Transplant production continues for late-planted crops. The three panels below include observations on seedling root and shoot growth and a bottom-watering irrigation system.
Now that the calendar has turned to April and warmer temperatures are becoming more frequent, those with horticultural interests are eager for the start of the growing season. But April can be a fickle month, with both warm spring rains and lingering cold nights that bring hard freezes and frost and occasionally, even a late-season snowfall. The threat of spring cold temperatures on horticultural production and operations (seeding, transplanting and flowering/fruit) can be greater following early season warmth, where phenological conditions may be advanced for this time of year.
Winter (December 2019 – February 2020) averaged 2-8°F above average compared to the climatological normal (1981-2010; Fig. 1). This warmth continued throughout March as well, with temperatures 4-8°F (west to east) above average. As a result, growing degree day accumulations range from the mid-60s (Ashtabula County) to nearly 200 (Lawrence County) after the first week of April 2020, with our landscapes, fruit trees, and gardening equipment coming to life.
Frost and Freeze Potential
What is Ohio’s typical expectations regarding freeze (≤32°F) conditions in April and May? On average, locations throughout Ohio experience their last seasonal freeze from mid-April (southern Ohio) through mid-May (northeastern Ohio). Timing varies year to year and across Ohio. For a regional analysis, we have selected 8 locations from around Ohio to compare typical last seasonal freeze conditions (Fig. 2).
Figure 3 shows the probability of experiencing a later freeze in Spring than indicating by the line graphs. All locations show probability based on the most recent 30-year period (1990-2019) except for 7-Lancaster (1996-2019). For each location, five temperatures are displayed (20°F-purple, 24°F-blue, 28°F-green, 32°F-yellow, and 36°F-red). For the purposes of this article we will focus on 32°F and 28°F (considered a hard/killing freeze). The bottom (x-axis) shows the probability that each of these temperatures will occur after a given date (indicated by the left or y-axis).
Let’s run through an example of how to use Figure 3. For 1-Wauseon, we see that there is a 50% climatological probability of experiencing a 32°F temperature (yellow) after April 27, and this probability decreases to 20% by May 10. The colder, more damaging temperature of 28°F occurs 50% of the time after April 16, with only a 20% chance of seeing 28°F after April 27. For a southern location like 8-Marietta, these dates occur earlier in the season. Here, there is a 50% climatological probability of experiencing a 32°F temperature after April 18 with 28°F occurring 50% of the time after April 2.
Besides latitudinal (north of south) position, what other factors can influence springtime minimum temperatures? Colder air is more dense than warmer air, meaning it wants to remain close to the ground and will flow over the terrain like a fluid to settle in areas of lower elevation. If your location is in a valley or low-lying area, the climatological dates will likely be shifted later to account for more freeze potential later in the spring. Water bodies are typically colder than the surrounding land areas in spring which may keep temperatures in the immediate vicinity a little colder. For 2020, water and soil temperatures are above average, so they are likely to have a moderating impact this year. Cloud cover and higher humidity in the spring will keep air temperatures warmer due to their absorption of terrestrial (from the surface) radiational effects. Finally, late season snowfall combined with clearing skies overnight can also cause the surface to cool rapidly and lead to damaging freeze potential as well. All of these factors should be considered when comparing your location to those selected in Fig. 3.
April 2020 Outlook
At the time of this writing, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/) outlook for April 10-20, 2020 calls for increased probability of seeing below average (unseasonably cold air) settling into the Upper Great Plain, Midwest, and Ohio Valley (Fig. 4) with a moderate risk of experiencing much below average minimum (nighttime) temperatures. Given the warm start to the year and current phenological conditions, those with horticultural assets should monitor this freeze potential closely and be prepared to mitigate when necessary to avoid losses. For a weekly climate update, please visit the State Climate Office of Ohio’s website (https://climate.osu.edu).
Aaron Wilson is a research specialist with the Byrd Polar & Climate Research Center and a climate specialist with the Department of Extension. You can also follow Aaron on social media: @dwweather-Facebook or @drwilsonsWx-Twitter.
