Commercial Horticulture > Comm Hort Blog

The Alabama IPM Communicator is part of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) where we are committed to providing you research-based information for improving farm income and the quality of life for all residents. The main purpose of this newsletter is to provide information about critical crop production and pest management information for a diverse range of crops grown in Alabama.

This newsletter promotes sustainable agriculture, i.e., successful farming without depleting natural resources so that future generations can have productive land for food production.

The Communicator is a great resource due to the professionals that share information. Research and Extension personnel from all education institutions in Alabama can submit crop production and plant protection articles of high relevance for immediate release. Outside media agencies are welcome to share articles published on this website.

Currently there are over 2,500 subscribers in the database, including many email groups. Growth rate for the subscriptions is about 10 percent yearly. Articles are published as blogs and PDF formats with links. The articles and newsletters are all archived by year, which can be accessed at any time. This archive can be found here.

On the Alabama IPM Communicator webpage, a calendar of local and out-of-state events with a link to the flyer is updated daily. The blog is also updated daily with timely articles and alerts.

We appreciate all continued support for the newsletter, and please inform us about any concerns or questions by contacting Ann Chambliss,

Everything you need on the dashboard of your truck.

The Southeastern Vegetable Extension Workers Group is proud to offer you the 19th edition of the Vegetable Crop Handbook for the Southeastern United States.

This handbook represents a joint effort among Extension Specialists and Researchers from 12 land-grant universities in the U.S. who work in the area of vegetable production. These specialists and researchers represent a wide array of disciplines: agricultural engineering, entomology, olericulture (vegetable production), plant pathology, postharvest physiology, soil science, and weed science.

This handbook comprises up-to-the-minute information developed from research and Extension projects conducted throughout the southeastern United States.  Download your copy at:

As growers receive results from their soil tests, I am commonly asked what is the difference between agricultural lime and gypsum.  The follow up question is usually "can I use gypsum to raise my soil pH?" The answer is no. 

Many soils in Alabama become more acidic over time. This is a natural part of how soils change over time. The processes of "liming" involves applying a material to neutralize that acidity. The most common product used is agricultural lime – calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Agricultural lime works by increasing the exchangeable calcium and neutralizing hydrogen ions. 

Gypsum is calcium sulfate (CaSO4ˑ2H2O). Gypsum has a neutral effect on soil pH.  This means that gypsum will not neutralize acid soils or effectively soil raise pH.

Both of these products, however, do provide a crucial plant nutrient, calcium.  The amount of calcium in each material differs with its purity and type. Gypsum also contains sulfur, another needed plant nutrient.

So, if you your soil test indicates that you need to raise the pH of you soil, agricultural lime is what you need.  The amount you need to apply depends on your soil test and the specific liming material you are interested in using (for example, calcitic lime, or dolomitic lime). If you do not need to apply any liming material BUT you do need to apply calcium, gypsum would be a potential choice for you to use. In the end, what you apply will revolve around cost as well as availability.  In any case, if you are unsure of what to use or simply what to go over your options, call your local Extension office or a State specialist like me. We are here to help.

Joe Kemble

Extension Specialist, Commercial Horticulture

Inspection Report Week of January 29, 2018

Now is a great time to check blueberries for scale.  They are easier to see on bare branches.

Florida wax scale (FWS) was seen on blueberries in a nursery during the growing season a few years ago.  They covered branches and a lot of the foliage before they were discovered. I also saw two FWS on blueberries in Bay Minette recently. The white scales were easy to spot on the purplish-colored branches.  FWS crawlers emerge around the middle of May and the middle of August.  The cameo stage (when they first form white covers) is the best time to treat.  This picture could be Indian wax scale. They both look similar, with IWS being bigger and having a softer wax cover.



FWS can also be spotted on jasmine and barberries now while the leaves are off.  FWS has a wide host range, so other plants should be inspected as well.

This Indian wax scale was seen recently in a planting of blueberries.  They appeared mostly on older wood but also some new wood.  I'm not sure when crawlers emerge.  A North Carolina site mentions treatment in early June.  Flagging an infested bush and watching for crawlers is the best way to go.  Handpicking to remove scales also works if there are not very many.



More information can be found at this site:


In the future, moving boxwoods into Tennessee and into Alabama may become a little more difficult.

