Guyana Farm Visits – Day 1

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Today was the first day of visiting farms as a part of my time here in Guyana for the Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer program.

The Journey

We drove to region 6, which is far down south along the coast for a total of about 3 hours commute time in each direction. Throughout the whole drive, Guyana felt like just a very large village. People are all outside, working together, talking to each other… everything seems very grass-roots. Rather than each farmer having a full set of their own equipment, individual houses along the road had different tractor equipment (tractors, harvesters, etc.), all of which would be needed to till, disk, sow, and/or harvest the different crops in the area. We saw some large rice paddy fields, rice processing plants, a couple sugar cane fields, and some pasture with livestock. Along the roads everywhere are cannals – cannals that feed a whole network of cannals and irrigation throughout the country. They also have dams that can open after heavy rains to let the excess water into the ocean, and close when rain levels are low, to prevent salt water from getting in… Can tell that the hands of the Dutch have been here!

The Crops

Most of what we saw was rather familiar. The first couple farms were mostly peppers (i.e. bell peppers), with some tomatoes, cabbage, citrus, melons, and eggplant. There were also some tropical fruit, such as Soursop and starfruit, which I currently know very little about! Another very interesting nearby plant was the abundance of neem trees, Azadirachta indica.

Neem Tree

What’s interesting about neem trees is that we actually have several insecticides in the USA that are based on Neem, specifically neem oil (which covers and suffocates the insects) and azadiracthin; a compound extracted from neem seeds that has some repellency and growth disruption (insect growth regulator) effects.

The Farmers themselves were all very kind, welcoming, and generous. A couple of them were rather young too and Leon confirmed that more young people are getting into farming. One of them may actually be a great resource, because he knew a lot about what was wrong with the plants and could quickly recognize symptoms.

Crop Challenges

Without a doubt, the growers here face some serious yield loss. One of the growers estimated 20% of pepper yields to disease, another 60% loss of melons to a rot, and another 45% yield loss of cauliflower due to diamondback moth. Their rainy season sees very high humidity (currently 87% RH outside) and high moisture, making diseases difficult to prevent in the first place for disease-susceptible crops/cultivars. Some other crop challenges they face include some cultural practices (nutrient management), whiteflies (and subsequent diseases transmitted by them), “gandhi” (known as “stink bugs” in the US), leaf-footed bugs, thrips, spider mites (in the dry seasons), flea beetles, root-knot nematodes, and goats… yes, goats… just to name a few. The goats appear to be rather crafty – in one instance, they pushed a fence over and go to an entire plot of large pepper plants and chewed them up quite good! I guess that’ll just help fatten up the goats a bit…

I found it interesting that they call stink bugs “gandhi”, specifically because “gand” in the Persian language means “stinky”. Used in a sentence, my mother would say something like “Erfan, put on some deodorant, you smell like gand!” during my teenage years (FYI. I wear deodorant much more regularly now…). I wonder if gandhi in an Indian language (one of the main cultures in Guyana) means “stinky” (for stinkbug) and the Persian language shares the same root.

The Soursop also had an interesting insect pest – a borer that goes straight for the seeds! After some quick research and based on the description of the damage, the culprit appears to be a wasp (commonly referred to as the Soursop wasp) that lays eggs into the seeds with a long ovipositor (organ used to lay eggs) when the fruit is small. When the fruit is larger, the larvae emerge from the seeds and exit out of the fruit, causing these large holes on the outside of the fruit. This provides an opportunity for other insects and diseases to also infiltrate the fruit, increasing the problem, and ruins the seeds for future plantings.

The peppers faced a range of issues. They appear to be affected by a bacterial leaf spot, possibly anthracnose, feeding damage from stink bugs, and root-knot nematodes. Root-knot nematodes can be a challenge to manage, even in the US. They resort to some of the harsh (Danger-level) nematicides, such as Vydate, and even then, appear to have lots of nematodes. With the way the water constantly moves around the land here, nematode management may prove challenging. With all of the pesticides they spray, people may be concerned how it affects the surrounding environment – but the abundance of frogs, dragonflies, and ludicrous quantity of mosquitoes suggests that the ‘environment’ may be doing reasonably well. Below are several images of some of the types of plants disease and insect damage that we saw today. If you see anything that you definitely recognize, please feel free to provide your insight!

Lastly, I wanted to mention the melons. Seen above is a melon that has a spot starting to form on it that eventually expands and takes over the whole fruit; in my quick search, I found either bacterial fruit blotch or bacterial rind necrosis as the possible culprits. The farmer here described this disease as a “terrible tragedy” with the melons right now, with around 60% of yields lost to this problem. What makes it worse – it only appears after the fruit is just about to ripen, meaning that the plant and fruit has taken the space, water, and nutrients before it completely rots.

In the next few days I will be visiting some more farmers to see whether they face any additional unique challenges. Once I have consolidated all of the photos and information on their crop challenges, I can break it down by region and start forming workshop materials to hopefully provide practical solutions to at least some of their crop yield losses. I have also been taking notes and photographing their pesticides application practices and will consolidate that in a separate post later in the week – information that will be vital to understand current management practices and how they can be improved. Spoiler: farms here may benefit from chemical rotation to prevent promotion of pesticide-resistant pests.

Mansfield Grower Program

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This week, one of our Texas growers held an internal full-day training program and were kind enough to allow me to take notes and share them with the rest of you growers! One of the many things I continue to really appreciate and like about the green industry in Texas: they are collaborative and help each other out. See below for speakers and notes related to their presentations.

Please note that I do not personally endorse the products mentioned by the presenters below – the notes provided below are “as-is”, as written as accurately I could based on the information provided by the presenters. Any lack of information or misinformation is not intentional.

