Cooperative Extension Service 

  Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Southwest Florida Vegetable Newsletter

Hendry County Cooperative Extension Office
PO Box 68
Labelle, Florida 33975

January/February 1999



March 8-12, 1999        Florida PostHarvest Horticulture Institute & Industry Tour
                                    Contact steve Sargent (352) 392-1928 ext. 215

March 19-21, 1999      Florida Watermelon Association’s 31st Annual Convention
                                    Radison Plaza, Orlando, Florida
                                    Contact: Debbie Browning,  Florida Watermelon Association
                                    2000 Johnson Road
                                    Immokalee, FL  34142
                                    Phone 941-658-1442.

May 18, 1999              Vegetable Field Day
                                    Gulf Coast Research and Education Center
                                    Bradenton, Florida

                                         8:15  am     Registration
                                         1:30 pm  Individual Talks with Faculty
                                         Three tours will be available:
                                          * Veg Crop Improvement
                                          * Veg Crop Protection
                                          * Veg Crop Production

May 19-22, 1999         28th National Agricultural Plastics Conference
                                     Ramada Inn Tallahassee, Tallahassee, Florida.
                                     Contact:  American Society for Plasticulture
                                     526 Brittany Dr, State College, PA  16803-1420
                                     Telephone (814)238-7045; fax (814) 238-7051
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Note  from Gene 
Gene McAvoy
Vegetable Extension Agent II
Hendry County Extension Office
PO Box 68
LaBelle, Florida, 33975
Hope this finds you all well.  One of the biggest concerns facing area  growers this season - particularly tomato producers- has been the widespread appearence of tomato yellow leaf curl virus in south west Florida.  We had all heard stories over the past few past seasons of the high incidence of  this disease in other production areas of the state, with up to 80 -100 % infection rates being reported in some fields.  We were fortunate and had escaped with only a few isolated plants - the number of which could almost be counted on one hand - showing symptoms  in our entire area.

Unfortunately this is no longer the case.  By late fall, widespread reports of TYLCV infected plants had started to come in and by now, there is probably no grower, who has not identified a few diseased plants in his fields.  Luckily, we have escaped the ravages of TYLCV which have plagued some other areas of the state.  Over all, local infection rates are probably less then 1%, although there have been a few isolated  fields where the incidence of infection reached 10-15%.  Thanks to grower awareness, early detection and judicious roguing of diseased plants the infection rate has stabilized at low levels.

Whether this remains the case in the future will be a test of area grower’s ability and willingness to employ all the IPM tools at their disposal.  We are fortunate in that local operations tend to be large and relitively isolated from each other and other sources of infection such as ornamental growers and home gardeners.  Despite our geographical advantage, meticulous attention to white fly management and strict sanitation measures including rapid crop destruction after harvest will most likely determine the future severity of this problem in southwest Florida.

The disease is undoubtably here to stay - ensuring that it remains a minor problem, will take all growers working together to destroy sources of infection and keep whitefly numbers low.  Even though you may not be producing a crop that is susceptible to the virus, be a good neighbor and follow good sanitation practices to eliminate the buildup of whiteflies on abandoned crops.

Although, we have recieved a temporary reprive from the methyl bromide ban for a few more years,  the loss of important crop protection tools under the Food Quality Protection Act continues to threaten the industry.  Be sure and speak out and educate legislators and regulators on this and other issues critical to the industry.

The SW Florida Pest and Disease Hotline has been a great success and has attracted favorable comments from growers and industry representative alike. It must be pointed out  that the idea for this originated with your Southwest Florida Vegetable Advisory Committee and this is a great example of the ways in which we can all work together to strenghten the vegetable industry.  Upcoming projects being spearheaded by the committee include soliciting  input on critical areas of vegetable research to help ensure that IFAS research faculty based at SWFREC are aware of growers concerns and research needs.

The vegetable industry can learn several lessons from the citrus industry which has learned the importance of unity and has used the power acheived through united action in a number of ways to the benefit of citrus growers.
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Field Packing Regulation 
Works So Far

Florida’s field tomato packing regulation is new this year and the industry is still getting used to it, but it seems to be working well so far. According to our federal marketing order, all Florida tomatoes must be packed at the registered handler’s facility, which is the shipping point, but we’re allowing Florida producers to pack in the field to compete with tomatoes from Mexico.

“The riper the better” is the way people are currently demanding tomatoes.  They’ll buy them from red ripe down to a heavy pinck, but they don’t want them if they’ve been run over a sizing machine because that causes bruising.

So the field packing regulation is enabling us to provide a riper tomato without bruising, but sizing is a challenge.  Under the marketing order, however, we’re required to designate size on the box.  If you’re packing much volume, it’s difficult to size tomatoes by hand and that’s been the biggest downfall of the field packing regulation.

Our competitors from Mexico, on the other hand, are supposed to designate size, too, but the government doesn’t make them do it.  Consequently, there’s no telling what conglomeration of sizes you’re going to get in a box of tomatoes from Mexico.

When consumbers go to the grocery store and say they want a ripe tomato, they don’t really know what a vine ripe is.  Technically, a vine ripe tomato is one that’s showing a tinge of color on the blossom end when it’s picked.

What they want is a red ripe tomatoe, but they ask for a vine ripe and, of course, the tomatoes form Mexico are all picked just slightly riper than a mature green, but they call them vine ripes and technically they are.

