April 29, 2023

In This Issue: 

PA Vegetable Referendum, PVGA Scholarships, Test Your Water, Rhizoctonia and Transplants, Chesapeake Bay Settlement Reaction, Organic Honeybee Management and more.

Last Days to Vote "YES" for the Vegetable Marketing and Research Program

The Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program is currently undergoing a required five-year review referendum where growers have the opportunity to vote whether the Program should continue.  Ballots must be mailed and postmarked by May 3, 2023.

Naturally, the Program Board and PVGA encourage you to vote "Yes" to continue the Program - see their letter to growers and quotes from other people in the industry here. You can also see the Program's 2022 Annual Report issue of Fresh Ideas here.

PVGA Scholarship Applications Due May 15

The Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association is pleased to be able to offer Rudolph Grob Memorial Scholarships each year to students pursuing higher education. The funds for the scholarships are generated by the interest earned by the Association’s Keystone Fund, an endowment-type fund created by the voluntary extra dues paid the Keystone Members of the Association.

Applications are being accepted for the 2023 round of scholarships. See more here.

Test Your Water Sources This Spring

Water is the most important input for greenhouse operators, yet it is also the input that is frequently taken for granted by growers until a cropping problem is observed.

One grower told me recently that he only worried about water when his supply was jeopardized by drought. He never really understood that water quality could be an issue until he observed the problem firsthand in his Pennsylvania greenhouse range.

The greenhouse operation at the heart of this issue was small by modern standards, with about 14,000 square feet of growing area. The operation has been in business for about 10 years and has enjoyed a faithful following in the community with his fresh local produce. The grower had noticed some cropping issues on and off for several years, but he never connected the cropping issues to his irrigation water source. For some reason, this spring, he noticed that the bell pepper leaf margins were rolling abnormally, and, on some leaves, marginal necrosis could be observed. See more here.

Rhizoctonia solani: Prevention and Management on Vegetable Transplants

Rhizoctonia solani is an aggressive soil-borne pathogen that can be found in field soils, high tunnel soils, and greenhouse floors.

Rhizoctonia can infect a wide array of vegetable crops, causing root and/or crown rots, stem cankers, and leaf infections. Rhizoctonia solani colonizes organic matter and will form black hardened sclerotia in the soil that helps this pathogen to persist in the field for many years.

Rhizoctonia solani, unlike other fungal pathogens, does not produce spores, but its mycelium can fragment or break off, which allows it to be spread by wind and splashing water to susceptible plant species. Rhizoctonia solani can also be introduced into the greenhouse via contaminated soil, tools, and equipment. Sanitation is the key to preventing this pathogen from entering your greenhouse. Vegetable transplants that develop cankers due to infection from Rhizoctonia solani will often perform poorly as transplants and may decline and die when transplanted into the field. See more here.

Farm Bureau Responds to EPA Chesapeake Bay Lawsuit Settlement

On April 20, 2023, it was announced that the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a group primarily consisting of environmental organizations and downstream Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions had agreed to a draft settlement agreement that would end two separate lawsuits filed against EPA during the Trump administration. One of the suits was from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and several other groups, including Anne Arundel County, Maryland; the other was filed by the attorneys general of Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia. The settlement agreement has been published in the Federal Register for a 30-day public comment period.


The suits accused EPA of failing to enforce provisions of the Clean Water Act by not requiring Pennsylvania to develop a plan to fully meet pollution reduction goals for the Bay set several years earlier in a multi-state compact with the federal government (despite multiple attempts at submitting a satisfactory plan by the Pennsylvania DEP over the past several years). The suits also accused EPA of not using its mechanisms for penalizing states like Pennsylvania that did not meet their pollution reduction goals or for requiring the states to earmark sufficient funding for Bay clean-up (of course, EPA and the Bay states have already all but conceded that the 2025 targets announced back in 2010 for the Bay are not going to be met in any case, and EPA has no direct authority over Pennsylvania budget decisions, regardless).


The settlement requires EPA to focus more attention on agriculture, particularly concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and smaller animal feeding operations, as well as stormwater runoff (MS4s). For farms not currently required to have federal permits that have proximity to rivers and streams, EPA is to see if there is “significant damage to water quality from manure generation, manure management practices and/or available storage capacity, and compliance history. If EPA determines that a farm is a significant contributor of pollution, the regulators will confer with Pennsylvania officials about designating the farm as a pollution source subject to environmental permitting.”


