Light pests, good weather mark early spring vegetable deal

Nearly ideal growing conditions were making for an excellent start for vegetable crops in the Central San Joaquin Valley and Coastal regions with consultants reporting strong stands and crop development in processing tomatoes and light pest pressures on most cool weather vegetables.

In the Central Coast, romaine harvest was just getting underway the first week of May on December planted fields. Iceberg was expected to follow closely behind by mid-April. Warm sunny days and mild nights also promoted good growth for lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower. Broccoli spring acreage is forecast at 35,000 acres, about the same as last year, while cauliflower spring acreage is forecast down about 5 percent at 9,000 acres.

While the lack of rainfall in the Central Valley and Central Coast made for ideal planting, some consultants reported heavier than usual warm weather pests in some fields.

“Insect pressure has been pretty light overall,” said Henry Carrasco, a PCA for Western Farm Service in the Salinas Valley. “There is some spotty lettuce red aphid and green peach aphid on head and leaf lettuce which we are treating preventatively.”

Worms were also relatively light, and for the most part were being picked up in aphid and mildew sprays with a pyrethroid or other broad spectrum tank mix partners.

Low moisture conditions through the first week of April helped keep disease pressures relatively light, although fog on the coast, along with overhead sprinklers, was creating some downy mildew pressure on head and leaf lettuce.

“We are treating the fields for downy mildew according to variety,” Carrasco said. “It’s important to know your varieties of romaine and iceberg before deciding whether to treat because some are resistant and some are not.”

Those mildew pressures were relatively light in comparison to last year’s outbreak that resulted from the unusually wet March. Overall Carrasco said growers can expect to save at least one insect and disease spray this year over last year.

In the San Joaquin Valley, growers were about half way through spring lettuce harvest.

Lettuce growers report that early freeze damage reduced yields in early plantings, helping strengthen early markets for the spring crop in the Huron area on the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley.

“There were just enough problems in the first fields to make yields light so the prices have been reflective of that,” said Mike Strmiska, an independent PCA who works in lettuce, tomatoes, onions, garlic and melons.

Strmiska is seeing unusually light lygus populations, which were being handled easily with routine thrip and aphid sprays.

“The lygus are around but they are definitely down from normal, which I attribute to the freeze and a lack of rainfall during the winter causing minimal overwintering vegetation in the hills,” Strmiska said.

SJV consultants reported few worms and low mildew pressures that have been easily tackled with preventative sprays.

“We have several new chemistries in the way of lettuce fungicides that are definitely helping us out with mildew. I am very grateful to the manufacturers and researchers for bringing us these new products,” Strmiska said. “When used preventatively, they give us a new line of attack on an old disease. These formulations provide translaminar activity versus the contact materials, which is reducing disease development."

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