Wayne County IPM Notes From the Week of June 14-18

Vegetable Crops

            This growing season, so far, has been all about the bugs. We have not had a huge amount of disease pressure

Squash bug eggs on summer squash.

on the vegetable crops in our area. We have, however, continued to find more insects impacting local crops.

Newly spotted insect pests this week included Japanese Beetles, thrips, and squash bugs. The Japanese Beetles were found in silking sweet corn, the thrips are being found in onions and the squash bugs are being found laying eggs in summer squash plantings.

 

Japanese Beetle found in a sweet corn stand.

In green beans we are still seeing a light population of potato leaf hoppers and a few bean leaf beetles feeding here and there. Cucurbits still have some cucumber beetles feeding, as well as some aphids. Aphids are not picky about which crops they are in, as we continue to find them in a variety of crops, including peppers and tomatoes. Both eggplant and potatoes are dealing with flea beetle and Colorado potato beetle. The Colorado potato beetle larva are becoming very prolific in some areas and causing significant defoliation. Cole crops, while also dealing with pressure from flea beetle, are now seeing an increase in activity from the imported cabbage worm caterpillar.

Small Fruit and Orchards

Aphids and mites are being found in fruit trees, primarily apple trees. This week, we began to find European red mites, green apple aphids and wooly apple aphids. Trap counts for CM in apples and OFM in peaches were all below threshold, with many traps reporting zeros.

The biggest update in our pest outlook in small fruit was not an insect, instead it involved birds. There was bird damage being found in strawberries, as well as in blueberry areas where the berries are starting to color. Some growers are using netting to exclude the birds from blueberry plantings. This is a lot of work but saves a lot of berries from being damaged.

Recognize and Mitigate Crop Heat Stress

Recent conditions in some areas (soaked soil, fog- and dew-filled mornings, high daytime humidity) can give a different impression about the season so far than weather data at https://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/weather1/ and various forecasts. Temperature, rainfall, and other data are collected around the clock at OSU vegetable (and other) research sites in Fremont, Celeryville, Wooster, and Piketon and have been for decades. So far in 2021, these four locations have accumulated less precipitation and more growing degree days (GDD) than their historical averages. Also, climate and weather authorities reported on June 11 that the Upper Midwest, including Ohio, is set to experience hot, droughty conditions. Most agree that a dry year is less problematic than a wet one — provided irrigation is possible. However, it can be difficult for vegetable growers to escape the unwanted effects of excessively high temperatures. A way to separate potentially minor, moderate, and severe heat stress, example effects of moderate-severe heat stress, and main strategies for mitigating heat stress during production are summarized below.

Five Major Factors Influencing Whether Heat Stress is Minor, Moderate, or Severe

  1. Crop and variety (sensitivity 1). All crops and varieties have a range of temperature in which they perform best. A crop’s genetic past (i.e., heritage/Center of Origin) and level of improvement through breeding matter. Individual crops and varieties are thought or proven to be relatively heat tolerant or intolerant.
  2. Timing (sensitivity 2). When high temperatures occur in the crop cycle is key. Crop plants can tolerate high temperatures more reliably at some stages than others. Even relatively tolerant varieties can be impacted by temporary spikes in temperature at the “wrong” time.
  3. Intensity. The extent to which actual temperatures exceed the crop’s and variety’s optimal range is important … 5 degrees? 15 degrees?
  4. Duration. The length of time the temperature was consistently above optimal. Short periods of intense stress can be problematic although the effects of prolonged moderate stress typically accumulate.
  5. Mitigation: were steps taken to lessen the stress?

Combinations of these five factors represent common scenarios. For example, for vegetables for which pollination is required, excessively high temperatures lasting only hours can disrupt pollination or trigger flower or fruit drop or interruptions in normal developmental patterns. The result can be loss of a “set” (dip in production) and/or malformed or misshapen units to be harvested (e.g., pods, fruits, roots, stems, leaves, tubers). Longer periods of above-optimal temperatures can speed (e.g., bolting) or delay (e.g., prolonged vegetative state) maturity depending on the crop and when they occur in the crop cycle. Heat stress is also implicated as a contributing factor in fruit ripening and physiological disorders (e.g., blossom-end rot). Above-optimal temperatures can also trigger changes in the chemical composition of plant tissues, possibly affecting the color and/or taste of marketable units. Similarly, prevailing temperatures can influence a crop’s tolerance to typical inputs and protectants.

