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Weed Control in Lettuce

Economical and successful weed control in lettuce can be accomplished by utilizing key cultural practices, cultivation technologies and herbicides. Planting configurations vary from 40-inch wide beds with two seedlines to 80-inch wide beds with 5 to 6 seedlines. Recent studies of weeding costs for lettuce ranged from $454 to $623/A for 80-inch wide beds with 5 seedlines of head and 6 seedlines of romaine hearts lettuces, respectively (see coststudies.ucdavis.edu/en/current/commodity/lettuce/).

Weeding costs included the following: Herbicide applied in 4-inch wide bands over the seedlines, cultivation, auto thinning using a fertilizer to kill unwanted lettuce plants and hand weeding/double removal. The costs for auto thinning also include fertilizer costs, which can satisfy the need for the first fertilizer application.

Significant weed control is accomplished by practices that occur before the crop is planted. For instance, weed pressure is affected by prior crop rotations and how much weed seed was produced in them. The weeding costs given above are rough averages. If weed pressure is light, weeding costs can be lower, but if weed pressure is high, weeding costs can be much higher. In the Salinas Valley, good management of weeds is possible with rotational crops such as baby vegetables (spinach, baby lettuce and spring mix) because they mature in 25 to 35 days and don’t allow weeds to set seed. Long-season crops such as pepper and annual artichokes allow multiple waves of weeds to germinate and which are difficult to see and remove once the plants get bigger.

Preirrigation is standard practice to prepare the beds for planting. It stimulates germination of a percentage of weed seeds in the seedbank, and they are subsequently killed by tillage operations. Studies have shown that preirrigation followed by tillage lowers weed pressure to the subsequent crop by about 50%. In organic production, pregermination is one of the most powerful practices for reducing weed pressure, and if time allows, it can be repeated to further reduce weed pressure.

 

Preemergence Herbicides

There are three pre-emergence herbicides available for use in lettuce production: Balan, Prefar and Kerb. Balan and Prefar provide good control of key warm season weeds such as lambsquarters, pigweed and purslane, as well as grasses (Table 1). Kerb is better at controlling mustard and nightshade family weeds such as shepherd’s purse and nightshades. Balan is mechanically incorporated into the soil and Prefar and Kerb are commonly applied at or post planting and incorporated into the soil with germination water.

Table 1. Weed susceptibility to registered preemergent herbicides.

Kerb is more mobile in water than Prefar which can lead to issues with its efficacy. Often 1.5 to 2.0 inches of water are applied with the first irrigation to germinate the crop which can cause Kerb to move below the zone of germinating weed seeds, especially on sandy soils. For instance, Kerb is capable of controlling purslane however, its efficacy can be low on sandy soils due to its movement below the zone of germinating weed seeds with the first germination water. Prefar does not leach as readily as Kerb and that is why these two herbicides are often mixed in the summer to control purslane (Figure 1).

Figure 1. On left: Kerb at 3.5 pints/A applied at planting; On right Kerb at 3.5 pints/A + Prefar at 1.0 gallon/A applied at planting. The main weed is common purslane which was not controlled by Kerb because it was pushed below the zone of germinating weed seeds by the germination water (photo courtesy R. Smith.)

In the desert, the use of delayed applications of Kerb has been used for many years. Due to the large amounts of water that are applied to keep the seeds moist and cool, Kerb is applied in the 2nd or 3rd germination water, approximately 3 to 5 days following the first water, just prior to the emergence of the lettuce seedlings. The amount of water applied in the second and third irrigation is less than the first application and therefore does not push the Kerb as deep in the soil.  Although the Salinas Valley is cooler than the desert, evaluations here have also found delayed applications to improve the efficacy of Kerb (Figure 2).  These data illustrate the loss of control of purslane by Kerb when applied before the first germination water, as well as the improvement in efficacy that results when applied after the first germination water. It also illustrates the role that Prefar plays in the control of purslane when the efficacy of Kerb is reduced by being pushed too deep. Clearly, there is benefit from applying the Kerb in the 2nd or 3rd germination water because it helps to keep it in the zone where weed seeds are germinating.

Figure 2. Efficacy of Kerb applied at 3.5 pints/A at planting or in the 3rd germination water; crop was romaine. Note that applying the Kerb after the first heavy application of germination water greatly improved its effectiveness.

The use of single use drip tape injected 3 inches deep in the soil has become popular in the Salinas Valley. The uniformity of using new tape with each crop has allowed growers to consider using drip irrigation to germinate lettuce stands. Although the same amount of water may be applied to germinate the stand with drip irrigation as with sprinklers, the water tends to move upward with drip irrigation. In drip germinated lettuce, Kerb is sprayed on the soil surface and is solubilized by the upward movement of the drip applied water which allows it to move just deep enough in the soil to control germinating weeds, but not too deep to reduce its efficacy (Table 2). Interestingly, drip germination alone resulted in fewer weeds than sprinkler irrigation.

Lettuce is typically planted with 4-5 times more seed than is needed in order to assure a good stand. At about 3 weeks after the first irrigation, lettuce is thinned. Traditionally lettuce has been thinned by hand, but increasingly growers are using auto thinners which spray an herbicide (Shark) or concentrated liquid fertilizer (e.g. AN 20, 28-0-0-5, and others) to kill the unwanted plants and achieve the desired plant spacing. In the process of thinning by hand or by auto thinning, a significant portion of weeds in the seedline is also removed.

Table 2. Effect of Kerb application (at 3 pints/A) method (surface applied, drip injected or untreated) and irrigation method (surface tape, buried tape or sprinkler) on weed densities, lettuce stand and visual injury.

 

Automated Thinning and Weeding

About 10 to 14 days after thinning, hand weeding is carried out to remove weeds from the seedline and any double lettuce plants that were not removed in the thinning operation. An increasing number of Salinas Valley growers are using autoweeders prior to hand weeding.  There are several autoweeders available: Robovator (Denmark), Steketee (Netherlands), Ferrari (Italy) and Garford (England). These machines use a camera to capture the image of the seedline and a computer that processes the image and activates a kill mechanism (a split or spinning blade) to remove unwanted plants. The machines were originally designed for use with transplanted vegetables. We tested auto weeders and found that they remove about 50% of the weeds in the seedline and reduced the subsequent hand weeding times by 35%. In order to safeguard the crop plants, the auto weeders leave an uncultivated safe zone around the crop plants where weeds can survive. As a result, auto weeders do not remove all the weeds in the seedline, but they help to make subsequent hand weeding operations more efficient and economical.

Depending on the weed pressure, some lettuce fields are hand weeded one more time a week or so prior to harvest. Given the practices just outlined, perennial weeds are not problems in the typical lettuce rotations in the Salinas Valley. The rapid turnaround of the crop (55 to 70 days during the summer) and the frequent use of cultivation does not allow enough time for weeds like field bind weed or yellow nutsedge to build up root reserves or nutlets before they are cultivated or disced out. In the summer, purslane is the biggest concern because it can build up high populations in the seedbank and, because of their fleshy tissue, can set seed even after being cut by the cultivator knives. As a result, if it is not effectively controlled in prior rotations, it can result in high hand weeding costs. Growers address purslane issues by making bedtop applications of the combination of Prefar and Kerb, as well as by a combination of other practices outlined above.

Although there have been no new herbicides registered for use on lettuce in many years, there have been significant technological developments that have improved efficiency of weed control in lettuce. The increasing use of single use drip tape and new automated thinning and weeding technology have recently contributed greatly in this regard.

Making Sense of Biostimulants for Improving your Soil

Biostimulants…bio what??? You may have heard or read this phrase several times over the past year as this product category gains traction in the agricultural marketplace. Confused about what exactly constitutes a biostimulant? You are not the only one! A biostimulant includes “diverse substances and microorganisms that enhance plant growth” or helps “amend the soil structure, function, or performance.” Got it? No? That is ok, please read on for more information.

 

Market Confusion

The exact definition of what a biostimulant is, and what it is not, can be confusing and leave some folks scratching their head on what to expect regarding product performance (See Figure 1). A biostimulant tends to be an “environmentally friendly alternative to synthetic products” and can have multiple impacts on the crop or soil, although the exact definition of the category is vague and open-ended. This uncertainty has received increased attention by regulators, and we should expect to see more precise definitions soon.

Figure 1: Biostimulants can impact a crop in many ways depending on the active ingredient applied (graphic courtesy Ute Albrecht, Southwest Florida Research and Education Center).

As it stands, there are many active ingredients in this arena, and some growers have struggled to find the right fit for their farm. This confusion is regrettable given the increasing popularity of the category and the forecasted sales growth rates. For example, the global market for biostimulants was valued at $2.19 billion in 2018 and is projected to have a compound annual growth rate of 12.5% from 2019 to 2024.

 

Matching Clear Goals

Biostimulants can be derived from a laundry list of different materials, with studies listing roughly eight major classes of active ingredients or more, each with unique properties and modes of action. However, my experience in the field suggests that many of us have unfortunately lumped the various products in this category into one largeother” bucket for simplicity, regardless of the difference in how the product works or what outcome should be expected.

Below I help clarify the role of several active ingredients to allow you to better understand and also mix and match the desired characteristics you are looking for (See Table 1). This reference table will allow you to determine which features you want to put to work into your biostimulant blend based on your crop production method, application equipment, and comfort level. The biostimulant categories listed complement an agronomically sound fertilizer and irrigation program and should be included as a part of a comprehensive crop management program. Caveat: I do not have enough space to list all possible modes of action, but instead I limit the table to the materials that have an impact on the soil.

