Horticultural Sciences Department

You are here

Issue No. 597

The Vegetarian Newsletter 

A Horticultural Sciences Department Extension Publication on 
Vegetable and Fruit Crops 

Eat your Veggies and Fruits!!!!!

Publish Date: 
January 2015

The Performance of Blackberry Cultivars at the NFREC-Quincy

Peter C. Andersen [Professor Horticulture] University of Florida North Florida Research and Education Center-Quincy

Many blackberry cultivars are adapted to the southeastern United States. They require few, if any, pesticide sprays, and are good candidates for organic culture. In commercial plantings Septoria leaf spot, stinkbugs and the red necked cane borer are common pests. Perhaps the biggest problem of blackberry culture is weed control. One possible weed control strategy is to grow blackberry plants with plastic or a polypropylene weed mat.  Most recently, the spotted-winged Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) has emerged as a significant pest of blackberries, blueberries, cherries and other fruit in many locations in the United States. This insect lays its eggs in both developing and ripe fruit and the presence of larvae in fruit can cause the rejection of the entire fruit shipment.

During the last two decades, the University of Arkansas has named and released over ten thornless and thorny blackberry cultivars. Many of these cultivars appear to be adapted to north Florida with a chilling requirement of between 300 and 800 cumulative hours of chilling temperatures (Table 1). The chilling requirement is often quantified by the accumulation of total hours 45 F or less during the winter that will allow normal reproductive and vegetative growth in the spring. The great majority of blackberry cultivars produce vegetative growth (primocanes) one year which form flowers and fruit (floricanes) the following year. There are a few blackberry cultivars that fruit on primocanes, but they are not adapted to the deep South. There is a good market window for blackberries that mature in May. Blackberries are extremely perishable and should be picked at least twice a week and refrigerated after picking. Some small commercial growers have even picked them at night to avoid high fruit temperatures during the day. Most blackberry cultivars fruit over a two to three 3 week period.

In the late winter of 2011, a blackberry cultivar trial was initiated at the University of Florida North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, FL.  Six thornless cultivars (Apache, Arapaho, Chester, Natchez, Ouachita and Triple Crown) and two thorny cultivars (Kiowa and Tupi) were represented in the trial. Apache, Arapaho, Kiowa, Natchez and Ouachita are from the University of Arkansas and are patented. Tupi originated in Brazil and is the blackberry cultivar that most often occurs in the marketplace for most of the year. Plant vigor and yield were estimated during the growing season from 2012 to 2014 (Table 1). The chilling requirement of both Chester and Triple Crown was too high for north Florida and neither cultivar normal vegetative growth or fruit. Vigor was least for Arapaho and Kiowa of the remaining six cultivars. Yield rating was highest for Natchez and Ouachita. The largest berry weights were recorded for Apache. Berry weights were at least 4.0 grams each for all cultivars except Arapaho.  In general, the Arkansas blackberry cultivars have been reported to have soluble solids in the range of 10.0 oBrix (one degree Brix is equal to 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution). Arapaho was the sweetest of the cultivars evaluated with a oBrix of 11.3.A brief summary of the cultivars is below. 

Apache is an erect thornless blackberry from the University of Arkansas breeding program. In Arkansas Apache produces 10 g berries and higher yields than other blackberry cultivars. In Florida, yield was average and berry weight was 5.2 g.

Arapaho is an erect thornless blackberry that was released from the University of Arkansas over 20 years ago. Yields and fruit weights are not as good as newer cultivars such as Apache, Natchez and Ouachita.

Chester is a semi erect thornless blackberry that has a much too high chilling requirement for culture in Florida. It also may require trellising.

Kiowa is a thorny cultivar from the University of Arkansas breeding program. It is almost 20 years old and has been largely replaced by the thornless cultivars Apache, Natchez and Ouachita.

Natchez is an erect thornless blackberry released from the University of Arkansas. Natchez has the potential to produce very high yields. Berry size and sweetness is about average. It is recommended for north Florida.

