“Grow On” To Help Growers

Bayer Crop Science’s Grow On Campaign Has Six Focus Areas

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Nevada Smith

Grow On is a tool developed by Bayer Crop Science that farmers can use to identify, apply, and communicate sustainable farm practices. Grow On is made up of six different ag sustainability focus areas. This includes water, biodiversity, soil health, greenhouse gasses, labor, and food waste, all of which are important factors in sustainability.

California Ag Today spoke with Nevada Smith, Western Region Marketing Manager for Bayer Crop Science, about the six focus areas.

“One is water. And water is an especially important topic to Californians.”

Biodiversity. Think about the things you’re doing in the environment, from fertility, chemistry compounds.”

Food waste. How do you approach food waste? This is a big topic from a global aspect. Massive amounts of produce goes to waste. How can this food waste be utilized? I spoke to a grocer recently. They said they’re losing 30% of their food to food waste,” Smith explained.

“We think that soil health platform is the next wave of science for the ag industry. What’s going on in that microflora market in the soil? What are you doing to really adjust, get the air right, add right water, the right nutrients? Greenhouse gasses. How do you handle CO2 emissions?”

“Greenhouse gas is a buzzword among consumers. And what component of your farming practices are you doing to mitigate that from a practical standpoint?”

Labor is affecting everybody in California.

“And new labor laws are making business hard for small farmers. The minimal wage standard is a challenging issue, but how do growers become more efficient? How do they understand what the platforms are doing from a grower perspective? Smith said.

For more information on, visit: cropscience.bayer.us.

 

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Cal State Monterey Bay’s Ag Program Strong

Cal State Monterey Bay Attracting Ag Students

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The Ag Business Program at Cal State Monterey Bay is very-tech oriented. California Ag Today recently spoke with Shyam Kamath, dean of the College of Business at CSU Monterey Bay, about what the program aims to teach its students.

“We’ve been in existence for about 23 years as a university. We were the university that went from swords to plowshares,” Kamath said. “We went from Fort Ord to becoming a university. Today, the university has two major pieces to it. One is a college of science, and its ag programs, and the second is a college of business with its ag business programs.”

Kamath said that the ag business programs have turned to ag tech programs.

“We need to forcus on perishable commodities, because that’s what this valley’s about,” he explained.

“We are also focused on precision ag, because that’s where the industry is going. So we have the school of computing and design, and the college of business together,” Kamath said. “We are looking at programs where we’ll power that. I have five people in business analytics, so that they understand what to do. Then I’ve got two ag professors who are there.”

“The third focus area is vertical ag and genomic ag. That’s an area where we’re trying to work with the college of science, and have people there to do that,” he said.

The fourth area, is supply chain, because this is an area where supply-chain is critical.

“Supply chain is key. Most ag programs look at production agriculture. We look at production, but also the supply chain, because this is a cold chain. Produce has to move fast and under cold temperatures. If that doesn’t work, then it will not get to a customer,” Kamath explained.

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Push Back NOW with Orchard Sanitation

Part One of a Series

Orchard Sanitation Critical This Season

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

We recently spoke with Emily Symmes, the UC Area Integrated Pest Management farm advisor for the Sacramento Valley in statewide IPM program. She told California Ag Today about few reasons as to why Navel Orangeworm damage was so devastating this year, costing tree nut growers at least $137 million.

UC Cooperative Extension Integrated Pest Management Advisor, Butte County
Emily Symmes, UC Cooperative Extension Integrated Pest Management Advisor, based Butte County.

NOW is ubiquitous. And the nut crop footprint in California is larger, with one million acres of almonds, along with pistachios and walnuts up and down the San Joaquin valley.

“The pest is not going anywhere,” Symmes said.

“We had a lot of unique circumstances. The amount of rainfall we got in late 2016 into 2017 was unprecedented and led us into a bad navel orange worm year because growers couldn’t get out and sanitize their orchards”

“Growers were not able to get into their orchards because of standing water,” Symmes explained.

Also, rainfall and moist conditions can help NOW mortality in the winter. “

We tend to think that it can help rot the nuts and do us some favors, but we have to be able to get the nuts shaken or get pulling crews in and get the mummies on the ground and destroyed,” Symmes said.

Heat units also played a part in the development of more NOW.

“It got hot. And it seemed to just not let up. Our degree-day models, or the heat unit that drive insect development, ended up getting pretty far out ahead of what is typical,” Symmes explained.

