Lowndes – Echols Ag News

Choosing Tomato Varieties (4-H Tomato Sale Going on Now)

By Jake Price

The desire for fresh homegrown tomatoes is probably the main reason homeowners have gardens.  Most plants are planted in late March and April, or when they are available at the garden centers.  Each spring, many homeowners run into problems with their plants.

Two newer, good tasting, disease resistant varieties are currently being sold by the Lowndes 4-H club to support the camping program.   The two varieties are Red Bounty and Bella Rosa which both have resistance to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. Call 333-5185 for more information.  Plants are $1.00 each while supplies last.

Tomatoes are susceptible to a lot of diseases.  Once infected, it is too late to stop most diseases from killing or limiting the production of the plant.   Tomatoes come in all shapes, colors, and sizes.   A few cultural practices and planting varieties that are resistant to disease can make for a more productive tomato harvest.

When selecting your plants look for varieties that have a lot of letters next to the name.  This means that plants have a built in resistance to disease.   An example would be a popular variety called Celebrity VFFNTA Hybrid.  The letters stand for the following:

V = Verticillium Wilt
F = Fusarium Wilt
FF = Fusarium Wilt race 1 and 2
N = Nematode
T = Tobacco Mosaic Virus
A = Alternaria (Early Blight)
TSWV = Tomato Spotted Wilt

Tomatoes are classified as determinate which means most of the fruit ripens over a short period of time, and indeterminant, which means that fruit will continually be produced.  Determinant varieties produce a lot of tomatoes early and once the tomatoes have been harvested the plants can be removed.                                                                                                   Popular determinant varieties include:  Bush Celebrity VFFNTA Hybrid, Bush Early Girl VFFNT Hybrid, Celebrity VFFNTA Hybrid, and Mountain Spring VFF Hybrid.  Popular indeterminant varieties are:  Early Girl VFF Hybrid, Better Boy VFN Hybrid, Big Boy Hybrid, and Beefmaster VFN Hybrid.

Cherry tomato varieties are: Jolly Hybrid, Sweet Baby Girl Hybrid, and Super Sweet 100 Hybrid.  Of course there are many more to choose from.  Cultural practices will also prevent problems.

Tomatoes like a well-drained high organic matter soil and a pH between 6.2 and 6.8.  I would recommend you have a soil test done for your garden and follow any recommendations.  A soil test can correct any pH problems.                                                                                 Tomatoes frequently have a problem with a condition called “Blossom End Rot”.  This is when the bottom of the tomato turns black.  Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in the fruit and is made worse when soil conditions fluctuate between wet and dry.                                                                                                                                                       Additions of dolomitic lime, which raises pH and contains calcium and Magnesium, can help prevent the problem.   If your soil pH is optimal, but your calcium is low, apply gypsum at 1 pound per 100 square feet.  Foliar applications of calcium can help provide a temporary fix if the problem is not excessive.                                           Mulching around your tomato plants reduces soil moisture fluctuations and keeps the weed pressure down.  Layers of newspaper can be placed around plants and mulch can be added on top to further prevent weeds.  Pine straw, bark, leaves, or most any type of mulch will be ok.

Selecting disease resistant varieties, mulching, and following your soil test results should make your tomato season more productive.  For more information on tomatoes and varieties visit this website:  https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/B%201271_5.PDF

Don’t skip soil testing this spring

Published on 03/08/19

Don’t skip soil testing this spring

By Jason Lessl for CAES News

This spring, gardeners planning vegetable gardens — or even a major renovation of your ornamental beds — should take the opportunity to test their soil before they put plants in the ground.

One of the most fundamental, but often overlooked, aspects to any successful vegetable garden, flower bed, landscape or lawn is good, fertile soil. Getting your soil tested by a laboratory is the best and most accurate way to assess your nutrient and pH levels, which are vital components of maintaining your soil. The University of Georgia Soil, Plant and Water Lab offers such services.

