2011 News You Can Use


December

Winter 2011 Low-temperature Injury to Stone Fruit Flower Buds in New Mexico

Single peach flower on a branch

Does the recent cold weather remind you the early February freeze in 2011? Normally, late frost, rather than the winter freezes, is the critical challenge for fruit growers in northern and central New Mexico. However, in 2011, there was an unusual cold snap around New Year's Day and an even more severe one in early February. Crops across the state suffered various kinds of winter damage depending on their hardiness and location. In the spring, stone fruit trees at the Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde and the Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas were evaluated for flower bud damage. A report of this project has been published in the December issue of HortTechnology. Contact: Shengrui Yao

September

NMSU Glandless Cotton Research Appears Promising

John Idowu

What if cotton production wasn't all about the lint, the fiber we use so extensively for clothing and other products? What if the seeds, which form a significant part of the boll, could, like sunflower seeds, be used in human foods and in feed for a wide range of domesticated animals? In such a world, cotton producers would make more money on their crop, because more of the plant would be of value; livestock producers and aquaculturalists would have another, and perhaps less expensive, feed option for their animals; and consumers would have new food products. Think cottonseed oil for salads; baking and frying; cottonseed butter for individuals with peanut allergies; cottonseed granola bars; or cotton-based ice cream. The main impediment to realizing this scenario is the presence of high levels of gossypol in cottonseed. Gossypol is a natural toxin, found in most varieties of cotton that makes all of the plant's tissue, including the seeds, inedible by humans and most animals. It acts as a natural defense, helping to limit damage from chewing insects. Currently, cottonseed byproducts are used in some cattle feed, since ruminants, with their special digestive system, can tolerate limited amounts of gossypol. Using gossypol-laden cottonseed oil or meal in food for humans or in feed for poultry, hogs, shrimp or catfish is out of the question. Gossypol is produced by small glands found throughout the above-ground tissue of most cotton plants, and therefore varieties without those glands, and which therefore do not produce the toxin, are referred to as "glandless" cotton. Several New Mexico State University researchers are involved in field and lab trials of a glandless variety of cotton, Acala-GLS. The research trials, which include agronomic and insect resistance evaluation, are funded by Cotton Incorporated, a national organization that supports the cotton industry. Click here for more information on glandless cotton. Click here to view a video on this subject. Contact: John Idowu

August

Common Corn Smut Appearing in Corn Fields Across the State

Image of common smut on corn
Photo Credit: Sandra Key Barraza, NMSU

If you have noticed swollen, blackish-blue, kernels on your corn ears, you are not alone. Over the last few weeks, common smut has been appearing in corn fields across New Mexico. Common smut, caused by the fungus Ustilago maydis, is a common plant disease associated with developing ears of corn. While the appearance of the disease can by quite alarming, the disease usually affects only a few ears and is generally more of a curiosity than a real concern. In fact, in Mexico, after proper preparation, common smut is considered an edible delicacy and not a plant disease. Common smut, also known as blister smut or boil, is found worldwide wherever corn is grown. Although the incidence and severity of the disease varies greatly between fields, in New Mexico the overall loss associated with the disease is typically very low. Click here for more information on common smut. Contact: Natalie Goldberg

Insect Pest Outbreaks

Image of an adult ladybug
Adult ladybug

Low Predation in 2011 Causes Outbreaks of Insect Pests - During most years insect pest populations in New Mexico are fairly well controlled by arthropod predators. Typically 40-70% of pests are controlled by predators. This year arthropod predator numbers are extremely low, resulting in some outbreaks of insect pests that are generally well controlled. Predator populations were normal in March and April, but a lack of prey resulted in predators feeding on each other and a crash in their populations by June. The concern was that this would result in outbreaks of pests. While this has not happened in all crops there have been some outbreaks of pests that are normally sporadic. Armyworms for example have been at extremely high levels in alfalfa. Many growers also have been treating refuge cotton for beet armyworm, normally an infrequent problem in New Mexico. Click here for more information on Insect Pest Outbreaks. Contact: Jane Pierce

July

Managing Alfalfa in Low to No Water Availability Situations

Image of water stressed alfalfa

Dry conditions have been prolonged in New Mexico and water for irrigation is in short supply in many areas. Even under less than optimum irrigation capabilities or no irrigation, alfalfa often can produce harvestable forage if locally significant precipitation occurs. Some key strategies to consider for alfalfa during drought conditions include: irrigation management (if water is available), fertilization, insect and weed control, and harvest management. For information how to manage alfalfa when irrigation is limited, click here. For more information about the other aspects of alfalfa drought management, see NMSU's Circular 646: Managing alfalfa during drought. Contacts: Mark Marsalis and Leonard Lauriault

Water Pumping Cost Alternatives

The high cost of energy is reason for many to consider water pumping costs and cheaper alternatives. Large scale operations remain dependent upon fossil fuel and hydro-electricity power. For smaller scale operations, including domestic water uses, wind and solar pumping may provide some alternative energy solutions. Solar pumping technology continues to improve in efficiency and price competitiveness. While there are few limits on how large solar (direct current-DC) pumps can be built, they tend to be most efficient for small flow applications where combustion engines are least economical. This is due to the relatively high cost of the photovoltaic panel array required to power a given size DC pump. Smaller solar DC pumps require less than 150 watts and can deliver 1.5 gallons per minute from depths exceeding 200 feet. In a ten hour day that can amount to around 900 gallons of water. That is plenty to supply a household, several head of stock and a small garden/orchard. Capital costs vary depending on the specific needs, but $7K - $12K would be in the range of a typical system. That cost is only slightly higher than today's cost for traditional windmill water pumping (lifting) equipment. Windmill, tower and down well materials can range from $8K to $10K for a typical application. However, at similar depths, with consistent (10-12 MPH) wind, the capacity of a windmill will as much as double that of a solar pump. For example: a common 2 inch pumping cylinder power by an 8 feet diameter windmill can deliver up to 180 gallons per hour or 1800 gallons in ten hours. Twice that of the solar DC pump mentioned above, in the same time period. Obviously this 'heads up' comparison between solar and wind pumping will not hold true day in and day out, due to climate conditions. But the reality is that New Mexico has an abundance of both sun and wind. Which makes these two energy sources worth looking into when considering cheaper water pumping alternatives.