Dr. Ann Chase – Recognizing plant diseases and how to manage them.

Dr. Ann Chase – Common diseases of poinsettias.

Dr. Raymond Cloyd – How to deal with mite pests in horticultural production systems.

Dr. Raymond Cloyd – Thrips management.

Gary Volmer – Best Practices and 2018 season challenges with poinsettia production Continue reading “Mansfield Grower Program”

Greenhouse and Nursery Regulatory Compliance Workshop 2018 – Notes and Resources

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If speakers provided permission to provide PDFs of their presentations, they are found at the end of the notes associated with that section.


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Notes from 2018 Ornamental & Turf CEU Meeting

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Below are some notes taken from some of the speakers at the 2018 Ornamental & Turf CEU Meeting held by Helena Chemical Company at the Rose Center, Tyler TX on June 26th. Disclaimer: the notes below do not represent endorsement, research, or vetting by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the AgriLife IPM Program Specialist Program. Notes below as provided as is from the speakers who provided the information.

Full program, including sponsors, is attached at the end of this document.

Rotation Strategies in Turf & Ornamentals – Kathie Kalmowitz, BASF

Irrigation Pond Management – Clint Formby, SePro

Key Turfgrass Insect Pests – Gary Brooks, Bayer

Laws & Regulations Update – Don Renchie, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension (additional links and resources included)

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Seville In-house Full-day Educational Program

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Mr. John Wilson arranged with the help of some sponsors a full day of green industry professionals to provide talks for their growers on June 15, 2018 in Mansfield TX. John was kind enough to invite me and allow me to share detailed notes from the meeting with other grower in the industry. Below are the notes provided as taken. Disclaimer: the notes below do not represent endorsement, research, or vetting by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the AgriLife IPM Program Specialist Program. Notes below as provided as is from the speakers who provided the information.

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Greenhouse & Nursery Regulatory Compliance Workshop 2017 – Notes and Resources

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Another year and another successful greenhouse and nursery workshop here in Overton. We had many great speakers and are very grateful for our sponsors. I have included some summaries and resources from some of our speakers down below. I have created links below that will direct you to information pertinent to each speaker below. In the case where the speaker has given consent to share their presentation, I have also included that too.

Dr. Shaadi Khademi, MD & Dr. Vanessa Casanova, PhD – Pesticides: Exposure, Health Effects, and Safety Education
UT Health Northeast

Mrs. Kathy (Katherine) Newton – How to Comply with WPS Revisions
Texas Department of Agriculture

TDA Compliance Resources

Dr. Steven Arthurs – Integrated Pest Management for Greenhouse and Nursery
Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University

Mr. Daniel Cunningham – Water U Doing for Texas Horticulture?
Department of Horticulture, Texas A&M University

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One way to know if an insecticide will work

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With the plethora of pesticides out there, it can be challenging to know which will actually work an which wont. Many blogs and websites suggest different home remedies or natural products, but how can you know whether what the blogs are saying are reliable?

Continue reading “One way to know if an insecticide will work”

IOBC Canada 2017 – Part II

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This post is a part of a series of notes taken at the International Organization of Biological Control 2017.

Go back to Monday’s Agenda

Plant-provided food increases indirect defense through manipulation of a mutualism

Pete Nelson, North Carolina State University

Conservation biological control in tobacco

  • Spined stiltbug

Continue reading “IOBC Canada 2017 – Part II”

IOBC Canada 2017 – Speaker Summaries

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The International Organization for Biological Control (Nearctic Region and West Palearctic Regional Section) had a meeting in Niagara Falls (Ontario) from June 4th – 8th, 2017. Below is a list of the talks that I took notes for. When the notes for that talk are published, the title will become a clickable link. Since there were many talks and I need to gather my notes into coherent ideas presented by the speakers, I will be publishing notes progressively over time. Check back later if a title you are interested below is not yet posted.

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Title Speaker
Biological control in greenhouse IPM systems: Where we’ve been, where we are, and where we need to go? Michael Brownbridge, Vineland Research & Innovation Centre
Session: Innovative Strategies that Enhance Biological Control
Innovative strategies that enhance the cost-effectiveness, reliability and efficacy of arthropod-based biocontrol in greenhouse crops Shimon Steinberg
What secret holds the fog? Testing the fate of biologicals from the nozzle to the plant surface Michael Brownbridge, Vineland Research & Innovation Center
A new method for loading predatory mites with entomopathogenic fungi for biocontrol of their prey Gongyu Lin, Institut de recherche en biologie végétale de l’Université de Montréal
Modifying the expression of plant volatiles to affect the behaviour of greenhouse insect pests Ian Scott
Plant-provided food increases indirect defence through manipulation of a mutualism Pete Nelson
Efficiency of different biocontrol agents to control Tetranychus urticae on greenhouse pepper crops S. A. El Arnaouty
Evaluation of maize/Banks grass mite (Oligonychus pratensis) banker plant system in tomato Carol Glenister
Which is the best strategy against foxglove aphid? Michelangelo La Spina
Euphodes americanus and Leucopis annulipos as potential BCAs of foxglove aphid at low temperatures Marc Fournier
Standardization of a mass-rearing system of Apanteles gelechiidivoris Marsh (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) Jessica Morales
Foraging and egg-laying behaviour of the coccinellid predator Rhyzobius lophanthae Marjolein Kruidhof
Improved monitoring of vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus) adults Tom Pope
A ‘little and often’ system for application of entomopathogenic nematodes for vine weevil control Jude Bennison

Continue reading “IOBC Canada 2017 – Speaker Summaries”