Commercial Horticulture > Comm Hort Blog

IMG_2087.JPGSummer has arrived in full force with rising temperatures, which means pests may start causing problems in our gardens and landscapes.

It is very important to know how to safely use and store pesticides. 

  • The identification of beneficial insects versus pests should always occur before purchasing any pesticides as these insects might actually be helpful and should not be harmed.

  • Proper control begins with reviewing the pesticide label for the pest trying to be controlled.

    • Label contains a lot of very important info.  Read thoroughly!  For example, recently, some manufacturers have introduced new products with similar logos to products already on the market.  These products have extremely different applications – one targets weeds in your lawn, the other will kill any plant on which it is srayed.  
    • If applied incorrectly, pesticides can cause severe damage and/or plant death. Once again, READ THE LABEL!
      • Pest controlled
      • Plant and site for approved use
      • Rate and frequency of application
      • PPE (personal protective equipment)
      • Label is the law!
  • When applying the pesticide to the problem area, be careful to only target the pest and not surrounding areas such as driveways, sidewalks or other hard surface areas. Pesticide runoff can infiltrate water supplies, so be sure to only apply the amount you absolutely need to destroy the pest.
  • Store correctly.
    • Original container
    • Cool, dry location
    • Away from food and children
  • Dispose of properly
    • Rinse the container out with water three times.
    • The rinse water should be poured onto the targeted area and not down the drain.
    • If the pesticide came with a sprayer, rinse it out with fresh water and apply the rinse water to the targeted area as well
    • Dispose of it in the trash. Pesticides and their containers should never be put into recycling. 
Bethany O'Rear, Regional Extension Agent


Long-term ACES educational programs open to a wide range of audience

Monthly extension webinars

  • Commercial horticulture webinar series: Presented on the last Monday of every month at 9 am. For a full listing of 2017 webinars, visit the Alabama Beginning Farmer website. For reviewing webinars from 2016 to present, visit the webinar archive where recordings are available by topic area.
    • Upcoming webinar topic for June 26:  High tunnel pest exclusion system (producer experiences), microirrigation in fruit crops.
  • Agronomic crops webinar series: This webinar series is presented every month and archived on YouTube. Details at
    • Upcoming webinar topics for July 11: Managing high moisture and green leaves and stems at soybean maturity, soybean harvest considerations, soybean disease identification and control, managing insects in stored corn and soybeans
  • eXtension webinar series, February to December 2017: All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series

Agronomic crops  

Commercial horticulture/Specialty crops

  • Contact a Commercial Horticulture Regional Extension Agent for up-to-date event listing and for registering.
  • February - November 2017: Precision Agriculture Workshops.
  • April 14 to May 12, 2017: Seeds of Prosperity. Dothan, Montgomery.
  • April to June 2017: Farmer 101 for Beginning Farmer, Houston County.
  • June 22, 2017: Vegetable IPM workshop (insect pest scouting and monitoring practices in tomato, squash, and brassicas), Gulf Coast Regional Research and Extension Center, Fairhope, 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Call 251-937-7176 to register.
  • June 19-23, 2017: Small-Scale Post Harvest Horticultural Training Workshop and Study Tour. Tuskegee, AL.
  • July 20 to 22, 2017: Southern Peanut Growers Conference, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, FL. Details at
  • August 9, 2017: Farming with beneficial insects for pest control, a Xerces Society event at Clanton, AL. Click here for details.
  • August 13 to 16, 2017: Nut and fruit growing conference, UGA, Tifton. Details at
  • November 16 and 17, 2017: Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Annual Conference, Clanton, AL. Details at

Out-of-state event

If you would like to send us any event announcement, then please email 

Compiled by Dr. Ayanava Majumdar, Extension Entomologist

Specimen ball-and-burlap trees are popular options for new landscapes and landscapes that are being renovated. Their large size makes it possible to enjoy some "instant gratification" for the homeowner or developer. B&B trees are expensive. They are even more expensive when they are killed due to negligence and human error.

 Ash tree killed by incorrect transplant

The ash tree in this photo was transplanted about 10 years ago, but whoever planted it failed to remove the nylon strapping that was used to lift and move the tree. The strapping slowly girdled the tree, which resulted in the death of the tree. A few cuts with a knife or pruning shears at planting would have prevented this.


