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New pest infesting almonds and pistachios in the San Joaquin Valley

Courtesy of UCANR News

Crop sanitation will be key to controlling the invasive carpophilus beetle

Growers and pest control advisers (PCAs) should be on the lookout for a new pest called carpophilus beetle (Carpophilus truncatus). This pest was recently found infesting almonds and pistachios in the San Joaquin Valley, and is recognized as one of the top two pests of almond production in Australia. Damage occurs when adults and larvae feed directly on the kernel, causing reductions in both yield and quality.

Populations of carpophilus beetle were first detected in September in almond and pistachio orchards by University of California Cooperative Extension Specialist Houston Wilson of UC Riverside’s Department of Entomology. Pest identification was subsequently confirmed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Wilson is now working with Jhalendra Rijal, UC integrated pest management advisor, North San Joaquin Valley; David Haviland, UCCE farm advisor, Kern County; and other UCCE farm advisors to conduct a broader survey of orchards throughout the San Joaquin Valley to determine the extent of the outbreak.

To date, almond or pistachio orchards infested by carpophilus beetle have been confirmed in Stanislaus, Merced, Madera and Kings counties, suggesting that the establishment of this new pest is already widespread. In fact, some specimens from Merced County were from collections that were made in 2022, suggesting that the pest has been present in the San Joaquin Valley for at least a year already.

“It has likely been here for a few years based on the damage we’ve seen,” Rijal said.

This invasive beetle overwinters in remnant nuts (i.e. mummy nuts) that are left in the tree or on the ground following the previous year’s harvest. Adults move onto new crop nuts around hull-split, where they deposit their eggs directly onto the nut. The larvae that emerge feed on the developing kernels, leaving the almond kernel packed with a fine powdery mix of nutmeat and frass that is sometimes accompanied by an oval-shaped tunnel.

Carpophilus beetle has been well-established in Australia for over 10 years, where it is considered a key pest of almonds. More recently, the beetle was reported from walnuts in Argentina and Italy as well. Carpophilus truncatus is a close relative to other beetles in the genus Carpophilus, such as the driedfruit beetle (C. hemipterus) that is known primarily as a postharvest pest of figs and raisins in California.

Monitoring for carpophilus beetle is currently limited to direct inspection of hull split nuts for the presence of feeding holes and/or larvae or adult beetles. A new pheromone lure that is being developed in Australia may soon provide a better monitoring tool for growers, PCAs and researchers.

“We’re lucky to have colleagues abroad that have already been hammering away at this pest for almost a decade,” said Haviland. “Hopefully we can learn from their experiences and quickly get this new beetle under control.”

The ability to use insecticides to control carpophilus beetle remains unclear. The majority of the beetle’s life cycle is spent protected inside the nut, with relatively short windows of opportunity available to attack the adults while they are exposed. The location of the beetles within the nut throughout most of their life cycle also allows them to avoid meaningful levels of biological control.

In the absence of clear chemical or biological control strategies, the most important tool for managing this beetle is crop sanitation.

“Given that this pest overwinters on remnant nuts, similar to navel orangeworm, crop sanitation will be fundamental to controlling it,” Wilson said. “If you needed another reason to clean up and destroy mummy nuts – this is it.”

In Australia, sanitation is currently the primary method for managing this pest. And here in California, new research and extension activities focused on carpophilus beetle are currently in the works.

“It’s important that we get on top of this immediately,” said Wilson. “We’re already starting to put together a game plan for research and extension in 2024 and beyond.”

If you suspect that you have this beetle in your orchard, please contact your local UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor (https://ucanr.edu/About/Locations/), County Agricultural Commissioner (https://cacasa.org/county/) and/or the CDFA Pest Hotline (https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/reportapest/) at 1-800-491-1899.

2023-11-03T09:08:09-07:00November 3rd, 2023|

CAPCA Announces $1 Million SPM Grant with California Department of Food & Agriculture

Courtesy of the California Association of Pest Control Advisors

CAPCA is thrilled to announce a one-million-dollar grant awarded by the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) focusing on Sustainable Pest Management (SPM) in the field. The official title of the grant is Assessing SPM Adoption, Decisions, and Resources in California Cropping Systems. The Pest Control Adviser (PCA) selection process will begin in January 2024.