“By September, we were about two weeks ahead in degree-days, and that which meant moths were out earlier. They’re flying around. They’re laying eggs on the nuts when they’re still on the trees, and we are talking almonds, pistachios and to a lesser extent, walnuts.”

Symmes said the importance of sanitation is to minimize the site where the NOWs mature.

“It’s really important to remember that sanitation efforts aren’t just directly killing any worms that are over-wintering in your orchard. But the other thing that it does is it minimizes those sites where the first and second generations are going to develop next year,” she said.

Despite all these circumstances as to why NOW was serious this this year, it is critically important to start orchard sanitation as soon as possible. It may not be a good idea to wait for rain and fog to help loosen the nuts this season.

 

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Consumers Need to Support Ag

Help Consumers Understand Ag

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Many Californians aren’t aware of the amount of agriculture in the state, and the diverse crops that are grown here, and sometimes this leaves farmers in the back seat when it comes to policy making. Cindy Smith is the Ag Policy Relations Director at Gowan. She spoke with us about the importance of consumer relations in agriculture and helping them learn to support ag.

“That’s the key message that we have to deliver, because increasingly the people who are making decisions in Washington DC are disconnected from the field,” Smith said.

“So they really need to understand that the decision that they make has an impact on a farmer, and if it has an impact on a farmer, it has an impact on a consumer,” she explained.

We all know that it’s difficult to blame consumers for not knowing about agriculture.

“Unless you live next to a farm, or you have a family member who’s in farming, a person just will not know much about agriculture,” Smith said.

“Farmers represent less than two percent of the population, in the United States, so it’s very understandable that the consumer may not have a direct connection to the farm,” she said.

“Helping consumers understand what farming actually mean, and what farmers think about, and care about, when they’re growing foods that we eat, or that go to our clothing or whatever, I think would really help consumers have a better appreciation of the value and the importance of keeping American agriculture viable and successful,” she explained.

“Talk to the people you know, talk to them at church, talk to them at Rotary, talk to them at work. They’ll tell you: ‘I like the idea that these apples, peaches, carrots, come right here from California, and I want them to continue to be available,’ ” Smith said.

“The disconnect is that I’m not sure they always understand that some of the policy decisions made might threaten that. Making sure that consumers make that connection, I think, is key for our success, too,” she said.

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Facing Confusion About Food Choices?

Majority of Consumers are Confused About Food

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

A major survey of 1,000 Americans, from 8 to 80, found that consumers are confused about food. California Ag Today recently spoke with Tamika Sims the director of food technology communications for the International Food Information Council, based in Washington. She said consumers are indeed confused about food choices.

“While they trust a registered dietician, or healthcare professional, they often don’t rely on these people for their information. They rely on friends and family. They rely on social media. So, they often receive a lot of conflicting information about what foods they should eat, and or avoid,” Sims said.

“When we asked consumers if they agreed with the statement that they’re confused about the choices they make, we had almost 80% of consumers say that they were confused, and then we asked a question about whether or not they doubt the choices they make when they’re in the store, and over 50% said yes, they do doubt their choices,” Sims noted

Boomers are a bright spot on the survey as the more confident in the choices that they make when they’re making a food and beverage purchase or a choice in a restaurant.

Sims explained what the California ag industry can do to help consumers.

“It’s an interesting time right now, because in the age of social media, consumers to receive a lot of information from even more different places than before,” she said.

“It’s important to be part of the conversation and certainly organizations like IFIC take that to heart, and that’s what we do,” Sims said. “So, we’re part of the conversation in social media, traditional media, as well as outlets where you are looking at people who are the major buyers of food, such as moms, other parents, and then also our younger generations, millennials, and so on. We are part of the conversation in many different ways.”

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Pistachios Suffer Navel Orangeworm Damage

Overwintering NOW Population Must Be Reduced

By Robert H. Beede, UCCE Farm Advisor, Emeritus

The following is a special report by Robert H. Beede, UCCE Farm Advisor, Emeritus, on the state of the pistachio harvest and the fight against navel orangeworm damage.

Season Wrap Up: It looks like we wound up with about 600 million pounds. Only God knows how many million navel orangeworm got, but you all know it was a bunch! Processors have their hands full delivering the quality nut California is known for. Many growers I speak to ask, “What happened?” From my discussions with many crop consultants, what DIDN’T happen was sanitation! This was not only true for the pistachio growers, but almond producers as well.

