Friday, October 30, 2009

Biochar Webinar Nov. 3-Someone Please Attend for Me!

After a season of doing some research on a biochar product, I am very intriqued by the whole concept and want to learn more.  I just got a note about a biochar webinar (that's an online conference; do it from your computer) to be held next week.  Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend.  But I know there are many of you out there who can.  So here is the notice from John Bonitz in Pittsboro, NC.  Note, you have to preregister. 

Please mark your calendar for this lunchtime webinar next Tuesday, Nov 3 from 12-1 pm ET. Details follow my signature.

Biochar is a technology offering the potential for carbon-negative renewable energy plus benefits for agriculture. It is a way to sequester carbon in soils while boosting fertility, improving drought resistance, or increasing friability and drainage.

The potential benefit here in the Southeast is massive. Our landscape is a patchwork quilt of woodlands next to ag-lands, and the residues of forestry can be charred and deposited in adjacent fields. While no-till agriculture may offer 1 or 2 tons per acre per year of carbon offsets, imagine 10 times that with biochar, plus increased soil productivity.

Please forward, especially to soil scientists. (Biochar needs to be tested in many different soil types across the Southeast.)

Thank you, John Bonitz, Farm Outreach & Policy Advocate
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, P.O. Box 1833, Pittsboro, NC 27312
Phone: 919.360.2492 ,

Webinar: Introduction to Biochar
November 3, 2009  12 – 1pm ET

The webinar will address the questions of:
– What is biochar?
– How can it be used for soil amendment and carbon reduction?
– What are the opportunities for agriculture and forestry?

Presentations will be given by:
Julie Major, Agriculture Extension Director, International Biochar Initiative
Joseph James, Founder and President, Agri-Tech Producers

The webinar is free, but pre-registration is required. To register, visit:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keeping Your Farm Workshop

Picture provided by Melinda Roberts
November 12, 2009

Keeping Your Farm Workshop

8:00 am - 4:00 pm

Weaverville Town Hall, Community Room
30 S. Main Street, Weaverville, NC 28787

You're invited to a free workshop where we will discuss updates on issues affecting farm and forest landowners. Topics of discussion will include tax information, insurance and financial options, forestry management plans, conservation easements, value added and new enterprises, and farm transition programs. Commissioner David Gantt will discuss the Buncombe County Strategic plan and the goal to sustain farming livelihoods. Lunch will be provided. On November 13, 2009, one on one consultations will be available at the same location. To register, contact Erin Bonito at the Buncombe Co. Cooperative Extension office at 828-255-5522. Registration will be cut off at 100 people, so call soon!

Tim Will of Foothills Connect Wins 2009 Purpose Prize

Tim Will.  Photo from the Foothills Connect website
Congratulations, Tim!!  Tim Will, founder of Foothills Connect (, has won the 2009 Encore Purpose Prize.  This prize is given to social innovators over the age of 60 who are making a positive impact in society in their second careers.  Tim's mission was to bring broadband internet to rural Rutherford County.  He chose agriculture as the means to help make that happen.  Working with chefs in the Charlotte area, he developed a demand for locally grown food.  Chefs and other buyers can purchase this local food through a website where the farmers post what they have available.  Check it out at  Rutherford County and the surrounding area have been hard hit during this recession.  Tim has provided a way for some of these people to make an income.  He has also provided a program for folks to learn how to grow organically through an 8-week sustainable agriculture program.  Once again, congratulations, Tim!  A fine example of what an individual with a dream and a lot of tenacity can accomplish.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Time is Running Out to Submit Letter of Intent for WNC Ag Options Grants

Mountain farmers eligible for funds to diversify operations in 2010
WNC AgOptions' Intent to Apply deadline: November 23

Grants totaling $225,000 are available to western North Carolina farmers who are diversifying or expanding their operations in 2010. WNC Agricultural Options will award approximately 45 farmers in 17 counties and the Cherokee Reservation $3,000, $6,000 or $9,000 each.

Managed by the N.C. Cooperative Extension County Centers in the West District, the WNC AgOptions program works with producers who demonstrate ways to increase farm income to other transitioning farmers, particularly tobacco growers. WNC AgOptions partners with RAFI-USA's Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund to run the program, and the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission sponsors it.

"The partnership we have with the WNC AgOptions program is very valuable to us," said William Upchurch, Executive Director of the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. "Our experience has shown that participating farmers utilize these grants for innovative, resourceful and profitable enterprises that can make a huge impact on their farming operation."

