A Window of Opportunity for Planting Potatoes

If you live in the Tri-County Agriculture Area (TCAA) which includes Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns Counties, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve been a bit wetter than normal for this time of year. Just to put this extraordinarily wet year in perspective, I have acquired data from the UF Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN), which can be accessed at https://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/. To adequately represent the TCAA, I specifically assessed data from three different FAWN stations located in Hastings (St. Johns County), Putnam Hall (West Putnam County) and Pierson (approximately 5 miles SW of the Flagler County boundary). Over the last 20 years, the monthly average rainfall at these three stations (combined) has been 2.21” in December and 2.50” in January. In December 2018, the average rainfall recorded across these three stations was 8.02” (6.60” in Hastings, 10.51” in Putnam Hall, and 6.59” in Pierson). Likewise, in January 2019, the average rainfall recorded across these three stations was 4.16” (3.49” in Hastings, 5.67” in Putnam Hall, and 3.32” in Pierson). So if you enjoy numbers, you will appreciate that exercise, but if you don’t care for numbers let’s just say it has been a very wet winter so far!

This rainfall certainly impacts our potato growers across the region. Farmers usually appreciate the natural irrigation supply from the sky, but excessive rainfall creates many challenges for planting potatoes. The fields are wet and large equipment tends to get bogged down in the mud. Determining specific planting dates is a challenge because too much water can cause the seed potatoes to rot before they have time to sprout. The pre-plant fertilizer will leach more quickly through the soils, requiring additional fertilizer to be added to promote emergence. The fumigant used to control soil nematodes may stay or remain trapped in the soils longer due to the higher soil moisture content. Most farmers understand the devastation that can come from plant-parasitic nematodes, which are microscopic roundworms that attack the root system of plants. Soil fumigation is one way to control and manage nematodes, while other methods include crop rotation with less susceptible or resistant cover crops such as sunn hemp https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/putnamco/2018/07/31/sunn-hemp-not-industrial-hemp/

One of the services that the UF/IFAS Agriculture Extension Agent for Putnam/Flagler County provides is a field screening of the soils to ensure that fumigant concentrations are safe for planting potatoes. The device we use to detect fumigant concentrations is a photoionization detector (PID) manufactured by Honeywell Rae Systems known as the MiniRAE 3000. After proper calibration, the instrument can be taken into the field to screen soils directly for volatile organic compounds that are present within common fumigants. A slight correction factor must be used to calculate precise concentrations for different fumigants. For example, a common soil fumigant is Telone II (active ingredient is 1.3-dichloropropene) which is a liquid that quickly converts to a gaseous phase upon application. It is important to compare that active ingredient with the calibration gas used for the instrument (isobutene) to make sure any necessary correction factor is applied. In the case of Telone II, it is essentially a 1:1 correlation and so there is no need for a correction factor. However, if Telone C-35 (which consists of 35% chloropicrin) is the fumigant of choice, a correction factor must be applied if the device is calibrated with isobutene.

Agriculture Agents tests soil for fumigant concentration Planted potatoes with tractor in background

At the Hastings Agriculture Extension Center, we managed to find a window of opportunity between rain events to plant our potatoes at the 4-H TCAA Potato Field Day on January 21, 2019. We had 63 attendees (ages 5 to 18) representing five of our surrounding counties and Extension Agents from all of the TCAA UF/IFAS office participated. There were several educational stations for the kids to attend and my role was to focus on the importance of soil type, structure and pH associated with the potato crop. Instilling these valuable lessons and providing hands-on opportunities for the youth to personally engage in crop production is essential for our future.

Kids hold potato seeds in a basket for planting Six year old collects soil from a potato field two teenage children collecting soil from field with soil auger


Posted: February 4, 2019

Category: 4-H & Youth, Agriculture
Tags: Field Day, Fumigant, Nematodes, Potato, Rain, Sunn Hemp


Heather Pogue

April 7, 2022

Thank you, Amy! I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with our Putnam County youth.

April 7, 2022

You are amazing and provide these kids, as well as, our community with positive encouragement. Keep being you!

Elizabeth Rourke
April 6, 2022

Great article about this fun event! I enjoyed working with everyone, and the lunch was outstanding!

