Cabbage Maggot & Pest Control Efficacy

Last month we met with a group of farmers who urged Rutgers to provide expanded information on organic pest control recommendations.

What are my organic treatment options and how well do they work? As an organic grower, I sometimes accept less control, and more costly treatment than conventional farmers, but the information on efficacy is unclear. If Rutgers isn’t doing efficacy trials, can you sift through the literature to tell me what others have found that definitely works?

Control of cabbage root maggot (CRM) is a timely example that illustrates the ‘struggle for relative efficacy’ in making organic recommendations when compared with conventional options. Forsythia in bloom–any day now–occurs at about the same time that farmers can expect CRM to damage their transplanted cole crops. Even light CRM infestations can kill small seedlings and transplants, delay crop development, and render root crops unsaleable. Higher populations can kill older plants or reduce yield.

This article discusses:

  • monitoring and control of CRM in cole crops.
  • the use of online weather station degree-day (DD) data to predict CRM activity and timing of treatment – instead of relying on phenology.
  • how the lack of field research capacity makes recommendations difficult for organic pest controls in comparison with conventional controls.
  • why talent scouting (sifting through the literature) is an adjunct to research capacity, not a replacement.

[Read more…]

Farm Market Products: Brussels Sprouts on the Stalk

While the draw of agritourism is the on-farm experience, it’s just as important to provide both the expected (sweet corn!) and unique quality produce. Unique experiences and products set your operation apart in the minds of your customers.

Sometimes unique means going back to the ways things used to be done – take Brussels sprouts. Growing up on the Infante family farm, we would top the plants and sell them “on the stalk”. Since the young leaves of Brussels sprouts taste similar to collards, we would market the topped leaf cluster separately as greens to be prepared like you would collards.

“What is the best time to top Brussels sprouts so that the ‘buttons’ size uniformly? What are the pros and cons of topping?”

[Read more…]

Farm Calls: A Winter’s Tale of Two Fields

Last Friday night a leading Jersey vegetable grower asked, “What’s with all the recent media hype about cover crops? I’m getting ads, USDA NRCS promotions and trade magazine articles about something we already know all about.”

He’s not alone in holding this opinion – ag agents have come to similar conclusions. “We know about cover crops. Farmers know about cover crops. Cover crops have been researched, demonstrated, and their costs and benefits established for over a century. There’s nothing innovative for growers and nothing new to teach.”

The thing is, many growers haven’t adopted cover crops. For example, take the fields I came across while driving down to Friday’s meeting. Who can resist checking out other farmers’ fields while traveling, whether it’s your neighbor down the road or fields far from home? On this detour, there were hundreds of acres seeded with a cover crop mix of cereal rye and oilseed radish (AKA Tillage Radish). But, something caught my eye so I stopped to take a look.

Two fields on opposite sides of one road.

[Read more…]

Growing Better Organic Potatoes in NJ

Leaf Hilling

Hilling Shredded Leaf Mulch
Organic Potato Demonstration @ RAREC

Shredded leaf mulch application is a worthwhile cultural practice for potatoes grown under organic conditions, resulting in an increase in marketable grades. The beneficial results are seen not just because of higher yields, but because of the incidence of fewer culls (potatoes with undesirable size and shape).

For organic production on NJ’s Coastal Plain soils, our studies show significant increase in marketable yields over bare ground and black plastic production; surprisingly, shredded leaf mulch application yields approached those of our conventional bare ground plots.

This report on field demonstrations conducted by potato expert Dr. Mel Henninger and Agricultural Agent David Lee, documents varieties studied and growing practices used with the aim of assisting Coastal Plains growers who wish to capitalize on the niche of local market, organic labeled potatoes.
[Read more…]