Ouachita is an erect thornless cultivar released by the University of Arkansas breeding program. This cultivar has produced high yields in Arkansas, and has the highest average yield in Florida. Berry weight and oBrix are above average. Ouachita is recommended for north Florida.

Triple Crown is a trailing blackberry that requires trellising. It has a chilling requirement that is much too high for Florida.

Tupi is sometimes spelled Tupy. It is semi-erect and extremely thornless. It is commonly grown in Mexico and is commonly sold throughout the United States. Yield, berry weight and oBrix have been slightly above average.

Table 1. Average plant vigor, yield, berry weight, and soluble solids of blackberry cultivars at the NFREC-Quincy from 2012-2014.


Estimated Chilling Requirementz



Berry wt (g)

Soluble Solids (oBrix)





































Triple Crown












zNumber of chilling hours below 45oF. yVigor rated on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. xYield rated on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.  

Don’t forget about the Bts

Gene McAvoy, UF/IFAS Hendry County Extension

Over the past few years, chemical manufacturers have produced a variety of new tools in the battle against armyworms so that growers now have a wide array of excellent worm control materials in their arsenal.  Growers are reminded to rotate between products of different chemical classes to avoid the buildup of possible pest resistance.  The range of materials to choose from and the use of IRAC numbers make this task relatively easy to do.

Traditional chemicals and the various Bacillus thuringiensis compounds (Bts) both have a place in the grower’s toolbox for worm control and the Bts should not be overlooked in the light of newer chemistries.

Bts can control worm pests just as traditional chemicals, but also provide added benefits.

Some benefits of Bt insecticides:

•             Very low impact on beneficial insects.

•             Avoidance of secondary pest problems.

•             Not toxic to bees and predatory mites.

•             No preharvest interval required after application.

•             No restrictions on use.

•             Resistance to Bts is slower to develop than resistance to chemicals.

Commercial Bt products contain endotoxin crystals or a mixture of crystals and Bt spores. Bt is a not a contact pesticide. Susceptible insects must ingest Bt δ-endotoxins to be affected. In insects, the toxin acts as a selective stomach poison. Spores contribute to their toxicity by causing blood poisoning and providing environmental persistence.

When an insect pest ingests Bt toxins from treated leaves, feeding stops within minutes after the crystals are solubilized in the gut and gut cells are damaged. After toxin damage to the gut occurs, spores enter through the gut wall and germinate rapidly in the body cavity causing blood poisoning. Larvae stop feeding within minutes and die in 1-3 days. Smaller larvae die more quickly, so precise timing can measurably improve the performance of the application.

Various Bacillus thuringiensis strains occur naturally in soil and on plant leaves. Literally thousands of Bt strains exist within the various Bt subspecies. Each individual strain produces its own insecticidal protein toxin mix targeting specific groups of pests.

There are more than 80 different subspecies of Bt, but the following are used commercially:

Bt kurstaki: Used for caterpillar control

Bt aizawai: Used for caterpillar control with specific activity on armyworms

Bt tenebrionis: Used to control beetle larva

Bt israelensis: Used to control mosquito, black fly and fungus gnat

Some pest species are difficult to control with toxin alone. Germinating Bt spores provide an additional control mechanism.   Spores germinate in the midgut and spread throughout, ultimately causing death of the target insect.  This effect is especially apparent in armyworm larvae, which can be difficult to control with toxin alone.  Products with viable spores (such as DiPel and XenTari) have a distinct advantage over products without spores.

Since different species have different susceptibilities to Bt toxins and different Bt products have different profiles of these toxins, it is important to match the Bt insecticide to the pest being targeted.

There are at present two Bt strains available for control of worms (caterpillars) in vegetables; Bt kurstaki and Bt aizawai. Each strain contains a different combination of toxin proteins, and some protein combinations are more effective than others, depending on the target insect pest species. The strain name is located on the product label, under “Active Ingredient:" Examples of product trade names containing proteins from the kurstaki strain are Javelin, Dipel, and Biobit. Some products containing proteins from the aizawai strain such as XenTari. Crymax and Agree contain proteins from both Bt kurstaki and Bt aizawai.  Both strains have activity against a wide range of worm species, including loopers, imported cabbageworm, hornworms, European corn borer, armyworms (beet and fall), diamondback moth larvae and fruitworm.

