Monday, July 29, 2019

European Corn Borer - Scouting & Monitoring

Adult European Corn Borers; Credit: University of Missouri
Since its introduction to the United States, the European Corn Borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) has gradually become a damaging pest to corn and other commercially valuable crops. They range from having 1-4 generations per year, which is heavily influenced by in-season weather and native predators/parasites. As the borers hatch out they feed on whorls and emerging tassels until those tassels open up. Once this occurs they proceed downward and, like their name suggests, bore into stalks eventually making their way to the ears through the side, base or tip.

There are two strains identified: New York (Z) and Iowa Strain (E). Each are present at varying levels in different areas, but it is not uncommon to have one or the other. Since corn borer larvae reside in stalks and other plant matter, they are highly adapted to overwinter in cold climates. Due to their preference for monocultured areas common in commercial cultivation, these borers present growers with a number of difficult tasks to achieve control. We will cover the first step growers should take here – trapping & monitoring.

European Corn Borer Larva; Credit: University of Missouri
Trapping needs to be done early in the season beginning prior to the first flight of adult moths. First flight will occur once temperatures warm in spring, but varies quite a bit from location to location. Thankfully, many agricultural extensions keep tabs on corn borer distribution, emergence time and population estimates where they have been identified. These extensions also track the strain(s) of corn borers present in your locale as well as generalized ratios that they are present in. For these reasons, it is highly recommended to consult with your local extension before the growing season starts.

Once you have done so, placement of pheromone baited traps is important to stay ahead of the borer population. If it is confirmed that both the New York and Iowa strains are present, two separate traps should be used. Bait one with a lure for the New York strain and the other with a lure for the Iowa strain. Place these traps at least 50 feet apart on the borders of corn fields or edges of the growing area. Traps should be placed so that the trap bottoms remain around the height of any weeds or other plants in the border area. Population estimates can be made based on the quantities captured, but scouting does not end then.

Scentry Wing Trap
Once trapped adults are spotted, scouting should be done weekly by tassel inspection of 50-100 plants in groups of 10. Keep a sharp eye out for any larvae, new feeding damage or frass. If corn is in the whorl stage, simply pull the developing tassel out and inspect it for larvae and frass. If tassels have already emerged, scouting can be done without removing the tassel. These weekly scouting ventures allow you to make timely decisions on pesticide usage to maximize their effectiveness and minimize costs in both controls and yield losses. Generally, if greater than 15% of plants in the area have larvae present a spray should be applied.

For additional information and control options for European Corn Borer control, visit our website at

Friday, July 26, 2019

A River's Story

A brown-grey river running between green banks and trees
The Santa Cruz River 2019
Many of the great cities of the world (London, New York, Paris) have rivers that run through them and are the throbbing hearts of their existence. Here in Tucson we also have a river, the Santa Cruz, which holds enormous historical, cultural, environmental and identity value to Southern Arizona. However, its heartbeat is erratic at best. Some of the reasons for this are natural, while others echo problems that rivers face around the globe: overuse and a changing environment. The Santa Cruz also has to deal with the Mexico-US border, a man-made obstacle that our little river has to contend with just like its monster-sized, better known neighbors to the east and west – the Rio Grande and the Colorado rivers.

Quirky is an excellent adjective to use when describing the Santa Cruz. It is certainly fitting when one looks at how and where it flows during its 184 mile journey. It starts in southeastern Arizona and heads south into modern-day Mexico. Once there, it ambles around for about 12 miles and then makes a U-turn and heads north and back into the US. This route is one that many Americans generally take (go to Mexico, wander around and come right back), but it is unusual for a river. There are very few rivers that make a south to north U-turn and the Santa Cruz is the only river in the US to cross the international border twice. Here is a map that shows what it’s doing around the border.

An old black & white picture of a man standing by an old Hohokam canal. Photo from AZ Historical Society 1907
A Hohokam canal incorporated into a "new" canal in 1907.
Tucson is one of the longest continually inhabited places in North America and, like other riverside cities and towns, it was the river that drew them here and nourished them. The Hohokam were here 4,000 years before any Europeans and built massive and sophisticated irrigation systems to harness the water of the Santa Cruz. Sometime between 1350 and 1450, the archaeological record of the Hohokam disappears; but their waterworks lived on and were cleaned out and used by others for hundreds of years. The Tohono O’Odham of today are their descendants and they carry on the traditional stewardship of the land and water.

