About Me

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As an Agriculture Extension Agent for Texas AgriLife Extension Service I have had an opportunity to be involved in just about every aspect of agriculture. From the 5,000 cow dairy to the types of trees to use in a home landscape I have had a chance to learn how the different parts of an agriculture systems work together. Seedless watermelons, drip irrigation, pecan orchard management, fruit crop development, dairy nutrient management, environmental issues confronting agriculture, producer tours, field days, research projects and more have been a part of my life for over 30 years as I lived and breathed agriculture. Since 2004 I have been actively involved in consulting internationally working in Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, India, and China. I have worked with missionaries and other groups dedicated to alleviating poverty among third world farmers. I lived in the Middle East in 2007-2008 working on a project for the Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. In this project I was the Chief of Party and Team Leader for a $5.7 Million dollar effort to train Iraqi Extension agents and specialists in all aspects of agriculture.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thoughts on Growing Olives

I am getting a lot of calls and emails about growing olives. I knew that they would have problems in Williamson County but the only expert is one who lives over 100 miles away! This why i asked Jim Kamas, Extension Fruit Specialist to write this:

Thoughts on Growing Olives

by Jim Kamas----
I frequently receive inquiries about the feasibility of growing olive trees in Texas but to be honest, I am aware of nobody growing olives on a commercial scale that are making the numbers work economically.
Olives are a Mediterranean crop. We have a continental climate not a Mediterranean climate. While deciduous fruit trees set fruit buds in response to a high carbohydrate to nitrogen ratio during the previous summer, olives set flower buds in response to constant diurnal temperature fluctuation during the winter months, typical to those in the Mediterranean region. Across central Texas, we get those conditions about one in seven years, so consistent fruiting does not happen in the Hill Country or South Texas.
Olives are also quite cold sensitive. Most varieties are commonly frozen to the ground with temperatures of 15-16 degrees Fahrenheit. So, when olives are planted far enough north where they receive temps conducive for fruiting, the winter kill. When they are planted far enough south to not winter kill, they do not reliably set fruit buds.
Olive trees frequently start fruiting in the fifth or sixth leaf, but they mature when they are 40 years old. Classical literature suggests that olive groves were only planted during times of extended peace because destroying an enemy's olive grove had repercussions that lasted generations.
Ok, sure there are olive plantings around that have had some fruit, but I believe that are none that are profitable from a strictly production point of view. I find no romance in losing propositions. If people want to plant them for ornamental value or just for aesthetic value, sure, plant them, but I think commercial plantings are not a good idea. The ONLY people making money in the olive business is the people selling olive trees or who are bottling and selling imported oil.
In addition to the above mentioned limitations olive trees are very susceptible to two soil borne pathogens- Post Oak Root Rot (Armallaria mellea) and Cotton Root Rot (Phymatotricum omnivorum). Both of these pathogens are problematic across much of Texas and we have no chemical or biological control agents that have been proven effective in perennial crops.
Sorry for the less than glowing report, but it is my opinion that it is better to know the obstacles up front than after the fact. Now, I am not a popular person among the olive growing community for my position. I am not trying to rain on their parade or suppress the growth of an industry. I had one large olive grower report to me how many gallons of olive oil they pressed this past season. Let’s look at the cash flow statement and see if their revenues service the debt on this investment.
Olives are a beautiful crop and I understand why they are so attractive to so many small farming operators. My only message is to do your scientific and economic homework and make your decisions wisely after due consideration.

The Fall Armyworm - Pest of Pasture, Hayfields and Small Grains, 2009

This is a great factsheet by Dr. Allen Knutson, Extension Entomologist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Dallas. I just copied the whole thing so that you have all you need to make decisions.

Two species of armyworms attack forage and field crops in north Texas. The fall armyworm is most abundant during August through early November in north Texas and feeds primarily on Bermuda grass, wheat and rye grass, although it attacks many other crops. The true armyworm is common during April and May when it attacks wheat, rye grass, winter pastures, and seedling corn and sorghum. Both caterpillars can occur in very large numbers, can consume a crop almost overnight, and will move in large masses or Aarmies@ to adjacent fields in search of food. Armyworms attack many different kinds of plants and when food is scarce, they can feed on plants not normally attacked.

The fall armyworm apparently does not overwinter in north Texas. Moths fly north from south Texas each year to re-infest the area. Outbreaks often occur in late summer and fall and follow periods of rain which create favorable conditions for eggs and small larvae to survive. Irrigated fields are also highly attractive to moths for egg laying, especially during drought conditions.