Interested applicants should see the agricultural agents at their local Extension Centers by November 23, and can visit to download an application. Projects should increase the sale of farm products and lead to the long-term sustainability of the farm business. The postmark deadline for applications is January 8.

Recent recipients are transitioning from commercial to direct markets, extending their growing seasons, or developing value-added processing systems so that they will have a product to sell year-round. Funded projects include: a germination chamber for vegetable and flower starts, a refrigeration truck for transporting lettuce, and materials for hops production.

"This grant opportunity is an excellent resource to help offset the financial risk for farmers wanting to expand their operations or diversify into crops they may not be very familiar with," said Ross Young, Madison County Cooperative Extension Director. "The success of small family farms is the focus of this project. By providing financial assistance, this project is enabling farms to create more sustainable farming enterprises, which will have a long-term effect on the economy as well as farm land preservation."

Established in 2003, WNC AgOptions is entering its sixth funding cycle. Members of the WNC AgOptions steering committee include: representatives from N.C. Cooperative Extension program, N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services– Marketing Division, HandMade in America, Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project, former WNC AgOptions recipients and other leaders in agribusiness.

Winner Announced for Farm Prosperity Project Survey Drawing

Photo by Agatha Grimsley
In August, I sent a request out for farmers in our region to take a survey for the Farm Prosperity Project. Over 100 of you did so. Thank you so very much!!!! That has been a big help in determining the impact of our program and how to design new ones in the future.
There was an incentive to encourage you to take that survey. It is my great pleasure to announce that Charles Henn, of Henn's Plant Farm in Fletcher, was the winner of a $50 gift certificate to Lowes. Thanks Charles!

All the of information that was developed from the Farm Prosperity Project is being posted on the new webpage. We are just getting all our "stuff" formatted for that site, so check back often. It should be complete by the first of the year.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Visit to Salem College

This year, the theme for Salem College's Cultural Events is "How Will You Change Tomorrow?"  And yesterday, I had the great honor to be a featured presenter in that series.  What a marvelous day I had!  First of all, it was THE perfect fall day.  The air was clear and crisp, the skies bright blue, and the fall colors were outstanding.  I truly enjoyed the two and a half hour drive from Mills River to Winston-Salem.  If you've never been to Old Salem or Salem College, I recommend a visit sometime.  The old Moravian village and the campuses of Salem College and Salem Academy are just beautiful.  I love the big old brick buildings, the white clapboard houses, buildings with two story porches, the brick walkways, and all the large old trees.  There is so much history, but it's not like a museum because there are students and faculty and life all around.  Check it out sometime.

In the morning, I gave a lecture on my goldenseal research in the Chemistry department.  The room was packed with students and faculty who appeared to be quite interested in the subject (hopefully they weren't just there for the pizza!).  My hostess for the day was Dr. Nita Eschew, an assistant professor in the Chemistry Department.  She arranged for me to spend some time with one of her classes, and I truly enjoyed getting to five of her students.  We talked in the lab and then had a delicious dinner together at the Old Salem Tavern.  The five young women were all so smart, funny, and inquisitive.  They shared stories about their international trips and internships and I learned all about bouldering and parkour (I'm not going to tell you; you have to look it up).

That evening I gave a lecture on the Science and Fun of Growing Woodland Medicinals in a small auditorium in the Fine Arts Center.  The audience was diverse and included farmers, lots of enthusiastic gardeners, faculty and staff, and an herbalist or two.  They had lots of questions after the presentation, ranging from the expected about how to grow some of plants I discussed to how to get a job like mine because I seemed to be having so much fun!  After a reception, complete with Moravian sugar cookies, I got to return to my "suite" which was more like a very large, and very nicely appointed apartment.  I couldn't believe that whole place was mine for the night. 

All in all, it was a wonderful day.  It's good to get out of our own little world something and interact with people in a different environment, and spending the day at a women's liberal arts college in a beautiful historic Moravian community on a picture perfect day was a refreshing change for me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Organic Research Program to be Established at the Mountain Research Station

The 2009 Organic Heirloom Tomato Workshop at the Mountain Research Station
Yesterday I was received notification that the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services through the USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service, Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has funded my proposal at $43,000 to establish an official organic research program for the WNC research stations!