The toxin proteins in the aizawai strain have demonstrated better control of armyworms (e.g., beet and fall armyworm), and also diamondback moth larvae that have developed resistance to proteins contained in the kurstaki strain of Bt, or to pyrethroid insecticides.

Because of their unique modes of action, Bt insecticides have been a key component in pesticide resistance management programs around the world. Rotating formulations (kurstaki and aizawai) will help in warding off resistance problems.  Through proper scouting and application of the appropriate Bt insecticides at strategic points in the crop season growers can reduce reliance on traditional chemicals and often improve their control program.

Because insect pests like the diamondback moth are capable of developing rapid resistance to insecticides, including Bts, applications should be alternated with synthetic insecticides so that resistance to any one class of insecticide does not develop. Based on experiments to study the development of insect resistance to Bts, some researchers have recommended that the kurstaki strain should be used before the aizawai strain.

It is important to remember that most Bt formulations have better activity against young compared with mature insect larvae. This means that the initial Bt application should be made immediately before or just after the eggs have hatched and the larvae are still small. This is particularly critical with an insect like tomato fruitworm, which bores into the plant after hatching. The best way to apply Bts at the proper time is to monitor plants for worm eggs. Pheromone traps may be useful to determine when adult moths are in the area and when egg laying is likely to occur.

It is also important to remember that insects must eat Bt-treated foliage for activity to occur. Therefore, good spray coverage of the plant is essential for satisfactory control. This is best accomplished using adequate spray volume (at least 40 gpa) and pressure (at least 150 psi).

Despite their age, the Bts remain “oldies but goodies.”

Diseases don’t take Holidays!

While growers like most of us look forward to holidays and spending a few days off with family and friends - remember that plant diseases do not celebrate holidays. 

This time of year we often experience unsettled weather and showers in advance of cold fronts in addition to heavy fogs and dews that keep plants wet for extended periods.

It is important to remember that most of our fungicides are protectants and must be present to prevent infection.

Looking back over the years, we often see an outbreak of various diseases 4-5 days after an extended holiday, which suggests growers may inadvertently let spray schedules lapse during the holiday period. 

Late blight, which can be one of our most devastating diseases on tomatoes and potatoes, often makes its initial appearance in South Florida between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Do yourself a favor and make sure your crops are covered before kicking back and taking off for any extended period of time – holidays or even a long weekend.

An Outbreak of Tomato Chlorotic Spot Virus (TCSV) in South Florida

Shouan Zhang, Tropical Research and Education Center, UF/IFAS

Qingren Wang, UF/IFAS Miami-Dade County Extension

Dakshina Seal, Tropical Research and Education Center, UF/IFAS

Gene McAvoy, UF/IFAS Hendry County Extension

South Florida is experiencing a severe outbreak of Tomato chlorotic spot virus (TCSV) in the fall season of 2014, causing significant losses to tomato growers. In some fields of Homestead, FL, up to 30% tomato plants were infected and rogued (Fig. 1).  Tomato plants in fields started showing the symptoms around three weeks after transplanting. Tomatoes infected with TCSV developed necrotic lesions and chlorotic spots, and ring spots on leaves, stems, petioles, and fruit. Following the initial symptoms, wilting and bronzing of the infected plants may occur.  Infection of TCSV in young tomato plants may result in severe stunting and eventually death of the plant (Fig. 2).

TCSV was first reported in tomato plants from South Florida in 2012. Like Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV), TCSV is transmitted by thrips. Western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis), common blossom thrips (F. schultzei) and possibly other thrips species are vectors of this new tospovirus. The fact that the disease is beginning to show up more widely with greater frequency across South Florida is a cause for concern.

