Tom Bilbo reports, “If you’re growing strawberries in the warmest parts of the state and you haven’t been checking and/or spraying your fields for spider mites, you’re going to want to. Last week my team and I sampled 8 strawberry fields throughout the Lowcountry and Midlands. Nearly all fields in the Lowcountry had either high or rapidly building mite pressure. We saw lots of spider mite eggs that are all going to hatch this week as the mites soak up the warm, dry weather. Fields in the Midlands looked much better (but this could change in a week or two). Spider mites either hadn’t established yet or had recently established and were still highly aggregated in ‘hotspots.’ We did detect beneficial predatory mites at two locations, so if you want these predators to help you in managing spider mites, stay away from applying bifenthrin and instead use a miticide that is much more compatible with the beneficials. Look at the 2022 Strawberry IPM guide (pg. 29-31) for a full list of recommended miticides for both conventional and organic systems.”
Zack Snipes reports, “Last week we got more rain, but the good news is this coming week has some beautiful weather forecasted. Blueberries are blooming on the coast, citrus is pushing new leaves, and many spring crops are really taking off with the warmer weather and longer days. Farmers are getting into the fields to lay plastic for the spring season and are beginning to harvest crops for the market. Spring carrots, radishes, turnips, leafy greens, lettuces, and herbs look really great right now. Now is a good time to properly calibrate fertilizer machines and stock up on pesticide inventories. You know the backbone products you will need this season, so have them on hand.”
Phillip Carnley reports, “Here in the midlands, there has been no shortage of rain, with most growers in my area seeing at least 2.5 inches. This has been particularly hard on the strawberries in heavier clay/clay loam soils. Some of these fields would make great ponds right now. There has been an increase in various fungal infections, from leafspot to phytophthora. On the heavier sites, I have recommended digging drainage trenches or ditches and limiting drip usage. If you are seeing reddening leaf spots or lesions, it could be Gnomonia leaf spot which you would treat like most other leaf diseases. There have also been issues with plants being planted either too deep or too high, which has caused many plant deaths in the fields and secondary fungal infections. One of the other big issues I’ve seen has been Sclerotinia in cabbage that had previously been damaged by the cold last month and in December. Also, with the rain, there has been premature head split due to the absorption of so much water. In these cases, growers have been fortunate to be close enough to harvest to mitigate the losses.”
Sarah Scott reports, “Temperatures have been mild except for one night of below-freezing temperatures. Warm, sunny days and pruning are pushing peach trees to flower. Temperatures are expected to be well above average this coming week, so I’m sure we will see a lot more blooms opening up. We will continue to monitor the weather over the next month or so and hope for no late, hard freezes. Temperatures below 26 degrees can damage fully opened blooms, so we will keep our fingers crossed and hope for an early spring.”
Andy Rollins reports, “We had cold temperatures this weekend that damaged strawberries and peaches. I have not looked at blackberry yet. I am unsure of the extent of damage to peaches, but I do not believe we had enough damage to affect yields. I would advise strawberry growers to count the average number of blooms per plant. If you have an average of 3 or more, it is considered an economic loss if they are killed. Covering or protecting with water when temperatures drop below 30 degrees, as they did on Saturday, would be advised in those cases. Row covers can be your greatest enemy if you don’t get them off when temperatures near 70 degrees. Many growers are still pruning peach trees and applying oil, insecticides, and copper. Vegetative growth on blackberries has pushed out at this point, and lime sulfur sprays may do some damage to that tissue.