Farm Bureau’s public response to date has been that the proposed settlement is under review, and we will comment during the allotted 30-day period, with the further statement that:


“Pennsylvania farmers are the Commonwealth’s ‘front-line environmentalists’ focused on caring for the land, air, and water in their local communities. We are looking forward to augmenting our existing efforts with funding from the new PA Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program, for which Farm Bureau was instrumental in advocating in last year’s state budget. We also support the efforts of the joint EPA-USDA task force dedicated to giving farmers credit for previously uncounted agricultural conservation practices, as well as work by Penn State University and others to ensure that farmers get credit for non-cost-shared conservation practices. We are proud to continue our work with many federal, state, and local partners—inside and outside government—to advocate for and utilize tools like ACAP that help farmers protect and improve Pennsylvania’s local water quality, which is the key to restoring the Bay.”


Farm Bureau will continue to work with state and federal agencies and officials to address this issue.

From Farm Bureau Express, Penna. Farm Bureau, April 28, 2023

Organic Honey Bee Colony Management Certificate Program at Penn State

In 2022, the Penn State Apiculture Program offered, for the first time in the U.S., an educational opportunity to obtain a certification in organic honey bee colony management.

This type of beekeeping management aims at maintaining honey bee health through pest and parasite control and high-quality feeding while using practices and compounds that are allowable for organic certification by the USDA. While the products of these hives cannot be marketed as certified organic, colonies are managed following organic recommendations. Our research has demonstrated that this management system is extremely effective in suppressing parasitic mites and supporting highly productive honey bee colonies.

A total of 180 beekeepers from across 32 states attended either the webinar series, the workshop, or both, to deepen their understanding of honey bee biology and behavior and learn the basic principles of organic honey bee management techniques. There was a mix of virtual lectures and an in-person workshop with hands-on activities. The webinar series was offered as a live webinar online and as recorded webinars. The workshops were offered in 5 locations (State College, Leesport, and Aaronsburg, PA, Kingston, NY, and Taneytown, MD). At the end of this certification program, 28 individuals were mailed a certificate for attending the webinar series and a workshop. Due to this program's success and high demand, an online course is under development through Penn State Extension, so stay tuned! See more here.

Your Response is Needed

The Census of Agriculture allows producers to tell the story of U.S. agriculture and it’s not too late to respond. Since data collection began last fall, over a million ag census recipients across the country have returned their questionnaires, but many have yet to respond. USDA will continue to collect completed 2022 ag census forms through the spring to ensure all producers have the chance the be represented in widely used census data. Producers can respond online at agcounts.usda.gov or by mail.


Census data inform decisions about policy, farm and conservation programs, infrastructure and rural development, research, education, and more. If you are a producer who has already submitted your 2022 Census of Agriculture, you may disregard any additional ag census letters and forms.

Please note - the Ag Census is especially important for vegetable, potato and berry growers. The Ag Census is the best data available for the acreages of these crops and its accuracy depends on your response as grower!

Herbicide Drift Survey Underway

The Herbicide Drift Survey aims to collect data on awareness of herbicide drift damage and herbicide-application issues. Our goal is to help both grape growers and herbicide applicators by identifying if knowledge gaps exist; if identified, these will be used as future focus points for Penn State Extension specialists.

To grape growers:To the best of your knowledge, please fill out the survey even if your vineyard is not impacted by herbicide drift.

To herbicide applicators: Please fill out the survey even if you believe your methods are not causing herbicide drift or damage to off-target plants.

Please be as detailed as possible and answer all questions that are relevant to your business. See more here.

Tips on Managing Botrytis in Strawberry Plantings

Botrytis, also known as gray mold, is a more serious disease in strawberry fields.

When considering fungicides for the prevention of Botrytis spp. please note that there are reports of widespread resistance to some of the more commonly used strawberry fungicides. As strawberry plants, rooted tips, and plugs are moved into our area from propagators, there is the possibility that fungicide-resistant Botrytis spp. biotypes may be introduced onto your farm. In addition, a grower may inadvertently contribute to the development of Botrytis resistant strains or biotypes on their own farm when fungicides with different modes of action or FRAC codes are not rotated regularly.