The grant will focus on data collection surrounding the decision-making process of 200 PCAs and their use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and SPM in the field. This data will be utilized by CAPCA, CDFA, and the University of California Integrated Pest Management Department (UC IPM) to better inform continuing education. Data collection is anonymous and only details the crop, commodity, and county. This study will focus on a narrow but diverse set of crops, including grapes, lettuce, pistachios, and tomatoes.

Those PCAs chosen to participate in the grant study will utilize a special and private version of Telus Agronomy’s (formerly Agrian) Record Keeping Suite. The grant incentivizes PCAs through financial stipends for successful program completion, including a yearlong account upgrade through Telus Agronomy. Any resulting online continuing education will be given to participating PCAs.

“For many years, CAPCA has witnessed the decision-making process of our regulators and legislators in Sacramento centered around SPM,” said Ruthann Anderson, President & CEO of CAPCA. “This grant will allow the PCA industry to provide data-driven information surrounding the ongoing and long-standing practice of IPM and SPM in the field.”

CAPCA looks forward to working with the PCA and grower communities, CDFA, UC IPM, and the allied industry through this exciting opportunity.

2023-10-23T10:20:46-07:00October 23rd, 2023|

Walnut Bargaining Association Optimistic About 2023 Crop Quality and Grower Pricing

Courtesy of the Walnut Bargaining Association

The Walnut Bargaining Association (WBA) has updated its minimum price recommendation to 70 cents per pound in-shell. The price is based on Jumbo/Large Chandlers of good quality.

“In September, our Board recommended handlers pay growers a minimum price of 60 cents per pound in-shell,” said Donald Norene, Chairman of the WBA. “On October 4, the USDA National Ag Statistics Service issued a revised estimate lowering expected volume down to 760,000 tons.

“Inventories from the 2022 crop are also significantly reduced, and as growers begin harvest throughout the state, they are reporting quality is vastly improved over the past two seasons. In fact, many are saying the 2023 quality may be one of the best in recent memory,” continued Norene. “For these reasons, we are encouraging handlers to structure grower returns to reflect a minimum price of 70 cents per pound and we urge walnut growers to demand this be the starting point for pricing of this year’s crop.”

The WBA is a grower-owned agricultural cooperative, which exists to help farmers receive a fair price for walnuts. Each year the WBA issues a minimum price recommendation based on current crop and economic conditions. The WBA Board met this week in Sacramento to revise its minimum price recommendation in an attempt to address the grower return crisis of the past two years which has already put many California walnut farmers out of business.

“The primary factor in USDA’s lower estimate for crop volume is the removal of a significant number of walnut orchards this past season,” said Norene who noted the California Walnut Commission has contracted with a firm called Land IQ to gather accurate data about walnut acreage currently in production.

According to California Walnut Commission CEO Robert Verloop, the latest information provided to USDA “does not take into consideration the acres that appear to be abandoned or stressed, which could lower the crop size further.”

Verloop noted that another acreage update from Land IQ will be available in early November, which will likely reflect even fewer producing acres and, potentially, even lower crop volume.

“It’s very important the entire industry work together to help walnut growers work their way back to profitable levels and that we stop more orchards from being pulled,” said Jonathan Field, Executive Director of the WBA.  “Most California walnut farmers need to receive at least 60 to 80 cents per pound in order to break even.”

Field noted the WBA plans to conduct a series of activities to help growers establish fair contracts with their handlers and that handlers provide greater transparency to their growers when it comes to pricing. Walnut growers will be hearing more about this effort soon.

“Walnut growers simply cannot survive on the prices paid during 2021 and 2022,” said Field. “Quality is a huge factor when it comes to the value of walnuts. We haven’t had great quality for the past few years, but this year we do. Sellers should be able to get more money for walnuts this year and farmers deserve to be paid accordingly.”

For more information about the Walnut Bargaining Association, please visit www.walnutbargainingassociation.com

2023-10-18T14:57:34-07:00October 18th, 2023|

Notice of Tuesday, April 16, 2024 SGMA Probationary Hearing for the Tulare Lake Subbasin

At its April 16, 2024 meeting, the State Water Board will consider designating the Tulare Lake subbasin a probationary basin under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). See the hearing notice for information on the hearing time and location and how to participate.

