Sustainable Integrated Pest Management for Tomato

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Tomato damaged by Black Mold

INTRODUCTION

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the coordinated use of pest and environmental information with available pest control methods to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment. IPM is a sustainable approach to pest management that uses knowledge of pest, crop and environmental conditions to select the best combination of the following IPM tactics:

  • Cultural control – modifying farming practices to decrease pest problems
  • Biological control – use of beneficial organisms to regulate pests
  • Chemical control – use of chemical pesticides appropriately
  • Physical control – killing pests directly or by disrupting their environments

TOMATO PESTS AND THEIR CONTROL

Insects - Nematodes Affecting Tomatoes

Insects/ Nematodes Affecting Tomatoes

Cutworms are green or brown caterpillars that curl into a C shape when disturbed. They eat young plants at the soil line at night, and can leave a healthy seedling cut off entirely and lying on the ground.

Controls: Eliminate weeds around garden beds at least two weeks before planting. Hand-picking cutworms at night may help, or you can protect seedlings with cardboard collars or one or more toothpicks (inserted close and parallel to the stem).

Aphids affect tomatoes, especially vigorously growing ones.

Controls: A handful of aphids won’t hurt a healthy tomato plant, but if new leaves are curling or the shoots are coated in aphids, crushing aphids by hand or blasting them off with a strong jet of water will control them.

Hornworms are voracious eaters of tomato plants and fruit. They are large (1” to 4”) green caterpillars with a prominent horn on the tail end; they will eat leaves, small stems, and fruit, sometimes stripping young plants entirely. The mature caterpillars drop to the ground and pupate in the soil over the winter.

Fruitworms, also known as corn earworms, are about an inch long, pale green or brown, sometimes striped. They burrow under the stem end of tomato fruit to create messy warrens full of brown frass.

Controls: Hand-picking caterpillars in the early evening, when they are most active, is quite effective.

Rototill or thickly sheet-mulch beds to destroy pupae between seasons. Bacillus thuringiensis or spinosad sprays, both organic, can help with control. General predators, such as praying mantises or wasps, also reduce populations.

Stinkbugs are an annoyance to tomato growers, as their feeding can cause corky white patches under the skin of ripe tomatoes. These patches don’t peel easily when cooking or canning the fruit.

Controls: Hand-pick stinkbugs or snip them with garden shears; a bucket of soapy water held under them can help, as they often drop when disturbed. Eliminate weeds around garden beds at least two weeks before planting. Insecticides are not recommended.

Snails and Slugs can be a problem, especially if plants are on or near the ground. They rarely bother foliage on mature tomatoes, but they can eat large chunks of ripening fruit if they have easy access.

Controls: Keep tomato plants and especially fruit off the ground by using cages or staking.

TOMATO DISEASES AND THEIR CONTROL

Fungal and Bacterial Pathogens of Tomatoes

Fungal and Bacterial Pathogens of Tomato

Early Blight is a common leaf spot caused by the fungus Alternaria solani. Dark brown spots with broad yellow haloes appear on the leaves, and concentric rings can be found in the spots under bright light.

Stems and fruit can also be infected. It often progresses from the bottom of the plant upward. Cool humid weather or overhead irrigation encourage Early Blight, which is spread by splashing water and germinates on moist leaves.

Controls: Avoid getting water on the leaves whenever possible, change the locations where you plant your tomatoes, mulch well around each plant, and clear away all dead or infected plant material at the end of each season. Picking off infected leaves may slow the progression of the disease until the weather is more favourable.

Speck and Spot are bacterial diseases with similar symptoms, causing small black specks or patches on leaves, stems, and fruit. They can be distinguished from Early Blight by the water-soaked appearance of the spots, and the fact that the spots don’t cross the larger veins. Like Early Blight, these bacterial diseases are spread by water, and they can overwinter in soil and on debris from the previous season.

Controls: Prevent and control these diseases as you would Early Blight, above. Bacterial spots stop spreading in dry, warm weather. Chemical controls are usually not needed.

