Ag News

Whiteflies, multi-generation farms hot topics at SEFVGA Converence

Georgia fruit and vegetable growers heard crop management tips to improve their crops and industry updates while attending the Southeast Regional Fruit & Vegetable Conference in Savannah Jan. 10-13.

Whitefly research was a hot topic at the conference. In 2017, Georgia cotton and vegetable farmers had an estimated $200 million in crop losses attributed to whiteflies, said Dr. Apurba Barman, UGA researcher.

During the vegetable workshop, UGA Extension Entomologist Dr. Alton Sparks Jr. shared the progress College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences researchers are making to control whiteflies in Georgia crops. Sparks said all samples of whiteflies submitted in the last three years from field infestations in Georgia have been identified as the silverleaf whitefly biotype B. But researchers have their eyes open for the appearance of pesticide-resistant biotype Q in Georgia, which has been identified in Florida infestations dating back to 2016.

Because so many Georgia crops serve as hosts for whiteflies, Sparks said whitefly infestations are cyclical.

“What happens in spring vegetables affects cotton and what happens in cotton affects fall vegetables. We’ve got to emphasize area-wide control of whiteflies to keep populations down,” Sparks said.

When it comes to choosing pesticides to fight whiteflies Sparks has this advice: “Do not rely on one chemistry. Rotate your chemistry so we don’t end up with product resistance. Pesticides are not getting the effects they did five years ago but nothing does.”

UGA researchers are studying various ways to manage whitefly populations and the viruses they spread in crops, Dr. Rajagopalbabu Srinivasan said. Management strategies researchers are evaluating include: identifying vegetable plants resistant to whiteflies; identifying the best chemical options to control populations; whether mulch and fertilizers can be used to manage populations; and whether growing crops in greenhouses offers protection.

“The best way to manage whitefly populations is by integrating multiple management options. There is no silver bullet,” Srinivasan said.

UGA research shows whitefly symptoms to be less severe in zucchini than in yellow squash, Srinivasan said, and there is some host resistance in snap beans. Varying fertilizer rates (10 lbs. vs. 30 lbs. of nitrogen applied via water drip) to squash and zucchini crops didn’t seem to impact whitefly populations nor did the varying fertilizer rates significantly affect the cull rate of squash and zucchini. However, the study did show that zucchini had a significantly lower cull rate of fruit damaged by whiteflies than squash.

During the Roadside Markets Workshop, Lee and Cynde Dickey of Dickey Farms discussed how the fourth and fifth generations of their family work together to take their farm into the future as they continue growing peaches and pecans while adding strawberries and agritourism activities.

Son, Lee, the fifth generation of the family to farm, credited his mom, Cynde, the fourth generation, for pioneering the mail order and retail business for Middle Georgia peach growers in the 1980s. Cynde praised Lee and his wife, Stacy, for drawing more visitors to the farm’s Musella r store by growing the farm’s social media presence.

Dickey Farms, which has grown peaches since 1897, is a member of the Georgia Farm Bureau Certified Farm Market program.

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