White and tan Spanish mission church- San Xavier, Tucson, AZ
The White Dove of the Desert
Starting in the first half of the 16th century, Spanish Conquistadors began marching around Arizona looking for lost cities of gold and other treasures. None of them stuck around, though; the landscape and natives being equally unfamiliar and hostile to them. It wasn’t until the last decade of the 1600s that an outsider came to stay, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino. He established missions in the native settlements along the Santa Cruz at Tumac├ícori and San Xavier del Bac. The church at San Xavier was not completed until after Father Kino’s death but it stands as a breathtaking tribute to those who founded, worked and still work the mission. While the Tumac├ícori is now a national park, San Xavier remains a greatly treasured and carefully guarded part of everyday Tohono O’odham life.

And now back to the quirky factor: how Tucson was “founded” by an Irishman. In 1775, a Dublin-born man named Hugh O’Conor rode into town. A Colonel in the Spanish army, Hugh was tasked with finding a suitable spot for a new outpost. He chose a spot under Sentinel Peak that native people had inhabited for 1,000s of years and declared they would build a presidio there. They did and the walls are still there - smack dab in the middle of downtown Tucson, which has made for some interesting time juxtaposition moments when researchers dig among office workers. His original proclamation still resides at the National Archives of Mexico.

Old black and white picture of two houses by a lake. AZ Historical Society 1888
Silver Lake, Tucson 1888
Fast forward to the 1850s, when yet another set of newcomers decided to claim and change the habitat around the Santa Cruz. Virginians William and Alfred Rowlett build a dam downstream from Sentinel Peak. Known as Silver Lake, by the 1880s, this lake covered several acres and hosted numerous cultural and recreational activities. The family type entertainment value began to wane toward the end of the decade as a rougher element began to move in - this was, after all, the height of the cowboy-gunslinger era in the Southwest. A series of floods had damaged and, then completely wiped out, the dam by 1900. Today, on the corner of Silverlake and Mission roads, you can find the Pima County Jail.

A sandy-colored dry riverbed dotted with small green bushes. 
An empty Santa Cruz
A large, black mushroom shaped cloud dumping water on an AZ city. Monsoon 7-17-14. Photo by L. Markley
Not a nuclear explosion, just a monsoon in AZ
The turn of the century also meant a turn in the health of the Santa Cruz. By the 1940s, it had run dry due to overuse and, after that, the only time people would see water in it was during our monsoons. Summer monsoons and the floods that come with them have always been a necessary and normal part of the life of the river. But, as more water has been diverted from it and natural drainage systems paved over, water has become a damaging force for the infrastructure of the river itself and the land and people around it. Water comes down hard, fills up the river quickly and drains out just as quickly. In between the coming down and draining out, a lot of damage can be done.

Black and white photo of 3 people standing by a guardrail looking at a raging river. Tucson, October 1983 
Tucson, October 1983
During the floods of 1983, a result  of Tropical Storm Octave, the Santa Cruz experienced the highest crest ever recorded. The sheer volume and power of the water caused 2-3 foot waves on the surface and splashed over bridges as it roiled by. Often called the “100-year flood”, this episode opened many people’s eyes to the fact that the dry riverbed they had become used to was in fact a dangerous river.

 As demands on the river and climate change have kept the Santa Cruz dry, many people have fought valiantly to get the river and its ecosystem up and running again. Organizations such as The Sonoran Institute (who ARBICO donates to and supports), Friends of the Santa Cruz and The Santa Cruz River Heritage Project have made real progress. In June of this year, in a part of the river, water began flowing again – for the first time in 70 years. Fish (including the newly-released endangered Gila topminnow) and other wildlife are now beginning to thrive in the river. There is a long way to go to bring back the past glory of the Santa Cruz, and it is probably not reasonable to expect that. But, our beloved river is still there and it looks like it will be beyond our lifetimes.

Submitted by Pam

Friday, July 19, 2019

Man, It’s Stupid Hot Out There!