In 2019, research was conducted into the use of mustard cover crops as a biofumigant to reduce a specific soil borne disease in pumpkins, Plectosporium blight, also known as white speck or Microdochium. The signs of this disease start out as spindle shaped lesions on the petioles, vines and back of leaf veins potentially killing the plant. If the disease progress, it can infect the handles and turn immature and mature fruit white.
Although our trial in 2019 was planted in a Plectosporium infested field, very little disease developed due to the near drought like conditions at the research station in South Charleston. In wetter locations around Ohio this disease was seen last year and we still think there is potential for this cultural technique to reduce disease in pumpkin and squash fields. To accomplish this on a wider scale in 2020, we plan to replicate and expand our mustard cover crop (MCC) biofumigation study to include on-farm trials with growers.
We are looking to recruit 4-6 growers preferably in the central or southern part of the state to put out a mustard cover crop biofumigation trial to reduce soil borne disease pressure with the following guidelines and conditions.
Growers requirements and general protocol:
-Growers must plant in field known to have a Plectosporium blight infestation. Growers with fields infested with Fusarium or Phytophthora will also be considered.
-Growers need to have equipment to seed the cover crop, chop (bush hog or flail), incorporate (rototill), pack the soil (culti-mulcher) and possibly seal the soil using a sprayer or irrigation system. These steps will be done in rapid succession so 3-4 tractors are ideally needed, each hooked to an implement.
-Growers will put out 4 strips of MCC and 4 strips without a MCC.
-Strip sizes will be up to 0.1A for a maximum of 0.8A needed for the entire on-farm study.
-Growers will plant Caliente Rojo, currently the highest yielding glucosinolate mustard cover crop available.
OSU will provide:
-The MCC seed, the fertilizer (urea + granular ammonium sulfate) and 1K seeds of the pumpkin hybrid Solid Gold (Rupp).
-Also evaluate each grower site for disease incidence on foliage three times during the season, plus a harvest where mature fruit are weighed and graded for disease.
-The MCC strip plots fertilizer will be disked into the soil prior to seeding to ensure high biomass production.
-The MCC planting date will be between March 30 and April 30 based on soil conditions and weather forecasts.
-Approximately 50-60 days later, the MCC will be at peak flowering and will be chopped, rototill incorporated into the soil and then packed using culti-mulcher. If irrigation is available, water will be applied to help seal the soil and create a better environment for biofumigation.
-Within 10-14 days of incorporation, Solid Gold pumpkins will be transplanted into those strips at roughly 4ft spacing between plants. Note that transplants are preferred at each site instead of direct seeding, but if this is not possible, we can discuss options. Transplants will lead to an earlier harvest.
Each farm will follow their own standard weed, insect and disease control and fertility practices on the 8 strips. The fungicides used on the crop will need to be discussed ahead of time so we can limit the use of fungicides that might help control Plectosporium blight. These fungicides are Flint, Cabrio, Quadris, Inspire Super and Merivon.
Disease ratings of incidence on vines, foliage and fruit will be taken at 14-21 day intervals from vining until fruit maturity. Sections of all strips will be harvested and fruit will be weighed and graded for disease.
The Big Picture:
By expanding the number of sites for this research through on-farm trials, we expect to see the potential MCC may have to reduce the soil borne disease complex affecting cucurbits. By recruiting growers into this process at a small scale, we hope to gain their valuable feedback as to the feasibility and challenges of using MCC on their farm. If successful, growers will spread the news to other growers who might be willing to try MCC on their farm. In addition to the potential biofumigation benefit, growers will be enhancing their soil organic matter levels and provide premium although brief pollinator habitat during flowering.
If growers want to see a video detailing the steps and processes involved with planting MCC as a biofumigant, check out the work we did in 2019 at https://youtu.be/Taz-PhDphhA.
If interested in participating in this project or have questions, please contact me at 937-484-1526 or email@example.com by March 14.
This project is being funded by the Ohio Vegetable and Small Fruit Research and Development Program and the IPM Program.
