Commercial Horticulture > Comm Hort Blog

Inspections for the Produce Safety Rule are coming in March of 2019!  Have you had training and are you ready for this inspection?  The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is offering free and voluntary On-Farm-Readiness-Reviews to help ensure our Alabama growers are ready for inspection. For more information about the Produce Safety Rule or to sign up for a readiness review, visit the ADAI website or contact Jean Weese at or 334-844-3269.

The Food Safety Modernization Act – Produce Safety Rule (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011. It sets new standards for food handling across the entire food chain with rules for businesses ranging from farms and food processors to food shippers, importers, retailers, and others. It is the first federal food safety law that includes specific rules for produce farms.

FSMA represents a change in the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approach to ensuring a safe U.S. food supply. Rather than reacting to instances of food borne illness or contamination, FSMA shifts the focus toward preventing contamination in food. All farms regardless of size, location, or commodity grown, can reduce food safety risk. 

The Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries (ADAI) is working with FDA through a cooperative agreement to advance efforts for a nationally integrated food safety system.  ADAI will achieve this through the education and outreach, planning and implementing our Produce Safety Program to encourage the safe production of fresh fruits and vegetables.  ADAI will work to promote understanding and compliance with the requirements of FDA's "Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption" (commonly referred to as the Produce Safety Rule).


Jean Weese,

Professor and Extension Specialist

Associate Director, Food Systems Institute


Kristin Woods

Produce Safety Alliance

A Clean Day Program is planned for your area on December 14, 2018.  This program will allow you, at no cost, to bring up to 1,000 pounds of unwanted pesticides for safe and environmentally sound disposal.  Products that will be disposed of include pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and rodenticides.  If you have products that have lost registration, have illegible labels, are out of date, or any of the mentioned products that you cannot use, you are encouraged to take advantage of this program.  This will allow you to protect your health and the health of your employees as well as protect your property and the environment.

This includes Farmers, Pesticide Applicators, Pesticide Dealers, Pest Control Operators, and Nurseryman. The location is for Baldwin, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Mobile, Monroe, and Washington Counties.

Remember, you will not be charged for disposal of up to 1,000 pounds of material, and there will be no questions asked as to why you have any product.

Funding for this year's event is limited, so registration forms will be considered on a first come-first served basis; first for residents of Baldwin, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Mobile, Monroe, and Washington counties, then for other counties as long as funds are available. 

Please complete the Pesticide Registration Form and return the form to your local County Extension Office or fax it to Daniel (334) 240-7168 if you would like to participate.  Your local County Extension Office or Daniel must have your registration on or before the November 30, 2018 deadline for you to participate in Clean Day.

If you have more than 1,000 pounds of material, please contact Daniel Sheffield for special arrangements.  As a reminder, you will be contacted before the actual collection date with all the details, so it is VERY IMPORTANT that the form is completely filled with and adequate and accurate contact information.  Should you have any questions, please contact your local Extension office or Daniel at (334) 240-7236.

This program is conducted as a service to you and is a joint effort of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.


The maximum amount to be accepted per vehicle will not exceed 1,000 pounds. If you have more than 1,000 pounds of material please contact Daniel Sheffield, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, 334-240-7236, to see if special arrangements can be made for disposal of your unwanted pesticide products.

Materials that WILL be accepted include both known and unidentifiable pesticide waste, such as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other products such as defoliants, adjuvants and growth retardants.

Products NOT accepted include, but are not limited to the following: explosives or ordinance materials, compressed gas cylinders, petroleum products (motor oil), paints, tires, medical waste, radioactive materials, dioxin precursors or seeds.

Tony L. Cofer

Program Director

Plant and Pesticide Division

Get Ready! The 2018 AFVGA Conference & Trade Show is just around the corner! 

Join us again this November 15 & 16 at the Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center located at 850 Lay Dam Rd. Clanton, AL, 35045

Registration Information: We are very excited to announce AFVGA is passing on the savings to you! The registration cost to attend has been lowered!

