Getting To The Root

Experts Address Produce Problems, Solutions

Posted: November 20, 2012

Nearly 60 Virginia farmers assembled Nov. 13 in Bridgewater’s Houff Community Center to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to vegetable production. (Photo by Candace Sipos)
Steve Rideout of Virginia Tech listens to an audience member’s question Nov. 13 during a gathering at Bridgewater’s Houff Community Center (Photo by Candace Sipos)

BRIDGEWATER — About 60 farmers from across the state gathered in Bridgewater’s Houff Community Center on Nov. 13 to compare notes on vegetable production issues and successes.

The group heard from Virginia’s top-rated horticulture experts, including Janet Spencer, Tom Stanley and Amber Vallotton from Virginia Cooperative Extension and Steve Rideout, Allen Straw and Joyce Latimer from Virginia Tech.

The extension puts on a similar vegetable production workshop about once a year, said Vallotton, who works out of the Rockingham County office.

She explained to the crowd the most common horticulture production issues Virginia growers have seen this year, which were mostly related to greenhouse and high tunnel-grown plants.

Tomatoes had an especially difficult growing year compared to other plants. Key issues included Sclerotinia, which causes white mold to grow on stem lesions leaving the tissue hollow. The fruit also experienced late blight and leaf mold.

Field-grown plants had their own problems, such as blight and herbicide injury, particularly in the case of watermelons.

During the event, a panel consisting of experts and some home growers answered audience questions, such as whether antibiotics are effective on vegetable bacterial diseases.

“The [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] is going to be very, very reluctant to allow any more antibiotics to get through,” Rideout warned.
He noted that, along the Eastern shore, about 75 percent of horticulture losses are related to bacterial problems.

“For the rest of the state, it’s probably not that far off,” he said.

Straw listed a few places where local growers can get soil tests, including, of course, Virginia Tech, where commercial growers’ tests are completed free of charge.

“It’s just a matter of what you want to spend and how comfortable you are with the results,” he said.

Experts also addressed disease and insect management, treating seeds with heat and an overview of opportunities to sell produce.

Contact the Rockingham County extension office with any questions or concerns involving the workshop or topics covered at 564-3080.

Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or