Here is a short abstract of the proposed project:
Western North Carolina has a high concentration of organic farmers and a strong consumer base for their products. Although there is some organic research in WNC being conducted by a small number of faculty at NC State University, there is no recognized organic research program in the region to support the existing producers or new farmers getting into organic production. The objective of this project is to develop an organic research program for the western North Carolina research stations. The primary location will be the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville with smaller units at the two other mountain stations. The first phase of the program will be focused on a wide variety of organic horticultural crops that have strong local markets. The program will be research based, but will also be useable as a teaching tool for university, community college, and K-12 students. Similar existing programs across the country will be surveyed to learn from their successes and failures. Farmers, NC State research and extension personnel, NCDA&CS personnel, and relevant non-profits will be involved in the planning process. Within a year, we propose to have a program established and crops in the ground.  This program will provide the western North Carolina agricultural community with research based information on production of a wide variety of organic horticultural crops, resulting in increased farm income and expanded market opportunities.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hops Production Meeting
November 18, 2009
1:00 to 5:00 PM
Camp New Life at the Mountain Research Station
Waynesville, NC
Are you interested in growing hops? We've pulled together a group of horticulture experts, hops growers, and other knowledgeable individuals to explain what is involved in growing hops, what the current and projected market situation is, our best estimates of the economics of local production, and how we can all work together to grow the WNC hops industry. Several local commercial hops growers will share their perspectives after a year or two of production. For more information, contact or Meeting fee is $5; pay at the door. Cash only, please. Please RSVP to the Haywood County Extension Office at 828-456-3575 or Directions:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Farmland Preservation: Transfer of Development Rights Workshop

There is a great deal of concern about farmland protection in North Carolina and throughout the nation.  In recent years, the interest in and resources for farmland preservation have increased tremendously.  Here are a few websites to check out and the listing for a workshop that has just been announced:

NC Agricultural Development and Farm Protection Trust Fund:

NC Farm Transition Network:

Conservation Trust for NC:

Transfer of Development Rights: Using the Private Marketplace to Protect Farmland Workshop

November 13, 2009, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Land of Sky Regional Council, 339 New Leicester Highway, Asheville, NC 28806

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) is a planning tool which allows communities to keep farmland available for agricultural production while directing development into areas where growth is being encouraged. Guided by local government, a developer will pay a farmer for their development rights in exchange for approval to build more densely in an area that public services can be provided more efficiently. This workshop will explore TDR as a possibility for Western North Carolina by looking at how it is used in other areas and discussing how it might work here.

Agenda: TDR Overview – Judy Daniel, Planning Director, City of Asheville; 30 Years of TDR – Veronica Cristo, Rural Planner, Calvert County (MD); Can We Do It in NC? – Glen Bowles, Planner, Orange County (NC); Lunch; Buncombe County Panel Discussion with Holly Jones – Buncombe County Commissioner , Bert Abrams (invited) - Buncombe County Landowner in Sandy Mush, and Kevin Kerr (invited) - Buncombe County Developer; and a Breakout Group Discussion.

The cost is $15.00 to cover lunch and logistics. Register by email to or by mailing a check by November 6 made to: Land-of-Sky Regional Council (attn: Annie) to 339 New Leicester Highway Asheville, NC 28806. Sponsors: Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District, American Farmland Trust, Community Foundation of WNC Asheville Merchants Fund, Land-of-Sky Regional Council. Who should attend: planners, local government officials, real estate professionals, farmers, agricultural advisors, land trusts, and others interested in farmland protection and efficient growth. Continuing Planning Education Credits are being requested for this event. Map and directions at

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blackberry & Raspberry Food Safety Crisis Simulation

Photo by Tony Italia
I am publishing this notice I just received from Dr. Gina Fernandez in hopes of getting the word out to the farmers I work with who grow blackberries and raspberries.  Please call ahead to make sure there is room if you want to attend the November 16th meeting.

Hello Blackberry and Raspberry Growers (and others associated with these crops),

Two weeks ago I attended a Managing a Food Safety Outbreak workshop put on by a group of people at NCSU that call themselves the Fresh Produce Safety Task Force (FPSTF). The FPSTF asked me if the blackberry and raspberry growers would like to have this workshop put on for them. I said YES!

The workshop is an interactive program that will take you through a food safety outbreak involving raspberries or blackberries. They simulate how all the different agencies (CDC, FDA, CNN, etc) interject themselves into the incident and how quickly such a crisis evolves. I was very impressed. Bottom line is that we need to be prepared for a crisis, it may not be food borne, but something will happen and we need to have a plan in place.