  • Registration for Attendees: Conference & Trade Show will be $85 per person, $65 for spouse/guest and includes a one-year membership to the AFVGA.
  • Registration for Industry: Exhibitors & Vendors has been lowered to $300 per booth with two people attending and includes a one-year membership to the AFVGA. $40 for electricity, $65 for additional persons. Equipment display, and sale of products is allowed at the conference.
  • Registration for Non-profit, Agencies & Universities: Trade Show cost has been lowered to $200 per booth with two people attending and includes a one-year membership to the AFVGA. ($40 for extra electricity), $65 for additional persons.
  • Conference flash drive: $25 (contains presentations and videos that will be mailed after the conference).

More information can be found here.


It is that time of year again for football games and cool and crisp air, watching color- changing leaves, smelling aromatic tea-olive flowers and fruits, enjoying pumpkins and harvesting. However, fall is also the time for unwelcome stink bugs invading homes.

Stink bugs are creepy, noisy and notorious for their pungent smell. They enter homes in the fall seeking place to overwinter.

Stink bugs do not bite, do not sting, do NOT pose serious property or safety threats. However, their tendency to enter homes or cover your house in high numbers can be an odoriferous nuisance and disaster. They emit an unpleasant odor that can be hard to get out of your nose, your furniture, your carpet, etc. Crushing the bugs thus becomes a problem, as they emit an unpleasant odor and may stain the surface they are crushed upon.

They enter homes that are not properly sealed. Once inside they will get in the cracks of your house, get in your wall, and anywhere they can hide.

Problematic stink bugs commonly seen in Alabama consist of kudzu bugs and the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). Other fall invaders that can be stinkers are the Asian lady beetles and boxelder bugs.

Kudzu bugs and the BMSB are both exotic invaders from Asia.

Kudzu bugs adults are 3.5 to 6 mm long, oblong, olive-green colored with brown speckles. Their primary hosts are kudzu vine and soybean crop. They migrate from host plants to overwintering sites in later fall. If you have wild kudzu patches near your property, you are most likely to have this bugs. You may find them resting or even feeding on a verity of landscape and garden plants. This is their effort to get all the nuisance they need preparing for overwinter. They overwinter sites include any crack or crevice where a group of bugs can aggregate. Gaps under the bark of trees, gaps under the siding of homes, high places (such as the fascia boards and gutters on the edges of homes), and leaf litters are only a few examples of overwintering sites.

The brown marmorated stink bugs are 16-18 mm long, shades of brown on both upper and lower body surface, with shield shape like other stink bugs. BMSB are not a picky eater, but suck fluid from a wide variety of host plants, including many tree fruits, vegetable fruits, and crops. If you grow garden plants and fruit trees, you are most likely to have this bugs. Like kudzu bugs, they overwinter under tree barks, sheltered and protected places. Oak and locust trees seem to be their favorite overwintering sites. Photo credit of Brown Marmorated Stinkbug, Home Team Pest.

Advices to keep smelly stink bugs at bay

  1. Seal off any entry points. As for any invaders, stink bugs can only enter your home through entries. Spending time on inspecting the outside of your home for easy access point is a worthy effort of prevention. Pay close attention to areas around siding and utility pipes, underneath the wood fascia or other openings. Caulk and seal any cracks and holes using a good quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk.
  2. Place screening over chimney and attic vents.
  3. Install door sweeps.
  4. Replace and repair damaged screen on window s or doors, as well as torn weather- stripping and loose mortar. Stink bugs can get in home through tiny openings.
  5. Check to make sure soffit, ridge, and gavel vents are property screened.
  6. Stuff steel wool into openings where screening cannot be used, such as around pipe penetrations.
  7. Check for leaking pipes and clogged drains. Reduce moisture sites can help prevent many pest infestations.
  8. Last but not the least: properly manage landscape, leave no harboring sites for stink bugs around your house.

Suggestions for control

  1. Do not touch nor crush but grab them gently with a plastic bag to avoid bad smell
  2. Use a vacuum for their removal. Dispose of the vacuum bag or soak the bag in hot soapy water immediately to prevent odor from permeating the area, as dead stink bugs leave a residue inside the bag that can stink up your home. A stocking or pantyhose placed in the vacuum tube and secured to the end of the tube with a rubber band can help by catching the insects before they reach the motor of the vacuum.
  3. Homeowners may also apply insecticide on the exterior home where the bugs land on seeking entry-points. The insecticides must be labeled for nuisance insect control outdoors.

