With daytime high temperatures becoming cooler, we are starting to see more and more activity from the squash bugs. If you are actively harvesting your fall vine crops, the squash bugs may not be of concern to you. However, if you are not yet harvesting or choosing to leave your fall vine crops out in the field, the squash bugs can and will do damage to the skin of the pumpkins and gourds. The best time to scout your fields to look for squash bugs is early in the morning or into the evening when they are not in direct sunlight. More on squash bug management.
Cucumber beetles have made a late season come back, much to the dismay of many fall vine crop growers. The cucumber beetles, this late in the season, tend to do very little damage to the foliage of the plants. What they do go for is the fruit instead. Beetles will damage the skins of pumpkins and gourds. This leaves the pumpkins and gourds as less desirable crops and also opens them up to infection and secondary insect pests that would otherwise not affect the fruit.
Stink bugs are out and doing damage to crops such as tomatoes. The stink bugs activity and feeding starts to increase most noticeably from late July through August and they remain active through the end of the growing season. Their damage on green tomatoes may appear as small, whiteish areas. On ripe tomatoes, the damage shows up as a golden yellow “starburst” pattern. While this damage is typically only cosmetic, higher amounts of feeding can result in infection and result in the fruit being unmarketable.
Plectosporium blight on pumpkin can cause significant crop losses. The disease typically presents itself as diamond shaped lesions on the stems and can also affect the veins on the leaves, although it can infect all parts of the plant. The lesions start out small but can quickly cover the entire stem. This disease has started to show up within the last few weeks in Ohio due to the favorable conditions of rain, and cooler temperatures.
A common thing to see in pumpkin fields as plants are maturing is yellowing leaves and the leaves starting to die back. Although there may be diseases such as powdery mildew present in the field, this rapid deterioration is not likely solely the result of the disease pressure and rather the natural senescence of the plant. As the plant matures and the pumpkins and gourds begin to cure, the plant has essentially reached the end of its life cycle. The leaves begin to change from dark green to a pale green/yellowish color and will eventually begin to die back. So long as this is happening at the end of the season and the pumpkins and gourds are mature, there should be no concern.
Spotted wing drosophila have been active in small fruits for some time, but with peaches now being harvested, the SWD can and will target the peaches as well. I have found peaches that have SWD larva feeding just under the skin. SWD can also do damage to grapes. I have started to find berries in grape clusters that were soft or looked poorly. Just under the skin of these grapes I found SWD larva feeding and moving around. Many grapes are ripening and getting close to harvest so anyone with grapes should consider treating for SWD.
Stink bugs can also do a lot of damage to fruit crops this time of year. I have set out traps and they are already showing very active stink bug populations. I am also finding damage from stink bugs in orchard crops. Most of the damage I am finding has been occurring in apples. This damage appears as a discolored depression in the skin with corking of the flesh all the way up to the skin. This damage can occur anywhere on the apple, although it can be frequently found on the “shoulder” of the fruit.
Overall, disease pressure has been fairly limited this year. Hot and dry conditions have prevented favorable conditions needed for disease development. As fruit continues to ripen and be harvested, we continue to move forward through the growing season without many disease issues in our area. If you are doing any final treatments for fruit diseases, pay close attention to the PHI on the product label. The pre-harvest interval determines how long after you applied that product that you may harvest the crop. This is especially important to pay attention to as many varieties of orchard crops as well as grapes are maturing and nearing harvest.
After this recent round of heavy rain and subsequent heat and high humidity, apple growers should be aware that some apples may crack or split while still on the tree. We are fortunate that we were beginning to have some more frequent rains that were starting to alleviate drought conditions, and this prevented rapid uptake from the trees. Typically, when a heavy rain occurs after prolonged dry spells or during drought conditions, there is large amounts of moisture taken up through the roots as well as absorbed through the skin of the fruit. This results in rapid cell expansion and thus cracking, and splitting occurs.