This past Friday at the Gulf States Horticulture Expo, ALNLA set up a grower meeting where the Department of Agriculture discussed their response to Tennessee's fast approaching boxwood quarantine. This quarantine is scheduled to go into effect on February 4th. Once the quarantine goes into effect, any boxwoods that are headed to TN will be required to have a phytosanitary certificate and compliance agreement. Christel Harden, the administrator for the Plant Protection Division with the Department of Ag, recommends contacting your plant inspector ASAP if you plan on shipping boxwoods to Tennessee in the near future.  

Over the next few months, Christel will be working to get a quarantine passed for Alabama. An Alabama quarantine will allow for easier shipping to other quarantined states and go a long way in protecting our growers and landscapes; however, it will make bringing any boxwoods into our state more difficult.  There could be numerous scenarios associated with compliance agreements and no level of planning can cover every situation. With that in mind, it is important to patiently with the Department of Ag as we all navigate through these changes.  

Jeremy M. Pickens

Extension Specialist and Research Scientist

Ornamental Horticulture Research Center

Organic insecticides are critical tools to insect control, especially in the hot and humid south where insect pests never seem to rest. Even in the dead of winter, insect pests such as the yellowmargined leaf beetles can be active in the soil on a warm winter day (just look under some turnip plants and other host plants for deep brown larvae that may be in the ground). In most cases, vegetable plants have should be protected early in the season with a variety of integrated pest management tactics. Insecticides are the last resort for pest management in a sustainable system. With latest advances in IPM technologies, there are several types of organic insecticides to choose from, namely, physical desiccants, contact and stomach poisons, and products with volatile action. Below is a brief description of modes of action and usage tips.

  • Kaolin clay and diatomaceous earth are natural desiccants and abrasives that are readily available in farmer coop stores and other retailers. These products form a layer over the plant parts that confuses insects or abrades their exoskeleton making them vulnerable. These insecticides should be reapplied after a heavy rainfall or periodically to protect new plant growth.
  • A large majority of garden insecticides, be it organic or conventional, are contact poisons meaning they have to be applied timely when the target insect is most active and in the right dosage. Common organic contact insecticides include vegetable and horticultural oils, botanical insecticides like neem, natural pyrethrin and Chenopodium ambrosioides, and microbial extracts like spinosad. Spinosad-based products are good for quick kill of caterpillars and small pests in organic situations. Many of the paraffinic oil containing products (Suffoil-X, TriTek) can slow down small insect pests to prevent an outbreak. Do not over-use spinosad and pyrethroid based products to prevent insecticide resistance.
  • There are also some beneficial fungi that infect insects and they are available in the form of products called Botanigard and Botanigard Maxx, Mycotrol-O, BioCeres (all containing Beaveria bassiana), PFR-97 containing Isaria fumosorosea, etc. They act by piercing the exoskeleton of insects and then causing septicemia.
  • Gardeners will recognize Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) as a commonly available product with product names such as Thuricide, Monterey B.t., Agree, etc. Bt is actually a stomach poison that is specific to caterpillars for the products mentioned. When using Bt, spray timely on small caterpillars and spray thoroughly many times till the pest population crash.
  • Some insecticides are volatiles, meaning, they deter insects by their strong smell thereby masking plant cues. Unfortunately, these products may not last very long in poor weather conditions. Some gardeners make their own formulations using mixtures of garlic, chilies, and herbs that may give the same effect. Garlic Barrier and Cinnamite are some commercial formulations available for purchase online.
  • We highly recommend contacting the farmers cooperative stores for product support and consultation. Alabama Farmers Cooperative can also provide you a copy of the new Urban Garden IPM Toolkit for beginning farmers or gardeners (see below).  Some excellent online vendors for organic insecticides include Arbico Organics, Garden Alive, Forestry Distributing, Do-My-Own, and Amazon.
  • For further information, do not forget to visit the Alabama Vegetable IPM website ( or directly contact a Commercial Horticulture Regional Extension Agent.

Home and Urban Garden IPM Toolkit is Now Available!

A brand new Urban Farm IPM Toolkit is now available for urban farmers and community gardeners. This wheel slide chart has both conventional and organic insecticide listings for nearly 20 different crops. This publication also has listing of common insect pests with images that may help when scouting garden vegetables. Email to get your own copy.