Silhouettes of high-rises against an yellow, orange and red sky with a big, white sphere
No matter where you stand in the climate change conversation, it is undeniably HOT out there these days – outrageously, hellishly, suffocatingly hot! 200 million Americans are currently experiencing record-breaking heat, with many places expected to reach temperatures higher than those we’ll have here in Arizona. And don’t give me the “it’s a dry heat” refrain, an oven is also a dry heat. I have lived in places with high humidity and know how debilitating it can be and most of the places dealing with this heat wave will also have that humidity. The combination of heat and humidity is just plain miserable.
Moving image of a side view of a woman on pulling on a fence. Both are on fire.
Never touch metal that's been in direct sunlight.

We Arizonans take pride in our ability to muddle through our summers. Most of us accept the heat as payment for having such mild winters. There are many strategies to get through, but when asked how one copes, my favorite response is “Live like a desert creature”. Simply put, avoid the sun at all costs, don’t over exert yourself and drink plenty of water. Seeking shade is a competitive sport around here in the hottest months; I’ve seen groups of people clumped together under the thin strip of shade a telephone pole offers.Even local reptiles know this game. Having said all that, many (probably most) Arizonans, myself included, are lucky enough to travel from air-conditioned homes in our air-conditioned cars to other air-conditioned locations. But, getting to that car in the parking lot and getting it cooled down can be pretty gnarly!

Three people in the water wearing masks that cover their whole faces and suits that completely cover their bodies. 
"Facekinis" in China - not creepy at all. 
People can wear lighter clothing (or add questionable sun protection like the image on the left) and adjust their routines in answer to excessive heat, but what is a  plant to do? The higher the temperatures, the more need for water; finding ways to stretch your water is key. In Arizona, Xeriscaping has long been a widely appreciated model for growing. With its emphasis   on water conservation, mulching and using heat   tolerant plants, it is an ideal solution for areas like   ours that experience heat and drought.The elimination or reduction of turf is also a key factor in Xeriscapes. Many people around the country still love their lawns, but in cities like ours where water is at a premium they have become less socially acceptable. I encourage every reader to reconsider their lawn and either eliminate or reduce them; it is a small but important way to serve the environment.

A backyard with a black fountain left front and plants and stepping stones leading to a small table in the rear
Backyard Xeriscape, Tucson, AZ
Adopting a Xeriscape approach to landscapes and gardening takes some planning ahead. This works well in Arizona because we always know it will be hot and dry. With current climate conditions being what they are, excessive heat and/or drought is a reality now for non-desert parts of our nation and, if you want to grow something, planning ahead is for everyone. Here are some ways you can build a heat tolerant green space; some take planning, but others offer heat help right away:

Soil Amendments – Building a soil that holds and properly distributes water and water-borne nutrients to plants is a solid foundation that gives plants the tools to fight the heat. You can chose something like Earthshine, a soil enhancer mix that contains biochar and other beneficial additives. Or a powder like Harvest Gold Organics Premium Soil Conditioner, which contains silica and micronutrients. Or even a single ingredient additive like the Elemite, also known as ARBICO Organics™ Soil Replenish™. Another (very affordable!) option is ARBICO Organics™ Rice Hulls. The bottom line is that any type of high quality soil amendment will bring you healthier soil, which means healthier plants that can better handle heat and drought stressors.

A close-up of a brown and black snail amongst white flowers. Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on UnsplashComposting & Mulching – You can increase your soil’s water holding capacity by up to 7 times by simply adding compost. You can use ready-to-go compost or begin making your own; we have options for you here. Mulch, mulch, mulch – in any form, by any name, just do it! Mulching options are many: coco coir like Prococo Coconut Coir, Hulless Oats and other cover crops and biodegradable weed block paper, which provides weed control as well as mulch. Another interesting option is Slug Gone. This sustainable slug (and snail) control product is made from wool and is placed in and around garden beds. It will swell from the moisture and make a scratchy mat that slugs will refuse to cross. In performing its slug control duty, it also retains moisture and reduces water usage.
A solitary Yucca plant with a tall stalk in lots of white sand under a blue and white sky. Photo by Josh Rangel on Unsplash
Yucca in its native environment

Adjuvants – Another way to protect plants from heat stressors is to add adjuvants to their water. Yucca (Yucca schidigera) is a desert native and knows all the tricks to survive in such a harsh environment. Adjuvants like RAW Yucca Flow and Therm X-70 that use extracts from these plants deliver the secrets of the Yucca plant to your backyard. You can give your plants immediate heat relief by adding these adjuvants right away.

Covers – Use covers to protect your plants from the pounding sun. Here are many versions to choose from, or create your own. Here is a video to show you how.