Life Stages of the Fall Armyworm.Eggs. Eggs are laid in masses of up to 50 eggs on the grass leaves and are difficult to find. The eggs are covered with the grey scales from the moth=s body, giving the egg mass a fuzzy appearance. Eggs hatch in 2-3 days.
Caterpillar. Fall armyworms are green, brown or black. A distinct white line between the eyes forms an inverted AY@ pattern on the face. There are four black spots aligned in a square on the top of the 8th segment near the back end of the caterpillar. Armyworms are very small at first, cause little plant damage and as a result infestations often go unnoticed. Larvae feed for 2-3 weeks and full grown larvae are about 1 to 1 2 inches long. Armyworms consume 80% of their total food intake during the last few days of development. Given their immense appetite, great numbers, and marching ability, armyworms can damage entire fields or pastures in a few days. Once the armyworm completes feeding, in tunnels into the soil about an inch and enters the pupal stage.
Pupa. The full grown armyworm tunnels into the soil and transforms to the pupae, an inactive, non-feeding stage. In 7-10 days, the moth emerges from the pupa and repeats the life cycle.
Moth. The fall armyworm moth has a wingspan of about 1 2 inches. The front pair of wings are dark gray with an irregular pattern of light and dark areas. Moths are active at night and common around lights at night. A single female can deposit up to 2000 eggs.
Development from egg to adult requires about 4 weeks during the summer and is longer during cool weather. There are several generations a year. Development ends with cold weather in November.

ManagementThe key to managing fall armyworms is to detect infestations before they have caused economic damage. Fall armyworm larvae feed primarily during the night and during cloudy
weather. During the day, look for armyworms under loose soil and fallen leaves on the ground. The presence of chewed leaves can indicate armyworms are present. Small larvae chew the green layer from the leaves and leave a clearing or Awindow pane@ effect and consume only a small amount of foliage. For this reason, infestations can go unnoticed unless the field is closely inspected.
Once larvae are greater than 3/4 inch, the quantity of leaves they eat increases dramatically. During the final 2-3 days of feeding, armyworms consume 80% of the total foliage consumed during their entire development. For this reason, extensive feeding damage can occur in a few days.
The density of armyworms sufficient to justify insecticide treatment will depend on the stage of crop growth and value of the crop. Seedling plants can tolerate fewer armyworms than established plants. Infestations of 2-3 armyworms per square foot may justify treatment.
Hot, dry weather and natural enemies limit armyworm populations. Insect parasites such as wasps and flies, ground beetles, and other predators help suppress armyworm numbers. Diseases such as insect viruses and fungi can also be important. However, these natural enemies can be overwhelmed when large numbers of migrating moths lay thousands of eggs in a field.
Armyworms often infest fields of volunteer wheat and weedy grasses in ditches and around field margins. Destruction of volunteer wheat and weedy grasses can eliminate these sources of armyworms.

Labeled Insecticides for Armyworm Control in Pastures and Hayfields
Always read and follow all label instructions on pesticide use and restrictions. Information below is provided for educational purposes only. Read current label before use.
Malathion 57% and Malathion ULV. Zero days to harvest or grazing.
Mustang Max (9.6% zeta-cypermethrin). The first pyrethroid insecticide labeled on pastures and hay fields. Applications may be made up to 0 days for forage and hay, 7 days for straw and seed screenings. Labeled for a large number of insect pests, including armyworms, grasshoppers
Tracer. Do not allow cattle to graze until spray has dried. Do not harvest hay or fodder for 3 days after treatment. There is no preharvest interval for forage. Treat when eggs hatch or when larvae are small. Use higher rates for larger larvae.
Sevin 4F, Sevin XLR, Sevin 80S, Generic Carbaryl. When applied to pastures, there is a 14 day waiting period before grazing or harvesting.
Dimilin 2L. Wait one day until harvest. Label does not list a restriction on grazing. To be effective, Dimilin must be applied before larvae reach 2 inch or longer. Will not control larger larvae. Provides residual control for up to 2-3 weeks, as long as forage is not removed from field. Dimilin acts as an insect growth regulator.
Intrepid 2F. Do not harvest hay within 7 days of application. There is no pre-harveest interval for forage. Begin applications when first signs of feeding damage appear. Use higher rates for heavier infestations. Intrepid is an insect growth regulator.
Lannate. Bermudagrass only. Do not apply within 7 days of feeding forage or allowing livestock to graze. Do not apply within 3 days of cutting for hay. Lannate is a highly toxic POISON and all label precautions must be carefully followed. A restricted use pesticide.
Karate. (and other lambda cyhalothrin products) Pasture and rangeland grass, grass grown for
hay and silage and grass grown for seed. Pasture and rangeland grass may be used for used for grazing or cut for forage 0 days after application. Do not cut grass to be dried and harvested for hay until 7 days after the last application.
Labeled Insecticides for Armyworm Control in Wheat and Small Grains include:
Baythroid, carbaryl, Lannate, Lorsban, Mustang Max, methyl parathion, Proxis and Tracer. Refer to label for restrictions on grazing and harvesting treated crops.
Always read and follow pesticide label directions.