Xing Ping Hu 

Entomology Professor/Specialist

Extension is hard at work helping communities, agricultural producers and families recover from Hurricane Michael.  Extension professionals will be gathering information from farmers to document crop losses across the state of Alabama. 

Disaster recovery information is now available on a new Extension website,  Information will be available in the categories of agriculture, families and communities. Information partners include FSA, farm organizations and others in the state.  New information will be added daily

Agritourism farms also took a large hit. Hurricane Michael damaged a large number of corn mazes, pumpkin, and sunflower fields which may hurt the number of visitors to those farms.

Extension research plots and local farmers with high tunnel damage are among the victims of this hurricane in the wiregrass area. Just as an example, Hurricane Michael has caused over $2500 in losses to the research high tunnel at the Wiregrass Research & Extension Center after it was rebuilt earlier this year.

If you are one of the vegetable growers affected by the recent hurricane, then please contact Regional Extension Agent Neil Kelly (based in Headland, AL) by calling 334-200-1519 or email Be sure to have information of your crop losses/damage assessments.

Also, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist for Alabama Ben Malone announced a special financial assistance sign up for Alabama farmers and ranchers who suffered damage to working lands and livestock mortality because of Hurricane Michael. Affected producers are encouraged to sign up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The first batching period will end on October 26, 2018. A second signup period will end on November 9, 2018. Please find more information here.

The Alabama Farmers Federation, stepped forward to establish a special relief fund to help the state's farmers recover from Hurricane Michael's devastating effects.

Donations are tax deductible and may be made at Alabama or send checks payable to Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation to P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL 36191.


Ann Chambliss, Program Assistant

Neil Kelly, Regional Extension Agent, Commercial Horticulture Extension Program

Ayanava Majumdar, Commercial Horticulture Extension Program Leader & Extension Entomologist



​Currently, the production of grape species in the southeastern U.S. is severely limited by Pierce's Disease (PD), caused by the widespread xylem-limited bacterium Xylella fastidiosa. As a result, mainly muscadine cultivars and some American or French-American hybrid bunch grape cultivars with resistance to PD can be successfully cultivated in Alabama due to the high PD pressure. Recent trials in the state have assessed the productivity and fruit quality of ten hybrid bunch grape cultivars, but rootstock cultivar evaluation in our environment has not been studied before. The interest in grape production in Alabama is currently growing and the need to generate knowledge on the effects of selected rootstocks on the overall viticultural performance has become essential. Thus, an experimental vineyard was established in spring of 2014 that consisted of 'Chardonel' and 'Norton' hybrid bunch grape cultivars grafted on selected rootstocks or grown on their own roots. The list of tested rootstocks include 1103 Paulsen (1103P), Kober (5BB), and Teleki (5C). Data was collected to compare vine phenological development, vegetative growth, cropping potential and fruit quality traits.

 Figure 1. 'Chardonel' (A) and 'Norton' (B) bunch grapes grown at the CREC, Clanton.                                                           

Our results indicate that 'Chardonel' grafted on 1103P was highly productive, and is considered the best scion-rootstock combination in terms of cropping potential (Table 1). 'Chardonel' grafted on 1103P vines also produced 22 % larger cluster size that own-rooted 'Chardonel' in 2018. While the 2017-2018 growing season provided the first indications of the impact of rootstock selection on vine productivity and the potential for enhanced viticultural sustainability in Alabama and the southeastern U.S., to ascertain the long term effect of rootstocks on vineyard longevity, productivity, and vigor, further evaluations in Alabama are warranted.

