acreage living September 1999

ISU cooperative extension

In this issue: acreage living home page

 Vegetable Garden Problems - What Can You Do?

Eldon Everhartby Eldon Everhart, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Horticulture, Shelby County
Phone: 712-755-3104 - e-mail:

This year many vegetable gardens have had to contend with an extended cool, wet spring followed by summer heat and dry spells. As a result, you may observe some of the following problems in your vegetable garden.

Blossom drop on tomato, pepper, and snap beans
Extremes in temperature and dry conditions
may result in poor pollination and cause flowers to drop from the plant without setting fruit. For ex ample, blossom drop on tomatoes may occur when night temperatures are below 55oF or above 75oF.
Water plants deeply once a week. Fruit set should increase when warmer temperatures arrive.

Bitter fruit taste of cucumbers
Bitterness develops when plants are subjected to stressful growing conditions. Stressful conditions include high temperatures, drought, and disease problems.
Control: Much of he bitterness may be removed by cutting off the stem end of the cucumber and peeling the remaining portion of the fruit. Watering plants during dry periods and practicing good disease control can reduce bitterness. Cucumber varieties differ in their tendency to produce bitter fruit. Straight Eight often produces bitter fruit. Sweet Slice and Burpless Hybrid have fewer problems.

Blossom-end rot of tomato, peppers, and summer squash
A brown or black spot develops on the blossom end of the fruit. Secondary organisms invade the affected tissue and cause the fruit to rot.
Cause: Blossom-end rot is a physiological disorder caused by lack of calcium in the developing fruit. Wide fluctuations in soil moisture levels impair calcium uptake by the root system. Excessive nitrogen fertilization may also contribute to blossom-end rot.
Control: To reduce blossom-end rot, water plants during dry weather to maintain uniform soil moisture levels. Avoid overfertilizing with nitrogen.

Sunscald on fruit of tomatoes and peppers
Initial symptoms are shiny white or yellow areas on the sides of the fruit exposed to the sun. Later, the affected tissue dries out and collapses, forming slightly sunken, wrinkled areas. Secondary organisms invade the affected areas causing the fruit to rot.
Cause: Sunscald occurs on fruit exposed to the sun during periods of extreme heat.
Control: Growing tomatoes in wire cages will provide more foliage cover to better protect the fruit from direct sunlight. Controlling diseases on the foliage will prevent defoliation of the plants and exposure of the fruit to direct sunlight.

Splitting of mature heads of cabbage
The splitting results from a buildup of water pressure.
Control: Splitting may be prevented by pulling the mature plant upward and gently twisting the plant to break some of the roots, thereby reducing water uptake. Plant only the number of cabbage you can use over a two- to three-week period when the crop is mature. Another alternative would be to plant early, mid-season, and late maturing cabbage varieties to prolong the harvest season.

Cracks on fruit of tomatoes
Radial and concentric cracks at the stem end of the fruit.
Cause: Heavy rainfall or irrigation following a long, dry period promotes rapid growth during ripening. This growth results in cracking. Exposure of tomatoes to high temperatures (above 900F) and direct sunlight also contribute to cracking. Large-fruited varieties are more susceptible to cracking.
Providing uniform supplies of moisture to plants can reduce cracking. Plant crack-resistant varieties and irrigate plants during dry weather.

Wilting tomato plants
Leaves wilt during the day but recover overnight, gradually becoming worse until plants eventually turn yellow and die. A cut through the lower stem often reveals brownish streaks.
Cause: Vascular wilt diseases Verticillium and Fusarium) cause most cases of wilting tomatoes in Iowa. Soilborne fungi invade injured roots, spread into the water-conducting tissue in the stem, and block the flow of water.
Control: Remove and destroy plants that die. Crop rotation does not help because these diseases survive in the soil for many years. Resistant varieties may become infected but many plants survive and produce an adequate crop. The letters V and F following the variety name in seed catalogs denote varieties that are resistant to Verticillium and Fusarium wilts.

White spots on fruit of tomato
A common problem this time of year is white spots on tomato fruit known as cloudy spot.
Cause: The feeding or probing of stinkbugs on developing tomato fruit causes the pigments to stop developing. The most common response by people when they hear this explanation is, "I never saw any stinkbugs on my plants!" If you look very closely, you should see a small feeding hole in the center of each spot. It takes only one or a few bugs and they usually move in and out in a short period of time.
Control measures are usually impractical or impossible. Fortunately, the feeding period is short and the affected fruit is safe to can or eat fresh.

Herbicide drift on vegetable plants
Distorted or dwarfed leaves and stems. Tomatoes, peppers, melons, grapes, and other plants are susceptible to injury from herbicide drift.
This year, rainy weather caused delays in herbicide applications. During high wind, drift is apt to occur regardless of nozzle type, spray pressure, or drift retardant used.
Action: If drift is observed or suspected, take pictures with still and video cameras that record the date on the film. Immediately call 515-281-8591 to report the incident to the Pesticide Bureau of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Steward ship (IDALS). An investigator will visit the site, take photos, and get statements from the caller, the applicator, and witnesses. The investigator will collect samples and send them to the IDALS lab for pesticide residue analyses. The investigator will write a report summarizing the investigation. There is no charge for this service.


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 High Protein Diets: Are They Safe?

Pat Andersonby Pat Anderson, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Food & Nutrition, East Pottawattamie County.
Phone: 712-482-6449 - e-mail:

Do you want to lose weight? Does a diet that provides quick weight loss sound good? Don't be a victim to the latest craze... high protein diets.

