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Plant & Pest Advisory > Commercial Ag Updates and Farm Food Safety

Plant & Pest Advisory > Vegetable Crops

Contact Information

The points of contact between Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service and the grower & business communities are the NJ County Agricultural Agents. The agents are a tremendous source of information for both new and experienced growers. Visit your local county extension office.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gnats in Pumpkin Flowers

Gnats on Pumpkin Flower
Photo by Michelle Infante-Casella
For the past 3 years, I have had growers complain about seeing gnats in pumpkin flowers this time of year. In each case, they do not seem to be causing any damage to the plants or healthy fruit. Rather, they are a nuisance in the field, especially for PYO pumpkin patches.

Most gnats are short lived. However, the major problem with gnats is they reproduce quickly, with eggs hatching 3-5 days after they are laid. They seem to congregate in open flowers and rotted fruit. Most likely they are feeding on the nectar inside flowers and are using the rotted fruit as a medium for laying eggs and as a food source for larvae. They should be killed by frost, however, pumpkin patches will also most likely be done when frost occurs.

 -Michelle Infante-Casella, Agricultural Agent

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Organic Farm Calls:
Squash Vine Borer and IPM Thresholds

From Sustaining Farming on the Urban Fringe
Recently, an organic grower with a variety of squash crops under low tunnels called Ag Agent Meredith Melendez about wilting plant symptoms.

Squash Vine Borer Injury
The various vine and bush varieties were decimated by squash vine borer (SVB) larvae root damage. Ornamental gourds were especially hard hit.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Farm Calls: Which fruit crops are best suited
for an organic Pick-Your-Own?

From Sustaining Farming on the Urban Fringe

Last week Meredith Melendez, Mercer County Ag Agent, fielded this question from a grower who currently runs a CSA and is considering adding PYO (pick-your-own) fruit to the farm's portfolio. 

Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agents, including the Agritourism Team, weigh in with specific answers and solid advice.

They offer small-fruit crop suggestions, discuss the special problems related to organic cultivation of these crops, and comment on how agritourism activities can add to the farm's bottom-line.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Reminder: Direct Marketing Twilight Meeting

Posted by: Michelle Infante-Casella, Agricultural Agent, Gloucester County

The first summer Direct Marketing Twilight Meeting will be held July 16 at 7:00PM at Duffield's Farm Market in Gloucester County. No registration needed. If you have an interest in direct marketing and/or agritourism, please join us. Tracy Duffield will be giving a tour of their operation with three generations working the farm. There will be an update on the VisitNJFarms website and the meeting will conclude with a business meeting of the New Jersey Farmers Direct Marketing Association. Educational materials, buy local/nutrition brochures (for customer handout) and Jersey Fresh price cards will be available for you to take home to use at your markets, courtesy of a grant project done by Rutgers NJAES and NJFB. Directions and Meeting Flyer

Monday, June 24, 2013

Heat Stress Prevention

by, Michelle Infante-Casella, Agricultural Agent

This week's forecast is for temperatures in the 90's with high humidity. Agricultural worker safety is important to agricultural employers. Some tips on preventing worker illness during hot weather include:

1. Drinking enough water to replace body fluids lost through sweating before, during and after work.
2. Gradually adjusing to working in the heat.
3. Taking periodic rest breaks in shaded or cooler areas whenever possible.
4. Careful monitoring of enviornmental conditions and worker health by supervisors.

Train workers to recognize, prevent and treat heat illness is important. Workers should take precautions like: getting enough rest, wear protective clothing, drink extra water, adjust work schedules if necessary.

Recognizing heat illness is also important. Sypmptoms include:
*Fatigue, *Nausea, *Muscle Aches, Weakness and Cramps, *Headaches, *Confusion or Anxiety, *Dizziness, *Fainting, *Drenching Sweats Accompanied by Clammy and Cool Skin and *Slowed or Weakened Heartbeat.

