This bulletin applies to avocado and citrus too.
DuPont Pioneer researchers have discovered a protein from a non-Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium source that exhibits promise as an alternative means for controlling corn rootworm in North America and Europe. Science Magazine published the finding this week. “This research represents a breakthrough for addressing a major challenge in agriculture,” said Neal Gutterson, vice president, Research & Development, DuPont Pioneer. “We have discovered a non-Bt protein that demonstrates insecticidal control of western corn rootworm with a new and different mode of action than Bt proteins currently used in transgenic products. This protein could be a critical component for managing corn rootworm in future corn seed product offerings. The work also suggests that bacteria other than Bt are alternative sources of insecticidal proteins for insect control trait development.” An extremely destructive corn pest, corn rootworm larvae and adults can cause significant economic loss for growers. The current biotech approach for insect control sources proteins from Bt soil bacteria. Field-evolved insect resistance to certain Bt proteins has been observed in some geographies. Another Pioneer study related to non-Bt insect control, recently published in Scientific Reports, shows how RNA interference (RNAi) can be applied to control corn rootworm feeding damage. RNAi is a biologically occurring process that happens in the cells of plants, animals and people. By employing the RNAi process, a plant can protect itself by carrying instructions that precisely target specific proteins in pests. - See more at: https://www.morningagclips.com/discovery-of-potential-insect-control-traits/?utm_content=articles&utm_campaign=NLCampaign&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_term=newsletteredition&utm_medium=email#sthash.nF99oEWC.dpuf
There are numerous species of ants present in citrus orchards, however, the most common are the Argentine ant (southern and coastal California), the native gray ant (San Joaquin Valley) and the southern fire ant (statewide). The red imported fire ant has been found in Southern California, but is not yet established in citrus orchards. It is important to identify the primary ant species in the orchard, because management tactics depend on which ant species is present.
The Argentine ant, is a small, uniformly deep brown ant. Worker ants travel in characteristic trails on trees, the ground, or irrigation lines and build their nests underground. Ant populations peak in mid-summer through early fall.
The southern fire ant is light reddish brown with a black abdomen. These ants build nests of loose mounds or craters near bases of trees, do not aggregate in colonies as large as those of the Argentine ant, and will sting and bite.
Native gray ants are gray and considerably larger than the other two species. They nest in topsoil or under rocks and debris and move in irregular patterns. In contrast to Argentine and fire ants, the native gray ant is solitary and its importance in disrupting biological control is often underestimated.
Red imported fire ant is new to California and can make large, dome-shaped mounds. They feed on almost any plant or animal material.
Most ant species feed on honeydew excreted by various soft scales, mealybugs, cottony cushion scales, whiteflies, psyllids, and aphids. As part of this relationship, they protect these pest insects from their natural enemies, thus interrupting biological control. They also protect some non honeydew-producing pests, such as California red scales.
Argentine and native gray ants are the most common ant species that aggressively protect pest insects. In addition, Argentine ants and fire ants can plug up irrigation sprinklers. Fire ants directly damage citrus by chewing twigs and tender bark of newly planted trees; they also sting people working in the orchard and may cause allergic reactions.
No effective natural enemies of ants are known.
Skirt prune trees, i.e., remove branches within 12 to 30 inches of the ground, and apply sticky material to the trunk to prevent access to the trees by ants. Use polybutenes, as oil-based materials may cause phytotoxicity and should not be used.
The application of sticky polybutene materials directly to the trunk of citrus trees can cause bark cracking, especially if multiple applications are applied to the same area of the trunk, the area is exposed to sunlight (topworked trees), or both. The sticky material can be applied on top of a tree wrap or a base layer of latex paint. Young trees, which have a very thin cambium layer, are most susceptible to damage.
Sticky material should last from 1 to 4 months and will also prevent the access by Fuller rose beetles. If the sticky material contains tribasic copper sulfate, it will also control brown garden snails. The persistence of sticky material can be increased by applying it higher above the ground to reduce dust and dirt contamination and to decrease irrigation wash-off.
Argentine ant adults are liquid-feeding only and have physical digestive "blocks" in the mouth and gut to prevent them from swallowing and digesting solid food particles. They may bring back solid food to the colony to feed the brood (but solid-food digestion not been confirmed in Argentine ant brood), or harvest the bodily fluids inside of insect prey/moisture in food items. Dry insects or food items are of little use to them, even though they may pick these things up. Feeding studies have shown ants feed several times faster on liquids than gels and gels than solids. This faster feeding resulted in much higher toxicity with liquid. Gel was intermediate, and solids provided the lowest control.
Put out bait in the shade to increase feeding and overall kill. You do not need to obscure it. The soil temperature and moisture are going to be more moderate in the shade, particularly under the canopy. This is the environment the ants will prefer to feed in. There will be less evaporative loss in the shade, as well. Sometimes when the toxins become too concentrated they are less attractive to the ants. The other issue is that many toxins (like borax products) may photodegrade at a faster rate in direct sunlight.
