New Home for This Blog

Soon, this blog will be moving to the official Mississippi State University website. Currently, all blogs are housed at blogs.msucares.com, but those may also move in the future.  So for the time being it is likely this blog will be there if you care to find it.

I plan to continue on and do the same types of posts there as I have done here. I hope you will follow along on this new journey.

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A Chilling Tale of Three Blueberry Cultivars

The number of chill hours we received this year has been lower than usual (see Chill Hour link on right side of this page). I am in the process of accumulating chill hour data from the last 15 years or so to see how (or if) it has changed over that time period. At any rate, this year was somewhere between 500 and 600 hours here in Poplarville.  Enough for most blueberry cultivars, but not all. To this point, see the photo below.

From left to right: Springhigh, Jewel, and O'Neal southern highbush blueberries. Notice that O'Neal has no leaves compared to the other two.

From left to right: Springhigh, Jewel, and O’Neal southern highbush blueberries. Notice that O’Neal has no leaves compared to the other two.

Springhigh has a low chilling requirement of 200 hours. It is also very early blooming which causes problems in our location most years. This cultivar was released in 2005 out of Florida.  Jewel has a similar chilling requirement of about 250 hours. It too is from Florida. O’Neal is much different from the other two.  For flowering it requires about 400-500 hours of chilling; however the leaves have a higher requirement. Although I would not consider the flowering good on this bush it has some. Leaf development is known to be slow and sporadic on O’Neal anyway in the spring. This cultivar is from North Carolina.

I suspect that the amount of chilling we received fell in the area of enough for O’Neal flowers but not quite enough for O’Neal leaves. Leaves will continue to emerge but may take longer than normal. That delay in full leafing may affect the quantity and quality of the crop on O’Neal, whereas both look fine on Springhigh and Jewel.

This publication from Georgia has good information on these cultivars and chill hours.

Klendusity

Have you ever run into a word that you cannot believe you have never heard before in your life?  You think, “How did I make it through school without learning this?” Or, “Did I hear about it but forget that it even existed?”  That is how I felt yesterday.

The word is klendusity and I came across it in a publication from 1961 on Pierce’s Disease of grapes in Mississippi (full citation at the bottom). The exact line from the paper is, “This species may be resistant, or it may have escaped infection because of klendusity.” So, obviously, I had to look up the word to find its exact meaning.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the short definition of klendusity is “disease-escaping ability”.  The fuller, and more descriptive definition is, “the tendency of a plant or variety to escape infection as a result of having some property (as a thick cuticle or hairy surface) that prevents or hinders inoculation.”

Now, I have a Ph.D. in Plant Science — I should know this word, right?  Yes, probably, but as with anything in life there are always new things to be learned. So instead of beating myself up about not knowing this word (or having forgot about it), I decided to revel in my discovery. And it feels great. I hope my discovery has led to a new one for you too.

Citation:

Loomis, N.H. 1961. Symptom Expression and Occurrence of Pierce’s Disease Virus at Meridian, Miss. Proc. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 77:331-336.

Is Mummy Berry Starting Already?

I received the information below from University of Georgia Plant Pathologist Dr. Phil Brannen. It states that in Georgia, mummy berry infection is likely right now due to the warmer weather conditions.  We have also had these conditions in Mississippi, so it would be a good idea to keep mummy berry control in mind, especially for southern highbush blueberries.  Meanwhile, rabbiteyes are not far behind.

Dr. Harald Scherm ran the mummy berry model today, and it indicates that we are currently in a DANGER period for mummy berry disease initiation.  Harald stated that the temperature-driven model indicated that apothecium (spore-forming structure that develops from overwintered mummies on the ground and in debris) emergence should be well underway based on the balance of chill-hours and degree-days received. In fact, there could be a chance that the apothecia ejected spores earlier than normal, possibly allowing for infection of early-blooming southern highbush varieties. This assumes that soil moisture conditions have been favorable, which they likely have been.  Rabbiteyes will soon be showing green tip or early bloom, which should initiate the spray program for mummy berry management.  For additional information on fungicides which are available for management of mummy berry, refer to the blueberry IPM guide at www.smallfruits.org. “

Grape and Muscadine Pruning Workshop Recap

Here is a recap of the grape and muscadine pruning workshop by Dr. Coker.