If the State Water Board designates the subbasin probationary, it will also identify deficiencies (issues) and potential actions people in basins could take to address the deficiencies. While the basin is in probation, many people who extract groundwater will need to report their extractions to the State Water Board and pay fees. The State Water Board may also require extractors to install and use meters or other methods to measure their extractions.

State Water Board staff have developed draft recommendations of actions for the State Water Board to consider. They invite your input on the Draft Staff Report no later than December 11, 2023, at 12:00 noon. View the Draft Staff Report online here; a shorter Executive Summary is also available in both English and Spanish. Staff will consider all comments received by December 11, 2023, at the noon deadline when developing the Final Staff Report.

See the hearing notice for:

  1. Instructions for how to comment on the Draft Staff Repor
  2. Information on two public staff workshops prior to the probationary hearing. At the workshops, staff will explain the Draft Staff Report and share more about how to participate in the State Water Board’s process. Staff will also accept verbal public comments on the Draft Staff Report at the workshops.

Questions? Contact the SGMA Program at SGMA@waterboards.ca.gov or 916-322-6508.

More information about SGMA and the State Water Board’s role can be found here: www.waterboards.ca.gov/sgma.

2023-10-13T14:24:19-07:00October 13th, 2023|

Historic On-Farm Conservation Funding Assistance Available for Producers

Courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California announces FiscalYear 2024 (October 1, 2023 through September 30, 2024) federal assistance opportunities for agricultural producers, including through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). While NRCS accepts applications for these programs year-round, interested applicants should apply no later than November 3, 2023, for the first application cutoff period.

“We are excited to support California’s producers with an historic investment in on-farm conservation this Fiscal Year,” said NRCS California State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. “With the addition of the Inflation Reduction Act, we will be investing approximately 50 percent more federal funding to help producers address their unique resources concerns and help them achieve their stewardship goals.”

Through EQIP, CSP, and the Inflation Reduction Act, more than $100 million is available for conservation practices and initiatives, including:
• through the National Air Quality Initiative (NAQI) to assist farmers in replacing outdated engines with new and cleaner-burning technology.
• activities that support wildlife habitat creation and enhancement on farms and ranches.
• NRCS and Bureau of Reclamation WaterSmart partner projects to help improve water infrastructure, delivery, and application on farms.
• National Water Quality Initiative for targeted conservation actions to improve water quality in the Calleguas Creek and Salt River watersheds.

Application cutoff periods allow NRCS to screen-and-rank applications for those with the highest conservation benefits across California’s landscapes, including cropland, ranchlands, and private non-industrial forestlands. A second cutoff period may be scheduled in Spring 2024 as federal conservation funding is available.

EQIP provides financial assistance to agricultural producers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits. These include improved water and air quality, improved irrigation efficiency, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, forest restoration, and creating or enhancing wildlife habitat.

CSP provides producers to earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities integrated within their agricultural operations. CSP enhancements like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, and buffer strips help producers improve soil health while protecting water quality. Other CSP activities help sustain and increase pollinator and beneficial insect habitat in harmony with agriculture production on their land.

Applying for Assistance

NRCS California will be utilizing ACT NOW to process conservation applications for NAQI and Conservation Plan Activities ranking pools to deliver conservation faster. ACT NOW allows NRCS to immediately approve and obligate a ranked application. This means no longer having to wait for all applications to be reviewed and preapproved. Applications selected through ACT NOW will be batched and processed in the order received. Selections will be made on a weekly
basis.

NRCS accepts conservation program applications year-round. State Technical Committees, composed of producers and partners, work with NRCS to set state-specific, ranking dates to evaluate applications for funding. These dates account for producer needs, staff workload, and to ensure potential participants have ample opportunity to apply. To find out more about our application process or to begin an application, please contact your local NRCS Service Center by
visiting here.

Technical Assistance

NRCS offers conservation technical assistance at no cost to give producers personalized advice and information, based on the latest science and research, to help them make informed decisions. If a producer chooses to take the next step towards improving their operations, NRCS staff can work with them to develop a free, personalized conservation plan, with conservation practices that can help them reach their agricultural production and conservation goals.