Recently it was determined that two distinct Botrytis species are being observed in the Mid-Atlantic region at this time. Botrytis cinerea is the historical pathogen observed in area strawberry fields, but more recently, Botrytis fragariae has become quite common. Botrytis fragariae overwinters in strawberry fields on old leaves and plant debris, and it tends to be more readily observed during bloom because it will cause a noticeable browning or blighting of the strawberry flowers. See more here.

Producers Who Experienced Discrimination in USDA Farm Loan Programs May Qualify for Assistance

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes $2.2 billion in funding for producers who experienced discrimination in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Loan Programs before January 1, 2021.

New information about this assistance has been added to the Farmers.gov website.

This factsheet has more information about this assistance: Inflation Reduction Act Assistance for Producers Who Experienced Discrimination in USDA Farm Loan Programs (farmers.gov).

Information on the timeline and how the funds will be distributed can be found at Inflation Reduction Act Assistance for Producers Who Experienced Discrimination in USDA Farm Loan Programs (farmers.gov). This website also contains the latest information about this assistance and will be updated as more information becomes available. Check back frequently if you believe you qualify. The USDA plans to distribute this funding by the end of 2023. See more here.

Berry Industry Giant Passes Away

Oregon State University’s Dr. Bernadine Strik, who had a deep impact on the berry industry in any number of roles – breeder, researcher, and teacher – passed away April 14, leaving a lasting legacy of accomplishment. Dr. Strik was a speaker at the 2021 virtual Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention.

According to her obituary, Bernadine was born on April 29, 1962 in Holland, and is survived by her husband, Neil Bell, daughters Shannon and Nicole Bell, and her parents, Gerald and Christine Strik.

The news of her death sent shockwaves across the industry, as she just retired two years ago after at an illustrious 34 years at Oregon State University. How many people are described by colleagues – in this case the same colleague (see slideshow above) – as both and having “created an internationally renowned program” and was often “the life of a party?” That’s Bernadine Strik, whose colleagues were eager to share their thoughts on her personally and what she meant to the berry industry. Before that, let’s look at a quick list of her impressive accomplishments. See more here.

New Report: Specialty Crop Growers Spending $500,000 a Year on Automation

Growers are now spending an average of $500,000 a year on automation in response to the persistent ag labor shortage, according to the Specialty Crop Automation Report released and commissioned by Western Growers.

This is the second year the Specialty Crop Automation Report has been released by WG in collaboration with consultants at Roland Berger. The report, which tracks and measures industry progress in harvest automation across the fresh produce industry, is part of WG’s Global Harvest Automation Initiative, which aims to accelerate ag automation by 50% in 10 years. See more here.

Blueberry Pollination

Northern highbush blueberry bushes can produce berries even when there is no or limited pollen movement by bees. Some of the flowers can turn into berries, even if there are poor pollination conditions or low bee activity during bloom. However, often these berries will be small, slow to ripen, and may drop off early. For maximum potential yield, it is important that the flowers are visited by bees during bloom to transfer sufficient pollen while the flower is still viable so that fertilization can occur, leading to seed set, berry expansion, and larger berries.

In addition, some varieties benefit from cross pollination. Fields should be planted with a combination of varieties that bloom around the same time and that are compatible. For cultivars dependent on having cross-pollination for full yields, this can provide a 10-20% increase in yield from the improved fruit set and berry size. See more here.

Calcium and Potato Tuber Development

Several disorders of potatoes are associated with localized calcium deficiencies in the tubers. This includes internal rust spot, internal browning, heat necrosis, hollow heart, and bruising. Calcium is a component of plant cell walls and the pectin in the middle lamella that cements cells together. Local deficiencies of calcium during the development of potato tubers can cause collapse of cells leading to these disorders.

In plants, calcium moves from the soil exchange sites into soil water and to plant roots by diffusion and mass flow. At plant roots, the calcium moves into the xylem (water conducting vessels), mostly from the area right behind root tips. In the xylem, calcium moves with the transpirational flow, the movement of water from roots, up the xylem, and out the leaves through stomata. Calcium is taken up by the plant as a divalent cation, which means it has a charge of +2. It is attracted to negatively charged areas on the wall of the xylem, and for calcium to move, it must be exchanged off the xylem wall by other positively charged cations such as magnesium (Mg++), potassium (K+), ammonium (NH4+), or other calcium cations (Ca++). This cation exchange of calcium in the xylem requires continuous movement of water into and up through the plant. It also requires a continuous supply of calcium from the soil. The main sink for calcium is developing shoot tips. See more here.