Table 1: Biostimulants are sorted by their active ingredient (left side), a description of how they work (center) and some general handling notes (right side).

Understanding the Nuances

The biostimulant category offers many exciting opportunities to growers and can deliver new functionality to common fertilizers when used in a blend. Before jumping into this ‘other’ category, start with the following question “What features am I looking for?” This honest query will help you pick the correct ingredient needed and bring clarity to the nuances of the biostimulant category. Getting your product blend right from the get-go can help improve the soil on your farm and help jumpstart your 2020 yield and quality goals. Please consult with your local sales representatives to help pick the right active ingredient for the job and be sure to jar test any new blend ideas you have prior to tank mixing for compatibility concerns.

Furthermore, running a pilot or test study can be a great way to learn which biostimulant product is right for your crop and production system. Keeping good records of your observations will help jog your memory about product performance as the season wears on and will help you formulate the right blend for the job. A good pilot or trial plan can go a long way with helping you keep track of important information on how your biostimulant blend is impacting your crop.

Hungry for more information about biostimulants and what they can do for you? Many trade publications, such as the one you are reading now, have begun to cover this category in more detail and there are several good articles out there that are worth reading. Below I provided some recommended reading to help get you started along with some online resources that are worth a look.

 

About the Author

Dr. Karl Wyant currently serves as the Director of Ag Science at Heliae® Agriculture where he oversees the internal and external PhycoTerra® trials, assists with building regenerative agriculture implementation, and oversees agronomy training. Prior to Heliae® Agriculture, Dr. Wyant worked as a field agronomist for a major ag retailer serving the California and Arizona growing regions. To learn more about the future of soil health and regenerative agriculture, you can follow his webinar and blog series at PhycoTerra.com.

 

Further Resources

 

References

Albrecht, Ute. (2019). Plant biostimulants: definition and overview of categories and effects. IFAS Extension HS1330.

Calvo Velez, Pamela & Nelson, Louise & Kloepper, Joseph. (2014). Agricultural uses of plant biostimulants. Plant and Soil. 383. 10.1007/s11104-014-2131-8.

Drobek, Magdalena & Frąc, Magdalena & Cybulska, Justyna. (2019). Plant Biostimulants: Importance of the Quality and Yield of Horticultural Crops and the Improvement of Plant Tolerance to Abiotic Stress—A Review. Agronomy. 9. 335. 10.3390/agronomy9060335.

Rouphael, Y., Colla, G., eds. (2020). Biostimulants in Agriculture.  Lausanne: Frontiers Media SA. doi: 10.3389/978-2-88963-558-0

Detection of Marked Lettuce and Tomato by an Intelligent Cultivator

Weeds are difficult to control in lettuce and tomato due to labor shortages, increasing costs of hand weeding and limited herbicide options. Lettuce is very sensitive to weed competition, plus there is no tolerance for contamination of bagged lettuce salad mixes with weeds; therefore, weeds must be controlled if lettuce is to be harvested.

Consequently, mechanical weed control is an important part of an integrated weed management program in conventional and organic vegetable crops. Traditional inter-row cultivation, however, only removes weeds between crop rows and leaves the weeds within the crop row. The removal of in-row weeds requires hand weeding, a time-consuming and expensive process.

 

Vegetable Weed Control Costs

Weed control costs for conventional head lettuce production in California are estimated at $216 to $319 per acre, while weed control costs in organic leaf lettuce are $489 per acre, on average, at current labor rates. In conventional processing tomatoes, weed control costs are about $225 per acre or 12% of production costs. Additionally, hand weeding costs have increased due to labor shortages, changes in California overtime regulations and increasing minimum wages as well as decreased labor immigration from Mexico. The result is greater vulnerability of growers to crop losses due to weeds.

Automation of weed removal may be a method to contain or reduce weed control costs in vegetable crops. Intelligent intra-row cultivators (IC) provide an alternate weed management option to standard inter-row cultivation. Previous results have shown that IC can reduce the need for hand weeding compared to standard cultivators and may reduce weed control costs.

The Robovator® cultivator evaluated by Lati et al. (2016) relied on pattern recognition of the rows and crop plants within the rows based on the expected crop spacing within the rows. When these spatial cues are unavailable, as can occur in an organic field with a high weed density, this approach cannot differentiate between crops and weeds, and thus it relies on a size difference between crops and weeds, as well as a low to moderate weed population to function accurately.

Intelligent Cultivation. Intelligent intra-row cultivation requires three technologies; a machine-vision system that detects crop plants and weeds, image classification and decision algorithm that differentiates between crop plants and weeds, and an automated weed removal mechanism that controls the weed while protecting the crop. Precision guidance systems, decision algorithms, and precision in-row weed control devices are commercially available or are at an advanced level of development. Accurate crop detection and differentiation from weeds, at normal cultivation speeds, would allow for greatly improved intra-row cultivators.

Weed/Crop Differentiation. The main challenge for intelligent intra-row cultivation is to differentiate between crops and weeds using digital imagery and processing at field operation speeds of at least 1 mph in high weed density fields with travel speeds above 2 mph required for economic acceptability for low to moderate weed loads.

A new method of crop and weed differentiation called “crop signaling” is presented in the research “Crop Signaling for Automated Weed/Crop Differentiation and Mechanized Weed Control in Vegetable Crops” by Raja et al. 2019 out of UC Davis. It is based on the idea that the identity of the crop is known with certainty when it is planted, whether transplanted or seeded. Thus, if the crop has a marker or signal that an IC can reliably detect, then the IC would recognize the signal and protect the crop. Plants without the signal, i.e., weeds, would not be protected and would be removed by the IC. The objective of this work was to test a crop signaling system for crop detection accuracy and weed control efficacy by an IC in lettuce and tomato.

Marking System Descriptions. Two methods of plant signaling were tested, physical plant markers and topical markers. Biodegradable straws coated with a fluorescent marker were used as the plant markers in this study (Figure 1). The straws were then placed next to tomato seedlings in the planting trays and then transplanted together (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Holland transplanter with butterfly transfer fingers used for transplanting plant labels and tomatoes together.

The topical marker used on plant foliage was green or orange fluorescent water-based paint (Figure 3a,b). A paint sprayer was used to apply the topical marker to lettuce foliage and tomato seedlings prior to planting, while they were in trays. Another method was to spray the marker onto tomato stems as they were transplanted (Figure 4).

Figure 3. (left) Topical marker on lettuce plants, (right) Spray application of topical marker on crop plants.
Figure 4. Topical marker sprayed on tomato transplants by applicator mounted on the transplanter during the process of transplanting.

Intelligent Cultivator. The IC used in this research was developed at the University of California, Davis. It uses a machine vision system specifically designed to detect the physical labels and topical markers on the crop (Figures 5&6). Weed control was done by mechanical knives, which the IC opens (Figure 6b) to avoid the marked crop plants and closes (Figure 6a) to uproot weeds in the intra-row space.

Figure 5. Image of a tomato plant with a green label taken (a) under normal light plus UV light, and (b) under UV light only. Note the reflections of the green label in the six mirrors, and the actual label in the center of the image.
Figure 6. The actuator device used in this project: (a) Weed knives closed – uprooting weeds in crop row, (b) Weed knives open avoiding tomato plant.

 

Field Trials

Eight field trials in tomato at Davis, Calif., and six in lettuce at Salinas, Calif., were conducted during 2016-2018.

Tomato. Field trials in processing tomatoes were located on a silt loam soil on the UC Davis vegetable field crops research station near Davis. The tomatoes were seeded in trays and kept in a greenhouse for 45 to 60 days until they were about 10 inches tall. Tomatoes were transplanted into 60-inch beds at 15-inch spacing in a single center row. Two tomato trials were carried to yield.  Plant labels were added to seedling trays prior to transplanting (Figure 1) or the topical marker was applied to trays of tomato seedlings as described above (Figure 4). Tomato transplants were marked with paint 4 inches above the soil line. About three weeks after planting, all plots were cultivated with a standard mechanical cultivator which only removed weeds outside the plant line. The standard cultivator left a 7-inch non-cultivated band centered on the crop row.

Weed densities by species were measured before and after cultivation in four 7-inch-wide (centered on crop row) by 20-foot-long sample areas randomly placed along the length of the plots. The time required by a laborer to hand weed the 20-foot areas was recorded. Two tomato trials were maintained until harvest so that marketable yield data could be collected.

Lettuce. Field trials using Romaine lettuce were conducted in a sandy loam soil at the USDA research station in Salinas, Calif. Four weeks after seeding, the whole experiment was cultivated with a standard mechanical cultivator. The standard cultivator left a 6-inch non-cultivated band centered on the crop row (Figure 7). The IC operated within .75 inches of the lettuce plants on all sides. Pre-cultivation weed counts were measured the day before cultivation and post-cultivation weed counts were taken the day after cultivation. Weed densities were measured in a 6-inch band centered on the crop row in each of two 20 -foot-long samples in the field. Weeds that were uprooted were considered dead. After cultivation, hand weeding was performed and timed as described for the tomato trials. The time spent by a laborer to hand weed with a hoe was recorded.

Figure 7. The plant layout used in the lettuce plantings: (a) Single crop row of lettuce on 1 m beds. The control rows are with no crop signal visible, (b) physical labels in lettuce row two weeks after transplanting.

The 2017 lettuce trials were maintained until commercial maturity and number of marketable heads and weight of marketable heads were recorded. The 2018 trial was conducted at a commercial lettuce field near Salinas, Calif.