Giving immediate first aid when workers become ill is very important. If the sypmtoms are severe, if body temperature is at 104 F (40 C) or higher, and if the person is inconherent or unresponsive call 911 immediately. Take these steps to treat a person with heat illness:

1. Get the person out of the sun and heat and into a cool shady or air-conditioned area quickly.
2. Lay the person down with legs and feet elevated slightly.
3. Loosen or remove clothing.
4. Have the person drink cool water, sports drinks or other non-caffienated beverages.
5. Use a spray bottle or cool wet sponge/cloth to apply to the persons body and fan them. This will create evaporative cooling.
6. Monitor the person since heat exhaustion can quickly become heat stroke.

Alcohol, drug or other substance abuse will increase the risk of heat illness. Improving personal health will help prevent heat stress.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Farm Food Safety: FDA Q&A Printable Summary

- Meredith Melendez & Wes Kline

The Food Safety Modernization Act will impact most growers in New Jersey.

Food Safety Modernization Act FDA Q & A Sessions Proposed Produce Safety RuleOver the past weeks, we have posted the Questions and Answers for each of the conference calls focusing on subparts of the proposed Produce Safety Rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act on the Plant and Pest Advisory Food Safety section. For your convenience, the Q&A's have been collected into a single PDF.

FDA Q&A: Proposed Produce Safety Rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act
Click to View | Download | Print

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Online Training Available for Retail Farm Market Employees

Penn State Extension is offering a new online Retail Farm Market Employee Professional Development session to build the knowledge and confidence of your farm market personnel that handle, process, or merchandise fresh market produce. More details can be found here.
--Rick VanVranken

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Strawberry: Viruses to Watch For

Excepted from Two Viruses Found Throughout Strawberry Fields in the US
by Andy Wyenandt and Peter Nitzsche

Strawberry mottle virus (SMoV) and strawberry mild yellow edge virus (SMYEV) have been found in Pennsylvania, Virginia and New Jersey this spring. Plants sourced from one particular nursery in the Great Valley area of Nova Scotia are at risk. Keep this in mind when ordering new plants for fall. Although the strawberry plant may show symptoms and yield less, fruit from infected plants are still edible and there should be no difference in taste.

For New Jersey
Morris County Agricultural Agent Peter Nitzsche collected samples from two northern NJ farms and sent samples to Bob Martin of USDA ARS. As suspected, several of the samples from small or stunted plants came back positive for both viruses and some large and small plants tested positive for one of the viruses.

What to Look For
These viruses are usually only a problem in matted-row strawberry production, where plants are in the field for a much longer period of time and plantings are not destroyed at the end of each growing season.
  • Look for small, stunted plants with older leaves sometimes turning bright red in color, while the edges of leaves around the crowns of plants, and/or emerging leaves, show a distinct yellowing, which sometimes develop into patterns of marginal necrosis (i.e., dead tissue along the margins of leaves). 
  • Scout for aphids as they transmit both viruses.
Symptomatic Strawberry Plants
Photo by Chuck Johnson, VA Tech

What to Do
Scout for aphid vectors and spray appropriately following label recommendations. Plants known to be infected, or showing typical symptoms, or obtained from the nursery in question should be destroyed. If you have questions or concerns, contact your county agent.

[posted by Rabin]

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Week of Cloudy Weather Condusive to Lettuce Tipburn

This predicted week of cloudy weather should make lettuce growers take note of conditions in their fields. Any lettuce crops that are one-three weeks away from harvest are susceptible to internal lettuce tipburn caused by low evapo-transpiration (Et) induced Calcium deficiencies in the rapidly expanding new leaves in the core of the head. Supplemental foliar applications of Ca with airblast sprayers to get it into the head as much as possible may help reduce the incidence of tipburn. More details about lettuce tipburn can be found on pages 6-9 of the Proceedings of the 2012 NJ Vegetable Conference here.
--Rick VanVranken

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Old Pepper Fields and Disease Spread

- Wes Kline
Transplanting time is here and there are still pepper fields standing from last year. This makes no sense if you are concerned about disease management in 2013.

