Thursday, December 9, 2010

Our First Experience with Organic Broccoli Production

To prepare for the big five year East Coast Broccoli project we are involved in (see earlier post), we decided to grow late season broccoli in the new Mountain Organic Research and Extension Unit on the research station in Waynesville.  We will have a complete report for you in the future, but because of the interest, right now I just wanted to share some pictures and highlights.

The objective in the "big project" is to supply the east coast with crown broccoli over as much of the year as possible.  I've never grown "crown" broccoli before.  Think of what you buy in the supermarket.  Those 4 inch x 4 inch heads that are banded together are called "crown broccoli".  I usually produce much larger heads for the tailgate market. 

So, we established raised beds with black plastic mulch and drip-irrigation.  We sprayed the plastic white using a diluted white latex paint to reduce the heat load from the plastic.  We grew five varieties:  Ironman, Patron, Captain, Everest, and Gypsy.  We did two plantings, one on July 14th and one on August 4th.  Transplants were produced in 200 cell trays.  The plants were set in a single row, with 6 inches between each plant.  There were four replications.

Flea beetles were an immediate problem.  That was not a surprise since we did not have any habitat established around the test site to harbour beneficials.

We tried a number of organic sprays with no lasting results, so we put up row covers.

The row covers did a great job.  We held an official unveiling at a workshop at the end of August and the results were beautiful.

This is what the field looked like at harvest time in September.  In the future, we will be trying to hit a mid-summer market.
The broccoli was all carefully weighed and measured.  We are analyzing that data now, but you can see from the picture below, that there were big differences between varieties.

The bottom line is that we grew good organic broccoli in the late season in 2010.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Herbs & Botanicals-Raw Material Supply Update

Many farmers in North Carolina are interested in growing herbs and botanicals for the natural products industry.  A few want to produce their own value-added products, but most who contact me want to grow raw material and sell it on the wholesale market.  I just finished reading the October 2010 issue of the Nutrition Business Journal which is dedicated to raw materials and ingredients supply.  Thought I would share a few highlights from that issue for those interested in growing bulk raw materials for this industry:
  • Prices were relatively stable for raw material and ingredient supply companies in 2009 and early 2010.
  • Manufacturers are asking for more information and quality assurance on the raw material they purchase in order to be in compliance with the new Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) implemented by the FDA.
  • These regulatory pressures are actually helping to stablize the market.  Manufacturers and raw material suppliers are having to work more closely together to meet regulations.  This is stablizing relationships; making switching suppliers (to follow the low price) less attractive.
  • Manufacturers are not increasing prices on their products because the market is so competitive.  Yet their costs are going up.  That means they still want to get the best prices they can on raw materials.
  • Raw material supply companies are fighting back by increasing the value of their products.  They are selling branded ingredients, providing better testing and quality controls, and creating their own value-added products.
  • The new GMP regulations are costing raw material suppliers more in lab costs.
  • Raw material suppliers are optimistic about the future.
A few quotes directly from the article:
  • "Ingredient supply sales of herbs and botanicals rose 5% in 2009 to reach $450 million in sales."
  • "Supply shortages hit several crops, including saw palmetto, turmeric, and milk thistle."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NC Researcher Looking for Some Heirloom Tomatoes; Can You Help?

I just received an interesting call from a new post-doctoral scientist at NC A&T State University. He is doing research on the influence of heirloom tomatoes on aging and some serious diseases. He is looking at a variety of compounds in the tomato fruit that might have a positive effect on the human aging process. He has just started his position and unfortunately, has missed our major tomato season, but he would really like to have a small amount of fruit to start his research with right now. He is looking for about three pounds each of the varieties Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, and Green Zebra.

If you have any of these varieties, know of someone who might have them that he could contact, or are aware of a tailgate market he can go to this week to get some, please email him at (he is so new to his position, he is still using his Virginia email address!). His name is Dr. Kweku Gyenai.

NC A&T State University is in Greensboro, NC. So a location in his general vicinity would be best.

Thanks for helping one of our young scientists working in the area of food and health.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New NC Hops Project Website: Check it out!