Irrigation and shading are among the most common strategies for mitigating the effects of excessively high temperatures in field and high tunnel vegetable production. Irrigation is essential for the obvious reason that evapotranspiration is the crop’s primary means of cooling itself. A warm period or season calls for the best irrigation (scheduling) practices, not just pouring water on because, as we know, excessive irrigation (soil moisture) disrupts water uptake, compounding the heat stress problem. Circumstances allow some growers to shade the crop (e.g., in high tunnels) as they attempt to reduce the temperature around it.

At this time, 2021 has not earned the label as a “hot or heat stress” year. Let’s hope that remains true even as we remain aware of factors contributing to heat stress and ways of addressing it. In addition to proper irrigation, shading (if possible), and careful application of inputs and protectants, consider tracking variety performance closely to aid in variety selection going forward.

Wayne County IPM Program Scouting Notes From the Week of June 1- June 4

Vegetable Crops

Cucumber beetle feeding on the foliage of a summer squash plant.

Insects continue to be the main headline in the vegetable crops in our area. Of greatest concern is the cucumber beetle. The populations continue to increase in number and the efficacy of seed treatments or in-furrow applied insecticide starts to decline 4-6 weeks after the seed germinates or after the insecticide is applied. This means that more of the beetles are feeding without being affected by the insecticide. Be sure to scout cucurbit crops frequently and carefully to get accurate counts of the beetles. The thresholds for cucumber beetles are as follows: Cotyledon stage – .5 beetles per plant, 2-4 leaf stage – 1 beetle per plant, greater than 4 leaves – 3 beetles per plant. Limiting the amount of feeding that cucumber beetles do will also limit the amount of bacterial wilt occurring in these plantings. Do be cognizant of the plants that are in bloom and limit your spraying to a time when it will be least impactful on the pollinators.

 

Colorado potato beetle larva feeding on a potato plant. Tommy Becker photo.

Other insects that were spotted this week include Colorado Potato Beetle larvae and imported cabbage worms. Both of these pests can cause significant damage in their respective crops when left unchecked. Flea beetles also continue to feed on plantings of cole crops, preferring young transplants versus older, more established plantings, although both should be inspected for beetles.

Sweet corn plantings are growing quickly and some plantings that were done into plastic mulch and covered this spring already have a few tassels poking out. Overall, there has been no major concerns in the sweet corn plantings so far, however, do your best to keep up on weed control. Weeds such as bindweed, thistle, and ragweed can not only compete for resources, but can also make harvest difficult and may serve as refuge locations for insect pests to retreat to.

Small Fruit and Orchards

We are beginning to enter a critical period for managing diseases in grapes. This period, which extends from immediate pre-bloom through four to five weeks post bloom, is a critical time to control fruit infections by the pathogens which cause black rot, powdery mildew, and downy mildew. According to the 2021-2022 Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide, the fruit of the most commonly planted varieties becomes resistant to infection by these diseases by four to five weeks after bloom.

In strawberry plantings we are seeing a lot of green fruit and in some locations, harvest is beginning to ramp up. Overall, there have been very few concerns in the

Blueberries starting to enter the “fruit coloring” stage.

strawberries to this point, with just a few slugs here and there and a spotting of powdery mildew on a few plants. Powdery mildew is managed by spraying either pre-bloom or during the early bloom through bloom stage.

Other small fruit like blueberries and brambles look to have a heavy fruit set this year. Blueberries are beginning to get some color to them, and the blackberry and raspberries are either in bloom or in fruit development.

In apple and peach orchards, the fruit are noticeably starting to increase in size. We are finding some aphids in apple trees, feeding on the leaves and new shoots. In peaches, we did find a few instances of powdery mildew affecting the fruit. Trap counts for OFM and CM were under threshold in all of our traps this week. The counts are down after last week with several orchards above threshold for CM and OFM counts.

What are You and Others You Hear from Willing to Pay for New Farming Technology?