The Tomato Magazine
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Petoseed Tomato Disease Guide Available in Spanish

The Tomato Disease Guide, published to help growers with field detection and diagnosis, is now available in Spanish.

Produced by Petoseed,  The Tomato Disease guide features exhaustively researched descriptions and detailed photographs of the more common tomato diseases and disorders worldwide.

Each entry lists the common name of the disease, the cause, where it occurs, symptons, conditions necessary for the development of the disease and measures to control it.  A comprehensive glossary and a list of references for further research are also included.

The 61-0 page book covers bacterial, fungal, nematode and viral diseases as well as a parasitic plants, phytoplasma disease and a variety of noninfectious disorders.

The Tomato Disease Guide can be ordered at a cost of $30 (US) through the Petoseed Advertising Department by calling (805) 647-1188.

The Tomato Magazine
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Eat Your Tomatoes and Tomato Products
Study says eating lots of fresh and processed tomatoes can lower the risk of certain cancers.  The paper, “Tomatoes, Tomato-Based Products, Lycopene, and Cancer:  Review of the Epidemiologic Literature” by Dr. Edward Giovannucci was

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New Chemistries for Specialty Crop Disease Control Coming

 Many new compounds are in the registration process for specialty crop growers according to information received at the recent American Pathological Society meetings in November.

New chemistry includes compounds that synthetically induce systemic acquired resistance (SAR response).  In plants, biologically induced resistance is activated by a compound called salicylic acid (the ingredient in aspirin) which causes the plant to synthesize a variety of defense related proteins.  Novartis has developed a synthetic analogue of salicylic acid called benzothiadiazole (BTH), and the company is in the process of registering this product under the trade name Actigard.  Actigard is proposed as a novel plant health product that can confer broadspectrum control of plant diseases.  Current summaries list control of downy mildew in cucurbits as fair-good, cucumber anthracnose as fair, spinach white rust as good, lettuce
downy mildew as excellent and bacterial speck and bacterial spot of tomato as good-excellent.

Eden Bioscience is in the process of commercializing what they call a plant “vaccine” under the trade name Messenger.  This is a naturally occurring protein called harpin, which when applied to plants, triggers their defense mechanisms.  In addition, Messenger is reported to stimulate plant growth.  This product is currently under an Experimental Use Permit (EUP) with full registration expected within the next 12 months.  The vegetable crops listed under the EUP include:  tomato for bacterial leafspot, bacterial wilt and phytophthora root rot;  pepper for bacterial leaf spot;  and cucurbits to boost overall production.  At this time it is not clear what crops will be included on the full registration.

Several new synthetic strobilurin fungicides are being developed by BASF, and Novartis.  Strobilurin A is a substance isolated from a mushroom which grows on fallen pine cones.  The natural toxic activity of strobilurin A allowed the mushroom to keep other fungi away from its nutrient supply.  A section 3 registration has been submitted and federal registration is pending.  Sovran shows excellent control of powdery mildew and gummy stem blight on cucurbits.

Another new strobilurin in the registration process is trifloxystrobin (CGA-279202), developed by Novartis and now under the trade name Flint.  (Flint is not currently registered for use in the U. S.)  This compound has activity against powdery mildews, anthracnose, alternaria leaf spot and gummy stem blight on cucurbits, and against early blight, late blight and anthracnose on fruiting vegetables.

Another new compound is fenhexamid, under development by TomenAgro.  This protectant fungicide will be marketed under the trade name Elevate for control of botrytis and monilia diseases in strawberries, grapes, almonds, vegetables and stone fruits and under the trade name Decree for use on ornamentals.  Registration is in progress and may be complete by the end of 1999.  Fenhexamid is effective against botrytis, and TomenAgro is also interested in its use against sclerotinia.  The company is continuing work on the use of compound in the vegetable crop.

The Vegetable Growers News
January 1999
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New Pepper Varieties

Paladin (formerly RPP 3135-VP) is the first of a new line of Rogers TM brand pepper hybrids with Phytophthora tolerance.  Maturing midseason, this variety’s compact, vigorous plant has offered a continuous, semi-concentrated set of dark green, blocky to deep-blocky, extra large fruit throughout the growing season.  Yield potential has been enhanced by resistance to tobacco mosaic virus as well as tolerance to phytophthora.

Sentry is a large to extra large hybrid bell pepper ideally suited to fall plantings in Florida-especially where BLS, races 1, 2, and 3 are a problem.  In about 73 to 77 days, this vigorous, erect plant delivers a continuous set of very blocky dark green fruit with firm walls.  Its disease package includes tolerance to stip, allowing it to be harvested for red markets.  Seed is available through Rogers’ VIP dealers.

Citrus & Vegetable
December 1998
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Long Shelf-Life Salads with Tomatoes Released

EcoScience Corporation is test marketing a line of freshly prepared ready-to-eat salads with long shelf life incorporating the company’s greenhouse grown tomatoes, a first in the industry.

EcoScience’s subsidiary Agro Power Development (APD) will supply the tomatoes under an exclusive agreement with SunBlush Technologies Corporation, of Vancouver, B. C., which developed the packaging that keeps the salad fresh for up to 14 days utilizing unique Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) technology.

The initial ready-to-eat salad product will include cut tomatoes, leafy vegetables, salad dressings and eating implements.  This new product will serve as a meal replacement and/or supplement.

