Farm Press and DuPont Crop Protection have teamed up to bring California and Arizona Pest Control Advisers this informational E-newsletter, V-News.

From June, 2006 through March, 2007, twice monthly, you’ll receive the latest specialized vegetable market information, such as:

· Crop conditions on vegetable crops and strawberries in Salinas and other California coastal areas, as well as winter vegetables in the Southwestern Arizona and California’s Imperial Valley.

· Market conditions

· New products for the consumer marketplace

· Calendar of upcoming events/meetings

· UC and UA Cooperative Extension Agent input on current issues and solutions

· Research and development updates from DuPont Crop Protection.

For years, Western Farm Press’ editorial staff has been serving the information needs of California and Arizona agriculture and the PCAs who serve the most diverse and lucrative agricultural market in the world. This e-newsletter is an extension of that commitment to provide the latest information available in a timely manner.

DuPont has made an added commitment to advancing vegetable, processing tomato and strawberry crop production in California and by partnering with Farm Press in bringing you these monthly E-newsletters.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, we’d appreciate your feedback.

Research Update

This is a technical update on research/registration field work being completed to add uses for key DuPont fungicides.

DuPont development specialists and cooperators are in the final stages of field work on a stand alone formulation of the DuPont cymoxanil fungicide for use against downy mildew in head lettuce.

Cymoxanil is currently teamed with another DuPont active ingredient, famoxadone, in DuPont™ Tanos® fungicide. The new stand alone formulation of cymoxanil is being developed to allow farmers more flexibility to use cymoxanil in tank mixes with other fungicides like DuPont™ Manex® fungicide for control of downy mildew in head lettuce*. DuPont field development specialists said while the new label for the cymoxanil formulation will be a stand alone one, the cymoxanil product must be mixed with another fungicide with a different mode of action.

* Pending state and EPA registration.
Always read and follow all label directions and precautions for use.
The DuPont Oval Logo, DuPont™, The miracles of science™, Curzate®, Manex®, and Tanos® are registered trademarks or trademarks of DuPont or its affiliates.
Copyright © 2006 E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. All Rights Reserved. 7/06

Features

It was a challenging summer coastal vegetable season start for growers, and PCAs in late June were still coping with fallout from a difficult planting season. With crop schedules in some cases several weeks late due to wet spring planting weather, the result has been late and compressed harvests, erratic markets but unusually light pest conditions.

Market Uncertainty

As with other crops, record rains in March limited field access as most coastal head and romaine lettuce growers geared up for planting. Those who did get in and get their crops harvested on time enjoyed profitable returns for their early lettuce and cole crops. However, prices since have dropped to drastically low levels well below the cost of production.

Prices on lettuce soared in mid-May to a high of $30 a carton with shipments down about 20 percent the first two weeks of May. Within a month, however, those prices had dropped to as low as $5 a box as a flood of product hit key markets at once, and prices remained at those low levels going into July.

Similarly, cauliflower and broccoli prices that peaked early on by late June softened considerably amid sporadic demand. Still the market is slightly higher than average this time of year due to gaps in supply.

Processing Tomatoes

According to a USDA survey in May, processing tomato growers were expecting to contract 11.4 million short tons of processing tomatoes, for a 12 percent increase over last year. This year’s difficult planting season, however, has brought uncertainty to an otherwise hopeful market.

Canneries are building up inventory, but the compressed harvest could make for complications as a flood of canning tomatoes bump up against cannery capacity. The delay could force processors to push harvest into early fall when crops are more at risk of fall rains.

Gene Miyao, UCCE farm advisor for tomatoes in Northern California, said tomatoes in his area are running up to five weeks late, pushing the peak of harvest likely into the middle of August. In the San Joaquin Valley, processing tomatoes were running from five days to two weeks late.

The mild weather has resulted in good fruit set although as temperatures climbed the last week of July, he warned growers might expect some blossom drop.

“This is going to be a very different year,” Miyao said. “We hope it will be a long season, but it certainly will be a more compressed harvest delivery time period.”

Pest Pressures Light

The good news for most vegetable growers is that pest pressures have been unseasonably light. Pests that might normally be raging as the season moved into July were still quiet. All that could change quickly, though, as heat units started to accumulate the last week of June.

“In the Salinas Valley, as far as insects go, it’s really quiet right now. We’ve had a little aphid pressure, but overall there’s not much happening,” said Bill Cheney, UCCE Entomology Farm Advisor for Monterey County.

Miyao said typical springtime diseases, such as bacterial speck and bacterial canker, have not been much of an issue this year on processing tomatoes in the northern regions. Slight russet mite activity has been reported, and Miyao advised PCAs to be mindful of the pest as it may come earlier than normal.

Henry Carrasco, agronomist and PCA with Western Farm Service’s Salinas branch, said downy mildew is causing the most problem for coastal lettuce growers. Carrasco said he is having good luck treating downy mildew with a tank-mix combination of Ridomil and a contact fungicide such as Manex.

“Ridomil is an old compound that’s revived itself,” Carrasco said. “I hadn’t used Ridomil in literally six or seven years and it’s holding its own this year on both romaine and head lettuce in combination with contact fungicides.”

Worm and aphid pressures, meanwhile have been “virtually non-existent” on lettuce and cole crops, he said. PCAs have been treating for leafminer in lettuce.

“We have to be cognizant of leafminer damage because, depending on the size of the crop, even moderate leafminer pressure can set lettuce or romaine back a week of harvest if left untreated,” Carrasco said.

He also expects green peach aphid to start showing up in lettuce and perhaps cole crops, noting that cole crop growers in his area in recent years have been treating more frequently for green peach aphid.

Carrasco noted that the acceptance threshold for even cosmetic insect damage has gotten very high, particularly with value-added lettuce, spinach and other vegetables.

“As the industry has moved to more bagged product, tolerance for insect damage is much lower than it used to be so we’re having to evaluate whether we need an extra treatment for those value-added crops,” he said.

Newer products with short pre-harvest intervals of zero to two days have helped growers keep pests in check right up to harvest.

“Manufacturers have been providing us with fungicides and insecticides to meet the demand of short day-before-harvest intervals that allow us to treat right up to harvest,” he said.

Strawberries

Strawberry growers too have been contending with a challenging year as late spring rains damaged early crops and have pushed the coastal strawberry harvest into the fall, when they are vulnerable to further weather damage.

Glenn McMillan, Salinas branch manager with Helena Chemical Co., said late rain forced some growers to discard fruit early on, which will likely impact total crop production, unless an open fall allows production numbers to catch up.

The last week of June McMillan said PCAs were starting to treat for “the usual suspects” including lygus, western flower thrips, spider mites, botrytis and gray mold.

“Flower thrips seem to be worse this year, I’m seeing some growers having trouble with that and we may be spraying earlier for thrips than we did in the past,” he said.

Transplants

Many growers forced to play catch-up with late planting have been relying more on transplants to close the delayed harvest window and fill in production gaps, sources said.

Miyao said statewide the industry estimates 70 percent of the state’s processing tomato acreage has been planted with transplants.

Carrasco said many leaf and head lettuce growers in the Salinas Valley area planted from transplants in an effort to fill in gaps in production. Broccoli and cauliflower transplants are also helping make up for earlier losses in production, he added.