Technology surrounds us and is often defined as: “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry” and “machinery and equipment developed from the application of scientific knowledge.” Whether by definition or experience, it’s clear that vegetable production requires a lot of technology. Hybrid varieties and clean lots of true-to-type seed, seed coatings and treatments, the many crop inputs (e.g., fertilizers, protectants), small and large pieces of machinery and equipment … the list is long and growing. Each technology growers rely on has its own characteristics and pros and cons of use. Therefore, it’s important to be clear on what you are willing to pay for a technology and what others (e.g., advisors, educators) say about it. Helping develop and people to use new technology effectively is a big part of my job. In recent years, I have tested and advised people on high tunnel, grafting, microbe-containing crop biostimulant, and other technologies. So, what growers like and dislike about these and other technologies and are willing to pay for them is important to me, too. Growers and others provide key information, sometimes in scientific reports. A report describing peoples’ perspectives on biodegradable mulch (BDM) caught my attention recently. It is useful in two ways. First, it includes important information on BDM, an emerging technology. Second, it can help guide similar evaluations of other technologies and, perhaps, products.

The report was published by a team of investigators led by Kuan-Ju Chen (University of Guam) and including partners at Washington State University, Colorado State University, and Massey University (New Zealand). The report is available at https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH04518-20 or from Dr. Chen or me by request.

The team’s specific objective was to assess peoples’ willingness to pay (WTP) for BDM characteristics. More broadly, they wanted to understand how ‘green’ technologies affect agricultural production when they are introduced into the market. Using input from farmers, educators, advisors, and others, the team assessed the WTP for adopting BDMs and peoples’ rankings of the relative importance of different BDM characteristics. The input indicated that study participants were willing to pay a statistically significant premium for healthy soil and a lower fraction of plastic residue left in the field after harvest. The data also indicated that farmers and others ranked the attributes of BDMs differently. In this case, attributes included cost, soil health, plastic residue, and consumer premium.

People interested in BDM may wish to examine the report closely or contact me, the authors, or BDM experts about it. People considering investments in a technology (new or old) or advising people on one may wish to review the report as an example of how willingness to pay assessments are completed.

Wayne County IPM Notes from the Week of May 17th – May 21st, 2021

Vegetable Crops

             As we move into warmer temperatures, it would be best to remove row covers from field planted crops in the interest of pollination and reducing heat stress. In crops that do not need pollinated such as cole crops, the row cover can serve as an insect barrier and prevent early infestation from the Imported Cabbageworm. Crops such as summer squash, cucumbers and tomatoes

Flea beetles feeding on a recently transplanted brassica plant.

all need to be uncovered sooner than later to avoid poor pollination and subsequently, poor fruit set.

Hot weather can also be problematic when transplanting into black plastic. The black plastic can become very hot and planting a young, tender transplant into the plastic on a hot, sunny day can cause a significant amount of stress, burns on the leaves and stems and in some cases, death of the transplant. Try to plant in the evenings, as temperatures cool down or on cloudy, cooler days.

Colorado Potato Beetle adults on a potato plant.

In the last week we have seen an explosion of flea beetle in cole crops, and the Colorado potato beetles have begun to make their way into potato plantings. Frequent scouting and monitoring of these insect pests is extremely important. Large populations on young plants can stunt their growth and reduce yields. Conditions have been ideal for rapid population increases, hence the need for frequent scouting. An interesting insect problem we observed was a planting of cole crops where the roots of some plants were being destroyed by ants. In most cases, as you turn on your irrigation lines under plastic, it will drive the ants elsewhere.

Generally speaking, disease pressure has been very low in vegetable crops to this point. We have observed some early blight in a tomato high tunnel, as well as blossom end rot in high tunnel tomatoes.

Small Fruit and Orchards

            Apples and peaches are both reaching fruit development. There was significant growth and change in the size of the fruit over the past week. Out of all of

Strawberry blooms with black centers, damaged by freezing temperatures, alongside healthy blooms.

the orchard traps that we have out, we caught 1 OFM and 1 CM. We began to find aphids in apple orchards. The feeding was evident by curling leaves and shoots.

Blueberries are in petal fall and are setting fruit. Raspberries are getting ready to bloom and overall seem to be coming along just fine.

Grape bud that had been damaged due to freezing temperatures now showing secondary growth. Tommy Becker photo.

Strawberry varieties that were early to bloom, and left uncovered, likely suffered heavy bloom loss due to the freezing temperatures that we experienced. Some early blooming varieties had very few, if any, healthy looking blooms. Many plants have put on new blooms, which are very easy to distinguish from the frosted blooms. Early varieties of plasticulutre strawberries that were covered and protected from the cold are setting fruit and beginning to ripen and may even be in harvest. We are not finding any thrips at this time. Unfortunately, we are finding a lot of slugs in strawberry plants and on the berries.

