VIDEO CROPSTOP: Warm winter, warm summer boosts pests

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- Some farmers are concerned about the weather, even when they grow their crops entirely under cover. Trever Gilkerson, owner of Gilkerson Gardens Produce, east of Brookings, S.D., says the mild winter, followed by a lot of heat ...

Gilkerson Gardens of Brookings, S.D., shifted from a diversified farm, to a dairy, to a vegetable specialty crop farm that raises primarily tomatoes and cucumbers in seven greenhouses. Photo taken July 16, 2016, at Brookings, S.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

BROOKINGS, S.D. - Some farmers are concerned about the weather, even when they grow their crops entirely under cover.

Trever Gilkerson, owner of Gilkerson Gardens Produce, east of Brookings, S.D., says the mild winter, followed by a lot of heat early in the summer, caused insect pests to survive and then multiply quicker than usual - spider mites in the cucumbers, white flies in the tomatoes.

“For greenhouse production, the cooler the better in the summertime,” Gilkerson says. “You can control the temperature when it’s cold a lot easier than when it’s hot. For what I’m growing, the optimal temperature is 75 to 80.”

Projected temperatures in the 90s for the next two weeks is not a good forecast for Gilkerson.

If it gets too hot, there will be pollination problems and blossom drop. Greenhouse workers shake the plants once a day to enhance pollination, but Gilkerson also purchases bumblebees online to do some of the work.


His father, Jim Gilkerson, became the manager of the operation in the early 1980s, shifting from what had been a diversified farm since the family acquired it in the 1940s into one that specialized in dairy.

Trever acquired a plant science degree at South Dakota State University, returned to the farm and shifted the operation to vegetables. “We did pumpkins, potatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes - everything you could do in the garden,” he says. The Gilkersons experimented with greenhouse produce, but mostly used the greenhouses to start vegetables that would later be transplanted into the garden.

In 2009, he decided to build a greenhouse large enough to take the vegetables to market maturity. Today, they have seven greenhouses on a half-acre of growing space. They produce 80 percent tomatoes and 10 percent cucumbers, but this year are trying zucchini, peppers and eggplant.

The company sells to grocery chains in Brookings and Sioux Falls, S.D., restaurants, farmers markets and directly off the farm. It’s labor-intensive. He has one full-time worker, but hires young people for picking and going to market.

Marketing is a challenge, trying to plan cropping seasons to have product at the right time. Greenhouse crop markets are spring and early summer, when the home-raised garden product starts hitting the market. “When August hits, you expect a smaller market,” he says.

Here are weekly crop-weather reports from the July 18 crop progress and condition reports from the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

South Dakota Topsoil moisture condition was rated 57 percent adequate to surplus, while subsoil was 58 percent adequate to surplus. There were 6 days suitable for field work.

Corn condition stood at 63 percent good to excellent, down from 81 percent the previous week. Corn was reported 37 percent silked, ahead of 23 percent for the five-year average.


Soybeans were rated 66 percent good to excellent, down from 69 percent the previous week. Respondents reported 17 percent of soybeans were setting pods, ahead of the 7 percent average.

Other crop percentages in the good to excellent categories - oats, 64 percent good to excellent, compared to 66 percent the previous week, 38 percent poor to very poor, 15 percent average; barley, 46 percent, same as the previous week, 65 percent turning color, 39 percent average; sorghum, 63 percent good to excellent, compared to 65 percent the previous week, 23 percent heading, 18 percent average; sunflowers, 47 percent good to excellent, compared to 50 percent the previous week, 11 percent blooming, 4 percent average.

North Dakota Temperatures averaged 2 to 6 degrees less-than-normal during the week, and rainfall across the state ranged from a half-inch to 2 inches. There were 4.3 days available for field work. Topsoil moisture was 87 percent rated adequate to surplus. Subsoil was 82 percent adequate to surplus.

Winter wheat condition was 72 percent good to excellent, with 87 percent turning color and 5 percent harvested.

Corn was rated 78 percent good to excellent compared to 78 percent last week, with silking estimated at 25 percent, up from the 18 percent average for this date. Soybeans were 72 percent good to excellent, down from 73 percent last week, with 67 percent blooming, ahead of the 49 percent average. About 19 percent were setting pods, ahead of the 11 percent average.

Other crop progress reports included: canola, 41 percent coloring, 12 percent average; sunflowers, 13 percent blooming, 4 percent average; flaxseed, 91 percent blooming, 64 percent average; dry peas, 20 percent dropping leaves, 11 percent average; edible beans, 10 percent setting pods, 9 percent average; potatoes, 30 percent rows filled, 21 percent average.

Minnesota Strong storms during the week meant 3.3 days were suitable for field work. There were reports of damaging wind, hail and excessive rains, leading to flooding in some central and east-central areas where some farms received more than 6 inches of rain. Farmers were assessing crop damage.

Topsoil moisture was now 99 percent adequate to surplus (including 26 percent surplus), with subsoil at 94 percent adequate to surplus (including 17 percent surplus).


Corn was 82 percent good to excellent, up 1 percent from the previous week; 41 percent silked, 16 percent the previous week. Soybeans were rated 78 percent good to excellent, with 12 percent setting pods, 3 percent last week.

Spring wheat was 70 percent good to excellent, with 61 percent of the spring wheat turning color, up from 41 percent last week.

Dry edible beans were 68 percent good to excellent, with 72 percent blooming, 45 percent average. Potatoes were 78 percent good to excellent. Sugar beets were 86 percent good to excellent. About 13 percent of hay and alfalfa had reached a third cutting and 72 percent had a second cutting.

Montana High precipitation for the state was topped by Zortman, in north-central Montana, with 3.1 inches. Mostly spotty rains helped flagging spring crops and rangelands in all but the northeast corner of the state where there has been surplus moisture, leading to disease and insects, and problems cutting hay.

Crop condition and progress reports included: winter wheat, 61 percent good to excellent, 62 percent last week, with 96 percent turning ripe, 71 percent average; spring wheat was rated 65 percent good to excellent, compared to 66 percent the previous week; it was 90 percent headed, 74 percent average; durum wheat, 51 percent good to excellent; lentils, 56 percent, same as the previous week; pasture and range, 38 percent good to excellent, 39 percent the previous week.

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