Containers – Consider moving plants from beds to containers. Container planting makes water conservation easier and gives you the ability to move plants in and out of the sun.

Looking into the sun through bent-over sunflower stalks.Photo by Josh Rangel on Unsplash
Embrace heat-loving plants – Seek out and cultivate plants that are well adapted to hot weather. Here are some great heat-friendly plants that you are probably familiar with:
Sunflowers – with a name like that…
Amaranth - pretty – and you can eat it!
Echinacea – beloved by pollinators – and check out these cute earrings
Yarrow - native to temperate North America

Pink and white Yarrow flowers on tall green stalks.
Yarrow blooms
Unless you live in the far northern regions of our country, you may be surprised to find there are native summer species waiting to be loved. Here in the Tucson, we have a fabulous source for desert-adapted native and heirloom plants thanks to Native Seeds/SEARCH. They have a remarkable variety of interesting seeds and stories that go with them.

Stay cool out there.
                                                                                                                         Submitted by Pam

Thursday, July 11, 2019

5 Biofungicides to Look Out For

Summer can be a hectic time for gardeners and farmers alike. The hottest months of the year bring about unique challenges and hurdles that can significantly influence the trajectory of a grow. Among these are seasonal pest problems, disease issues and of course – heat stress. In fact, the heat will be the catalyst for many pest and disease problems in these months. While there is little that can be done about the heat, knowing your garden and some steps you can take to reduce plant stress from the other two factors can be the difference between a successful or unsuccessful crop.

Today we’ll cover a few broad-spectrum, OMRI listed fungicides from the next generation of disease control that provide added benefits to the plants during these tough few months.

Cease Biological Fungicide

Cease uses a bacteria called Bacillus subtilis (also called Hay Bacillus) to combat disease and stimulate plant immune responses, which furthers a plant’s ability to maintain growth and health while fighting disease. Like most organic fungicides, Cease is best used early in the growing season as a preventive treatment. It will remain effective once disease symptoms have set in; however, it may only suppress certain diseases at that point. 

Bacillus subtilis stimulates induced systemic resistance (ISR) within plants. In short, this process allows the plant to respond to and resist pathogens more readily and successfully. 

Controls/Suppresses: Anthracnose, Black Spot of Roses, Botrytis, Downy Mildew, Fusarium, Leaf Spot (several species), Powdery Mildew, Phytophthora, Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Rust and Scab

Companion Biological Fungicide

Companion is proven effective for prevention, control and suppression of both soil and foliar diseases in organic production. It uses Bacillus subtilis like Cease, although it contains a different strain and is sold primarily for agricultural use. It works similarly in that it competes with plant pathogens and stimulates ISR to improve the plant’s own defenses. Additionaly, the systemic response has been helpful in reducing transplant shock and stimulating root growth.

Controls/Suppresses: Botrytis, Powdery Mildew, Fusarium, Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Xanthomonas, and many other diseases.

Prestop WG

Prestop contains another naturally occurring microbe – Gliocladium catenulatum – to control plant diseases in three ways. It aggressively parasitizes pathogens, out-competes the pathogens in their own environment and inhibits further disease growth. This three pronged mode of action allows Prestop to maintain its effectiveness on foliar and root-borne diseases throughout the growing season. 

Controls/Suppresses: Alternaria, Bipolaris, Botrytis, Cladosporium, Colletotrichum, Fusarium, Mycosphaerella, Penicillium, Phytophthora, Plasmodiophora, Plicaria, Powdery Mildew, Pyrenochaeta, Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Sclerotinia and Verticillium

Mycostop Biofungicide

Similar to Prestop, Mycostop utilizes a three way mode of action (colonizes, parasitizes & stimulates plant defenses) to control soil-borne diseases. It has become an industry favorite for nurseries because of its effectiveness controlling damping off, wilt and other diseases common during propagation. When used early in the growing cycle, the Streptomyces strain in Mycostop fills out the areas where a pathogen could grow and cause issues. This pairing with the root system forms a biological barrier impermeable to disease cells. 