February 2, 2022

Hi there Very nice content and blog, I found it very informative and useful, hope to read more nice articles like this one around here, Keep sharing the best content, Best regards! Your follower Salvatore C.

Ann Calvert
January 7, 2022

Great Class. Learned a lot. Thank you.

Donna Castro
December 7, 2021

Well done! Thanks for sharing this important information. I think most people are afraid to cut any roots or disturb the root ball, and fail to evaluate the issues you pointed out.

fantazi Kıyafetleri
December 6, 2021

Thanks Julio, Nice Post!

Jill A. Stokes
November 29, 2021

Thanks! Trying a variety that is new to me sounds like fun.

Wendy Mussoline

November 29, 2021

It was a combination of orange-flesh cultivars that were put in the bags for the contest...we didn't want anyone to have an unfair advantage by only giving one cultivar. If you are interested in seeing all the sweet potato cultivars, we have them in crates at our Extension office...just go by the Putnam County Extension office in East Palatka and ask Kendra to show you...you can grab a couple samples while you are there...enjoy!

Jill A. Stokes
November 29, 2021

Hi! Which orange and purple cultivars were made available for the Azalea City/UF-IFAS sweet potato pie content? I picked up a bag of orange with the purple skin. Thanks in advance.

Wendy Mussoline

November 10, 2021

Hi Yvonne, I'm really glad to hear that you enjoyed the purples. Your comment reminded me that I need to add the flyer about our local sweet potato pie contest to the blog...will do right now...we are cohosting a contest with Azalea City Brewery located at 120 S. 7th Street in Palatka. The brewery will be giving out your choice of orange or purple sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving weekend and the contest will be on Friday December 3rd...hope you can participate! Thanks for your encouraging comment... Wendy

Yvonne Florian
November 10, 2021

I really like those purple sweet potatoes. Last year I made "Purple Sweet Potato Pie bars" for Thanksgiving. We all enjoyed them, except my husband- the picky eater. But my toddler grandsons LOVED them and kept asking my daughter for more all week. They were a big hit.

Wendy Lynch

November 2, 2021

Hi, Terrell and Gail, So happy to hear from you - Thank you for your feedback. I will definitely keep you posted and reach out to you directly!

Terrell Corbett
November 2, 2021

If you ever have a seminar on this Gail and I would love to know more!

Julio Perez

September 20, 2021

I would be happy to assist you please email me at pjulio@ufl.edu.

Judy Niedorf
September 18, 2021

I can not find a picutre of my plant. I think it's some sort of pencil plant, but not sure. If I take a picture of it, can I email it to you and see if you can help me with it? It's very fast growing and needs very little care. Also wondering if I should stake it up to re-inforce it. I would like to have your e-mail so I can send it to you. Thank you. Judy

alberto J armada
September 17, 2021

This pencil plants have done real well in containers in our yard in South Florida.

Wendy Mussoline

July 9, 2021

Sure...share it with anyone you'd like...I would also love to contact Palatka Daily News and see if they will do a version of the story!

Jim Lacerenza
July 1, 2021

Wendy, These cows are going to be eating eggplant for many years to come . Nice blog Tomas mangia melansana

Tom Hoversen
July 1, 2021

Wendy: absolutely classic! I am very impressed. Let me know if it is okay to share with Putnam County commissioners. Thanks for the props!!

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June 27, 2021

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June 16, 2021

Definitely, what a splendid blog and illuminating posts, I surely will bookmark your site.All the Best!

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June 15, 2021

I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I don't know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you aren't already ;) Cheers!

Joseph Mubiana
January 4, 2021

Insightful information for us beginners

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November 30, 2020

Wow. Great article. I am so thankful for this info. Trusting that it will help. Will def share it with my audience of 350K followers on Insta.

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November 14, 2020

Useful information lot of new thing getting a full of chance and make it easy to understand.

Dan Collins
November 3, 2020

Thank you so much for sharing this very informative post. I surely have learned a lot from this article and would love to read more articles like this from you soon.

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October 29, 2020

Thanks for sharing useful information. keep sharing.

October 12, 2020

I am first time visiting in this cattle form house but I am very impressed to see its management to give food to the cattle and its cleanliness.