The VeggieDr Blog

Yesterday was a beautiful day to play in the vineyard at the Beaumont Horticultural Unit!  Dr. Eric Stafne discussed proper pruning techniques for both grapes and muscadines.  Participants had the opportunity to pull out their pruners and get some hands-on training!

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Blackberry Flowers in January

Up until very recently, we have not had much cold weather in south Mississippi. In fact, as of last week we had accumulated fewer than 200 chill hours (that will be much higher this week after the recent cold snap).  A couple of days before the cold came sweeping through, I wandered among the ‘Chickasaw’ and ‘Kiowa’ blackberries here on the station in Poplarville.  At first I thought what I saw was an anomaly — a single instance; however, as I walked the field I saw several buds popping open like those in the photos below.

Fully open flower on 'Chickasaw' blackberry in early January 2016 in south Mississippi

Fully open flower on ‘Chickasaw’ blackberry in early January 2016 in south Mississippi

More buds just starting to pop open. They will wish they hadn't when the cold weather sets in.

More buds just starting to pop open. They will wish they hadn’t when the cold weather sets in.

So what is the overall outlook here? The exposed flowers will certainly be damaged in the cold.  We reached about 25 degrees here in Poplarville on Monday morning. That should be cold enough to damage open flowers. What else? Any tissue that was actively growing will get zapped.  Is it enough to worry about in terms of crop reduction? I would say no. Even though there were numerous plants exhibiting these symptoms of budbreak, there were still plenty of dormant buds to pick up the slack later on.

Since this study is used for disease expression, we won’t spray anything to control any fungi that may come about on dying tissue. However, it would be a good idea to keep a close eye on plants and see if evidence of botrytis comes it. Anthracnose, another problem disease, is something else to consider controlling when the bushes are dormant.

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Mississippi Vaccinium Journal for July-Aug 2015

The latest edition of the Mississippi Vaccinium Journal is now available. In this issue topics include a new survey on mechanical harvest, fruit splitting, careful use of herbicides, insecticides and rain, an upcoming GAP/GHP workshop opportunity, a few photos of the Blueberry Jubilee, and Road Trip! MS blueberries go to India.

Download the newsletter here in PDF format: Mississippi Vaccinium Journal volume 4 issue 3

As always you can access this issue and all past issues at http://msucares.com/newsletters/vaccinium/index.html

If you have any suggestions, questions, or feedback please feel free to contact me!

GMO or GM-NO? A Plea for Civility

I know that even as I write this post it is a waste of my time and effort.  Minds deeply entrenched in one thought pattern don’t change easily — if ever.  However, I have observed over and over again the hostility that comes with the GMO discussion.  The point that led me to write this is the request for agricultural scientists to turn over emails via the FOIA.  This has the appearance of an attempt to make mountains out of molehills (if those even exist).  Several scientists are involved, although most of their names are unknown to me.  The one I do know is Dr. Kevin Folta.  I don’t know him well — we shared dinner with another colleague one night in Gainesville a few years ago (although he may or may not remember this).  He seemed to me like a decent fellow and appeared to genuinely like meeting me (and I can’t say that for everyone else on that particular visit).  At any rate, I am friends with one of his former students and know several of his colleagues.  None of them has had anything negative to say about him.  So, I find it difficult to believe he is hiding a massive pile of corporate money just to enrage those folks who don’t like GMOs.  Now, I don’t always agree with the way he approaches a topic or how he says something, but overall I believe he tries to be civil.  However, for others the same cannot be said.  I won’t mention any more names here, but the name-calling should stop on both sides of the argument.