If you are a vegetable grower in Ohio, the Midwest Vegetable Production Guide, is an essential resource to keep on top of the latest fertility, horticultural management, and pesticide recommendations for your operation. Each year the guide is edited and updated by specialist’s in eight states to bring you the most current information possible at the time of printing.
What’s new to the guide in 2020? Within the 262 spiral bound pages there is an updated Organic Production section plus updated sections on disease, weed and insect management on 45+ vegetable crops, from Asian vegetables to Zucchini.
The MVPG is also more mobile friendly now with an improved interface designed to get your crop production question addressed quickly. Enter your crop and pest information and receive cultural and pesticide recommendations matching your request. Try it out on your computer, tablet or smart phone at https://mwveguide.org. The site will default to the new interactive mobile friendly interface but if you want to access individual pdf chapters of the guide, click on the drop down and select “Production Guide.”
To get a traditional hard copy of the guide, contact your local Extension office and they can order a copy from main campus. Cost will be around $15.
MVPG cover for 2020.
If you want to order a guide online through the new Extension publications website, here is the link https://extensionpubs.osu.edu/2020-midwest-vegetable-production-guide-for-commercial-growers/. If you order the guide online and have it mailed to your house, it will cost $21.25 plus shipping.
Be sure to purchase your guide soon, there are only 90 copies left in inventory at OSU! Best of luck for a productive season!
“Specialty” — as it applies to vegetable varieties – usually refers to ones differing in at least one noticeable way from the mainstream version of the crop preferred or expected by most buyers. That difference can be in size, shape, color, flavor, texture, and/or other characteristics. Oftentimes, specialty varieties are initially grown specifically to attract or meet the stated interest of buyers looking for “something different from what they can get everywhere else” and willing to pay higher prices for it. In a small number of cases, markets for specialty varieties increase to the point that the specialty designation or perception falls away, i.e., the variety is so widely grown that it resets what is considered normal or mainstream, but that process can require years to complete. The opposite can occur, too, as markets for individual specialty varieties can remain small and fade quickly. In any case, when grown and marketed well to a sufficiently large number of buyers, even if local, specialty variety production can be profitable. Well documented cases of specialty vegetable and variety production being significant for many growers on both coasts and within easy reach of urban areas in states between them fill the extension, research, and industry literature. Some growers are, more or less, always searching for the next unusual variety that will help set their farm apart.
A variety just being different is not enough to attract and maintain the interest of most buyers. The difference must be meaningful. In the well-chronicled case of ‘Honeynut’ squash (e.g., see https://www.bonappetit.com/story/honeynut-squash-history), the most meaningful difference may be size since ‘Honeynut’ is positioned as a mini-butternut. Its small size makes ‘Honeynut’ more versatile and appealing to buyers looking for the culinary/dietary benefits of butternut fruit but in a smaller package.
We included ‘Honeynut’ squash in two experiments in 2019, planting it in the same rows as ‘Metro PMR’. ‘Honeynut’ was used as the “spacer” between plots of ‘Metro PMR’, the actual focus of the experiments, both of which were managed organically. However, observing ‘Honeynut’ during the season and completing informal eating quality assessments, its appeal is clear. ‘Honeynut’ serves as a reminder of the benefit of considering alternative varieties, especially as the period for selecting varieties and ordering seed for 2020 gets underway.