Doug Chapman

Regional Extension Agent


Over the past 10 years there has been a surge of interest on information on aquaponic production.  Aquaponics is the combination of hydroponics and fish production (aquaculture). Unfortunately there has been little in the way of validated information available for persons interested in aquaponics.  Concurrent to the surge in interests, researchers have been working hard to fill the critical need for information.  While we still have a long row to hoe in providing the same degree of recommendations found in hydroponics, we have learned a great deal of foundational knowledge that can help anyone interested in aquaponics to get started.  Despite the numerous systems being researched, the only system we currently recommend for commercial production is the University of the Virgin Island (UVI) System developed by Dr. Jim Rakocy.  Rakocy spent over 30 years developing and providing university level validation of the capacity of the UVI system.  It has been replicated all over the world in a variety of climates and is the foundation of which many other systems are based.  A detailed description of the UVI system can be found in this fact sheet: SRAC Publication No. 454. The Southern Region Aquaculture Center (SRAC) has developed an Aquaponics page (SRAC: Aquaponics) where information is available for persons interested in learning about aquaponics.  Fact sheets found on this page help address issues with water quality, economics, greenhouse systems and general fish production.  Also check out the wealth of information SRAC provides in their numerous other fact sheets (SRAC Fact Sheets).

For more information, please call 334-319-3829 or contact a commercial horticulture regional extension agent near you.

Jeremy M. Pickens,

Nursery and Greenhouse Extension Specialist

Nursery Listening Session Press Release w AL session.pdf

Government Contractor Seeks Stakeholder Input on Proposed New Concept for Nursery Plan of Insurance.

FCIC Nursery Insurance is offered in all 50 states.  The Risk Management Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture recently awarded a contract to conduct research to obtain information for a proposed new alternative nursery insurance program referred to as Nursery Value Select, and identify issues related to the proposed program.  Watts and Associates, Inc. (W&A) a private economic consulting firm based in Billings, Montana, was contracted to conduct a targeted study to evaluate the efficacy of the new concept and gather stakeholder input regarding its appropriateness.  W&A has completed nearly 100 contracts focused on crop insurance over the last 16 years. 

As part of the required gathering of stakeholder input, W&A is hosting stakeholder input meetings in the following cities and locations: Tyler, TX (June 20, 2017 at The Park of East Texas, 2112 W. Front Street, Tyler, TX 75702); West Palm Beach, FL (June 27, 2017 at the Palm Beach County Extension, Exhibit Hall B 559 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach); Mobile, AL (June 28, 2017 at the Mobile County Extension Office, Jon Archer Agricultural Center 1070 Schillinger Rd., N. Mobile, AL); McMinnville, TN (July 11, 2017 at the Warren County Extension Office 201 Locust Street Suite 10, McMinnville, TN); Watkinsville, GA (July 12, 2017 at the Oconee County Extension Office 1420 Experiment Station Road, Watkinsville, GA); Grand Haven, MI (July 25, 2017 at the LM Farms, LLC a Gardens Alive Company, 16127 Winans St., Grand Haven, MI); Hillsboro, OR (August 1, 2017 at the Holiday Inn Express Portland West / Hillsboro 5900 NE Ray Cir, Hillsboro, OR 97124); San Diego, CA (August 2, 2017 at the Residence Inn San Diego North/San Marcos 1245 Los Vallecitos Boulevard, San Marcos, CA 92069); and Bakersfield, CA (August 3, 2017 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bakersfield 3100 Camino Del Rio Court, Bakersfield, CA 93308).  At each location, one meeting will be focused on gathering input from Nursery operators and will be held from 8:30 am to 9:30 am.  A second meeting focused on gathering input from other Nursery industry stakeholders (Crop Insurance agents, insurance company representatives, association representatives, extension specialists, etc.) will be held from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm.

W&A is interested in collecting comments, opinions, observations, and thoughts about the proposed Nursery Value Select concept from industry stakeholders.  All stakeholders are welcome and any information regarding possible improvements to the insurance product concept is encouraged.  A discussion will be held with the stakeholders in attendance regarding risks faced by the industry, value of insurance as a risk management tool, observations of what aspects of the current Nursery Insurance product the concept addresses, what aspects can be incorporated into and improved with the use of the new concept, and other relevant feedback.  W&A is interested in having a conversation with all stakeholders: producers, extension agents, crop association and crop insurance industry representatives.  If you are unable to attend, you can provide your input to Dr. Alan Baquet at W&A by email at

I talk with many people each year who are having problems with their plants. Usually insects, disease, weeds, and nutrition top the list. I recommend understanding the crops you grow as well as the problems associated with those crops as this would aid in scouting. The Extension office will be happy to talk with anyone about potential pest problems with particular crops. Insects, disease, and even weed pressure can vary from year to year depending on the environmental conditions. Keep in mind that a pest that was a major problem last year, may or may not be a problem this season. However, providing plants with proper nutrition is something the grower is also responsible for every year and should be thought about in advance of planting. Once a nutrition problem is visible, it takes time to correct the problem, and production could be greatly reduced. 

