GardenMessenger

This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Controlling Tropical Spiderwort

Growers and gardeners in the South-east of the United States are facing a fast-spreading weed called Tropical Spiderwort, Commelina benghalensis. It is also known as Benghal Dayflower. This native of Africa and south Asia was first observed in Florida in 1928. It advanced into Georgia, but was not considered a troublesome weed until 1999.

The main reason Tropical Spiderwort has become a serious weed has to do with recent changes in commercial cropping systems. The biggest of these is the widespread use of Round-up-ready crops. This technology helps growers to better manage weeds, but Commelina has a natural tolerance to glyphosate - the active ingredient in the herbicide Round-up, so it is adapted to that change. It also tolerates other common herbicides.

The impact of Tropical Spiderwort has recently moved beyond open field crops. In autumn 2005, container ornamentals contaminated with the weed were discovered in retail outlets in North Carolina. The plants had been shipped from a South Carolina nursery. Tropical Spiderwort is on the Federal Noxious Weed List, meaning that movement across state boundaries is prohibited. Halting further spread of this weed is crucial in minimizing control costs throughout the region.

So how do you spot tropical spiderwort? "The easiest way to identify it is by the presence of underground flowers," says Agricultural Research Service scientists "Of the 250,000 species of flowering plants, only 36 have underground flowers. Tropical Spiderwort is the only known day-flowering species in the United States with underground blossoms."


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Happy Gardening

Philip

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Investigating Compost Teas.

Compost teas are the up and coming thing amongst organic gardeners. These teas are made from compost "brewed" for at least twenty-four hours with all-natural ingredients that boost the growth of beneficial microbes living in the compost. It is believed that compost teas may prove helpful in protecting ornamental plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, viburnums and oak saplings from what's known as Ramorum Blight, also called Ramorum Die-back or Sudden Oak Death. The pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum, which causes these diseases, has been found in at least 20 states in the United States in commercial plant nurseries and more than one-half million otherwise-ready-to-sell plants have had to be destroyed.

Some organic growers and home gardeners already apply compost teas by either spraying them on foliage or drenching plant roots, and although reputed to enhance plant growth and fend off disease, compost teas have not yet been widely investigated by scientists. So the United States Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory and co-investigators are studying compost teas as one of several materials that might provide an effective, affordable, bio-friendly alternative to chemical pesticides for controlling P. ramorum.

In a preliminary experiment at the Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory, researchers treated rhododendron leaves indoors with a helpful bacterium, Paenibacillus polymyxa, taken from compost. The researchers then inoculated the leaves with the ramorum organism. The scientists found that P. polymyxa did not protect the foliage, but they plan to test it again, as well as other potentially protective microbes, using slightly different procedures.


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Happy Gardening

Philip

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

New US Import Restrictions for Ornamental Fish
Check new importation restrictions

Live fish of most species may be imported into the United States without import requirements from USDA. However, eight species of fish that are susceptible to the disease Spring Viremia of Carp (SVC) have recently come under USDA oversight. These species are: Common Carp, including Koi, Cyprinus carpio; Goldfish, Carassius auratus; Grass Carp, Ctenopharyngodon idellus; Silver Carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix; Bighead Carp, Aristichthys nobilis; Crucian Carp, Carassius carassius; Tench, Tinca tinca, and Sheatfish, Silurus glanis.

New regulations have been developed for the importation of live fish and their gametes (eggs and milt) from these species. The regulations pertain to commercial shipments and to fish brought in to the US as personal baggage. Live fish of these species may continue to be imported, provided they are accompanied by a USDA import permit and a veterinary health certificate issued by a full-time veterinary officer or Competent Authority of the National Government of the exporting country.

Importers must now use new identifying Harmonized Tariff Structure import codes assigned by the International Trade Commission for these species on shipping manifests and invoices. The new rules were set to become effective 29th September 2006, but the USDA have extended the period for compliance to 30th October. For further information click here.


To check the latest water gardening news, both for the gardener and retailer, visit the sister blog to this one Water Gardening News.

Happy Gardening

Philip

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New Insecticidal Compound

A newly introduced class of insecticidal compounds developed by the United States Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and co-operators offers safe and effective alternatives to conventional chemical insecticides. The active ingredients are based on sugar esters that are natural chemicals secreted by wild tobacco plants and Vincetoxicum vines to protect themselves against insect predators. When certain insects rub up against and chew on the plants' leaf hairs, the insects become contaminated with the compound and die.

ARS entomologist Gary J. Puterka, working with US industry co-operators, developed synthetic analogs, or look-alikes, of the natural sugar esters. He and colleagues then screened various synthetic sugar esters to find the most potent among them. Gary Puterka identified several of the new chemical forms that kill test insects instantly, and has been named a co-inventor on two patents that define the chemical structures of the compounds, as well as an environmentally sound processes for their manufacture.

