Tag Archives: agriculture

Spread of Pest Threatens California Citrus

Ag Alert.  22 February 2012.  Citrus farmers and pest-control officials continue their work to keep the Asian citrus psyllid out of commercial citrus groves in California, but experts who spoke about the pest threat last week at the World Ag Expo in Tulare urged farmers to be prepared for the possibility of psyllid quarantines in commercial groves.

The small, winged insect isn’t particularly destructive on its own, but as it feeds on citrus it can spread a bacterium that causes huanglongbing disease, also known as HLB and sometimes called citrus greening. The bacterial disease has not appeared so far in California.

It has, however, spread widely in Florida, reducing that state’s commercial citrus production by at least 10 percent a year. In Texas, the first known case of HLB was confirmed in mid-January on orange trees in the Rio Grande Valley, known for its grapefruit and orange production.

The Asian citrus psyllid has also been found in Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona, Hawaii and Mexico. HLB has been found not only in Florida and Texas, but also in Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Belize and Mexico.

Plant pathologists say the proximity of Mexico to California and the rapid rise in globalization of trade, travel and immigration make the threat of the disease entering California through infected plants or insects a serious one.

In a recent California Senate briefing, lawmakers were told Florida has lost more than 60,000 acres of citrus trees and growers there are spending more than $500 per acre on psyllid control and eradication. One projection suggested that almost all of Florida’s citrus trees will be infected in seven to 12 years.

Once trees are infected, the fruit produced is not marketable and the trees ultimately die. There is no cure for HLB.

In California, quarantines for the psyllid have been established in all of Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties, as well as parts of Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Santa Barbara counties.  read more

California’s 2011 Winegrape Crush Down 7%

Growing Produce.  10 February 2012.   California’s 2011 winegrape crush totaled 3,342,689 tons, down 7% from 2010, according to the official USDA preliminary grape crush report, which was released today. The total grape crush, which includes grapes for concentrate, totaled 3,869,894 tons, down 3% from the 2010 crush of 3,986,314 tons.

Both red and white winegrapes were down by the same percentage. Red wine varieties accounted for the largest share of all grapes crushed, at 1,917,132 tons, down 7% from 2010. The 2011 white wine variety crush totaled 1,425,557 tons, down 7% from 2010. Tons crushed of raisin type varieties totaled 372,551, up 36% from 2010, and tons crushed of table type varieties totaled 154,653, up 25% from 2010.

The 2011 average price per ton of all varieties reached a record high of $588.96, up 8% from 2010 and 3% above the previous record high set in 2009. Average prices for the 2011 crop by type were as follows: red wine grapes, $702.70, up 12% from 2010; white wine grapes, $541.11, up 8% from 2010; raisin grapes, $265.15, up 23%; and table grapes, $219.20, up 26%.

In 2011, Chardonnay accounted for the largest percentage of the total crush volume with 14.4%. Cabernet Sauvignon accounted for the second leading percentage of crush with 9.9% of the total crush. The next eight highest percentages of grapes crushed included wine and raisin grape varieties. Thompson Seedless, the leading raisin grape variety crushed for 2011, held 8.4% of the total.  read more

Calif. Wine Grape Supply Limited

Sacramento Bee.  19 September 2011.  The sluggish economy and unusually cool weather have dramatically tightened the supply of wine grapes according to Robert Smiley, dean and professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis, Graduate School of Management. Smiley also said the situation is likely to continue for several years.

Smiley will present findings from two recent surveys of wine industry professionals and executives Tuesday during the 20th annual Wine Industry Financial Symposium at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel in Napa.

“Even though we have technically been out of the recession for two years, growers have been reluctant to expand their plantings or replace older vineyards that are moving into declining production,” Smiley said.

Smiley also noted that cooler-than-usual weather in the state’s wine-growing regions has “compounded the problem by significantly reducing this year’s wine grape yield in California.”

Even so, Smiley predicts that consumers are likely to find that discounted prices on high-quality wines will continue to be available. “Most of the (wine) executives seem to feel that discounting is here to stay,” Smiley said.


CFBF.  7 September 2011.  Mild spring and summer weather has helped the quality of California-grown walnuts. The California Walnut Commission says it anticipates the quality to be very high. Quantity will be down slightly, off about 4 percent from last year’s record walnut crop but still the second-largest in history. A government report described the growing season as “very similar to 2010,” with another cool summer that will delay harvest about two weeks later than average.


American Vegetable Grower.  27 July 2011.  For years, methyl bromide has been a critical tool vegetable, strawberry, and ornamental growers used to combat soil-dwelling nematodes, diseases, and weeds. The fumigant, as most know, is being phased out and alternative fumigants are presenting new challenges for those who are trying to keep the air clean.

According to “Helping Growers Adapt to Changing Rules on Fumigants,” in the July 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has been conducting studies to find the best alternatives to the fumigant since the mid-1990s, and because of the issue’s critical importance, the agency initiated a special areawide pest-management project five years ago that made several additional research efforts possible.

As part of that five-year effort, ARS researchers in Florida and California are helping to minimize release of the alternative fumigants into the atmosphere with studies focused on fumigant emission rates and the effectiveness of tarps used as barriers to cover fumigated soil. The work also is designed to assist EPA and other regulators charged with developing new fumigant requirements to better protect people who use them or live near treated fields.

Leaf Sampling For Nutrient Analysis

Note:  Not all of the following information published in the current issue of Growing Produce is accurate, but I decided to post it anyway.  Any questions, please email or call me.  Brent Rouppet, Ph.D.