Statistical Analysis. RStudio Version 1.1.383 was used for statistical analysis. Differences between pre- and post-cultivation weed counts determined weed removal effectiveness. The most efficacious treatments removed the greatest proportion of weeds.

The difference in weed densities between pre and post cultivation were analyzed using analysis of co-variance, to measure the effect of cultivator type on weed density. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed on the hand-weeding time data to measure the effect of the cultivators.  Weights were determined for both lettuce and tomato yields, and in lettuce, the number of heads was also determined.

Weed Control. The IC was more effective than the standard cultivator at removing weeds from the inter-row space. The data were pooled separately for tomato and lettuce. In tomato seed lines, 1 weed per square foot remained after IC while 10.5 weeds per square foot remained after standard cultivation. This is a 90% reduction in the number of weeds remaining after cultivation (P<0.05).  In the lettuce trials, 1.7 weeds per square foot remained in the seed line after intelligent cultivation while 5 weeds per square foot remained after standard cultivation, which is a 66% reduction in weeds remaining after cultivation (see Table 1).

Table 1: Effect of cultivator type on in-row weed densities after cultivation, time to hand weed and marketable yield in tomatoes and lettuce.

Handweeding in the tomato trials required 7.8 hours/A following the IC while the standard cultivator required 14.9 hours/A which is a 48% reduction (P<0.05). Hand weeding of lettuce required 16 hours/A following cultivation the IC while 29 hours/A was required for the standard cultivator, a 45% reduction in time (P<0.05).

The time-spent hand weeding after IC cultivation was a notably smaller percentage reduction than it was for weed densities, i.e. 48% vs. 90% in tomato. This is because the IC consistently removes the readily accessible weeds that are more than an inch from the crop; while the remaining weeds after IC cultivation are typically close to the crop plants and take more time for the field crew to remove than weeds further from the crop plant. The IC did not remove all the weeds it passed over due to some algorithmic uncertainty in the precise location of the crop’s main root and a risk-averse control strategy. Thus, weed control in close proximity to crop plants may still require some hand weeding. However, significant reductions in manual labor were achieved while maintaining effective weed control.

Crop Yields. There was no difference between the cultivators in their effect on tomato fruit yield in 2017 (P>0.05) (Table 1).  The 2018 tomato yields had marketable fruit yields in the IC and standard cultivator treatments of 44,045 and 50,217 lbs./A, respectively (P>0.05). Similarly, there were no differences between the cultivators in their effect on lettuce yields (P>0.05) (Table 1). Yield data were analyzed both as the number of marketable lettuce heads per acre and fresh weights.  

Weed/Crop Differentiation.  One of the biggest challenges for automated intra-row cultivation is to enable a computer and vision system to differentiate between crops and weeds at normal field travel speeds. The commercially available IC ‘Robovator®’ uses pattern recognition to recognize the crop row and can perform intra-row weeding at speeds of 1 mph (Lati et al. 2016). However, this requires a distinct crop pattern best found such as in a transplanted field where the crop is much larger than the weeds and the crop stand is consistent. Further, when high weed densities obscure the 2-dimensional crop row pattern, the intra-row weeding program does not work.

Two types of crop signals were tested, physical plant labels and topical markers. The methods have very low false positive error rates and the classification accuracy achieved for both techniques approaches 100%. The crop signaling technique appears to be effective in creating a reliable method for automatic detection of crop plants in vegetable fields with high weed densities. Crop signaling technology could facilitate development of automated weed control robots that are as accurate in crop/weed differentiation as human workers are.

A recommendation for future work is to develop a commercially viable marking method that is machine readable, yet does not contaminate harvested produce or the field soil and subsequent rotational crops. For transplanted stem crops like tomato, a biodegradable machine-readable tag attached to each stem as the transplanter sets the plants should be explored for commercial potential. Lettuce will probably require a machine-readable label attached to the first true leaves or a machine-readable label on the fiber-coated plant plug as it is set in the soil as is done with the Plant Tape® (www.planttape.com) system of vegetable transplanting.

Regardless of the technology used for crop weed differentiation, development of intelligent weed removal technology has improved weed control programs for horticultural crops that continue to rely on a limited number of herbicides and hand weeding. However, there is much more to do to improve vegetable weed control.

Acknowledgments. Thanks to the USDA Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative (USDA-NIFA-SCRI-004530) the California Tomato Research Institute and the California Leafy Greens Research Program for financial support.

 

References

Lati, R.N., M.C. Siemens, J.S. Rachuy, and S.A. Fennimore. 2016. Intra-row Weed Removal in Broccoli and Transplanted Lettuce with an Intelligent Cultivator. Weed Technology 30:655-663

Raja R, Slaughter DC, Fennimore SA, Nguyen TT, Vuong V, Sinha N, Tourte L, Smith RF, Siemens MC (2019) Crop signaling: a novel crop recognition technique for robotic weed control.  Biosystems Engineering 187:278-291.

Virus Pathogens: Challenges to the Health of Vegetable Crops

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Farmers and other field professionals producing vegetable crops face a bewildering array of challenges. Insects and mites feed on, disfigure, and eat away at produce quality. Weeds compete with the vegetables for precious resources and can require extensive labor to be removed. Fertilizer and water inputs can be costly. The economic cycle of planting, growing, harvesting, and marketing can be a “black hole” that engulfs company resources while offering few guarantees of profits. Another group of challenges is embodied by the many plant pathogens that cause diseases of vegetable crops. One particular group of pathogens of interest are the viruses that infect plants.

 

Virus Pathogens of Plants

Viruses that infect plants are similar, in shape and constitution, to the viruses that infect insects, animals, and yes, people. A virus consists of a piece or two of genetic material (either DNA or RNA) that is surrounded and protected by a protein coat or covering. In the grand scheme of biology, such a nucleic acid + protein structure is extremely simple and basic. This entity is also extremely tiny. Since a virus is composed of two types of chemicals, it is much smaller than a plant cell and cannot be observed with a regular microscope. Only with the use of electron microscopes can the body of the virus be observed. The outer protein coat gives the virus a distinctive shape, and plant viruses can look like long flexible threads, short rigid rods, or spherical, geometric polyhedrals.

Different viruses have different shapes and appear as long threads, rigid rods, or geometric spheres. Left, tomato chlorosis virus (photo courtesy K. Schlueter, USDA) and, right, cucumber mosaic virus (photo courtesy M. Kim, USDA)

Plant viruses, like all viruses, do not function or operate outside of their hosts. To become active the virus must be introduced into a living plant cell, after which the virus mechanism activates and highjacks the cell’s processes, forcing the host cell to produce more virus RNA or DNA and virus proteins. These components are assembled into new viruses which are then translocated throughout the plant by being carried in plant fluids that stream into stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits.

 

Diseases Caused by Viruses

As with viruses that infect people and animals, plant pathogenic viruses at first show no evidence of their initial incursion into the host. There is a latent period or lag-time during which the virus is steadily orchestrating the manufacture of additional virus nucleic acids and proteins. At a certain critical point, the virus population causes enough physiological and metabolic disruption so as to cause visible symptoms, which collectively we call the disease.

Disease symptoms caused by viruses can vary greatly and are influenced by the vegetable variety, age of plant when first infected, the strain of the virus, and environmental conditions under which the crop is grown. In general, vegetable crops infected with viruses will show one or more types of foliar symptoms. Leaf color changes with the development of yellow or brown spots, light and dark green patterns (mosaic, mottling), concentric ring patterns (ringspot), and yellow or white blotches and streaks. In some cases, the entire foliage of the plant turns yellow, orange, or red. Some viruses cause a curious reaction where only the veins of the leaf become yellow or brown. Leaves can be misshapen in various ways, from simple curling, to unusual elongation (strap leaf), to severe twisting and deformation. Internodes along the stem become abnormally shortened, resulting in tight bunching of leaves. Flowers also change appearance with streaks of color in the petals (color break). For fruiting vegetables, the fruit may show only subtle color breaks and patterns, or alternatively become grossly deformed. Overall plant growth can be stunted and crop development can be delayed.

All vegetable crops suffer from at least one virus pathogen, while some crops are subject to a dozen different ones. Table 1 lists selected vegetable crops and some of the viruses affecting these crops in the U.S. Like fungal and bacterial pathogens, virus pathogen occurrence and importance vary with geographic region. A virus that is important on California lettuce may be incidental or lacking on lettuce in Florida. Likewise, the set of viruses that North American tomato growers must deal with will be different than tomato viruses occurring in South America or Asia.

Table 1. Selected vegetable crops, virus pathogens, and means of virus dispersal.

The economic impact of a particular crop-virus interaction depends on the inherent aggressiveness of the virus, incidence of the disease, and the susceptibility of the crop. Regarding the crop, a critically important factor is the type of harvested commodity. For example, leafy commodities such as lettuce and spinach will be especially vulnerable to viruses that cause leaf symptoms. The viruses of pepper that cause fruit malformations are more important than the pepper viruses that only cause mild mosaics in the foliage. For celery grown in California, cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) causes some leaf mosaic and mottling but rarely causes any symptoms on the celery petioles and, therefore, is of little concern. However, a different virus, Apium Virus Y, can cause celery petioles to turn brown, making the celery unmarketable.

In lettuce, Impatiens necrotic spot virus results in distorted plants and brown leaf lesions (photo by S. Koike.)

Detecting and Diagnosing Viruses

Confirmation of a virus requires testing. We acknowledge that experienced growers and field personnel, who have looked at virus diseases of a particular crop for many years, can develop a good diagnostic sense for such problems. However, to be scientifically sound and accurate, diagnosing virus diseases cannot be achieved without clinical testing. Virus disease symptoms pose particular challenges to diagnosticians because the wide range of virus-like symptoms can also be caused by other factors.

