Keep a look out for new palm disease

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By Boone Holladay, County Extension Agent-Horticulture

While attending a Region II TNLA meeting last summer, one of the local members gave a presentation on Palm Fusarium Wilt, a fungal disease specific to a select species of palms. At that time it wasn’t necessarily on the radar of potentially catastrophic landscape plant diseases. Well….it is now! This disease impacts both Queen Palms and Mexican Fan Palms, which happen to be our two most popular landscape palms in Fort Bend County. The disease has been con-firmed in Harris County and is suspect throughout the region. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has teamed up The Texas Nursery & Landscape Association to release a one page bulletin on the disease and is available for view or down-load at search que “Palm Fusarium Wilt”.

It’s pecan season in Fort Bend County!

by Boone Holladay, CEA – Horticulture Fort Bend County

Move over pumpkin-spiced products! Pecan flavored coffee and beers, pies and pastries, and a huge range of other pecan themed products are about to make it to the shelves. It’s pecan season in Fort Bend County and across the State. We’ve got big news to share with you concerning pecans in the county.

First off, we would like to spend a minute to congratulate local producers for their State award winning pecans! The 2014 Texas State Pecan Show, held in conjunction with the Texas Pecan Growers Association Conference & Trade Show was hosted this year in Frisco, Texas from July 12th through the 15th, 2015. State award winners from Fort Bend County included Pete Pavlovsky (3rd place Cape Fear), Bill Archer (2nd place GraCross and 3rd place Maramec), Reggie Ware (3rd place Shoshoni), Michael Weston (3rd place Podsednik), and Bill Birdwell (3rd place Success). To add clarity, samples from the 2014 county and regional pecan shows were held until the 2015 State pecan conference, thus it is entitled the “2014 State Pecan Show”, actually held in 2015.

Second off, we will be moving our 2015 program site away from the Bud O’Shieles Community Center in Rosenberg. The 2015 Fort Bend County & East Region Pecan Shows will be held at the Jones Creek Ranch Park Complex on FM 359 between Pecan Grove and Fulshear. This complex was formerly known as privately owned Gordon Ranch Event Center. It is now a Fort Bend County managed park space and event center and due to the geographic locale of many of our pecan orchards in the county, we think this site will be a great location for a pecan show. Contact our office or view our website for information on and directions to the Jones Creek Park facility.
The 2015 Fort Bend County and East Region Pecan Show will be held on Saturday, December 5th, 2015 from 9:30 to 11:00 am. Judged entries will be out for viewing and we will have an educational program on pecan production across Texas. As well, we will have a large assortment of pecan themed snacks and coffee provided by the Fort Bend County Master Gardeners and Fort Bend Farm Bureau. The event is free of charge, but bring your wallet as we will have pecan-themed gifts and new season local pecans for sale. The event flier is available at

Though this hasn’t been a bumper year for pecans in the county, we hope that you’ll enter your pecans in to the show. You may be our next big winner! Please keep in mind these shows are for everyone, large acreage to residential. One recent winner had only one tree! We’ll start taking entries on November 16th up until December 1st. For guidelines, rules, and regulations on the show, please visit our website at or call Brandy Rader at (281) 342-3034. See you in December.

Bagworms in the Fall

by Mike Merchant Posted on Insects in the City Blog on September 17, 2015

You’ve been watching your arborvitae all summer and noticing brown, spindle-shaped sacs hanging from the branches. Someone points out to you that these are bagworms, a case-making caterpillar that feeds on leaves and can be highly damaging, especially to ever-green trees and shrubs like arborvitae and cedar.

Now it’s late September, what do you do?

Before I answer that question, it’s worth pointing out that bagworms are interesting insects with a decidedly non-traditional life cycle. Bagworms are not really worms, but caterpillars, the immature stages of a nondescript moth. They are called bagworms because, shortly after they are born, they begin spinning a silken case or sac around themselves, using silk from glands associated with their mouth. The case is added to continually as the caterpillar grows. The caterpillar feeds on the host plant by sticking its head and legs out of the top of the bag and chewing on nearby leaves. Its legs grasp the branch of the host plant, and pro-pel the caterpillar like a kid cruising the monkey-bars.

Bagworms have one generation each year in Texas (some species possibly two). Once the larvae are fully grown they stop feeding. Males pupate and emerge as adults, usually a lit-tle before the female. Adult male moths exit the bag through the bottom, and fly off in search of a mate. Females also pupate, but the adult female that emerges is eyeless, wing-less and legless. She remains in her bag, emitting a pheromone to alert males to her pres-ence. Male moths locate the female bags and mate. Once mated the female gestates her eggs and dies, leaving a bag full of eggs that will hatch the following spring.