What can a grower do to reduce the chance of having nutrition problems? Organic matter increases the soil nutrient holding capacity of the soil, so the more organic matter, the better. Planting cover crops is a good way to increase the soil's organic matter, but it does take time and should be something you work at each year. When you have decided what crop or crops you are planning to grow, you will need to soil test. We know what plants need. What we do not know is what elements are in your soil. A soil test simply analyzes the soil. A soil test analysis from our lab at Auburn costs $7 and provides valuable information for the grower. Once we know what is in the soil, we will know how much of what element or elements to add. I recommend the growers who market produce have their soil tested for each field on a yearly basis. A soil test can be done at any time of year, but I had rather test before planting.

At planting time, we would add half the recommended nitrogen, all the phosphorus, and half the potassium. Then two to three weeks after planting, we would apply another fourth of the recommended nitrogen and potassium. Two to three weeks after the second application, I would add the other fourth of the recommended nitrogen and potassium.  Of course this is just one example, and different growers apply fertilizer in different ways. Some will apply the fertilizer in only two applications, others will use drip irrigation, and it is easy to inject fertilizer through the drip on a weekly basis. I will be glad to help anyone calculate the needed fertilizer to inject in the drip.

In addition to soil testing, an analysis can be preformed on leaf samples at our lab. A deficiency would show up in an analysis long before it is visible in the field. Many growers do this regularly on crops such as strawberries, pecan, field tomatoes, greenhouse tomatoes, and others. This test costs $16 and gives the farmer valuable information.

Some plants that appear to be nutrient deficient may not always have a problem related to nutrients. Insects, disease, and other stresses can cause plants to look off color. Strawberries can develop a bronzing color due to a spider mite infestation and adding additional nitrogen will not solve the problem.

It is common for calcium deficient tomatoes to develop blossom end rot. It is caused from a lack of calcium in the plant, but adding additional calcium may not solve the problem. I have seen many times where the grower has sufficient calcium in the soil, but the plant is showing signs of a calcium deficiency. Plant stresses from things such as improper irrigation can cause the plant not to take up the needed calcium. In this case, mulching and irrigating the plants can help with nutrient uptake. It is hard to write an article about plant nutrition without mentioning pH. More elements are available for plant uptake at a pH of around 6.0 to 6.5, and we do not know the pH without a soil test. Calcium happens to be one to the elements that is not available for the plant at a low pH. 

If you can visibly see that you have a nutrition problem, it will take time to correct, so it is important to scout fields regularly for any plant problems. If you have problems, just contact your local Extension office and we will be glad to help.

Chip East

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Commercial Horticulture

Have you seen an apple tree trunk covered with small holes in the bark that are neatly arranged in a pattern of horizontal, vertical or diagonal rows?  Maybe you assumed that insect borers are the culprits? Don't confuse sapsucker holes with holes created by insect borers. Borer holes are rarely as numerous as sapsucker holes and are randomly spaced.


Sapsucker damage to 'Aztec Fuji' apple tree grown at the Chilton REC, Clanton, AL. Photo credit: Dr. Elina Coneva, ACES

Sapsuckers are members of the woodpecker family and usually damage trees in early spring which corresponds to their breeding season and territory establishment. While sapsuckers will eat insects, they make holes in bark of trees in order to eat the sap that flows from the opening or to feed it to their young. Trees that are most often attacked are pine, birch, maple, spruce and fruit trees, but other tree species may be damaged too. 

In general, sapsuckers rarely cause serious damage to trees because the holes are shallow. However, sometimes enough holes are formed so as to girdle an area of the tree or the entire trunk, killing part or all of the tree. In addition, a particular tree may be revisited by the same sapsucker for multiple years with enough damage resulting that the tree is weakened and thus more susceptible to disease, drought and insect pests.

Some options for controlling the problem are available. However, it is important to know that sapsuckers are very persistent and very territorial. To reduce damage from these birds, hang strips of aluminum foil, pie tins, or other objects that flash light and/or make noise in the trees. Previously damaged areas of the tree can be wrapped with burlap or other protective material during April, May, September and October to prevent further damage. Do not leave wraps on the tree during the summer since moisture accumulating under them may encourage diseases to develop. Keep in mind that the federal law and its associated international treaty make it unlawful to kill or otherwise harm woodpeckers. Try to maintain the damaged trees as healthy as possible. Supply sufficient water and consider fertilizing the trees in the fall to help them recover for the following year.