Late Blight is caused by Phytophthora infestans, a fungal disease most famous for the Irish potato famine. It is just as serious in tomatoes, causing dark green to purple-brown water-soaked spots that grow quickly on leaves and stems. The underside of infected leaves will sometimes have whitish powdery spores. Fruit turns brown but stays firm. The fungus thrives during periods of high humidity and mild temperatures (60-78° F). Once it gets going, it can kill a plant very rapidly and spread to other tomatoes, peppers, or potatoes.

Controls: Avoid sprinkler irrigation, very dense planting, or other things which keep humidity high.

Remove volunteer potatoes or tomatoes, and clean up debris at the end of the season. Mulching may help prevent initial infection.

Fusarium Wilt is caused by a soil-borne fungus (Fusarium oxysporum) which infects the roots and stems of tomatoes. Leaves yellow and wilt without spots, sometimes only on one side of the plant, and brownish streaks creep up the inside of the main stem and into the branches. Symptoms are worst in warm weather, especially as the first fruits are getting large. It is usually fatal to infected plants.

Controls: Fusarium can survive a long time in the soil, and it is spread by shoes, garden tools, and anything else which moves soil around. The typical solution in an infected garden is to grow resistant varieties (look for an F or FF on the variety label); no systematic resistance trials have been done for heirloom varieties. Cleaning up all tomato debris, including old roots, and solarizing the soil may help.

Verticillium Wilt (Verticillium dahliae) is similar to Fusarium Wilt, and it can be difficult to tell them apart, though Verticillium prefers cool temperatures rather than warmth.

Controls: Management is the same as for Fusarium Wilt; resistant varieties carry a V on the label.

Powdery Mildew can appear in late summer or fall as the nights cool, but it rarely causes much damage.

Irregular yellow blotches with a faint coating of white powder form on the leaves, and eventually cause brown dead patches.

Controls: No control is necessary on mature plants, but in the case of young or severely affected plants, sulphur dust provides good control.

SUMMARY

Pesticides and application costs are nearly 25% of tomato grower’s expenses. Despite all the planning and preparation that goes into planting a garden, insects and diseases can still frustrate even the best gardeners.

REFERENCES

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)- Rodents

Pests and Diseases for Home Gardeners

Precautions & Application Tips on Specific Pesticides

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Integrated Pest Management (IPM) – Rodents

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A Rat In Search of Food

Introduction

Integrated Pest Management is an approach to pest management designed to manage pests and diseases with as little damage as possible to people, the environment and beneficial organisms.

Farmers aim at producing high yields and profits from their crops but their efforts are reduced by pests and disease infestations and damage.

Managing any vertebrate pest requires a preventative approach and with mice and rats, it begins prior to harvest. Even if rodent activity appears lower, preventative management still needs to be considered to prevent future damage.

The Types of Damage Caused by Rodents

  • Loss of volume or weight due to their feeding
  • Loss in quality caused by droppings, urine, and hairs
  • Damage to containers such as bags, that results in spillage
  • Health hazards to people who handle the stored products, certain species of mice and rats are carriers of diseases such as plague, weil’s disease (Leptospiral jaundice) rat-bite fever, and salmonella.

While they are different species of rodents with slightly different habitats, the management approach for all is the same. All mice and rats in storage facilities can cause a significant amount of damage.  Nearby corn or soybean fields can provide a fall food source for mice and rats that will then move into the storage facility or the barn.

Controlling vertebrate pests requires multiple approaches, which in general include exclusion, habitat modification, repellents, trapping and rodenticides. In an open and large scale commercial setting, exclusion, trapping or repellents are not effective. This leaves habitat manipulation and rodenticides, and both are needed for a successful mice and rats abatement program.

Habitat modification such as a close mowing of grass in row middles and ditches late in the fall provides a two-fold management purpose – reduce favorable habitat for mice activity and expose rodents more readily to predators that help with population management. Cleaning up fencerows to reduce habitat is also needed.

Rodenticides are another approach in management programs, as they provide the quickest and most practical means of bringing large populations of mice and rats under control. Bait should be applied when dry and fair weather is predicted for at least three days. If there is a great deal of alternate food (fallen mangoes in a block or nearby field corn), baiting might need to be done more than once to be most effective. If mice and rat populations are very high, a second rodenticide application might be needed. As with any pest management program, but especially when using rodenticides, the risks to non-target organisms needs to be taken into account and prevented.