Once both male and female bagworms enter this last phase of life, feeding is over and so is any chance for effective control with insecticides. Bagworm bags are made of tightly wo-ven silk and bits of leaves from their food plant. For this reason, the caterpillars, pupae and eggs inside are well protected from insecticides. Only when actively feeding are bag-worms vulnerable to insecticide sprays.

So it’s late summer. Is it too late to spray for bagworms? That’s a good question, and will require some close observation on your part. If you have a bagworm-infested tree, pull off as many bags as you can for a quick inspection. Do you see red-brown pupal skins sticking out from the bottoms of many of the cases? If so, this is an indication that pupation and mating by at least some of the bagworms has begun. Are the cases easy to pull off the tree, or are they tightly bound with thick silk? Cases with thick bands of silk attaching them to the branch are an indication that the caterpillar has started the process of pupation, mating or egg laying. Open up some cases with a pointed knife or scissors. Do you find caterpillars still in the cases? If so, a spray may be worthwhile. If most cases are empty, or have only pupal skins or eggs inside, you’ve missed your chance this year to treat.

If you’ve missed your chance to spray this summer, that’s OK. Your bagworms will do no further damage this year. You have two options: wait until next spring to treat, or consider handpicking bags from trees during the winter or early spring.

Because female bagworms do not have wings, and there is only one generation a year, bagworm infestations are usually slow to spread. This means that on smaller trees, or trees that are deciduous (making the bags easy to spot), handpicking can sometimes eliminate or greatly reduce an infestation. Trees picked clean of bags are unlikely to become re-infested the following year.

Your other treatment option is to wait until spring when bagworms hatch (usually May to early June) to treat the tree. A relatively easy way to know the best time to treat emerging bagworms is to remove a number of bags from a tree and place outdoors in a screened jar in a shady spot. When the eggs hatch and young caterpillars are seen inside the jar, chances are that eggs are also hatching on your trees. Sprays such as Bacillus thuringiensis, spinosad and any of the pyrethroid insecticides are effective on bagworms, especially early in the season. Late season infestations, when bagworm caterpillars are larger and more difficult to kill, are best treated with pyre-throid sprays.

-For more information on bagworms, including photos of many of the life stages, see the excellent publication by the University of Florida.

Winter Citrus Care

By Deborah Birge; Fort Bend Master Gardener, Citrus Specialist

We may still be slogging through high temperatures and relentless humidity but it is time to begin thinking of winterizing our citrus trees. But, before we do that let’s take a look at how our trees are affected by the cold.

Lemons, limes and citrons are cold hardy to the high 20’s. All oranges, mandarin, grapefruit, tangerines and tangelos are hardy to the mid-20’s, with kumquats and satsumas the most cold hardy, with-standing temperatures in the low 20’s. However, timing and duration are everything.

A satsuma will sustain freeze damage if the temperatures dip for several hours to 18 degrees in December. However, that same satsuma could withstand the same temperatures for the same duration if it froze in February. Why? Because the tree had time to harden off and go dormant. So, even though you may have a tree that will handle 15 degrees, as some of the new Arctic varieties claim, if the very cold weather is too soon in the season, you would do well to protect your tree. Additionally, the cold hardiness of a tree will be tested when wind and rain are involved with the freezing temperatures. Both make the situation more dire for the citrus grower. That said, what steps can we take to help insure the survival of our citrus?

*Firstly, take a long look at your tree. Does it look healthy or stressed? If stressed, look for the reason. Too much water, too little light, and too little feeding can result in stress. If the stress is too much water, begin to taper off on watering. Ideally, citrus should not be watered in winter unless it is containerized or there is a drought situation. If the stress is too little light, consider trimming overhanging trees in the Spring or moving the tree. If the stress is nutritional, give the tree a very light feeding. No more than about one fourth of the recommended feeding. Late summer is still feeding time for leaf miners and the Asian Citrus Psyllid. A late flush of new leaves is like laying a buffet for these pests.
*Look for pests. Most typically, you will find scale, mealybugs, or aphids and ants. Scale and mealybugs can be dislodged with a strong spurt of water or an insecticidal soap. Aphids and ants work together so must be dealt with together. If you don’t eradicate the ants, the aphids will return.
*Prepare the tree floor. Bare soil will absorb and then release more heat than soil covered by grass or mulch. If you have either, remove it from under the tree outward to the dripline or outermost limbs of the tree. Do be careful of the shallow feeder roots when working around the base of the tree. Work carefully so not to damage these important roots. If the tree is grafted and is less than four years old, a proven method of graft protection is to mound soil, not mulch or compost, around the trunk of the tree up past the graft and lower limbs. This mound should be installed in late November and removed in March. A light application of a copper based fungicide to the trunk before installing the mound will help protect the trunk. After removal, be sure to wash the trunk clean of all remaining soil.
*Gather your freeze protection materials. Nothing worse than hunting for equipment when a freeze is coming. A good arsenal might include micro-cloth or tarps for covering, Christmas lights or a shop light for raising the temperature, while some even use grills and propane heaters. There is a new tool for the arsenal called antitranspirant spray. This is a polymer spray that helps the leaves from losing moisture. Some find it effective for freeze protection and drought protection. However, the cost is very high so one would need to weight the cost against the gain.