Growing Produce. 26 July 2011.   As shoots grow and leaves age, nutrient concentrations change.  Mid-summer is the standard time to sample because levels of most nutrients are relatively stable and are most easy to interpret by comparing them to known values. Sampling tissues at other times can also be useful to diagnose specific problems. In this case, samples from affected and healthy plants are needed for comparison since desired values at non-standard sampling times are less well-defined.

Many growers rely too heavily on soil testing to guide fertilization practices. Although soil tests provide a useful measure of pH, soil phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) levels are often misleading because they do not closely reflect levels in perennial fruit plants. This may be due to several factors, but the bottom line is that basing fertilizer choices on soil nutrient levels only is inadequate. Most importantly, there is no effective means of monitoring soil nitrogen (N) availability to perennial crops, so soil tests are of no value in guiding fertilization decisions for this key nutrient.

Leaf analyses can be used to diagnose nutritional problems and to identify developing problems before growth or yield is affected. Sample young plantings every one to two years and established plantings every two to three years. The whole farm can be sampled in the same years, or portions sampled more frequently.

Define sampling units. Divide the farm into sampling units or areas that have uniform soil types, management history and variety. Farms with variable soils or history will require more sampling units to provide an accurate picture of the nutritional health. If the farm is very uniform, with large blocks of the same age and varieties, units can be as large as 15 acres.  read more

USDA Purchase of Peaches Helps Farmers

Western Fruit Grower.  19 July 2011.  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced USDA’s intention to purchase up to $11.4 million of canned clingstone peaches for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks.  “This purchase will assist the California canned peach industry by reducing stock levels by 21,000 tons,” said Vilsack.  “The surplus has discouraged fiscal year 2011 commitments and put downward pressure on peach grower prices.”

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchases a variety of high-quality food products each year to support the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and The Emergency Food Assistance Program. USDA also makes emergency food purchases for distribution to victims of natural disasters.

Government food experts work to ensure that all purchased food is healthful and nutritious. Food items are required to be low in fat, sugar, and sodium. The commodities must meet specified requirements and be certified to ensure quality. AMS purchases only products of 100% domestic origin.


Growing Produce. 18 July 2011.  The California winegrape industry is as strong as it has been in many years, and growers are enjoying strong prices across the board, says an industry leader. Nat DiBuduo, speaking at the annual meeting of the grower cooperative, Allied Grape Growers, could hardly contain his enthusiasm. “What a difference a year makes,” DiBuduo crowed during a luncheon at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country Hotel in Santa Rosa. “We can not only see the light at the end of the tunnel, but in parts of California, we are out of the tunnel.”


The industry’s downturn in demand and prices due to an oversupply of grapes in the early 2000s has been balanced out by pulling excess vineyard acreage and bolstering sales. “We appear to be heading in the right direction for the California wine industry for both the vintners and the growers,” he said. “With wine sales up domestically, accompanied by strong exports, demand for California’s quality wines has much improved and is reaching exciting profitable levels for wineries and hopefully growers, as well.”

Of course, the 2011 growing season has been far from perfect, DiBuduo noted. Paso Robles sustained some serious frost damage, and North Coast growers are facing some smaller crops due to shatter and other weather-related issues. But that’s part of farming, said DiBuduo, a member of American/Western Fruit Grower’s editorial advisory board, a GrowingProduce.com-associated publication. “Mother Nature continues to trump all marketing efforts by having the final say on what tonnage and quality will be delivered by the end of harvest,” he said. “This year’s unusual spring weather has already delayed harvest and given us less than desirable conditions for the development of powdery mildew and associated disease and pest pressure.”  read more

Calif. Almond Consumption Going Nuts!

CFBF.  13 July 2011.  With almond production expected to break records again this year, marketers say they expect to be able to sell all that California farmers produce.  The latest estimate found that farmers will have 19 percent larger yields, compared with last year, and could produce nearly 2 billion pounds of almonds. Marketers say demand for almonds remains strong, with international markets playing a key role. European sales are increasing, and there has been growing demand from China and India.


Growing Produce.  7 July 2011.  California’s 2011 almond production is forecast at a record 1.95 billion meat pounds, up 11% from May’s subjective forecast and 19% above last year’s crop. The forecast is based on 750,000 bearing acres, which is also a record, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistical Service.

Production for the signature Nonpareil variety — which fetches growers the highest prices — is forecast at 750 million meat pounds, an eye-popping 35% above last year’s deliveries. The Nonpareil variety represents 38% of California’s total almond production. California is responsible for virtually all U.S. almond production.

After a good winter with excellent chilling hours, the 2011 almond crop bloom began in an unusually chilly spring that had growers initially concerned because the bees that are responsible for pollination don’t fly as much when cold. But the cold spring also lengthened the bloom, causing more overlap between varieties. The bees then eventually came through, and the flowering trees set an excellent crop.

Freezing temperatures did affect the northern regions more heavily than the south, but frost damage was insignificant. Older plantings suffered some damage from the strong winds that accompanied the spring storms, but overall damage was minimal. Spotty damage from hail was also noted. Low disease and insect pressure have been reported and, with all the precipitation California has seen this winter, lack of water for irrigation is not the problem it was a few years ago. This year’s snowpack was impressive, causing many ski resorts in the Sierra Nevada to stay open through the recent Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The average nut set per tree is 7,353, up 23% from 2010. The Nonpareil average nut set of 7,482 is up 34% from last year’s set. The average kernel weight for all varieties sampled was 1.49 grams, 13% below last year. The Nonpareil average kernel weight was 1.60, down 15% from last year. As with most fruit crops, generally the more almonds per tree, the lower the average almonds size. A total of 98.7% of all nuts sized were sound.

Though the crop forecast, which is officially known as the “Objective Measurement Survey,” is conducted by the USDA-NASS, it is paid for by the Almond Board of California.