As fall temperatures brought a cooling trend across much of the West, activity shifted in full swing to interior regions of California and Arizona.
Cole crops, lettuce and leafy vegetables have been planted under good conditions with emergence reported to be very good and few significant pest problems.
San Joaquin Valley processing tomato harvest trickled off as temperatures cooled, while winter vegetables were in full swing in the area. In the desert regions, cole crop and leafy vegetables were in various stages of planting and thinning, and sidedress applications were just getting underway.
In late October, temperatures in the Imperial Valley were well below average for the time of year, pushing down insect pressures. Still, PCAs were busy irrigating, fertilizing and treating manageable levels of the usual weeds and insects.
As the weather broke, desert PCAs started thinking more about preventative sprays for pathogens, such as powdery mildew on peppers. Green bell peppers were reportedly near harvest the last week in October in Coachella and Imperial Valleys and colored bells were beginning to turn.
In the desert, Imperial County UC Entomology Farm Advisor Eric Natwick said cabbage looper was showing up on lettuce and cole crops. Beet armyworm pressures appeared sporadically, though in smaller numbers than loopers, and whitefly pressures have generally decreased as the weather has cooled.
Fields not treated at planting with a systemic, may have to be treated for whitefly through the winter with foliar insecticide sprays.
“Whitefly numbers will continue to decrease as it gets cooler and we expect worm numbers to drop off in November,” Natwick said.
“Cabbage loopers will vary from location to location but PCAs are having to treat for those now too,” he said. “There is typically a mixed population of worms in the field, with more looper than armyworms.”
Flea beetle, which plagued some growers early on, seems to have waned some, though crops located near or following alfalfa still have some problems with that pest.
Early transplant cole crops will be harvested beginning in about mid-November if crops stay on schedule, sources said, with later plantings harvesting through March.
Pest pressures were also waning in the Yuma area as temperatures cooled.
“Everything is looking pretty good now,” said Dan Fox, with the Dune Company, Yuma, Ariz. “The pests were a little heavy early on but since the weather broke it’s calmed down. Right now we are dealing mainly with armyworm, looper and budworms.”
Head lettuce in the Arizona desert was at thinning to sidedress stages, and should begin harvest the second week of November or so, with broccoli to follow by a couple weeks. Baby greens and spinach harvest already is underway. Spinach acreage is reportedly down in desert areas, following the market disaster resulting from this year’s E. coli outbreak. Some growers are planting with the hopes a market will develop.
“They’re ready to cut, but we don’t know if a market will be able to take it. That’s a whole different ball game,” Fox said.
On the marketing front, wholesale market prices held steady for most vegetable crops. Broccoli and cauliflower were selling for $6 to $9 a carton. Iceberg prices inched upward the week of Oct. 23 to $8 to $9 for 24-count cartons with romaine steady at about $9 to $11. Other leaf lettuce varieties were slightly higher at $11 to $13 per carton.