Today, we’re absolutely thrilled to share some news with you. The July issue of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association’s The Badger Common’Tater features a wonderful, in-depth interview with our own Corporate Agronomist, Josh Mays! This entertaining conversation delves into Josh’s background, why he joined the company, the innovative techniques that TriEst uses, and a detailed conversation about chloropicrin-based products in crop protection.
Don’t Miss the July Crop Protection Issue by the WPVGA The Badger Common’Tater.
If you’re curious to learn more about Josh Mays and the dedicated work happening at TriEst Ag Group, be sure to grab a copy of The Badger Common‘Tater’s July Crop Protection issue. You can find the article on their website here: JULY 2023 ISSUE of the Badger Common’Tater
This interview is a must-read for farmers, industry professionals, and anyone passionate about the future of agriculture.
Traditional soil production for soft fruit crops is a buffered system that is slow to change, whether good or bad. Fertigation mistakes in a traditional soil system isn’t necessarily going to be detrimental, or result is major pH or nutrient changes. For the same reasons, soil deficiencies or incorrect pH ranges are more difficult to correct in traditional systems.
The difference in a substrate system is significant. It is a low volume potted container area that is essentially fed by an IV nutrient solution, so fertigation changes can result in major nutrient or pH shifts within a matter of hours. So, this situation is both good and bad – you can correct your mistakes very quickly and you can make mistakes very quickly. Think of substrate as a high risk, high reward type system where your attention to detail is very important.
Moving forward with those differences in growing systems pointed out let’s lay out some key ideas for growing.
Plant Nutrition and PH
Starting with the right pH is key in a soil system for berries, or you’ll be fighting it all season long, but impact in season is minimal with the right fertility program. Most soil systems are high volume of fertilizers and water, with low frequency of runs for irrigation and fertigation. Fertility in soil systems are referred to in terms of pounds per acre. The southeast typically has programs of 150-30-200#/acre NPK with 30-50# S and 40-50# Ca. Fertigation is supplied commonly with potassium nitrate/calcium nitrate/UAN style blends (a 5-1-7 with 2% Ca for example). We do a lot of these type blends in traditional soil production of soft fruit, with sulfur being supplied as a supplement.
In a substrate system, the program is the opposite of a soils system. Low volume and high frequency systems run typically for 2-3 minutes at a time 20-30 times daily. Fertigation is driven by PPM (parts per million) to target crops by each stage every irrigation cycle. Fertility isn’t driven by pounds of nutrient applied per acre, but crop demand of a balanced nutrient solution based on irrigation needs. It is also critical to realize that rapid pH manipulation is possible through water treatment and fertilizer selection. Just think about the size of the pot and the tight area the plant is in. So, as a grower, you have to re-calibrate yourself in this type of system to be more targeted and understand how quickly changes can be made.
Water quality is the first factor in determining a proper nutrient and irrigation plan for a substrate crop. Well, municipal, and surface water is variable and should be regularly tested for pH, EC, and iron. Managing pH is very important particularly in substrate systems as highlighted earlier. Making assumptions about your source water can lead to big mistakes, test first.
Injection Systems and Fertilizer Sources
When you look at injection systems to create a fertility base like we’ve been discussing it is generally a two-stage injection system that will allow growers to run one tank that is calcium based and another being sulfur based. Calcium and sulfur don’t play nice as fertilizer concentrates, so this split is the most natural way to begin your fertility program. Both tanks can be run as a diluted mix simultaneously, pending quality and dilution rate.
Nutrient form matters! The form you choose to use can have a large impact on your pH (especially nitrogen). Water-soluble blends are the recommended best option for a substrate system due to the ability for customization. Drip grade liquid fertilizers are an option with reduced labor, but it can’t be customized as much, as the scale for drip fertigation is much larger and is made in greater quantities typically. There are many options to find the same end goal for nutrition, as long as the product form/ratios are correct.
There are a lot of factors that need to be monitored in both substrate and soil systems. You can go from a very simple, labor intensive style to monitor pH, water quality, nutrients, and E/C which does work or you can start adding layers of sensors and automation. To learn more you can reach out to our team and they can help you research solutions that will work best for you and your substrate production needs.
In our last blog we went over the obstacles that growers face in watermelon production and their potential solutions. In this blog and video presentation we will take a deeper dive into why we recommend grafted plants and fumigation as potential solutions to obstacles in watermelon production.