The voluntary conservation plan defines and explains existing resources in a simple, easy to understand manner. Typically, the plan will include land use maps, soils information, inventory of resources, engineering notes, and other supporting information. One benefit to landowners who work with an NRCS professional conservationist to develop a plan is an increased potential for participating in financial assistance programs and is a good first step in the overall process.

Historically Underserved Producer Benefits

Special provisions are also available for historically underserved producers. For EQIP, historically underserved producers are eligible for advance payments to help offset costs related to purchasing materials or contracting services up front. In addition, historically underserved producers can receive higher EQIP payment rates (up to 90% of average cost). NRCS sets aside EQIP and CSP funds for historically underserved producers.

NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America’s private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water, and other natural resources since 1935.

2023-10-13T14:02:21-07:00October 13th, 2023|

Farm Bureau praises bill signing to aid drone use in farming

Courtesy of the California Farm Bureau

California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson today applauded the signing of Assembly 1016, which will expedite training and licensing programs so that more farmers may use drones for pesticide applications.

“I am proud that the California Farm Bureau is leading the effort to ensure that farmers have access to precision technology,” Johansson said. “We thank Gov. Gavin Newsom for supporting us by signing Assembly Bill 1016. With aerial spray technology within reach of all farmers for the first time, this will help them save on crop protection costs by allowing drones to target affected areas instead of entire fields. Drone use can also replace backpack spray and ground-based delivery systems with remote technologies, which protects our agricultural employees from close contact with pesticide applications.

“California’s farmers and ranchers lead the world in innovation—producing amazing yields of fresh produce, dairy, and meats while decreasing water, fertilizer and pesticides use. AB 1016 is a bill in that spirit. It allows farmers better access to innovative technology to gain even more efficiency and safety.

2023-10-12T09:43:04-07:00October 12th, 2023|

Grape Consumption Benefits Eye Health in Human Study of Older Adults

Courtesy of the California Table Grape Commission

Grape intake improved macular pigment accumulation and downregulated harmful biomarkers

In a recent randomized, controlled human study, consuming grapes for 16 weeks improved key markers of eye health in older adults. The study, published in the scientific journal Food & Function looked at the impact of regular consumption of grapes on macular pigment accumulation and other biomarkers of eye health.
This is the first human study on this subject, and the results reinforce earlier, preliminary studies where consuming grapes was found to protect retinal structure and function.

Science has shown that an aging population has a higher risk of eye disease and vision problems. Key risk factors for eye disease include 1) oxidative stress and 2) high levels of ocular advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs may contribute to many eye diseases by damaging the vascular components of the retina, impairing cellular function, and causing oxidative stress. Dietary antioxidants can decrease oxidative stress and inhibit the formation of AGEs, with possible beneficial effects on the retina, such as an improvement in Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD). Grapes are a natural source of antioxidants and other
polyphenols.

In this new study, 34 human subjects consumed either grapes (equivalent to 1 ½ cups of grapes per day) or a placebo for 16 weeks. The grape eaters showed a significant increase in MPOD, plasma antioxidant capacity, and total phenolic content compared to those on placebo. Those who didn’t consume grapes saw a significant increase in harmful AGEs, as measured in the skin. “Our study is the first to show that grape consumption beneficially impacts eye health in humans which is very exciting, especially with a growing aging population,” said Dr. Jung Eun Kim. “Grapes are an easy, accessible fruit that studies have shown can have a beneficial impact in normal amounts of just 1 ½ cups per day.”

2023-10-05T16:09:57-07:00October 5th, 2023|

EPA ESA Herbicide Strategy: Call for Action

Courtesy of Western Agricultural Processors Association

As many of you know, EPA currently has out for public comment a proposal (the herbicide strategy) to require agricultural herbicide users to adopt greater use restrictions aimed at reducing runoff/erosion and spray drift risks to endangered species. While this proposal would impact most agricultural herbicide users across the lower 48 states, producers in four pesticide use limitation areas (PULA) established by the proposal (see PULA map here) could be subject to greater restrictions.

EPA needs to hear from growers, so we need every grower possible to sign on. To help our members with this, our agricultural coalition working on this issue has drafted a letter for individual growers to sign on to.  It is a petition style letter, so you do not have to cut and paste.  Simply click on this link: the sign-on link  and answer the four questions and your name will be attached to the letter. This needs to be done by October 20th. If you are a gin, huller or processor, please forward to all your growers and urge them to sign on too!  If you have any questions, please let us know.