“We are very excited about this new venture,” said Michael A. DeGiglio, EcoScience’s President and Chief Executive Officer.  “The fresh-cut salad market is now a more than $1 billion business, growing in excess  of 20% a year.  While fresh tomatoes are the leading produce item that consumers add to fresh leafy salads, long shelf life prepared packaged salads with tomatoes have not previously been available.”

The Great Lakes Vegetable Growers News
December 1998
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Prospective Releases from the Florida Tomato Breeding Program

A number of new tomato hybrids from the University of Florida tomato breeding program show great promise and may soon be released to commercial seed companies for use in their respective programs, according to Jay W. Scott, tomato breeder.
The goal is to enable the Florida tomato industry to compete more effectively against Mexico and other areas marketing tomatoes in the same time slot.

Tomato breeding at the university emphasized development of inbred lines with characteristics that are beneficial for production in the state.  As lines emerge that appear to have desirable horticultural traits, test crosses are made to evaluate their potential as parents, Scott says.  When these results are favorable the inbreds are considered for release and are placed in replicated trials to measure marketable yield, fruit size and various quality traits such as fruit color and firmness.

The best lines are then made available to the commercial seed industry.  The various seed companies can then take the inbreds and work them into their own specific hybrid lines.  The end result is the program is beneficial to the Florida tomato industry by providing growers with new hybrids specifically bred to Florida production and marketing needs.

The following are planned releases for 1998 or soon thereafter:

Fla. 7775 - Fusarium Crown and Root Rot Resistance:  Has a medium sized, slightly open vine. It has jointless pedicels, and fruit are medium-large, flat round in shape, have light green shoulders, are very firm, and have smooth shoulders and blossom scars.  Fruit have the crimson (og) gene, which results in high lycopene production and good red color.  Fruit ripen well, are mild in flavor, and are mid-late season in maturity.

In addition to crown rot, Fla. 7775 is also resistant to fusarium wilt (Fusarium oxsporum f. sp. Lycopersici) races 1 and 2, verticillium wilt (Verticillium alboatrum) race 1, and gray leafspot (Stemphyllium solani)  Fla. 7775 yielded and sized well in both 1997 and 1998 trials.  It also has performed well as a parent in several hybrids.

Fla. 7781 -  Has a tall determinate vine.  pedicels are jointed.  Fruit have a light green shoulder, are medium to large in size, are flat round, and firm.  They ripen well and have the og gene, which provides deep red color and high lycopene.  Shoulders are smooth, but blossom scars sometimes are rough in cool weather.  This caused higher-than-desired cull production in the spring of 1998.  7781 has tested well in several other hybrid combinations.  Flavor of Fla. 7781 is fair to good.  In addition to crown rot resistance Fla. 7781 is also resistant to fusarium wilt races 1, and 2, verticillium wilt race 1 and gray leafspot.

Fla. 7771 - Jointless Pedicel, Heat-Tolerance:  Has a medium to tall vine.  Fruit are medium to large, flat round in shape with a smooth blossom scar.  Firmness is only medium, so it should be crossed with firm parents in hybrid combinations.  Some puffiness has been seen which may contribute to the fruit softness.  However, firmness was in the range of ‘Sanibel’ and ‘Agriset 761’ in spring, 1998.  External and internal color is slightly pale.  Flavor is mild and maturity is early-mid season.  Fla. 7771 is the first jointless heat tolerant tomato available with large fruit size.  It has been difficult to get large fruit, heat-tolerance and few defects together in a single line.  Fla. 7771 yielded well in the spring of 1998, when it had the highest numerical yield, as well as in summer trials in 1997 and 1998 at Bradenton.    Fla. 7771 should provide tomato breeders with a source of jointless heat-tolerance with which to develop improved inbreds.

Fla. 7776 - Heat Tolerance:  A large fruited inbred with some heat-tolerance.  It has the n-2 nipple gene, which provides good blossom scar smoothness without leaf curl.  It has medium vines.  Fruit are globe-shaped and some have some zippering.  it has good flavor on a scale from poor to excellent.

For more information, contact:  J. W. Scott, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, 5007 60th Str. E.,
Bradenton, FL  34203, telephone 941-751-7636; fax 941-751-7639; e-mail
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High Beta Carotene Tomatoes Released

U. S. Department of Agriculture scientists have released three new tomato breeding lines that contain about 10 to 25 times more beta carotene than typical tomatoes.

USDA Agricultural Research Service scientist John R. Stommel developed the new high beta-carotene tomato lines-97L63, 97L66, and 97L97-for use in processing into paste, juices and sauces.

The human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, an essential nutrient that aids in clear vision, bone growth, tooth development and reproduction.  Stommel said a major food producer is already using material derived from the ARS germplasm to develop nutritionally enhanced products.

“Beta-carotene content for these tomatoes averages 57.6, 55.1 and 55.5 micrograms per gram of fresh weight for 97L63, 97L66, and 97L97 respectively,” said Stommel.  “Typical tomatoes contain about 2 to 5 micrograms per gram fresh weight.”

97L63 and 97L66 are adapted for California and the Eastern and Midwestern U. S.  The fruits are firm and crack resistant.  Tomatoes that split before harvesting are susceptible to fruit rot, which can cause large crop losses.

The Great Lakes Vegetable Growers News
December 1998
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Affordable Fungus: Researchers Lower Costs of Cultivating Beneficial Mycorrhizae

 Reforestation Technologies Inc., Salinas, Calif., has discovered a way to dramatically reduce the cost of cultivating mycorrhizae, a naturally occurring fungus that improves water and fertilizer intake and protects against soilborne pathogens.