Elina Coneva 

Extension Specialist, ACES

Enfeng Xu, GRA,

Department of Horticulture, Auburn University 

Grafting with resistant rootstocks offers one of the best methods to avoid soilborne diseases.  Grafting involves combining a desirable scion (which is the fruit bearing portion of a grafted plant) with a rootstock which provides resistance to various soilborne pathogens.  The scion is generally from a plant that produces highly desirable fruit.  As well as managing soilborne diseases, grafting can influence vegetative growth and flowering; affect fruit ripening and fruit quality; enhance abiotic stress resistance; and enhance yield especially under low temperature conditions.  At present, most research is being conducted on grafting tomato and watermelon.  

The primary motive for grafting tomato and watermelon (and other cucurbits) is to manage soilborne pests and pathogens when genetic or chemical approaches for management of these diseases are not available.  Grafting a susceptible scion onto a resistant rootstock can provide a resistant cultivar without the need to breed a resistant cultivar.  Additionally, grafting allows a rapid response to new pathogens races, and, in the short-term, provides a less expensive and more flexible solution for controlling soilborne diseases than by breeding new, resistant cultivars.  

Grafted transplants are more expensive than non-grafted transplants due to labor, material costs (grafting supplies, seed costs of rootstock and scion), and specialized facilities or structures.  These specialized facilities can include healing chambers and trained personnel both to produce the grafted transplant and to care for it.  Potential changes in fruit quality, which occur with some rootstocks, must also be considered.  Some commercial transplant producers offer grafting services and with improved grafting techniques and mechanization, costs will begin to decrease.  Another potential added cost with grafted plants can be from transplanting into areas with high-wind conditions.  Grafted transplant can be more easily damaged by wind decreasing transplant survival rates by up to 60%.  This resultant loss will greatly increase costs.

Grafting Cucurbits

From its research beginnings in the 1920's, Cucurbit grafting in Asia has now become the predominantly practiced growing method; currently 95% of watermelons and Oriental melons are grafted in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.  Grafting has only recently been considered as a practice for Cucurbits in the United States for reasons described above.  Grafting presents an option for soil-borne pathogen management for diseases such as Fusarium wilt, Monosporascus Vine Decline, Phytophthora blight, and Root-knot nematode.  Additionally, grafting can enhance tolerance to abiotic stress; increase water and nutrient use efficiency; extend harvest periods; and improve fruit yield and quality in certain Cucurbits.  There is a wide array of potential rootstocks: Lagenaria spp. (Bottled Gourd), interspecific squash hybrids, wild watermelon or melon.  The rootstocks can produce vigorous plants with resistances to many soil-borne diseases.

Grafting Watermelons: Hole Insertion Grafting Method.  Sow rootstock seeds into a square, 1.2 to 1.6 in. cell, 2-in deep.  Sow scion seeds into a smaller cell size (0.4 to 0.8 in. 2-in deep).  Trays sown with the rootstock(s) and triploid scions should be well watered but carefully monitored as overwatering can lead to poor germination.  Maintain trays at 86°F.  When both cotyledons and first true leaves start to develop, the rootstock plant is ready to graft (~7 to 10 day after sowing) depending on greenhouse conditions.  Remove the growing point with a sharp probe, and then open a hole on the upper portion of the rootstock hypocotyl at an angle to penetrate the side of the hypocotyl.  A bamboo needle, tooth pick, or 1.4-mm drill bit works best.  Cut the scion at a 35° to 45° angle, both sides, on the hypocotyls.  The scion is then inserted into the hole made into the rootstock.  The cut surfaces are matched together and held with or without a grafting clip.  

Transfer grafted plants into a humidity chamber or healing room.  After the healing process is complete (~7 days), transfer the grafted plants into the greenhouse at 72 to 79°F until the scion is well con­nected with the rootstock.  Transplants should not be older than 33 days before transplanting.  For further details and step-by-step instructions, go to

Grafting Tomatoes

There are 3 primary techniques used for grafting tomatoes, Tongue Approach Grafting, Cleft Grafting and Tube (or Clip) Grafting.  Cleft grafting and tube grafting are similar in that the shoot of the fruit producing scion is completely cut off from its own roots and attached to the severed stem of the rootstock.  The name 'Tube Grafting' originated because when the technique was first developed; a tube was used to attach the shoot to the root.  Clips are now used to make this graft.  Tube grafting is quicker and less complicated to do than cleft grafting because it only requires a single, straight cut on both the rootstock and scion.  Also, because fewer intricate cuts are involved, this technique can be used on very small seedlings.