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Pros and Cons of Organic Farming

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Some of the Crops Grown Organically at a Farmers Market in Munich

What is Organic Farming?
Organic farming is a technique used in farming without the use of any chemicals or synthetics. Its aim is to produce crops which have the highest nutritional values with least impact on nature. Crop rotation, green manure, use of natural fertilizers and biological pest control form the crux of organic farming. It is a proactive ecology management strategy. This strategy enhances the fertility of the soil, prevents soil erosion and at the same time protects the humans and animal kingdom from the side-effects of chemicals and synthetics. Many of the farm products, like, vegetables, fruit, herbs, meat, milk, eggs, etc. are produced organically by some farmers.

“Organic” as defined by law, implies quality assurance. The words “natural” and “eco-friendly” mean that organic farming techniques might have been used, but it does not necessarily mean completely following organic techniques.

Pros and Cons of Organic Farming
Like everything else, organic farming also has its pros and cons…
The most important of the advantages of organic farming is that it maintains the life of the soil, not only for the current generation, but also for the future generations. Water pollution is reduced with organic farming. Most of the time after it rains, the water from the fields, which contains chemicals, gets drained into the rivers. This pollutes the water bodies. In organic farming, since no chemicals or synthetics are used, water pollution reduces as well.

Organic farming helps in building richer soil. Rich soil is obtained by intelligently rotating crops. The rich soil helps in plant growth. The rate of soil erosion is reduced drastically. A French study has revealed that the nutritional quality and micro-nutrients are present in higher quantities in organically produced crops. The micro-nutrients promote good health. Organically grown food tastes better too. The overall cost of cultivating the crops reduces as the farmers use green manure or worm farming to replenish the lost nutrients of the soil. The other option that the farmers use, is to grow legumes in rotation with other crops. The life of organically grown plants is longer than the plants cultivated by traditional methods. Organically grown crops are more drought tolerant. The chemical fertilizers cause the plant to ripen fast. When the crop does not get water it withers and dies, which is not the case with organic crops.

Along with the pros, there are certain cons too. The first disadvantage is low productivity. With the highly developed chemicals and machinery, the farmer is able to multiply his harvest manifold times. The organic farmers use the cultivation method as opposed to drilling method used by the traditional farmers. The cultivated soil is prone to wind and water erosion. The traditional farmers opine that direct drilling does not cause any disharmony in the soil structure. The next argument is that the organically produced food is expensive. The cost is very often 50-100 percent more than the traditional food. The other valid argument is that organic food is not always available. There is a reason behind that. The organic farmers grow crops in accordance to the season. Neither do they artificially grow any crop nor do they extend the life of the plant or use chemicals, synthetics or pesticides. Therefore, oranges will be found only in winter and mangoes only in summer. Looking at it from the health benefits point of view, there is no doubt that you will benefit if you eat a particular food item, when it is actually in season.

After weighing the pros and cons of organic farming, it is noticed that the pros outweigh the cons. It is therefore best to consume organically grown food, although it is expensive.

What Constitute a Vegetable, Herb or Fruit?

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Introduction

We have all come across these terms. And frankly speaking, they can be confusing. For example, the tomato can sometimes be considered a bit of both fruit and vegetable and some books consider a banana herb and not a fruit. But is there a clear cut definition?

Botanically speaking, anything that bears a seed or is a seed is considered a fruit. There are different kinds of fruit, i.e. nuts are a kind of fruit.  Vegetables are any part of the plant that doesn’t have to do with making new plants. Lettuce is a leaf, carrot is a root, and celery is a stem.  I think I heard a story of how the legal definition of a fruit vs. veggie was established as a way of avoiding taxes or tariffs or something.