The discovery by Reforestation Technologies Inc., opens the possibility that the fungus could become an important irrigation and disease control tool in tomatoes, grapes, citrus, strawberries and other crops.

Mycorrhizae improves water and nutrient intake by attaching itself to the roots and spreading out into soil like a large sponge.  The fungus also forms a protective sheaf that shields the plant’s roots against disease.   “The roots of plants colonized by mycorrhizal fungi are more resistant to pathogenic soilborne fungi causing root rot diseases,” said James Traquair, Researcher, Pest Management Resource Center, Delhi, Ontario, Canada, who has done extensive research on using mycorrhizae to control root diseases in peach trees.

Traquair said research also has demonstrated the effectiveness of mycorrhizae in controlling root  diseases in tomato plugs and orange trees.

Although mycorrhizae has been effective in disease control and in reducing the need for water and nitrogen in a broad range of plants, the cost of cultivating the fungus has been too high to make inoculating entire fields practical.  “Previously people were getting 2 or 3 spores a milliliter, but we’re getting above 200 spores a milliliter,” said Neil Anderson, President, Reforestation Technologies Inc.

That translates into an inoculation cost of around $100 an acre. Revising techniques increases fungus  But if the inoculation is to be useful, it must be part of revised cultivation techniques that avoid the practices that have destroyed mycorrhizae in most of the nation’s farm land.

“Once you start tilling the soil, you kill it,” Anderson said, noting that extensive cultivation is a key cause of the destruction of mycorrhizae.  Fungicides and chemical fertilizers also are modern enemies of mycorrhizae.  Insecticides and herbicides do not damage the beneficial fungus unless they contaminate the ground.

“I don’t think it’s a panacea,” he said.  “It’s got to be incorporated with different cultivation practices and it might help to switch from highly soluble to slow release fertilizer.”  Further tests on the efficacy of mycorrhizae are being conducted on tomatoes in the San Joaquin Valley and strawberries in Watsonville.

Bob Johnson
The Grower
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Fungus Tested to Control Nutsedge Without Fumigant

Loss of Methyl Bromide could be devastating to Florida vegetable growers.  Controlling nutsedge in raised-bed tomato and pepper production is one of the problems that Florida Growers will face when methyl bromide is no longer available.  No other fumigant controls weeds, as well as soilborne pathogens and nematodes.  In a cooperative project, USDA and University of Florida researchers are studying use of a fungus, Dactylaria higginsii, to control purple and yellow nutsedge.

Dr. Erin Roskopf, a USDA weed scientist at Fort Pierce, is collaborating with Dr. Raghanvan Charudattan at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in Gainesville on the research.  “This fungus reduces the competitive ability of nutsedges,” said Rosskopf.  “Some plastic mulches and soil solarizaton suppress this weed somewhat.  We want to combine D. higginsii with these practices to see if we can get better control.

Rosskopf and Charudattan began large-scale field testing this fall to determine the conditions necessary for commercial application of the fungus, as well as identify what form of the organism would be compatible with current cropping practices.
 In addition, Rosskopf is testing use of fungi to control other weeds, including Amaranthus and Portulacca oleraceae.  She is working with a new species of fungus, Phomopsis amaranthicola, that causes a leaf and stem blight on amaranths and pigweeds in Florida.

Another Fungus, Dichotomophthora portulacae, has potential as a biocontrol agent for P.oleraceae, which is also a problem in most crops produced in Florida using raised-bed plastic mulch production systems.  “Lab and greenhouse trials are under way to find the conditions necessary to produce the fungus and those needed for high field efficacy,” she said.  “We’ll do field tests with our next tomato and pepper crops.”

Rosskopf is testing all of these organisms for compatibility with chemical pesticides, both for ease of application and possible synergistic effects.

Florida Grower
December 1998
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Feds Put Pressure on Ag Labor Supply

The scramble to obtain an adequate supply of legal farm workers is only going to become more difficult, according to a series of speakers at the Michigan State Horticultural Society’s annual meeting in December.  New tools are available to help employers, but the long run outlook is dim, said presenters at the Grand Rapids meeting.

James Holt, senior economist for the Washington, D.C. law firm of McGuiness and Williams, said government efforts to keep illegal aliens out of the country are intensifying and beginning to work.  He believes any understanding of the issue must begin with the fact that today’s ag workforce is almost completely foreign-born and mostly illegal.  In addition, new immigrants to the country are almost entirely illegal.

“We’ve all been in denial on this,” said Holt.  “The noose is beginning to tighten.  There isn’t any way to legalize the vast majority of farm workers.”

Employers have no practical way to determine who is legal, but the government is attacking that problem on a number of fronts.  The Immigration and Naturalization Service is the fastest growing agency of the federal government and has more armed agents than any other department.  Border enforcement personnel will be tripled by 2002 and interior enforcement will double in intensity next year.  SWAT teams are beginning to target suspected industries through audits of I-9 forms and raids, he

“That’s a big reason we aren’t seeing the flow of labor into the U. S.  We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg,” said Holt.  “The risk will increase as the new personnel come on and the SWAT team approach is one we’ll see more of.”

Government agencies are joining forces to cross-check the validity of worker documents.  The closest partnership has been between INS and the Social Security Agency.  The Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service are also involved.