Grafting can be performed at various stages of seedling growth.  Grafting at the 2-3 true leaf stage is common.  With both cleft and tube grafting, the newly grafted plants must be protected from drying out until the graft union is healed.  This usually involves covering the plants with a plastic cover or protecting them in a healing chamber where temperature and humidity can be regulated.  Additionally, some method should be employed to reduce light intensity to the grafted plants for several days after the procedure. 

It is critical to increase the humidity in the chamber to near 100% for the first two days.  Humidity must then be reduced incrementally over the next 5 days to prohibit the formation of adventitious roots from the scion and to properly heal the graft.  Tomato grafts heal quickly and the seedlings can begin to be acclimated back into the greenhouse after 4-5 days.  With both cleft and tube grafting, it is important that the diameter of the cut ends (of the scion and the rootstock) match up perfectly.  If the diameter does not match, the graft may not heal properly, if at all.  Rootstock cultivars tend to have different growth habits than scion cultivars so it is important to grow a small amount of rootstock and scion seed at first to determine their growth rate relative to each other.  Rootstock cultivars tend to be more vigorous than scion cultivars.  Another critical factor is to cut rootstock seedlings below the cotyledons.  If the cotyledons are left they will generate suckers that will compete with the scion requiring pruning.  For further detail and step by step instructions, go to

Joe Kemble 

Extension Specialist, ACES

This survey of fruit, vegetable and nut producers in Alabama is part of one objective of a larger USDA NIFA grant titled, "Strengthening Organic Farming Infrastructure through Consumer Education, Market Development, and Integrated Extension and Research Programs in the Southeastern Region." This survey is part of a market chain study of organics in Alabama. Conducting a market chain analysis of organic foods involves identifying the sources of organic foods, the market intermediaries participating in the marketing chain, the consumers of organic foods, evaluating the growth in market sales of organic foods and the market and institutional factors that influence the marketing of organic foods in the state. Consumers, retailers and market intermediaries of organic foods will also be surveyed. 

Though no real data exist on Alabama market sales of organic produce there are about 29 organic food retail and wholesale distributors in the state. Hence, it would seem that almost all of the organic fruits and vegetables consumed and marketed are from out of state. Given that the organically produced crop market in the US is expected to grow by 14% from 2013 to 2018 (Daniells, 2014) it is important to place emphasis on the production and marketing of organically produced crops in the state so that producers can take advantage of this opportunity.

The goal of this survey is to determine the potential for organic production by Alabama fruit and vegetable producers.  We want to answer the following questions:  

  1. What percentage of fruit and vegetable production is currently being produced with organic practices? (Certified or non-certified)
    1. What is the potential for production in the future?
  2. What distribution channels are Alabama fruit and vegetable growers currently using for their produce?
    1. Does this vary by organic practices vs conventional?
  3. What constraints do producers face in producing organic fruits and vegetables?
    1. Specifically, what constraints do producers face in certifying organic?
  4. Are conventional producers interested in entering the organic market?
    1. What factors inhibit their entry?
    2. What characteristics do those interested in or producing organic produce have that differ from those not interested in organics?
  5. Certified organic production is relatively low in Alabama, but are a significant portion of fruit and vegetable farmers using organic practices?
    • For those non-certified organic growers, how do their size and marketing strategies compare to certified organic and conventional growers? 
    • My hypothesis here is that since Alabama's fruit and vegetable market is growing, it may be composed of many small producers who choose direct marketing to consumers. In that case, it probably doesn't make sense for them to certify organic. 

Here is the survey link

This link also has some more info and a link to the survey:


Brittney Goodrich

Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist

Agricultural Risk Management & Economics

Dept. of Agricultural Economics & Rural Sociology

Auburn University

We receive a lot of questions at the Extension office each year from farmers and home gardeners with many kinds of problems. Oftentimes the problems in a field or garden fall into one or more of the following categories: disease, insect, weed, wildlife damage, nutrition, or disorder. Many times during the year gardeners will contact the Extension office with a plant problem thinking it is a disease when in fact it is a disorder.  Examples of plant disorders could be problems related to heat stress, cold stress, lack of moisture, too much moisture, or too much shade. One season's production will be different from another, but there are things that can be done to encourage better quality crops each year.