These fields are ideal sources for Anthracnose, bacterial blight and Phytophthora. You may not be concerned about your peppers getting disease, but what about your downwind neighbors? Anthracnose has increased over the last few years. Is it because fields are left standing too long after harvest? There is no doubt that this can contribute to disease spread. If a new field of peppers is planted downwind from the old field, be ready to spend a lot of money spraying when it could have been avoided.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Aphid Populations Around Tunnels

High tunnel growers should be checking outside the tunnels for aphids even with low temperatures.  High aphid numbers have been observed in thistle plants around tunnels in South Jersey.

Submitted by - Wesley Kline, Agricultural Agent, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cumberland County

Cool Spring Conditions Could Mean Seed Corn Maggots in Cucurbits

By Michelle Infante-Casella, Agricultural Agent, Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension, Gloucester County

Seed corn maggots survive through winter in dark brown capsules underground. Flies emerge out of soil March or April in New Jersey and can have several generations.
One benefit of this spring, in 2013, is conditions have been drier, with less rainfall, than in past cooler spring seasons. Along with cool weather, this pest thrives under wet conditions too. When the weather is dry, eggs and maggots can desicate to the point of mortality.

Seed corn maggots are pests of beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, melons and corn. They rarely affect pumpkin fields since pumpkins are seeded when soil and air temperatures are warmer and the populations of this pest have declined.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Food Safety for Direct Market Growers

This week on the Farm Food Safety Blog, Meredith Melendez talks about Food Safety Considerations for Direct Market Growers: Assessing Risk.

Sign up to get email delivery of important food safety information specifically for growers: RCE PPA Food Safety News

  • Read summaries of the latest FDA Q & A presentations on the Food Safety Modernization Act proposed Produce Safety Rule
  • Ask Wes Kline and Meredith Melendez a Farm Food Safety Question 
  • Learn how to create your Farm Food Safety Plan

[posted by Rabin]

Friday, April 5, 2013

Upcoming Weather and Vegetable Transplants in the Greenhouse

Posted by, Michelle Infante-Casella, Agricultural Agent, Gloucester County

Finally!!! Some warmer and sunnier weather is predicted for the coming week. Since many of our crops are still in the greenhouse keep in mind some things to watch for. On hot, sunny days when fans are running and doors/sides may be open, plants dry out quickly (especially near the doors/sides and near the fans). Proper watering is of utmost importance! Remember, the larger the plant, the more water lost through translocation. The smaller the container size, the quicker the mix will dry out. Morning watering may need to be supplemented by a second watering later in the day. Make sure not to water late in the day/evening when plant foliage would remain wet. Water early enough in the P.M. so that leaves can dry off quickly. Letting foliage stay wet overnight can enhance bacterial or fungal growth on plants.

Don't forget to check for insect pests, especially aphids. Now that doors/sides may be open to vent houses, insects can enter too. Scout edges of the greenhouse frequently to check for insects. They would come into these areas first. If weeds are growing near edges of the greenhouse, they may be harboring insect pests. Do not use herbicides inside, or near the sides/doorways of the greenhouse. You can severly damage transplants inside the greenhouse, even if they are used outside. Vapors/drift can enter the greenhouse. One way to control weeds could be to use a weed flamer. Do a search on the web for companies that sell flamers. There are many hand held versions with propane tanks that can be used to control weeds. Just be careful not to melt plastic on the greenhouse. Also, mechanical methods (hoeing, pulling, roto-tilling around the outside is a viable option).

Spring is here! Best wishes to everyone for a successful, safe and profitable growing season!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Marketing Seminar for Food Entrepreneurs

This 2 day seminar presents the basics of marketing and communications for current and prospective food business owners.

Date: April 24 and 25, 2013
Location: Rutgers Food Innovation Center, Bridgeton, NJ
Contact: Diane Holtaway

Topics include marketing products to retailers, media relations, digital marketing, trade show and events, packaging and labeling, visual merchandising, food service marketing, social media, website development, and content marketing.