When you send a soil sample to a lab, you will receive a detailed report of soil-nutrient levels along with crop-based recommendations on how to fix any potential deficiencies. The steps required to submit a soil sample are simple and can be achieved using a few commonly found household items. You can start by contacting your local county UGA Cooperative Extension office to acquire soil bags and to get information on how to submit samples. Find your county office by visiting extension.uga.edu/county-offices.html or calling 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

When to soil test?

Soils can be tested any time during the year, although it is typically best to take samples in the fall or winter. This is the time of year when most plants are dormant and the soil is most accessible. If pH adjustments are necessary, it is also the best time to apply amendments, as it can take several months for them to take effect. Lime (to raise pH) and sulfur (to lower pH) react slowly and should be mixed with the soil at least two to three months before planting.

How often do I test my soil?

For intensely cultivated soils including vegetable gardens, an annual soil test is recommended. Otherwise, for lawns and ornamental areas, sampling should be done every two to three years after initially establishing medium to high fertility levels and the appropriate pH.

Steps in soil sampling

Recommendations on when and how to apply nutrients are only as good as the soil sample submitted for analysis. To obtain a representative soil sample, the following steps are useful:

  • Map out the entire property. This will help in record keeping and ensure that the soil sample is representative of the entire area. Divide areas so that each soil sample represents one general plant type. For example, take separate soil samples for vegetable gardens, blueberry bushes, ornamentals, fruit trees, lawns, etc. If you have specific problem spots, sample those areas separately as well.
  • Use clean sampling tools and containers to avoid contaminating the soil sample. Collect samples with any digging tool you have available (hand trowel, shovel, soil probe, etc.).
  • Slightly damp soil is the easiest to work with. Clear the ground surface of grass, thatch or mulch. Push your tool to a depth of 6 inches for cultivated areas or 4 inches for lawn areas. Push the handle forward in the soil to make an opening, then cut a thin slice of soil of uniform thickness from the side of the opening, extending from the top of the ground to the depth of the cut. Repeat this process in a zigzag pattern across your defined area, collecting eight to twelve samples to mix together. For trees, take soil samples from six to eight spots around and below the leaf canopy. Take about a pint (around 2 cups) of the mixed soil (after removing large rocks, mulch, sticks and roots) and fill the UGA soil sample bag. Be sure to label the sample clearly on the bag. If the samples are wet, spread the soil out over clean paper and let them air dry. You also can take your samples to your local Extension office for submission. Once the lab has received your soil, it will take two to three business days to get your report.

 

For more information about when or how to test your soil, visit aesl.ces.uga.edu or call 1-800-ASK-UGA1 to contact your local UGA Extension office.

Farm Business Education Conference

UGA CAES, Extension partner with SBDC to host Farm Business Education Conference

By Clint Thompson for CAES News

The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Cooperative Extension are partnering with the UGA Small Business Development Center to host a Farm Business Education Conference on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center.

The purpose of the conference is to help farmers learn more about the business aspect of farming. Industry experts will conduct sessions on value-added agricultural ventures and other topics relevant to growers.

“UGA Cooperative Extension is excited to once again be partnering with the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Each of us brings unique expertise and advice that together will result in better information for our clientele,” said Laura Perry Johnson, associate dean for UGA Extension.

Attendees will learn how to develop a business plan for their farming operation, including plans for effectively passing the business over to the next generation. Agricultural lenders will be on hand to offer tips on how to successfully obtain operating lines, real estate and farm loans and working capital funding. Certified human resource professionals will discuss how to manage employees of farms.

“When you think about farming, people understand there’s a product that’s being produced, but there’s a business side to farming too. Our goal is to assist new and existing farmers in understanding what is required to have a profitable season or assist with understanding new requirements that are coming down. The goal is to help educate on the business side of farming,” said Rob Martin, a business consultant with the UGA SBDC.

Martin, along with Sarah Cook from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, will conduct a session, “From Seed to Shelf,” where they will offer strategies for selling products in local, regional and national markets. Attendees also will have the opportunity to learn about food and production safety with different commodities.

“Each of these partners are part of Public Service and Outreach for the University of Georgia. We come together, pooling our resources; the UGA SBDC as the business side, Extension with their extensive knowledge of the industry and specific products, as well as the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. We will bring that information together to provide opportunities for people to learn,” Martin said.

