March 10, 2017

Christmas tree IPM update 3.10.17

Snow 🙁   Sun 🙂   Just like life, we are getting some of each!  Pretty philosophical for a Friday afternoon!

MSU has the NEW third edition of the USDA Christmas Tree Pest Manual for sale
I’ll let you know if I figure out why theirs is $5 and Amazon has it for $29.
The previous edition is a wonderful resource and I suspect this will be, too.  I ordered mine today!

While you are there, check out their IPM Pocket Guide for Weed ID in Christmas Trees.

So – what do growing degree days mean for insect pest development in a year like this?  I’ve got that question out to some entomologists.  Do we use January 1 or March 1 as a baseline date?  This year, both would tell you you could be spraying for white pine weevil now.  Does that make sense with the temperature still bouncing around?  I don’t think so.  But you might want to be ready as soon as the weather smooths out a bit (it is spring and variation is what we expect after all).  Do I know for sure?  Nope!  But I’ll let you know what I find out.

Questions, comments, information you need?  Let me know!

February 15, 2017

Christmas tree IPM update 2.15.17

Hooray for snow!  Not too much at a time and not too cold works for me!  And we need the water to get us out of drought conditions.

So this doesn’t seem very ‘IPMy’ but production factors make a difference in pest management.  More bugs and diseases next time!  Promise!

How to keep your trees happy and green? Michigan State just put out 2 articles on fertilizer sources:
Part 1 and Part 2

They also reference a U Minnesota (Go, Gophers!) article on the nitrogen cycle in soil

And Rutgers has a nice article on Soil Fertility Recommendations for Christmas Trees  with information on when to apply nitrogen.  They recommend 3 weeks before bud break but also discuss using a split application of spring and fall applications.  I must admit, I favor a split application for risk avoidance in case the weather at one season is not helpful.

So how does one calculate 3 weeks before bud break?  We haven’t found any calculators yet.  I’ve looked for information on temperature or other conditions that might help but haven’t found what I was looking for yet.  So it is up to you and your experience!

You can still register for the webinar series on Christmas tree genetics and Tree Improvement.
They have been quite interesting.  If you register, they will send you the recorded webinars even if you can’t attend.  Here are links for the first two.

Feb. 1 webinar, “The Tree Improvement Process: Selection, Testing, & Breeding,”

Feb. 8 webinar: “Capturing Genetic Gains: Seed Collection Zones & Seed Orchards,”

I love getting responses to my emails.  The information on costs for producing an acre of trees caused at least a few of you to 1) laugh hysterically, 2) shake your heads in disbelief or 3) send me a response.  Jon Freckleton is willing to let me reprint his here and I am doing it because I think it brings out a lot of information – especially for new growers – that is really important.  It makes the point that real growers are a resource that should not be ignored and that the ability to balance all these factors is an incredible skill!  And, regardless of the frustrated tone, Jon loves growing and selling trees!  So thanks for helping those of us in research and extension to get a real world view.  This might actually lead to a grant and some locally produced information!

I reviewed the attachments and the persons writing them must be on drugs!  Seven to ten year cycles are ridiculous and selling 5′, 6′ and 7’max trees is a dream that will not come true!  All have time and expense of monitoring but then lack the hours to call IPM, show to IPM, buy and apply spray, or cut out bad trees!  They are all growing in the land of milk and honey.  None have an “oh *&%$#” late frost that kills a years growth! All show constant dollars!  Where is real world inflation?  Where is liability insurance? Repair tools?  All imply accuracy to either the penny, or the dollar!  None reflect the real world repairs, dealing with nests of yellow jackets, woodchucks, deer, etc.  None show time to drive for parts, supplies, Urgent Care, IPM and grower schools.  None show cost of Grower Organization membership.  None show time and expense of applicator license, etc.  None show office mgt time, and tax prep time.  None show time to market trees, time with buyers marking trees, and to carry trees that haven’t sold.  None show winterizing and storing equipment, etc etc.  None show serious rain gear and gloves, none show safety equipment: chain saw gloves, chaps, helmet, shoes and boots.  None show Comp Ins, and other insurance and permits to legally hire help; nor a discussion of the risks of hiring “under-the-table” help we are forced into at small farms.

