Fall melons off to a shaky start; desert lettuce plantings down

The weak market that plagued lettuce growers in the Salinas Valley earlier this season seems to be putting a damper on planting intentions in the desert.

“It’s a bit early to tell, but I think lettuce is going to be down about 10percent to 20 percent, says Paul Anthony, PCA with Integrated Crop Management Consultants at Brawley, Calif. “It was a tough year up north, and that seems to be having an effect here now.”

Romaine and endive are just getting started, he says. “Broccoli started last week and we’ve got cabbage transplants going in. We’ll be planting romaine until mid-to-late December.”

The usual suspects in terms of pests are showing up as the fall season gets under way.

“We’ve got fleabeetles, and whiteflies have been terrible,” Anthony says. “Fortunately, the weather broke a little the third week in September, so the highs were ranging in the mid-90s instead of triple digits. That should be better to keep pest pressure down and help with germination. Whiteflies are the biggest concern right now.”

Whiteflies are particularly a big concern for fall melon growers. Cucurbit yellow stunt disorder virus (CYSDV), which is vectored by whitefly, has now been confirmed in fall melons in Yuma County, according to John Palumbo, Extension entomologist with the University of Arizona at Yuma.

Growers are being urged to create a host-free period as long as possible, avoid planting in old established fields, and aggressively control whiteflies prior to and after planting or transplanting.

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