Va. pumpkin growers see more disease as season progresses
RINER, Va. (Sept. 12, 2017) — “Disease is really beginning to ‘pop’ up,” Dr. R. Allen Straw said during the Virginia Pumpkin Growers Association Aug. 27 here. “There are a few reports of Downy mildew.”
Several reports of Plectosporium blight have been identified from Kentucky to Tennessee to North Carolina to various areas of the Commonwealth.
Straw said Eastern Virginia is seeing significant Phytophthora along with Fusarium Foot Root.
Straw led a tour of the Brann and King Farm here, a commercial operation that supplies Wal-Mart stores in the area, and Sinkland, an agritourism farm centered around pumpkin activities.
The tour crossed fields of pumpkins planted by Dan Brann and Chuck King, president of the group, with the three men pointing out both disease and the effects of prolonged dry weather and high temperatures.
Straw discussed in detail the various diseases and the approved chemicals for dealing with them and answered questions from the pumpkin growers attending the session.
Attendance was less than usual as producers were said to be working in fields even on Sunday afternoon harvesting other produce or preparing to cut pumpkins that have matured early due to the unusual weather, especially the heat.
Brann said that his pumpkins are small and did not put out the usual vines due to a very dry summer in a small part of Montgomery County, Va. where he is located. He had installed trickle irrigation and gives this new resource the credit for having a crop that will fill his orders.
Brann and King use no-till into a rye mulch to grow their pumpkins. King said he is a fan of strip tilling and wants to try more of it rather than just no till. In strip till, one or two rows are tilled at intervals across a field.
At Sinkland, the situation is different as everything is geared to the Fall Festivals in October leading up to Halloween. Brann said he does the farming for this neighbor, Susan Sink, and planted her pumpkins several weeks later than his.
This is also a no-till operation but the pumpkins were planted into an oat mulch this year. Sink said 90 percent of her pumpkins are sold retail.
In addition to the weekend fall festivals throughout October she welcomes school field trips. This is a way of teaching children about agriculture. Each child gets to take home a small pumpkin from the farm.
She said she does supply pumpkins to four Kroger stores in the area.
Her festivals include a corn maze, hay rides and chances for visitors to choose and pick their own pumpkin.
She operates a small store on site during the season.
Sinkland has also become a venue for various entertainments in a converted dairy barn.
It is also a popular spot for weddings.
While Sink reports her pumpkin business ends with Halloween, the national press is reporting demand for pumpkins later in the field is growing.
On Aug. 25 Tom Burfield reported in the Produce Retailer that pumpkins now range from decoration to delicacy.
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