June

Cucumber Mosaic Virus

tomato plant infected with CMV
Fig. 2. Tomato plant infected with CMV
Image of a chile pepper plant infected with CMV
Fig. 1. Chile pepper infected with CMV

Are some of your vegetable plants deformed, twisted or elongated? Are the leaves mottled, wrinkled or curled? Are the plants stunted and not producing any fruit? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your plants may be suffering from Cucumber Mosaic Virus (CMV). This spring we have had a significant number of plants submitted to the NMSU - Plant Diagnostic Clinic (NMSU-PDC) which have tested positive for CMV. This is a common virus, worldwide, and is present every year in New Mexico; but it usually appears later in the growing season and very sporadically. Already this year, we have had a number of greenhouse or hoop-house grown plants infected with the disease. CMV can cause a wide range of symptoms depending on host, age of plant, virus strain, and environmental conditions. The disease is sometimes referred to as "shoestringing" because of the effect on young leaves to develop a narrow, elongated, tendril-like appearance (Fig. 1 and 2.). Click here for more information. Contact: Natalie Goldberg

Feather Fingergrass Control

Image of Feather Fingergrass

There have been many questions about control of feather fingergrass, especially from growers who use glyphosate (Roundup) products regularly in their weed management activities. Since feather fingergrass may germinate over an extended period of time, management strategies that incorporate both effective pre-emergent (PRE) and post-emergent (POST) herbicides are often most successful. Experiments are being conducted at New Mexico State University to identify effective herbicides that can be used for the control of this weed. click here to view results from preliminary experiments. Contact: Jamshid Ashigh

Restricted Use Herbicides

The rainy season is around the corner and there have been a lot of questions about the restricted use herbicides. One of the common questions regarding these herbicides is "what active ingredients are restricted use?" Several herbicides are considered restricted use herbicides in New Mexico. The "Restricted Use" classification means that a product, which falls into that category, can only be purchased and used by a certified pesticide applicator or under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. The major active ingredients in the restricted use herbicides are 2,4-D, picloram and paraquat. However, not all the products that contain these actives are considered restricted use herbicides. For example, 2,4-D products that are registered for home or lawn and garden use are not restricted use herbicides. Therefore, the restrictions are product specific, and there are two, state and federal, complementary restricted use herbicide/pesticide lists. Although some federally restricted use herbicides are not listed in the state restricted use herbicides, they are considered restricted by the state. If a product is listed as restricted use in federal list the term "Restricted Use Pesticide" appears on the label, however, this is not a requirement for the state restricted use herbicides. Therefore, to find out whether an herbicide is restricted or not, both federal and state lists must be checked for the trade name of that herbicide. Click here to view the federal and state lists. These lists are being updated on a monthly basis. Contact: Jamshid Ashigh

May

Freeze Damaged Plants

Image of an ash tree

To save or not to save, that is the question! The freeze of February 2011 was significant indeed - many areas in New Mexico reported record or near record lows. Las Cruces recorded a low of -5 F and over two days when the temperature did not rise above freezing! Now that spring has arrived, we can start to assess the damage to plants from this event. Perhaps surprisingly, many plants have come out of the winter with no signs of any damage. Unfortunately for others, the story is not so bright. Some plants were killed. Others are struggling to survive. Plants that are still alive, but severely damaged, need to be assessed individually to determine the most appropriate fate. These damaged plants are predisposed to attack by pathogens and insects. In some cases, it may be best to remove these plants than to deal with disease and insect infestation later. If a decision is made to try and save these plants, damaged tissue should be removed in order to eliminate tissue that is attractive to pests. Click here for more on this story. To view videos on how to manage freeze damaged plants featuring the Dona Ana County Extension Agent, click here. Contact: Natalie Goldberg

Curly Top Watch

Image of spinach plants

It's that time of year again, Beet Curly Top Virus may soon be appearing in your gardens. Are your tomato plants curly and not producing fruit? Are your pepper plants stunted and yellow? How about your spinach, squash or beans? Are they deformed, stunted and/or yellow? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your plants might be infected with a disease called Beet Curly Top Virus (BCTV). BCTV is a common disease in many vegetable crops, including tomatoes, peppers, beans, pumpkins, squash, and spinach. It also infects many weeds, which serve as important alternate hosts allowing the virus to survive between growing seasons. The virus is spread from plant to plant by the beet leafhopper. The disease can start appearing in gardens shortly after planting and may continue to infect plants throughout the growing season. Although the lack of significant fall rain would generally indicate that the level of BCTV this year would be relatively low, we have already noticed a significant infection (over 50%) in a spinach planting in the Mesilla Valley. Click on the link above for a publication on this disease. Click here for more photos. Contact: Natalie Goldberg