Currently, grapes are now past the bud burst stage, as most are at the 4-8” shoot stage.  We are beginning to see where grape buds that had been damaged due to freezing temperatures are putting out secondary buds and shoot growth, which is very promising

Irrigation Water Quality Testing

The active irrigation season is underway, so let’s pause briefly to review why irrigation water quality testing is important, the value of proper sampling, and what to look for in test results.

Links to seven resources on the topic follow this brief summary. Reviewing those and similar resources is a good idea.

To summarize, irrigation water can:
1. Have a mineral or chemical composition that damages soil, irrigation plumbing and equipment, or crops directly. That same composition may also lower the effectiveness or complicate the use of other inputs such as fertilizers of crop protectants.
2. Contain plant pathogens.

Of course, using the same water source to wash produce and/or fill spray tanks can raise additional unwanted possibilities.

Regardless, the bottom-line is that irrigation water quality affects growers directly and indirectly and in the short- to long-term.

Testing the chemical and particulate (nonliving) composition or characteristics of water used for irrigation is relatively straightforward when major recommendations are followed. Keep the “garbage in-garbage out” principle in mind and collect, handle, and submit your water samples carefully. Also, be mindful that special steps are required for sampling surface (pond, stream/river) versus well water. Consult your testing service for specific guidance, if needed. Testing for plant and/or human pathogens is also important and consulting a plant pathologist and/or human health and food safety specialist is recommended. As you know, Drs. Sally Miller, Melanie Ivey-Lewis, and Sanja Ilic with The OSU are experts in these areas.

Test results of the chemical characteristics will often include the levels of: pH, total alkalinity, hardness, electrical conductivity, total dissolved solids, and multiple elements. The importance of and acceptable ranges for each are outlined in resources linked below and other publications.

Soil and plant testing are common – consider testing irrigation water, too!

Related Resources

https://extension.psu.edu/interpreting-irrigation-water-tests

https://njaes.rutgers.edu/FS793/

http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-4630/L-323–2013.pdf

https://cfgrower.com/testing-irrigation-water-for-pathogens/

https://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1160&context=anr_reports (focused on nursery and greenhouse crop management but also a good reference for vegetable growers)

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs144p2_033068.pdf

Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers (https://www.amazon.com/Knotts-Handbook-Vegetable-Growers-Maynard/dp/047173828X) also has five pages of handy reference tables on irrigation water quality, including regarding crop tolerance to various characteristics of irrigation water. Contact me for more information, if needed.

How Do You Maintain the Health – Quality – Productivity of Soils in Your High Tunnel(s)?

Growers are increasingly impacted by and/or interested in learning how to prevent declines in the health, quality, or productivity of soils in their high tunnels. More are experiencing or aware that various biotic and abiotic issues threaten crop yield and quality and farm income. As some have learned, increases in nematode populations, disease inoculum, salinity, nutrient deficiencies/excesses/imbalances, and/or compaction or reductions in soil structure can be troublesome. Thankfully, a comprehensive effort is underway to help understand and address soil health/productivity-related challenges in high tunnel production. Sponsored by the USDA Specialty Crops Research Initiative and coordinated by Dr. Krista Jacobsen of the University of Kentucky, researchers with different expertise and extension specialists are documenting grower concerns and practices and charting a path leading to greater grower success. The OSU and five other universities are also currently involved. Team members recently hosted a focus group of eight growers from the Great Lakes (including Ohio) and will hear from more in other regions soon. Growers in the recent focus group represented a range of experience, size of operation, crops grown, typical number of annual production seasons (1-4), and overall farming approach (conventional, organic). Collectively, they shared concerns with issues referenced earlier and gave special attention to others such as the effects of high tunnel soils going extremely dry fall-to-spring unless watered (with or without also being cropped). Interestingly, this observation and concern lines up with the view shared by Dr. Bruce Hoskins of the University of Maine that high tunnel production is like “irrigated desert production in the west and southwest,” and that “failing to realize or take steps to address potential problems because of this” can be detrimental (see VegNet article Feb. 20, 2021). In any case, the recent conversation with growers was a reminder of: (1) potential causes of declines in (high tunnel) soil productivity (examples are listed below), (2) innovative steps growers and researchers are taking to limit the problem, and (3) benefits of addressing the complex problem through partnerships. It also prompted me to ask myself what I am doing to maintain the productivity of soils in my high tunnels. Maybe it will do the same for you!