Holt believes the enhanced SSA verification will have just as much impact on the situation as the INS activities.  SSA is already verifying all electronic tax submissions, which are required when 250 or more names are reported.  For the 1998 tax year, it plans to reject submissions where 70% of the names did not match.  That threshold will go down to 50% in 1999.  Eventually, the threshold will get down to 10%.

SSA also plans to check names on paper tax submissions as soon as possible.  The IRS is beginning to issue fines for noncompliance.

As of Oct. 1, 1998, each state is required to implement new hire reporting for employers.  The intent of the law is to identify people delinquent in child support and other violators.  However, agriculture will be impacted as well because these new hire reports go to SSA for checking.

More trouble could come in the future from the results of three pilot mandatory document verification programs.  The projects are to last four years and will be followed by a report to congress in 2001.  Congress is then slated to decide on which mandatory plan to implement.

“The problem is that these programs are working,” said Holt.  “And the fact is, if mandatory worker documentation is in place, agriculture won’t have a workforce.”  Of the options existing at the federal level for agricultural employers, the only one that holds any hope of working is reform of the H-2A foreign guest worker program, said Holt.  A reform bill cleared Congress last fall but was left out of the final appropriations bill after opposition from the Clinton Administration.

Supporters of agricultural employers will try again in the new Congress, and will work on finding ways to achieve a non-partisan legislative remedy.  “This will take some time,” said Holt.  “Even if a bill were passed this year there wouldn’t be a program on the ground until 2001 or 2002.  We have to get from here to there and the only way to do it is H-2A.”

The H-2A program allows admission of aliens into the U.S. to do temporary or seasonal agricultural work.  It has been criticized for complexity and red tape, but is still the best option for many ag employers.  Common in the South and New York, H-2A had not been utilized in Michigan until this year, when Christmas tree growers used the program.

The situation in Michigan for the upcoming season will see very few regulatory changes, said Craig Anderson, Director of Michigan Farm Bureau’s RCAP program.  The labor supply will still be tight, as it was in 1998 when crop losses due to a labor shortage were documented.  That had not taken place since the late 1960s.

The new season will bring very few changes in regulation.  Enforcement may be more complaint-driven.  “Don’t risk it.  Don’t cut corners.  We’re being looked at very carefully,” said Anderson.  One area of extra pressure this season will be competition from other employers, including other segments of agriculture.  Construction and fast food businesses have been actually recruiting in farm labor camps.  Hotels and golf courses are also clamoring for workers that have traditionally been the preserve of production ag.

Employers do have a series of options for this year.  They can do nothing and hope workers may return. Employers can also start their own recruitment system, and develop employer organizations.  Use of farm labor contractors is another possibility, but, employers must be careful.  Employers and contractors are jointly liable for any violations-and the minimum penalty is $1,000 per violation per person.  Employment agencies are not exempt from the law.  Each contractor must be licensed and follow the rules of the Migrant and seasonal Worker Protection Act.

If all these options do not work, H-2A is the best choice left, said Anderson.  The program is so complex that individual operations may not be able to participate, but associations can.

The Vegetable Growers News
January 1999
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USDA Starts 
Direct Marketing Website
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a new farmer direct marketing Internet web page.  The web page provides a wide variety of resources and information on this growing agricultural sector.  “USDA’s newest web page is aimed at small and medium-sized producers and others interested in learning more about farmer direct marketing,” said Michael Dunn, USDA’s Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs.  “The farmer direct marketing web page covers a variety of topics and also links to federal, state, university and other web sites relating to direct marketing.”

The site features a monthly newsletter, publications, a bibliography and schedule of national and regional conferences and workshops.  Resources such as information about list servers and links to other USDA and federal programs, state departments of agriculture, national and regional associations, and individual farmers and public markets with web sites are available.  The web page also provides contact information, and eventually will feature on-line order forms for publications.

“This web page is one component of a larger comprehensive farmer direct marketing initiative within USDA,” said Dr. Enrique E. Figueroa, Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.  “It offers a readily accessible and useable information exchange for those involved in farm direct marketing, a marketing channel of vital importance to the continued growth and expansion of agriculture.”

The farmer direct marketing web site can be found at  For more information on the web site, or USDA efforts in the area of farmer direct marketing, call Claire Klotz at (202)690-4077, or e-mail:

The Vegetable Growers News
January 1999
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Sustainable Crop Production Book on Web

A North Carolina State University professor has made available on the World Wide Web information about growing vegetables using what are often known as sustainable or organic methods.

Mary M. Peet, a horticulture professor, converted to electronic form a book she wrote entitled Sustainable Practices for Vegetable Production in the South.

The book and Peet’s website contain sections on subjects such as soil management, cover crops and living mulches, conservation tillage, integrated pest management, diseases, insects, nematodes and weeds.  The book and website also contain background and horticultural information on the 12 most important groups of vegetables grown in the Southeast United States.

Peet said she decided to compile the information in the book when she realized that information on sustainable vegetable production under conditions in the Southeast was not readily available.  All 250 pages of the book are available at the website.

Peet said the website contains more pictures than the book.  She added that the website may be updated more easily than a hard copy.  Indeed, Peet said she plans to update the site continually and plans to include with the website links to other information about vegetable production available through the Internet.

The website address is:

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EPA Approves TOPS MZ for Potato Seed Pieces
TOPS MZ potato seed-piece treatment fungicide form GUSTAFSON INC., Plano, Texas, has been approved by the EPA.  The product has been shown to help reduce the spread of late blight caused by seed-piece to seed-piece contact during handling, cutting and planting.

