[EDITOR’S NOTE – Clemson University Extension expert Tony Melton is a regular contributor to SPW. We welcome your input as well — hit us up at if there’s an article or idea you’d like to share.]

Tony Melton

Thank goodness most of the fall greens are planted in SC, even the more cold hardy crops like kale and spinach are growing well — or, as Forrest Gump would say, “hauling buttocks.”

South Carolina is known for its greens, mostly crops like collards, turnips and mustard which are typical Southern favorites. However, many people especially those of the northern persuasion have never developed a taste for our Southern delicacies.

Northerners eat the turnip bottoms (roots) and throw away the best part, the greens. It may be a little crude but like my dad would say, “A good mess of greens would put a “Regular Smile” on many a folk’s face.” Maybe this is one reason we have “Smiling Faces and Beautiful Places” in South Carolina.

Folks everywhere are enjoying kale and spinach because of all the high praise and attention they are receiving from nutritionists. However, I think all this praise is due to the fact that most of these so-called expert nutritionists are from the north [Editor’s Note — Not all, Tony, but we see where you’re going with this…] and would not know a good collard/turnip/mustard green if it bit them on Mr. Gump’s previously mentioned buttocks.

Greens take centerstage in SC and other parts of the Southeast this time of year

The green crops are really enjoying these cooler temperatures we are experiencing now; however, the high temperatures and heavy rains during planting a few weeks ago was tough on these cool season crops. I don’t believe I have ever seen so much Rhizoctonia wirestem and Pythium damping-off on fall greens. Always remember, the presence of the pathogen, plus a plant under stress, plus the wrong environmental conditions, equals bad disease problems.

Even though I have been preaching it for years, it seemed like everyone forgot about one of our best tools in our arsenal against different soil rots, the phosphites. These products are systemic, in fact the only fungicide that I know of that is systemic in both directions because they move in the phloem and not just in the xylem like many other products. In other words, when applied to the roots they will go upwards in the plant, and when applied to the leaves they will go downward in the plant.

Therefore, when conditions are right for disease development you can apply it pre-plant or when symptoms just begin you can spray the top of the plants, it will go systemic in the plant, and help control the soil rot disease.

An added benefit in brassica crops is that the phosphites are an excellent control for downy mildew. When sprayed preventatively it will keep this bad disease from taking control. However, if sprayed after the appearance of this disease it will stop further development, but what I have seen is that the spots on the leaves where the disease is present will turn brown/dark.

Today, it seems that everyone and his brother has a phosphite product. Some are listed as fungicides, but some are just listed as fertilizers. All types of other nutrients are added to these phosphites to further benefit the specific crop being grown. Most contain potassium, but others contain other nutrients like calcium, manganese, zinc, and etc. Therefore, pick the product that will provide the most benefits to your crop.

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