Takeaways From The 2015 Empire State Producers Expo

In addition to a trade show, the Empire State Producers Expo in Syracuse, NY, Jan. 19-22, offers educational sessions on everything from sweet corn to food safety to high tunnels.

In addition to a trade show, the Empire State Producers Expo in Syracuse, NY, Jan. 19-22, offers educational sessions on everything from sweet corn to food safety to high tunnels.

Potatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes. Those are just a few of the crop-specific educational sessions held at the 2015 Empire State Producers Expo, which runs through Thursday, Jan. 22, in Syracuse, NY.

According to expo management, nearly 600 people were in attendance on the first day, Jan. 20.


Some educational highlights from the expo include the latest information on weed management in sweet corn, updates on potato breeding, and some tips on keeping disease out of tomato fields.

An Integrated Approach to Weed Management In Sweet Corn

Mark VanGessel, who is in the Plant and Soil Sciences Department at the University of Delaware, pointed out that there are several guides available to help you determine what is taking over your fields. He mentioned the publication Weeds Of The Northeast, along with a free app, ID Weeds, that is available from the University of Missouri.

In general, VanGessel says most of you already use integrated approaches — row spacing, planting dates, irrigation management, crop rotation, nutrient management, and seeding rates — to help reduce your weed problems.

“In combination with chemical controls, these six things really help with weed management,” he said.

Potato Breeding Is A Collaborative Effort

“To breed potatoes, you have to be a good manager of data.” That’s what Craig Yencho of North Carolina State University had to say about the breeding process.

The two questions he is often asked by growers are: ‘When is your next variety coming out?” and “How can we speed up the potato breeding process?”

He said potato breeders now have a complete genome, which was done at Virginia Tech, that should help with the process.

Some key points Yencho said to remember as the breeding process continues to evolve are that the potato gene pool is deep and a new national breeding strategy is emerging at multiple levels with more collaboration and long-term commitments among industry, growers, and researchers.

The Re-Emerging Tomato Viruses

Who are the culprits? How are they disseminated? What are the management strategies? Marc Fuchs, who studies plant pathology and plant microbe biology at Cornell University, discussed tomato viruses and pointed out that once the fruit has been invaded with the virus, there is no treatment and some symptoms are difficult to differentiate.

For example, symptoms of tomato mosaic virus, which is very similar to tobacco mosaic virus, include discolored leaves and fruit. Fuchs added that the severity of the virus varies among cultivars.

He also discussed tomato spotted wilt virus, which is vectored by thrips, and cucumber mosaic virus, which is transmitted by aphids.

“The aphid mouthpart feeds on the plant and if the plant is infected, the aphid becomes infected and so do any other plants the aphid feeds on,” he said.

In the end, what are your options to keep these viruses at bay? As the best defense is a good offense, Fuchs offered several steps to follow.

  1. Use resistant varieties when available.
  2. Inspect transplants for insects.
  3. Avoid intermingling of ornamentals and tomatoes.
  4. Eliminate weeds.
  5. Enforce sanitation measures.
  6. Do not smoke near plants as that can be an issue with tobacco mosaic virus.
  7. Scout, scout, scout.

Be sure to check back on GrowingProduce.com for additional coverage of the 2015 Empire Producers Expo.