From a buyer’s point of view, many characteristics contribute to pepper fruit quality. Quickly and at all points along the chain from farm to plate, quality is assessed based on a lengthy list of fruit characteristics (e.g., size, shape, color, weight, wall thickness, taste, texture) and using one or more of the senses and/or various instruments and technologies. Although most consumers expect high-quality versions of individual types of peppers (e.g., bell, habanero) to have specific sets of characteristics, others look for “new” or “different” versions of familiar crops and are often willing to pay more for them. With that and other important production-related considerations in mind, research at The OSU-OARDC is evaluating the effects of physically hybridizing different types of pepper plants – i.e., using bell, habanero, and other types of pepper as rootstock and scion during grafting. Varieties of different types of pepper are known for their vigor, maturity, disease and abiotic stress tolerance, and fruit size, shape, color, texture, taste (including “hotness”), etc. As with all other vegetable crops that are routinely grafted (tomato, eggplant, watermelon, cucumber, cantaloupe), plants and fruit resulting from combinations of pepper varieties made through grafting are being tested to determine if they provide growers with advantages so far unavailable from standard variety development. Grafted plants within this group were prepared months ago and include bell and “hot” varieties as rootstock or scion. When healed, the grafted plants and their ungrafted comparison plants were placed in containers in an outside growing area and managed using standard approaches. On Sept. 21, the plants were moved into a greenhouse so that fruit development could proceed more reliably, given the date. Going forward, fruit they produce will be examined in the laboratory, including for their level of capsaicin and relative “hotness”, in a process led by Dr. Joe Scheerens. Grafted and ungrafted versions of tomato and watermelon plants and fruit they have produced are being studied in four other large-scale field experiments also now moving into their laboratory and data analysis stage. Reports from these and other experiments will be issued throughout the fall-winter but Matt Kleinhenz can be reached for more information in the meantime.
Do you have a bird problem on your farm? Do you want to encourage beneficial birds as an IPM tool? If so, consider attending this free webinar. Registration information below:
Webinar: Supporting Beneficial Birds and Managing Pest Birds
Supporting Beneficial Birds and Managing Pest Birds
Webinar: Tuesday, October 1 at 11AM Pacific, 12PM Mountain, 1PM Central, 2PM Eastern Time
Register in advance at https://oregonstate.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Yey2HdAZQ8S3CSKUuR8FIg
Join eOrganic for the first webinar of our fall season! The topic is Supporting Beneficial Birds and Managing Pest Birds, by Jo Ann Baumgartner of the Wild Farm Alliance, Sara Kross of Columbia University, and Sacha Heath of the Living Earth Collaborative.
Beneficial birds can help farmers keep pest insects, rodents, and pest birds at bay. They act the same way that beneficial insects do in helping with pest control. The overwhelming majority of songbirds are beneficial during nesting season because they feed pest insects to their voracious nestlings. Farmers may be able to reduce their pest-control costs by providing habitat for these beneficial birds and by only targeting detrimental birds at the right time and place. Wild Farm Alliance and two avian ecologists will present on: a) How birds’ diets, foraging strategies, and nesting periods affect the farm, b) How best to manage and co-exist with pest birds, c) Why on-farm habitat and the surrounding landscape influences pest control, and, d) What farmers can do to make farms more bird-friendly and resilient. With this webinar and the associated Supporting Beneficial Birds and Managing Pest Birds booklet, we aim to help all farmers and farm consultants make the most of birds on farms.
Experiments planned in Fall-Winter 2018-2019 and initiated this spring at the OARDC in Wooster, OH are now yielding crop-based data. Additional experiments initiated this past week or to be initiated within several weeks will provide additional numbers of potential value to growers. Overall, these experiments are supported by: (a) the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (https://nifa.usda.gov/program/specialty-crop-research-initiative-scri), (b) the USDA-NIFA Organic Transitions Program (https://nifa.usda.gov/program/organic-agriculture-program), (c) the USDA-NIFA Potato Breeding Research support program (https://nifa.usda.gov/funding-opportunity/potato-breeding-research), (d) North-central SARE (https://www.northcentralsare.org/), and (e) companies. Along with our collaborators, through these experiments, we look to provide growers and other members of the industry with information they can use beginning immediately, especially when making decisions involving the use of grafted plants, microbe-containing crop biostimulants, reduced-tillage approaches, high tunnels, and/or new potato varieties. Ideally, this information will increase the yield of money on Ohio farms.