Ayanava Majumdar, Extension Entomologist, ACES

On January 22, 2018, we had logged 957 hours below 45 degrees F at the Chilton Research and Extension Center in Thorsby, compared to 523 chill hours logged on this date last year. This necessary chilling will help peach and other fruit varieties to bloom and fruit with the much needed vigor that was lacking last year due to the warm winter of 2017.

In the past 20 years, 4 years logged Feb. 1 chill hour totals above 1000 hours, and with plenty of cold weather in the forecast no lack of chilling is expected this year, as we experience one of the coldest winters in the last two decades.

Chill hour accumulations for Thorsby and other Alabama locations are posted on our Extension Peach IPM webpage.

With the demand for high quality fruit by consumers, the strong pressure to reduce chemical use in agricultural systems, and a need to enhance the economic efficiency of production, tree-fruit growers must look to economically and environmentally sustainable management production systems. Growers who want to stay profitable must establish high-density plantings with smaller trees using new cultivars. These high-density plantings cost 10 to 20 times more per land area to establish than lower-density plantings, thus greatly enhancing economic risk. Potential returns of high-density plantings, however, far exceed those of low-density plantings, particularly during the first 10 years. The central component of a high-density system is the rootstock, the part of the tree which provides control of final tree height allowing for closer tree spacing and greater number of trees per land area. The rootstock influences many factors in addition to tree size, particularly productivity, fruit quality, pest resistance, and ultimately profitability. However, size-controlling rootstocks have not been tested in Alabama conditions. New tree fruit rootstocks cannot be recommended unless there is research investigating soil and climatic adaptability, root anchorage, size control, precocity, productivity, and pest resistance. Additionally, site selection and cultivar choices may be altered to sustainably fit changing climate conditions. While the majority of apple cultivars have relatively high chilling requirements, 'Aztec Fuji' has a high fruit quality and relatively low chill requirements, which makes it better adapted to maintain productivity in the variable changing climate in the southeast.

A high density apple rootstock study was established at the Chilton Research and Extension Center near Clanton, Alabama in 2014 (Fig. 1) aiming to evaluate the effects of 14 newly developed size-controlling (dwarf) and fire blight resistant rootstocks on apple fruit tree characteristics grown in Alabama environment and to assess the performance and fruit quality of low-chill 'Aztec Fuji' cultivar as to enhance the sustainability of fruit growing.


Figure1. Fire blight resistant dwarf apple rootstocks grown in a high density Tall Spindle 'Aztec Fuji' orchard at the Chilton REC, Clanton, AL, 2017.

Rootstocks studied include newly released cultivars from Geneva and Vineland rootstock series: B.10, G.11, G.202, G.214, G.30, G.41, G.935, G.969, M.26 EMLA, M.9 T337, V.1, V.5, V.6, and V.7. Trees are trained to the highly efficient Tall Spindle training system that has not been tested in Alabama before. Tall Spindle is designed to control the vegetative vigor and optimize the crop production especially in the early stage of tree establishment, while providing early returns to the grower. Evaluations for survival, precocity, productivity, size control, anchorage, suckering, adaptability, and production efficiency are being conducted.  Our third year results suggest 'Aztec Fuji' trees grafted on Vineland series of rootstocks (V.1, V.5, V.6, and V.7) had the highest number of flower clusters and were the most vigorously growing trees. Among Geneva series of rootstocks, G. 30 was the most vigorous based on trunk cross sectional area. Trees on G. 969 produced the highest yield of 33.6 lb/tree in 2017 (Fig. 2). Cumulative yield (2015-2017) was high for trees grafted on G.969, V.7, V.6 and G.935 (43, 39.4, 36.7, and 34.6 lb/tree respectively). Trees on G. 969, G.935, and G. 202 also had high yield efficiency.


Figure 2. Total yield per tree was high in 2017.

Trees on V.7 produced the largest fruit size of 182 g, while trees on G.202 had the highest sugar content. The most vigorously growing rootstocks also produced higher number of suckers. Our preliminary results are promising and research is going to continue to assess the production efficiency and fruit quality as a way to achieve more efficient land use and sustainable apple production.

Elina Coneva

Ext. Specialist, ACES


Please join in on the Annual Urban Forestry and Horticulture Conference on Friday, March 16, 2018, 8:00 am – 3:00 pm at the Cross Point Church of Christ, 1350 Cox Creek Parkway, Florence, AL.