The health-quality-productivity of soils used in vegetable production, including in high tunnels, can decline for many reasons. Some major ones are listed below in no particular order.

1. Repeated or excessive use of a potentially narrow range of fertilizers, various chemicals, and other soil amendments.
2. Vegetable plants often having relatively small and shallow root systems (compared to other annual crops) and crops returning relatively little residue to the soil.
3. Short rotations with few crops.
4. Placing frequent pressure on and aggressively disturbing soil, especially when it is wet.
5. In high tunnels, relatively unique and potentially extreme temperature and moisture profiles.

Re-Introducing The Vegetable Beet and Re-Thinking Transplant Production

Re-Introducing The Vegetable Beet

The Vegetable Beet is a live weekly interview and discussion focused on vegetable production challenges and opportunities coordinated by the Great Lakes Vegetable Producers Network. Callers participate live and others listen to session recordings when convenient. See https://www.glveg.net/listen for details and recordings (24 and counting).

On 3/17/21, Dr. Judson Reid of Cornell University shared excellent observations on and suggestions for initiating warm season production in high tunnels and open fields. Among other core principles, Jud emphasized routine soil testing, high quality seed and transplants, and tailoring fertility management to crop setting and other factors. We also discussed a range of issues related to using high tunnels for warm season crops only or warm and cool season crops (i.e., harvesting and marketing one season per year or year-round).

Drs. Mohammad Babadoost (University of Illinois) and Francesca Rotondo (The OSU) will be featured guests for the session on 3/24/21 and discuss seed selection, treatment, and starting, including for transplant production.

Please contact me or another program coordinator directly or use greatlakesvegwg@gmail.com to suggest topics and guests for future sessions of The Vegetable Beet (or VegNet Newsletter!).

Re-Thinking Transplant Production

Some recall when bare-rooted seedlings (often produced outdoors) were the norm. That era was replaced by the one we are currently in featuring, for example, soilless rooting media, foam or plastic trays varying widely in cell shape and size, and highly soluble fertilizers. We also rely heavily on greenhouses for transplant production — that has many important implications for everyone involved since those greenhouses can be ours or someone else’s. Regardless, for many, transplant production has become so familiar and routine that it can be overlooked relative to other issues and stages in crop production. The general impression may be that transplant production is “all figured out,” that today’s overall approaches need little improvement. However, as successful businesspeople, you know that taking a fresh, hard look at the familiar and routine can spark innovations and reveal changes offering real returns on investment. So, as transplant production moves forward this season, consider how your system could be fine-tuned. Seed handling and starting practices, rooting medium and tray selection, temperature, light, and humidity control, fertility and irrigation management, and more are options.

Grower Survey to Assess Herbicide Drift Damage in the North Central U.S.

A special project group of the North Central Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Center wants to learn about your concerns and experiences with herbicide drift. The group is surveying growers of fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops in the upper Midwest.

To truly understand the frequency, severity, and economic impact of herbicide drift on specialty crops, we need to hear from growers: growers who have experienced drift damage, growers who can share their concerns around this issue, and even growers who have not dealt with drift but who grow sensitive crops in drift-prone regions. Survey responses are needed to establish herbicide drift as a serious economic and regulatory concern in Ohio and across our region.

Please complete the survey at go.osu.edu/drift21.

Who should take this survey?
The study is for commercial growers of fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops in IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, SD, or WI. Even if you have never experienced herbicide damage, we would still like to hear from you if you grow specialty crops in one of these states.

Why is this survey necessary?
Dicamba and 2,4-D drift damage has made headlines in recent years, but no study to-date has attempted to quantify the overall impact drift has on the specialty crop industry. While all states have a way for growers to file a drift complaint, the process and requirements are inconsistent and may involve time and information that a grower does not have. In most states, for instance, the source of the drift must be identified. Research has found that dicamba and 2,4-D both have the potential to travel for miles in specific weather conditions, making source identification difficult.

What good will this survey do?
This study is designed to assess the potential and actual frequency of drift damage, along with the severity and economic impact of such damage. The survey includes questions on grower awareness, experience, actions, and decisions related to herbicide drift and drift-risk management. The responses will help establish needs for research on drift mechanisms, prevention, and remediation; and/or the need to review current policy and reporting requirements.

How long will it take?
The survey takes 5-20 minutes to complete, depending on your experience with drift damage.