-- Submitted by Rick VanVranken

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

FDA Proposed Produce Food Safety Rule
Q & A - Exemptions

- Meredith Melendez

The first FDA Proposed Produce Food Safety Rule Q & A conference call, coordinated by the Produce Safety Alliance, was held yesterday.  This conference call focused on exemptions to the proposed rule.  Here are the highlights of yesterday’s conference call:
  1. How are average annual sales for a farm calculated?
  2. Farm Facility (Packinghouse) Registration, are farms exempt?
  3. At what point does the FDA Preventative Controls rule apply to a farm?
  4. Are there any exemptions to the labeling of product to be sold?

Greenhouse Sanitation and Inspection

- Andy Wyenandt

Proper greenhouse sanitation is important for healthy, disease-free vegetable transplant production. Efforts need to be made to keep transplant production greenhouses free of unnecessary plant debris and weeds which may harbor insect pests and disease.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Q & A Teleconferences on Food Safety FSMA

-Wes Kline and Meredith Melendez

The Produce Safety Alliance, in collaboration with the FDA, will be hosting a series of Q & A teleconferences to discuss specific sections of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Proposed Produce Safety Rule. See the attachment for teleconference dates and times on the following topics:
  • Understanding Exemptions 
  • Agricultural Water 
  • Soil Amendments 
  • Domestic and Wild Animals 
  • Growing, Harvesting, Packing & Holding Activities 
  • Equipment, Tools, Buildings, & Sanitation 
  • Health, Hygiene, and Worker Training 
  • Recordkeeping, Compliance, & Enforcement
Remember comments or questions regarding issues the FDA should clarify or address in the final rule or in companion guidance document must be submitted before May 16, 2013.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

New 2nd edition of the Resource Guide for Organic Insect & Disease Management

The new 2nd edition of Resource Guide for Vegetable Crops Organic Insect and Disease Management is now available from Cornell University.  Organic vegetable growers, or anyone interested in organic pest control alternatives, will find the manual useful. Download the pdf for free from the link above, or available as a hard copy for $20.
--Rick VanVranken

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Information on Food Safety

-Wes Kline and Meredith Melendez

Stay up-to-date with Food Safety Modernization Act rule changes by following our Plant and Pest Advisory Food Safety Blog.

This week:

Vegetable Integrated Crop Management Meeting

-Rick VanVranken, Wes Kline, and Michelle Infante-Casella

Date: Monday, March 28, 2013, 7 pm
Location: East Vineland Fire Hall 12-2, Landis Ave, Vineland
(Across from the Savoy Restaurant)

The Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agricultural Agents of Atlantic, Cumberland and Gloucester Counties invite you to a twilight meeting. Come discuss your spring and summer season production questions with RCE Agents and Specialists.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Solid Waste Vehicle Registration

-Michelle Infante-Casella, Agricultural Agent Gloucester County

We have received a few reports about farms being turned away from waste facilities for not having proper permits to haul waste (plastic mulch, bale covers, etc.). Some plastic films and other waste materials from farms can be brought to recycling centers set up around the state. Additionally, pesticide containers can be brought to designated locations on the scheduled times and pesticide applicators will receive one CORE point towards their recertification requirement with NJDEP. More to follow on the recycling programs for plastic films and pesticide containers.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

2013 Commercial Vegetable Production Recommendations

From: Cultivating Cumberland February 2013

The 2013 Vegetable Recommendations are now available for purchase at your local County Extension Office. Stop by the Extension Office and pick up your copy today!