Symptoms caused by viruses can also be caused by genetic disorders, nutritional imbalances, environmental extremes, phytotoxicity from pesticides and fertilizers, and other factors (see Table 2.) Fortunately, diagnostic labs have the tools that can identify most of the commonly occurring viruses in vegetables. Such tests rely on either serology (using antibodies that detect the antigens of virus proteins) or molecular biology (using probes that recognize nucleic acid sequences of the virus.)

Table 2. Symptoms caused by viruses and other factors that can create similar symptoms

Epidemiology of Virus Diseases

Development of virus diseases of plants involves several factors. In contrast to some human viruses, plant viruses are not moved around in the air or deposited on surfaces waiting to come into contact with a plant. Rather, plant pathogenic viruses typically originate from a living source or “reservoir.” (Factor 1) The reservoir is often an infected weed that is near the site where the vegetable crop will be planted, or the reservoir can be an infected volunteer crop plant in the field. Vectors (Factor 2) are the insects, mites, and nematodes that have fed on a virus-infected plant, ingested virus particles, and now are capable of injecting the viruses into the next plant that is fed upon. For the great majority of viruses that infect vegetables, the viruses are moved by vectors from reservoir hosts to healthy crops (Factor 3). Aphids are the most common vectors (See Table 1.) Other insects (thrips, leafhoppers, beetles) also carry viruses, as do a few soilborne nematodes and one soilborne fungus.

Apium virus Y causes disfiguring brown lesions on celery petioles (photo by S. Koike.)
A number of virus pathogens cause damage to the fruits of some vegetable crops (photo by S. Koike.)

The epidemiology, or progress of disease spread, depends on the complex interaction of the three factors mentioned above.

Factor 1 Reservoir: What is the nature of the virus reservoir? Which weed species are present? Are there high numbers of virus-infected weeds or volunteer plants in the area? A virus with a broad host range, such as Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV), may be present in dozens of weeds and numerous volunteer plants on a particular ranch.

Factor 2 Vector: Which vectors are in the vicinity? What are their populations and dispersal patterns? How do wind patterns and geographic features influence dispersal? What is the extent of vector increase within the crop, which can result in plant-to-plant spread within that planting?

Factor 3 Vegetable Crop: What is the crop diversity in the area being considered and which viruses affect these crops? For example, could CMV, which has a broad host range, spread between different vegetables? If the region is widely planted to one crop, such as lettuce, will a particular virus affect many lettuce plantings? Too much of the same crop, densely cropped in one region, could result in rapid virus spread and disease epidemics. In contrast, if a region has only one onion field among many non-allium crops, a narrow host-range pathogen such as Iris yellow spot virus will infect only the onions. The answers to these and other questions have significant bearing on the management of virus diseases.

 

Managing Virus Diseases

Diagnosis: The first step in disease management is accurately identifying the precise pathogen involved. Molecular and serological assays are available for most of the major virus pathogens affecting vegetables. Knowing which virus is involved enables one to know the reservoir plants harboring the virus, the vectors involved, and the potential target crops.

Exclusion: Prevent the virus from entering the production system. For lettuce, cucurbits and tomato, some viruses are carried in the seed; therefore, use seed that has been tested or certified to not harbor the pathogen. For crops started as transplants, employ IPM practices to prevent infection at the transplant stage. Note that for the few vegetable crops propagated by cuttings or plant divisions (example: artichoke), viruses will be readily spread if infected propagative material is used to plant new fields.

Reservoir host eradication: Remove the initial sources of the virus, which are infected weeds and volunteer crop plants. Plant viruses are present mostly in living plants and generally not in soil, water, equipment surfaces, or the air. Controlling weeds and other reservoir plants is therefore a critical part of virus control.

Manage the vectors: Use IPM practices to control the virus vectors. The great majority of vegetable-infecting viruses only reach a crop via an insect vector. Complete control of an insect pest is rarely possible, so strategies should attempt to manage the insects as best as possible. Keep in mind that the vectors are also present on the reservoir weeds and plants outside of the field. Once a virus is introduced into the crop, intra-field, plant-to-plant spread will be achieved only through movement of the vector.

Destruction of the old crop: Once a crop has been harvested, the passed-over plants and shoots growing from remaining crop roots can serve as virus reservoirs if they are infected. Old vegetable fields should, therefore, be disked and plowed under in a timely manner.

Resistant cultivars: If available, growers should select cultivars that are bred to be resistant to the virus pathogens. Note, however, that the usefulness of such genetic plant resistance may not last. Researchers found that the use of tomato and pepper cultivars resistant to TSWV has allowed for the development of “resistance breaking” (RB) strains of the virus. Through mutation and selection, these new strains of TSWV can cause disease in the previously resistant cultivars.

Chemicals or pesticides: Currently there are no chemical treatments that can be applied to plants that would prevent infection from viruses or prevent development of virus disease.

Carrot fields severely infected with viruses become noticeably yellow to orange in color (photo by S. Koike.)

 

Cover Crops in California Agriculture: An Overview of Current Research

Growers throughout the country and around the world plant a wide range of cover crops for a variety of reasons. Cover crops can reduce soil compaction, improve water infiltration, improve soil structure, and feed soil microbes: they encourage a healthier and more diverse soil ecosystem.

Researchers in California are analyzing the best ways to incorporate cover cropping into the state’s diverse agricultural systems, from high-value vegetable production on the central coast to the cotton, tomato, and almond fields of the central valley.

 

Cover Crops on the Central Coast

Researchers working with central coast vegetable growers have devised innovative ways to use cover crops to reduce nitrate leaching and agricultural runoff, thereby improving both local ecosystems and soil health.

Eric Brennan and his team at the USDA Agricultural Research Service started the Salinas Organic Cropping Systems trial in the Salinas Valley in 2003 to understand the long-term impacts of various cropping systems and soil amendments. This trial focuses on organic lettuce and broccoli, two of the high-value crops grown in the area known as the nation’s salad bowl.

To maintain soil organic matter and provide nutrients to their crops, organic vegetable growers in this area prefer applying compost instead of planting cover crops. The amount of time that cover crops require for incorporation and decomposition can shorten the growing season for these high-value crops (Brennan & Boyd, 2012.) To make this practice more feasible for growers in the area, this group of researchers has developed three strategies for integrating cover crops into the vegetable cropping systems of the Central Coast.

Option 1: Plant the cover crops only in furrow bottoms, not the entire field. After 50 to 60 days of growth, the grower can spray the cover crops and then do the usual tillage necessary to prepare the ground for planting the cash crops. By planting time, the cover crop residue has already decomposed. This method reduces runoff and erosion but does not reduce nitrate leaching, so this is best for fields with runoff problems but without high nitrate levels. However, this method makes controlling weeds during a wet winter difficult and costs more than simply leaving the field bare (Brennan, 2017.)

Option 2: Plant non-legume cover crops on the vegetable beds and mow the cover crops repeatedly throughout the growing season. This maximizes nitrate scavenging while minimizing the amount of residue that needs to decompose right before planting. The ideal cover crop for this practice would be a grass, like cereal rye. Repeated mowing would reduce the amount of water lost to evapotranspiration from the cover crop but still enable the rye to scavenge nutrients that could otherwise be lost to leaching (Brennan, 2017.)

Option 3: Turn the cover crop residues into a highly nutritious juice and compost. To do this practice, a grower would plant a non-leguminous cover crop in October and allow it to grow until mid-December, at which point it will have scavenged most of the nitrogen that it will use. The grower then harvests the cover crop, leaving as little residue behind as possible. They can then feed the residue into a screw press, which will separate the liquids and solids. The liquid component has a relatively low nitrogen concentration and can be applied to the vegetable crop to fulfill some of the crop’s nutrient needs. The solid residues can be composted and applied at a convenient time, to provide organic matter to the soil (Brennan, 2017.)

Researchers are still working on refining these strategies, but they could allow central coast vegetable growers to reap the rewards associated with cover crops while maintaining a profitable enterprise.

Field day at the West Side REC in 2010, discussing cover cropping and conservation tillage (photo courtesy Jeff Mitchell, UCCE.)

 

Annual Systems in the Central Valley

For the past 20 years, Jeff Mitchell and his team at UC Cooperative Extension have studied the effects of reduced tillage and cover crops on a tomato-cotton rotation at the UC’s West Side Research and Extension Center. This study measures the efficacy of these practices in reducing air pollution and increasing soil organic matter. Reduced tillage and cover cropping have resulted in less dust emissions compared to conventionally managed fields (Mitchell et al., 2017.) They found that cover cropping increased soil organic matter more than conservation tillage alone did (Veenstra et al., 2006.) Overall, these practices have improved soil health by increasing aggregate stability, water infiltration, and soil organic matter while maintaining similar yields to the conventional system (Mitchell et al., 2017.) This study has allowed researchers to see the long-term effects of conservation tillage and cover cropping on tomato and cotton systems in the San Joaquin Valley.

Another UC research team in the Central Valley, led by Kate Scow at the Russell Ranch near UC Davis, examined the long-term effects of cover cropping on organic tomatoes and corn. These researchers found that cover cropping encouraged the proliferation of diverse types of beneficial fungi known as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (Bender & Bowles, 2018). Under optimal environmental conditions, cover cropping was correlated with higher tomato yields. In contrast, corn did not enjoy the same benefits from organic management that the tomatoes did and had lower yields compared to fields without cover crops (Bender & Bowles, 2018). These studies have found important benefits to including cover crops in annual systems, but growers will need to further refine the practice to fit their needs.

