Farm Tour Update!

2014 Field Day

During the farm tour, the following was discussed:

  • Ken Berg’s method of mummy berry management
  • My overview of mummy berry and cultural control methods
  • Dr. Jay Pscheidt’s evaluation of commercial products
  • Potential funding opportunities to assist with disease management via micro-loans through the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA)
  • The organic initiative through the Oregon Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)

2014 Field Day

Ken Berg’s method of mummy berry management included the following:

  1. In late summer, mummies fall onto open ground underneath the blueberry bushes. Blueberry bushes are on flat ground (vs. mounds). 
  2. In late winter, black visqueen is laid down under bushes and on top of overwintering mummies. Two sheets of visqueen are used per row, one on either side of the blueberry bushes (for example: one sheet laying on the east-facing side of the blueberry row, running north to south. and the other sheet laying on the west-facing side, also running north to south).
  3. The visqueen is held in place with Douglas fir sawdust which is appliedaround the outer edges of the visqueen to hold it down. To hold down the two sheets of visqueen that meet along the crown of the blueberry bush, the visqueen is pulled together, overlapping, and Douglas fir sawdust is applied on top of it. The weight of the Douglas fir sawdust keeps the visqueen in place.
  4. In early spring when apothecia would be produced, the visqueen covers them and theoretically prevents ascospores from escaping.2014 Field Day

Ken Berg claims that this technique has reduced his mummy berry incidence and is cost effective. The visqueen does not need to be replaced every year and costs under $500 for the whole field. Berg’s Certified Organic Blueberries is primarily a U-pick operation, producing blueberries on one acre.

Another option:

A farm tour attendee discussed his more drastic management technique. This grower has a severe case of mummy berry and pruned back all canes. He skipped a year of harvest, but this year his crop looks incredibly productive and he says there is no sign of mummy berry. However, since the blueberries have only reached the green fruit stage, nothing final can be said about the technique.

This management idea spurred an interesting question amongst the growers- Do mummies only survive for one year? If so, this technique should be viable. I am currently designing an experiment to test just that and should have results next field season!

Organic fungicide highlights:

  • Actinovate AG, Regalia, and Serenade Optimum all showed a significantly different % primary infection control when compared to the non-treated bushes.
  • Regalia was associated with minor phytotoxicity (some necrosis on blooms and rusetting on fruit)
  • Serenade Optimum (7 day intervals) also showed significantly different secondary infection (mummy berry) control when compared to non-treated bushes.

This concludes the list of highlights from the spring farm tour. If you’d like additional information about the microloans or organic initiative, please leave a comment and I’ll add additional information. If you have any ideas for mummy berry control that you’d like to see tested, please tell us about it!

Thank you to all of the farm tour attendees, your input was invaluable! 

Our next mummy berry management outreach event will take place in Washington!

 

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Resource for Mummy Berry and Cultivar Susceptibility

I often get questions from growers regarding which cultivars are most resistant to mummy berry disease and confirming cultivars that appear to be susceptible in the field. I’ve found a great resource provided by researchers at Michigan State University. It includes information such as:

  • Mummy Berry Basics
  • Symptoms
  • Disease Cycle
  • Color Photographs
  • Management
  • Cultivar Susceptibility
  • Common Fungicide Active Ingredients and Efficacy

 

Please click the link below. Enjoy!

MUMMY BERRY FACT SHEET

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Managing Mummy Berry Disease in Blueberries Farm Tour

Mummy-Berry-Farm-Tour

Managing Mummy Berry Disease in Blueberries Farm Tour
Thursday, June 5, 2014
2 – 4:30 pm
Alvadore, OR
$5

RSVP required by Tuesday, June 3
with Jen Miller at jmiller@pesticide.org or 208-850-6504

This farm tour is a follow-up field component to our February workshop.

Please join us for the afternoon to learn about managing for mummy berry disease from certified organic blueberry farmer Ken Berg, Oregon State University researcher Jay Pscheidt and graduate student Jade Florence.