How will this data be shared?
Summarized survey data will be shared broadly with regulatory agencies, university educators and researchers, agricultural policy makers, grower support organizations, and the general public using news articles, report summaries, and peer-reviewed journal articles. While this study is administered by The Ohio State University, it was planned in partnership with industry experts across the region who will assist with sharing results. Participants may also request a copy of the study summary.

How will my data be used and protected?
Your privacy is important. No individual survey data will be released or shared beyond the limited group of project staff. The survey questions and procedures have been reviewed by the institutional review board at The Ohio State University and are designed to protect your data and identity. Additional details on privacy and confidentiality are provided at the beginning of the survey.

How can I learn more?
The North Central IPM Center’s special project group created a series of fact sheets on herbicide drift especially for specialty crop growers. The series includes: Overview of Dicamba and 2,4-D Drift Issues, Frequently Asked Questions, Preparing for Drift Damage, and Responding to Drift Damage. Fact sheets and more information about our special project group and study are available at go.osu.edu/ipm-drift.

This study is facilitated by The Ohio State University and is funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through agreement 2018-70006-28884.This study is being conducted in cooperation with regional universities and non-profit grower organizations, including Ohio State Extension.

Soil Sampling and Analysis for High Tunnel Production

Installing a stationary high tunnel (HT) is a significant, long-term commitment to the parcel of soil beneath it, especially if the crops will grow directly in that soil. Maintaining, and preferably enhancing, the health, quality, or productivity of that soil for as long as possible should be a high priority beginning at HT installation.

Soils in HTs are less well understood than uncovered soils in “open sky”/open field production. However, the HT farming, extension-research, and industry communities are aware that HT soils are prone to specific issues and require specific care to remain commercially viable. These issues and preventative or reclamation tactics are the subject of much research and extension. Therefore, HT growers are encouraged to stay tuned for more information, including on how they can participate directly in identifying concerns and developing solutions. Examples of concerns and working solutions were summarized in a recent presentation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpUl0IwaDFI). Choosing one concern, in a summary of a presentation given at the 2013 New England Fruit and Vegetable Conference (https://newenglandvfc.org/sites/newenglandvfc.org/files/content/proceedings2013/Hoskins%20High%20Tunnel.pdf), Bruce Hoskins of the University of Maine’s Analytical Lab and Soil Testing Service mentions that the buildup of nutrient salts over time is “one of the most common problems in a continuously covered HT system,” that HT soil management can be similar to “irrigated desert production in the west and southwest,” and that growers familiar with open-field production can “fail to realize this potential problem or take steps to remediate it.” He also mentions that nitrate may carryover from one HT crop cycle to the next more readily than in open field production.

We heard from Bruce Hoskins and John Spargo during recent conversations about HT soil management. They direct soil testing and analytical labs at the University of Maine (https://umaine.edu/soiltestinglab/) and Penn State University (https://agsci.psu.edu/aasl), respectively. Each of these labs receives soil samples from hundreds of HT growers (conventional, organic) each year and have been actively helping improve soil management recommendations and cropping outcomes for HT growers. They have been joined in that work by others, including farmers, across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions for years.

Take-aways from these recent conversations include that routine soil testing is essential, along with accounting for potential nutrient salt buildup when collecting soil samples. Normally, samplers: 1) use a soil probe or spade to retrieve a column of soil about twelve inches deep, 2) drop the soil in a bucket, 3) repeat the process one or more times from other areas, 4) mix the soil in the bucket, and 5) submit a portion of it for analysis. Listening to testing and other experts, the best approach appears to include “stratified” sampling; that is, submitting samples taken from 0-4 inches deep (upper layer of the rooting zone) separately from samples taken from four inches and deeper (lower layer of the rooting zone). Salts tend to accumulate in upper layers, especially if soil is heavy-textured and irrigation is frequent but brief. So, standard “mixed” samples may either: (a) underestimate salt levels in upper layers of soil experienced by roots of transplants and more mature plants or (b) overestimate salt levels if samples include only the upper level. Stratified sampling, mindful that soil characteristics can change with depth, equips growers and others with information to better manage HT soils. Regarding the costs of soil testing, especially of stratified samples, input from soil testing labs suggests that few of the growers they work with mention it as a significant concern. Instead, most growers appear to have done their math and concluded that soil analysis offers a significant return on investment, given that its cost is more than offset by gains in crop yield and quality in the current and subsequent years.