I would like to have a meeting with a group of blackberry and raspberry growers Nov. 16, 10 am, Training Room in the Murdock Building, Kannapolis. We have the Training Room reserved from 9-1. (Presenters you can arrive early to set up, there is internet access there).

The room can fit up to 30 people, so if there is someone I have forgotten or left off this list, please let them know of this meeting. Also let me know if you plan to be there so we know how many people to expect.

Debbie Hamrick, from Farm Bureau will also be there and will update us on Food Safety legislation that is proceeding through Congress at this time.

The workshop would last about 2.5 hrs. So if we start at 10, that would give everyone time to travel to Kannapolis and get back home that same day.

FYI, they will present the same workshop at the Strawberry Expo Nov. 10 in the morning. You can attend this meeting for this day only if the date in Kannapolis does not work for you. See for more information on that meeting go to:

Gina E. Fernandez, PhD, Associate Professor/Small Fruit Specialist/Raspberry and Blackberry Breeding, North Carolina State University.  Phone: 919.513.7416.  Email:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Adding Cut Flowers to Your Crop Mix

Farmers across the state are growing cut flowers to sell along side their vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, eggs, and honey at tailgate markets and roadside stands.  Others are selling their flowers to natural food stores, restaurants, and for weddings.  Flowers can be lucrative, but in order to do them well, there is a lot to learn about varieties, timing, fertilization, and post-harvest handling.  Presentation of your flowers and marketing are just as important.  There are many resources available to help you, including excellent books (e.g.,, web based articles (e.g.,, and associations (e.g., 

An opportunity to learn about cut flower production in western North Carolina will be offered next week in McDowell County.  Here are the details:

October 22, 2009,  2:00 PM   Cut Flower Production Workshop
Extension Conference Room, 60 East Court Street, Marion, NC
Are you interested in adding cut flower production to your operation? Are you currently growing cut flowers and looking for the latest production information? The NC Cooperative Extension Service, McDowell Center is offering a program on cut flower production for small growers.

Craig Adkins, Extension Area Specialized Agent - Commercial Horticulture will be speaking on all aspects of cut flower production including, site selection, species selection, fertilization, pest control and more. Meredith McKissick, of Sweet Earth Flower Farm will be speaking about her experience growing and marketing cut flowers. Meredith has experience growing flowers and marketing them at tailgate markets and for weddings and other events. She will also be talking about 3-5 different annual cuts that can be easily grown for each spring, summer, and fall.

This program is free but pre registration is required by calling the Extension Office at 652-8104 or by emailing Jane McDaniel at by October 20th. For additional information please call 828-652-8104.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Farmers and Food Safety Issues

There has been a great deal of discussion this year about the new food safety rules the federal government is enacting.  Most of it has been grumbling and complaining about more rules and regulations to have to abide by, big expenditures that will need to be made to comply, and how this will all result in the loss of more small farms.  One thing I've noticed, though, is how few people have taken the time to really learn about what the risks really are and what they will need to do to comply.  Have you taken any classes to learn how to improve your own practices?

There are many resources available to you in North Carolina.  You can physically attend classes or get the information over the internet.  I urge you to take the time this winter to learn about this topic.  None of us wants to take the risk of making anyone sick.  And even though most farms I visit look like they are doing a pretty good job on the food safety scene, every now and then I see something a little scary that the farmer hadn't noticed.  We know so much more about food safety now than we did ten or twenty years ago.  Just think about your own kitchens.  Twenty years ago most of us had a single cutting board that we used for all purposes.  Now that we all understand the risk of spreading Salmonella from raw chicken to fresh vegetables, most of us have separate cutting boards for raw meat and raw fruits and vegetables.

Here are just a few opportunities and websites for you to get more information on improving food safety on your farm.  Most of the big fruit and vegetable conferences this winter will also contain sessions on fresh produce safety.

October 2009
Food Safety Classes for Fruit and Vegetable Growers
Watauga County Cooperative Extension Center
971 West King Street, Boone, NC
The New River Headwaters Area Alternative Agriculture Program will offer a series of classes to guide growers through evaluating and improving their own fresh produce food safety practices. Each class will meet from 6:00 - 8:00 pm and is free to all interested farmers. The dates and topics to be covered are:

October 20, Tuesday: Fresh Produce Food Safety Issues and Considerations for Small Farms.
October 21, Wednesday: Implementing Fresh Produce Safety Practices on Your Small Farm.
October 27, Tuesday: Developing a Fresh Prodcue Food Safety Plan for Your Small Farm
October 28, Wednesday: GAP Certifications and Food Safety Audits-Does Your Farm Need Them?