What are these diets? They're the diets your neighbor, your teacher, your cousin, and maybe even your doctor are on. They have many different names, but they definitely aren't new. In fact, they were popular in the twenties, in the seventies, and are making a comeback in the nineties. They do result in rapid weight loss, BUT are very unhealthy and can, eventually, damage your body.

Why do they cause weight loss? Most high protein diets are reduced calorie meal plans. If you're on a high protein diet you're really eating a lower number of calories than usual, so you end up losing weight. You are not restricting fats or meats so you may not feel deprived. As a result, you aren't as likely to "cheat," at least not at first. However, like any diet that cuts major food groups, these can also get boring.

What are the concerns with these diets?

imageCarbohydrates are the best form of energy for activity. Your body has to work harder to use proteins and fats. This causes a lot of stress.

High protein diets decrease stamina and may make you feel tired if followed for a long period. This happens because carbohydrates are stored in your muscles and liver like gas in a tank. You will eventually run low on stored fuel if you do not eat enough carbohydrates to refill. You will then have less energy, especially during activities that require endurance.

imageHigh protein diets are high in fat and low in fiber. This increases your risk for high serum cholesterol, heart disease, colon cancer and constipation. Carbohydrates also carry a lot of water with them. For every pound of carbohydrates eaten, your body stores three pounds of water This adds up to be four pounds, BUT when you lose this four pounds you are actually mostly losing water. Losing weight this way doesn't help your body cut down on fat stores, which is the main goal. You also gain this weight back when you go off the diet.

There are a few other reasons high protein diets aren't good for you. Carbohydrate dense foods usually contain a lot of vitamins. Without eating carbs you don't get these vitamins, and you are more likely to get sick. On a high protein diet you also eat too much protein, which overworks and can eventually damage your kidneys.

So what's the answer? As much as everyone hates to hear it, there are still no miracle diets. The truth is, if you want to lose weight and keep it off, exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet is still the only solution that works. For safe, long term weight loss, you shouldn't lose more than one to two pounds a week, and you should eat from every food group. A gradual change may seem slow, but in the end the weight will stay off.

Article written by Wendy Kritenbrink, Iowa State University Dietetic Intern


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 Standby Electric Generators

Shawn Shouseby Shawn Shouse, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Ag Engineering, SW Area Extension Center
Phone: 712-769-2600 - e-mail:

With winter approaching and the added hype of the year 2000, standby electric generators are a hot commodity. I thought it might be worth reprinting excerpts from an article from a 1995 Acreage Living on standby generators. I'm not suggesting everyone needs one, and I'll talk about that more next month. But, if you're so inclined, here's some background information.

Standby generating equipment can be divided into two general types: engine-driven and tractor-driven. Tractor-driven units can be stationary or trailer mounted and generally cost $2000 to $4000. Engine driven units can also be stationary or portable and can be either manual start or automatic start. Prices range from about $500 for small portable units to more than $10,000 for large automated units. Because of the Y2K scare, many retail suppliers are back-ordered on generators.

A whole-system generator would likely be connected to your electrical system at the main service entrance at the meter pole. Check the requirements of your local power supplier for details on power transfer switching. Small, portable generators can be used to supply power to individual appliances simply by plugging them into the generator.

Generators require about 2 hp engine capacity for each 1,000 watts of generator output. Your main concern will be to provide capacity for starting motors. Motors require three to five times more electrical current to start than to run. Estimate power requirements from electric equipment nameplates if possible. As a guide, electric motors require roughly 4000 watts to start and 1000 watts to run for each horse power of output. Typically, water pumps are 1/4 to 3/4 horsepower, refrigerators and freezers are 1/6 to 1/4 horsepower and furnace blowers are 1/4 to 1/2 horsepower.

For a typical home, operating a water pump, refrigerator, freezer, furnace blower (gas furnace) and a few lights will require around 5000 watts peak for starting and 2000 watts for continuous operation. Electric heating devices would drive the requirement much higher. Typical farm demand could easily be 15,000 watts or more.

In some cases the generator capacity may not be sufficient to run all essential appliances simultaneously. In this case you may need to manually switch electric power to only one appliance at a time. This method requires more supervision, but allows effective use of a smaller generator.

For more detailed information on selecting and operating a standby generator, ask your power supplier, or contact your ISU Extension Ag Engineering Specialist and ask for bulletin AEN-122 (Electric Generators for Temporary Use).

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 "Living in the Country" Course Offered

The challenges and allure of living in the country have drawn the attention of other educators across Iowa. Starting on Saturday, October23, Iowa Western Community College will offer a course called "Living in the Country" at its Council Bluffs campus. The course will cover topics like benefits of country living, soil conservation, wells, septic systems, wildlife management, ponds, windbreaks, and many other issues. For information, refer to page 29 in the IWCC fall catalog, or call IWCC at 712-325-3210.


Acreage Living is published monthly. For more information, contact your local county ISU Extension Office.
Editor: Shawn Shouse, ISU Extension FS/Ag Engineering, SW Area Extension, 53020 Hitchcock Avenue, Lewis, Iowa, 51544, Ph: 712/769-2600
Layout & Design: Paulette Cambridge, Office Assistant, SW Area Extension, 53020 Hitchcock Avenue, Lewis, Iowa 51544, Ph: 712/769-2600

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