A call from a small grower, surprised at the sudden decline of the avocado trees. It must be a disease was the grower's thought. Well driving up to the site, there were numerous trees with canopies indicating drought stress. In fact most of the trees looked like they had had the water turned off. When I got to the orchard, all the trees had a similar look (see photo below). The fringe of the canopy had turned brown/red where the leaves had collapsed rapidly, while the interior leaves were often still green. All the trees had a similar cast. It turns out the water district had required a cutback just when temperatures were going into the 100's. NO water, no cooling effect of transpiration and the outer fringe of leaves collapsed. This is called the “clothesline” effect. It's like a sheet on a clothesline where the margins of the sheet dry first and gradually the body of the sheet dries. The same thing happens in a canopy. The outside leaves are the first to dry out and then the rest of the canopy goes. When you see a whole orchard go down suddenly, that does not fit into a disease pattern. There's usually an epicenter where it starts – where it's colder, wetter, dryer, hotter, more overgrown, etc. and spreads out from there if it is going to spread. It turns out that the automatic irrigation system had gone down and the grower hadn't noticed until too late. When you see reddish tinged leaves, it means the leaves went down fast. When they are brown, it means they slowly went down over weeks or months.
With all the dead points in the tree, it is now open to disease – twig/leaf blight caused by one of the Botryosphaerias. These decay fungi are everywhere in an orchard decaying organic material on the orchard floor. With the dead material in the tree, now the tree becomes a potential feast for the fungi. The dead stuff has to come out, or the fungus will start eating into the tree. I suggested that instead of pruning out all those little points of death, that they cut back the whole canopy to major scaffold branches. In doing so, it would rapidly and cheaply remove the dead material and reduce the water demand.
At a recent meeting the question came up about the fate of nitrogen fertilizer applied through the irrigation system. If it is applied as urea, how long does it take to convert it to nitrate? If applied as ammonium, how long does it take to convert to nitrate? Urea and nitrate pretty much move wherever water moves and is very susceptible to leaching. Because of the positive charge on ammonium, it is not as mobile as nitrate, but once bacteria transform it to nitrate, it moves with water.
This is an important question, since if more water is applied than is needed by the plant, the nitrate is going to move out of the root system and no longer be available to the plant and ends up heading to ground water. Reading the literature, growers get the sense that all this transformation takes time, maybe a long time.
It turns out that soils in coastal California have a pretty rapid conversion of nitrogen. Francis Broadbent at UC Davis did a bunch of studies back in the 1950's and 60's and found enzyme hydrolysis of urea to ammonium occurring within hours. Other researchers have looked at nitrification, the conversion of ammonium to nitrate by soil bacteria, occurring within days and much of the conversion occurring within a week depending on soil temperature (see chart below).
So there is all this nitrate present and the key is what happens to it. It turns out that most plants when actively growing absorb nitrate at about 5 pounds of nitrogen per day. So with a 100% efficiency, applying 20 pounds of nitrogen, all of it would be taken up in four days. Of course, nothing in nature is that efficient. But the point is a big slug of nitrogen applied is not going to be taken up immediately and if more water is applied after that than is needed by the crop, it likely is pushed out of the avocado root zone.
Of course all the nitrogen a plant uses does not come from applied fertilizer. The bulk is coming from soil organic matter that is slowly decomposing. This nitrogen is being released at a rate that is probably in balance with the growth of the tree.
The applied fertilizer, however, is much more unstable and needs to be handled accordingly. The rule of thumb is to break the irrigation application into thirds. In the first third, run the irrigation to fill the lines and wet the soil. In the second third, run the fertilizer. This spreads it through the system and onto the ground. The last third is clear the irrigation system of the material and to move the fertilizer into the root zone. Then given time, the tree will take up the applied nitrogen. At the next irrigation then the bulk of that nitrogen will have been taken up and little will be pushed through the root system.
Low and High Nitrogen Avocado Leaves
Chart showing rapid conversion to nitrate with soil temperature
Calls are coming in about leafminer. It's there on the new growth, twisting and distorting it. In fact, it' been there most of the year. It was working new growth all winter long, because it was a warm winter. Right now, though, they are more active and more damage is being seen. So the question is what do you spray?...................................Nothing. Studies have been done that show little or no yield is affected by the infestation. It looks horrible and calls you to do something, but there's little that can be done. A trial we did 10 years ago involved almost weekly sprays of rotational materials on mature trees and it was impossible to keep the damage down. It happened. On young trees there are some possibilities, but even in this case it is tough.
Citrus leafminer larvae feed by creating shallow tunnels, referred to as mines, in young leaves. It is most commonly found on citrus (oranges, mandarins, lemons, limes, grapefruit and other varieties) and closely related plants (kumquat and calamondin). The larvae mine the lower or upper surface of the leaves causing them to curl and look distorted. Mature citrus trees (more than 4 years old) generally tolerate leaf damage without any effect on tree growth or fruit yield. Citrus leafminer is likely to cause damage in nurseries and new plantings because the growth of young trees is retarded by leafminer infestations. However, even when infestations of citrus leafminer are heavy on young trees, trees are unlikely to die.