2023-10-05T08:11:00-07:00October 5th, 2023|

USDA awards $2 million to study livestock grazing in organic orchards

Courtesy of UC ANR News

UC, The Organic Center, University of Rhode Island partner on $3.5m food safety study for organic produce growers

Grazing sheep and other livestock can help convert cover crops to fertilizer for orchard crops. To develop best management practices, the University of California and The Organic Center are collaborating on research to help organic orchard growers safely incorporate livestock grazing into their farming practices. The project is funded by a $2 million grant recently awarded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative research program.   

Interest in grazing livestock on cover crops in nut orchards has increased in recent years. However, research is needed to determine the best way to improve soil health and pest suppression, and to address concerns about food-borne pathogens and food safety.   

“Organic farmers typically follow the USDA National Organic Program standards for raw animal manure, waiting 90 to 120 days between incorporating raw manure into the soil and harvesting the crop,” said Alda Pires, UC Cooperative Extension urban agriculture and food safety specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis.

“Little research has been conducted to verify adequate waiting periods to reduce contamination risks in integrated crop-livestock production systems,” she said. “This research will fill the knowledge gap and facilitate the development of science-based food safety guidelines for grazing small ruminants in orchards.”  

For this four-year project, “Influence of Orchard Grazing on Soil Health and Pest Control While Mitigating Food Safety Risk,” the scientists will study organic almond, walnut and pistachio orchards in two distinct nut-growing regions in California – the Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin Valley. The scientists will assess the effects of livestock grazing of cover crops on bacteria populations, soil health, pest control and economics.

Building soil health

“Growers have consistently raised the need for more information on grazing impacts on nutrient availability during tree growth, as well as potential to build up the biological, physical and chemical pillars of soil health,” said Amelie Gaudin, associate professor and endowed chair of agroecology in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.

Livestock grazing may provide an opportunity to quickly enhance the amount of nitrogen that can be used by plants and microbes when the cover crop is terminated. “This project will help growers develop nitrogen budgets for these more diversified systems and quantify additional benefits and potential tradeoffs for soil health – such as compaction and salinity – to guide the development of place-based best management practices,” Gaudin said  

Pest management

Houston Wilson, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside, will be studying the effects of livestock grazing on orchard pests.

“Navel orangeworm, or NOW, is by far the most destructive pest of almonds and pistachios,” Wilson said. “These moths overwinter in unharvested nuts in the orchard, and so removal and destruction of remnant nuts over the winter is the foundation of NOW control. While farmers typically use machinery to do this, grazing with animals may present a unique alternative that is more cost-effective and provides additional ecosystem benefits, such as soil health and weed control.”

Outreach to farmers

As part of the project, The Organic Center was awarded $75,000 to work with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources to direct national extension and education outreach activities. These will include a social media campaign, webinars and educational sessions and a technical report for growers.  

“There is an increasing interest from organic farmers to learn how to incorporate livestock into their operations to gain better soil health and fertility,” said Amber Sciligo, director of science programs at The Organic Center. 

“This research is very exciting because it will holistically explore the potential risks and benefits of livestock not just to soil health, but also pest control – a truly interdisciplinary project that matches the whole system of the organic farm.”

Produce food-safety management tools 

For another organic food-safety project, Pires and Sciligo will be working with Patrick Baur, professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at the University of Rhode Island.

The University of Rhode Island and The Organic Center received $3.5 million from USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative research program for the new organic food-safety education project. 

“We’re going to develop a new food safety management tool designed specifically for organic soil amendments,” said Baur, who is leading the project. “We’re also going to develop a suite of new communication and training tools aimed at the entire fruit and vegetable sector to build a shared language between organic agriculture and the food safety community and help them work better together.” 

As part of the produce project, Pires of UC Davis was awarded $1.16 million to conduct a risk assessment and create a publicly accessible dashboard to meet the specific needs of organic growers, from small-scale to larger farms, under different cropping systems, in different regions. 

Also participating in this project will be Beatriz Martinez Lopez, professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, and Abhinav Mishra and Govindaraj Dev Kumar of the University of Georgia.  

2023-10-05T08:08:18-07:00October 5th, 2023|
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