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October 6, 2020

Thanks for sharing information. keep sharing

Dahlia Wilson
October 4, 2020

I found this blog very useful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for spreading awareness. I really love it. I am following your posts quite often. Keep it up!

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September 10, 2020

Nice post! Thanks for sharing this.

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August 31, 2020

Thanks for sharing information. keep sharing

Wendy Mussoline

August 10, 2020

Yes, I do believe what you are seeing is Sunn Hemp...In the past I did write a blog on Sunn Hemp https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/putnamco/2018/07/31/sunn-hemp-not-industrial-hemp/ But maybe I need to write a new blog and include the pictures of the plant when it is flowering! Thanks for the inspiration!

Robert F Marsh Jr
August 7, 2020

Dear Dr. Mussoline: I've noticed a crop that's new to me as I drive from my home 3 miles east of Picolata off CR 208 via 13a to 13 to 207 and on to St Mark's in Palatka where I'm the priest. The crop sort of looks like an Easter Lilly stalk with yellow flowers on the top. It isn't Sunn Hemp, I don't think. Would you tell me what it is? Blessings, Bob Marsh

April 23, 2020


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April 13, 2020

I really loved your post. I read your blog quite often and I just shared it on Pinterest. Keep up the good work.

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April 9, 2020

Wendy Mussoline you and your team doing really good work for your society and I must thank you and I truly appreciate your work and your effort. once again I want to thank you and enjoy your blog.

Wendy Mussoline

April 6, 2020

Hi Michael, The UF/IFAS Putnam County Extension office could normally help you with this, but our offices are currently closed to the public due to COVID-19. At this time, your best bet is to collect your own soil samples and send them to the UF Soils Lab for analyses. They will email you results within a week or so. There is a fee associated with each sample and to determine that fee, you will need to consult the website for the lab to determine what type of soil sample you are submitting. Here is the website https://soilslab.ifas.ufl.edu/ESTL%20Tests.asp Be sure to send in the form with your samples. If you have further questions, please email me directly at wmussoli@ufl.edu

Michael C Leonard
April 6, 2020

I live in Palatka and would like to get a soil sample analysis. Please tell me how I can do this. Thank you.

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November 25, 2019

Hi Imre, We cannot recommend specific companies even if I was familiar with the area. However, you can visit: http://www.treesaregood.org/ and find a local certified arborist in your city. Either stump grinding or hack/squirt methods are effective. If it's a large tree though, you'll be better off stump grinding. Be sure to spray or paint on the herbicide immediately after cutting.

Imre J Hocker
October 27, 2019

Hi, I moved into a house with a beautiful Chinese tallow. I hate to have it taken down, but it spreads like wild fire, the roots are growing under the house, and it is filthy when it sheds. The problem is the cost of removal. I live in Leesburg; do you know of an affordable tree removal service in my area? Also, should I have the stump grinded or just cut and apply herbicide? Thanks, Imre Hocker

Far West Turf
September 5, 2019

Excellent explanation, it’s simple & focus. Keep up the great work!

Paul mears
July 4, 2019

Thanks Wendy. We e joyed having the kids there and look forward to participating with u and the kids at any opportunity.

Amber Shahzadi
July 4, 2019

i m one of them your regular viewers..its really amazing

Leslie Burke
May 6, 2019

We attended a Meat Sheep Alliance in Live Oak on 4-27-19 and learned about your work with sweet potatoes as a supplement for grazing/forage. We live in Callahan, FL (Nassau County) and wish to improve our acidic, clay soil (formerly a pine forest) for our 3 4-acre pastures. Should we plant sweet potatoes in our fields to supplement. We have 32 Katahdin sheep and need to do more rotational grazing and better nutrition. We also have 2 horses. We fight intestinal parasites and need better nutrition. We are trying supplements to our Pensacola Bahia and Tifton 9 pastures. Would this help? Thank you, Jon Hall and Leslie Burke 904-945-9535

February 26, 2019

that cute post

February 26, 2019

that nice post

Avatar photo

February 8, 2019

Since the camphor tree is not on the Florida noxious weed list, you are not required to remove it. However, many organizations and institutions consider it an invasive species. If having it removed is in your financial budget, sure, have it taken down, but consult a certified arborist first. Sounds like there are several risky factors in your situation that doesn't have an easy, straightforward answer.

