East Michigan vegetable update – April 29, 2020

It has been a nice spring to plant vegetables, all other stressful things considered.


We are getting warm rain from the Gulf, making slow progress throughout the day, soaking the southern and northern Lower Peninsula today and tomorrow. Depending on totals, planting conditions may resume by the weekend. Cooler than normal temperatures next week and potential light frosts threaten the northern Lower Peninsula.

Soil temperatures at 2 inches are dipping below 40 degrees Fahrenheit at night at most Michigan State University Enviroweather stations, but still under 60 degrees in the day. The growing degree day (base 50) daily averages right now range from the low- to mid-30s in Kinde, Linwood, Pigeon and Verona to the mid-60s in Lapeer and Flint. In general, we are behind the five-year average with rainfall accumulations below the five-year average similar to 2016.

You can find more detailed weather information for your area by visiting the Enviroweather station closest to you:

A note to greenhouse producers and spring marketers

MSU Extension plant pathologist Mary Hausbeck and her lab have developed a nice table of registered products for common greenhouse diseases on vegetables and herbs.

MSU Extension entomologist Dave Smitley developed a similar summary for insecticides.

On cool, cloudy days like today, plants don’t use much water. So don’t water. Many things happen when water stays in the root zone too long. They straight up rot at their base in a condition called “damping off.” When roots are waterlogged, they can also develop a chemical in their roots and leaves called ethylene that causes them to grow spindly and twisted. They might look like they are not getting enough light or even like they got hit with 2-4,D herbicide. They can fall over and rot from their leaves down in scenarios like this.

Sometimes true herbicide issues show up in the greenhouse from spraying the floors or the outside edges. Even early applications can vaporize when temperatures and humidity increase in the spring. Many times, the symptoms show up on the first true leaf. This MSU Extension article shares some of the labeled products for greenhouses: “Weed management strategies in greenhouses – Part 2: Chemical weed control strategies.”

Vegetable crops

Asparagus is up, sporadically. Harvest will probably pick up by the second week of May.

Peas planted several weeks ago are now up.

Beets planted several weeks ago are now up, but some froze out on those mid-20s nights.

Strawberry mulch is off. Some fertilizing is happening with first full expanded leaf.

Carrots have been going in for a few weeks but are not up yet.

Onions are in and up. Barley nurse crops can be sprayed off when plants get 6 inches high. Transplants muscled through the numerous nights in the mid-20s. Sometimes this can result in more plants that bolt during the main season. More transplants are going in still. The Goal 24(c) label for onions at the one-leaf stage has expired. MSU is working on getting this updated.

Garlic is up and strong.

Lettuce transplants in open field conditions have been in for a couple weeks and delayed by the cold nights.

Potato plantings have been underway over the last couple weeks.

Cole crop plantings have been going in for two weeks. Some were nipped on the mid-20s nights, but look like they will recover. The Goal 24(c) label for postemergence on cole crops has expired. MSU is working on getting this updated.

Tomatoes in the hoop houses are fruiting. Several issues have been brought up to me regarding wilts, leaf symptoms and crown rots. Without being able to travel, I have been recommending shipping samples to MSU Plant & Pest Diagnostics. So far, the results largely appear to be nutritional issues related to heat stress, overwatering, soil fertility levels and/or soil pH.  The most common symptom seen at the lab has been edema, which looks like raised swellings, blisters or pustules on leaves due to cells getting too much water and bursting. If you have grown pumpkins, this is also commonly seen on the underside of fruits in a wet fall and also on the tops of cabbages when getting close to maturity in wet conditions.

Great Lakes Vegetable Producer’s Network

MSU is participating in a live, weekly roundtable discussion during the growing season for commercial vegetable producers in the Great Lakes and Midwest region. Join us! We broadcast live via Zoom at 12:30 ET/11:30 CT every Wednesday from the first week of May to the first week of September. You must register to be a part of the live audience. If you have a pressing vegetable production issue that you would like discussed, simply email it, along with your phone number, to greatlakesvegwg@gmail.com.

In the first episode on May 6, the network will interview Amanda Byler, a family nurse practitioner with Great Lakes Bay Health Centers who works with migrant worker communities, and Annalisa Hultberg, University of Minnesota Extension Educator for on-farm food safety. Topics of discussion will include farm family, farm worker and customer safety as we enter our production season during a global pandemic.

Food safety

Need your water tested for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)? Check out the Michigan Ag Water Lab Map.

On-Farm Readiness Reviews are designed to help fresh produce growers feel prepared and ready for a full implementation of FSMA. They allow growers to walk through their operation with a small team of food-safety experts and discuss how to meet the new FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirements. Email OFRR@msu.edu to sign up for one or to ask questions.

Please contact me at phill406@msu.edu or 616-901-7513 with questions, concerns, or to schedule a farm visit. You can also send plant materials to MSU Plant & Pest Diagnostics.

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