Keeping Fields Clean Year-Round

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To protect against pests and diseases, keeping fields clean is a year-round job for growers. Scott Adkins, a research plant pathologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service, has some advice for growers on this subject.

He spoke with AgNet Media at the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Savannah, Georgia, in January, following his presentation at the event.

Adkins said it is important to take care of the disease and pest issues in the field before they begin. “The issue really is that you’re trying to manage a problem, but you can’t wait until the problem occurs,” he said. “So you have to proactively be anticipating that there’s going to be a problem.”

While certain weather conditions can change the likelihood of a problem in the field, Adkins said it is still important to take precautionary measures and keep fields clean.

“It may not be a given that we’re going to see the viruses, but the viruses are there, the vectors are there, and so we need to anticipate that they’re going to appear in our field,” Adkins said.

He advised clearing fields of all crops and weeds in the off-season. When preparing to plant, he said it is important to ensure seedlings and transplants are free of viruses and insects.

Where the crops are planted is also a factor. “You’re going to want to try to put them into a field location that is away from known sources of the virus or the vector,” Adkins said. It is important to examine the planting area beforehand and attempt to find these locations.

According to Adkins, ultraviolet reflective mulches can help keep out pest and disease problems during the growing season. He did warn, however, that this method can vary based on the crop. He said crops such as tomatoes and peppers will have more protection than watermelon or cantaloupe. This is due to the growth of the crop. If a crop grows to where it will cover more of the mulch, Adkins said this can reduce the effects of the mulch as more of it becomes covered with the crop.

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