Before we get into the first broad study trial we conducted, I would like to focus on grafted plants as a tool and potential solution to grower obstacles.
Some advantages in grafted plants and differences over standard are:
Improved root system, increased vigor, better plant and vine health.
Disease resistance. (Fusarium, all races)
Nematode resistance. (Rootstock dependent)
Reduced crop rotation due to better disease resistance.
Prolonged harvest potential and higher yield potential.
A common question about grafted plants is about which rootstock is best for a farm. Rootstocks that Tri-Hishtil offers are the Interspecific Hybrid Squash and the Carolina Strongback. The Interspecific Hybrid Squash is susceptible to Root Knot Nematode while the Carolina Strongback offers resistance.
In a trial we conducted in Central North Carolina we looked at solving some of the problems that growers faced by focusing on grafted plants versus standard, fumigated versus non-fumigated, and standard fertility versus reduced fertility.
At the end of this first trial, we learned that grafted plants with the Carolina Strong Back rootstock had significant yield responses over the standard plants, while also performing better than the squash-based rootstock. We also saw increased yields from fumigation regardless of plant type (grafted or standard) and regardless of plant spacing. Lastly, we discovered that reduced plant populations within 20-30% did not result in yield loss when using grafted plants.
Lastly, we learned from this trial that early fertility reduction would control vine density and promote earlier flowering in grafted plants; however, fertility decreases after fruit set resulted in yield loss. This information has led to specific fertility programs for grafted plants that increase yields, decrease costs and result in earlier harvests.
To learn more please contact our very knowledgeable team at TriEst and be sure to sign up for the next installation of this blog. We’ll be going over more trial data and results from the field!
Sustainable crop production is a complex issue that every farmer faces each season. All crops present their own challenges and specific needs for maximizing yields and profitability. Let’s focus on discussing a few key impacts for watermelon production in the Southeastern US. The production issues for watermelon are not limited to those listed here by any means, but the following are the focal points of ongoing research that will be discussed over several blog installments in the coming months.
Soil borne pests – fusarium wilt, which can be devastating as crop rotations become limited and “new ground” isn’t an option
Nematodes – root knot nematode, a widespread issue across the Southeast US
Viruses – significant impacts on certain markets and very difficult to control
Crop rotation – ability to produce and market crops that aren’t a disease host for watermelon
Land availability – decreasing availability in almost all major melon production areas
Cultural production system – plasticulture vs bareground under many different styles of irrigation methods (drip, overhead, seep, flood etc)
Plant type and variety selection – Use of grafted plants for fusarium wilt control and/or use of tolerant varieties
Harvest windows – Watermelon markets are hyper sensitive to timely harvest events by geography. It is critical to understand how production system practices can impact these windows
The task for every farmer is to find the balance between these challenges and potential control measures for each, while staying profitable. Solving this problem has to be taken one step at a time and our first step was to identify the products we had available to bring the farming community solutions to these problems. TriEst Ag Group and its affiliates are dedicated to providing soil solutions for the agricultural industry, so let’s take a look at the tools we’ve used to solve this puzzle in watermelon production.
Soil fumigation – TriEst has a variety of fumigants and product combinations that can be used for managing a wide range of soil borne pests and nematodes. In addition to managing pests, we have results to indicate that at low rates certain fumigates can be used to improve soil health and increase crop vigor in watermelon crop production. The right product is dependent on the specific pest and disease pressures of an individual farm. In our research we have used multiple products and we will discuss the pros and cons of each in this series.
Grafted plants – Like fumigants, there are several options for rootstocks available for grafted plants. Choosing a rootstock is also specific to the issues faced on an individual farm. The primary focus for grafted plants is fusarium wilt control and increased yields.
Cultural practices – There are many different cultural practices that are used in watermelon production. Each different scenario can impact the efficacy of fumigation, grafted plant performance, water availability and fertility. We focus on multiple cultural practices in our research, trying to find the best system possible and understanding how each changes the other products involved.
Fertility – Soil fertility and fertilizer use has a major influence on crop production. When looking at an overall system for control, fertility has to be considered. Fertility programs should change when they’re used with fumigation and grafted plants. The cultural system being used impacts timing and rates. Details on this will be outlined as we move forward in the series.
Over the past two years, with crops located all across the Southeast, we have worked to develop effective production systems using these tools. We will bring these results and concepts forward in this watermelon crop series, month to month. Next blog, we will take a deep dive into grafted plant production and the impact of fumigation in that system. Stay tuned!