I would like to encourage growers to have a soil test on their fields or gardens. A soil test is basically an analysis of the nutrients in your soil. With this analysis, we can determine what nutrients are needed, and oftentimes, not needed in your field or garden. The goal is to apply the needed nutrients for the crops being grown. Crops may not grow well with too little or even too much of certain nutrients. All crops will not need the same amounts of nutrition, and too much of certain nutrients can often times make them less productive. The soil test will tell us what nutrients to apply to what crops and the amounts needed. 

A common recommendation would be to apply half the nitrogen, all the phosphorus, and half the potassium at planting. Then add the remaining nitrogen and potassium in one, or even two more, applications later in the season. Without a soil test we would be guessing at how much and what kind of fertilizer to use. The soil test will explain when to apply the nutrients and you can always call the Extension office with soil testing and fertility questions. I always recommend commercial vegetable farmers test their soil every year. I sometimes suggest home gardeners test each year as well, depending on what nutritional problems they have been having in their garden. Unless a nutritional problem has occurred, testing every 2 or 3 years is often what many gardeners practice.

Our soil test form can be found on our web site at or by visiting your local Extension office. This form has instructions for collecting soil samples, as well as information on how to send the soil samples to the lab in Auburn. Basically all you need is to collect several subsamples from your field or garden, mix the subsamples together, and send a sample of that mixture to Auburn University for an analysis. Taking several subsamples and mixing them together provides an average soil sample from your field or garden which results in a more accurate sample than from taking only one sample from one spot. If more than one field or garden is tested, the same procedure of collecting subsamples and mixing them will be conducted.  For example, if you have three garden spots you may send three soil samples in three separate containers for testing. There is a $7.00 charge per sample and you get the results back in about a week.  When is the best time of year to have a nutrient analysis on your soil? If you are having problems or have not had your soil analyzed in a few years, I would do a soil test as soon as possible. However, I like sending soil tests in the late summer and early fall before I plow the garden under and plant cover crops. It takes time for lime to start working in the soil. If lime is needed it could be applied, plowed in, cover crops planted, and the garden would be in good shape for the spring. If you have questions about your soil test results, give us a call at your local Extension office.

Chip East
Regional Ext. Agent, ACES


Garden problems such as disease and insects can thrive on late season gardens and fields that are unattended. When you are finished with the garden for the year, it would be beneficial to remove the tomato cages, stakes, trellises, etc. from the field. On a small scale you may choose to remove and compost plant debris such as spent tomato plants, corn stalks, etc.  For large areas, the plant debris can be turned under the soil to destroy the crop. This practice is commonly done for warm season and cool season crops. At this time, lime could be applied and a cover crop could be planted.  A soil test will determine if lime is needed, and if so, the proper amount to apply. You can apply lime any time of year, but it may be easier to get lime spreading equipment in the field right after a crop is terminated. It may be best to conduct a soil test a few weeks before terminating a crop so you can have time to make arrangements for applying lime. It takes time for lime to change the soil's pH. If you have a low pH, it would be best to apply the lime well in advance of planting the cash crop.

If you think you may grow vegetables in the future, it would be beneficial to go ahead and soil test the site and start planting cover crops. Summer and winter cover crops could be planted on the site years before planting the cash crop. Some popular winter cover crops include crimson clover, oats, rye, wheat, tillage radish, and canola/rape. Some popular summer cover crops are iron clay cowpea, sunn hemp, sorghum-sudangrass, and buckwheat.  Maintaining the proper pH and nutrients in the cover crops will benefit the future cash crops by building organic matter and reducing erosion. Other uses of cover crops can include breaking through compacted soil, reducing compaction, attracting beneficial insects, reducing weeds, etc.  If you have any questions about cover crops or soil testing, give us a call here at your local Extension office.


Chip East 

Regional Ext. Agent, ACES



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