Conference attendance cost is $49 and includes lunch. The conference will begin at 7:30 a.m. and conclude at 4 p.m. Those interested in attending should preregister at www.georgiasbdc.org/georgia-farm-business-education-conference.

For more information about UGA Extension, see extension.uga.edu.

Yellow Nutsedge/Cadre Resistance

By Eric Prostko: In September 2017, after doing some preliminary screening (Figure 1), we collected yellow nutsedge tubers from a peanut field that were a strong suspect for resistance to Cadre (imazapic).  We sent the tubers to BASF for further greenhouse testing and just got back the results.  Unfortunately, it looks like this population of nutsedge has developed resistance to Cadre (Figures 2 and 3).  On the positive side, it does not appear to have developed cross-resistance to Sandea/Permit (halosulfuron).  In order to protect the grower’s privacy, I would prefer not to reveal the exact location of this field at this time.

Assuming adequate funding is obtained , I will be working very closely with our new teaching/research weed scientist on the main campus in Athens, Dr. Nick Basinger, to further investigate this issue.  Dr. Basinger recently replaced Dr. Bill Vencill.  If you are already aware of or become aware of peanut fields where Cadre has been used for yellow nutsedge control with less than optimum results, please let us know so that tubers can be collected from the field.   At this point in time though, I believe that this discovery of resistance is most likely an isolated case.

Here are a few things to consider in regards to this issue, especially how it compares to the herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth problems that we have been dealing with since 2004:

1) At this point in time, only 1 case of herbicide-resistance in yellow nutsedge has been officially confirmed world-wide.   In 2013-2014, researchers from Arkansas confirmed halosulfuron resistance in a yellow nutsedge population collected from a rice field.  For comparison, 61 cases of herbicide resistance in Palmer amaranth have been confirmed.

2) In Georgia, Cadre was first commercialized for use in peanut in 1996 so it took more than 20 years for this resistance to occur in yellow nutsedge.  It took roughly 3-4 years for glyphosate resistance to evolve in Palmer amaranth after the introduction of RR soybeans (1996) and RR cotton (1997).

3) The GA problem site is a dryland field where peanuts were grown for 5 continuous years and Cadre was used every year (for economic reasons).  This is atypical of the normal crop rotation sequences used by most Georgia peanut growers.  Unlike glyphosate, Liberty and PPO herbicides, Cadre is not applied to fields on a yearly basis.

4) Yellow nutsedge can produce a large amount of seed but seed is not the primary propagation mechanism.  Some research has shown that <1% of yellow nutsedge seeds can develop into viable seedlings.  Seed is the only propagation mechanism for Palmer amaranth.

5) The primary mechanism of  yellow nutsedge propagation is through tubers.  In Georgia, a single yellow nutsedge plant, growing without competition in a bareground area, produced 700 tubers after 6 months of growth.

6) The primary mechanism of yellow nutsedge tuber dispersion in fields is through normal field operations such as tillage/disking and equipment movement (i.e. human action).

7) Foraging and soil disturbance from feral hogs has been reported to promote the long-term population maintenance of yellow nutsedge.

8) There could be also be some slight dispersion from waterfowl that prefer yellow nutsedge tubers as a food source (i.e. ducks, geese).  However, a recently published study from Missouri reported that no intact nutsedge tubers were recovered from mallard ducks in 8 feeding trials.  In these same feeding trials, 26% of Palmer amaranth seeds were viable after feeding.

Figure 1.  Cadre and Sandea field screen on suspect resistant yellow nutsedge population in Georgia, 2017.
Figure 2.  Suspect resistant yellow nutsedge population treated with Cadre 2AS @ 32 oz/A (8X rate), 21 DAT.
Figure 3.  Susceptible yellow nutsedge population (left) and suspect resistant population (right) treated with various rates of Cadre 2AS – 28 DAT

XtendiMax, Engenia, and FeXapan New Regulations for 2019

1) A pesticide license is required to purchase or apply these products.

2) All applicators must be trained through UGA’s Using Pesticides Wisely (UPW).

3) Can only apply through 60 days after planting cotton or 45 days after planting soybeans.

