2015 Grape and Muscadine Short Course Update

The MSU Grape and Muscadine Short Course originally scheduled for February 26 in Verona, MS is being rescheduled.  The new date has not been established yet, but should be by the end of the week or early next week.  Once that information is in hand, I will update this post and include the new date.

Last week the class was held in Hattiesburg and we had a good and excited crowd on hand to learn viticulture techniques.  We look forward to an even bigger crowd at the next one in Verona.  Keep an eye on this post for more information as it becomes available.

2015 Mississippi Blueberry Education Workshop Presentations

Last week (February 12), MSU Extension, USDA-ARS, and the Gulf South Blueberry Growers’ Association co-hosted a blueberry education workshop for Mississippi blueberry growers.  The agenda was as listed below.  Click on the name of the presentation to see the PowerPoint as a PDF file.

Dr. Barakat Mahmoud (MSU-ES): Overview of the Revised FSMA Rule on Produce Safety Standards

Dr. Tim Rinehart (USDA-ARS, Poplarville): An Update on Rabbiteye Blueberry Genomics

Aaron Rodgers (Mississippi Dept. of Agriculture and Commerce): Mechanical Harvesters vs. Hand Labor: Examining the Economic Decision-making of Blueberry Harvests (PDF not available)

Dr. Eric Stafne (MSU-ES): Scale-neutral Harvest-aid System and Sensor Technologies to Improve Efficiency and Handling of Fresh-market Highbush Blueberries

Dr. Barbara Smith (USDA-ARS, Poplarville): Blueberry Disease Control Recommendations

Dr. John Adamczyk (USDA-ARS Poplarville): Pollinators and You in our Blueberries: Are We Taking It For Granted?

Dr. Blair Sampson (USDA-ARS, Poplarville): SWD in Mississippi Blueberries

Overall there were roughly 50 attendees.  Evaluation data indicated that the crowd was pleased with the topics.  Some even suggested topics for next time, which is always welcome.  Below are a couple photos of the event.

Dr. Mahmoud covering the upcoming FSMA regulations

Dr. Mahmoud covering the upcoming FSMA regulations

Dr. Rinehart covering an exciting new topic -- Rabbiteye genomics

Dr. Rinehart covering an exciting new topic — Rabbiteye genomics

If you were not able to attend this year’s event, please plan to make it next year.  It will likely be around the same time and place.  If you have any requests for topics or speaks please let me know and I will do all that I can to accommodate it.  Thanks for a great turnout!

I also “Live Tweeted” the workshop.  Those tweets generated 1015 impressions (how many people saw the tweet in their timeline) and 66 engagements (how many people clicked on the tweet).  That is a 6.5% engagement rate from those who did not even attend!

If you want to follow me on Twitter, my handle is @EStafne

I try to tweet other events as well and general information related to fruit crops.


Some Tidbits Learned from the Southern Blueberry and Fruit Workers Meeting

Recently I attended the Southern Blueberry and Fruit Workers meeting in Atlanta, GA.  It is held as part of the Southern Region of the American Society for Horticultural Science annual conference.  Below are some new things I learned about at the meeting:

Ring nematode is prevalent in Georgia blueberry plantings

The nematode problem is worse in re-plant situations and may require fumigation

Southern highbush blueberries have more problems than Rabbiteyes, especially in re-plant situations

Using pine bark mulch appears to reduce nematode populations

The addition of humic acid to the soil does not appear to benefit blueberry plants

Botrytis resistance to fungicides has happened in GA.  Use of Captan or Ziram is now recommended because of low resistance possibility

Mummy berry sprays should be applied starting at first sign of green tissue.  Indar, Orbit, Pristine, and Proline (a new material) showed efficacy.  Serenade, an organic product, also had some efficacy.  Regalia, another organic product, had no effective control of the disease.

Exobasidium is becoming resistant to Pristine in GA.  ‘Premier’ has high infection rates, as does Tifblue.  A full Captan spray schedule is effective (about 8 sprays in GA), but not using Captan as a delayed dormant spray.  Use Lime Sulfur or Sulforix for best control as a delayed dormant spray.