The close relationship between TCSV and TSWV indicates that integrated management strategies directed against TSWV may also be effective for control of these new tospoviruses. Research in North Florida has demonstrated that a combination of UV reflective mulches, acibenzolar-S-methyl (Actigard), and insecticides has provided excellent management of TSWV in commercial tomato fields. A number of varieties of tomato that are resistant or tolerant to TSWV are commercially available. The source of resistance in all of the resistant cultivars is reported to be the Sw5 gene. It is thought that cultivars containing the Sw5 gene may also confer resistance to other tospoviruses such as TCSV. Trials are being planned to evaluate these resistant varieties in Homestead in spring of 2015.

Insecticides Radiant (spinetoram), Spintor and Entrust (spinosad) are efficacious against thrips while sparing predator populations. Field trials were conducted in Homestead with various insecticides such as Entrust, Closer, Verimark, Exirel, Belay, Movento, Requiem, Lannate, and pyrethroids for melon thrips control. The insecticides were applied four times weekly with the exception of Verimark, which was applied only once at planting. All products showed a reduction on melon thrips populations. The best control was achieved by combining Radiant with Requiem and alternating this combination with other above mentioned insecticides.

In Miami-Dade County, tomato growers have reported increasing problems with tospoviruses transmitted by thrips during the past few growing seasons. An integrated management approach which combines the use of insecticides such as Radiant, Exirel, Lannate, Agrimek, Movento and Requiem to control flower thrips and to reduce thrips larval development, thus limiting secondary virus spread, should prove effective in reducing the severity of TCSV. Research in North Florida with TSWV has indicated that insecticides alone may not be adequate to control the virus.

For more information, see ENY859- Managing Thrips and Tospoviruses in Tomato at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in895.


Figure 1. Tomato plants rogued due to infection with Tomato chlorotic spot virus (TCSV)


Figure 2. Symptoms of tomato plants infected with Tomato chlorotic spot virus (TCSV)

An emerging novel genotype of Tobacco streak virus (TSV) from zucchini squash in South Florida

Shouan Zhang

Tropical Research and Education Center

Department of Plant Pathology

University of Florida, IFAS

Homestead, FL 33031

(305) 246-7001 x 213


Kai-Shu Ling

U.S. Vegetable Laboratory

USDA-Agricultural Research Service

Charleston, SC 29414

(843) 402-5313


An unusual mosaic disorder appeared on leaves of zucchini squash ‘Senator’ in Homestead, Florida in April 2013.  Major symptoms occurred on top young leaves including mosaic, leaf curling, yellowing, and stunting of plant tissues (Fig. 1 & 2). These affected young leaves were usually small and distorted showing narrow and pointed “fern leaf” symptoms. Approximately 5% of squash plants in this field were infected, and the most severe problem occurred at one corner of the field where nearly 100% plants demonstrated the symptoms.  It was noticed that an abandoned pepper field full of weeds was right across a road to this area of the field (Fig. 3). Serological tests did not confirm any virus against 13 commonly known viruses in cucurbits (Agdia Inc., Elkhart, IN) in South Florida. A novel genotype of Tobacco streak virus (TSV) was finally identified by using specific molecular technologies, i.e. deep sequencing of small RNAs and assembly (Padmanabhan et al., 2014).  Although a strain of Tobacco streak virus was reported on cucurbits from a field in South Florida (Webb et al., 2003), the TSV strain (TSV_FL13-07) from our study represents an emerging novel genotype infecting squash in the USA with less than 90% sequence identities to other known U.S. TSV isolates.


Fig. 1. Yellow mosaic of young leaves of squash. Credit: Shouan Zhang, UF/IFAS


Fig. 2. Small and distorted young leaves showing narrow and pointed “fern leaf” symptoms. Credit: Shouan Zhang, UF/IFAS


Fig. 3. A pepper field abundant with weeds across the squash field with severe infection of TSV.  Credit: Shouan Zhang, UF/IFAS

Tobacco streak virus (TSV), a member of the genus Ilarvirus reported from more than 26 countries worldwide, has a wide host range infecting over 200 plant species in 30 plant families (EPPO, 2005). Cucurbits are among the hosts of TSV including cucumber, bottle guard, and pumpkin, with watermelon (Vemana and Jain, 2010) and squash (Fulton, 1984) being reported as experimental hosts. In the United States, TSV was first reported in Nicotiana tabacum from Wisconsin by Johnson (1936). Other natural hosts of TSV reported in the USA include asparagus, beans, clover, cowpea, and soybeans.    