Two ongoing experiments will help identify the optimal growing practices when grafted watermelon plants are used. Grafted watermelon plants are showing high potential in- and outside Ohio. However, their wider use has been slowed by their higher cost and the fact that yields from them are not always higher than from standard ungrafted plants. Importantly, an increasing amount of evidence provided by researchers and farmers suggests that growing practices may have to be altered in order to get the best return on investment from grafted watermelon plants. Studies and farmer experience point to changes in plant density, and/or nutrient and/or irrigation management as possibly beneficial. This is reasonable given characteristics of some watermelon rootstocks. So, since 2018, like others, we have been asking if yield can be maintained or increased even as grafted plant density or fertilizer inputs are modified. These two experiments total twelve variety-fertility program and eight variety-plant density treatments. On 8/21/19, the VPSL and OARDC Farm Crew harvested 849 “Jade Star” watermelon fruit from the forty plots spanning roughly 0.7 acre (including pollenizer plants). The 849 fruit totaled 6.2 tons (11 over-filled pallet boxes) and averaged 255 lbs/plot (nine plants). “Fascination” fruit will be taken from the same experiments the week of 8/26, fruit quality will be evaluated in the lab, and the harvest-evaluation process will be repeated for the same experiments to capture total crop yield potential. At the same time, we will continue to focus on: (a) tomato experiments testing grafting, strip-tillage, and/or microbial inoculant effects on fruit yield and quality; (b) butternut squash, carrot (fall high tunnel), and spinach (fall high tunnel) experiments testing microbial inoculant effects on yield and quality; and (c) potato experiments completed in cooperation with breeders at USDA, the University of Maine, Cornell University, and North Carolina State University.
Pounds upon pounds upon pounds of potato chips are consumed each day. Few give the hard work on the farm or science and teamwork required to bring good chips to market one thought. Here, though, is a brief summary of recent activity in Ohio and elsewhere designed to help growers and processors and all others who rely directly and indirectly on local-regional “chip business.”
The Big Picture. USDA (e.g., https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Todays_Reports/reports/pots0918.pdf) and other information makes clear that potato production and processing remain important, enormously valuable industries throughout the U.S., Great Lakes, and, still, Ohio. Nearby on the ground evidence includes Lennard Agriculture (https://www.lennardag.com/) and impressive investments it and its cooperators have made in infrastructure (e.g., center pivot irrigation systems), expertise, research, and other assets in a four-county area of the Scioto River Valley, among other locations. Early, summertime harvests of large, high-quality crops suitable for use in chip-making are important to them. This activity maintains the strong tradition of supplying local-regional chipmakers … page 20 of the USDA report mentioned earlier shows that the U.S. contains approximately 89 chip-making plants with 15 (16% of the total) located within Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia. Thankfully in this case, it appears that little has changed since 2008 (https://www.potatopro.com/news/2008/ohio-boasts-second-most-potato-chip-manufacturers-us) and before.
Potatoes used to make chips must meet strict specifications. Tuber shape, size, specific gravity, sugar/starch content, flesh color, natural or man-made damage, and other characteristics influence the chip-maker’s desire for the crop. Since these traits hinge on each combination of potato variety, crop management, and growing conditions, the pressure is on growers to optimize each combination. Improved varieties better able to thrive in various conditions are always needed. With important exceptions, potato varieties used in chip-making in the U.S are bred by teams at USDA and a small number of universities, including Michigan State Univ. (http://potatobg.css.msu.edu/). In 2019, led by Chris Long of MSUE (https://www.canr.msu.edu/people/christopher_long), plots of a total of fifteen experimental selections from MSU, USDA, Cornell Univ., and North Carolina State Univ. were planted alongside ones of “check” varieties in fields in Ohio coordinated by Lennard Agriculture. During Aug 13-16, the OSUE team including Chris Bruynis and Ross Meeker (https://ross.osu.edu/about/staff), Brad Bergefurd (https://scioto.osu.edu/about/staff), Mike Estadt (https://pickaway.osu.edu/about/staff), Will Hamman (https://pike.osu.edu/about/staff), and the VPSL (http://u.osu.edu/vegprolab/) harvested the plots and collected key data on the tubers. The VPSL has a long history of cooperating with potato breeders and others in developing improved varieties (e.g., see reports at http://u.osu.edu/vegprolab/technical-reports/).