- Posted by J. Rabin

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

AZ Greenhouse Shortcourse

Dr. Gene Giacomelli, former Rutgers Ag Engineer and Atlantic County farm boy, is now Director of the University of Arizona's Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. He wrote recently to extend an invitation to Garden State farmers to the CEAC’s annual April Greenhouse Crop Production and Engineering Design Short Course. If you'd like an intensive update on the state of the art of greenhouse design and controlled-environment crop production in the sunny southwest, this course will provide that. More information can be found at:
-Rick VanVranken

Friday, February 1, 2013

FDA's Proposed Produce Safety Rules Webinar

Wesley L. Kline

The USDA invites you to take part on February 7th, 2:30-3:30 p.m., in a free, interactive webinar on the Food and Drug Administration's proposed safety rules.  While the USDA has no formal role in the development or implementation of the proposed rules for the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, the agency’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Fruit and Vegetable Program  is hosting the webinar as a service to the produce industry.

Blueberry Food Safety Training

-Wes Kline
Up-to-date blueberry food safety information will be available at this training on February 20th, 9:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at the Marucci Center for Blueberry & Cranberry Research, 125 a Lake Oswego, Chatsworth.  Questions or to register call 609-726-1590 x4410.  Cost of training:  $25 includes lunch.  Topics of interest: Food safety modernization act; worker hygiene; harmonized food safety standards; USDA Verification Audit and sanitation in the packing house.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Food Safety & Harmonized Audit Training

-Wes Kline
Obtain up-to-date information at the Food Safety & Harmonized Audit Training on March 1st at the RCE Cumberland County office, 291 Morton Avenue, Rosenhayn.  $25 includes lunch and materials; 9:00 am - 4:00 pm.  To register call 856-451-2800 x1

Good Agricultural Practices and Food Safety

-Wes Kline
NOFA is sponsoring two food safety trainings:  February 11th and February 19th.  Both classes will be held at the RCE Mercer County office, 930 Spruce St., Trenton, NJ 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm.  $25 for NOFA members/$30 for non-members.  Questions?  call 908-371-1111 x4 and visit:  Farm Food Safety: What Every Farmer Needs to Know to register for the classes.

Food Safety & Audit Training

-Wes Kline
Visit the 2013 Ag Convention & Trade Show for the next Food Safety & Audit Training on February 7th, 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.  Cost included in the convention fees.  Topics covered:  Food Safety Modernization Act Proposed Rules, Harmonized Food Safety Standards, How to develop a food safety plan for your operation and risk assessment.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Agritourism Risk Management Workshop

-Michelle Infante-Casella
Rutgers NJAES Agritourism Working Group presents:

Agritourism Risk Management Workshop 
Date: Monday, February 25, 2013
Location: Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension
of Burlington County 
2 Academy Dr., Westampton, NJ

This workshop is being offered to go over some of the risk management issues that may come up on the farm when agritourism marketing is offered.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hot Water Seed Sterilization Available at RCE Monmouth

-Bill Sciarappa
Eradicate bacterial plant pathogens before you plant your 2013 tomato and pepper seeds.
RCE Monmouth County will heat treat your seed at our office:
4000 Kozloski Rd., Freehold
Call to Schedule: Ag Assistant Vivian Quinn 732-431-7260 Ext 7273 or e-mail

Please indicate if you need hot pepper seed treated.
Please bring your seed (un-pelleted) in labeled packages as described below. Or, if you wish, we have the fiberglass material available at our office for you to prepare the seed packages. You may wait for the seeds or drop off and return on the same day for pick- up. Please make sure that all seed packs are labeled (use a water proof method) with the variety or other code that you can identify.
To package, you may use:
  • Fiberglass screen envelopes (charcoal fiberglass screening) 
  • Nylon stockings 
  • Coffee filters, cotton bags, etc.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Proposed Rules Released for Food Safety Modernization Act

-Wes Kline

The Food and Drug Administration released their proposed Standards for “Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption” today. This is a 547 page document. There is a 7 page executive summary at the beginning which will serve most people. The comment period for the proposed rules end May 16, 2013.

We will be putting out more information for growers over the next couple weeks as there is time to digest the document. Growers should be encouraged to at least review the summary since this rule will impact most growers in New Jersey. If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact Meredith Melendez or myself.

Website Announcement
Proposed Rule under FSMA for Produce: Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption

Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption