Fall Best Management Practices to Reduce Disease Issues in Next Year’s Vegetable Crops
The official start of fall is fast approaching. Many summer vegetable fields are at the end of their production for the season. Much of the time, farmers leave the remaining plant debris standing until the next available opportunity to remove it. Busy schedules, harvesting fall crops, and other priorities on the farm may take up a lot of time that farmers have available this time of year, but it is important to properly clean up depleted vegetable fields as soon as possible for the benefit of next year’s crop.
This past year has been a prime year for the development of many common vegetable diseases. Even in fields where farmers implemented recommended Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, many crops still became susceptible to common diseases due to the wet weather and environmental conditions favorable for disease development that have persisted. In any year, even if crops do not become diseased in the growing season, the probability is high that those plants will become diseased one production is finished and the fields are abandoned. Much of the abandoned plant material can potentially harbor some of those disease pathogens if the plant debris is left standing until next year. Here are a couple of practices that farmers can do this year to help protect next year’s crop.
Destroy crop debris and clean up fields. Any trellising materials such as string, stakes, or wire should be removed. Plants should be mowed or bush hogged down. If plastic mulch and trickle tape were used, this should be lifted, removed from the field, and disposed of through the landfill, or waste disposal. It is not a good idea dump the used plastic and trickle tape somewhere off the edge of the field. This not only comes with an environmental concern, but the piles of material can include plant debris or diseased fruit that could possible harbor disease pathogens until next year. It is also not a bad idea to lightly disk fields after the plastic is removed to increase the surface area of the remaining plant debris, and to take care of any standing weeds. This is also a good time to add a cover crop to the field.
Properly clean, sanitize, and maintain equipment at the end of the season. This not only includes tractors, and implements, but also any materials that will be used in next year’s crop such as trellising stakes, sticks, harvest knives, reusable harvest containers, etc. Make sure to wash all the soil off, and it is also not a bad idea to apply a sanitizing solution such as bleach if this will not hurt the equipment/supplies. For tractors, farm implements, or other mechanical equipment It is a good time also to inspect, and repair anything that is broken before putting the equipment into storage. Also, make sure to grease, oil, lubricate, or otherwise prepare the equipment for storage according to the directions in the owner’s manuals. Have your equipment in good, working order so that it will not take long to get it prepared for service when it is needed next year.
Cleaning up the field, and properly taking care of equipment are two simple practices that can greatly benefit next year’s crop. If you have questions, or would like to learn more about this topic, feel free to contact me at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Yancey County Center by calling (828) 682-6186, or by emailing email@example.com.