Jay Pscheidt and Jade Florence are currently working with NCAP and collaborating growers on a project to improve mulching practices for managing mummy berry.

Berg sawdust pict copy 2

About the farm:
Ken Berg of Berg’s Certified Organic Blueberries produces blueberries on one acre. The farm has been producing organic blueberries since 1991.

Ken has planted eight cultivars, including Blueray, Chandler, Collins, Darrow, Draper, Liberty,Patriot, and Spartan. The farm is primarily a u-pick operation.

Mummy berry drives many of the management practices on the farm, after major losses occurred in 2010. Ken instituted intensive mulching, involving laying down visqueen and covering with sawdust mulch, as well as other methods to significantly reduce his losses from mummy berry.

The tour will also include information on conservation funding for pest management through NRCS, as well as a new microloan program through USDA Farm Service Agency.

This is an equal opportunity event.
This workshop is based upon work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number 69-0436-2-113.

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Apothecia still sporulating!

Primary inoculum production is still in full swing at the Botany and Plant Pathology Field Lab in Corvallis, Oregon. However, no apothecia have been found further southeast around the Eugene/Springfield/McKenzie River area.

This is a prime time to mulch your fields if you haven’t done so already! As data comes in at the BPP Field Lab, it’s looking like mulching is EXTREMELY beneficial for prohibiting apothecia from reaching the soil surface and disseminating ascospores. Below are some images from the mulching field study!

Unmulched Mummies

Pots containing sclerotia that were not mulched. Notice high numbers of apothecia.

Far fewer apothecia coming up through sawdust layer. Statistical analyses will be conducted and made available to the public.

Far fewer apothecia coming up through sawdust layer. Statistical analyses will be conducted and made available to the public.

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3.7.14 First Apothecia Found in Corvallis!

apocirc

On Friday, March 7, 2014 the first apothecium of the spring Mummy Berry disease cycle was found in Corvallis, Oregon within the Willamette Valley. More apothecia will expand to release spores within the next few days, so keep an eye out!

Make sure your IPM regime is underway!

I was recently interviewed for the Inspiration Dissemination radio show on KBVR Corvallis. Anyone interested in my path to studying Plant Pathology and advice for aspiring young plant pathologists, I encourage you to check it out!

Inspiration Dissemination-KBVR Corvallis

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Moving into March! Preparing for Mummy Berry

In-Field Mummy Status

February is almost over, and in the field, about 40% of sclerotia assessed at the Botany & Plant Pathology Field Lab have germinated. That means with the right environmental conditions they’ll begin to infect the fields!

With the right environmental conditions, this mummy will produce an apothecium (fungal fruiting body, like a mushroom).

With the right environmental conditions, this mummy will produce an apothecium (fungal fruiting body, like a mushroom).

The best weather conditions for mushroom production include an average daily temperature of  ~45 Fahrenheit or higher, along with adequate rainfall. When this begins to happen in March, it’s a good idea to scout to find potential problem areas in your field. This may help you implement or tailor your IPM program.

For example, if you’ve already applied mulch in the fall, but choose to scout during March, you may find an area where the mulch has rinsed away from the winter rains. In this case, it may be beneficial to apply more mulch immediately in to cover apothecia and prevent spores from infecting the orchard.

We’re still collecting data regarding the timing of mulches and will report further after this field season. However, there has been suggestive evidence to show that mulching over these problem areas, as in the above example, can stop apothecia from growing through the mulch and reaching the soil surface. This is especially important for organic farmers, who need to utilize as many different tactics as possible to decrease disease incidence both for harvest this year, and decreasing sclerotia (or mummies) in the field the following fall and winter.

I’ve provided this Mummy Berry Scouting Video for anyone interested in learning to scout and wants an introduction to Mummy Berry.

Recent letter from a reader!

Weed Mat with Zipper SystemI’m working [on a] farm with perennial crops. I find your blog and research very interesting!

