You “Mite” Want To Get Involved In This Study

UofFloridaby Naomi Rosen

The US League of Tea Growers received a request from Dr. Childers, University of Florida, to participate in a study on mite varieties present in US grown tea. We are inviting each of you to take the time to read his letter to our members and get involved in his study! Dr. Childers’ email address is at the end of the article and we encourage you to ask questions and get involved. The benefits from a study like this are exactly why this league was formed and we look forward to reading Dr. Childers’ findings.

January 26, 2015

Dear Naomi,

I am a retired professor formerly with the University of Florida at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.  You can find me on their web site, locate emeritus/retired faculty and scroll down. You can also find me on Google…Carl C. Childers, University of Florida. I conducted research on citrus with emphasis on controlling mite pests. One area was evaluating potential biological control agents (primarily predacious mites). 

Some years ago I saw the article in Southern Living Magazine about a tea farm on Wadmalaw Island in South Carolina.  It was a partnership at the time and their brand of tea was American Classic.  They stated in the article that pesticides were not used.  I immediately became interested as tea is known to have a large number of mite pests as does citrus. I met with the partners and began taking samples to look for mites. Since then I’ve taken samples in a number of locations in and around Charleston, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.

The more I looked into the literature the more I realized that there was very little useful information regarding control of pest mites without having to resort to the use of acaricides = miticides. Much of the published literature is from India and much of that is of limited use.  There have been some excellent studies in places like Indonesia but nothing here in the States. I’ve talked with colleagues and we have decided to do a book on tea mites that would include pest mite species, predacious mites with focus on mite predators, and possibly include other mite groups that contribute to organic breakdown of tea plants or mites that feed on organic debris on plant surfaces. The work would cover tea mite pests worldwide as well as what is found here in the States.  So far, I’ve found 8 to 10 plant feeding mites that could become potential pests of tea here in the States. The good news is that all but one species occur in low numbers most likely due to predation by a diverse group of predatory mites.

It would benefit a young, developing industry to know about these mites early on rather than discovering unexpected plant damage in the future.  Part of our team consists of two South African scientists.  They are both taxonomists and provide excellent support in species identifications of tea mites collected here in the States.  They will begin sampling for mites on tea in various plantations in South Africa as well as from a second African country this year.  Several countries in Africa are actively involved in growing tea

My sampling consists of collecting leaves, fruit (=seed pods), and three ages of wood at each location.  Each of these samples is collected separately (i.e., 50 leaves, or 25 fruit or 30 cm of wood per age of the wood. I look at one, two and three plus year old wood cuttings. Each sample is immediately washed in a bucket containing 80% ethanol. Where possible I take repeated samples (usually three per sample type). Each sample is vigorously agitated in the alcohol and plant material is then discarded.  I pour the rinsate (with the mites) into a labeled glass jar and return it for processing. No plant materials leave the farm!

Mites range in size from less than 100 micrometers to 1 mm in length….very tiny.  Many of these mites require a magnified handlens to even see them!  However, if certain pest mite numbers are great enough then there is potential for visible plant damage to be seen.

I would like to request that you contact your membership to see if additional tea growers (farms and nurseries) would be willing to let me sample for mites. There are no fees or expected payment by me. I see this as a needed opportunity to expand our knowledge of the mite complex on tea in the States and to potentially contribute to the growth of a new industry. Ideally, sample sites of several acres would be preferred to small plots of tea. My objective, hopefully, is to locate farms/nurseries in different states to gain a broader idea of mite diversity and potential problems facing a young industry.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Carl

Carl C. Childers, Emeritus Professor of Entomology, University of Florida

e-mail address: ccc1957@ufl.edu

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USLTG 2015 Meeting Announcement

round upIt is with great excitement that we announce the 2015 meeting of the US League of Tea Growers.

Date: February 19th – 22nd

Time: 8AM-10AM (2/20) & 8AM-9AM (2/21)

Location: Great Mississippi Tea Company (2572 E Lincoln Rd SE, Brookhaven, MS 39601)

Items on the agenda include, but are not limited to: old business, new business, progress of the league, a membership drive, upcoming projects, and formation of a nominating committee for the election of a new executive committee as called for in the bylaws (Art 6 Sec E- Nominating Committee).

  • The last order of business is the formation of a nominating committee. The positions to fill this year will be President, Exec VP/Treasurer, Atlantic Coast Rep, Gulf Coast Rep, and Pacific Coast Rep.
  • This also means there needs to be immediate action in the membership drive department so that there are voters to vote in the election.
  • If you want to serve in any capacity, feel free to throw your hat into the ring. This includes current office holders that wish to retain their positions.

Below is the current schedule of events. All events are subject to change.

February 18, 2015

  • 5:00PM – 8:00PM: East Texas Tea Company’s Welcome Reception

February 19, 2015 (All seminars to be held at ETTC, Mount Vernon, TX)

  • 8:00AM – 8:45AM: Introduction To Monitoring For Plant Health led by James Orrock, University of Miami
  • 8:45AM – 9:30AM: Building A Business Plan For Sustainable Farms And Agribusinesses led by Rene’ McCracken, Northeast Texas Community College
  • 9:30AM – 9:45AM: Soil Building – The Foundation Of Farming led by Kenny Rollins, A&M University AgriLIFE Extension
  • 9:45AM – 10:15AM: USDA and Department of Conservation Staff On Rural Development Programs
  • 10:15AM – 11:15AM: Roundtable – Q & A
  • 11:20AM – Lunch: On-site Presentation And Visit Of ETTC Permaculture Tea Block/Garden

February 20, 2015

  • 8:00AM – 9:00AM: USLTG Meeting (Brookhaven, MS)
  • 9:00AM – 10:00AM: USLTG Meeting & Membership Drive (Brookhaven, MS)
  • 10:00AM – 11:00AM: Great Mississippi Tea Company Farm Tour (Brookhaven, MS)
  • 11:00AM – 12:00PM: pH Testing and Nursery Discussions led by Nigel Melican, Dr. Bi (MSU), and Judson LeCompte (MSU) (Brookhaven, MS)
  • 2:00PM – 4:00PM: Tour of Transcend Nursery, propagation techniques, and presentation of current tea genetic collection led by Buddy Lee (Owner) (Independence, LA)

February 21, 2015

  • 8:00AM – 9:30AM: USLTG Meeting (Brookhaven, MS)
  • 11:00AM – 12:00PM: MSU Truck Crops Experiment Station Tour – research site of the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funded Tea Field Trial (Crystal Springs, MS)
  • 2:30PM – 4:00PM: Researcher Roundtable with confirmed representatives from MSU, LSU, Auburn. (Brookhaven, MS)
  • 7:30PM – Cowboy Jim’s Farm-To-Table Dinner (Brookhaven, MS)

February 22, 2015

  • 10:00AM – 12:00PM: Tour and presentation at J&D Blueberries by Don & Jeff (Poplarville, MS)
  • 3:00PM: Closing Remarks (Brookhaven, MS)

**Please note that there is travel between locations and tours. Transportation is not being provided. Please plan accordingly.

The cost per person will be $100.00. This fee gives you access to all USLTG meetings, tours, presentations, and includes the Saturday night dinner at Cowboy Jim’s.

For question, or to register for this event, please send a note to Jason McDonald at coaster_25@hotmail.com no later than February 9th, 2015. A PayPal invoice for the meeting fees will be sent to you to reserve your spot.

We look forward to seeing you in February and please pass this information to your fellow tea growers and enthusiasts!