For more information, call The Watauga County Cooperative Extension Center at 828-264-3061.

October 29-30, 2009
Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) Training
in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Conducted by North Carolina A&T Cooperative Extension. The workshop will begin shortly after lunch on Thursday the 29th and conclude after lunch on Friday the 30th. The Thursday session will be held in Wrightsville Beach at the Shell Island Hotel. On Friday, we will travel to two farms where greens are being grown for the wholesale market. We will discuss and demonstrate GAPs for production of greens on those farms. A final stop on Friday will be the Operation Spring Plant (our partner in this project) Prize of the Harvest packing shed in Faison, where we will discuss GHPs. We have scholarships available for farmers for lodging and meals. However, the number of hotel rooms we have booked is limited, so any farmers who want to attend need to reserve a “place” ASAP by calling Linda McCain at 336-334-7957.

November 18, 2009
Food Safety: From Production to Sales
from 9:00 am-3:30 pm at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems  in Goldsboro, NC. For more information visit the CEFS website:

NC Fresh Produce Safety:
NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Big Caution for Growers Buying Strawberry Plants This Fall!

Photo by Keith Tyson
I don't usually work with strawberries, but more and more of the farmers, organic and conventional, that I do work with are diversifying into strawberries.  Thus, when I saw these notices from our strawberry specialist, Dr. Barclay Poling, I thought it was important to pass them on to you.  There are two notices here.  The last one concerns organic growers.

October 7, 2009:
1) Phytophthora cactorum (Pc) has been identified in some Canadian (strawberry) plants and an agent in SC has reported this problem in plugs from 2 NC sources last evening. Growers in VA, NC and GA with infected stocks of Camarosa fresh dugs are replacing these plants with ‘cutoffs’ from northern CA. Cutoffs are being shipped now. Digging of CA cutoffs was slightly delayed (by about 1 week) due to lower than normal chilling hour accumulations in Northern CA in late Sept.
2) In certain areas (e.g. Arkansas, WNC and Tidewater VA) wet field conditions plagued growers during the bed-making and pre-plant fumigation, and any further delays in planting will be of critical concern, especially for Camarosa variety. Cutoffs from Northern CA would appear to be the best option at this stage for growers needing to replace Pc infected stocks of Camarosa fresh dugs without incurring additional plant costs. Plugs establish quickly, but virtually no Camarosa plug supplies are left at this time. Alternative suppliers of Camarosa fresh dugs may also be pursued by the grower. Check out NCSA’s PLANT SALES BULLETIN BORAD this morning at I noted there are Chandler plugs being offered at the moment by 2 NC growers.
3) Growers may wish to consider the option of a phosphite pre-plant dip for cutoffs being set in fields previously planted with Pc infected fresh dugs in late Sept/early Oct, or that have had a previous history of Pc in the soil. Phosphite recommendations found on p.2 of 2009 Strawberry IPM document on (revisions to this document for 2010 have been made, but the phosphite information remains unchanged).
4) It is not advisable to set cutoffs or plugs in the same planting hole as where a Pc infected fresh dug had been previously set – better idea to re-punch new holes in plastic bed
5) Growers are being “strongly advised” against using Ridomil Gold on Strawberry Plugs and would advise growers not to purchase plants from nurserymen who had violated the label that clearly states that this product is not to be used in nursery settings (under the resistance management section). Nurserymen use of Ridomil Gold can lead to resistance issues. The industry cannot afford to have Ridomil Gold become useless in commercial fruit plantings! Appreciation to Dr. Powell Smith, Clemson for providing these important reminders!
6) For Phytophthora and Pythium crown/root rots, mefenoxam (Ridomil Gold EC) is recommended for drip injection in sufficient water to move the fungicide into the root zone. Use proportionately less Ridomil Gold EC for band treatments (e.g., for drip applications). There is question about whether it is best as a pre-plant or post-plant treatment. Consult yesterday's morning advisory (10/5, 11 am) on how some growers use Ridomil Gold as a post-plant treatment.
7) Would this be a good time to re-visit the whole question, “Why didn’t we see this coming?” There are also important dimensions of this Pc problem that impact organic growers in a very serious way!

*Appreciation is expressed to Dr. Powell Smith, Clemson, for his contribution to this advisory (Point No. 5)and to Clemson CES Agent Andy Rollins (Point No. 1).