We have a ½ acre of highbush blueberries in their 7th year of production. They are mulched with Douglas Fir sawdust covered with landscape fabric. I was wondering if you have recommendations on Mummy Berry control for our system… Do you think that leaving the landscaped fabric open during the berry drop, then restapling it over top of fallen berries would prevent any mummy berries from discharging ascospores in the spring? This might be less labour intensive than painstakingly removing all fallen berries by hand. Possibly. Given the ordeal of unstapling and restapling our plastic, hard to say. Anyways, was curious if you had any thoughts on this!

Disclaimer

Response:  I’m glad you came across my blog!

I would not suggest pulling back the weed mat and allowing mummies to roll underneath, as I’ve seen this done on blueberry farms and the mummies ended up germinating under the weed mat, elongating until they reach a light gap, at which point they produce apothecia and sporulate.

Do you have raised beds or flat ground?

If you’re on flat ground, I might suggest simply sweeping up mummies
from the weed mat, collecting them, and disposing of them (you can
bury them in another area). If you’re on a raised bed, this might be
more difficult, as mummies tend to roll into the middle aisle. If this
is the case, sweeping them from the weed mat and raking the aisle may
be a good option (again, you’ll want to collect the mummies and
dispose of them). Also, keeping the grass cut and plant debris removed
from the middle aisle can help dry out any mummies that are left there.

Another option is to harvest the mummies. This can be time consuming,
but is very effective. Since my research doesn’t cover weed mat
operations at the present moment, I don’t have much information to
give you about that system. Hope this helped!

Here’s another resource that might come in handy for your other crops
too:

http://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/blueberry-vaccinium-corymbosum-mummy-berry

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Successful Winter Workshop!

Thank you to everyone who attended the 2014 Organic Blueberry Workshop! It was a great success and according to the survey responses, attendees got some new ideas for managing Mummy Berry and Spotted Wing Drosophila along with new information about mulching practices.

67% of workshop attendees said that they will be changing their management of blueberry diseases based on what they learned.

And additional 15% of attendees said that they may be incorporating the new information into their management strategies after having more time to think it over.

Here’s a recap of what was covered:

Effects of Various Management Techniques

Optimum soil pH for blueberry is 4.5-5.5

Why Mulch

Douglas fir sawdust is generally recommended because it’s readily available and it has a pH of about 4.5 (good for blueberries). 73% of attendees already use Douglas Fir sawdust on their organic blueberry operations.

Seeds of weedy plants don’t germinate readily in sawdust. However, seeds of weedy plants do germinate readily in compost, because it is nutrient rich and holds moisture better.

Cultivar differences make it difficult to make any management generalizations. To understand cultivar responses, comparing yield on rows of treated and untreated blueberries may give farmers personalized information needed to create an effective management regime.

Raised beds tend to increase yield.

Feather meal tends to be best fertilizer for weed mat weed management operations.

Yard debris compost has a high pH (7 to 8). It’s best to avoid using a lot of compost when mulching blueberries. Also avoid manures or horse bedding for the same reason. Managing soil pH should be your first concern, since yield is similar whether weeds are managed with compost + sawdust, sawdust alone, or a weed mat.

Weed mat or landscape fabric controls weeds well, but must have a drip irrigation line under the weed mat or the plants may not get watered well enough. It’s also best to put some organic matter under the weed mat (ex: bark or sawdust), but no more than 2″ deep.

If weed management technique is sawdust alone:  Do not put on more than 3 inches at once (plant roots need oxygen) and renew mulch every few years to maintain the 3 inch depth. 87.5% of workshop attendees mulch 1-4 inches every year.

SWD

It takes 8-14 days for Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) to transition from an egg to an adult.

Operations with a large variety of fruit production (i.e. raspberries, blueberries, apples, pears) may have a harder time controlling SWD due to increased habitat.

