Coastal vegetables winding down, shifting to desert

As harvest winds down on the California coast, some late pest pressure has emerged to create headaches.

“We’ve been hit hard by worms and aphids in some areas,” says Jim Dana, marketing manager with Western Farm Service at Santa Maria. “The red lettuce aphid has been particularly bad around the Salinas area. We’ve also had problems with diamondback moth that got a bit out of control in some cases when it first hit.”

Disease pressure has been fairly typical, with mildew showing up on head lettuce west of Lompoc and in other areas that are normally affected, Dana says. But, the overall pest/disease picture is fairly clean.

Processing tomato harvest is also winding down, with record yields being reported across much of the state. Ross Siragusa, president of California Tomato Growers Association, recently attended a World Processing Tomato Council (WPTC) study tour to China.

“The tour had a total of 44 members from 19 countries and another 150 or so Chinese,” Siragusa says. “The purpose of the trip was to learn firsthand about the Chinese industry from the field to the processing plant.”

While China is not considered an immediate threat to U.S. production, due primarily to quality issues, the infrastructure is evolving and will likely become a global force at some point.

As the focus shifts toward the desert, whitefly appears to be the greatest concern.

“The fall melon season is just starting,” says John Palumbo, entomologist with the University of Arizona at Yuma. “There are a few fields that have already been planted. Seedling pests, such as ants, beetles, and crickets have shown up in some areas and are being treated accordingly. Whiteflies are abundant in the area and should be moving onto seedlings as they emerge. Growers and PCAs are anticipating cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus (CYSDV) and will likely be aggressively managing adult whitefly populations as they occur to minimize the potential for infection.”

For now, it’s mostly about planting and anticipating pests that will emerge to chomp on young vegetables.

“The fall produce season is here,” Palumbo says. “Planting of cole crops should begin by Aug. 20, with lettuce plantings starting the first week in September. There is no way to predict insect pressure or weather at this point, but PCAs will be prepared for the normal problems — flea beetles, worms, leafminers, and whiteflies.”

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