Grower Feedback in KY, SC and VA on Fumigation and Planting Issues (11:30am, 9/16/14)

— Written By Barclay Poling

Good morning (or, what’s left of it),

I am not so sure about this retirement life anymore. Things are staying way too busy! Just got off the phone with an industry person wishing to be a Host Level Sponsor at Expo (good problem to have), and then earlier this morning I accepted an invitation to speak with two NCSU graduate students in Food Science who have an idea for a novel system for ” improving the overall quality and safety of strawberries.”  Don’t get me wrong, these are good problems to have, but I do find myself  wondering  now and then,  does anyone realize how badly we need to hire someone “new” to handle this stuff? Yesterday afternoon I had a call from a meteorologist friend – who helped us last season with the VA-NC-SC-TN long range forecasts, as he wanted to know how interested I would be in discussing a project that could improve reliability of his strawberry forecasts for this next season? Apparently, he has learned something in with his work with the Energy Industry this summer that could help his Ag forecasts. Very early this morning I heard from three (3) of our regulars:  Dan Van Meter, Van Meter Farms, Clarkson, KY;  Eric Hunter, Easley, SC; and Tom Baker, Virginia Beach.I know you are mainly interested in what other growers are thinking and doing, so I will focus on what Eric, Danny and Tom had to say this morning:

1. Danny Van Meter


Just a quick note for anyone interested…Bio Fence plant back time is 14 days. We have not had any problems at 12 days if the soil is saturated well (8-10 hours by drip) after beds are made. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to give them my contact information. Thanks!

Danny Van Meter
cell 615-887-6229

Editor’s Note:  Danny will be doing the presentation at the General Session on Wed., Nov. 19th at Expo (along with Amanda McWhirt):

Maintaining Soil Health in Southeastern Plasticulture Strawberry Production: Practices and Current Research” – Amanda McWhirt, PhD Student, Department of Crop ScienceNorth Carolina State University & Danny Van Meter, Van Meter Farms, Clarkson, KY

2. Eric Hunter

Just to update you on how things have been going here.

Up until two weeks ago, we were so dry that I had planned on hooking up our irrigation to wet our fields for fumigation – we had zero moisture down to at least 10 inches in the fields. The evening before, we had a storm come through that gave me enough moisture to get half of our acreage done. The same situation occurred last weekend. I was going to hook up the irrigation last Monday morning and the day before, we received enough rain to allow me to finish fumigation on the remainder of our acreage. We have been very dry this summer, and even more so during the late summer. We cut and plowed under our cover crop, and the soil was so dry that the cover crop never broke down adequately. That caused us some issues during fumigation (plant debris hanging up on the fumigation rig), but we were able to work through it and get things done. The good news is that we are in good shape for being able to get our crop planted on time. We’re going to the field a little earlier this year with the Camarosa (10/1) and our “new normal” date for Chandlers (10/5-8).

Plugs are coming along nicely. Very happy with what we have seen so far and aren’t seeing any growing issues with our plugs thus far. Some of the really small tips  haven’t taken off as good as I’d like, but they are doing fair.


Editor’s Note:  Eric and his wife Kristi, will be doing the Grower Spotlight on Nov. 18th at Strawberry Expo, “2013-2014 Strawberry Season Highlights from our Farm”

3. Tom Baker, VA Beach (actually, Tom  has 2 farm locations, one in Pungo and the other in  Chesapeake). Editor’s note:  this series of emails began on Saturday, and ultimately Tom decided AGAINST using Dominus. Under the 9/15 message you should note the excellent information about fumigation rig improvements!

9/13 (Sat)


there is “no joy in Mudville” (excuse the Mudville pun!) for we got another inch of rain this late afternoon/early evening. Looking at WeatherUnderground readings.
Roy suggested I look into Dominus, which supposedly has a plant-back interval of just 10 days (as opposed to Pic-Clor 60 21 days, or as short as 14 days with tarp perforation/aeration. Apparently TriEst has finally received some Dominus and Victor wants to get some “into the field.”  There’s a chance TriEst would give(?) me some.
Do you have any thoughts on Dominus?