SWD likes high humidity areas in the canopy! Increased air flow can help control SWD. Pruning is important!

Pruning

Blueberry bushes can live for > 70 years!

Blueberry bushes need 6-7 years to reach full production.

8ft or shorter is a good height for blueberry bushes.

Pruning benefits:IMG_0824

1. Vigor

2. Increased berry size

3. Disease/insect management

4. Fruit quality

5. Appropriate growth habit for harvesting

 

There was lots of information presented at the Organic Blueberry Workshop. If there is any additional information you’d like to know about or have recapped, leave a message in the comments section!

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Podcast and Mummy Berry Resistant Cultivars!

Hello All!

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 9.19.29 AM

I was recently interviewed on The Ruminant podcast where I talked about home gardening, plant pathology, and Mummy Berry. The podcast can be found at The Ruminant webpage.

 

In addition, I’m organizing and speaking at a Blueberry Workshop this month. While I was putting together my presentation, I realized that farmers might want additional resources about blueberry cultivars and resistance to Mummy Berry fruit infection. Therefore, I’m posting a few great sources for you to check out!

Highbush Blueberries in Nova Scotia

This link has information about common highbush blueberry varieties grown in Nova Scotia, although many of them are commonly grown in the U.S. also. Information about Mummy Berry resistance is also available.

Ranking Cultivated Blueberry for Mummy Berry Blight and Fruit Infection

Although, this is a scientific publication and may not be readily accessible without access to a university library. This 2010 publication covers an assessment of popular blueberry varieties and their relative resistance and susceptibility to Mummy Berry.

We’ve had snow here in Oregon for the past few days, but I’m excited to get back out into the field and see how the disease cycle is progressing. More updates will follow soon!

 

 

 

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Winter Extras!

2014 Mummy Berry Invite

On February 11, 2014, I will be co-hosting a Mummy Berry, Spotted Wing Drosophila, Weed Management, and Pruning workshop for organic blueberry production. The workshop will include an in-field pruning demonstration and detailed information regarding my mummy berry disease control project.

For anyone interested in learning more about the life cycle of Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi and how to scout for mummies in a blueberry field, check out a video I made in collaboration with NCAP (Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides).

Mummy Berry Scouting Video

 

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Winter 2014

As winter weather brings cooler temperatures, snowfall, and rains, mummies (or sclerotia) sit on the blueberry orchard floor accumulating degree days.

Rainfall and cooler temperatures are factors that influence the overwintering of M. vaccinii-corymbosi

 

As of November 2013, mummies in the field were already beginning to break dormancy and germinate.

Stipe initials are forming on overwintering mummy (sclerotium).

During December 2013, there were noticeably higher levels of germination and stipe initials were beginning to lengthen.

The blue arrows are pointing to a structure called a “stipe”. The stipe is the support for what will become an “apothecium” or fungal fruiting body, much like a mushroom cap. This picture is of a nearly-mature stipe and apothecium. However, in late-fall/early-winter, the beginning stages of stipe formation are visible on overwintering mummies in the field.

Most of the mummies found in the blueberry orchard can be found nestled under the leaf litter where they are less likely to dry out during periods of low rainfall.

The mummies generally fall from the bush in late-summer then are subsequently covered by fallen blueberry leaves.

Two rounds of mulching have now been applied to the experimental plots. Round One went out in late September when mummies still had their purple blueberry skin attached.

September Set-UpSeptember Mummies

Round Two went out in mid-October after mummies had shed their purple blueberry skin.

October Mulch

Sawdust MulchLeaf Mulch

 

It is unclear what function this removal of blueberry skin may have on the overwintering of the fungus, so it will be exciting to see if there are any differences in disease control efficacy.

In late-summer, mummies (sclerotia) still have purple/pink blueberry skin attached to the outer surface.

 

By early-fall, the blueberry skin is sloughed off, revealing dark colored mummies (sclerotia).

Round Three mulch is projected for mid-January. Pictures will follow.

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