High technology greenhouses across Connecticut provide cover for many types of plants. Bedding plants, edibles (vegetable and herb transplants, greenhouse vegetables grown for production), ornamental herbaceous perennials, hemp and poinsettias all grow in greenhouses.
UConn Extension supports the Connecticut greenhouse industry with information and educational programming on sustainable production methods. In Connecticut, the greenhouse industry is a significant part of agriculture. Greenhouse and nursery products are Connecticut’s leading source of agricultural income.
Approximately 300 commercial greenhouse businesses have eight million square feet of production space under cover. In addition, many Connecticut farmers have added greenhouse crops to their businesses to increase income.
UConn Extension offered 111 training sessions to Connecticut wholesale and retail greenhouses with 1,566,088 square feet of intensive greenhouse production and 1,021,000 square feet of outdoor container production in 2019. Diagnostic trouble shooting, grower visits, phone calls, emails and text messages helped growers not participating in the intensive program offered by our UConn Integrated Pest Management (IPM) educators.
One grower stated, “I would like thank you for all the guidance and information that you provided the interns and me this year. I always receive a new piece of information that helps me keep the crops on track for that excellent product.”
Greenhouse production continues to be one of the largest segments of Connecticut agriculture, and the success of the industry helps build the infrastructure that other operations depend on.
Check out this handy pruning guide and refresher from our Sustainable Landscaping and Nursery IPM Educators. This was written for professionals, and is also applicable to home gardeners just getting started with the basics of pruning. It includes links to other resources for continued learning as well!
– Identify the purpose of each pruning job. (Table 2)
– The amount of living plant material that can be re-moved at one time depends on the age and level of establishment of the plant (Table 3).
– Dead, broken, or diseased plant material can be pruned at any time of the year.
– To rejuvenate multi-stemmed shrubs, remove one or more of the oldest stems at the base each year to stimulate new shoots to arise from the base of the plant. Many flowering shrubs bloom more prolifically on younger, 2 to 3-year-old wood. Shrubs that respond well to having some of the 3+ year-old stems removed include forsythia, weigela, deutzia, mock orange and beauty bush.
– Newly established hedges should be pruned early in the growing season to promote the desired growth and density. More established hedges may be kept vigorous and dense by thinning out older branches, which will encourage new growth.”
Farmers of all experience are encouraged to join the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, University of Connecticut, and the American Farmland Trust on Thursday, January 9, 2020 from 9 AM to 1 PM at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon, Connecticut to hear the latest in IPM/biocontrol, soil management, and water programs.
Aaron Ristow of the American Farmland Trust will discuss his findings on the economic and environmental impacts of soil health practices. This is a free program and pesticide credits will be offered.
It is Christmas in July for the greenhouse producers who grow poinsettias. In order to have plants that are blooming for December sales, greenhouses start the process early. Poinsettias require months in the greenhouse before they are ready to be purchased and taken home.
Leanne Pundt, one of our Extension educators was scouting the plants for whitefly immatures at one the Connecticut growers last week and took these photos.
Evan Lentz and Casey Lambert spent the summer of 2018 as undergraduate interns scouting for diseases and insects at vineyards and small fruit farms throughout the state with the iPiPE grant through the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
iPIPE is the Integrated Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education. It’s a weather and pest-tracking tool for growers to use. The program uses technology to categorize endemic pests, users, and data. Extension Educator Mary Concklin has a two-year iPiPe grant.
“We collected information on farms, uploaded it to iPiPE, and shared our results with the growers,” Evan says. “I got to know many of the farmers and
their day-to-day routines. Some of them really cared that we were at the farm, and we were a resource to help with their problems.”
Evan graduated in May of 2019 with a major in Sustainable Plant and Soil Systems, and a minor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He starts graduate school in the fall. “I highly recommend Extension internships to anyone, in any major,” he concludes.
Casey Lambert (’19) and Evan Lentz (’19) won 2ndplace honors for their poster and presentation at the national meeting for the USDA-iPiPE project (Integrated Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education) held in Raleigh, NC February 4-6. Mary Concklin, Fruit Extension Educator, PSLA, is the grant PI. The primary focus of the project was to provide grape pest monitoring and IPM information by working closely with CT grape growers during the 2018 season, uploading the information to the iPiPE website and writing newsletter articles. In addition, they collected and tested plant tissue samples for sap nutrient analysis – a new area of fruit plant nutrition. Another part of their work involved working with blueberry and strawberry growers to validate 4 pest models for the NEWA system (Network for Environment and Weather Applications) located at Cornell. These includedstrawberry Botrytis and anthracnose models which would alert when the risk of infection during bloom and fruit ripening by the pathogen is either low (none), moderate or high; the blueberry maggot degree day model alerts when to hang traps to monitor adult emergence; and the cranberry fruitworm degree day model is used to predict the onset and end of egg laying and to time blueberry fruit protection with insecticides that are low risk to pollinators.
