Bay Area Vegetable Research and Marketing Update

Jan 13, 2015

 By Ben Phillips, Michigan State University Extension

An upcoming meeting will introduce vegetable research specialists and marketing opportunities to Michigan’s Bay area vegetable growers.

There was a zoo of vine crop diseases favored by last summer’s (2014) mild and wet weather. Phytophthora root rots reared their head in some pumpkin fields, Fusarium wilt showed up in some watermelons, and with all the pickling cucumber production in Michigan’s Bay area, cucurbit downy mildew spread into some slicing cucumber and cantaloupe crops.

The diversified vegetable growers of the Bay area grow a lot of cooking and slicing onions. Weeds can get out of control in onion fields if your pre-emergent applications failed to prevent a major flush, and there aren’t many effective post-emergent weed treatments in those runaway situations. The mild weather kept thrips populations from exploding this year, however these same weather patterns favored onion downy mildew and bacterial leaf blight.

A preventative, proactive and diverse chemical management program is important to reduce population growth and chemical resistance for these diseases and pests in years where the weather favors them. Scouting and utilizing pest prediction models based on weather data, such as Michigan State University’s Enviroweather, can alert when favorable conditions arise.

The harsh winter of 2013-2014 and mild summer was good for sweet corn growers. Diseases weren’t very prevalent, the polar vortex knocked back southern populations of moths, and growers had two extra weeks of good picking in some places. The few western low-pressure systems that we had did not bring a critical number of European corn borer and corn earworm moths into MSU pheromone traps and growers’ fields until very late in the season. But, it is important to use these pheromone lures to scout for these night-flying moths, and to pay attention to southwestern low-pressure cold fronts moving in a northeasterly direction. Purdue University maintains a nice corn earworm trapping network that makes it easy to see if any moth flights are staged to arrive in Michigan. LaPorte and Whitley are the Indiana trapping counties closest to Michigan.

Growing successfully means nothing if you haven’t found an effective outlet for your product. Hoop houses, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and Farm-to-“You name it” programs are sprouting up more frequently in Michigan as part of the local food movement. Farm markets can boost grower’s sales through a variety of government subsidized purchasing programs, such as Double Up Food Bucks and SNAP Benefits tokens. These incentivized season-extension tools and direct sale systems can work great for some growers.

Do you want to know more?

Michigan State University Extension and the Saginaw Soil and Water Conservation District would like to invite growers from the Bay and Thumb areas to attend a free vegetable research and marketing update meeting on Feb. 16 from 8:30 a.m. - noon to learn more about last season and plan for the next. The meeting is at the Portsmouth Township Hall, 1711 Cass Avenue Rd, Bay City, MI 48708.

Attendees will get to meet three of MSU‘s four vegetable production research specialists. In addition, MSU Extension’s Saginaw and Genesee counties community food systems educator, Julia Darnton, will give an overview of the many local and state opportunities and incentives for selling fresh market vegetables. View the meeting agenda.

The meeting qualifies for RUP credits, and as a MAEAP Phase 1 Educational Session for the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program.

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