Harvesting Good Peaches and Fungicide Management

I love this time of year, as hectic as it is.  For most people in south central/central Florida – things are winding down, while in north central Florida, we are in the midst of harvesting.

Most people this year had a great season, with great fruit quality and flavor.  However, we did have a wet spring (20 inches from January 1 – May 20th) in Citra and north central Florida, while in other years we get less than 10 inches in that same time span.  Cloudy and wet weather affects a number of plant processes such as:

  • Carbohydrate fixation and accumulationaka making sugar in enough quantities to have good brix content in the fruit.  I also saw overripe fruit because growers were waiting for the fruit size to get bigger, but because perhaps of the cloudy/rainy spring, cell division (stage 1) of fruit development wasn’t as good as it has been in years past.  It didn’t help the fruit quality in the store – and this was the result:


  • Wet feet – in orchards that have poor drainage, you can have problems with leaf drop and/or fruit drop due to damage in the root systems due to suffocation of the roots (anoxia).
  • Increased disease pressure – We also saw a bit of anthracnose ripe rot and botyrosphaeria rot in the fruit after the rains and some of the warm weather we had in the late part of April/early part of May.  It’s important that if we do have successive rain events that you apply fungicides and rotate the chemistries to avoid resistance.  Common fungicides like Abound and Topsin-M are great, but are categorized as medium or high risks for resistance and should be used sparingly or in a diverse rotation of chemicals.

Fungicide management is easy to do – but if you don’t know what a FRAC code is (and no – Battlestar Galactica fans, I’m not swearing…) here is a website that will take you to the codes for each chemical.  http://www.frac.info/publication/anhang/2014%20FRAC%20Code%20List.pdf.  You’ll notice that this chart does not have the company (trade) names of the chemicals so you will have to READ the LABEL to find out what chemical your fungicide contains – and the FRAC code should be listed there as well.

Hints for Next Season

At our winter field day this year in Fort Pierce (typically held the 2nd week of December) we will be talking about thinning.  There was a lot of small fruit put into local supermarkets, and much of this can be alleviated especially in UFSun with more aggressive thinning.  Instead of 6″ between each fruit as is suggested with other Florida peach varieties, UFSun should be thinned to 9-12″ between each piece of fruit.  In addition, anything that can be done to encourage leaf area expansion will be key to getting good fruit size and flavor development.

The use of hydrogen cyanamide is looking promising for peach growers that are down south especially as it appears to help with leaf emergence – an important stage of growth to help fruit develop its maximum potential for fruit size and good flavors.  However, we need more research on timing, and I have some key growers set up around the state this year to look at a couple of different timings and see what the impact is on leaf growth and fruit size/harvest date.  If we can get more uniform leaf emergence and bloom, then we should be able to narrow our harvest window and minimize the number of pickings necessary to harvest the entire crop.  More research to come in 2014-2015!

As always, if you have any questions – please call or email me!





President Obama Signs the Farm Bill at Michigan State University
Courtesy of MSU.

I was so excited to see that President Obama went to my Alma Mater – Michigan State University – to sign the Farm Bill.  He signed it in the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center, which I remember well because I lost my parking spot for my building across the street -the Plant and Soil Science Building!  All my friends and colleagues were posting pictures on facebook as the hour approached and it was fantastic to know that we now have funding for things like the State Block Grant Program, Specialty Crops Research Initiative, a new fruit and vegetable incentive grant program for SNAP recipients, and the pest and disease prevention programs.

I will be certainly taking advantage of these grant programs as we head into the next year and hope to have significant funding for stone fruit extension efforts in breeding nationwide for Rosaceae crops and also here at home for fruit quality and peach flavor research.

Important Items for Horticulture Research –

–Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) will receive $275M over five years with budget protection beyond FY2018. (2008 Farm Bill provided for $230M over 5 years)

–For SCRI, the new farm bill provides an additional $125M authorization for five years solely for an “Emergency Citrus Disease Research & Extension Program”.  This additional funding will NOT be taken out of the original $275M allocated for other specialty crop research projects.

Agriculture & Food Research Initiative (AFRI) gets $316M for FY2014, a big $52M increase from two years ago.

The Organic Agriculture Research & Education Initiative (OREI) retains its funding level at $100M over five years…..$20M each year.

The Beginning Farmers / Ranchers Development Program also has $100M total over five years — $20M/yr. for FYs 14-18.

The National Clean Plant Network programIt retains an annual base funding level of $5M/yr., allowing for additional annual funds if permitted by the USDA Secretary.  Clean Plant Network’s budget is now merged with Plant Pest & Disease Management.


Formula / Extension Research:  Those crucial land-grant funding programs get a boost for FY14:

  • Hatch gets $244M….an $8M increase from 2012
  • Smith-Lever Extension gets $300M….a $6M increase from 2012
  • Evans-Allen (1890) schools get $52.4M…a $1.5M increase from 2012
  • Extension for 1890 schools get $44M…a $1.3M increase

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) gets almost $23M for FY14, an $8.2M increase with a combined research and extension budget.