Van Burnette's hop yard in Buncombe Co. in late May
Many people have expressed interest in the hops production that is going on across the state (actually going on throughout the U.S.!). There are a large number of growers trying to grow hops on a commercial scale and many more who have been producing hops on a small scale for their hop guild or club or their own home brewing needs. This year, Rob Austin in Soil Science at NC State University was awarded a GoldenLeaf Foundation grant to start studying the agronomic issues associated with growing hops in the Southeast. He is a soil scientist, so his primary focus is on the soil, but he was also collecting information on diseases, insects, and the brewing quality of the hops produced. He and Scott King, also in Soil Science, established an experimental hop yard in Raleigh. I cooperated on the project here in WNC by working with four local growers in Madison, Buncombe, and Haywood counties. We had many other supporting plant and soil experts from the state involved including NCDA agronomists and NCSU extension agents, plant pathologists, and entomologists. Rob designed a new website for this project. I am very impressed with it and thought you might want to check it out: NC Hops Project. It is rich with pictures of how they established the experimental hop yard in Raleigh and the commercial hop yards we cooperate with here in WNC. All the cooperators are listed there, too. There is also a lot of information on the hops industry, although it is about the "big hops industry". We live in an area with a growing craft brewery industry; there are over 40 in NC and more than 30 in VA. That is another potential market for growers.

But we have a lot more to learn about growing hops successfully and what it takes to make it profitable. To that end, Scott King and I were recently awarded a grant from the USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant program, administered through the NC Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services, to establish an experimental hop yard on one of the research stations in western NC and to continue working with our four cooperating hop farmers in the region. Soon we will be meeting with all our cooperators to "debrief" about the 2010 season and plan for the coming year.

Rob will keep the project website updated. In addition Sue Colucci has a blog page devoted to NC hops WNC Veggies Hops Page that is chock full of information and links to resources. I also post on the hops happenings fairly regularly on this blog.

If you are considering growing hops commercially, I urge you to read all the information on the above noted blogs and websites and to visit with folks growing them now. Establishing a commercial hop yard is not easy and can be quite costly. There is a lot we don't know about growing and processing hops in the Southeast, so you will be one of the pioneers if you choose to plant them. The craft breweries have been very supportive of the local growers' efforts and appear willing to buy what is grown in the area, but there has not been enough production yet for any of us to know what quality or quantity can be produced and at what price. So I urge caution. If on the other hand, you want to grow hops for your own home brewing pleasure, there are many people doing that throughout the region quite successfully. Just Google "growing hops at home" and you'll find dozens of great articles and blogs with good pictures to assist you.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Upcoming Workshops on Alternative Forest Income

I will be giving a presentation on "Goods from the Woods" at both of these workshops.  That will cover a wide range of plants and fungi--trying to get your imagination going about all the possibilities.  Hope to see you there!

These workshops are being offered by the Mountain Valleys' RC&D Council.  They received funding from the WNC Forest Project Marketing Project which is an American Recovery & Reinvestment Act funded project led by Land of Sky Regional Council.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How Our Chinese Medicinal Herb Test Plots are Doing

A number of people have been asking about the six Chinese Medicinal Herb Test Plots that we have in western North Carolina.  These test plots are part of a multi-agency project to develop some new alternative crops for western North Carolina. The Alternative Agriculture Workgroup (AAW) is a cooperative effort in Western North Carolina to address the issues of the supply and quality of herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  Participants include community colleges, state universities, the extension service, private businesses, and interested landowners.  This initiative has worked to identify economically viable Chinese herbs that grow well in this climate and that have a base for analysis in current research.  In spring, 2010, test plots were planted in WNC to cultivate these plants.  These locally grown herbs will be evaluated for how well they grow, their quality, and how they compare to imported samples from China.
Here are some pictures of some of the plants that we are growing this year at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station, which is one of the six locations.  We have some of the plants in the full sun and some in the shade.  As you can see, some plants are doing great, and some, not so good.