Xyllela (blueberry scorch) has been found in various states.  In Rabbiteye’s  it leads to chronic symptoms, but in Southern Highbush scorch symptoms are readily apparent.  There may be different strains of this disease and more work is being done.

Blueberry Necrotic Ring Blotch is a non-systemic viral disease that is only in leaves.  Mites spread it.  It can lead to defoliation of the plant.

Broad mites have been found in blueberries and blackberries in Arkansas.  Damage resembles Roundup injury.  Leaves have a “silvery” look, with rosetting and stunting of plants, and necrosis of the petiole.  It will kill shoot tips.

Blueberry rust is a problem in Gulf Coast areas of Alabama.

Foliar calcium spray trials in GA on rabbiteyes have shown no efficacy

Three new Southern Highbush blueberries are being released from UGA soon.

One new Rabbiteye cultivars is also being released from UGA – Krewer, an early, large fruited cultivar that should pair well with Titan

Reported Fruit Problems in Mississippi 2014

The list below illustrates the types of pathogens/problems found on fruit plants submitted to the Mississippi State University plant diagnostic lab in 2014. The general format of the list shows the common name for the disease, followed by the scientific name of the pathogen, followed by a number in parentheses that indicates the number of times this problem was diagnosed in the lab.

Apple (Malus x domestica)
• Apple Scab suspected (Venturia inaequalis) (1)
• Cedar apple rust (Gymnosporangium juniper-virginianae) (1)
• Diplodia canker (Diplodia mutila) (1)
• Fireblight (Erwinia amylovora) (1)
• Flyspeck (Schizothyrium pomi) (1)
• Phoma Leaf spot (Phoma sp.) (1)
• Russetting (Abiotic) (1)
• Sooty Blotch (Gloeodes pomigena) (1)
• Undetermined (mummified fruit ) (1)

Blackberry (Rubus sp.) ‘Arapaho’
• Abiotic (Freeze damage) (4)
• Blackberry Rust (Phragmidium violaceum) (1)
• Cane blight (Coniothyrium fuckelii) (1)

Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.)
• Abiotic (Cold injury) (1)
• Abiotic (Possibly Glyphosate) (1)
• Leaf spot (Cercospora rubi) (1)
• Leaf spot (Septoria sp.) (1)
• Fruit Spot (Exobasdium maculosum (1)
• Twig Blight ( Fusicoccum sp.) (1)

Cherry (Prunus sp.)
• Insufficient sample (Vascular disruption suspected) (1)

Fig, Common (Ficus carica)

• Diplodia canker (Diplodia sp.) (1)
• Rust (Cerotelium fici) (1)
• Undetermined fruit rot (1)

Fruit Trees (Prunus sp.)
• Black knot (Apiosporina morbosa) (1)

Grape (Vitis vinifera)
• Abiotic (Magnesium deficiency suspected) (1)
• Abiotic (Freeze injury suspected) (2)
• Black Rot (Guignardia bidwellii / Phyllosticta ampelicida) (2)

Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi)
• Borers suspected (1)

Jujube (Ziziphus jujube)
• Leaf spot (Cercospora sp.) (1)
• Fruit injury undetermined (1)

Mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis)
• Insect infestation (1)
• Sooty mold (1)

Peach (Prunus persica)
• Brown fruit rot (Moilinia fructicola) (2)
• Peach leaf curl (Taphrina deformans) (1)
• Root rot (Armillaria sp.) (1)
• San Jose Scale (Quadraspidiotus perniciosus) (1)

Pear (Pyrus sp.)
• Abiotic (Chemical root injury suspected) (1)
• Fireblight (Erwinia amylovora) (2)
• Phomopsis Twig Blight (Phomopsis sp.) (1)
• Quince rust (Gymnosporangium clavipes) (1)

Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)

• Abiotic (Possible Nitrogen Burn or nutritional issue) (1)

• Animal injury suspected (1)

• No pathogens (1)
• Pecan phylloxera (Phylloxera devastratrix) (2)

Plum (Prunus sp.)

