By Clint Thompson
The dawn of another fall vegetable season in Florida means increased risk for producers, especially when compared to spring production.
“The fall generally has more risk exposure than the spring does,” says Josh Freeman, University of Florida/IFAS Associate Professor in Horticultural Science. “You worry about whiteflies, you worry about tropical weather. You have all these things to contend with that don’t typically stare at you during spring production. I think that’s just increased risk for fall crops.”
Whiteflies cause feeding injury issues in vegetables. Maybe more importantly, they transmit two viruses: cucurbit leaf crumple virus and cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus. Vegetables like squash, zucchini, cucumber, cantaloupe and snap beans are highly susceptible to these viruses.
However, whitefly populations appear to be in low numbers in Florida and Georgia through mid-July. The summer’s wet weather is a big reason why.
“I talked to somebody in Georgia (the other day) and they are not (a problem right now). We have seen a few around, but generally speaking, when we have really wet weather like this, we see quite a bit of help from entomopathogenic fungi. That tends to reduce our whitefly numbers,” Freeman said. “Everybody that’s kind of in this vegetable belt right now has been dealing with wet conditions. There may be a few (whiteflies) around here and there, but it’s not the scenario we’ve looked at really since 2016 where at the end of the spring crop, we’re starting to see numbers build. I think from a numbers perspective right now, we’re probably as good as we’ve been in six or seven years.”
Tomato plantings should begin in the next few days in certain areas in Florida. Freeman said the concern early in the season, especially amid hot, wet weather conditions is the establishment of bacterial leaf spot disease.