Spinach Crown Mites

Spinach crown mites Rhizoglyphus sp. feed within the folds of new leaves in the crown of spinach plants. This feeding causes the new leaves to become deformed as they grow (Figs.1 and 2). Crown mite adults are extremely small bulbous nearly transparent mites that also may have a yellow-beige body color with reddish-brown legs (Fig. 3). A good characteristic to look for to identify these mites is the sparse long hairs mostly found on the back end of the mite (Fig. 3). Crown mite eggs are spherical and clear and laid on the creased leaf surfaces in the crown area. Some reports state that crown mites can act as vectors for plant pathogens such as Pythium and Rhizoctonia, but this is not definitive.

The spinach crown mite is most damaging in soils high in organic matter and under cool moist conditions (weather conditions we have had this past week). Because these mites can consume organic matter they can survive in soils after the crop has been removed. This is one reason they are difficult to control as they can survive for fairly long periods of time with no crop being present. The other reason they are difficult to ‘control’ is we do not realize they are causing the problem until it is too late. See more here.

Garlic Bulb Mites

Bulb mites (usually Rhizoglyphus spp) are a problem of garlic that can easily go unrecognized. Usually, growers notice a general yellowing of their garlic plants with the tips of leaves often turning brown (Fig. 1). If you examine the bulb, it can have feeding marks on the outside of the skin (Fig. 2) or the basal plate can separate easily from the bulb (Fig. 3). The best way to determine whether these mites are present is to carefully dissect the region where the roots and bulb come together. There are usually other mites present, but with a hand lens the bulb mites usually can be identified from other mites. The mite is bulb shaped with its legs moved forward and a bulbous rear end (Fig. 4). The mouthparts and legs are purplish-brown while the main body is creamy white. The mites are extremely small (from 0.02 to 0.04 inches) and are usually very slow moving. They are usually found in clusters underneath scales and at the base of the roots. See more here.

Opening Farms to Visitors Boosts Nearby Farms’ Direct Sales, and Vice Versa

Agritourism and direct farm sales found to complement one another when they occur within the same community.

Farmers use many marketing strategies to diversify their incomes and stay in business. New research suggests that two of these strategies — agritourism and direct farm sales — complement one another when they occur within the same community. The findings could help farmers and the local organizations that support them plan strategically for farm resilience and growth.

“Agritourism and direct sales are important and growing supplemental sources of revenue for farmers, allowing some to stay in business when they otherwise would not be able to,” said Claudia Schmidt, assistant professor of marketing and local/regional food systems in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, who led the research. “Our study found that more agritourism operations are associated with more direct sales in the same county, and vice versa. That is, when these activities take place near one another, they are complementary, not competitive.” See more here.

Veggie Scout Website

The IPM Scouting Guide publications for vegetable crops are valuable resources for growers. This information can also be easily accessed through the Veggie Scout Website. Be sure to bookmark this website for easy access in the future. This website provides access to the information found on the Solanaceous crops, Cucurbit crops, and High Tunnel and Greenhouse Scouting Guides. Additional scouting guides will be added in the future.

The Veggie Scout Website is available for grower, agent, and homeowner use and can be accessed from any phone, tablet, iPad, or computer. The website provides users the opportunity to first select a scouting guide (Figure 1). Next, the home page for each crop/structure (Figure 2) allows visitors to select a problem area. Finally, users select from a menu of various diseases, pests, or problems to obtain more information and view images (Figure 3). See more here.

Field Scouting Guide: Fusarium Wilt on Tomato

This installment of “Field Scouting Guide” concentrates on Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici (fusarium wilt) on tomato plants. We’ve reached out to University Extensionists to learn how to spot and treat this fungus. Our contributors are Carla Thomas, Penn State Extension, and Farm Advisor Gene Miyao, University of California Cooperative Extension. See more here.

Introducing the Food and Agriculture Mapper and Explorer

The Food and Agriculture Mapper and Explorer (FAME), funded through an AMS cooperative research agreement, brings together data from dozens of publicly available datasets to make it easy for food systems practitioners to search and visualize up-to-date information about U.S. local and regional food systems. This new tool is an open-access resource designed to increase the accessibility of local and regional food systems data for federal grant applicants, farmers and food entrepreneurs, and researchers.