4) Can only make up to 2 POST applications in cotton and soybeans.

5) Can only apply between 1 hour after sunrise and 2 hours before sunset (wind still has to be between 3 and 10 mph).

6) Updated record keeping within 72 hours and add planting date.

7) Labels suggest to test for spray solution pH and add a buffering agent if solution pH is less than 5.

8) Do not apply when wind is blowing in direction of sensitive crops and/or residential areas.

9) If there are no sensitive crops or residential areas downwind, then downwind buffers remain. 110 ft but there is a new 57 ft omni-directional (all sides) buffer required in certain counties where endangered terrestrial dicot plants grow (visit www.epa.gov/espp/ to understand if you have endangered species near you.

10) Do not apply if expected rainfall within 24 hours of application could exceed soil field capacity.

Enlist One and Enlist Duo

1) All persons in charge of application must be trained.

Lowndes -Echols Production meetings Schedule

Vegetable Meeting 9:30 am 4-H Center

Lake Park

January 17, 2019 Dr. Stanley Culpepper

Dr. Bhabesh Dutta

Dr. Andre Silva

Dr. Stormy Sparks

Forage Meeting 6:30 pm 4-H Center

Lake Park

January 17, 2019 Lisa Baxter, UGA

Robby Bondurant, Westway Feed

Peanut Meeting 12:00 noon Lowndes Extension Office-Valdosta January 24, 2019 Dr. Mark Abney

Dr Scott Monford

Cotton Meeting

 

6:00 pm Lowndes Extension Office-Valdosta January 28, 2019 Dr. Glen Harris

Dr. Jared Whitaker

Row Crop Weed Control Meeting 6:00 pm Lowndes Extension Office-Valdosta February 28, 2019 Dr. Stanley Culpepper

Dr. Eric Prostko

Row Crop Disease Meeting 12:00 noon Lowndes Extension Office-Valdosta March 4, 2019 Dr. Bob Kemerite

Ag Forecast meetings

Published on 12/07/18

UGA CAES set to host annual Ag Forecast meetings

By Clint Thompson

Sam Pardue, dean of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), will serve as the keynote speaker at the upcoming Georgia Ag Forecast seminar series set for Jan. 22 through Feb. 1. The annual meetings allow UGA agricultural economists to address Georgia’s farmers, lenders and agribusiness leaders about the latest trends and economic conditions in Georgia’s No. 1 industry — agriculture.

At the seminar’s six locations across the state — Bainbridge, Carrollton, Lyons, Macon, Tifton and Watkinsville, Georgia — Pardue will discuss how CAES works with Georgia’s agricultural leaders and how the college works to help solve the issues facing rural Georgia.

“Perhaps more than ever, the Ag Forecast is needed to assist farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and the organizations that support them to plan for the future,” Pardue said. “Uncertainty in weather, commodity prices, trade and access to markets, regulatory policy, and labor creates a challenging environment for Georgia producers. While we cannot predict the future, we can bring all the tools at our disposal to better inform our stakeholders in their decision-making processes.”

CAES hosts the Georgia Ag Forecast seminar series every year. Those interested in attending the seminars can register at georgiaagforecast.com. Economists from the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development and CAES Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics will present the economic outlook for Georgia’s producers with an emphasis on Georgia’s major commodities.

“Ag Forecast provides producers, bankers and agribusiness leaders with a glimpse of what will happen in 2019. It presents data on how conditions in Georgia, the United States and the globe will impact producers here in Georgia,” said Kent Wolfe, director of the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet with UGA faculty and UGA Cooperative Extension agents and will leave the meeting with a copy of the 2019 Georgia Ag Forecast book. It provides detailed outlooks of the major commodities produced in Georgia from scientists who work on the crop year-round.

One topic that’s expected to be on the forefront is how Hurricane Michael will impact the future of Georgia agriculture. The storm devastated south Georgia agriculture on Oct. 10, 2018, causing more than $2.5 billion in crop losses. Since the hurricane moved through Georgia during harvest season, multiple crops were at extreme risk for damage.