• Abiotic (Sunscald suspected) (1)
• Black knot (Apiosporina morbosa) (1)

Plum (Prunus spp.) ‘Shiro’
• Bacterial spot (Xanthomonas campestris pv. pruni) (2)
• Brown rot (Monilinia fructicola) (1)
• Plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar) (1)
• Scale insect (1)

Satsuma (Citrus reticulata)
• Root/Stem injury suspected (1)

See the entire list here: http://msucares.com/lab/2014list.pdf

2015 Mississippi Blueberry Education Workshop

The 2015 Mississippi Blueberry Education Workshop will take place February 12, 2015 from 1-5pm at the MSU Forrest County Extension office in Hattiesburg, MS.  Mississippi State University Extension Service, in conjunction with the USDA-ARS and the Gulf South Blueberry Growers Association, will once again host an educational workshop focused on blueberry production in Mississippi. This year the topics will include Spotted Wing Drosophila, Disease issues, Blueberry breeding, Pollination and pollinators, Mechanized harvest technology and economics, and the Food Safety Modernization Act. Please come learn about these important topics.
Cost: $10, at the door will be collected by the Gulf South Blueberry Growers Association to help in future workshops.

Get the full schedule of speakers and other information by downloading the pdf file below:

Blueberry Workshop 2015

College Football Rankings: A Methodology That Makes Sense

When the University has a break around the holidays I don’t spend all my time thinking about fruit production (shocking, I know). Like many males in this country, during the holiday season I spent a lot of time watching college football. Since I work for a major university, worked previously at another, attended two more, and all of the teams I have had a connection to were playing in a bowl game I spent plenty of time thinking about college football. I think the current playoff system worked out for this year. The committee, I believe, got the four teams right and we are on the cusp of seeing how the whole thing plays out. What I don’t like about the current system (and past systems) is that we have no idea how those final teams were decided upon. There is a lack of transparency. What are the factors being used to determine the final four? Performance statistics? Eye Test? Strength of Schedule? Margin of Victory? It is all so unclear. Being an academic, and as long as the football team is associated with the university name, I believe there should be an academic component to the final rankings as well. The most equitable (and competitive) would be Fall semester grade point average of the football team. Now, I don’t think it should count for a large portion of the final overall ranking system, but it should be a component – after all, aren’t these “student-athletes”?  ESPN has done its own type of work in this area, but they used graduate rate, which is a long term metric.  It includes players who did not even contribute during the current season.

So, over the course of the last couple weeks I developed an easy system that anyone could use to rank college football teams. When I implemented it, the four top teams were the same as those put forth by the committee (although in a different order). How does this work? The rules are as follow:

1. A winning team accumulates the number of wins from the team it defeated. For example, if Team A beats Team B (who has 6 wins on the season), then Team A accumulates 6 points.

2. In the same vein, losses also accumulate, but penalties may occur if: a) a loss on the road has no penalty, b) a loss at a neutral site has a penalty of -0.5 points, and c) a loss at home as a penalty of -1 point. The take-home message is that elite teams should not lose at home. For example if Team A losses to Team C (who has 3 losses on the season) at home, Team A will accumulate -4 points.

3. A team shall not accumulate any points when playing a lower division team, but it will accumulate the losses. I understand there is $$$ involved here and that these games will still get scheduled. But do these games prove anything? In a win, no (higher division schools should have no problem beating lower division schools), but in a loss, yes (in this case the team isn’t good anyway and will not need to worry about being ranked).

4. Points are totaled, and then divided by the number of games played.

5*. The Fall grade point average will be added in this manner: the football team with the top GPA during the fall semester will get 1 point. The lowest will get 0 points. All others will get a percentage of 1 point. For example, if Team A has a Fall GPA of 3.50, the highest of any college football team in its division, it would receive 1 point. If Team Z has a Fall GPA of 2.20 and is the lowest of all teams, it would receive 0 points. The difference between 3.50 and 2.20 is 1.30. The formula would then be [difference in team GPA from lowest school/difference between high and low GPA] = points to be added to ranking. So, if Team G has a GPA of 2.50 this would be 2.50-2.20/1.30 = 0.3/1.3 = 0.23.

*This is a “sticky wicket” in my ranking system. These numbers may be hard to obtain. Until they become widely available via a website or some other method, numbers 1-4 should be used as the criteria for ranking.