 

Perennial Systems in the Central Valley

Amélie Gaudin and her team from UC Davis and UC Cooperative Extension are quantifying and communicating the benefits and tradeoffs of planting winter cover crops in almond orchards. They established trials throughout the Central Valley. Planting cover crops in almonds increases bee forage, improves soil health, and encourages resiliency. The researchers have found that cover crops resulted in increased water infiltration. Despite the common concern that cover crops would increase frost risk, they found that cover cropping did not affect ambient air temperatures 3 and 5 feet above the ground. Moreover, the ground cover worked as a buffer, keeping temperatures more stable than bare ground did (Gaudin, 2020.)

Other benefits included a decrease in sodicity, improved trafficability in the wintertime, and an increase in aggregation. The soil microbial ecosystem showed increased biomass. Bees enjoyed a more diverse, varied diet, contributing to better bee health. Finally, cover crops reduced weed diversity and growth. They did not reduce germination since both the cover crops and the weeds emerged at the same time. All these benefits start to outweigh the costs of implementation after about 10 years (Gaudin, 2020). Many of these soil and ecosystem benefits are not unique to almond orchards, and could also benefit other perennial cropping systems in the Central Valley.

Mustard cover crops in a table grape vineyard, March 2020 (photo by S. Shroder.)

 

Funding Options

UC and USDA researchers have found benefits to cover cropping in diverse agricultural systems throughout California, from almond orchards to lettuce and tomato fields. These include reducing erosion, compaction, and nutrient leaching, along with improving soil aggregation and providing habitat for beneficial insects. Cover crops may improve the soils upon which your crops depend and increase your operation’s resiliency in the face of a changing climate.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Healthy Soils Program and the USDA NRCS EQIP provide incentives for planting cover crops. Check out cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/healthysoils/IncentivesProgram to learn more about the CDFA’s program. There are 10 technical assistance providers working throughout the state who can help you select your cover crop species, apply for the program, and implement your practices. Go to ciwr.ucanr.edu/Programs/ClimateSmartAg to find your closest climate smart specialist.

Community Education Specialist Alli Fish and a daikon radish cover crop in December 2019 (photo by Rose Hayden-Smith.)

 

Works Cited

(2010). [Field day at West Side Research and Extension Center] [Photograph]. California Agriculture. http://calag.ucanr.edu/Archive/?article=ca.v070n02p53

Bender, S.F & Bowles, T.M. (2018). Effects of AMF diversity and community composition on nutrient cycling as shaped by long-term agricultural management. Russell Ranch 2018 Annual Report. https://asi.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk5751/files/inline-files/RRSAF%20Progress%20Report_2018.pdf

Brennan, E. B. (2017). Can we grow organic or conventional vegetables sustainably without cover crops? HortTechnology27(2), 151-161.

Brennan, E. B., & Boyd, N. S. (2012). Winter cover crop seeding rate and variety affects during eight years of organic vegetables: I. Cover crop biomass production. Agronomy Journal104(3), 684-698.

Gaudin, A. (2020, February 4). What do cover crops have to offer? [PowerPoint slides]. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. https://ucanr.edu/sites/calasa/files/319850.pdf

Mitchell, J. P., Shrestha, A., Mathesius, K., Scow, K. M., Southard, R. J., Haney, R. L., … & Horwath, W. R. (2017). Cover cropping and no-tillage improve soil health in an arid irrigated cropping system in California’s San Joaquin Valley, USA. Soil and Tillage Research165, 325-335.

Veenstra, J., Horwath, W., Mitchell, J., & Munk, D. (2006). Conservation tillage and cover cropping influence soil properties in San Joaquin Valley cotton-tomato crop. California Agriculture60(3), 146-153.

Lettuce Dieback: New Virus Found to be Associated with Soilborne Disease in Lettuce

Lettuce dieback is a soilborne virus disease known to cause significant losses for lettuce production throughout all western growing regions. The disease was originally described in the Salinas Valley in the late 1990s following severe flooding along the Salinas River but has now been found throughout coastal and inland lettuce production regions of California, the winter production region in southwestern Arizona and Imperial Valley, California.

The disease is most prevalent on romaine lettuce but is known to occur on all non-crisphead (iceberg) lettuce types. Most modern crisphead lettuces are resistant, and an increasing number of romaine cultivars now carry resistance as well. Symptoms of lettuce dieback include yellowing and necrosis of outer leaves, stunted growth and death of affected plants (Fig. 1). Plants infected young may fail to develop beyond the 8 to 10 leaf stage, but symptoms can develop at any point in the growing season, and fields often exhibit a range of plant sizes with some plants appearing healthy and maturing normally, while others become stunted and never fully develop (Fig 2).

Figure 2. Romaine lettuce plants in a field showing variation in severity typical of lettuce dieback including stunted growth, as well as yellowing and necrosis of outer leaves.

Initial symptoms begin with yellowing and necrosis (death) of small veins in outer leaves, with the necrosis expanding into larger areas within and between veins. Inner leaves of the head usually retain their color, but some romaine varieties may also exhibit bright chlorotic flecks within veins of leaves at the center of the head that resembles tiny stars. These are most visible when affected leaves are held up to a light source (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Romaine lettuce leaf from the inner portion of a head showing star-shaped chlorotic flecking in veins characteristic of lettuce dieback disease on romaine.

This vein-flecking symptom is not always present on infected romaine, but when observed it is an excellent diagnostic indicator. The vein flecking symptom is less common on other types of lettuce and is more difficult to observe on red lettuce. Losses resulting from lettuce dieback can range from a few plants to complete loss of crop. In most severely affected fields lettuce heads are not harvested because the plants will not meet quality standards. Symptoms of the disease are frequently found in low lying areas with poor drainage, in areas near rivers, on recently flooded land, and in areas where soil has been dredged from a river or ditch and spread onto adjacent fields.

Symptoms of lettuce dieback can be mistaken for those of other diseases, particularly lettuce drop, a disease caused by a fungus, and symptoms of two viruses transmitted by thrips. It is fairly easy to differentiate lettuce drop from lettuce dieback because lettuce drop, caused by fungi in the genus Sclerotinia, results in a soft rot, outer leaves often flatten against the ground, and heads easily separate from the root, whereas with lettuce dieback the root remains firmly attached to the head. The two thrips-transmitted viruses, impatiens necrotic spot virus (INSV) and tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV), also cause necrotic (dead) patches on leaves of infected lettuce plants that resemble symptoms of lettuce dieback, and therefore it can be difficult to differentiate the two diseases. Diagnostic tests can be used to differentiate lettuce plants infected with these viruses from those with lettuce dieback disease. Serological detection methods including commercially available immunostrips that can be used in the field to determine infection with INSV or TSWV, but immunostrips are not available for the viruses associated with lettuce dieback disease. Therefore, confirmation of lettuce dieback requires laboratory testing, which can include both molecular biology and serological methods. In some cases, lettuce plants may be infected by multiple pathogens simultaneously and this may complicate diagnosis.

Lettuce dieback is probably a very old disease of crisphead (iceberg) lettuce that disappeared for many years before reemerging with a new name as a disease of other lettuce types. In the 1930s a disease known as brown blight devastated lettuce production in California with symptoms that closely resembled those of lettuce dieback based on descriptions and illustrations at the time.

Iceberg lettuce was the main type of lettuce grown in the 1930s, and it suffered severe losses from brown blight for many years until a source of resistance was identified by a USDA scientist, Ivan Jagger. This source of resistance was eventually bred into all subsequent iceberg lettuce types, beginning with the variety Imperial, and this eliminated the threat from brown blight. In the early 2000s, after the appearance of lettuce dieback, USDA scientists identified a source of resistance to lettuce dieback from the crisphead lettuce variety Salinas, and through genetic studies found that the source of resistance to lettuce dieback is also present in the brown blight-resistant lettuces developed by Jagger over 70 years earlier, but was not in earlier susceptible lettuce varieties. In other words, only crisphead lettuce varieties that predate the variety Imperial could develop symptoms of lettuce dieback. This suggests the two diseases may actually be the same. The resistance to lettuce dieback has been incorporated into several romaine lettuce varieties, as well as some leaf and butter lettuce varieties, but there remain many lettuces that are susceptible to lettuce dieback disease.

Since the late 1990s, lettuce dieback has been believed to be caused by infection of lettuce plants with either of two viruses from the genus Tombusvirus; tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV) and Moroccan pepper virus (MPV). These viruses are absent from healthy lettuce but have been found regularly in association with lettuce dieback disease. However, there have been numerous situations in which neither virus was found in association with obvious disease symptoms. Furthermore, it has not been possible to consistently and easily reproduce disease symptoms when lettuce is inoculated with either virus in a laboratory setting, raising the possibility that an additional virus may contribute to causing lettuce dieback disease.

In an attempt to identify a possible additional virus contributing to lettuce dieback disease, high throughput sequencing (HTS) was used on several lettuce plants exhibiting dieback symptoms, which led to the identification of a new virus consistently associated with diseased plants but not with healthy lettuce plants. This novel virus was most closely related to a recently identified and poorly characterized virus from watermelon in China, watermelon crinkle leaf associated virus, which was found using the same HTS approach.