“The impact from Hurricane Michael will undoubtedly be a hot topic because it impacted a number of commodities in the state with potential global implications,” Wolfe said.

Georgia’s cotton crop sustained between $550 and $600 million in losses, classified as immediate damage to commodities grown by Georgia producers. Pecans suffered $100 million in losses to its crop along with $260 million in losses to trees and $200 million in losses to future income. Other crop damages include $763 million in losses to timber, $20 million in losses to poultry houses, and $480 million in losses to vegetables.

The 2019 Georgia Ag Forecast series will be held:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 22: Macon, Georgia — Georgia Farm Bureau Building
  • Wednesday, Jan. 23: Carrollton, Georgia — Carroll County Ag Center
  • Friday, Jan. 25: Watkinsville, Georgia — Oconee County Civic Center
  • Tuesday, Jan. 29: Lyons, Georgia — Toombs County Agri-Center
  • Thursday, Jan. 31: Bainbridge, Georgia — Decatur County Agricultural Center
  • Friday, Feb. 1: Tifton, Georgia — Tifton Campus Conference Center

The Tifton seminar will begin at 7:30 a.m. with a breakfast buffet. All of the other seminars will begin at 10 a.m. and will be followed by a networking lunch.

The Georgia Ag Forecast seminar series is presented by UGA CAES and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. For more information on the 2019 Georgia Ag Forecast series, visit georgiaagforecast.com or search for #gaagforecast on social media.

Take Care of Your Christmas Tree

Doug Collins, Lee County Extension Coordinator

It’s that time of year again.  People are putting up Christmas trees.  Whether yours stays fresh until after Christmas, or turns into a needle-shedding fire hazard is up to you.

A cut Christmas tree is a living thing, or at least it was when it was cut.  As such, it is perishable.

The first step in making a tree last until after Christmas is to select one that is in good shape.  If you are buying a precut tree, gently grasp a branch on your prospective tree and pull your hand over the branch.  If needles come off in your hand, don’t take that tree home.

After purchasing the tree and before bringing it inside the house, bump the bottom of the trunk against a hard surface to knock loose needles off of the tree.  Then cut an inch off of the bottom of the trunk.  You see, after the tree has been cut for a while without being placed in water, a seal forms as the cut.  This seal will prevent your tree from taking up adequate amounts of water.

Place the tree in a stand with a water reservoir.  Check the water level hourly during the first day to make sure your tree has adequate water.  The first several hours after being put into water, your tree will be very thirsty and take up a lot of water.  If the water level falls below the cut, a seal will form as previously described and the trunk will need to be cut again.

Make sure all electrical equipment to be put on the tree is in good condition and that there is no worn or broken insulation on the lights.  Disconnect lights before going to bed.  Keep the house temperature as low as is comfortable.  Heat can dry out a tree.  Don’t allow pets or small children to climb or pull on the tree.  If small children are present, make sure that no dangerous ornaments are placed on the tree within their reach.

Keep the tree away from heat sources and open flames.  If the tree becomes dry and needles fall excessively, replace the tree with a new one.  As was done when the tree was purchased, gently grasp a branch on the tree and pull your hand over the branch.  If the needles come off in your hand, it is time for a new tree.  Have a safe and merry Christmas!

Cotton Losses From Hurricane Michael

Published on 10/31/18

UGA economists estimate up to $600 million in cotton damage from Hurricane Michael

By Clint Thompson for CAES News

University of Georgia agricultural economists believe that Georgia cotton farmers in the path of Hurricane Michael have only begun to feel the impact of the storm that took 90 or 100 percent of many area growers’ crops.

This week, Yangxuan Liu, assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics in the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), and UGA Cooperative Extension agricultural economist Amanda Smith released preliminary cost estimates of Hurricane Michael’s damage to Georgia’s cotton industry.

Their initial estimates of farm gate value loss range from $550 million to $600 million. This includes losses related to cotton lint, cottonseed and reductions in fiber quality.

UGA’s estimated loss value for cotton is still preliminary. Updates will be provided as more data is collected, Liu said.

“We took into consideration yield loss variation across the state and adjusted our estimates accordingly,” she said.