The raw data that underpins FAME is hosted on a GitHub site, allowing for more advanced analysts and researchers to pull the data in more curated ways. Farmers, food entrepreneurs, and members of the public can use FAME for program design, business planning, grant writing, advocacy, or to learn more about the state of local food systems in an area.

To learn more about navigating this tool with case study examples, watch the recorded webinar online . If you would like to share any recommendations on this tool, submit them on the recommendations page. If you don’t see yourself or other businesses in your community, register them through our USDA Local Food Directories portal. See more here.

Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management, Second Edition

Organic farmers rely primarily on preventive, cultural and integrated methods of pest and disease management. However, there are a number of materials available for use that can complement and support organic management. This guide was developed to provide a useful and scientifically accurate reference for organic farmers and agricultural professionals searching for information on best practices, available materials and perhaps most importantly, the efficacy of materials that are permitted for use in organic systems. Many products available to organic farmers have not been tested extensively, and current research has not been summarized or made widely available to the general producer. A major objective of this guide has been to review recent literature for published trials on material efficacy in order to provide reliable information that can be used by farmers to effectively manage pests. Additionally, a goal was to identify what materials have shown promise but need more research.

Created with SARE support, you can download the Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management, Second Edition from Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE).

Sales and Classified Ads

For Sale

Automatic Potato Weigher and Bagger - Paper and poly.

Call 610-996-1403 for more info. 12/31

Classified Ads and Sale Notices are are free for PVGA members. Email your information to us pvga@pvga.org.

Reminders and Coming Events

New York Company Seeking Local Pickle Source

Eddie’s Pickles (Eddie's Pickles | Heritage & Health | Since 1888 (eddiespickles.com)) is seeking a local supplier of cucumbers. They are based in NY. They are looking for Kirbies/pickling cucumbers all summer long (winter too if a producer has greenhouses). During the summer season they can use up to 60,000 lbs but can work with what you have. Size 2 A 2B and 3AL. Contact is Ralph (the owner) at Eddie’s Pickles: contact@eddiespickles.com.

Camp Hill Farmers Market Seeking for Produce Vendors

Market on Market Camp Hill is looking for an additional produce vendor to meet the demands of our newly established Market! The season runs May 16 – Oct 24, Tuesdays 3:00 to 7:00 pm at the Market St. Parking Lot of Trinity Lutheran Church, Camp Hill. For more information contact Mitzi at farmersmarket@camphillborough.com or 717-805-7243.

Next Berry Growers Info Exchange is May 8th at 7:00 p.m.

PVGA is continuing to host a periodic get-together for berry growers. These "Info Exchanges" will be once a month on the second Monday of the month, but given our early sunsets, we have moved the start time to 7:00 p.m. Please join us - meeting are designed to give growers a chance to get time-sensitive updates on current issues from state and regional extension personnel, exchange info with other growers, get answers to their questions, or just listen in or bounce thoughts off of others.  Kathy Demchak is the host.  


Calls are open to PVGA members and non-members to maximize information exchange, so spread the word and invite your friends and neighbors to join. 

The Zoom link is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83077021881

The call-in numbers are (be aware that this is not a toll-free call):

+1 929 436 2866 US (New York)

+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC).

The meeting ID is 830 7702 1881

If you have questions, contact us at pvga@pvga.org or 717-694-3596.

Farm & Food Worker Relief Payments

Starting in March 2023, farm and meatpacking workers can apply for a one-time $600 pandemic relief payment through Pasa Sustainable Agriculture. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the federal government distributed several rounds of relief payments to small businesses, including farm owners. This relief was vital in keeping many of these small businesses operating during an unprecedented time.

But these relief efforts did not directly support frontline workers, like farmworkers and meatpacking workers, who continued to report to their jobs at the height of the pandemic, when much of the population was ordered to stay home.

Pasa, alongside other organizations across the country, advocated for relief for pandemic-related expenses incurred by farm and food workers. In response, the USDA announced its Farm and Food Worker Relief (FFWR) Grant Program. See more here.

NAFDMA's Agritourism Learning Retreat

July 17 to 18, 2023 Helene's Hilltop Orchard, Wisconsin

NAFDMA's Agritourism Learning Retreat is a multi-day intensive that connects attendees with premier agritourism operations in North America.


Stepping out of the classroom and onto the farm, the ALR offers immersive, hands-on education in best operational practices for farms and attractions. Registration will open in May.