Each year, UConn Extension Educator Jude Boucher helps commercial vegetable growers find sustainable solutions to pest problems. The program emphasizes healthy soils, balanced plant nutrition, proper pest and beneficial identification, scouting and monitoring techniques, preventative management strategies, reduced-risk pesticide selection application, and resistance management.
Farmers apply to become part of the program, as space is limited to 12 farms per year. Those accepted into the program receive weekly, or every-other week farm visits from Jude, as he provides education and guidance for the specific challenges the farm is facing. This year’s farmers are from 9 different towns, with operations varying from 2 to 120 acres of vegetables, with over 40 different vegetable crops being grown.
“This group were all so young,” Jude says, “they gave me confidence that we do have some talented young farmers getting into the business and willing and able to take over for the next generation.”
It may not be the Olympics, but we’ve been busy with Brazil too. Last week, Leanne Pundt visited Geremia’s Greenhouses in Wallingford to help train their interns on how to identify and monitor for insects on their yellow sticky cards. The interns are all from Brazil and part of The Ohio Program, an International Exchange Program of The Ohio State University specializing in Internships for Horticulture, Agriculture and Turf Grass.
Yellow sticky cards are used in greenhouses to monitor for winged insect pests such as whiteflies, thrips, fungus gnats, aphids, shore flies, and leafminers and leafhoppers. Growers can look at trends and see if insect populations are increasing or decreasing to determine if they need to treat and how well their management strategies are working. For more see: Identifying Some Pest and Beneficial Insects on Your Sticky Cards http://ipm.uconn.edu/documents/view.php?id=888
Interns were: Giovane Giorgetti, Thales Fogagnoli, and Paulo Boaretto (holding the reference book).
The name Jude Boucher is synonymous with vegetable production in Connecticut. Since joining UConn Extension in 1986, Jude has made a profound impact on the industry as the Extension Educator for vegetable crops Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Jude received his bachelor’s degree in Entomology from the University of New Hampshire, his masters in Entomology from Virginia Tech, and then earned his Ph.D. at UConn in Plant Science.
Jude provides cutting-edge solutions to growers on pest management and crop production problems, keeping them competitive on the local, regional, and national level. “Educating farmers in sustainable, profitable and environmentally-sound food production practices benefits every man, woman and child in the country directly, on a daily basis, by helping to maintain a safe and secure food source. Knowledge of effective IPM practices helps prevent excess application of pesticides by otherwise frustrated growers,” he says.
Jude has a multi-faceted approach to his Extension education program that allows him to reach a vast number of growers, not only in Connecticut, but, throughout the Northeast. During the growing season, he works with numerous farms to improve their business and address crop issues as they arise. From conventional to organic farms, new farmers to experienced farmers; Jude works with everyone and improves their economic viability and production. In 2015, he worked with 18 farmers one-on-one throughout the state on a weekly or every other week basis.
As the co-editor of Crop Talk, a quarterly newsletter on vegetables and small fruit, science-based updates reach a circulation of approximately 1,000 people. Crop Talk provides growers with a calendar of upcoming events and workshops, and articles on cutting-edge production practices. Each year, Jude co-chairs the Connecticut Vegetable and Small Fruit Growers’ Conference in January. The conference is widely attended, with over 300 people and 30 exhibitors. He has served on the steering committee for the three-day New England Vegetable and Small Fruit Conference and Trade Show for many years, and as General Chairman from 2013-2016. This biennial conference has outgrown its location twice, and has a reputation as the conference to attend throughout the Northeast, with up to 1,800 attendees.
A weekly pest message is produced and emailed to his list serve, posted on the IPM website, or recorded as a message farmers can call in and listen to. In 2014, Jude was unable to get into the fields to gather crop scouting and monitoring data to share with the hundreds of growers who depend on the pest messages because of a late-season ski accident. His message became reports from the farm, with over 25 of his previously trained IPM farmers contributing throughout the summer.
Jude adopted a hybrid to this plan in 2015, which included his own scouting reports as well as those from his trained farmers. The weekly pest message now includes more photographs, equipment for small farms, trellis systems, and high tunnel production systems.
Diversifying a Traditional Farm
Jude has assisted Fair Weather Acres in Rocky Hill in diversifying and building resiliency to the challenges Mother Nature provided. The farm is over 800 acres along the Connecticut River. Jude advised Billy and Michele Collins on ways to diversify their marketing efforts and the number of crops they grow, after flooding from Hurricane Irene in 2011 washed away much of the crops, and left the farm in debt.
Originally, the farm received IPM training on three crops: beans, sweet corn, and peppers. With diversification, Billy began producing 55 different varieties of vegetables. Jude taught him pest management for his new crops, and the Collins hired an Extension-trained private consultant to help monitor and scout pests and implement new pest management techniques.
“I encouraged and advised Michele on how to develop a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) venture on their farm and introduced the couple to other successful CSA farm operators for additional consultations,” Jude says. “Michele started the CSA with 120 members in 2012, and – through a variety of methods – has exceeded 400 CSA shares, and expects to reach 500 summer shares in 2016. In 2013, they started offering separate fall CSA shares to their customers, and that now has over 400 members.”