Now that we are prepared for the freeze, what to do when one is eminent? Remember that we now have bare ground under the tree. Water that well. Moist ground will absorb the heat of the sun and retain it longer. Cover and add lights as desired. Remember to not put plastic directly on the tree. This will cause more burn than if you use a cloth material next to the leaf, then plastic, if desired. If you do use plastic, remove it as soon as the freeze lifts or the ice begins to melt. Cloth can stay for an indefinite time.
A common question is whether to harvest exiting fruit when a freeze is predicted. It’s helpful to re-member that most predicted freezes do not occur. So, plan to leave the fruit on the tree, only harvesting the following day IF the fruit has frozen.

In our next article we will discuss After Freeze Dam-age Care. Let’s hope this will not be needed by any of us. Enjoy the winter!

Landscape and Irrigation Symposium

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Topic Lineup:

• Return on Investment for Low-Water Landscapes
• Integrating Water Savings into Your Business Model
• Communicating Water- What’s Your Role and Why?

Irrigation Track
• Water, Soil Relationship impacts the landscape
• Incorporating Rainwater Harvesting into Irrigation Design
• Quality Planning and Installation of Low Volume Irrigation

Landscape Track
• Watering and Plant Health
• Growing Business with Industry Programs
• Techniques for integrated water management

Click here to view the full flyer and download the registration form!

Arctic Frost Satsuma Mandarin Hybrid Named New Texas Superstar

by Robert Burns ,Extension Communication Specialist
Adapted by Barbara Buckley, Fort Bend County Master Gardener

Satsuma Arctic Frost has been named a Texas Superstar plant by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturists.
Arctic Frost is the most cold-hardy satsuma hybrid tested so far, having survived temperatures as low as 9 degrees at the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center test site near Overton, said Dr. Brent Pemberton, AgriLife Research horticulturist and chair of the Texas Superstar executive board, Overton. The board has named other cold-hardy satsuma mandarins as Superstars: Satsuma Miho and Seto in 2010, and Orange Frost in 2014. (more…)

The Walnut Caterpillar, Round 3

By Boone Holladay, County Extension Agent-Horticulture & Bill Ree, Pecan IPM Specialist

Bill Ree and I have done much scouting and have collected some great data on the Walnut Caterpillars, which have been defoliating pecans in our area since early June. Here are some of our observations that will help you with an action plan. (more…)

Obscure Scale Insect

By Boone Holladay, County Extension Agent-Horticulture

You may have noticed this while driving around. As you look down a row of young oak trees, one of them at random looks light yellow, while the others are a nice dark green. Well, if you haven’t, I have. Upon close inspection, these sickly trees are increasingly covered with Obscure Scale insect.
As the name implies infestations are obscure and difficult to spot. Infestations, especially heavy infestations will appear as if someone has sprinkled ash on the limbs. When checking for this type of infestation, it is best to check on 3 or 4 year old wood.


USDA Observes Kick Off of the International Year of Soils

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Adapted from a Press Release by Justin Fritscher, U.S. Department of Agriculture

The US Department of Agriculture released an article to announce the 2015 International Year of Soils. This designation comes from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization which spearheaded the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly. A world wide effort to highlight the importance of healthy soils for food security, ecosystem functions and resilient farms, ranches and urban areas. (more…)

Richmond City Hall Park Goes Earth-Kind

By Peggy d’Hemecourt, Fort Bend County Master Gardener

Community volunteers and Fort Bend County Master Gardeners created an Earth-Kind landscape at the park adjacent to Richmond City Hall on November 15th. The installation occurred on Keep Richmond Beautiful National Planting Day and celebrated the value of restoring ecological balance and creating greener, more beautiful communities. (more…)