The newly identified lettuce virus, tentatively named lettuce dieback associated virus (LDaV) shares an extremely low genetic relationship with the watermelon virus, which suggests that although the two viruses are related, they are very distantly related to one another. Using a combination of HTS and traditional DNA sequencing the genome of the new virus, LDaV, was assembled and methods were developed to allow rapid detection of the virus from lettuce leaf extracts using RT-PCR, a routine laboratory diagnostic method. LDaV has now been found not only in lettuce showing dieback symptoms collected recently, but it has also been found in older archived samples of lettuce nucleic acid collected from plants showing dieback symptoms over the past 20 years, including many that also contained MPV or TBSV. To date, LDaV has not been found in healthy lettuce plants. Interestingly, genetic comparison showed that LDaV isolates collected from coastal California production regions are closely related to one another, and desert isolates from Arizona and Imperial Valley, California also are closely related to one another. However, coastal and desert isolates differ genetically from one another, suggesting perhaps some regional adaptation of the virus to plants grown under the different climatic conditions.

Further research will clarify the role of LDaV in lettuce dieback disease and how it relates to the two tombusviruses, MPV and TBSV, that have long been linked to the disease. Studies to date, however, strongly suggest a role for LDaV in lettuce dieback disease development, and research is in progress to clarify the ability of LDaV to produce lettuce dieback symptoms when inoculated to lettuce plants, as well as whether or not the new virus can infect lettuce plants carrying a gene for resistance to lettuce dieback.

Choosing Activator Spray Adjuvants for Permanent Crops

Agricultural spray adjuvants are materials added to the spray tank when loading the sprayer. They include products classified as activator adjuvants and marketed as wetters/spreaders, stickers, humectants, and/or penetrators. Activator adjuvants are marketed to improve the performance of pesticides and foliar fertilizers.

Activator adjuvants can have a place in tree (and vine) crop sprays, but matching the material to the job can be tricky. A bad match can lead to minor or major losses to the grower. Minor losses can result from excess spreading and pesticide runoff from the target plant. Phytotoxicity can cause major damage.

This article describes ingredients and functions of activator adjuvants commonly sprayed on tree and vine crops. Suggestions regarding activator adjuvant selection are offered. Growers must make their own activator adjuvant use decisions based on experience, particular needs, and risk tolerance.

 

Should You Use an Adjuvant?

Read and follow the specific instructions on the label. If the pesticide or foliar fertilizer label indicates the product should be used with certain types or brand of adjuvant(s), that’s what you need to use. For example, the Bravo Weather Stik® label cautions against using certain specific adjuvants and puts the responsibility in the PCA or grower court regarding adjuvant use. If the label includes phrases such as “use of an adjuvant may improve results” or “complete coverage is needed for best results” then you may want to look into selecting and using an appropriate activator adjuvant.

Before proceeding with use of an activator adjuvant, first look at your existing spray program. Are you already doing the best spray job you can? Good spray coverage begins with proper sprayer calibration and set up. Is your sprayer calibration dialed in for different stages of canopy development? Optimum sprayer set up—gallons of spray per acre, ground speed, fan output, and nozzle selection/arrangement—changes from dormant to bloom to early growing season to preharvest sprays. Adjusting your sprayer to best match orchard and vineyard conditions at each general stage in canopy development is the foundation of an effective, efficient spray program. An activator adjuvant will not make up for excessive tractor speed, poor nozzle arrangement and/or worn nozzles. Your money is best spent first dialing in your sprayer(s) for the whole season, before considering an extra material in the tank (that is not required on the label).

If you have your sprayer(s) dialed in for each orchard and stage of growth, now is the time to say “OK, I want to think about a little extra boost to my spray job.”

 

Which Activator Adjuvant to Choose?

First, know the properties of the pesticide you will use. Does it work on the plant surface or inside the plant? This is a key point in selecting adjuvants. Here is a quick review of the main classifications and characteristics of activator adjuvants as they currently appear in the field. Note: Certain products can provide more than one adjuvant property that can be beneficial in the field. For example, non-ionic surfactants can work as surfactants and penetrators, depending on use rate.

Wetters/spreaders: These materials contain surfactants that decrease the contact angle and increase the spreading of the spray droplet on the target. High rates of wetters/spreaders may also increase penetration of pesticide into the target tissue (leaves or fruit), potentially causing phytotoxicity. Excessive spreading of pesticide spray solution and runoff from the target may result when using a new or higher rate of spreader—especially when using silicon “super-spreaders”. Test new combinations of spreader material(s) and spray volume before regular use. Spray volume per acre or adjuvant use rate will probably have to be reduced if a labeled rate of adjuvant provides excessive spreading.

To check for excessive spreading, place a length of black plastic sheeting under several trees or vines in a row. Secure the plastic with spikes, wire staples, and/or weights. Spray the new adjuvant and pesticide combination using your current sprayer set up. Reenter the field right after spraying, wearing appropriate PPE, and evaluate coverage. If material is pooling at the lower portion of leaves and/or fruit, excessive spreading is occurring. Check to see if pooling is occurring only in a certain area(s) of the canopy or throughout the canopy. If more spray solution is landing on the black plastic tarp under the trees/vines than between them, then runoff is occurring. [Some ground deposit should be expected from standard airblast sprayer use.]

Compare the results of your adjuvant test with a similar application of your current pesticide/adjuvant combination on another portion of the row. If there is no pooling or runoff with the new adjuvant in the tank, you can use the adjuvant with confidence. A lack of pooling or run off with the new adjuvant also might mean that your old sprayer setup and tank mix didn’t deliver adequate coverage.

If the test with the new adjuvant showed pooling on leaves and/or runoff on the ground, you have several choices: 1) You can reduce spray volume per acre by replacing some or all nozzles with smaller nozzle sizes on the sprayer in an effort to reduce overspreading. If you saw overspreading on some portions of the canopy, but not others, reduce nozzle size only on the part of the spray boom that targets the over-sprayed part of the canopy. Recheck spray coverage if nozzling changes were made. 2) Reduce the adjuvant rate and recheck coverage/spreading. 3) You can just go back to your established program without the new adjuvant.

What’s the “best” course of action? That depends on your farming operation. Reducing spray volume per acre means more ground covered per full spray tank – a potential time and cost savings. If spraying is done during the heat of the day in hot, dry climate, spray water evaporation is a major issue and it may be best to keep the higher spray volume and reduce the spreader rate or eliminate it entirely. Checking coverage and overspreading allows you to make the best decision possible, avoid damage and, hopefully, save money. All farming operations are different. Make the choice that best fits your farm.

Stickers: These adjuvants can increase the retention time of the pesticide on the leaf and reduce rain wash off. They may limit movement of systemic pesticides into the plant, and are probably most beneficial when used with protectant materials (cover sprays). Do you overhead irrigate? Is there rain on the horizon? If you answer yes to either one of these questions, you may benefit from using a sticker.

Humectants: Under low humidity conditions humectants can help reduce spray droplet evaporation before and after deposition on the plant. This is especially valuable when small droplets and/or materials that must be absorbed into the plant (systemic pesticides, PGRs, nutrients, etc.) are used in the summer under high temperature and low relative humidity conditions.

Penetrators: Frequently used with herbicides, these products include oils (petroleum, vegetable, or modified vegetable oils) and non-ionic surfactants used at higher rates. In crop sprays, penetrators can be used to increase absorption of systemic pesticides (for example, oil with Agri-Mek) as well as translaminar materials. Penetrator adjuvants should be used with caution or avoided entirely with surface active pesticides such as cover sprays or else phyto may result. Finally, some penetrators can increase the rain-fastness of some pesticides.

 

What Adjuvant Material to Choose?

Use a product intended for crop spraying. Many activator adjuvants were developed and intended for use with herbicides. Products that are advertised for use with plant growth regulators should have a higher chance of crop safety compared with those that don’t. This is still no guarantee of a phyto-free application.

Ask for help from the adjuvant manufacturer’s sales rep if needed. How much do they know about the particular activator adjuvant in the spray mix you are planning?

 

Will the Adjuvant Work?

If you choose to use an adjuvant that is not specifically listed on the pesticide or foliar fertilizer label, jar test the planned spray solution first. Use the same spray water source. Include all leaf feeds, other adjuvants, and pesticide(s) that you plan to put in the spray tank. Do this before tank mixing these materials.

A lot of time and money rides on effective pesticide application. Do your homework before the spray tank is filled and you will be well on your way to solid results.

Benefits of Being a Certified Crop Advisor in the Western United States

California and Arizona grow produce that feeds the United States and the world. The diversity and value of the products grown in the West require a high level of technical expertise. The intensity of specialty agriculture must be balanced with concern for the environment to ensure sustainable crop production for generations to come. For these reasons, and more, it has never been a better time to add the Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) credential to the Pest Control Advisor license. The two credentials are complimentary.

The Pest Control Advisor (PCA) program consists of thousands of individuals who are licensed to make recommendations of restricted use pesticides in California and Arizona. The PCA program is a great career choice for individuals who want to make a living in agriculture. PCAs who want to provide the highest level of service to their growers should consider becoming a Certified Crop Advisor. There is nothing more important to a crop advisor than their reputation for making their growers successful. The deep knowledge of soil and water science and crop nutrition required to become a CCA means a grower is working with the most well-rounded crop advisor in the industry.

PCAs must study and display knowledge of integrated pest management (IPM) to receive their license. Integrated pest management emphasizes a holistic approach to controlling insects, weeds and diseases, relying on pesticides only when good farming practices can no longer contain the pest. However, the overall performance objectives for the PCA license are focused on laws and regulations pertaining to pesticides and don’t capture the breadth and complexity of agronomic practices outside of pesticide use. CCAs have the knowledge and experience to put IPM into practice. Growers know that good pesticide recommendations prevent loss of productivity but adding a balanced irrigation and nutrition program can result in gains in yield, quality and return on investment.