“We are still in the process of gathering more data from cotton farmers and county agents.”

Because heavy rains and winds occurred when the bulk of Georgia’s cotton crop was at risk, Liu cautions farmers that quality issues may be a problem.

“Some harvested cotton modules in the field were damaged by wind and rain, which might degrade quality. The cotton harvested after the hurricane might face quality discounts as well, because more mature bolls of possibly higher quality were lost,” she said.

Liu cited U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that only 12 percent of Georgia’s cotton crop had been harvested prior to the storm’s arrival. Eighty-eight percent of cotton bolls were open and susceptible to the hurricane’s destructive winds.

Hurricane Michael’s path up through southwest Georgia significantly impacted the region that is responsible for some of the top cotton production in Georgia. Southwestern Georgia counties Colquitt, Crisp, Decatur, Dooly, Early, Mitchell and Worth were hit hard by the hurricane — and make up seven of the top-10 cotton-producing counties in the state, according to the USDA’s figures for 2017.

Cotton is the largest row crop in Georgia. According to the USDA, the farm gate value for Georgia-grown cotton and cottonseed in 2017 was $867 million with more than 1.2 million harvested acres.

Producers should contact their local UGA Extension agents to report any losses or for more information about estimating storm damage.

“The impact of Hurricane Michael will extend beyond the farm gate level. Cotton gins, local communities and the entire Georgia economy are likely to experience the ripple effect of Hurricane Michael for years to come,” said Jeff Dorfman, a professor of agricultural and applied economics at CAES.

For up-to-date information on Georgia’s cotton crop, see www.ugacotton.com.

Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.

Hurricane Harvest Decisions

Published on 10/09/18

UGA Extension advises harvest decisions amidst looming hurricane

By Laurel L Dunn, Andre Luiz Biscaia Ribeiro da Silva for CAES News

Hurricanes, tropical storms and severe rainfall events are commonly seen among states in the Southeast U.S. These natural events most often occur during summer or early fall and may cause severe problems for urban and agricultural areas of Georgia. As of this week, it appears that we have another hurricane poised to strike Georgia. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension wants all of its agents — and the fruit, vegetable and nut growers they serve — to be as prepared as possible for the effects of the storm.

Agricultural areas, particularly where vegetables are grown, are severely impacted by flooding events that result from heavy precipitation. When the edible portion of a crop is contacted by flood waters, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deems it “adulterated,” and the crop cannot be used as human or animal food. For this reason, the recommendation is to harvest vegetables and other edible products in advance of the rain, no matter the yield. As long as the total harvest costs are less than the delivered-in value of the produce at the processing plant or the packinghouse, harvesting is still profitable. In sum, harvesting decisions rest on determining an economic threshold for the grower.

Flooding is defined by the FDA as “the flowing or overflowing of a field with water outside a grower’s control.” Since chemical as well as microbial contamination is present in flood waters, there is no way to process fruits and vegetables that are contacted to make them safe again for consumption. If the crop field is flooded, but the water level is not high enough to touch the edible portion, a risk assessment may determine whether the product is likely contaminated or may be harvested. This includes crops that are still standing after the flood (e.g., tomato, bell pepper or eggplant) where the fruit is above the water level and too high for flood water to splash onto the product. Additionally, if the edible portion of the crop has not developed yet, the crop may be safe for future harvest.

UGA Extension specialists prepared a quick guide for Extension agents and growers to properly handle Hurricane Michael as it approaches:

Before an anticipated flood event:

  • Take inventory of and secure any chemicals and hazardous chemicals (e.g., herbicides, insecticides and fungicides).
  • Move any livestock, equipment or tools to elevated areas, preferably areas with no risk of flooding.
  • Use sand bags, berms or ditches and crosscuts to divert water around greenhouses, packinghouses, barns and produce fields.
  • Make copies of important documents and ensure that documents are stored in a secure, waterproof location, or take them with you in the event of evacuation.

