In our last blog post on the New Family Farm, Natalie Hernandez explained that there are many different aphid species that can pose a major threat to seed potato farmers as carriers of Potato virus Y (PVY) – a serious concern for seed producers. In this follow up story, we will see how one of those aphid species—the soybean aphid, an accidentally-introduced pest from the Far East—is linked to two other deliberately-introduced invasive species, common buckthorn and the Asian lady beetle, which have each emerged as serious pests in their own right.
It all began with common buckthorn, a fast-growing shrub that was brought to the US from Europe in the early 1900s to use as a windbreak plant to reduce soil erosion in Midwestern farm fields. It did a poor job as a windbreak but survived and flourished in southern Wisconsin and Michigan where it has become a serious threat to woodlots because it outcompetes natural vegetation. (more…)
Late blight caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s.
This disease and its related problems caused massive hunger, starvation and poverty, resulting in mass emigration from the region. This disease is still a concern today.
The fungus which caused the Irish potato famine is still active today. It was identified in Portage County just last week. It can cause serious problems for potato, tomato, eggplants and other solanaceous crops today. Phytophthora infestans (“infests”) is the cause of potato late blight. It is a fast moving, community disease that growers, home gardeners and garden center managers must take seriously and properly manage to ensure a healthy, adequate food supply.
There are many concerns for Wisconsin vegetable growers every year whether farmer or home gardener. Weather, growth problems, pests, water, market demand—but one pest problem, foliar or leaf blight, is especially challenging. This can commonly attack tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and cucumbers. These diseases cause perfectly healthy appearing green plants to break out in brown spots, turn yellow and die prematurely. Many home gardeners run to their local garden center for a remedy. But by the time leaves begin to yellow and the brown spots appear the disease may have progressed to a point where there is no stopping it.
On the farm, vegetable growers face the same threat from foliar blights every year. Potato and vegetable growers in Wisconsin have worked closely with University of Wisconsin researchers for decades, to understand the science behind that makes these blights tick. Through research, we have developed and implemented innovative disease management strategies to both avoid and combat plant disease problems. (more…)
Wisconsin’s Central Sands provides a great diversity of food crops. It is one of our country’s most important vegetable production areas, and also one of our most diverse. Our farmers do grow USDA program crops like field corn and soybeans, but the Central Sands acreage is overwhelmed by a broad mixture of vegetables and specialty crops. We grow potatoes of all kinds—russets for baking and fries, reds and yellows for salads and many other purposes (yes baking too), round whites for chips, even sweet potatoes are grown in the Central Sands. Sweet corn, green beans, peas, carrots, peppers, cucumbers and beets dot the landscape. Most of our vegetable crops are bound for processing plants (canned and frozen) within Wisconsin then distributed across the US and to other countries around the globe. Fresh vegetables are also available to you at local farmer markets and grocery stores. We are working on expanding this area of production as the market calls for them. This crop diversity provides consumers everything from crunchy pickles and spicy relish, cranberry sauces and juices to fresh table potatoes for every meal event, locally grown in Central Wisconsin. Did you know that Wisconsin is also the nation’s largest supplier of cranberries? (more…)
Today is Earth Day when nature is awakening and signs of spring abound. Flowers are opening across the landscape and soon the countryside will be resplendent with fruit trees in full bloom. We enjoy the profusion of scents and colors but rarely do we ponder why they exist. If you stand in an orchard or watch a patch of roadside flowers on a quiet afternoon, you will soon discover the answer. You will hear a soft buzz and see small insects of all shapes and sizes flitting between blossoms on their endless quest for nectar and pollen to feed their young. As they are doing this, they are at the same time performing a vital service to the plants by moving pollen between flowers and making it possible for fruit and seeds to form. When they do this, they are generally referred to as “pollinators.”
Lately in the news, there have been lots of stories about the importance of pollinators, namely bees. But why is this such a hot topic today? Well, the bees (as well as of the other pollinators) are vital to our food systems. However, the honey bee that has been historically used by farmers to pollinate their crops is under threat from a pervasive malady called Colony Collapse Disorder. (more…)
The harvest season is now in full swing in Wisconsin’s Central Sands. Potatoes, sweet corn, green beans, carrots, cucumbers and beets are rolling up the harvester chains and into trucks for the short journey to Wisconsin’s processing and distribution centers and then onward to consumers across the US and beyond. Another record season seems within reach in 2013 thanks to the ingenuity and hard work of the farmers—and with some help from generous early season rains! With some Central Sands potato growers surpassing 30 tons per acre (that’s more than 3,000 ten pound bags per acre), increased productivity has held overall production close to that achieved a decade ago when 28% more acres of potatoes were grown. (more…)