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research:

A NIFA program providing tax incentives for private sector contributions to competitive research grants funded by USDA. Program funding total is $200M, which will cover the entire period of this new farm bill — FY14-18.

SCRI Dual Panel Review Arrangement / Matching Waivers:

The new farm bill ushers in a dual panel grant review process for SCRI.  This allows greater collaborative review procedures among research scientists, specialty crop industries, and other stakeholders.

In the 2014 Farm Bill: Sect. 7128 – Non-Federal Matching:

The Conference substitute adopts the House provision with an amendment. The amendment requires at least a 100 percent match from the recipient of competitive grants under certain covered laws but exempts grants awarded to a research agency of the USDA and entities, including their partners, that are eligible to receive capacity funds. The amendment authorizes the Secretary to waive the match requirement if the grant involves research or extension activities that the NAREEE Advisory Board has determined is a national priority specific to a statutory purpose of the program under which the grant is awarded. The match policy will apply to new grants awarded after October 1, 2014. (Section 7128).

What kind of research do you hope to see funded for your crops that you grow?

What Does the Extension Service Do For YOU?

I received this forward from a colleague this morning – http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/11/farm-bill-ag-extension/.  It’s an article about how agriculture extension, the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the Farm Bill all affect our lives on a daily basis even though we may not realize it.  (By the way, it’s from a great magazine called Wired – and it’s my husband’s subscription.  Which explains why I never saw this issue…magazines disappear in my house.)

Kudos to the author, Gwen Pearson for writing this article because although I am preaching to the choir for this blog’s audience, the majority of Americans don’t understand the extension service and all that we do.  My daily routine does have a lot of computer time, and not as much field work or face time with growers as I would like.  However, as extension specialists, our goals are to conduct research that addresses production challenges in the region/state and crop that we work with.  But, without stable funding, most of our time is spent writing grants to fund our applied research and support the people that help us do that work.  Deep down, all of us in extension really want to help people. (I would love to be a nurse, but I can’t stand blood or hurting people).

In this time of extra reporting for government jobs, it’s often difficult to write discrete statements about what extension accomplishes on a day by day basis.  We in extension, are often modest individuals that don’t trumpet our successes, yet – we are bearers of economic successes.  It’s the extra information that we deliver that helps a grower make decisions that result in profitability.  Yet, we in extension are not the first ones they call when they make that extra $1,000 per acre or 25% increase in yearly profits because of the information they received from the extension service.  Yet these success stories are exceedingly important to our progress reports for our Universities and States/National government that fund Extension through Smith/Lever funds and Hatch research funds to prove we making an impact.

We are also the bearers of life-changing information – in our 4-H agents and health and nutrition programs.  Do you have a child that has sold an animal as part of the 4-H program?  Those funds that kids get are often used for college and other educational endeavors that maybe their families can’t fund themselves.  One lamb even sold for over $80,000!  University of Florida, and IFAS Extension in particular offer Solutions for Your Life like keeping your New Year’s resolution, or caring for an aging parent or spouse, or even transitioning farms to family members to keep agriculture alive in each generation.

Finally, we help citizens prepare for disaster and recovery.  One great example of this is the work that UF Extension did with members of the community of Live Oak to recover after the flooding damage caused by Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.  This storm sticks out in my mind because was the first big party with a bouncy house for my daughter’s fifth birthday, yet it was cancelled because of TS Debby.  Although it dumped massive amounts of rain, many people evacuated and were safe.  However, the storm caused significant damage and Suwannee County Extension worked with citizens to develop a recovery plan.

So, I guess the question is for everyone in our communities – what does the Extension Service do for YOU?

The Importance of Extension

June, 2010

With the national budget a constant debate in the U.S. House and Senate, I can’t help but be troubled about the loss of some of our research funds. I think that this is a perfect time to tell the taxpayers about what the Extension Service does for them. A great article was published recently on the importance of Extension:  http://southeastfarmpress.com/government/seven-reasons-why-extension-needed-today – and it’s a great summarization of how we as specialists and agents help our community members to be more productive.

My favorite points in this article are that Extension Service personnel are synergists and collaborators. We are tasked with cultivating partnerships and forging new partnerships by networking and bringing industry members together to be more successful. I have been part of several workshops where we have gathered input from industry members and have turned it into important research proposals and projects. This is by far the most rewarding part of being an applied research scientist; we work to help growers stay in agriculture.

Collaboration is essential for the success of any industry, and the burgeoning peach industry in Florida is a key beneficiary of collaboration among government agencies, universities, private companies, and growers. Extension personnel are often at the table when key agricultural issues are being discussed, especially as we in the State of Florida talk about implementing Best Management Practices for our specialty crops. Growers are a key collaborating partner for University Extension. In fact, I love collaborating with growers to showcase on-farm demonstrations of new production techniques – because if any one method to encourage adoption of new techniques is better than others, it is by seeing another growers’ success using the new techniques.

I am sure that our elected officials will work through this great economic challenge for our country; I am hopeful that our communities will notice little difference in how state extension agencies operate. I hope that I can continue to serve my state and university in all aspects of applied research for the future, because simply, I love extension.



Mercy Olmstead, Ph.D.