Okay, we have the rules established, so how did the teams from 2014 end up? My rankings, using the system above (exclusive of GPA) are listed below. The beauty of this is that anyone can see how teams rank using a little addition and subtraction. Using this system rewards teams for scheduling good teams and penalizes them for scheduling a lot of poor teams and lower division teams.

2014 Final College Football Team Rankings [updated to show final results]

1. The Ohio State University [6.93]

2. Boise State University [6.14]

3. Florida State University [5.89]

4. University of Oregon [5.50]

5. University of Alabama [5.25]

6. Texas Christian University [4.77]

7. Marshall University [4.50]

8. Michigan State University [4.31]

9. Baylor University [3.73]
I only ranked teams with 2 losses or fewer. The Ohio State University and Boise State University were helped by the fact that they did not have a lower division school on their out-of-conference schedule. TOSU had a devastating loss to Virginia Tech University at home, but they were able to compensate for that by playing other decent teams. Boise State had two road losses, both to good teams.  You might notice that if Oregon were to lose the NCG they would drop to #4, below Florida State whom they drilled in the Rose Bowl.  The rankings presented here look over the entire season and not just one game.  Besides, does it really matter who ended up #3 or #4? No, the only one that counts is #1.

Teams in this system would also have an off-field “classroom competition” that would act an in impetus for students to perform better academically. Having this as a component of the ranking would also perhaps subtly encourage coaches to recruit students with better academic backgrounds.

2015 Mississippi Grape and Muscadine Short Courses Announced

Thanks to a grant from the Specialty Crops Block grant program and the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, MSU Extension Service will be hosting two short courses for grape and muscadine growers.  One will be held in Verona and the other in Hattiesburg.  Each short course will meet on two dates, one in February and one in July, so that attendees can see and experience the vineyard at different growing seasons.  Because the grant covers all the expenses, the short course will be free to attend; however, pre-registration is mandatory.  Below the schedules and registration form can be downloaded.

Grape and Muscadine Short Course: Hattiesburg

Grape and Muscadine Short Course: Verona

This course is intended for COMMERCIAL growers (and those interested in becoming commercial) only — those who currently grow or wish to grow for markets (farmer’s markets, local retail, wineries, etc.).  Please see the links above for further details and feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.  We look forward to seeing you at these great events!

More info here: http://msucares.com/news/farmweek/pages-weekly/2015/2015-01-30msugrapecourses.html

A New Blueberry Borer?

Today on Twitter from the Southern Region IPM Center, I found out that there is an unidentified borer attacking blueberry plants in Florida.

To see the full story and photos of the damage, go to the Growing Produce website here: http://www.growingproduce.com/fruits/berries/suspected-borer-could-be-big-bother-to-florida-blueberry-growers/

If you have seen this type of damage on your blueberry plants, please let me know.

Pollination in Pecans

Pecans are wind-pollinated.  Trees are monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers are on the same tree. Thus, self-pollination is possible, but ultimately undesirable.  There are two main pecan flowering types: protandrous and protogynous.  When male flowers release their pollen before female flowers are receptive, those flowers are protandrous (also called Type I).  When female flowers are receptive to pollen before pollen is shed from the male flowers on the same tree it is called a protogynous flower or Type II.

Some protandrous (Type I) pecan trees include Caddo, Cape Fear, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Creek, Desirable, Gafford, Giles, Jackson, Oconee, Oklahoma, Pawnee, Peruque, and Western.  Some protogynous (Type II) pecan trees are Burkett, Candy, Choctaw, Elliot, Forkert, Kanza, Kiowa, Mahan, Maramec, Mohawk, Mount, Oakla, Podsednik, Schley, Shoshoni, Stuart, Sumner, and Wichita.

Pecan has what is called dichogamous flowering, when male and female flowers mature at different times.  Dichogamy promotes cross-pollination within and between species.  It is also known as heterodichogamy.  Dichogamy may be an intermediary step between synchronous dichogamy and dioecy (male and female flowers on separate plants).  The degree of dichogamy is variable within pecan trees and can be affected by weather.  Moist, warm springs favor male flowers, whereas cool, dry springs favor female flowers.  Some members of the hickory family may switch flowering type depending on the environment in the year.  This has been documented in Shagbark (Carya ovata) and Mockernut (Carya tomentosa) hickories. Complete dichogamy means that no self-pollination is possible.  Incomplete dichogamy results in some level of selfing.  Dichogamy encourages cross pollination and discourages self-pollination.  Self-pollination can lead to inbreeding depression in some plants.