1- WP article: costs too low
2- PA article: very good write up at start; costs to the penny imply accuracy to the penny!!  Costs do NOT reflect minimum quantity of material that can be purchased; repair costs way too low and lacks repair hours, where is the machinery the fuel is burned in?
3- Oregon: 90% 6-7!? market wants 8+; 1500/ac!!  must have roads; Repair on tractor @ $.5 & truck @ $.15; while backpack @ $2.14, elev at $12, and baler @ $18????  Tractor and trk way too low (in 40+ yrs my only back pack repair was a lost tip); need insurance on shop: five years to 6-7′ Gr 1???  No mowing? Again implied accuracy to a penny!!  Assumes market to sell all trees at 6-7′ at decent price!!
4- Kentucky: starts great and then: again no roads with 1200/ac, again done in 7 yrs, too much machinery that is only used once and the prices shown are for very used equipment so there needs to be money in tools and parts.  Fifth year pruning with sale sized trees in 16hr?? coloring with a 4g backpack in 4 hr!!  All mowing with a tractor with 3.5′ bush hog in full sized trees!!  and selling 6-7′ in five years, won’t happen since that bush hog is going to ruin lower branches (especially at 6×6 planting) selling 5′ & 6′ trees!!!??? demand is 8 – 10 and up.  again no repair hours.

Have a great week!

December 19, 2016

Christmas Tree IPM Update 12.19.16

Ah, the end is near – of selling trees, and the year 2016 – and for me, of the days getting shorter!  As the sun sinks below the buildings outside my window at 4:15….
I’ve heard the selling has been good and I hope that is true for all.

And to get ready for one of the presentations at the CTFANY Annual Winter meeting – or just to help you think of warmer days – an article from MSU on attracting pollinators.

It’s hard to compact frozen soil but once things start to melt, it’s easy (not that I think we should have spring quite yet).  MSU also has information on protecting tree roots from compaction – although it is aimed at a landscape audience it has good information.

A short one this time, but long enough for the season.  Perhaps I will actually get my tree set up this evening! Pretty early for me!

 

Another article from Paul Hetzler – this one on the Yule Log tradition!

Yule Logs

Paul Hetzler

Apparently, the ceremonial burning of a large chunk of wood on or near the winter solstice (Yule to the old Germanic peoples) may have begun as a Nordic custom in the 6th century, possibly earlier. Known as a Yule clog, Yule block, Christmas log and other variants, the Yule log was purported to bring good luck in the new year if it burned all day long without being fully consumed. A remnant was always saved, and used to light the following year’s log. Though the tradition is much less common today, it has not been completely extinguished.

Given the climate there, it is no surprise that the hardy folks in northern Europe thought the best way to observe a winter holiday was to light a tree trunk on fire and gather round it. That’s probably what I would have done, too. The French, on the other hand, put a whole new twist on the thing, inventing a delicious Yule log cake that they never burn, at least not intentionally. It took them a dozen or so centuries to come up with the recipe, but let’s not complain. You don’t have to go to France to taste the bûche de Noël—in Quebec you can find Yule logs that are works of art in addition to being delectable.

Popularly depicted as a birch log, to have a Yule log burn all day and still get leftovers, you might want another kind of wood. While birch is picturesque, it doesn’t compare with many other hardwoods in terms of the heat it gives off and how long it burns. All people are created with equal value, but with logs, not so much.

Heat value, whether it’s from coal, oil or wood, is measured in BTUs, or British thermal units. One BTU represents the energy required to heat a pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. And even though the U.S. is the only country on the planet not on the metric system, many other nations still use our BTU scale.

Firewood is usually hardwood, though that’s kind of a misnomer. Some “hardwoods” are softer than many types of softwood. Basswood and cottonwood, for example, have a BTU per (dry) cord rating of around 12 million, lower than that of white pine (16 million) or balsam (20 million).

As those who heat with wood know, hard (sugar) maple is the gold standard for firewood, at least in northern New England, releasing a whopping 30 million BTUs per cord. You’d have to burn twice as much butternut or aspen to get the same heat value. Hickory, beech, black locust, white oak and ironwood (hop hornbeam) come in just behind hard maple. The iconic paper birch has about 20 million BTUs per cord, respectable but not a premium fuel. Especially if you are banking a year’s wort of luck on having it last all day.

Of course there are other considerations besides BTU value in choosing firewood. Even though balsam heats better than butternut, it makes more creosote and throws a lot of sparks. Wood moisture content is also critical. When you burn wet wood, much of the wood’s heat value goes into boiling off the water. Fresh-cut elm is 70 percent water by weight; you’d get very little heat from that, assuming you could even keep it lit. Outdoor furnaces, because they have a blower, are capable of burning green wood. This might be seen as a convenience, but if you burn unseasoned wood in an outdoor furnace you’re spending twice as much time, doing twice the work compared to burning dry wood—how’s your back these days, anyway?

In the Balkans and parts of southern Europe the Yule log tradition lives on. If you’re one of the few Americans who will be burning an actual Yule log in an open hearth this year, you probably have a good chunk of dry hard maple or hickory set aside, plus a remnant of last year’s log with which to help light it.