Belittling others with childish affronts does none of us any good.  My plea is for civility in the discussion of GMOs.  It is very apparent that the education process will take some time.  Some minds will never be changed for one reason or another.  I see discussion on Twitter everyday that disturbs me greatly on this topic.  I should state that I am not for or against all GMO technologies.  I am a scientist, so I base my decisions on evidence — in this case, is there scientific evidence that GMO technology is harmful?  Right now, I see no evidence of that, but that could change in the future if more scientific evidence to the contrary becomes known.  I have no problem with those opposed to GMOs, if they have substantive reasoning behind it.  Don’t like GMOs because corporations have too much control?  OK, I can buy that.  Don’t like GMOs because it is against your religious, moral, or ethical beliefs?  OK, I’m good with that. Don’t like GMOs because they are harmful to the health of humans?  Hmm, I can’t back that one, not without more evidence.  But what about the increase in herbicides used?  Again, no.  And in fact, that is not a GMO issue, that is an herbicide application issue.  The GMO technology in an of itself does not increase use of herbicides.  Any GMO crop can be grown without any herbicide application if so desired, so that argument doesn’t hold water with me as the issues are being conflated.

I don’t work with GMOs and may never have that opportunity as most of the crops I work with have no such technology on the foreseeable horizon.  Yet, I am interested in the discussion and how it all plays out in the arenas of science and public opinion.  We all need to be more civil and try to appreciate where the thoughts about the technology derive from.  It could be religion, coercion, fear, politics, or many other bases.  Let’s all take a breath and move on toward a discussion that leads somewhere enlightened, because right now, we are all being dragged through the mud and it is unseemly on many levels.  No more “shill”, no more “eco-celebrities”, no more “ideologues”, no more endless comment streams that do nothing more than demean in aggressive and sometimes vulgar ways.  Please, just stop and think before doing these things.  We all are much better than that.

Extension, eXtension, and Peace Corps

What do Extension, eXtension (extension.org), and Peace Corps all have in common?  I have participated in all three.  Every year in March, Peace Corps holds a week where Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) share their service with others.  Last year I gave two presentations on my service in Senegal.  In case you are unfamiliar with that country, Senegal is in West Africa.

 

Senegal Map

Senegal Map

I was initially place in Matam, then moved south of Kaolack for the last few months of my 2-year stint.  If you are interested you can see my PPT presentation here in PDF format:

My Peace Corps Experience

Having been a part of these three organizations, I believe there is much more in the way of positive and constructive interaction that could be done.  Perhaps like this:

The Peace Corps could serve as a training ground for new Extension agents and specialists here in the U.S.  A program similar to those that already exist could be done with universities to engage graduating seniors who are leaving for the Peace Corps to further their education by doing a Masters degree (or partial fulfillment) while overseas.  Once they return, they could then be integrated into the Extension service system.  Another option is for Extension to actively recruit returning Peace Corps volunteers.  From experience I know these people are very suited for Extension work.  They have lived and breathed outreach for 2 plus years.  It is difficult to imagine a better training ground for the kind of work Extension performs here.  This is where eXtension could also play a role — they could provide the infrastructure to implement mentoring and education programs by pairing Peace Corps volunteers and active Extension personnel.  As an RPCV myself this is something I would be happy to participate in — and I’m sure others out there would feel the same.

There is often a perception that Peace Corps is not hard work, that it is 2 years of “finding oneself”.  The latter may be true for some, but the former is certainly not true.  It is 24-hour a day work.  There is never a break from being in another culture, trying to communicate in another language, eating sometimes strange food, feeling ill, and dealing with elements far outside the U.S. norm (diseases like malaria, oppressive heat with no air conditioning, water that is questionably potable, no toilet paper, no showers and no hot water, etc.).  If one takes on the opportunity of being a Peace Corps volunteer it will change that persons life.  It certainly did mine.  I reflect often on my service and use elements from it every day.  It is a life-altering experience that not many have the opportunity to pursue.  The funding for Peace Corps is small but leads to big results.

That is the reason I think a partnership between university Extension, eXtension, and the Peace Corps could work.  Every one of those organizations would benefit substantially.  Of course there are obstacles to it happening and strong leadership would need to put it together.  But why not?  We would all benefit from a partnership like this — Extension would get well-trained employees, eXtension would further their mission of extending knowledge and changing lives, and the Peace Corps would gain better prepared and more successful volunteers as well as gaining the perception of being involved in job training.  Win, win, win.