What Growers Are Saying / Doing Today, and a Feb. 1st Checklist (NOON, 2/1/16)

— Written By Barclay Poling
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Dear Growers, Agents, Agronomists & Others

One of the things growers like most about this advisory is the chance to find out what other growers are saying/doing. I have had notes from two Virginia growers in the last 24 hours, and both have noted these warmer temperatures today!

Just a minute ago I heard from Ben Miller:  “Barclay,
50 degrees today going to be 68 on Wed. in Locust Grove, Va. 22508.

Tom Baker (Virginia Beach), who is now up in Hershey PA for a conference, sent  this note over the weekend:

“We are looking at three days this week in mid- to upper-60s with lows the next four nights in mid-40s to 50. I expect some “new” blossoms to push out. Yes, our row covers are “off.”  Yesterday we did place our new covers in the Chesapeake field, ready to “deploy” so now 28 beds in that field have new 1.2 oz. covers and 10 beds have one-year-old 1.2 oz. covers. Just 5 beds (pipe rows) now have no covers.”

Those of you who are members of NCSA, may have just read the Jan/Feb newsletter article, “Uncharted Territory” (written on 1/12/16), where Tom Baker noted back 1/10/16 that his concern then was about how his crop seems to be blowing through the first, and now second inflorescences.

Like Tom, I am concerned about “just how deep this reserve of high quality blooms may be from the fall season?”  And, it is that concern that leads me to make a general recommendation that growers should be minimizing the use of winter row covers at this juncture unless they are absolutely necessary.

South Carolina grower, Eric Hunter, had this to say today:

“In taking a look at our plants today, I am noticing the camarosa plants are really wanting to push some new buds out. Some, new ones have already popped out, but you can see the heads of many more itching to get out. It’s a little concerning. We don’t have any covers on and have no intention of covering again except in case of an extreme event.”

Editor’s notes:

WE KNOW THAT warmer than normal conditions in fall can be effective for producing replacement blooms, but DO NOT count on strawberry plants to keep producing more blooms in mid-winter to late winter when temperatures are more winter-like.

And, with  row covers being “on” on a warmer winter days (like this early week), you will accelerate the appearance of flower buds, but is that really something you want to do? Obviously, a grower from Virginia Beach (Tom Baker) and South Carolina (Eric Hunter), are not interested in putting the crop on a faster track.

What is significant to note TODAY is that growers need to be taking full advantage of pretty days like this to complete dormant season chores, like plant sanitation. Try to complete plant clean-up operations before dormancy breaks (again), and before fields “get too wet again.”

Feb 1st  Checklist

1. When covers come off,  plan to control weeds and treat ryegrass in aisles.

2. Complete leaf sanitation before the onset of new growth from the crown – this can really help to reduce grey mold and angular leafspot (ALS) pressure in a cool/wet spring season.

3. NOW is the time to scout fields. I am hearing reports about botrytis, aphids, and fire ants. Send suspicious-looking plants to a university clinic for diagnosis ASAP.

Here is a great new diagnostic tool:  http://diagnosis.ces.ncsu.edu/strawberry/

When doing your scouting, go ahead and count branch crowns!

crownsFig. 1. Chandler plug plant with 3 excellent branch crowns. You can get an idea about “plant size” and crop potential by evaluating the number of branch crowns (3-4 is perfect), and size of branch crowns (the thicker the diameter, the better).

4. Try to get pest and disease problems under control with dormant, pre-bloom, and pre-harvest sprays. Customers don’t like to see sprayers in the field when they are picking, and a few early sprays can be more effective than a lot of late ones. Some fungicides can only be used in the pre-bloom period.

5. Check the 2016 Southern Region IPM Guide for Strawberries on the Home Page of this website to get the very latest information on the most effective fungicides for disease control in the pre-bloom and bloom periods; try to avoid fungicides for which grey mold resistance may be a problem. Some grey mold isolates may be completely resistant to various key fungicides (including Topsin-M and Pristine).

Clemson professor, Dr. Guido Schnabel,  is offering a  resistance screening service FOR FREE to growers in the Southeastern states. The service will consist of a written report about the location-specific resistance profile based on the samples received and a recommendation of how to optimize the spray program for that specific location. Samples should be shipped (preferably Fedex overnight) or delivered to:

Guido Schnabel
Clemson University
105 Collings St/217 BRC
Clemson, SC 29634

If questions, contact him at 864-656-6705 (office), 864-643-7131 (cell) orschnabe@clemson.edu.

More information on collecting samples can be found at:


In summary, make the most of this pretty weather to complete “winter chores” and then make sure that you stay “on-top” of any potential serious cold outbreaks that could occur this month. With the help of professional meteorologists, the AWIS weather site, and SkyBit’s twice daily site specific alerts (like the one I get for Clayton -below),  we will try to keep you advised of any conditions that may justify application of row covers in February for crop cold protection. Row covers are the best way to protect your crop from a cold event that  could do significant crown and flower bud damage in late winter.


20160201st1.NCCLYTable 1. For Clayton, we may see a low in canopy of 26 on Sat morning – this should not be a problem, and it could be to our advantage  to stay in a colder than normal temperature pattern for the balance of this month!

p.s. A number of growers in the region will start receiving their personal SkyBit’s on Feb. 5th. Contact strawberrydoc@gmail if you have interest in getting SkyBit forecasts for your farm.

Updated on Feb 1, 2016
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