But if that’s not your tradition, you can join millions of Americans who tune into the televised Yule Log Program on Christmas, now on the Web of course. That log apparently not only burns all day, but has done so since the program’s inception way back in 1967. I’m sure the Department of Energy is working to find what species of tree it’s from, because with just a few of those trees we could solve a lot of our energy problems.

May your holiday season be healthy and happy, and may your Yule log burn only if that is your plan.

August 26, 2016

Christmas tree IPM Update 8.26.16

Students are back but I’m still on summer time.  I even tried stand up paddle boarding and have the bruises to show for it.

No, no, no, no – it isn’t fall yet for me.  But there are some fall things you could do – like fertilize!  And I know that many Christmas tree growers don’t fertilize at all – but is it based on facts?  Like a soil test?  So read about fertilizing in the fall here, and how to get your soil tested here and here.

Cushions sound comfy but not this kind – Weir’s cushion rust.  And we are hearing about it more this year than before – orange blisters on blue spruce needles (do they need more problems?)  If you’ve seen it this summer, remember to treat those trees next spring.  Another reason for record keeping!

Doug fir needle midge vs. Cooley spruce gall adelgid.  They probably won’t make a movie of it but we did have a discussion on telling the two apart.  I don’t think I have seen much needle bending and yellowing from Cooley’s on Doug fir without the white fluff, but it is possible.  Here’s what Rayanne Lehman from the PA Dept of Ag says:
To distinguish between midge damage and adelgids damage, look for the cast skins of the adelgids at the needle bend. Again, the galled needle will appear swollen if viewed from the side. In late winter and early spring, these galls will also have the emergence hole on the under side of the needle.

I’m going to have to put a trap out to see if we can catch the adults next spring.

Heat accumulation – yes, indeed, this summer.  Track it for pest management with Growing degree days.  We like the NYS IPM NEWA page (look under Weather Data) because it has tables, charts and a degree day forecast.  But this page from Utah has a good description of how to do it yourself.

You’ve seen this along the roads, I bet – Dieback on eastern white pine.  If you grow white pines, keep an eye out.

Enjoy the weather now that we’ve had some rain!  Have a great week!

July 12, 2016

Christmas tree IPM update 7.11.16

Ah, education season – again?! Juggling conferences is so much fun – as long as I remember which one I am talking about.

And relative to the Hudson Valley Twilight, we were discussing beetles and their raster patterns.  Sound interesting?  Well, looking at the back end of a grub can tell you who is feeding on your tree roots.  Brian found one on the farm and learned that grubs bite – how else did he think they were chewing up those roots!

An interesting question came in from a new grower, so I come to you, the experts.  Do you shear differently in a drought year?  The thought was not to remove so much of the branches if it would stress the trees.  I can come up with a physiological reason that removing more means less tissue to have to find water for.  But what is the REAL answer?  Let me know.

I get questions occasionally about changing from one DEC pesticide category to another when what growers are producing changes.  I found this website on a random ramble around the DEC webpages (isn’t that what you think I do when I am sitting in my office?) – Adding or dropping a category

Brian and I will be heading west to the CTFANY summer meeting on Thursday – Saturday.  We’ll have a table in the vendor area so bring us your questions (in sealed bags to protect the farm – but not so hot they turn to mush)

April 5, 2016

Christmas tree IPM update 4.4.16

Snow? Of course.  But it is supposed to leave more quickly and then not come back.  Must have forgotten to put in my order for spring weather.  Does it give you a break or goof up your planting plans?

It must be spring!  The first issue of Branching Out is out. Want to know how to get NY based scouting help for your trees (and nursery crops, too)?  Here you go!   A few things this issue covers – Weir’s cushion rust and elongate hemlock scale.

The question we have been asking about blue spruce – Is it needle cast disease or something else? From the Ontario nursery crops blog.

And do you know what eriophyid mite damage looks like?  Another reason needles might be falling off of a variety of conifers. They like it cool so scout now (once the snow is off the needles) – but remember they are VERY small. (Already reported in the 3/24 PA Christmas Tree Scouting report)

Not so sweet if it is in your fields.  Honeysuckle breaks bud early which can help identify it for control.

What’s in your crystal ball?  MD has a new pest prediction calendar.  The Tree and Shrub guidelines have more species, but this has phenology information for some weeds and wildflowers, which might be right there on your farm.

Coming soon?  Depending on our weather of course.  Balsam twig aphids nymphs.  Do a tap test of twigs near those affected last year to find the nymphs that will crawl to breaking buds and produce lots more aphids.