Horticulture News and Update

Forgive me for being a little late with this report, but I get sidetracked by other issues I think you want to know about. In any event, the news here in not more than six months old, and much of it is closer to recent than that. There is a new peach headed our way. It may be odd looking to many, with a flattened shape (some reports say it remembles a bagel), sweet and juicy, white flesh, guaranteed to please. It is named Galaxy. Developed by the USDA and Rutgers U., it might be available by 2006. It is self-pollinating and may be a boon to home gardeners. Look also for Scarletprince and Julyprince developed at the Southeastern Tree Nut and Fruit Lab in Byron, GA.. These larger and improved varieties are already being made available to growers.

Voters in Mendocino County, CA said no to genetically altered crops and animals in the first ever ban in the U.S. The biotech interests spent a half a million dollars trying to defeat the proposition.

Home Depot is educating its staffers in nursery certification programs. With help from the University of Georgia, a 16 hour on-line course has seen the number of Home Depot employees certified triple since the program began.

Entomoligist, David Smitley, Michigan State University, reported that extension agents saw spider mite activity this season three weeks earlier than usual. He suggested this might indicate that mites (as well as other pests) might be developing resistance to the more commonly used pesticides.

Some time back I wrote about orchid smugglers. Well, not too much time has passed, and, sure enough, in March, a federal grand jury has indicted two Texans on multiple counts of conspiracy to smuggle protected orchids from Peru into the U.S. I remember I mentioned the book, "The Orchid Thief". It's still about the money!

Sudden Oak Disease (SOD) is a fungal disease that attacks oak, azalea, rhododendron, maple, beech, and buckeye, and most recently suspect, bonsai camellia plants. An April 30th confirmation from the USDA at a Maryland retail nursery only served to elevate concerns, since 39 states have now been identified as recipients of potentially infected plant materials in the past twelve months. The California Association of Nursery and Garden Centers has won a lawsuit against Kentucky for blocking shipments of nursery plants from its state over fears of SOD being introduced.There is a huge threat to homeowners, nursery stock, and timber industries. Pay attention. This is big news. The disease (Phytophthora ramorum) is also now suspected to be in viburnums and lilacs.

In spite of reports of an anemic economy, American consumers spent $37.9 billion on landscape, lawn and tree care services and supplies in 2003. This is an increase of $8 billion over 2002, a growth rate of 31%.

Local growers of pumpkins (giants as well as ornamentals and food products), cucumbers and other vine crops related to cucurbits, beware. There is an increased alert to a devastating disease, Phytophthora capsici, a fungal pathogen that infects all stages of cucurbit growth and production, and there are no known cultivars that exhibit any resistance.

In 1985 the Food Security Act required farmers to participate in soil conservation practices on highly erodible cropland and conserve wetlands in order to be elligible for government farm program payments. A recent study points to the fact that between 1985 and 1997, 25% of the decline in soil erosion can be directly attributed to following the incentives. That's money well spent.

Five foot hardscape towers made of wood and branches purchased from White Flower Farm have been recalled by the company. Made in China and imported for sale here, these Adirondack style garden decorations have been found to contain longhorn beetle larvae in both Wisconsin and Florida.

On May 21, 2004, Toronto passed a vote to ban all pesticies on private property by 2007. This is for homeowners. Commercial lawn care companies will not be allowed to apply any after August 2005. Fines will be levied in September. This total ban includes insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides etc..

Edamame, a specialty soybean packed with nutrition, is one of the hottest new vegetables to gain wide attention. It's a first rate health snack. But it isn't really new. It was known in China and Japan 2200 years ago. Introduced to the U.S. in 1902, popular in the 1930s and 1940s, rediscovered in the 1970s with the 'back to the earth' organic movement, edamame (Glycine max) is rapidly returning to popularity. Versatile and easy to grow, the sweet nutty taste appeals to all ages.

The pine shoot beetle is an imported pest (1992) that is a destroyer and disfigurer of many conifer trees across the country. Hardest hit are Christmas tree plantations. The federal government has expanded quarantines in several counties in PA and NY and says entire states may be regulated by September.

Some very recent news from the NYS Ag. Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y. looking at a two year review of 2002 and 2003 reached me June 1, 2004. Some types of honey (tarweed and Montana buckwheat) possess antibacterial action that inhibit the growth of foodbourne bacteria including E. coli 0157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus cereus. The search is on for the identification and origin of the active compounds in the honey.

They also report that using microwave heating of apples and mash for pasteurization increases the yield and improves the quality. And, a new red-wine grape, GR7, released in 2003 and dubbed the "working man's red" for its solid all-around performance, is being touted: "vigorous, productive, disease resistant and winter-hardy. The grape makes dark, soft wines with good quality and attractive cherry flavors."

Food scientist, Dick Durst, has developed a tiny biological "sensor that reduces the detection time for E. coli and other foodbourne pathogens from days to minutes" and it can be used in the field.

Corn cob processing has yielded a variety of useful chemicals including an enzyme that can greatly increase the amount of ethanol produced in using the yeast and residual sugars. Another part of the processing provides a very important L(+) lactic acid, very useful in the food, fermentation, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries.

"No Mow" grass is on the way to Northern consumers who are lawn lovers. There is a short, deep green grass that is the product of 15 years of research and cross breeding, that once "up" requires no mowing for a year. It's a creeping blue and centipede grass mix.

One last note, before I overstay my welcome. Cilantro (coriander) contains a chemical that fights food poisoning bacteria. Dodecanol, while found only in very minute quantities in cilantro, is a potent killer of salmonella in larger doses. It's a great discovery, nonetheless. Thank researchers at U.C. Berkley and Autonomous U. in Guadalajara, Mexico.


From The Garden of Ed. Submitted for publication in The Towne Crier on August 25, 2004

© 2004 Ed Mues. All Rights Reserved.