Johnny Morgan, Singh, Raghuwinder, Johnson, Charles E., Lewis Ivey, Melanie, Fontenot, Kathryn | 7/7/2015 7:00:45 PM
BATON ROUGE, La. – Fruit and vegetable growers from across the state shared stories of how wet weather has affected their operations during the Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Grower meeting and field day at LSU AgCenter Botanical Gardens at Burden on July 1.
Getting the crop planted late due to her maternity leave was just the beginning of problems with research plots, according to LSU AgCenter vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot.
“It was mid-to-late March before a lot of our fields were planted,” Fontenot said. “And then there was rain, rain and more rain.”
Fontenot said rain is something that vegetable farmers don’t like. They have drip irrigation and can put as much water as they need at the roots.
“We do not want all this water coming and hitting our plants because it spreads disease,” Fontenot said.
During the field tour, participants saw firsthand the types of damage caused by too much rain.
Not only does the splashing water spread disease, but it also makes it hard to spray for weeds and insects as the chemicals are washed right off with little or no control, she said.
AgCenter extension plant pathologist Melanie Lewis Ivey discussed how the rain is affecting her plots of cucumbers and tomatoes.
“I want visitors to see the difference between downy mildew and powdery mildew on these plants,” Ivey said. “Downy mildew is blackish-brown in color, while powdery mildew looks a lot like snowflakes.”
Ivey is working on a tomato research project for U.S. Department of Agriculture, but said the plot is not looking its best and blames the wet weather.
“I noticed during the past few days the plants have started to perk up some,” she said.
Fontenot said she has demonstrations of Creole tomatoes, squash and watermelons.
“In our watermelon trials we are looking at the use of pre-emergent herbicide to control stink melon, morningglory, pigweed and other broadleaf weeds,” she said.
AgCenter plant pathologist Raj Singh discussed bitter rot in apples and brown rot in peaches. Both diseases are prevalent in warm, wet weather.
“If you have this disease you will want to remove the fruit, seal it in a bag and dispose of it,” Singh said.
Another thing that can be done is remove the “mummy fruit” and fallen fruit, which can act as an inoculum, he said.
AgCenter horticulturist Charlie Johnson showed some of the fig varieties being grown at Burden and invited participants to attend the fig field day there at 9 a.m. on July 11.
“This is mainly a backyard grower’s event since we don’t have any large commercial fig growers,” Johnson said. “We do it for many of our hobby growers.”
While many of the growers spoke of how horrible their crops were, Albert Poché of Poché Family Farm in Independence said the weather hasn’t affected his operation.
“While living in Allentown, Pennsylvania a few years back, I did a three-year apprenticeship with the Mennonites, giving them free labor,” Poché said.
During that experience, he learned a lot about high tunnel and organic farming, which he used to produce an outstanding crop this year, he said.
“My wife, my son and daughter help with our four acres of produce and having our two high tunnels made all the difference,” he said. “I have clear wrap on the high tunnels, which completely encapsulates it.”
Poché said he feels that having the high tunnels is the only way to go with vegetable production.
“With the changes I believe we’re going to experience with the weather, I need to be able to control what I can,” he said.
Poché grows a wide variety of produce and prides himself on having lots of color in his display.
“When I go to the farmers market, I like to have a one-stop table for my customers to choose from,” Poché said. “We also have a CSA, which provides 12 weeks of spring produce.”
Community-supported agriculture, or CSA, provides a weekly basket of produce for its members at a flat fee.
Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Grower Association members also incorporated their annual meeting with the field day, which ended with a jambalaya lunch.