Michele and Billy give back to Extension by speaking at state and regional conferences, and by hosting twilight meetings, research plots on their farm, and UConn student tours.
“Jude has been an integral part of the growth and diversification of our farm. His extensive knowledge and passion for agriculture, coupled with his love of people and farmers in particular, make him an unrivaled asset to Connecticut agriculture,” Michele says. “Jude has taught us, advised us, and offered us unlimited guidance in many areas including IPM, alternative farming concepts, marketing, and agribusiness just to name a few. Without Jude’s support and encouragement through our difficult years after the storm, we would not have such a positive outlook on the future of our business. We hope Jude will continue to offer his exceptional assistance for years to come.”
Building a New Farm
Oxen Hill Farm is a family enterprise in West Suffield that began when the Griffin family inherited an idle hay and pasture farm with the intent of creating an organic vegetable and cut flower farm.
“Besides small-scale home vegetable and flower gardens, they had no experience operating a commercial vegetable and cut-flower business,” Jude says. “They signed up for training with me, and the first year, 2009, started with an acre of organic vegetables and cut flowers.”
A deluge of rain during June and July taught the family many hard lessons about late blight on tomatoes and wet season pests, but they also effectively combatted weeds without herbicides, improved strategies to market their produce, and developed techniques to preserve produce with proper sanitation and post-harvest handling.
“Despite the challenges of their first year, they expanded their business in 2010, growing from 36 CSA members to over 150,” Jude continues. “They also enlarged their acreage onto their parents’ home farm, to almost 20 acres of crops, and learned to grow everything from artichokes to zucchini. They learned how to prevent or combat caterpillars on their broccoli, leafhoppers on their beans and potatoes, blights on their tomatoes, and many other pests that all wanted a share of their crops.”
The farm is entering its fifth year of USDA Organic Certification through the Baystate Certifiers, and has expanded to over 120 acres, residing at the home farm and land purchased in 2014. The cut flower business remains at the inherited farm, and also caters to weddings, floral arrangements and retail sales.
Finding a Better Way
Nelson Cecarelli of Cecarelli Farm in Northford and Wallingford contacted Jude for advice on transitioning to deep zone tillage (DZT) after multiple severe rainstorms in 2006 left 4-foot deep erosion ditches in his sweet corn fields. Jude, Nelson, and Tom Scott – of Scott’s Yankee Farms in East Lyme – researched the options, and co-wrote a pair of grants to document the benefits and problems of using DZT versus conventional field preparation.
“DZT allows a grower to prepare a narrow seedbed, only inches wide, rather than exposing the surface of the whole field to wind and rain,” Jude explains. “Farms can also till deeply, right under the crop row to loosen any hardpan that has formed after years of using a plow and harrow. This allows the soil to absorb and retain more water and allows the plants to extend their roots deeper into the soil. The system also improves soil quality over time.”
Jude organized conferences, workshops and twilight meetings on DZT and published many articles and fact sheets to help growers get started with this form of reduced tillage. The three of them have made presentations at various state and regional workshops and Nelson and Tom have both continued to seek ways to improve their farms, and worked with Jude to mentor other farmers on DZT. There are now Extension programs in every New England state advocating the use of DZT, and over 45 growers in the region have switched to DZT.
Although the grant has ended, Jude and Nelson are researching soil quality in DZT fields. Jude continues working with different farmers on IPM, bringing economic viability to farms throughout the state, and securing the future of our local food systems
Another great annual conference is in the books for UConn Extension and the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station. 266 growers, agricultural exhibitors, and educators came together Monday January 11th at Maneely’s in South Windsor for a session filled with valuable information in which growers will take back and apply to their operations.
Topics covered included how to comply with labor laws, heat treating seeds for disease management, the effects of environmental extremes on crop physiology, weed management in berries, irrigation, how to grow for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). The crowd was also given some great updates on risk management and crop disaster assistance programs from USDA-Farm Service Agency given by Bryan Hurlburt, grant opportunities from the Department of Agriculture given by Commissioner Reviczky, Worker Protection Standards given by Candace Bartholomew of UConn Extension, and updates on the Food Safety Modernization Act given by Diane Hirsch, also from UConn Extension. The growers who were licensed Pesticide Applicators received 3.5 pesticide credit hours from this event.
Not only were the talks great but so was the tradeshow. Coming from all New England states, New York, and Ohio 43 exhibitors represented 26 organizations. These ranged from seed companies to agricultural service providers as well as the UConn publications stand where growers could purchase beneficial publications such as the “2016-2017 New England Vegetable Management Guide”.
The crowd also enjoyed a delicious locally sourced lunch on Monday. Locally grown and made products were provided for the conference from 8 businesses in Connecticut. The conference received outstanding ratings and positive feedback through the evaluations where 95% of the recipients rated the program as “excellent” or “good”.