 "Spruce Up Your Spring" is the theme of this year's conference, sponsored by the City of Florence Mayor and City Council and the Florence Beautification Board, Tree Commission, and Urban Forestry/Horticulture Department. Two specialty tracks will be offered: Horticulture and Urban Forestry, with ISA points available. 

Outstanding speakers will present current information on horticulture and creating and preserving the urban green environment, including keynote speaker Tom Underwood, Director of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Bill Finch, former Director of the Mobile Botanical Gardens, Troy Marden, award-winning garden and floral designer and frequent contributor to Alabama Gardener and Southern Living magazines, Will Jangaard and Brad Phillips, speaking on Trees and the Law, Dale Dickens, Urban Forestry Coordinator, Alabama Forestry Commission, and Tom Powers, Powers Treeology.

Public is invited. Cost: $45, which includes lunch.

Registration: Information: Mayor's Office, 256-760-6400.


License Recertification Classes for Green Industry Professionals

       Thursday, March 15, 2018, 12:00 pm - 4:30 pm

       Offices of Florence-Lauderdale Tourism, McFarland Park, Florence, AL

            Landscape and Urban Forestry Update: Pesticide, Herbicide, ROW (OTPC/OTPS/FOR)

Class Agenda:

                        12:00 – Pollinators and Pesticides

                        1:00 – Top 15 Landscape Pests ID and IPM

                        2:00 – Turfgrass IPM

                        3:00 – Pest Resistant Urban Trees

                        4:30 – Sign for Points and Adjourn

Cost: $45, to include attending the Urban Forestry and Horticulture Conference on

March 16 at no additional cost.

Registration: Information: Mayor's Office, 256-760-6400.



Several generations back, almost every family had a home vegetable garden. The primary reason for growing vegetables 50 years ago was to supplement the family diet with fresh, wholesome vegetables that were available in season or as canned or preserved products at later times. Today, comparatively few families have vegetable gardens but the reasons for having one are basically the same.

The typical grocery store in 1950 had some very basic choices when it came to available items. Along with sugar, flour, coffee, meal and canned goods, lucky shoppers could also purchase ice cream, soft drinks and fresh meat. The produce section contained onions, potatoes, rutabagas and occasionally exotic items such as bananas and oranges. Locally grown produce was available in season and there were very few frozen items.

Today, the households that still regularly cook have an astounding variety of choices when it comes to selection at the grocery store. There are kiwifruit from New Zealand, grapes from Chile and California, lettuce from Arizona and tomatoes from Mexico. Not only is the variety amazing, you don't even have to cut up you own salad or peel your own potatoes now. Saving someone 30 minutes a day has become the best way to market vegetables, and other goods and services for that matter.

With all the variety and convenience that the modern supermarket offers, it is still pretty difficult to get good tomatoes, pole beans or fresh okra without growing it yourself. Because of this and perhaps other reasons, some folks still enjoy preparing the soil and dropping a few seed in the ground in the spring. A co-worker some time back would plant his garden in the spring and spend time each morning walking the rows while he drank his coffee and prepared for the day at his job. He came back home in the afternoon and worked in that garden before evening. He used it as a stress management tool which is as good a reason as any for growing a garden.

 Some families today have concerns about food safety and grow organic produce. Regardless of their concerns, there is something to be said about knowing where your food comes from. The late Atlanta Journal columnist Lewis Grizzard wrote that a true Southerner "knows that a tomato ain't any good unless it is grown the same dirt they walk in".

Other families have saved seed from certain vegetables and have passed them down thru generations of family gardeners. There are several folks in Alabama that have a particular pole bean, okra or watermelon that have been in the family for over 80 years or more. This is a particularly strong incentive to plant a vegetable garden.

Children are particularly fond of melons, squash or pumpkins. If you want to get your child interested in growing vegetables, plant a few hills of these cucurbits. There are giant pumpkins that can weigh over 100 pounds if given proper care. However, don't plant pumpkins too early. If you want to grow pumpkins and have them ready for October, you need to wait until late June or early July to plant them.

Squash, cantaloupe and watermelon do better with an earlier spring planting time.

There also seems to be a small shadowy group of subversive gardeners who try and outdo each other by seeing who can grow the hottest pepper. There are some favorites such as jalapeno, cayenne and Tabasco, but almost all bets were called off when the habanero or the bhut jolokia that that came out a few years ago. There are several different varieties of hot pepper.

Whatever you grow, keeping a vegetable garden is a lot of work, but very rewarding.

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