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Pest pressures still light

Extreme temperatures the last two weeks of July were pressing growers to irrigate crops more trying to stave off the effects of sunburn.

“With the hot weather we’ve had some burning on some of the varieties of lettuce. Especially with red leaf we are seeing some tip burn due to the continuous days of hot weather,” says Jose Valdez, PCA with D’Arrigo Bros.

Meanwhile, as heat units accumulated coastal vegetable lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and other crops were catching up from the slow start earlier in the year and pest pressures remained relatively light.

“Everybody is pushing really hard right now,” says Monterey County Farm Advisor Steve Koike.

“I think we’re getting back on track into the swing of our schedules,” says PCA Frank Sances with Pacific Ag Group, San Luis Obispo. “The month of July we’re taking out early fields and putting in late fields so growers can get their two crops. We’ll probably get caught up in the next couple weeks.”

Mike Nelson with Plant Sciences Inc., Watsonville, says strawberry growers are still striving for productivity and good markets to capture a profitable season.

“We’re hopeful we can catch up in terms of production over the course of the season, but it's likely yields will be a little off compared to a normal year — if there is such a thing.”

Koike says pest pressures remain relatively light in most vegetable crops.

“Right now, we aren’t seeing any noteworthy outbreaks. We do have our regular complement of concerns, particularly downy mildew in lettuce and spinach.” Most PCAs continue applying standard treatments for control.

Lettuce PCAs are starting to treat for aphid and leafminer and expect that worm pressures could accelerate as heat units build up. Sources say they expect more sclerotinia as soils warm up.

“Aphids showed up on time this year, just like clockwork,” Sances says. “There are no real issues with worms this year all along the coast. Pea leafminers, a recurring lettuce pest up and down the coast, are increasing our insecticide use because they tolerate most insecticides. Agri-Mek and Trigard are the only materials registered and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that those will last.”

Nelson says lygus and thrips were a challenge in strawberries in mid-July, while fruit rot and powdery mildew were being kept at bay. “Probably our most pressing issues are controlling lygus and thrips.”

Veteran PCA Sharan Lanini says the biggest midsummer “pest” is once again transportation, as vegetable markets compete for trucks with valley fruit packers and shippers.

As with all of California, the weather played havoc with early season vegetable planting, but Lanini says, “Everyone is rocking and rolling right now.”

On the other side of the mountains in California’s Central Valley, rice and cotton producers are say this is almost a miracle year, with amazing crops at this stage of the season after such a lousy start.

Same thing in Salinas, says Lanini. “After the absolutely strange start we had, we’ve definitely caught up and are in our typical summer pattern.”

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