The Grower
January 1999
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Novartis Has Innovative New Products Coming for Growers

 Three years ago Novartis Crop Protection didn’t exist.  In a few years fruit and vegetable growers around the globe will know its products.

 “We’re changing from being product specific to crop solution focused,” said Randy Williams, Vice President of fungicide and seed treatment products.  “We are talking to the producers to determine their needs.  We are taking new products and considering IPM, resistance management, pest problems, etc. to put together a solution which meets growers’ needs.  Right now we are in the top five in the fruit and vegetable market and our goal is to be number one by 2003.

The way fruit growers fight disease and insects will be changing dramatically in the next few years.  Novartis is introducing and developing innovative new chemistry that will be safer to use, be more pest specific and marketed in a more grower-intensive way.  Novartis is a compilation of companies and products formed by the merger of Sandoz and Ciba in 1996.  Later that year Novartis acquired abamectin from Merk - the active ingredient in Agri-Mek - and several other of the company’s crop protection products.  The new company has capitalized on its combined resources and now has a worldwide base of
research and chemicals to come up with the new products for the fruit and vegetable industry.

“We have the critical mass around the world to look at many new chemicals and see what their potential will be,” Williams said.  “We put approximately 10% of our revenues into research and development which, in terms of absolute dollars, is the most significant of any crop protection company in the world.”

These new products will work much differently from broadspectrum chemicals, and growers will need to have an intricate understanding of them and what is going on their fields.  To help growers get the right information Novartis has formed horticultural technical marketing teams.

“We saw a need to bring special skills to this market with the products we had to sell,” said Jim Johnson, Horticultural District Manager for the Northeast.  “Novartis recognized that fruit and vegetable growers require a lot of information at all levels of the trade.  By putting a dedicated team in the field we are providing more technical support than anyone else I know of.”

The horticultural teams will be spending their time working with retailers and key growers along with providing education at field days and exhibiting at major trade shows.  “The bottom line is we need to work closely with retailers, university and Extension personnel and growers and tell them about the benefits of our products,” said Johnson, the former Michigan State University entomologist.  “By knowing the customer we can provide the service that’s expected.”

Safer Products

Most all of Novartis’s new products will be reduced risk, meaning the EPA has found they are safer to humans, animals and the environment.  The Food Quality Protection Act has changed the way EPA registers pesticides.  Because of the increased scrutiny on pesticides, the EPA is placing reduced-risk compounds on the fast track to being registered.  This means growers should be able to start using them in one or two years instead of double that time.  Novartis has the most reduced-risk pesticides of any chemical company at EPA waiting to be registered.  Eight of the approximately 30 the agency is currently considering are from Novartis.

“We have changed our focus to bring reduced-risk products to the market,” Williams said.  “We are doing safety checks early in the life of a new compound and if it doesn’t stack up we are kicking it out quick.”  Novartis realizes that the safety issues can be detrimental to the grower.  “We think the fruit and vegetable consumer has concerns about food safety and residues,”
William's said.  “For our products to be successful growers must have confidence that our products are safe and the consumer will have confidence in what they grow.”

New Fungicides

Novartis has some very exciting fungicides in the pipeline with unique modes of actions, according to Rick Raus, business director of fungicide products.  These included:

New Insecticides

 Novartis has several new pesticides in the pipeline for fruit and vegetable growers, said Claude Flueckiger, Director, Crop Management - Insecticide Products.  They include:

Plant Activators
  The Vegetable Growers News
January 1999
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Deflation Looms Possible for the Early 21st Century

For most of this century, economists and policy makers have been worried about inflation, a general rise in price of goods and services.

But with inflation slowed in most developed countries, widespread conjecture is circulating that the world may be heading toward deflation, a general decline in the price of goods and services.  This possibility will require businesses, traders and investors to rethink customary ways of planning.  Signs of deflation:  few developed nations have experienced double-digit inflation for more than a decade; in 1997, the U.S. producer price index decreased 11.7% for crude materials, 1.2% for finished goods and 0.8% for intermediate goods; and the global phenomenon of a decline in commodity prices,with all key commodity price indexes showing sharp declines.

The factors driving price declines are Western governments coming close to balancing budgets, productive capacity exceeding demand and the Asian economic crisis, which has seriously hurt global demand for most goods and depressed prices.
 In deflationary times, it becomes difficult for a company to raise prices when all prices are flat or declining.  Wage increases require real money.  Capital gains will not happen solely due to inflation.  Loans will have to be paid off with the same number - or more - boxes of apples.

What deflation means for growers.

To combat deflation, growers will have to become more productive per acre just to stand still. Growers will have to use research and technology more effectively.  If state and federal governments continue to cut funding for ag research and extension, growers will have to dig deeper into their own pockets to get the knowledge base they need.  Controlling costs also will be crucial.  The managerial demands on growers will intensify.  Another “rule change” in deflation is the advantage of holding dollars versus holding wealth in real assets.  If prices are falling, a dollar today will buy more of everything next year.  In contrast, if that dollar is invested in land, the land will be worth less next year.

 Business and investment decisions will have to be based on the “intrinsic merit of the opportunity” in a deflationary era.  In a number of scenarios, the usual 4% gross return on investment that was adequate in inflationary times will be a recipe for failure in deflationary times.