Technically, a tomato is a berry.  Just for further enjoyment, an apple is a fluid-filled hypanthium. The particular item you are discussing will determine the specific best term to describe it. Generally you can safely call the product of fertilization a “fruit”.  (In the supermarket we routinely call the structure bearing fruits “fruit”). Generally fruits will germinate into plants which will again flower, offering another opportunity for fertilization. (Note that bananas we find in the store bear tiny almost-remnants of seeds which will not germinate…in the wild, banana “fruits” have seeds (fruits, being the products of fertilization) which are much larger which will germinate).  If one discusses a part of a plant which is not the direct product of fertilization or the structure bearing it, then one could safely call the item an herb.  For example, basil leaves are vegetative structures not specifically the result of fertilization and are most easily described as herbs. We do not have an adequate definition for ‘vegetable’, but our feeling for its routine meaning is any part of a plant consumed whether a stem (celery), a leaf (lettuce), a root or tuber (radish, or potato, respectively), and in some cases the fruit of fertilization or structures bearing them (cucumbers, yes-tomatoes).  Added to this are items such as mushrooms (basidiocarps of fungi) and you get the idea….the term vegetable has come to mean almost anything which is not animal or mineral which we find in the ‘produce’ section of the supermarket.  Thus, the term vegetable has somewhat lost a botanical usefulness in that there are more specific terms to use depending on the particular structure being discussed. Note that there are specific botanical definitions for berries which can be found in any good plant classification text; you can see this is essential, for example, in distinguishing between raspberries, blueberries, and tomatoes (also berries). We hope this shed some light on the challenge of plant classification and gives some insight as to why scientific names were established to pin down a particular organism to prevent confusion with many common names or possibly similar terms for different organisms.

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HARDENING TRANSPLANTS – VEGETABLE GARDENING

1200x800Introduction
The transplanting process can be a shock to rapidly growing seedlings especially when set out into the cold windy garden in the spring. This is especially true for transplants started in the greenhouse, cold frame, hotbed or home. These young seedlings can be made somewhat resistant to heat, cold temperatures, drying and whipping winds, certain types of insect injury, injury from blowing sand and soil particles and low soil moisture by a process termed “hardening.”
The term “hardening” refers to any treatment that results in a firming or hardening of plant tissue. Such a treatment reduces the growth rate, thickens the cuticle and waxy layers, reduces the percentage of freezable water in the plant and often results in a pink color in stems, leaf veins and petioles. Such plants often have smaller and darker green leaves than non hardened plants. Hardening results in an increased level of carbohydrates in the plant permitting a more rapid root development than occurs in non hardened plants.
Cool-season flower and vegetable plants can develop hardiness allowing them to withstand subfreezing temperatures. Unhardened cabbage seedlings have been reported to be damaged by temperatures of -2 degrees C (28 degrees F) while hardened cabbage will tolerate temperatures as low as -6 degrees C (22 degrees F).
Warm-season types of plants even when hardened, will not withstand temperatures much below freezing. If transplanted to the garden or field prior to the average last killing spring frost, such plants should be provided protection by hot caps or other such devices.
Method
Any of the following can be used to harden transplants. A combination of all these techniques at one time is more effective.
1. Gradually reduce water – water lightly at less frequent intervals but do not allow the plants to wilt severely.
2. Expose plants to lower temperature than is reported as optimal for their growth. If biennials are exposed to cold for an extended period, they may bolt in lieu of developing properly. Note: Placing the plants outside during the day to encourage hardening and then bringing the plants back into the warm house during the night often reverses the hardening process. Plants could be placed in a cold frame or other area that does not freeze during the night hours without lose of the hardening process.
3. Do not fertilize, particularly with nitrogen immediately before or during the hardening process. A starter solution or liquid fertilizer could however be applied to the hardened transplants one or two days prior to transplanting into the garden or at the time of transplanting.
4. Gradually expose the plants to more sunlight. This results in the development of a thicker cuticle layer thereby reducing water loss.
Cautions
Hardening is not necessary for all transplants. We recommend that with the exception of tomatoes, plants that are susceptible to frost should not be hardened. Overly hardened plants while withstanding unfavorable outside conditions are slow to get started and may never overcome the stress placed on the plant during the hardening process. We also recommend that plants be hardened for no longer than seven to ten days before planting to the garden site.

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