Harvesting Chinese catnip

Putting the Chinese catnip in the herb dryer

Anemarrhena Zhi Mu in mid-July

Angelica Dang Gui in mid-July

 Astragalus Huang Qi in mid-July

Chinese skullcap Huang Qin in late July

Chrysanthemum Ju Hua in mid-July
Goji Berry Gou Qi Zi in mid-July

Gynostemma Jiao Gu Lin in mid-July

Lobelia inflata in mid-July

Peonia Bai Shao in mid-July

Pinellia in mid-July

Polygonum He Shou Wu in mid-July

Salvia milteriza Don Shen in mid-July

Schizandra Wu Wei Zi in mid-July

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Organic Vegetable Production Workshop on August 31, 2010

Organic Vegetable Production Workshop at the Mountain Organic Research Unit

August 31, 2010

10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Mountain Research Station
265 Test Farm Road
Waynesville, NC

Come visit the NEW Mountain Organic Research Unit and see our first year trials with peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli. Do you have questions about varieties suitable for the western mountain region, or organic weed and disease management? We will be showing off (and tasting!) heirloom and heirloom type tomato varieties along with several varieties of grafted tomatoes. See which barrier and cover crop methods do the best job managing weeds in peppers. For fall crops, we are also looking at five varieties of broccoli planted at several dates. At the end, enjoy a light lunch including a tomato testing, and provide your input for the future plans of the Mountain Organic Research Unit. Also, help us come up with a good name for it! This workshop is free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact Emily Bernstein at 828-684-3562 or

Directions to the Mountain Research Station:

Off I-40 west, take Exit 27 onto 19/23 South. Go 3 miles to Exit 104 (the "Lake Junaluska - East Waynesville" Exit). Take Hwy 23 Business south toward Waynesville. Go 2 miles. At the traffic circle turn left onto Ratcliffe Cove Road (SR 1818). Travel approximately 0.6 mile, to the station sign (the road name will change to Raccoon Road - continue straight). Turn right onto Test Farm Road (SR 1810 - a gravel road). Follow the signs to the Mountain Research Station. View a map online at

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Organic Certification Cost-Share Deadline is September 30, 2010!

Organic Certification Reimbursements

The National Organic Program (NOP) administers a cost-share program for certified organic producers and handlers. After receiving certification, participants may be reimbursed up to 75% of costs related to organic certification, not to exceed $750 annually. They must comply with NOP regulations for organic production or handling and have received certification or renewed their certification within the established timeframe. This is a great opportunity for organic operators to offset the rising cost of certification, and it can also make certification affordable for those who wish to enter the organic market.

How to Apply:
The current funding cycle ends September 30th, 2010, so individuals seeking reimbursement should work with their state agencies and certifiers to submit a complete application as soon as possible. Eligible producers and/or handlers can find the contact for their state program on the website below. The state agencies can provide further information and application packages.

Here is the Federal Information:

Here is the North Carolina Program Information.  Look at the bottom of the page:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Herbicide Carryover in Manure-Last of the Tomato Study Results

The past two summers some North Carolina farmers and gardeners reported plant damage due to herbicide carryover in manure and composted manure they applied to their farms and gardens.  This is not a new issue; it has been a problem around the globe for many years with a certain class of herbicides.  You can read more information about it in this leaflet and the links provided therein:

This summer, some gardeners in Asheville thought they had plant damage from some locally obtained composted manure, so we ran a test.  You can get the full story on the situation, the test, and earlier results by reading the three previous posts on this blog from July 9, July 26, and July 29, 2010. Or just click on "herbicide carryover" in the labels section on the right sidebar of this blog.

Here are the final results from that study.  These plants have been grown for seven weeks in a mixture of the composted manure with standard potting mix, in the potting mix with the suspected hay on top, and in just our potting mix.  Note, the damage did not become apparent until the plants had been growing for five weeks!  Also keep in mind that these plants have now been growing in these little pots for seven weeks. They are totally root bound.  So even the control plants (in straight potting media) don't look great.

Tomato Plants Grown for Seven Weeks 
with the Suspected Composted Manure 

Tomato Plants Grown for Seven Weeks 
with the Suspected Hay
Tomato Plants Grown for Seven Weeks 
in Standard Potting Mix
So, what's the conclusion?  There was something in the composted manure that seriously affected the tomatoes. We suspect it was herbicide, but without further testing, we can't know for sure.

How can you prevent experiencing herbicide carryover damage yourself?  First of all, talk to the people you get your manure or compost from.  Ask them if they aware of this problem and what they do to prevent it.  If there is any chance of the manure being contaminated, don't use it to grow any sensitive plants (see the bulletin referenced above, but basically vegetables and flowers).  And I strongly recommend that you grow some plants in the manure in pots first before applying it to the land.  This takes some time (like five weeks), but would be one more thing you could do to ensure it is safe to use. 