For the same gross return on investment, differences in the annual capital gain and the rate of interest can cause dramatically different effects on net returns.  In deflation, a grower or agribusiness may need to earn a higher gross return on investment to justify proceeding with an investment.  This case creates implications for growers or investors in perennial crops such as fruit, berries and asparagus.

 Still, growers and agribusiness's can prosper during deflation - once they recognize the rules have changed.

Information provided by the
International Marketing Program for Agricultural Commodities and Trade Newsletter,
Washington State University, Pullman.
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Sponsors will be recognized in each addition of the News letter.
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Methyl Bromide Monitoring

A coalition of environmental, consumer and labor groups is launching a statewide citizen’s air monitoring program in Florida to study air pollution from methyl bromide applications during the fumigation season.  This follows a study done in California in 1998.  The coalition members include the Florida Consumer Action Network, Friends of the Earth, Ozone Action, Farm worker Association of Florida and the Environmental Working Group.  Collier, Manatee, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Dade, Hendry, Lee and Gadsden counties are likely locations for this monitoring effort.

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, they occasionally get a few complaints from persons nearby the fields that are being fumigated.  Since methyl bromide is odorless, the chloropicrin in the formation is detected.  Methyl bromide soil fumigant labels are quite explicit about precautions to follow during soil fumigation.  Following the listed precautions can prevent such releases.

The label precautions to follow during fumigation include:

 Methyl bromide labels contain several other precautionary statements, but these five are specific to the application process.  Stewardship of this product is important.  It’s use is under scrutiny by several groups.

 If you have questions, let Norm Nesheim know at (352)392-4721, or e-mail
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The Florida Farm Bureau is sponsoring a Toll-Free Number for FQPA
Send a letter to your Representative in Congress

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American Farmland Trust 

American Farmland Trust has announced that the Florida Everglades and associated areas were declared the sixth most threatened agricultural region in the nation.  The announcement came on National Agriculture Day, the first day of Spring.

Florida is one of the country’s fastest growing states, with 800 new residents arriving daily.  Between 1980 and 1990, Naples alone experienced a 77 percent increase in its population.  During the same period, Dade, Palm Beach, Broward and Collier counties ranked 9th, 12th, 15th, and 24th among the fastest growing U.S. Counties.

In naming the areas to its list of The Top 20 on the Edge, American Farmland Trust cited the vulnerability of the regions’ top quality, highly productive farmland to intense urban development pressure and called on federal, state, and local policymakers to adopt a series of recommendations.

According to AFT’s report, Farming on the Edge, 79% of the nation’s fruits, 69% of its vegetables and 52% of its dairy goods are now produced on high quality farmland threatened by sprawling growth.

AFT said an analysis of the country’s 181 geographic units or major land resource areas showed 70% had prime or unique farmland in the path of rapid urban development.  Texas lost more prime and unique farmland than any other state to suburban sprawl, nearly a half million acres from 1982 to 1992.

AFT, a national, nonprofit farmland conservation group, said that in consuming some of the nation’s best agricultural land, suburban sprawl is also causing inefficient use of land, roads and other infrastructure and creating serious traffic congestion, and air pollution problems.  It advocated urgent action to curb the alarming trends.

"America’s best farmland is in trouble, and the problem is especially acute throughout the Florida Everglades area", said Bob Wagner, AFT’s National Director of Field Operations.  Ranking among the top 10 U.S. States for both total agricultural market value and total production, Florida also leads the Nation in population growth.  Acre by acre, its farmland is being overrun and destroyed by scattershot urban development.

This kind of rapid, ill-planned development is costly—agriculturally, economically, environmentally and socially.  On National Agriculture Day, we call upon public officials and farmers to address the growing problem and save the good land of Florida from further destruction from suburban sprawl.

A tenth of all U.S. vegetable production takes place in the Florida Everglades area.  Although cropland accounts for only 10.5% of its 4,330 square miles, the growing season is year-round, with an average freeze-free period of 330 to 365 days.  Primary products of this unique climate are winter vegetables and citrus fruits.  Sugar cane, grown on the organic soil south of Lake Okeechobee, is another key crop.  The acreage of improved pasture is increasing, supporting mainly beef cattle and some dairies.

Metropolitan development collides with prime and unique farmland throughout half the Florida Everglades and associated areas.  Urbanization has been particularly destructive along Florida’s eastern coast where Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Boca Raton have all expanded rapidly.

In developing its Top 20 list, American Farmland Trust used the percentage of prime or unique farmland in the area to assess land quality, total agricultural market value to measure agricultural productivity, and the amount of prime or unique farmland urbanized between 1982 and 1992 to determine development pressure.

Washington, D. C., March 20, 1997
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Three FQPA Science Policies Released

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published for public comment three policies  addressing the “non-detect” issue.  The policies are “Proposed Threshold of Regulation Policy When a Food Use Does Not Require a Tolerance,” “Assigning Values to Non-detected/Non-quantified Pesticide Residues in Human Health Dietary Exposure Assessments” and “A Statistical Method of Incorporating Non-detected Pesticide Residues into Human Health Dietary Exposure Assessments.”  These proposals address current EPA policy regarding non-detects.  If residue tests of food show that they contain zero pesticide residues, current EPA policy is to assign a residue value anyway even if tests show no residues.