October 6, 2009:

Dear Growers and Agents -

Please realize that we are dealing with a pretty "dynamic" situation with Phytophthora cactorum, and based on the calls and emails I have received since 11 am, I felt it would be helpful to clarify the current situation as best I can at the end of the day (10/5/09) with points below (5 points). Then, this advisory concludes with more questions that have come in in just the last few minutes (answers will be forthcoming - where possible).

No. 1. Problems with fresh dugs - limited to an Ontario nursery
Unfortunately, some Camarosa fresh dugs from Ghesquiere Farms nursery in Simcoe, Ontario, have been found to be infected with Phytophthora cactorum. I am aware of one distributor for these plants who is taking action to get these replaced with cutoffs from California. I am not aware of any issues with the cutoffs from California. These cutoffs may be shipped a little later than planned as northern CA nursery areas have not had as much chilling in late Sept as usual.   I just spoke with Cal Schiemann, Agent, VA-Beach, and he confirmed that one of his largest growers in Virginia Beach, who had problems with Camarosa fresh dugs, is getting replacement cutoffs.

No. 2. Some tips from PEI diagnosed with Phytophthora cactorum, but this appears to be a limited situation.
I am not aware of any Phytophthora cactorum issues with fresh dugs coming from PEI. And, all reports that I have had today indicate that these fresh dugs are establishing very nicely. As reported this morning, there have been some tips from PEI diagnosed with Phytophthora cactorum by NCSU PDIC, but this appears to only be a limited problem at this time. These affected growers are getting direct assistance from their agents, regional agronomists and plant pathologists at NCSU.

No. 3. Precautions Needed In Wet Year.
As I also stated this morning, it would seem that PEI has had another “wet growing season,” and from that standpoint, a Ridomil drip injection would seem to be a good precaution, especially in this wet year we are also having in the Mid-South. Also, Sweet Charlie is especially susceptible to Phytophthora cactorum.

No. 4. Please note that Ridomil Gold is only being recommended for drip injection.
Remember, it is important to do drip injection of Ridomil Gold and NOT to apply as a foliar spray

No. 5. What can be done if you are an organic grower?
Thats' a tough one. Earlier today Sue Colluci wrote: "Dear Dr. Poling and Dr. Louws, Is there anything an organic grower to do if they suspect Phytophtora after they have planted? For future recommendations, would you advise a grower to treat plugs with Oxidate and possibly use something like Mycostop? What about copper products?  Any advice would be helpful!

Dr. Frank Louws answered:

I could not offer much information for an organic system with an established problem. The key will be to limit excess moisture - ensure optimum drainage of beds and between beds; do not let water collect in headlands or in the field. Oxidate has not performed well in our trials. I could envision that it would help to reduce any inoculum on the foliage (contact efficacy) for Botrytis. anthracnose and Xanthomonas (bacterial angular leaf spot) and Powdery mildew etc. Mycostop is a good idea - it could help; we also had success with Trichoderma (e.g. T-22 and other formulations for suppressing root rot pressure in the plug production phase. I would pro-actively incorporate these products into the plug mixture prior to plugging with a follow-up application in week 3 or so. We did a lot of this type of work with some success (i.e. better than nothing). This is not encouraging overall , but that is the state of things as I understand them. I have seen high risk plants (with known levels of Phytophthora) go into an organic system with less than predicted losses - so that was encouraging. Copper could suppress foliage based pathogens about 30% (compared to e.g. 90% for a selected fungicide). I am unsure about copper phytotoxicity in the plug production phase. I have not seen serious issues in the field production phase in NC. hHowever, we are conservative about its use during flowering and fruiting. These are thoughts from my experience. Ensuring disease free plants is the most important tool for our organic growers complemented with healthy soil systems, a systematic rotation plan and a clean water source.

Thanks for the great question."  FJL

Saturday, October 3, 2009

At the Southeast Women's Herbal Conference

What a great weekend we are having in Black Mountain, NC!  Camp Rockmont ( is a beautiful site for any event; towering mountains, glistening lake, green open spaces, and woods.  Delightful.  I am moderating the advanced track this year.  This is the first year this track is being offered and it is very popular. The room has been packed all weekend.  The speakers are outstanding and I have been impressed at how knowledgeable the women in the audience are.  I've picked up all kinds of new information to help me in my job and in my personal life.  Wish more of the conferences I attended were as pleasant to be at as this one.