9/14 (Sunday)


Yes, at some point soon before too much more time passes, Pic-Clor w/ ventilation (14 days) will make us too late for timely planting. Dominus, if 10-day plant back, would “certainly” be far better than no fumigation at all??? I have heard that Dominus does most of its “work” in just 4 or 5 days. If you use Dominus and ventilate/aerate on, say, day 5 or 6, could you plant in say, 8 days? If we switch to Dominus, we’ll have to make that decision in the next few days. But after yesterday’s rain, I don’t think we’ll be able to get back into the field until Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest.And our forecast? 0.62 inches in the next 96 hours, including “a couple of showers” Monday night, “a morning shower in spots” Tuesday, “a little rain late” Tuesday night, “a couple of showers” Wednesday night, “a passing shower” Thursday night, “a little rain” Saturday, and “occasional rain and a thunderstorm” Saturday night.
At this rate, will be get to make beds and lay plastic, with or without any fumigant, before the Expo???


9/15 (Monday)


We have decided if we can “slip by” and make beds by Wednesday (Sept. 24), then we will fumigate with Pic-Clor 60  (and punch plastic in 8-10 days to aerate).

If we cannot go by Wednesday, we will forego fumigation this year and apply other strategies (Ridomil Gold soon after transplanting, etc.).

For us, transplanting as soon as possible (on or after Sept. 29 this year) is a priority. Though our “window” would be open until Oct. 7-10(?) with Chandler, we simply get too busy with school field trips and “pumpkin weekends” to wait any longer to fumigate, even with aeration. We did most of Chesapeake Sept. 6 and 7 so will be fine for 21 days with our Sept. 29 plant delivery. We finished the last 23 percent of Chesapeake on Sept. 11 (due to rain delay) so will be very fine for Sept. 29 or 30 transplanting if we “punch” any time after Sept. 21 (will likely go ahead and punch then in case rain might delay punching closer to transplanting!).

Dominus? Too many unknowns for me, with apparently a very real chance that we might could “screw up” if we go that way. We’ll wait and let others work out the specifics (Chuck, Allen?, Clayton Station?). That’s one reason we have land grant (research) universities!

One of the worst parts about not fumigating our Pungo farm would be that we would not be able to continue to enjoy our fumigation rig modifications, installed just a week before we started at Chesapeake  this season:
·        Electric valves with switches at the driver’s right hand (no more reaching back while trying to keep eyes forward and a hand on the throttle!)
·        “Blow-off” or “Nitrogen purge” system (one of the two switches/elect. valves) to force fumigant into soil at the end of the beds (an unanticipated benefit is it also definitely seems to help keep knives from clogging with soil—we had no clogs this year at Chesapeake; usually would expect several clogs and crawling under the rig with a wire…or more…to clear the knives), and
·        Check valves just above the knives (a good complement to the purge system…almost no dripping at all!)

We have always “smelled” some gas, mostly at ends of rows or while turning to start next row, though seldom “irritating” amounts. With these modifications, installed by TriEst for about $1250, we smell no gas on most rows. If we do get a whiff, it is very slight. It was a good investment of $1250! (Yes, I could do an ad for TriEst!)


Many thanks to Danny, Eric and Tom!


p.s. Time is running out to take advantage of an Early Bird Registration discount for Expo (deadline is Sept 20).

Go to Early Bird Registration:

Today’s Press release“As seasoned strawberry plasticulture growers from around the US will tell you, the best way  to keep up with the tremendous amount of change taking place in this industry is to make sure you don’t miss The Premier Educational Event of the Year — The Southeast Strawberry Expo, Nov. 17-19, 2014, Pinehurst, NC. Whether it’s helping you get a better handle on using social media to connect with your customers, gaining valuable insights on growing day-neutral strawberries, or learning the very latest strategies for managing soilborne diseases with “new generation”  bio-fumigants,  this year’s Southeast Strawberry Expo has it all!”

Dr. E. Barclay Poling
Professor Emeritus (Strawberry Plasticulture Researcher)
& Interim Exec. Dir., NC Strawberry Assn., Inc.
Department of Horticultural Science
Campus Box 7609, 162A Kilgore Hall
NC State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7609