Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Thrips damage and control strategies

Ajay Nair
Department of Horticulture
Iowa State University

Thrips are very small, slender insects that are common in greenhouses at this time of the year when growers are gearing up to grow transplants. Thrips can cause damage with their feeding, which distorts plant growth, deforms flowers, and causes white-to-silvery patches on leaves (figure below). regular, frequent, and thorough scouting is important to keep a tab on this pest. Use sticky cards and hand lens to trap and properly identify the insect. 

One can use products that have low toxicity such as azadirachtin (Neem-based products, BioNeem), insecticidal soaps (Safer), horticultural Oil, or neem oil (Safe Brand Neem Oil). Biological control is very effective if the infestation is detected early. Biological control includes Predatory mites (Typhlodromips montdorensis, Amblyseius cucumeris, Amblyseius swirskii, Eurseius ovalis) and predatory bugs (Orius laevigatus, Orius majusculus and Orius insidiosus)

Stronger synthetic insecticides such as neonicotinoids, pyrethroids, and organophosphates should be used if the infestation is heavy. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Iowa Organic Conference to Feature One-on-One Mentoring
Focus on helping farmers interested in transitioning to organic
AMES, Iowa—The 15th annual Iowa Organic Conference will give farmers who are interested in transitioning to an organic operation the opportunity to meet individually with experts in the field. The conference will be held Nov. 22-23 at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, as a joint effort between Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the UI Office of Sustainability.

Farmers will have the chance to participate in farmer-to-mentor round tables with organic producers and those experienced with organic certification.  In addition, event speakers will provide advice on organic grain crops, vegetable production, fruit cultivation and certification how-to tips.

“The U.S. market for organic products reached $39.1 billion in 2014 and the demand for organic grains and produce continues to exceed supply,” said Kathleen Delate, ISU Extension and Outreach organic agriculture specialist and professor in horticulture and agronomy. “Growers everywhere are encouraged to consider the potential for organic production.”

A local foods expo will kick off the conference on Sunday, Nov. 22, from 2 to 5 p.m. in the UI Memorial Union. On Monday, the keynote speakers are Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens, who grow and market over 10 varieties of organic grains and have received numerous commendations for their biodiverse organic farm ( in upstate New York.

The conference lunch on Monday afternoon highlights local and organic produce, meats, and dairy products assembled into a gourmet meal by UI award-winning executive chef, Barry Greenberg, and his team.

Organic producers and experts from across the country will share tips about organic production, weed management, livestock production and methods to enhance organic operations. Over 50 exhibitors, including organic seed sellers, local food system non-profits and government offices working with transitioning and certified organic farmers, will be on site to meet with producers. Growers are encouraged to bring their grain samples to the grain buyer exhibitors.

Conference information and directions to the event are available online at To register, access For additional information, contact Delate at

Additional conference partners are the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, New Pioneer Food Co-op, Organic Valley and Practical Farmers of Iowa.
Related links:

Sustainable Vegetable Production Lab 

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Practical Farmers of Iowa

Related publications:
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Irrigation School

Beat the heat!  Save water and fertilizer this summer with drip irrigation training at Drip Irrigation School!

You are cordially invited to attend a day of professional development at the Horticulture Research Station north of Ames on Monday June 29th, 2015 from 9:00  am to 3:30 pm (registration begins at 8:45).  ISU Extension and Outreach Commercial Horticulture specialists Ajay Nair, Patrick O’Malley, and Joe Hannan will take the fear away from building and operating drip irrigation systems.  Participants will take a pre-workshop homework, in class lecture, and hands-on practice with system components in the field and in the lab.  In the field, participants will also see how water and fertilizer move through the soil profile under different setups.  Upon completion of the workshop, participants will understand the basic principles of drip irrigation systems, be able to determine when and how much water to apply, and be able to assemble a drip system.

This workshop is intended for local food system service providers across Iowa.  No prior irrigation knowledge is required.  Cost is free, but registration is required as space is limited.  Please register by June 19, 2015 with the Dallas County Extension Office at or or by calling the office at 515.993.4281.

A limited number of scholarships are available in the amount of $50 to help offset the cost of travel and are reimbursable through SARE after the event.  Please mention the scholarship when registering as these are available on a first come, first served basis.

Support for this program is provided by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, ISU Department of Horticulture, and ISU Extension and Outreach.

Friday, April 3, 2015

New Extension publication on tomato cultivars

Ajay Nair
Department of Horticulture

A new publication providing information on suitable tomato varieties for commercial field and high tunnel production in Iowa is now available at the Iowa State Extension and Outreach Online Store. The four-page Recommended Tomato Varieties for Commercial Production in Iowa HORT 3024  , offers tomato growers the opportunity to compare varieties for the Midwest growing zones. The publication is free to download (click the link above to download pdf).

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Biochar in vegetable production

Ajay Nair
Department of Horticulture
Iowa State University

Check out our new video on the use of biochar in vegetable production systems. In this experiment we are evaluating the use of biochar in commercial potato and sweet corn production

Thursday, January 29, 2015

New video on cover crops

Ajay Nair
Department of Horticulture
Iowa State University

The Sustainable Vegetable Production Lab recently released a new video showcasing benefits of using brassica cover crops in vegetable cropping systems. The video highlights oilseed radish cover crop grown at the Horticulture Research Station, Ames. Check out the video by clicking the link below


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Soil and insect management for vegetable crops

Ajay Nair
Department of Horticulture
Iowa State University

Location: Cedar Valley Produce – south of Riceville, Iowa 
Time: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Learn about cover crops, soil fertility, and insects in vegetable cropping systems.

Cover Crops (Dr. Ajay Nair): One of the core philosophies of sustainable production systems is the development of healthy and productive soil that provides essential nutrients for plant growth and supports diverse and active soil biotic communities. Incorporation of cover crops and compost bear paradigm importance as they improve soil organic matter, supply nutrients, and improve soil health and quality. This presentation will focus on various cover crops, their management aspects, attributes, and discuss their effect on nutrient cycling and soil quality and health.

Soil Fertility (Joe Hannon): The soil fertility session will discuss proper soil sampling procedures and how to make sense of soil sample reports. The session will help growers make decisions on annual fertilizer applications for vegetable crops.

Insects (Patrick O’Malley): Solanaceous and Greenhouse Insects (Solanaceous is the nightshade family which includes tomato, pepper, eggplant, potato, and tomatillo). He will talk about insects that affect the Solanaceous crops both in the field and in the high tunnels/greenhouses and then go into insects that are more common on multiple crops inside high tunnels/greenhouses. Patrick will also do a short presentation on Colony Collapse Disorder on honeybees.

Meeting is free but registration by February 10 is required for meal count. Lunch served by Cedar Valley Produce. For registration please contact:
Ms. Sue Barnes ISU Howard County Extension and Outreach
Cresco, IA PH 563-547-3001

This program is being sponsored in cooperation with People’s Savings Bank of Elma, Cedar Valley Produce, and ISU Howard County Extension and Outreach.