 

Keeping Up with Changing Times

CCAs must pass two challenging exams to obtain certification. The international exam tests the applicant’s general knowledge of soil and water science, nutrient management, crop production, and pest management. The state exam is more specific to management of irrigated specialty crops common across California and Arizona. Students in agricultural colleges who are interested in becoming CCAs should speak with their advisors about developing an appropriate curriculum that will help the candidate pass the exams. The West Region CCA Board has a program to subsidize the registration fees for the CCA exams for students. Check the West Region Certified Crop Advisors (WRCCA.org/exams) web site for more information. Candidates must have a Bachelor of Science in an agronomic field of study and two years of experience before they obtain certification. CCAs must stay up to date on current best agronomic practices by obtaining 40 continuing education hours every two years. When you are working with a PCA who also carries a CCA, you are working with the best.

Farming practices are constantly changing to meet new challenges. Over the 20 years, I have worked as an agronomist in California, trees and vines have replaced field crop acres and drip and micro-sprinklers have replaced flood and furrow irrigation. Growers switched from applying heavy doses of nitrogen fertilizer alone to balanced blends with lower total nitrogen applications, and they realized higher yields. Ironically, as growers’ efficiency has improved, so has increased scrutiny of nitrate pollution of ground and surface waters. In order to sustain the rich bounty of California agriculture into the future, documentation was needed to demonstrate that growers’ nitrogen fertilizer management practices were not contributing to ground water pollution.

The California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) added ground water to the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) in 2012. Soon thereafter, farmer coalitions formed within watersheds to begin the process of collecting data on nitrogen management practices. It was apparent that many technically qualified agronomists were needed to accurately complete the nitrogen plans the coalitions would present to the SWRCB. Clearly, CCAs were the most qualified service providers when it came to nutrient management. Nitrogen management plans require soil testing, knowledge of a grower’s fertility plan, yield forecasts and final harvest totals. CCAs have been proven to be one of the most trusted sources of information by growers in surveys across the United States. CCAs were a perfect fit to help build the data required to manage nitrogen on a watershed scale. Thanks to language in the ILRP, the West Region CCA program has grown since 2014 to have the largest number of CCAs.

A CCA understands how to use soil, water and plant tissue analysis to develop a balanced plant nutrition program that meets crop needs (photo by M. Katz.)

But being a CCA has benefits well beyond completing nitrogen management plans. Retail sales companies know that their business depends on strong fertilizer sales. A CCA understands how to use soil, water and plant tissue analysis to develop a balanced plant nutrition program that meets crop needs. Custom nutrient programs benefit the customer as they only spend money on necessary nutrients and maximize return on investment. Ag businesses benefit, in turn, as profitable farmers can pay their bills. Custom nutrition benefits the environment by applying the right fertilizer at the right time, place and rate to reduce waste.

Optimizing Soil, Water and Nutrients

Pesticide recommendations are made within a narrow regulatory framework and don’t allow for much creativity; one must follow the label. Fertilizer programs, on the other hand, can be very satisfying to create as there are many options and challenges to consider. In addition, technical expertise in managing water quality and soil salinity will be critical for the future as marginal lands and water reuse become more important for food production. Watching a healthy crop yield a bountiful harvest while knowing you played a key role is a very satisfying experience. Many of the most successful salespeople carry both the PCA and CCA as they can provide whole farm solutions that improve a grower’s bottom line.

CCAS provide whole farm solutions that improve a grower’s bottom line

Farmers in the western states face many challenges. As their operations increase in size and complexity, they have come to rely on the expertise that a PCA/CCA offers. They can trust that pests are being dealt with and their fertility programs are based on sound agronomic principles that will bring the most profitable production at the end of the season. Farmers also know CCAs are collecting data to help them demonstrate to regulators they are using the most conservative practices possible to prevent ground and surface water pollution. The sustainable future of the West’s farming depends on CCAs.

If you are already a CCA, we thank you for your membership. If you would like to become more involved in the WRCCA, there are regional committees that are looking for new members. Check wrcca.org for more information on regional committees. If you are not a CCA but are interested in the program, refer to both certifiedcropadvisor.org and wrcca.org for information on exams, performance objectives and many other topics related to the program. The Agronomy Society is making it easier to take exams by switching to remote proctoring. There are also many more opportunities to get continuing education hours on-line. Stay tuned for more articles from WRCCA Board members in the months ahead.

Early Season Vineyard Management

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Early season vineyard management is critical for several reasons. First, the grapevine microclimate and fungal disease severity at early season largely affect the yield, e.g., yield loss and fruit unmarketability due to fungal disease, and fruit quality, e.g., Brix and color for red varieties; second, some missteps in early season vineyard practices might hinder the following year’s success if they affect bud fruitfulness; finally, optimal early management might save you money on pest/disease management.

The season starts at budbreak and once buds start to push, the clock begins clicking. Although several vineyard practices during grapevine dormancy might also be important, such as pruning and fungicide application (e.g., lime sulfur), I will focus on post-budbreak vineyard management in this article.

The most important steps during early season vineyard management include:

  1. Irrigation
  2. Nutrition
  3. Pest/disease
  4. Canopy management
  5. Crop management

The objectives of early season vineyard management are simple and straightforward: To sustain yield with desired fruit quality at harvest with low disease/pest pressure. Irrigation, grapevine nutrition, pest/disease pressure, canopy management, and crop level all play in the formula to decide the timing and severity of vineyard practices at the early growing stage.

 

Irrigation

According to retired UCCE Viticulture Specialist Dr. Larry Williams, in a year with normal winter rainfall, a typical San Joaquin Valley (SJV) vineyard might not require irrigation until bloom, which might be approximately late April or early May in the SJV depending on weather, site, variety, and other farming practices. However, the timing of first irrigation can vary dramatically based on the winter and spring precipitation. Too much irrigation or precipitation at an early canopy development stage can promote rapid shoot growth and create a large and dense canopy which increases shading and relative humidity (RH) inside the canopy favoring fungal diseases, such as phomopsis, botrytis, and powdery mildew.

Canopy management such as shoot thinning, leafing and cane trimming can alleviate some negative effects from excessive vigor or dense canopy. However, canopy management alone might not offer the complete solution if the excessive growth resulted from too much precipitation or irrigation. Understanding when and how much to irrigate is beyond the scope of this article. However, some basic tools, such as visual assessment and soil moisture meter, can generally serve the purpose of deciding when to irrigate. Other irrigation scheduling tools, e.g., crop evapotranspiration (ETc), can also offer information on how much to irrigate on a daily or weekly basis. Managing irrigation and adjusting the canopy accordingly can optimize yield and fruit quality, along with the effectiveness of fungicide/pesticide programs, and that will improve your profit and reduce your fungicide/pesticide costs.

 

Nutrition

Managing grapevine nutrition serves two purposes: First, to make sure there are no nutrient deficiencies that could limit yield level or fruit quality; second, to make sure there are no excessive or even detrimental levels of nutrients that could also lead to reduced yield potential and fruit quality, unnecessary expense, and unwanted effects on the environment. Among grape nutrients, N has the most impact on vine vigor and canopy growth. Excessive N either from fertilizer application or irrigation water can promote excessive canopy growth causing shading and high RH inside of the canopy. As a result, excessive shading can impact the fruit-zone microclimate, and create high RH, favoring fungal disease, which will reduce fruit quality/marketability and basal bud fruitfulness for the following year’s crop.

Opening the canopy by shoot thinning, leafing and cane trimming can increase the exposure of basal buds and clusters and improve spray coverage and air circulation. However, like irrigation, canopy management might not be enough to correct the negative impact resulting from excessive N status, if N is left unchecked, an oversupply of N will promote the canopy growth to diminish any benefit from canopy management.

Growers should conduct a visual assessment and consider laboratory results, and rely on historical records, like yield and pest/disease conditions, to adjust the grapevine nutrition program. Among all the measures, bloom petiole or leaf blade tests are recommended to take a snapshot of early vine nutrient status that will give growers enough time to adjust the fertilizer program accordingly. Grapevine bloom petiole critical values are published in Table 1, above. Be cautious with N critical value. The N critical value was solely established on data based on Thompson Seedless with own root. Growers should judge the grapevine N status with additional information, e.g., vine general health, vigor and yield.

 

Canopy Management

As I discussed previously, typical grapevine canopy management includes shoot thinning, shoot positioning, leafing and cane trimming. Based on the trellis type, growers might not need to apply all of them. Most common practices in the SJV are shoot thinning, leafing, and canopy trimming and all of them can be performed mechanically.

Shoot thinning is typically conducted when shoots are 8 to 10 inches; the objectives are to reduce shoot density and improve light exposure inside of the canopy as well as reduce the crop level. In the SJV, few growers adopted this practice due to the potential yield loss. However, shoot thinning can be beneficial when the vines are young with excessive crop or vines that have an excessive number of fruitful buds following mechanical pruning (see Figure 1, above). Shoot thinning regulates the crop load to avoid the negative impact of overcropping on berry ripening and potential carryover effect on the following year’s crop. Many researchers have shown the benefits of shoot thinning and a few have demonstrated the feasibility of mechanical shoot thinning (Geller and Kurtural 2012). However, the benefit of shoot thinning might gradually diminish during the season if the irrigation is unchecked since the canopy could recover and refill the gaps when water is abundant.