On a personal note, I am very upset about this. Adding manure and compost to your soil has amazing benefits; improving tilth, fertility, organic matter, and soil life.  I would hate to see people quit using manure because these herbicides are so persistent.  Not only would they lose out on the soil building benefits, but many horse owners are going to have manure disposal problems if they can't give their manure away to farmers and gardeners.  On my own farm, we do not have adequate pasture to get our animals through the winter so we have to buy hay.  This year we are asking more questions than ever from the farmers we buy hay from.  We are even considering asking them to sign a statement that they have not used any herbicides containing aminopyralid, clopyralid, or picloram.  If all hay customers starting demanding this, we would see less use of these herbicides in situations where these problems can occur.

Aminopyralid was banned in the United Kingdom for a few years, but it has now been reintroduced with restrictions. Here are links to information on that:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Farming, Gardening, and Nature Blogs I Like to Follow

Early morning view of the front pasture at my farm.
It is a rainy Saturday afternoon and I was reading over some interesting blogs and thought my followers might want to know about a few of them.  So here are some favorites:

Flower Garden Girl
You want to read a blog that will put a smile on your face?  And you like gardening?  Well then you have to check out Anna's blog.  She is a North Carolina gardener with an optimistic attitude, a delightful style of writing, and a fantastic eye for photographing all things botanical.  She has a new home that she is landscaping right now and you can follow her progress on the blog. She also sells delightful little, hand painted birdhouses.

Hop 'n Blueberry Farm
This is another blog that will make you smile.  Van Burnette is a character. I will put that right out here in print where he can read it. He's a loveable character with a contagious enthusiasm for trying new things, like growing blueberries, hops, ramps, woodland botanicals, and butterflies.  Yes, I said butterflies.  Van lives and farms on land that has been in his family for generations in Black Mountain, NC.  Van likes to share what he has learned and does this through his blog and tours on his farm.  Check it out, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Southern Appalachian Hops Guild
If you follow my blog, you know I'm trying to help the North Carolina hops industry grow and prosper.  Chris Reedy is doing the same, just taking a different angle.  He is leading the Southern Appalachian Hops Guild and maintains this blog for them.  In it he shares much of what we are all learning about growing hops in the Southeast, helps promote the local hop growers, and provides information about hop related events.

Windy Hill Hops and Farm
I haven't been following this blog very long, so I can't tell you too much about it.  It is a small farm in Southern Illinois where organic hops, herbs, and vegetables are being grown.  Sounds right up my alley, doesn't it?  What interests me the most is that the writer is documenting all the questions that arise as the hops progress through the season.

Fennario Farm and Apothecary
One of my employees, Amy Hamilton, started her own farming venture in Madison County, NC this spring with her boyfriend, Gabe.  This blog tells the story of their first experience growing and selling vegetables and medicinal herbs. Amy is the research specialist in my program and spends much of her time there advising farmers.  This experience has already helped her assist farmers because now she knows first hand how difficult it is to make a profit working the land.

Hopesay Glebe Farm
I like to follow what people are doing in other countries and this is a sweet, certified organic, ten acre farm in Shropshire in the United Kingdom that would be a fine example for another wanting to create a diversified small farm.  They have laying hens, sheep, vegetables, high-tunnels, and also raise bees, off-site, for honey. They do direct sales. The blog always has great pictures that I find very informative.

Jim Long's Garden
If you love herbs and read any of the herb literature, then you are probably familiar with Jim Long.  He is an amazing gardener, a wonderful writer, an entertaining and informative speaker, and all around fun person.  He has a delightful blog that not only covers what's happening in his own Long Creek Herb Farm in the Missouri Ozarks, but also covers his interesting travels and people he meets.

Western NC Vegetables and Small Fruit News
This is my favorite, serious professional university Extension blog.  Written by area extension agent, Sue Colucci.  She covers three western NC counties, Henderson, Haywood, and Buncombe.  She is a plant pathologist, very knowledgeable about organic agriculture, and just a delightful person all around.  If you want to keep aware of what is happening with veggies and small fruits in western NC, this is the blog to follow.  She is also part of our hops team and has created a page just for hops.

Western North Carolina Green Industry News
I don't usually follow the green industry (nursery, turf, landscaping, etc.), but I learn so much from this one that I follow it.  It is written by three local NC extension agents: Cliff Ruth in Henderson county, Amanda Stone in Buncombe county, and Tim Mathews in Haywood county.  They work hard to keep you informed about diseases, insects, new plants, grant opportunitities, and educational programming.

