Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Joan Allen teaches us about Plant Diseases!

Last Monday CT NOFA collaborated with the wonderful Community Farm of Simsbury to put on our forth on-farm workshop of the summer; Plant Disease management presented by Joan Allen, the Assistant Extension Educator at UConn's Home and Garden Education Center. It was the perfect day for an on-farm workshop as the temperature was a cool 73 degrees, a nice break from the recent heat wave that has struck CT.

 Joan's presentation began with a brief description
 on what exactly a plant disease is and what symptoms indicate that your plant is diseased.  A plant disease is defined by Joan as a process that affects a plant's structure or function over a period of time and some common symptoms of disease are spots, wilt, stunting, deformity, rot, cankers and lesions. Joan then discussed the main causes of diseases in common garden plants: fungi, water molds, nematodes,bacteria and viruses just to name a few.

Joan then shifted the conversation to the more optimistic topic of plant disease prevention.  The first step in addressing plant diseases in your garden is to first identify the problem and note the symptoms.  Joan also shared that a Plant Diagnostic App will soon be available for iPhone and iPads which will be a great help for those who are not well versed in plant disease identification. 

Proper irrigation practices play a huge part in preventing diseases in your garden.  The most interesting and most commonly overlooked fact is that plant diseases and bacteria spread through moisture.  Joan stressed several times in her presentation that keeping the plant leaves dry is imperative to disease prevention. Also one should never work in their garden when the plants are damp.  Watering in the early morning and only at the base of the plants is best. 

Where and how you arrange your plants in your garden is also a contributing factor to keeping your plants disease free. Rotating your crops every 3-4 years will  help prevent diseases caused by pathogens that survive in the soil.  Also using mulch in your garden can help with soil moisture conservation, soil temperature moderation and weed  control. Weed control is important since weeds compete for water and nutrients, reduce the air circulation around your plants and can he hosts of plant pathogens. 

Limited by time Joan then quickly discussed the different ways to control plant diseases; biological, chemical, and traditional. Also she discussed responsible pesticide use; one MUST ALWAYS follow the instructions exactly as listed in the directions given by the pesticide label. 

Attendees examine rhubarb plants for possible diseases
The class then toured the grounds of the Community Garden of Simsbury to look for examples of plant diseases.  Thankfully the class found no cases of serious plant disease. 

A big thank you to Joan Allen for her wonderfully informative presentation and The Community Farm of Simsbury for hosting the workshop. 
Make sure to sign up for our next workshop on Covering Cropping and Crop Rotation on August 29 at the community Farm of Simsbury. Register online here


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    Always perform a test on a small portion of the plant material first. Wait 24 hours to observe any negative reaction. Proceed if there is no damage.

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