Leafing aims to increase light exposure on clusters and basal buds to improve the fruit quality and bud fruitfulness as well as improve spray coverage and lower disease pressure (Figure 2, above). Both timing and severity of leafing are critical to achieve success. Leafing after veraison typically has no or negative effect on fruit quality, especially in the SJV. Leafing around berry set is commonly recommended to improve the color of red grape varieties, and studies show better results from mechanical leafing in comparison to hand leafing. Recently, several studies including a couple in Fresno and Madera, have proven pre-bloom or bloom mechanical leafing might offer the most benefits in comparison to classical berry set leafing. Compared to berry set leafing, bloom leafing offers more or similar fruit quality benefits with less cost by eliminating the need for shoot positioning prior to leafing, since most shoots are vertically positioned at bloom (Figure 3 and 4, below).

In cool climates and less productive vine systems, pre-bloom or bloom leafing might reduce berry set and ultimately decrease yield (Achimovic. et al. 2016). However, in our study and other studies in the SJV (Cook et al. 2015), no effect on berry set and yield has been observed, and the effect on berry set and yield from leafing prior to bloom may largely depend on growing conditions and severity of leaf area reduction from leafing.

Cane trimming is used to open the canopy for light exposure and increase air circulation in order to reduce RH and fungal disease pressure when the canopy is excessive and dense. However, severe canopy trimming might result in significant loss of leaf area that can delay the berry ripening by reducing the photosynthetic productivity (Figure 5, below). Severe canopy trimming might also over-expose the cluster and cause sunburn before harvest. The goal of canopy trimming is to effectively open the canopy without severely reducing functional leaves and over-exposing the fruit.

Figure 5. Canopy trimming too close to the cordon damages the canes and leaves which delays ripening and over-exposes clusters.

In conclusion, canopy management should be integrated with water and nutrient management as part of early season vineyard practices paying attention to pest/disease management, growing conditions (e.g., climate, soil condition, and irrigation water availability and quality) and production goals to achieve the maximum production efficiency with low disease and pest pressure.

 

Reference:

Geller, J. and Kurtural, K. 2012. Mechanical Canopy and Crop-Load Management of Pinot gris in a Warm Climate. American Journal of Enology and Viticuture. 64: 65-73.

Acimovic, D., Tozzini, L., Green, A., Sivilotti, P., and Sabbatini, P. 2016. Identification of a defoliation severity threshold for changing fruitset, bunch morphology and fruit composition in Pinot Noir. Austalian Journal of Grape and Wine Research. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajgw.12235.

Cook, M., Zhang, Y., Nelson, C., Gambetta, G., Kennedy, J., and Kurtural, K. 2015. Anthocyanin Composition of Merlot is Ameliorated by Light Microclimate and Irrigation in Central California. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture. 66: 266-278

Finding Practical Alternatives to Agricultural PPE During the Current Shortage

In March a national emergency was declared for the novel Coronavirus and the Defense Production Act invoked to ensure that ventilators and PPE are distributed to healthcare workers in response to the pandemic.

This act empowers the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to work from the top of the supply chain and directly with manufacturers of PPE, such as 3M and Dupont, to prioritize supplies of N95 respirators, protective clothing, and other PPE for medical staff, ensuring that they receive the supplies necessary to address the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, 10 percent of N-95 respirators from 3M went to healthcare; that number is now 90 percent.

This has led to significant backorders of PPE supplies for distributors. Carl Atwell, president of Gempler’s, explains that normal lead times for PPE before the crisis was up to 10 days. Now, current reports from suppliers shift daily as manufacturers work to address the executive order.

Estimated times for the availability of disposable respirators suggest fall of this year; and the estimated wait for other PPE supplies is August.

Suppliers are working to significantly ramp up production of PPE: The company 3M announced plans to produce 50 million units of respirators in the U.S. by June for domestic distribution, compared to the 13 million manufactured in the U.S. before the crisis.

“There is a tremendous need, but when you put that much supply chain resources behind it, you intuitively believe that we should catch up at some point,” Atwell says. He encourages agricultural producers to find ways to communicate with each other and distribute PPE as one way to mitigate the shortage. Atwell also suggests looking for lesser known brands of PPE: “Don’t just go to your first tier of choice.”

On their company website, disposable protective clothing is available from brands like Keystone rather than the more recognizable TyvekÒ coverall from Dupont, including reusable chemical-resistant clothing as opposed to their disposable counterpart. Supplies in high demand include reusable and disposable nitrile gloves, protective clothing, and disposable respirators, including certain protective eyewear, such as goggles and face shields. Although this could change in the days ahead, half-mask and full-mask respirators are more available than disposable N-95 respirators for now.

Since there are many of us in agriculture that will be applying pesticides soon or in the near future, here are some common questions and answers on how to meet PPE requirements as the shortage continues.

 

Q: I heard that the CDC is loosening regulations on PPE requirements for healthcare workers. Is this the case for agriculture?

 

Answer:

No. The label is the law. PPE requirements on pesticide labels are written by the U.S. EPA, while state PPE regulations are overseen by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation; neither of these agencies have loosened their regulations for PPE.

 

Q: Should I stock up on PPE?

 

Answer:

No. Purchase the PPE that you anticipate needing for the growing season to avoid overstocking and shorting available supplies. Choose reusable PPE whenever possible.

 

Q: What if I can’t find the respirator that is required on the pesticide label?

If the pesticide label requires a particulate respirator, such as an N95, you can wear an elastomeric mask respirator with organic vapor filtering cartridges, but only if N95 particulate pre-filters are added.

Answer:

Option 1: Seek alternative, more protective respirators:

  • Applicators may not know how to decide which is the appropriate respirator to choose if the one the label requires them to wear is not available. For example, if the label requires a particulate respirator, such as an N95, wearing a half mask respirator with organic vapor filtering cartridges will not protect you from particulates. However, wearing an organic vapor filtering cartridge with N95 pre-filters will.
  • With an increase in PPE, the risk for heat illness increases.
  • If an employee or applicator is wearing a different respirator than normal, they will need to repeat their medical evaluation, annual fit test and annual respirator safety training to correspond with the new respirator.

Option 2: Seek alternative pesticide products that do not require a respirator:

  • Currently, there is not one central list of pesticide products that require respirators, so a grower, applicator, or pest control advisor will need to consult all potential pesticide product labels for respirator requirements. Consider visiting agrian.com to review PPE requirements quickly in search results under the “safety” tab of a product.

 

Q: What if I can’t find the right chemical-resistant gloves that are 14 mils thick?

 

Some common chemical resistant materials for gloves are barrier laminate, butyl rubber, nitrile rubber, neoprene rubber, natural rubber, polyethelyene, polyvinylchloride (PVC), and viton rubber.

Answer:

Nitrile gloves are in high demand. Handlers must always wear gloves made of the material listed on the label but consider searching for reusable chemical-resistant gloves made of other materials that still comply with the requirements of the label. Some common chemical resistant materials for gloves are barrier laminate, butyl rubber, nitrile rubber, neoprene rubber, natural rubber, polyethelyene, polyvinylchloride (PVC), and viton rubber. With the exception of barrier laminate and polyethylene, chemical resistant gloves are required to be at least 14 mils thick.

Disposable gloves made out of chemical resistant materials listed on the label less than 14 mils thick can be worn, but for no more than 15 minutes at a time and then disposed of. This may be an option for mixers or handlers who are conducting tasks that require more dexterity. Consider that removing and replacing disposable gloves every 15 minutes is likely a requirement that is not feasible to comply with. Also, thinner gloves cannot be layered on top of one another to add up to 14 mil.

Glove Category Selection Key developed by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to help label readers identify the correct glove material.

15 mil disposable nitrile gloves are manufactured by suppliers such as, Showa and Cordova Safety among others. If available, they can be worn for the duration of the handling task, so long as they remain intact.

Reusable 15 or 22 mil nitrile gloves are compliant with the majority of handling tasks.

 

Q: How do I know when to wear a coverall and which ones will protect me?

 

A storage area with mostly blue cloth coveralls, one chemical resistant coverall, and a laundry basket.

Answer:

Coveralls must be worn if the pesticide label specifies they are required in the PPE section, or if handling a pesticide with a DANGER or WARNING signal word. For applications where contact with spray residue is likely, such as a backpack or air blast application, coveralls should be added. They can be made of any closely woven fabric, most commonly Tyvek or a tightly woven cotton.

Coveralls must be provided by the employer and if a reusable cotton coverall is chosen, the employer is responsible for laundering them.  A chemical resistant suit worn over work clothing is an appropriate substitute for coveralls, but there is an increase in the risk of heat illness when worn because they are made of a heavier material than most coveralls.

A person wearing PPE and making a pesticide application using a backpack sprayer.

 

Q: What if I can’t find a face shield?

 

Face shields protect against splashing during mixing and loading. Goggles and safety glasses that meet all the requirements are an appropriate substitute for other handling tasks.

Answer:

Face shields protect against splashing during mixing and loading and must be worn if specified by the pesticide label. The only substitute for wearing a face shield is using a full-face respirator.

If the label does not specify that eyewear is required, or if it requires “protective eyewear,” you can choose to wear either a face shield, goggles, or safety glasses that provide front, side, and brow protection and meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 standard for impact resistance.

If questions or concerns arise, contact your county agricultural commissioner for more information and assistance during this time.

Carl Atwell from Gempler’s is willing to be a personal resource at this time for those wanting to discuss supplies of PPE and with other related questions. He can be reached at: carl@gemplers.com.

Alec Garcia from Woodland Farm Supply in California is available to help with requests for supplies of N95s or other masks that comply with regulations that come available. You can reach out to her directly and she can provide you with updated information regarding restocking at agarcia@growwest.com.

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