 

After a flood event:

  • Contact your insurance agency before any clean-up activities, including salvaging crop fields where a portion of the produce was not contacted by flood water.
  • Clearly identify the highest point of flood water to make sure that contaminated product is not unintentionally mixed with “clean” product.
  • Harvest “clean” produce prior to handling nonharvestable produce to avoid cross-contamination of your produce.
  • If well heads were submerged, do not wash any harvested produce to avoid contamination. Test the water before any use.
  • Boil all water for personal consumption until test results indicate that no detectable generic Escherichia coli are present.
  • Take pictures of all damage immediately in order to send evidence to insurance agencies.
  • Allow a 60-day interval between flooding and replanting of previously flooded fields to allow for human pathogens to die off. Chemical hazards may still be present in previously flooded soils, so chemical and microbial soil testing should be considered prior to replanting.
  • Contact your UGA Extension agent if you are unsure whether produce can be safely harvested.

 

Remember, the more severe the rain, the higher the chance of contamination. For more information, see www.fda.gov and https://producesafetyalliance.cornell.edu

By Laurel L Dunn, Andre Luiz Biscaia Ribeiro da Silva for CAES News

Hurricanes, tropical storms and severe rainfall events are commonly seen among states in the Southeast U.S. These natural events most often occur during summer or early fall and may cause severe problems for urban and agricultural areas of Georgia. As of this week, it appears that we have another hurricane poised to strike Georgia. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension wants all of its agents — and the fruit, vegetable and nut growers they serve — to be as prepared as possible for the effects of the storm.

Agricultural areas, particularly where vegetables are grown, are severely impacted by flooding events that result from heavy precipitation. When the edible portion of a crop is contacted by flood waters, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deems it “adulterated,” and the crop cannot be used as human or animal food. For this reason, the recommendation is to harvest vegetables and other edible products in advance of the rain, no matter the yield. As long as the total harvest costs are less than the delivered-in value of the produce at the processing plant or the packinghouse, harvesting is still profitable. In sum, harvesting decisions rest on determining an economic threshold for the grower.

Flooding is defined by the FDA as “the flowing or overflowing of a field with water outside a grower’s control.” Since chemical as well as microbial contamination is present in flood waters, there is no way to process fruits and vegetables that are contacted to make them safe again for consumption. If the crop field is flooded, but the water level is not high enough to touch the edible portion, a risk assessment may determine whether the product is likely contaminated or may be harvested. This includes crops that are still standing after the flood (e.g., tomato, bell pepper or eggplant) where the fruit is above the water level and too high for flood water to splash onto the product. Additionally, if the edible portion of the crop has not developed yet, the crop may be safe for future harvest.

UGA Extension specialists prepared a quick guide for Extension agents and growers to properly handle Hurricane Michael as it approaches:

Before an anticipated flood event:

  • Take inventory of and secure any chemicals and hazardous chemicals (e.g., herbicides, insecticides and fungicides).
  • Move any livestock, equipment or tools to elevated areas, preferably areas with no risk of flooding.
  • Use sand bags, berms or ditches and crosscuts to divert water around greenhouses, packinghouses, barns and produce fields.
  • Make copies of important documents and ensure that documents are stored in a secure, waterproof location, or take them with you in the event of evacuation.

 

After a flood event:

  • Contact your insurance agency before any clean-up activities, including salvaging crop fields where a portion of the produce was not contacted by flood water.
  • Clearly identify the highest point of flood water to make sure that contaminated product is not unintentionally mixed with “clean” product.
  • Harvest “clean” produce prior to handling nonharvestable produce to avoid cross-contamination of your produce.
  • If well heads were submerged, do not wash any harvested produce to avoid contamination. Test the water before any use.
  • Boil all water for personal consumption until test results indicate that no detectable generic Escherichia coli are present.
  • Take pictures of all damage immediately in order to send evidence to insurance agencies.
  • Allow a 60-day interval between flooding and replanting of previously flooded fields to allow for human pathogens to die off. Chemical hazards may still be present in previously flooded soils, so chemical and microbial soil testing should be considered prior to replanting.
  • Contact your UGA Extension agent if you are unsure whether produce can be safely harvested.

 

Remember, the more severe the rain, the higher the chance of contamination. For more information, see www.fda.gov and https://producesafetyalliance.cornell.edu