One of the compounds, sorbitol octanoate, has proved less costly to produce than earlier forms patented, and is now undergoing the process of registration with the US. Environment Protection Agency. The analogs kill by breaking down the insect pests' outer waxy coating. The insects then lose water and die from dehydration. The new class of compounds is unique among insecticides because their active ingredients do not leave a detrimental residue on surfaces to which they are applied. What is left over after application becomes inactive upon drying and rapidly degrades. The latest synthetic sugar esters, if licensed, could be a boon to the home and garden market, according to the ARS.


For further gardening news from the News and New Plants pages of the GardenMessenger web-site click here.

Happy Gardening

Philip

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Monday, October 09, 2006

New Peach Cultivars

Peach 'Gulfking'

Two recently introduced peach cultivars developed by the United States South-eastern Fruit and Nut Research Laboratory, the University of Georgia and University of Florida, will shortly be available to home gardeners. The cultivars, ‘Gulfking’ and ‘Gulfcrest’, were made available to commercial growers in 2003. Both cultivars are known as "non-melting" peaches. That is they resist bruising and remain firm longer while ripening on the tree.

In the United States ‘Gulfking’ typically ripens in early May. When ripe, its skin is mostly red on a deep yellow to orange background. The flesh is firm and sweet and does not turn brown readily when bruised or cut. ‘Gulfcrest’ ripens from early to mid-May, extending the harvest period. The fruit is medium to large and also has a mostly red skin on a deep yellow to orange background. The flesh is firm, with good sweetness, and contains some red flecks in the outer flesh on the sun-exposed side of the fruit. As with ‘Gulfking’, this peach does not brown readily when bruised or cut.


For further gardening news from the News and New Plants pages of the GardenMessenger web-site click here.

Happy Gardening

Philip

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Mediterranean Fruit Fly Control

Mediterranean Fruit Fly

A product developed by the United States Agricultural Research Service and Suterra LLC is helping to keep the Mediterranean Fruit Fly out of the United States and giving other countries an effective, environmentally friendly control method. The product, BioLure 3-Component Fruit Fly Lure, is being commercialised by Suterra, which holds the exclusive license for the ARS patents. Suterra is marketing it in the United States, Spain, South Africa, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. Growers and government agencies in these countries are now using BioLure 3-Component Fruit Fly Lure as an effective tool to monitor for the presence of the flies as well as reducing their populations by mass trapping.

Each year in Spain, for example, mass trapping is done on thousands of hectares of citrus groves using BioLure 3-Component Fruit Fly Lure. Spanish plant health agencies have found mass-trapping with the lure is as effective as insecticides at controlling fruit fly damage without leaving pesticide residues on fruit or harming beneficial insects. The product is a combination of three compounds: ammonium acetate, putrescine and trimethylamine. It captures more Mediterranean Fruit Flies and fewer non-target insects, is more consistent between batches and lasts four to eight times as long, as protein baits. It also attracts mostly female flies, which is important in areas where sterile male insect control programmes are being used.


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Happy Gardening

Philip

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Tracking and Controlling Mealybugs

The Pink Hibiscus Mealybug (PHM), Maconellicoccus hirsutus, is a devastating pest from south-east Asia, which originated in the United States from the Caribbean. It also has a strong foothold in Central America as well. This insect pest can destroy more than two hundred plant species by injecting them with toxic saliva while sucking their sap. The exotic insect pest recently invaded California and Florida, and has proved to be very difficult to monitor. However, United States Agricultural Research Services scientists have now found a way to lure male mealybugs, making them easier to detect. A team of researchers led by chemist Aijun Zhang at the Chemicals Affecting Insect Behavior Laboratory, in Beltsville, Maryland, has discovered two compounds that together make up the female PHM's sex pheromone. The compounds provide a timely method with which to monitor and ultimately reduce infestations.

The scientists carefully reared thousands of PHMs, using an insect growth regulator that prevents the development of males. Then they painstakingly isolated more than 6,000 virgin females from which they collected pheromone chemicals.After pooling seven collections of airborne sex-chemical extracts from the females, the scientists exposed them to male mealybugs' antennae, which consistently responded to two attractant compounds. The previously unknown natural chemicals were found to be (R)-lavandulyl (S)-2-methylbutanoate and (R)-maconelliyl (S)-2-methylbutanoate.
The researchers then prepared a synthetic version of the pheromone and further demonstrated that the processed mixture was immensely attractive to PHM males. They found the most potency when they mixed one part of the first compound with five parts of the second.

"In many cases, just a few micrograms of the one-to-five blend placed in a single sticky trap captured thousands of males," says Zhang. This blend is effective for monitoring the mealybug's population densities and geographical distribution to help scientists determine where to release natural enemies. "Pheromones decompose relatively quickly, without leaving a harmful residue or damage to the environment," says Zhang. Chemical insecticides, however, break down at a very slow rate, so they tend to linger in soil for decades, which can add to pollution. So biological control methods - where natural predators and parasitoids are used against horticultural pests - are more desirable.