January 31, 2019

We recently moved to a new house in Ocoee. The backyard has a fairly large camphor tree. My granddaughter loves to climb in it and, of course, it provides lovely shade in an otherwise barren backyard. However, I've found it on this invasive species list. It's roots have begun to invade and cause damage to our neighbors' sprinkler system and fence. Should this tree come down and something else be placed in our yard? Please give us advise, as there is some dispute about this in our family and we seek facts. Feel free to email regarding your recommendations.

November 12, 2018

Thanks tο my father whօ told me abοut this weblog, this weblog is truly awesome.

Angela Bean
October 23, 2018

Great blog, Wendy. It was truly a unique experience. Charles and I were thrilled to be representing First Coast Fresh - thanks to David Dinkins - and to showcase our unique, award winning datil pepper products from St. Augustine, Florida. There are so many wonderful things happening on the First Coast, and I am proud to be a part of it. Angela Bean, Old St. Augustine Gourmet

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September 21, 2018

I was very pleased to discover this page. I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!!

Avatar photo

September 19, 2018

Hi Edward, The color depends on the variety/cultivar. We normally see red tendrils with vines that produce red grapes, and green tendrils with the rest. In fact, the tendrils are actually aborted flower clusters, which would have otherwise turned into fruits! I have to thank Dr. Sara Spayd from NC State University for assistance with this question. She's an extension viticulturist :)

Bertram Donohve
September 12, 2018

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Cary Gamons
September 12, 2018

some genuinely interesting information, well written and generally user pleasant.

Edward Graham
September 4, 2018

Why are some muscadine tindrels green and others are redish.

Corky Daniel
June 16, 2018

Please let me know when another program will be offered. If I had known, I would have signed up for the March program, Strong Body Fitness. Thank you

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February 14, 2018

Hi Cindy. First, thank you for removing an invasive species!! There is still debate on the allelopathic effects of tallow on native vegetation. One paper noted that the tallow contains chemicals that inhibit growth of other plants, while another disproved it, but the study was specific to cypress trees. I'm happy that your lawn has returned. Maybe it just needed a friend to hang out with ;) Thanks for checking in!

February 14, 2018

I cut the Chinese tallows out of my yard and the next day the lawn started dying. Came back when I installed a live oak. Weird.

February 4, 2018

IFAS regional specialized Extension agent and director of the Hastings Agricultural Extension Center, hosts this event every year to inform growers on the latest research findings for cole crops.

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January 27, 2018

I simply want to mention I'm beginner to weblog and seriously loved you're web page. Very likely I’m want to bookmark your blog post . You certainly have remarkable well written articles. Many thanks for sharing your website.

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January 4, 2018

Hello Frances, we typically offer a class on vegetable gardening once or twice a year. The horticulture agent and Master Gardeners will be planning their workshops next week. Please check out our county website where upcoming classes will be posted on the calendar (putnam.ifas.ufl.edu), or contact us at 386-329-0318. Thanks

Frances Dodd
December 26, 2017

Does the Putnam County extension office have classes in annual vegetable gardening?

November 19, 2017

I was very pleased to discover this page. I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely loved every part of it and i also have you bookmarked to check out new things on your web site.

November 19, 2017

I was very pleased to discover this page. I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely loved every part of it and i also have you bookmarked to check out new things on your web site.

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November 15, 2017

Hello Kim! If you don't mind, please send me a photo (pfletch@ufl.edu) of the caterpillars before I make a recommendation. First step of IPM is identification! Also, have you tested your soil nutrients within the past year? If not, go with a low grade fertilizer similar to 6-4-6. We try to avoid fertilizers with a high phosphorus percentage (the middle number) unless your soil is deficient. Leafy greens also benefit from a side dressing of nitrogen, such as ammonium sulfate. Be sure to apply it very conservatively and just outside of the leaves to avoid burning the plant.

Kim Frawley
November 14, 2017

Hi Prissy, I am seeing small caterpillars on my collards and kale. What is the best option for spraying on leaves I will be eating soon? Also what fertilizer do I use on my leafy greens? Thank you!

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