Elina Coneva

Fruit Crops Extension Specialist, ACES

We detected Angular leaf spot on strawberries from leaf samples collected from a U-pick operation in the Lee County area this past weekend.  I thought it was unusual to see a bacterial disease at this time because the relatively hot, dry weather we have been experiencing would typically not favor its development.  The disease was only found on an outside row of the field and did not pose a significant risk to the operation.  Copper sprays can be used to reduce damage from the disease, but in this case, we did not think an application was necessary.  More information on Angular leaf spot of strawberry can be found in the Plant Disease Note (ANR-932) on the ACES website. 


Edward Sikora, Plant Pathologist

Kassie Conner, Plant Pathologist

Torrey Revel reported that he saw citrus leafminer the week of April 10, very early for this pest.  It was seen on May 10 in 2014, so it's about 3-4 weeks early.

 Florida wax scale (FWS) is usually in the cameo stage around May 18. It's also 3-4 weeks early.  It was seen in huge numbers in the cameo stage on Mexican pet- unia, climbing rose, and fig next to it. These were in a greenhouse which may have been covered, thus lettinthem get an early start.  Early cameo stage FWS was seen in other locations, but also in the egg stage under the mother scale on the same leaf.  It may be necessary to time two or three sprays for it since the hatch does not appear as synchronized as in normal years.


Redbanded thrips was found on wax myrtles and azaleas in high numbers at the site we first found them in Mobile County.  Now we have five hosts they have been seen on: azaleas, wax myrtles, autumn ferns, 'Drift' roses, and pitcher plants.

Redheaded flea beetles were seen attacking sweet olive. Itea, normally a flea beetle magnet, had no damage while 'Drift' roses right next to it had extensive leaf damage.


Chilli thrips were very heavy on green aucuba; heavy on mahonia fortunei, nandina, and variegated privet; also seen on Glacier azalea.  None was seen on cleyera, which is a chilli thrips magnet most of the time.

False oleander scale was seen on sago palm, eleagnus, and an ornamental grass.

Bark lice, also called 'tree cattle,' were seen on  some crapemyrtles. They make the extensive webbing sometimes seen on tree trunks and bran- ches.  They feed on fungi, lichens, and other debris found on the bark and cause no damage to the plant.

The name 'tree cattle' comes from their habit of acting like a miniature herd of cows.  They spread out quickly in all directions when disturbed, then gather back together shortly afterward.


Albert Van Hoogmoed

AL Dept of Agriculture Mobile County

Cover crops can provide many benefits to peanut and cotton rotation in terms of suppressing weeds, conserving soil moisture for planting, increasing soil organic matter, reducing soil erosion, etc.  However, in fields where residual herbicides were used during the growing season, establishment of cover crops could be negatively affected by the herbicide residues. Therefore, the objective of this study was to investigate the responses of six cover crops (daikon radish, cereal rye, cocker oats, crimson clover, winter wheat, and common vetch) to twelve common soil herbicides used in peanut and cotton.  This study was conducted at Wiregrass Research Extension Center in Headland, AL and E.V. Smith Research and Extension Center in Tallassee, AL, from Oct 2016 to April 2017.  Growth parameters such as plant height, stand count, and percentage of crop cover were evaluated at 50 and 145 days after planting (DAP), as well as a wet weight biomass at project termination at 145 DAP.  Herbicide treatments sprayed at the day of planting included Dual Magnum, Warrant, Zidua, Strongarm, Cadre, Classic, Storm, Staple LX, Envoke, Direx, Caparol, Valor, and a non-treated check (NTC). Each herbicide was sprayed at 10% of label rate.

Analysis showed significant (p<0.05) growth reductions of 29.95%-51.58% for stand counts in rye and 28.06% - 75.2% in wheat 50 DAP for Dual Magnum, Warrant, Zidua, Strongarm, Cadre, Classic, and Storm treatments.  Vetch showed significant stand count reductions for all twelve treatments at 50 DAP ranging from 12.53% to 80.21%.  Dual Magnum, Zidua and Warrant had the largest impacts on stand counts for all three cover crops mentioned above.  Daikon radish showed significant reduction of 9.25%-30.52% in plant heights 50 DAP, at the E.V. Smith location for Direx, Cadre, and Classic.  At 145-149 DAP, all of the cover crops recovered from herbicide damage and did not show any significant treatment differences in any of the growth parameters collected at the end of the trial.  Oats showed the most tolerance with no herbicides affected any growth parameter evaluated (p<0.05) throughout this study.  Based on experiment data, we recommend producers utilize oats as a cover crop when there is a concern for residual herbicide injury. 

S. Li

Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences

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