NC Small Fruit, Specialty Crop, and Tobacco IPM
This is a more serious blog than the ones listed above.  It is written by my university colleague, Dr. Hannah Barrack, an entomologist at NC State University in Raleigh. Hannah has an interest in organic agriculture and is working with us on the hops project.  She uses this blog to keep North Carolina farmers informed about insect pests on small fruits, tobacco, and specialty crops and provides information on how to take an integrated approach to managing them.  She also provides links to other relevant resources.

Ocean State Hops
I really enjoy following the progress of many of the small hop yards that are developing across the country.  There are so many people who say you can't grow hops anywhere but in the Pacific Northwest.  Well, I guess they forgot to mention that to these folks!  They will never be huge, mechanized hop growers, but they have a market niche in Rhode Island and a wonderful blog.  Great pictures.

Little Farm on the Mountain
This blog is written by a strong woman in Tennessee with a passion for farming and writing.  She chronicles her farm life with humor and honesty.  At the time of this writing she was suffering a bit of burn out and was going to take a few weeks off.  Even so, I encourage you to check out what she has posted previously check back for new postings.

Tiny Farm Blog
Here you can follow the story of a very small "organic farm" in Ontario, Canada. He started from scratch in 2002, moved the farm in 2008, and is now farming fulltime.  I put "organic" in quotes because I don't think he has certified the new farm yet, and actually seems to be reconsidering that.  Anyway, I've learned a lot about ways to improve efficiency on a very tiny farm.  (this is not to be confused with my own home blog which is Our Tiny Farm in Western North Carolina

Outside Clyde
This blog is not about a commercial farm or garden.  It is an ongoing, and frequently updated, story about Christopher who lives in Clyde, NC.  He is building his own house and gardens and documents it all well.  He is also a landscaper and the most amazing photographer!  If you want to see the beauty of Haywood County, NC and surrounding areas, this is the blog to follow.

Saratoga Woods and Waterways
This is another blog that I follow because I am just in awe of the beauty she sees and captures with her camera.  Jackie Donnelly lives in Saratoga Springs, NY which is an amazing place that I would love to visit someday.  I never would have known about it if it weren't for this blog.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lots of Eastern Hops Activities Going On

There is so much happening with hops production in the eastern U.S. that I can't keep up with it all, but I thought I would make you aware of just a few hop happenings and farms that you might find of interest.

The 2nd Annual Hops Tour was held in western North Carolina last Saturday.  Winding River Hops and Hop 'n Blueberry Farm were the two hop yards on the tour.
Scott Grahl describing his hop operation, the first stop on the tour. 
A very nice article was written about the tour by Giles Morris with the Smoky Mountain News. It has been posted on the Southern Appalachian Hops Guild Blog at

Rita Pelczar and John Wright took a few minutes to describe their certified organic hop yard in Madison County.

Most of the hop cones in this yard have been harvested already.

Blue Mountain Brewery and Hop Farm in Virginia just had a big hop harvest. They posted amazing pictures on their Facebook Page. You really need to see these:  They had a festival with music and over 100 volunteers to help.  The hop yard pictures are beautiful.

There is a small hop yard in Rhode Island called Ocean State Hops that seems to be progressing nicely.  They are new and small, like many of the rest of the eastern hop yards.  I'll be interested to see how they do.  You can follow their blog at

Cone & Bine Hop Farm in Conover, NC is just getting started with their organic hop yard. They got a late start this year but I'm enjoying reading about their experiences on Facebook:

There are many people interested in growing hops in the eastern U.S. Before you start your own hop yard I strongly recommend that you read everything you can on the topic, visit as many growers as possible, and have a long discussion about it with your county extension agent or appropriate extension specialist at your local land-grant university.  There is a reason why most of the hops production in the U.S. is now in the Pacific Northwest.  There are significant challenges to growing hops in the east, most notably diseases and insects.  That said, there are many opportunities for selling locally grown hops.  But before you start, I want you to know it will be expensive to establish, involve lots of hard work, and you'll be challenged with production problems that local agricultural experts will have limited experience with.  But there is a great group of growers, extension agents, researchers, breweries, home brewers, and other interested people who are working together to help rebuild the eastern hops industry.  The more we work together and share our successess and failures, the faster progress will be had. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Close-up Pictures of the Suspected Herbicide Carryover Damage on Tomatoes

Please read the previous post to find out the details here. In short, these are pictures of tomatoes that have been growing for five weeks in standard potting media, potting media with hay suspected of having herbicide on it, and composted manure suspected of having herbicide residue. We saw no damage at three weeks (see earlier post). Here are close-up pictures of the damage.