EPA’s thinking goes something like this:  If a crop is treated with a pesticide, then residues of that pesticide must be present on
that food even if we can’t find it.  For non-detects, EPA assigns a residue value at one-half the the level of detection and plugs this number into risk assessments.  Farm Bureau’s position is that zero is zero.  A brief analysis of the policies released shows that EPA has softened its stance, but that it is still not treating non-detects as zero.

Florida Farm Bureau
FQPA Action Alert
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Pesticide Applicators’ Opportunities to Expose Family Members

The National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences conducted an Agricultural Health Study in which all people applying for private pesticide applicator licenses in North Carolina and Iowa from 1994-96 participated.

Results suggest that members of households of licensed private applicators have several types of potential opportunities for indirect exposure.  There is the opportunity for potential indirect exposure via pesticides inadvertently carried into the home on the applicators themselves and on their clothing.

Another route of potential exposure was the fact that 79% of applicators indicated that they usually washed up or showered in an in-house bathroom after mixing pesticides, whereas 5% used an outside shower and 16% used another area outside the home.

The laundry is yet another mechanism of possible exposure.  The most common practice, used by 81% of respondents, was to wash clothes worn when mixing or applying pesticides separately in the machine used for all laundry.

Work boots were another route of bringing pesticides into to the house.  Typical habits show that 38% of respondents who had been working in the fields usually did NOT take their boots off before entering the house.  A total of 93% reported that there was a wipe mat by the door used by family members working in the fields.

The consequences of families being exposed to pesticides in these manners are uncertain.  The Agricultural Health Study includes follow-up plans for continuing formal contact with the applicators and their families.  Passive follow-up is also planned through cancer registries and death certificates.

Somewhat conversely, however, was a study released in October, 1998 suggesting that farmers have a lower standardized mortality rate, are healthier, and have a lower rate of accessing health care than other occupational groups and the general population.

American Journal of Industrial Medicine; 12/98
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Pesticide Registrations and Actions

New/Revised Labels Return to index

Laugh Lines
The Importance of a Sharp Knife!

The following is supposedly from the US Government Peace Corps Manual for its volunteers who work in the Amazon Jungle.  It tells what to do in case you are attacked by an anaconda.

Now an anaconda is the largest snake in the world.  It is a relative of the boa constrictor, it grows to thirty-five feet in length and weighs between three and four hundred pounds at the maximum.  This is what the manual said:

1.     If you are attacked by an anaconda, do not run.  The snake is faster than you are.
2.     Lie flat on the ground.  Put your arms tight against your sides, your legs tight against one another.
3.     Tuck your chin in.
4.     The snake will come and begin to nudge and climb over your body.
5.     Do not panic
6.     After the snake has examined you, it will begin to swallow you from the feet and - always from the end.  Permit the
        snake to swallow your feet and ankles.  Do not panic.
7.     The snake will now begin to suck your legs into its body.  You must lie perfectly still.  This will take a long time.
8.     When the snake has reached your knees slowly and with as little movement as possible, reach down, take your knife and
        very gently slide it into the side of the snake’s mouth between the edge of its mouth and your leg.  Then, suddenly rip
        upwards, severing the snake’s head.
9.     Be sure you have your knife.
10.   Be sure your knife is sharp.

Forwarded by  Debbie Roos: University of Florida/Gainsville
Sample Cause-of-Death Reports 
from early 1800s in Missouri

“Went to bed feeling well, but woke up dead.”
“Died suddenly, nothing serious”
“Cause of death unknown;  had never been fatally ill before.”
“Don’t know;  died without the aid of a physician.”
“Death caused by blow on the head with an ax.  Contributory cause, another man’s wife.”

Henry Cate,
University of Maryland
Better be sure of your recipient’s e-mail address! 

Just read what happened. 

As you are receiving this note by e-mail, it’s wise to remember how easily this wonderful technology can be misused, sometimes unintentionally, with serious consequences.

Consider the case of the Illinois man who left the snow-filled streets of Chicago for a vacation in Florida.  His wife was on a business trip and was planning to meet him there the next day.  When he reached his hotel, he decided to send his wife a quick e-mail.  Unable to find the scrap of paper on which he had written her e-mail address, he did his best to type it in from memory.

Unfortunately, he missed one letter and his note was directed instead to an elderly preacher’s wife, whose husband had passed away only the day before.  When the grieving widow check her e-mail, she took one look at the monitor, let out a piercing scream, and fell to the floor in a dead faint.  At the sound, her family rushed into the room and saw this note on the screen:

Dearest Wife,

Just got checked in.
Everything prepared for your arrival tomorrow.
Your Loving Husband
PS.  Sure is hot down here.

Case of Mistaken Identity

There was a man who fell in love with a beautiful young lady and asked her to marry him.  She says “Be serious Sam.  You’re fat, you’re ugly and your wardrobe is atrocious.”  So Sam loses 80 lbs, gets a facelift, and a hair transplant, joins one of those health clubs and get tanned and fit.  Then he buys an all new up to date wardrobe.

Now he goes back to the girl and says “Now whaddaya think?”  She says “What a hunk!”  and agrees to a date.  He arrives at her door with a limo.  She comes out looking radiant, her eyes aglow with the promise of a never-to-be-forgotten evening.  Sam has never been happier in his life.

But.... As they walk to the limo lightning strikes him.

In his dying words he says “Why now God?  Why now on the happiest day of my life?”  God looks down and says “Oh.  Sorry Sam,  didn’t recognize you.”

Henry Cate: University of Maryland

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