Controls/Suppresses: Seed Rot, Root and Stem Rot and Wilt caused by Fusarium, Alternaria and Phomopsis; Botrytis Gray Mold and Root Rots of Pythium, Phytophthora and Rhizoctonia; Seed or Soil-Borne Damping Off and Early Root Rot of vegetables, herbs and ornamentals

Regalia Biofungicide

Regalia may well be the king in the disease control castle at the moment. Its versatility in usage allows growers flexibility when applying it without sacrificing results. Once applied, Regalia triggers the plant’s ISR causing it to produce higher levels of specific proteins and growth inhibitors. These compounds prevent diseases from growing on or around the plant and end up increasing cell wall strength. This combination of effects leads to healthier growth, a cleaner growing area and increased yields. It can be used throughout the growing season and works best preventively before disease symptoms arise. 

Controls/Suppresses: Powdery Mildew, Fusarium, Early Blight, Shot Hole (aka Coryneum blight), Rhizoctonia spp., Brown Rot, Anthracnose, Bacterial Canker, Downey Mildew, Botrytis Neck Rot, Pythium spp., Rust, Stem Rot, Black Spot, Greasy Spot, Bacterial Spot, Phytophthora spp., White Mold, Fire Blight and more.

If you have questions about what was covered or further disease control options, we encourage you to call or email us so we can discuss it further. Our sales and technical support staff are available from 8 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Woo Hoo! It's the 4th of July!

A young blond man with an American flag cape skateboarding along a cement boardwalk by the sea. Photo by Nathan Dumlao on UnsplashLet's face it, when it comes to 4th of July celebrations, they are much more about fun, food and fireworks than about celebrating our independence from England. And that's okay. I think the Founding Fathers would be pleased to know that we have developed our own traditions and that England is no longer a part of our national consciousness. However, some of the traditions we have created would no doubt be bewildering to those men. Quirkiness and excess are inherent in many traditions that modern America has fully embraced and both of these are on full display for the 4th.

A fireworks display in shades of pink and purple in the harbor of Sydney, Australia. There are black silhouettes of small boars  and the Opera House and bridge in the background.
Celebrating Australia Day in Sydney, Australia
When we think 4th of July excess, fireworks quickly come to mind. While we have magnificent displays across the country, we probably can't claim the worldwide excess crown. In fact, we don't even make the top ten list for explosive records, according to Guinness World Records. Check out their list here and see some spectacular clips from all parts of the world.

A steel barbecue grill with Happy 4th spelled out in buns and hotdogs.It is in the area of food excess that the US shines (for better or worse) and the food put on tables on the 4th easily rivals the celebration of overeating that is Thanksgiving. Only instead of stuffing ourselves with turkey, it's all about barbecue food. Consumers are expected to spend $6.7 billion dollars on their food this year. It is estimated that Americans will eat 155 million hot dogs and 375 million hamburgers for the 4th of July. When you add on the rivers of beer (about 68.3 million cases), calling it excess seems an understatement.

Americans showcase their quirkiness this time of year with some unusual 4th of July celebrations. No simply flag-waving parade for these folks!

A child in a red, white & blue hat in an green insect-shaped vehicle. People are standing on the curb in the background.
Not all coasters are designed for speed.
Bisbee Coaster Races: In the small town of Bisbee here in Southern Arizona, they have Coaster Races (AKA Soap Box Derby) every year. This small, old town is super hilly and full of artists and other characters - the perfect place for young racers to show their stuff.

Boom Box Parade, Willimantic, CT: Created out of necessity (they had no marching band, so they had a local radio station play marching music for them), this unique event encourages the offbeat. The only requirements are that participants wear some red, white and blue and that everyone carry a boom box or radio. See for yourself here.

Close-up of a child laughing and wearing red, white & blue glasses with stars on the top. Photo by Frank McKenna on Unsplash.Lobster Races, Bar Harbor, ME: This annual event (a fundraiser for the local YMCA that is just what it sounds like) is undoubtedly slower paced than many other racing events that mark Independence Day. But I can't help thinking that the food is a lot better than your average barbecue.

Midnight Parade, Gatlinburg, TN: The good folks of Gatlinburg came up with the idea to have their 4th of July parade at midnight (perhaps so they can claim that they are the first parade every year) and I think it is pure genius. It allows for all the sparkle of a Christmas parade and avoids the heat of a July day. I wish we could start this here in Tucson, where our holiday is always blisteringly hot.

A person in a bird costume running by and throwing red, white & blue confetti.
No matter what you decide to do with your 4th of July holiday, I recommend a little excess and a dash of quirk - it's good for the soul.

Submitted by Pam

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