These first six are of plants grown with suspect composted manure:

The picture below is of a plant grown with suspect hay. Note that leaves are just starting to curl.

The picture below of a plant grown in standard potting mix.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Late Blight Confirmed (Really) in Henderson County, NC

Variety trial from 2009 showing late blight resistant (background)
 and late blight susceptible (foreground) tomato varieties

I am just going to copy our pathologist's email from 12:55 pm today.  Please keep in mind that this is aimed at western North Carolina.  If you live in another state or a differernt part of North Carolina, please contact your closest extension agent or state pathologist.

"Hey Everybody-

This morning we found and confirmed late blight (by microscopic examination) in one small shaded area of a conventional tomato field in Henderson County. We have not been able to confirm its presence anywhere else in the tomato production areas of NC this summer, so I believe this is the start of the tomato late blight epidemic in WNC. We've had some rains recently and I'm sure it's out there elsewhere now, or soon to arrive.

Fungicide recommendations for controlling late blight on fresh market tomatoes start at week 9 in the NC tomato foliar fungicide guide.  It can be found at this link.

In addition, there is information (fact sheet) on this disease in North Carolina, including pictures of the symptoms at this link.

Check out the different diseases and select the one under Tomato Late Blight.

Please make sure to get your preventative sprays on as soon as possible if you grow tomatoes in late blight prone areas. Chlorothalonil works well as a protectant if you do not yet have the pathogen in your field. If already established in your tomato field, it would be best to apply something more than a protectant like Presidio (+ chlorothalonil) or Ranman.

If you need a confirmation of late blight in your fields, please do not hesitate to call your agent or my lab to submit a sample.


(Kelly Ivors is an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology at NC State University.  She is located in the same building I am in Mills River, NC.)

Organic Farmers:
If you are an organic farmer, click on "late blight" on the right side bar labels of this blog for more information on how to attempt to control this disease.  This is a very difficult disease to control with the organic options currently available.  Your best line of defense is to plant varieties with some late blight resistance.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Five Weeks After Planting Tomatoes in Manure Compost-Damage Evident

Some home gardeners in Asheville suspected plant damage from some composted manure they had purchased.  They wondered if it could be from herbicide carryover on hay that the animals who produced the manure had eaten.  The producer of the compost was puzzled because she was very careful when she purchased hay, asking whether herbicides were used, and she had performed her own bioassays and everything seemed fine.  The homegardeners were adamant, however, that the only plants showing the damage were the ones growing in the compost.  So, the compost provider brought us large samples of the manure and hay.  We took tiny tomato plants and planted them in the manure and with the hay.  You can see pictures of those plants at time of planting and three weeks later at:

Someone left a comment on that blog post saying we should grow the plants longer.  They didn't see damage on their own plants until much later.  One of the home gardeners I was doing this study for said the same thing.  He said to wait five weeks.  So we waited.

Five weeks have passed. This morning, my technician, Amy Hamilton, checked on the plants and took these pictures.  As you can clearly see, the plants growing with the composted manure are now exhibiting unusual growth.  I asked the pathology technician in our building, who has examined thousands of tomato plants in her career, to take a look at them and without hesitation she said "herbicide damage".  I will have our pathologist and weed scientist also take a look at these plants because I am not qualified to make a definite diagnosis myself.  But clearly, something is not right with these plants.

I am puzzled about why it took this long for damage to develop.  We planted very tiny transplants into the mix of composted manure and potting media and they grew fine for a long time.  But this also brings into question, at least to me, the bioassay procedures that we and others have in our publications on this topic.  We don't tell people to grow their test plants that long!  I will keep you posted as we learn more.

Tomatoes grown for five weeks in standard potting mix

Tomatoes grown for five weeks in potting mix with hay on top (it says straw, but it is hay)

Tomatoes grown for five weeks in manure compost and potting mix

Tomatoes grown for five weeks in manure compost and potting mix