TSV is efficiently transmitted in fields by thrips such as Frankliniella occidentalis and Thrips tabaci through mechanical means, and could be seed transmitted in some plant species. The existence of diverse genotypes of TSV with distinct serological reactivity and variable symptom expression makes it difficult to accurately diagnose the disease. 

The identification of this emerging TSV strain with diverse genotypes to the currently known TSV in the U.S. is important to understand the nature of its broad host range. The wide distribution of vector thrips species in the U.S. also possesses another serious threat to the American agriculture.  How this novel genotype of TSV was introduced to the U.S. remains unknown. Seed transmission of TSV should be considered a potential for long distance dispersal of the seed-borne pathogen through international seed trade.  It is recommended to use seed that has been tested free of TSV in commercial vegetable production. Due to the high sequence diversity, serological detection of TSV using an ELISA kit needs to be verified first for its reliability in detecting this new genotype. On the other hand, molecular techniques (i.e., RT-PCR) that are capable of detecting all TSV genotypes would be necessary. 

Control of TSV is difficult. It is always wise to use virus-free seed and to control weed hosts. Rogueing infected plants at the early occurrence is helpful. Maintaining a good insect control program is advised even though controlling the vectors alone will not provide sufficient control of TSV.  Prompt destruction of crops after harvest is important, and coordination and cooperation with neighboring growers in sprays for thrips control are critical to stop movement of thrips from infected fields.  

Literature Cited:

EPPO 2005. PQR database (version 4.4). Paris, France: European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization.

Fulton, R. W. 1984. Plant Viruses Online - Tobacco streak ilarvirus. http://pvo.bio-mirror.cn/descr811.htm.

Johnson, J. 1936. Tobacco streak, a virus disease. Phytopathology 26: 285.

Padmanabhan, C., Gao, S., Li, R., Zhang, S., Fei, Z. and Ling, K.-S.  2014.  Complete genome sequence of an emerging genotype of Tobacco streak virus in the U.S.  Genome Announc. 2(6): e01138-14. doi:10.1128/genomeA.01138-14.

Vemana, K. and Jain, R. K. 2010. New experimental hosts of Tobacco streak virus and absence of true seed transmission in leguminous hosts. Indian J. Virol. 21(2):117–127.

Webb, S. E., Hiebert, E., and Kucharek, T. A. 2003. Identity and distribution of viruses infecting cucurbits in Florida. Phytopathology 93: S89.


ARTICLE 9:   Protected Classes

This month we will address another aspect of the laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – the eight specific classifications of people who are protected under the laws enforced by the EEOC.   

The EEOC was officially created in 1965 to protect equal and fair opportunities related to employment.   Jurisdiction of the EEOC relates strictly to the workplace – the application and hiring process, during the employment period, and/or termination.  “Workplace” includes anywhere an employee is required or expected by the employer to be.  It includes the workplace itself (fields, groves, and office), transportation if provided by the employer, off-site meetings and training sessions, and even company parties at restaurants, private homes, or clubs.  

Six federal acts that have been passed over the years protect eight specific classifications or “classes” of people.  These acts are:

1.     Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964)

2.    Equal Pay Act (1963)

3.    Age Discrimination in Employment Act (1967)

4.     Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978)

5.     Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)

6.     Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (2008)

The first five protected classes were named in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

1.     Race and color:   “Race” is a biological term that refers to people with a common physical appearance, much of which has to do with color –color of skin, eyes, and hair, plus jawbone structure.   Examples of race are Caucasian (sometimes called White), Black (sometimes called African American), Hispanic, Asian or Native American.   Race is different from “ethnic group,” which is related to sociological factors such as language and culture.  

People in the Caucasian race, for example, typically have light skin, thin lips, narrow noses, and straight or wavy hair.  People in the Black race usually have darker skin, larger lips, broader noses, and extremely curly hair.  The EEOC definition protects people with racial characteristics as well as actual race, such as Caucasians with broad noses or Asians with curly hair.  