Inbreeding depression occurs when two closely related individuals mate.  Some species have a strong negative response to this situation, whereas some have an intermediate response, and some little to none.  There can be ramifications of selfing, including fruit abortion, suppressed kernel development, and low plant vigor.  The unfit do not survive, thus resulting in a reduction in the number of successful mating individuals within a population.  Selfing also limits the gene flow from other populations.  Genes from other populations help to perpetuate individuals that adapt to environmental stresses.  Species with a strong tendency against self-pollination have greater genetic diversity within populations.  Within pecans, the level of inbreeding is low or inbred seedlings die early and never enter the mating process.

Thompson and Romberg (1985) reported that a single gene determines dichogamy in pecan trees.  This means that the trait is qualitative, or is controlled by a single gene or very few genes.  They reported that protogyny is the dominant trait and protandry is recessive.  This is common throughout the hickory family.  Beedanagari et al. (2005) found that protogyny and green stigmas were linked traits as were protandy and red stigmas.  These traits were tightly linked with little recombination.  This means that the more tightly linked the traits are, the rarer the recombination possibility will be.

There are benefits to dichogamy, with the largest being genetic variation.  More genetic variation leads to better pecan tree survival, continued evolution, and better climate adaptation.  Inbreeding, mating of close relatives or selfing, tends to bring out bad traits and thus ultimately makes the tree non-competitive with its non-inbred neighbors.


Beedanagari, S.R., S.K. Dove, B.W. Wood, and P.J. Conner. 2005.  A first linkage map of pecan cultivars based on RAPD and AFLP markers. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 110:1127-1137.

Thompson, T.E. and L.D. Romberg. 1985. Inheritance of heterodichogamy in pecan. Journal of Heredity 76:456-458.

Commentary: Should We Be Worried About Funding for Science?

Recently, I saw a post on Twitter that linked back to this article: “Should the Government Fund Only Science in the “National Interest”?  After reading the article I was appalled.  Now, for full disclosure, I have never received (or even applied for) an NSF grant.  I have, however, applied for and received federal grants from sources other than NSF.  That being said, I wonder if the folks who are scrutinizing the NSF funding practices actually understand science at all.  Science in not just in the domain of the United States.  Science transcends geopolitical borders, language, race, creed, religion, and everything else.  The aim of Science is discovery by asking questions and solving problems.  The thing about Science though, is that researchers rarely make discoveries that result in a singular impact.  The research results are part of a larger puzzle — pieces fit together until we can see the larger picture.  But, many times we have no idea how many pieces are needed to complete the puzzle.  That is why we need the participation of all scientific fields.  The dictating of which fields and studies are “of highest priority”  is not something we should let politicians decide, but rather by scientists via peer-review.  The NSF is a model organization worldwide for funding of important, relevant research.  Diminishing that would  harm scientific discovery across the globe.  Mentioned specifically are “climate change education project, archaeology studies in Ethiopia, anthropology work in Argentina”.  I don’t know about you but I think education on climate change is important.  I also think archaeological and anthropological studies are important because guess what — understanding human history and nature affects the current understanding of ourselves.

Funding for scientific research is difficult enough to garner without it being further restricted.  If I want to do an experiment I have to figure out a way to get money to do it.  Usually that is in the form of grant funding.  The days of allocated funding are over and that is a shame.  I know I spend an inordinate amount of time writing grant proposals and filling out associated forms and other paperwork knowing that the chances are slim that the proposal will get funded.  I think if politicians really want to stop “wasted resources” they should look at the current grant funding model.  In my experience, hundreds of hours are spent developing these proposal and only a small portion are funded.  The real waste is the man-hours spent to develop these proposals that do not get funded.  I sure would like to see a study done on how much time is spent (and ultimately, unrewarded) doing proposals vs. the amount awarded (cost:benefit).

Science is under fire in this country and around the globe.  When I was younger, “University Professor” was highly regarded and trusted.  Now, I am not so sure.  The dictating of which science matters will only further erode the profession.  And who does that benefit?