Officials with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, in Riverdale, Maryland, have introduced two exotic wasps to control PHM infestations in the United States and Caribbean. But their efforts had been stalled by an inability to detect the mealybug's presence and prevalence. Now, APHIS officials are using the new pheromone blend as a sex lure to survey the degree of mealybug pest infestations in Florida and California and to track the effectiveness of biological control efforts against the pest.


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Happy Gardening

Philip

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Moth Control of Climbing Fern Weed Launched

The predator moth

Scientists with the United States Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and officials from the State of Florida have released moths of the species Austromusotima camptonozale, the first biological control agent approved for release against the invasive climbing fern, Lygodium microphyllum. This aggressive scrambling weed has spread across south and central Florida, scaling the stems or trunks of other plants to form thick vegetative blankets. On the ground, it creates tough, spongy mats that smother grasses, low-growing shrubs and small trees.

"Land managers consider this fern to be the state's worst invasive species, so we hope the moth will begin to offer much-needed relief," said ARS entomologist Robert Pemberton of the Invasive Plant Research at Fort Lauderdale. He leads the international research effort to develop biological controls for the weed. Climbing fern is native to the Old World tropics including Australia, Africa, tropical Asia and the Pacific Islands but does not cause problems in those areas, probably because natural enemies help keep it in check. Searching for natural enemies of the fern in its native habitat, scientists at the Australian Biological Control Laboratory, Indooroopilly, Queensland, identified several promising candidates, including A.camptonozale. Then they tested these bio-control candidates to make sure they would only feed on the fern and not on other, non-target plants.

The moth measures little more than a centimetre from wing-tip to wing-tip and is bright-white, with spots and stripes on its wings. The larvae of the moth feed on climbing fern's leaves, damaging the vines. The Indooroopilly scientists shipped a supply of moths to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service's biological control quarantine facility in Gainesville for three years of testing. Herbicides have been the major weapon against climbing fern, but the weed thrives in remote wetland areas that are difficult to treat A.camptonozale and other bio-control organisms may provide an effective and more environmentally friendly alternative to the use of herbicides in wetlands.


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Happy Gardening

Philip

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Understanding Red Vine Tendrils

Brunnichia ovata

Researchers in the United States have discovered the mechanisms a problematic weed uses to over-run and secure itself to crops and fences or other structures. Red Vine, Brunnichia ovata, is a perennial woody vine that regenerates new growth from woody rootstocks and climbs by its tendrils. It is a big problem for crops, especially soyabeans, in the Mississippi Delta, and also for gardeners when it spreads to the flower bed or vegetable plot. The vines’ extensive deep roots allow them to survive environmental extremes. Herbicides alone cannot provide complete control of the vines, so additional management tactics are needed.

Tendrils are organs used by some vines to help them climb, but little has been known about how they develop or support the vine. At the Southern Weed Science Research Unit in Stoneville, Mississippi, Christopher G. Meloche, a postdoctoral scientist, discovered two unique aspects of Red Vine tendrils: A compound that sticks the tendril to objects and a unique fibre cell that is involved in both coiling and final stiffening of the tendril. Red Vine tendrils begin growing out of the shoot straight, thin, and flexible. Meloche discovered that when the vine encounters something to climb, epidermal cells along the length of the tendril expand in response to touch by elongating in the direction of the stimulus. The tendrils as a whole respond by coiling around the object for support. Cells enriched with phenols break apart as the tendrils rub against the object. Then the phenols react with an enzyme, polyphenol oxidase (PPO), to produce a sticky cement that the tendrils use to adhere to the surface the vine is climbing.

This is the first time PPO has been implicated in generating an adhesive in a climbing plant. At the same time, it was discovered that a gelatinous fibre which has only been previously found in trees, is also at work in Red Vine. It was determined that the weed’s tendrils produce fibre cells enriched in lignin to radically increase the tendrils’ strength. Then the cells die, which leads to a dry, rigid coil structure that securely anchors the vine to the support. Photo: USDA


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Happy Gardening

Philip

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Monday, October 02, 2006

New Apricot Released

Apricot 'Kettleman'

A new apricot known as ‘Kettleman’ has been launched for commercial growers and hobby gardeners. It is the latest addition to the cultivars produced regularly by the specialists at the United States Agricultural Research Services’ San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center in Parlier, California, about 200 miles north of Los Angeles.What makes ‘Kettleman’ apricots so special is their attractive deep-orange skin, pleasing taste, smooth texture and alluring aroma. Also, they ripen early: ‘Kettleman’ is ready to harvest in California from about 15th-25th May.

In 1992, ARS research geneticist Craig A. Ledbetter at Parlier selected ‘Kettleman’ - then known only by its breeding number, 883001 - as a front-runner among other promising apricot seedlings. He evaluated more than 1,000 ‘Kettleman’ trees and their fruit before deciding to make this new cultivar available to breeders, researchers and fruit growers. Ledbetter named the fruit for the small city of Kettleman, California, near which trial trees were planted. Kettleman lies in the San Joaquin Valley, about half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco.


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Happy Gardening

Philip

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