“Color” is specifically included in the definition because certain characteristics may be used not only between races but also can result in discrimination within races, such as lighter or darker skin tones or shades among African Americans. 

Companies also may not discriminate based on assumptions about certain races, and therefore race or color may never be considered a job requirement.  Clothing and manner of speech are also protected areas, as long as the characteristics do not interfere with a person’s ability to adequately perform the job. It is also unlawful to physically isolate employees of certain races from other employees or customers.

2.     Religion:  Religions are protected from discrimination and harassment, including religious customs, worship practices, and clothing.   Employers are required to “reasonably accommodate” the religious practices of an employee, such as making flexible schedules available for those who worship on certain days.  However, if the accommodation infringes on other employees’ rights or creates an “undue hardship” on the company, the accommodation may not be required. 

It is illegal to harass or permit harassment about a person’s religious beliefs or practices.  Also, the law prohibits workplace segregation because of religious garb or grooming practices, again, unless the clothing or grooming would create an undue hardship.  An employee may not be required to take part in a religious activity as a condition of employment. 

3.    National Origin:  Different from race and color, national origin refers specifically to a country or area where someone was born or raised, or where their ancestors came from.  Offensive conduct such as jokes or ethnic slurs against someone because of their national origin is prohibited.  People may not be discriminated against for foreign accents or lack of English fluency unless the accent affects job performance or the lack of fluency in English means the position cannot be accomplished according to job specifications. 

“English-only” rules may not be adopted unless necessary for safety or efficient operation of your business. 

4.     Sex:  Describes the gender of a person, typically male or female.   This class is protected with by two Acts – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and, specific to women, the Equal Pay act of 1963 that made it illegal to pay different wages to women and men who are doing the same work.  Sexual orientation is also protected within this classification, and the EEOC is working toward greater protections for the group LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gender.)  

Sexual Harassment is a form of sex discrimination and is often considered the most grievous behavior within the protected classes.  Harassers may be different genders or the same; supervisors or workers; or even people who do not work for the company but interact with your employees.  Sexual harassment does not necessarily have to involve economic injury or firing of the victim; it may simply make the workplace uncomfortable.  In this context sexual harassment may include indirect harassment such as wall posters, joke telling or sexual stories told within earshot of other people.    

The victim must inform the harasser directly that their conduct is not welcome and must stop.  The next step is to inform management, in which case management is obligated to investigate.  

Employers should clearly communicate to everyone a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment.  They should also provide sexual harassment training to all employees, establish a complaint process, and follow up immediately when someone complains. 

5.    Age:  The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects people age 40 or older.  Employers also may not refer to age preferences in job advertisements, except in the rare situation where being a certain age is part of the job, for example, a movie company looking for someone to play the part of a 10-year-old.  It is advisable to refrain from asking a person’s age on a job application, just in case a person who is not hired feels they have been discriminated against based on age.  Waiting to ask someone’s age until after they are hired, if the information is needed, is recommended.

This federal act covers people age 40 or older, but the state of Florida Statute XLIV protects people of all ages.  Florida law also protects some classes related to housing, private clubs, or service. 

6.    Disabilities:   In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed to protect disabled people from discrimination or harassment.  Disabilities include physical or mental impairments that substantially limit a person’s abilities to accomplish certain tasks.  The person must be able to perform the “essential functions” of the job on their own, but may require help with some of the “marginal functions.”   You are not required to hire a disabled person if another applicant can do the job better, and you are not required to lower the expectations of a position in order to hire a disabled person.  

