Archive for May, 2011

Many things to juggle

As the growing season goes into a time were lots of things are happening, it is always interesting to me how it all gets done. Each grower has their own way of keeping track of it all and they always amaze me. Annual crops have been planted and are out of the ground. Weeds need to be hoed or sprayed, fertlizer needs to be applied, ground needs to be culitvated and prepared for irrigation. Harvest is starting on some of the early fruit trees and the later trees are still being thinned so that ther fruit that is left has plenty of room to size. In the grapes there are crews removing leaves and shoots around the developing fruit clusters so they get plenty of air and light. Activity everywhere.

All this activity can cause interesting dilemmas for us Plant Doctors. Many researchers have spent a lot of time looking a certain crops and their pests and telling us exactly what to look for and how we should decide when pest thresholds are high enough to treat. Counting bugs and looking and crop damange and stages, checking on weather and caluclating when pests will hatch. The list of techniques goes on and on. But what can throw a wrench in this system, that is generally not considered by research, is what is going on that is not pest related.

Are there people scheduled to go into the field to thin or pick? Do we need to treat early enough, before pest reach our target to treat so that it will be safe for the workers to go in? Are crops going to be harvested next to a block to be treated? Should we treat earlier so as not to risk a problem with an adjacent field? Are the ditches going up to irrigate and making the field inaccessible to spraying for a while? Should we treat before the water starts? There is a tractor going through to spray for on thing, can we save a trip through the field and piggyback a spray for something else, thus saving gas and reducing applicator exposure?

Not all pest control decisions can be based solely on the pest counts in the field. Those issue do not exisit in a vaccum. Pest population numbers and trends, potential crop damage, numbers of beneficial insects working on the pest are the best indicators of what needs to be done. But sometimes other operations going on can disrupt your best laid IPM plans and you just have to make a decision that works best for all.

Busy outstanding in my field(s)

It has been months since my last blog. Work keeps me busy and I find it hard to think that my seemingly mundane daily activites would be of interst to anyone. Maybe they aren’t. But I feel the need to talk about what I do so people can understand more about what goes on surrounding the production of their food. People say that people care. Do you?

This year started off very wet. It rained alot during the time the fruit and almond trees were blooming. Flowers produce the fruit and wet weather can cause fungus to grow on the flower and then they die. So, farmers spray crop protection products to keep that from happening. It is my job to know when to spray. Just because there has been rain forecasted doesn’t necessarily mean you need to spray. Fungus needs the proper temperatures as well. For the beginning of bloom the rains that came were associated with cold storms so we were able to avoid spraying. We did spray most everything two times. We still had some disease issues but those were acceptible and can be dealt with.

Now we are moving into May and the big “May spray” is upon us. Most of the fruit trees and grapes have worms that hatch out in May. So just about everything is getting some spray if the traps in the fields and past history suggested continued worm issues. For me, it is important to choose crop protection products that are reduced risk for workers and environmental reasons. There is a lot of labor going on right now. That needs to be a big factor in choosing what to use. We also have a long way to go and it is important that products are not what we call “disruptive” to the natural balence in the fields. We just want to keep the worms under control. We don’t need to kill every bug out there.

In other parts of the field landscapes, cotton, corn, tomatoes are all up and growing. Alfalfa has been cut once and is growing again, waiting for the second cutting. Pretty soon we will be dealing with pests in those crops as well. For the cotton and tomatoes, right now, it is keeping the weeds under control. Soon there will be other creepy crawlies. Stay tuned!