment done at NCSU, dipping the tips prior to plugging, spraying the plants soon after setting, and early dip/sprays followed by a second foliar application 14 days later all gave similar results for controlling Phytophthora problems in plug plants. Prophyt and Aliette gave similar results. As far as the actual "treatment", you would need to spray your 8 day old plugs with Aliette at the rate of 2.5 lbs/100 gallons/acre, 2 pints/100 gal (ProPhyt), or 2.5 pints/100 gal (Phostrol). Now, if you have 60,000 plugs, your plugs are covering about 2600 sq ft, or only 0.06 acre (2600/43560). Thus, using Aliette as an example, the amount of product needed to spray this much area would only be 0.15 lb, or 2.4 oz. Foliar spray volumes to deliver this phosphite product work best with sprays applied just prior to runoff, but if we were to stick with 100 gallons/acre, then for an area of 2600 sq ft you would need to apply 6 gallons of water. The key concept is that the phosphites are absorbed by foliage and roots, not just by roots as with Ridomil, and the phosphite product should be in sufficient water to promote as much uptake as possible by the leaves and other plant parts without creating drenched conditions in the potting medium or promoting splash dispersal among plugs on the pad. Aliette is known to cause damage in other crops if excess amounts go into the soil and if other products may be present (e.g. certain insecticides, copper, surfactants etc).

Question 2. Since the phosphite fungicides can be applied as a foliar spray my next question has to do with how much of a "drying period" is needed after you have sprayed the plugs? (of course, if the plugs are still under mist during the first week, then the only dry period is the evening)

Answer 2. The phosphites are unique chemicals in that they are absorbed by the roots and the foliage and they become systemic in the plant, moving up and down. They are absorbed fairly readily into the plant and as a rule of thumb for systemic fungicides, they probably require about 90 minutes of drying time for the majority of the product to be taken systemically into the plant. The fungicide has direct as well as indirect (changing the biochemistry of the plant) activity against the pathogen offering curative control (it can stop the pathogen from growing more inside the strawberry tissue). Therefore, if plants are under a mist schedule, the best time to apply the fungicide is towards the end of the day when the misting cycles are off. This allows maximum absorption into the plant and limits excess runoff into the soil. Avoid excess saturation of the growing media. Phytophthora is a water mold and the more free water there is the more the pathogen can spread.

Question 3. Once my plugs are out from under the mist in the 2nd week and thereafter, can you advise on whether a follow-up treatment with Aliette may be needed?

Answer 3. As mentioned above, a second treatment did not seem to offer an advantage. The product is systemic in the plant and seems to persist for long periods of time. However, if a second application is made, it is probably best done 4-7 days prior to planting to allow the fungicide to be absorbed into the plant but to limit worker exposure problems and any plant stress issues.

Question 4. Since I have plans to inject Ridomil Gold through the drip after planting my plugs (I am thinking about 1 week after transplanting), don't you think that it would be better to use Ridomil in that way, or do I also need to make an application with Ridomil to the plug trays before planting?

Answer 4: Ridomil is clearly not labeled for use in plug production facilities. The label specifically prohibits use in transplant trays, as a foliar application or in transplant water. There are two good reasons for this – possibly among others. First, Ridomil use prior to field setting strawberry transplants can result in slow grow-out of the plants once they are field set. Second, resistance to the fungicide can develop easily as use in transplant facilities favors the development of resistant populations which then get transferred to the field – a serious issue for future control of the pathogen in the field. Resistance to the phosphite fungicides is much less common.

Ridomil is a superior product in the beds. If growers cannot set up their drip irrigation system prior to or right after planting, then Ridomil can be incorporated into the beds when beds are being formed. This was the case for a grower who asked today. Application during bed formation in pepper fields that had Phytophthora problems worked better than applying Ridomil through the drip after planting but no data is available for strawberries. If excess overhead irrigation is not required, the product could be injected into the beds though the drip tape prior to planting. Finally, alternatively and the method most growers seem to prefer, Ridomil can be applied into the beds when excess overhead watering is done and when plant roots begin new growth (5-7 days after planting). If the transplants were not treated, the sooner the Ridomil is in the bed the better keeping in mind it will wash down into the soil if excess overhead watering occurs and will not be absorbed if the roots are not active. Detailed studies on timing for strawberries are not available. Ridomil should be considered again as a second application in the early spring when new plant growth starts. Strawberry plants grow lots of roots right at this time and protection is critical during early spring growth.

Question 5. I am having difficulty in my area in finding Aliette, so my question is whether the other Phosphites listed in the SR SFC IPM Guide are just as effective as Aliette, and should I stick with the rates suggested in the 2011 IPM Guide? I have heard that the Phostrol label calls for rates of 3.75-5.0 pints/acre when disease pressure is severe?

Answer 5. Overall, the phosphite chemistries are very similar in terms of their efficacy. Different rates relate to different concentrations of the active ingredient and in a plug facility there is concern about using high rates. In NCSU trials, we know Prophyt, Aliette and another similar product were all equally effective. In turf studies, some phosphites did prove superior to others and this is likely related to formulation but the differences were minor.

Question 6. Is there any advantage to mixing other materials with Aliette (e.g. potassium carbonate)?

Answer 6. Potassium carbonate is used to adjust the pH of the spray mixture and this protects against plant injury problems when Aliette is used before or after other products such as copper. There is no advantage to tank mixing with other products and there may be real disadvantages with mixing other products due to the presence of surfactants or other compounds that result in plant injury when combined.

Question 7. What is your general impression about the availability of extra tips this season?

Answer 7. Growers can certainly "check around" but the thing worth stressing is that in the tip and plug nursery business, it is very unusual to find much extra supply in any season, as these are grown under contract (very little speculative production). Used correctly, it is possible to "manage this problem", and with the products mentioned in this advisory, it is possible to turn this problem around. However, as Powell Smith says, Time is of the essence. We have seen low plant death problems where plants have been treated in accordance with the observations above. Although there is no experimental data, it makes sense to remove healthy plants or rogue out diseased plants to prevent the pathogen from spreading more. Excess free water in the and around the trays should be avoided and don’t work plants when wet. Moving plants from an infested plug facility, even if symptoms are no longer present, will introduce the pathogen into the field soils. Many farms already have Phytophthora in the field but this can be a long term risk, especially in fields where the highly susceptible variety Sweet Charlie will be planted in future years.