Disabilities are an area where “reasonable accommodations” or attempts at such, for the marginal functions of the job, are expected under the law.  If you can provide a modification to a position without imposing undue hardship to the company\ in order to hire a disabled person, you are expected to do so. Example: A deaf woman applies for a packinghouse line job.  The company realizes it could be inefficient and even dangerous if the woman cannot hear warnings or other information from the supervisors.  A reasonable accommodation was to seat her next a relative who was willing to alert her to any information she needed to hear. This accommodation did not impose undue hardship on the company.  A situation where an accommodation would be considered “unreasonable,” could be if a man in a wheelchair applied for a job as a citrus picker, for example.  Supplying an electric ladder would be significantly difficult and expensive and would likely be considered unreasonable and therefore it should not be considered unlawful if the company did not hire the person. 

People currently using drugs illegally or abusing alcohol are NOT covered by the ADA.

7.    Pregnancy:  In 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed to specifically protect pregnant women from discriminatory behavior in the workplace.  This protection extends to childbirth and conditions related to pregnancy.  The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is one of the more glaring reasons to have productivity standards in your workplace.  If a woman is pregnant, no matter how far along, she may not be discriminated against as long as she can do the job to established productivity levels.  

This technically even applies to jobs involving pesticides – that’s what PPE (protective clothing and equipment) is about.  

You may not ask a woman if she is pregnant, even if it appears to be obvious.  IF she voluntarily tells you, you may explain the dangers of her baby possibly being born in a field or grove where medical help is not readily available, but you may not remove her from her job or keep her from a job she has or would like to have, as long as she can perform the essential functions up to established standards.   It is also illegal to require her to have a doctor’s permission unless you require that of all people taking leave or collecting medical benefits.  

One option is to make a “reasonable accommodation” so that the woman can continue to earn her living during her pregnancy.  In fact, if she is temporarily unable to do her job because of the pregnancy, she should be treated as any other temporarily disabled person (with a sprained ankle, for example).   Modifying tasks, changing assignments, or offering leave without pay are all options. 

8.    Genetic Information:  The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) is the most recently-defined protected class.  It protects what are usually inherited diseases or characteristics or people affected by those diseases or characteristics.  The act is so recent (2008) that no cases have been published by the EEOC as yet.  

This act prohibits genetic information discrimination related to group health care coverage as well as general employment.   It was written in anticipation of genetic information being available, but is still applicable to family medical history without that testing.  For example, GINA prohibits discrimination based on family-related diseases such as breast cancer, strokes, diabetes or alcoholism. 

GINA prohibits the requirement of employees to undergo genetic testing. The law requires employers to post the most recent “EEOC is the Law” poster that includes GINA. 

Authors:   Thissen, C.; and F. Roka.  

Carlene Thissen and Fritz Roka work for the University of Florida at the Southwest Research and Education Center, Immokalee, FL, 239-658-3400.  carlene@ufl.edu, fmroka@ufl.edu


The Farm Labor Supervisor (FLS) Training Program is a University of Florida/IFAS Extension program. Begun in 2010, the program is coordinated by Fritz Roka and Carlene Thissen at the Southwest Florida Research & Education Center.  In the past, attendees were awarded Certificates of Attendance and of Certificates of Completion if they attended the core classes.  

NEW!   CERTIFICATE OF FARM LABOR MANAGEMENT:  In 2014, a new program was introduced that allows participants to earn a Certificate of Farm Labor Management.   The objective behind this certificate is to enhance the professional stature of those farm labor supervisors who complete the program and successfully manage farm workers in accordance with all associated rules and regulations.   To achieve the Certificate of Farm Labor Management, a total of eight (8) classes are required, and attendees must pass a test administered at the end of each class.  Three (3) of those classes must be Wage & Hour, Human Resource Compliance, and one class related to worker safety.  The remaining five classes will be the choice of the individual.  Times and locations of classes offered in 2015 will be posted at www.swfrec.ifas.ufl.edu , along with registration information. 

Topics are taught at several locations across Florida and in partnership with county extension faculty.  These topics cover laws that keep farm workers safe, fairly paid, and in a working environment free from discrimination and harassment.  The program is offered in both English and Spanish. If there is sufficient interest, individual classes of combinations of classes can be arranged at times and locations convenient for the participants. We also provide training at grower locations that incorporates grower-specific policies and procedures.  For more information, contact Carlene Thissen, 239-658-3449, carlene@ufl.edu.