Handling your Produce, Soil Sampling and Asian Long Horned Tick Q&A

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This week I want to share three questions we received recently at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center. Spring seems to be arriving, as well as coronavirus. For this reason, we are practicing social distancing. The Caldwell Extension Center office is closed to the public, but we are still available by phone, email, and farm visits.

Question: How should I handle fresh produce to keep my family safe from coronavirus?

Answer: Great question. Right now there is no evidence whatsoever that fresh produce, or food of any kind, is actually a vehicle for transmitting this virus. The CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have listed on their website that they don’t have any evidence that food is a vehicle for transmitting the virus. The FDA has also released information they’re in agreement with the CDC’s statement as well.

Taking the normal food safety precautions are appropriate so you don’t get sick from our normal foodborne pathogens. A good practice is to wash your hands before and during meal preparation to avoid cross contamination.

Coronavirus is not a foodborne disease. Focus your efforts on social distancing so this does not spread from person to person.

Veggie Washing Infographic

Veggie Washing Infographic

(This answer was taken from an interview with Dr. Ben Chapman, NC State University and NC State Extension Food Safety Specialist. The full interview is available on Caldwell County Government Channel 190 – YouTube Channel.)

Question: Can I submit a soil sample right now?

Answer: The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is NOT accepting soil samples for predictive analysis right now. Predictive analysis is useful for growers to know the fertility of their soil. In the absence of a recent soil test, using a previous test is acceptable to determine spring fertilizer applications.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Agronomy lab is open for diagnostic services. This includes soil diagnostic, nematode diagnostic, plant tissue, solution, and soilless media analysis. So if you are having a problem, services are available so the situation can be corrected. Predictive soil analysis will resume in the future when the lab goes back to full-time operation.

Question: Is there a new tick in North Carolina?

Answer: The Asian longhorned tick is new to NC. This invasive species was initially reported when found on sheep in New Jersey in 2017. However, this tick was collected in West Virginia in 2010, but it was initially misidentified as a lonestar tick. The Asian longhorned tick has been reported in twelve states (AR, CT, DE, KY, MD, NJ, NY, NC, PA, TN, VA, and WV). In North Carolina, this tick has been found in five counties.

The Asian longhorn tick is a new invasive tick that has been found in 5 counties in NC. Credit (Eric R. Day, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Bugwood.org)

The Asian longhorn tick is a new invasive tick that has been found in 5 counties in NC. Credit (Eric R. Day, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Bugwood.org)

On June 25, 2018, the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa confirmed the finding of the H. longicornis tick (Asian Longhorned tick) on an opossum found in Polk County, NC. The tick has since been found in four other counties in North Carolina. It was found on a human in Davidson County, on dogs in Rutherford & Alexander Counties, and on cattle in Surry County.

USDA officials are concerned about the longhorned tick’s impact on livestock. These ticks frequently form large infestations on warm-blooded host animals. This causes great stress on the animal, reducing its growth and production. A severe infestation can kill the animal due to blood loss.

In other countries, the longhorned tick is known to transmit certain livestock and human diseases, including Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Theileriosis, Rickettsiosis, and several viruses. However, in the United States, the longhorned tick has not been linked to any human infection. The NC Division of Public Health is working with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and NC State University to understand the distribution of this new invasive tick.

If you suspect this new tick was found on you or your pet, work with your doctor or veterinarian. If you find this tick on livestock, contact me so we can get the tick to Dr. Wes Watson, NC State Extension Entomologist for verification.

If you have questions about weed identification, weed control, or soil sampling in your lawn or pasture, please contact Seth Nagy, County Extension Director at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center, at 828-757-1290 or by email at seth_nagy@ncsu.edu.