Yield was measured first and it ranged from 1.3 to 2.6 pounds per foot of row across all selections and varieties (these values equate to 226 and 452 hundred-weight/acre, resp.). Tuber specific gravity (S.G.) using the weight in air, weight in water method and a hygrometer was measured next (see URL above). This method involves placing exactly eight pounds of tubers (air, at left) into a basket attached to an air-filled bulb and calibrated meter. The basket-bulb-meter unit is then placed in water (middle and right). It will sink to a depth roughly consistent with the tubers’ combined moisture and dry matter (especially sugar/starch) levels. Tubers high in S.G. are needed in chip-making; S.G. is influenced by variety, management (especially nutrient and irrigation), and other environmental factors. The S.G. of experimental selections … lines still being tested and not yet named … is always benchmarked against the specific gravity of well-known standard varieties.
Next, tubers were peeled and placed in cold water until chipped. Tuber flesh that has been damaged and exposed to air typically begins to oxidize and brown. Submersion in cold water slows the process. Commercial chip-makers and other potato processors remove potato skin using various methods often involving pressure and/or steam.
In commercial chip-making, peeled tubers are then sliced to product-specific thicknesses. Chip enthusiasts know that products vary in chip thickness, a variable that has multiple significant implications for the chip-maker and for research teams working on their behalf. Slice thickness influences fry time, oil-absorption, chip texture, and many other variables which influence the suitability of a variety for the specific product. As in our other potato research, here, we produced slices measuring 0.051 inches thick using a DeBuyer Kobra mandolin slicer.
Slices were then fried for 3.5 minutes using oil provided by a local chip-maker (Shearer’s Foods, Inc.) and a standard tabletop fryer (left). The target oil temperature was 350 deg F and the actual oil temperature was monitored throughout and allowed to reach the target between batches. Finally, the color of completed batches was scored against the industry-wide standard Color Chart developed by the Snack Food Association of America (sfa.org; below right). A rating of 1 (upper left of chart) is desired by most chip-makers. Many batches completed on 8/16/19 using tubers harvested in the Scioto River Valley area scored 1-3, a very promising result. Remaining tubers have been placed in cold storage and will be chipped again later, as one assessment of the rate at which each genotype converts starch to sugar when exposed to storage-like temperatures.
Land. Equipment. Good varieties and growing methods. Proper inputs. And, crop-friendly weather. These are just some of the resources needed for success on the farm. However, a great team is also essential … just as in research, extension, and other activities. In 2019, for the VPSL, like for other teams, data collection is ongoing. The potato evaluation outlined here will be followed by work with tomato, squash, watermelon, carrot, and other crops, with plots in fields and high tunnels and at OARDC and on commercial farms.
On July 5th I posted an article acknowledging the difficult spring and early summer planting conditions most Ohio growers faced, and asked to let us (OSU specialists and Extension educators) know what kind of issues you were experiencing. Once these issues were identified, I began researching possible solutions in order to help growers salvage as much of the season and market as possible. Attached at the end of the article is a PDF with my responses to your questions.
I wanted to thank the 36 growers farming just over 500 acres who took time to respond to the survey. In general, most growers were delayed 2-4 weeks but had a crop in the ground now. The biggest concern besides the ability the control the weather, was that OSU specialists continue to post current information about crop management, pest management, and markets. Several articles along those lines have recently been posted to the VegNet Newletter and we will continue to do so, but if there is a specific topic that has not been addressed, please reach out and contact that specialist directly. Below is a list of OSU specialists and Extension educators with their contact information.
Best of luck to you for better weather this summer and a fair harvest this fall.
Specialist Area Contact
Doug Doohan Weeds firstname.lastname@example.org
Celeste Welty Insects email@example.com
Sally Miller Diseases firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Jasinski IPM/Insects email@example.com
Brad Bergefurd Horticulture firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Kleinhenz Horticulture email@example.com
Steve Culman Fertility firstname.lastname@example.org
In case you are not aware, we are having a Pumpkin Field Day on Aug. 22 at the Western Ag Research Station. Read more about it here https://u.osu.edu/vegnetnews/2019/07/25/pumpkin-field-day/