Growers barked at me about the wet weather making orchard access difficult to impossible, the size of the trees making sanitation cost prohibitive, and the difficulty in getting the nuts out of the trees. These issues are all true. So, if you decide that you cannot sanitize, then you had best figure out how you are going to run the ranch on pistachios that are 30 to 40 cents less valuable than those with low worm damage.

I know I sound like the donkey’s behind with all the answers, but the pistachio industry needs to join forces with the almond guys to determine what we can collectively do to reduce the overwintering NOW population.

There has been millions spent studying NOW, and I have NEVER waivered on the fact that sanitation is the cornerstone to controlling this beast! I also still think that once we get the kinks out of mating disruption, that everyone should use it as a means to SUPPRESS the population. Note that I did NOT say, “Control it as a stand-alone program,” just in case someone out there wants to stuff words in my pie hole!

We are in DESPERATE need of an effective adult monitoring tool for NOW mating disruption. I hope this comes soon, in order to give pest managers a method of knowing when the pheromone is not reducing mating sufficiently. We also need more research on the cultural and environmental factors affecting the number of early split nuts, which become the NOW link to the new crop at harvest.

Sanitation: Now is the time to begin winter sanitation by removing the nuts that did not come off during harvest. Many of these nuts are blank, but do not assume that all of them are. Research by many good scientists has proven that winter sanitation is the key to breaking the overwintering NOW population cycle, which looms ever greater when the winter is warm and dry. Beginning the season with a large overwintering population simply reduces the effectiveness of your in-season sprays. Although the research has not been done, to my knowledge, the TIMING of sanitation may be a factor in its efficacy.

Nut removal and destruction early in the fall may be more effective, because the percentage of NOW larva in the early instar stages should be greater. This is due to the large peak in egg laying that occurs during hull degradation. Thus, they may be more susceptible to desiccation or fungal attack because of their smaller size. Disturbing their overwintering site from the tree onto the ground early also places more environmental pressure on their survival. This is just my opinion; it may be worthy of investigation.

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Glyphosate Does Not Cause Cancer, Study Finds

Glyphosate Cancer Study Turns up Nothing

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

With all the clamor that glyphosate herbicide is a cancer causing material, let the facts tell the real story.

Liza Dunn is an emergency medical doctor and also a medical toxicologist on the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis. And she’s also been working with Monsanto on anything that could show that glyphosate herbicide could not be safe when used correctly.

She discussed a robust study showing no evidence that glyphosate is cancer causing. None!

“The Ag Health Study is a study of more than 57,000 farmers with their pesticide applicators, and they had followed them since the mid ’90s to look at effects of pesticides exposure. And one of the pesticides that they’ve looked at is glyphosate,” Dunn explained.

“In 2005, there was even a journal article that demonstrated that there was no association between glyphosate in any kind of cancer whatsoever. That data was refreshed in 2013, and once again, the data demonstrated unequivocally that there was no association between glyphosate and any kind of cancer,” she said.

However, that second set of data was never published.

“Which is just incredible because the person who had that data said that it would have changed the outcome of the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decision.”

“That was in 2015, and why the research was not published is beyond me,” Dunn said.

According to her, IARC is going completely in the wrong direction.

“The IARC have gotten much more involved in looking at things that are not carcinogens, and out of abundance of caution, I guess – I’m not sure what their motivation is – they’ve decided to classify them as carcinogens anyway,” Dunn said.

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Raisin or Wine Grape Decision is Made Early

Going Raisins or Going Green for Wine

By Brianne Boyett, Associate Editor

California Ag Today recently spoke with Jeff Bitter, vice president of Allied Grape Growers of Fresno, a wine grape marketing co-op owned by approximately 550 growers located throughout the San Joaquin Valley as well as the North Coast.

Allied Grape Growers markets almost 200,000 tons of grapes to over 60 different outlets, primarily wine and concentrate processors. According to some estimates, the wine grape crush was down this year for Thompsons. The decision is made early for the farmers to either pick green for crush or extend out for raisins.

“For the most part, growers make the decision whether to raisins or go green for wine grapes early on in the season,” Bitter explained. “There’s always a few fence sitters that will make the decision based on what’s going on at harvest time. There are also many decisions and some cultural practices that need to be made and done earlier than August, in a lot of cases.”

“We saw where this year’s crush has been lighter than anticipated, because the crop simply hasn’t been there. I think we’re going to see that the raisin harvest is much lighter than anticipated as well,” Bitter said.

There’s a higher demand for white grapes this year, mainly for concentrate and some wine production.

“Generally, the shortage and the interest in white grapes this year has come from the fact that the southern hemisphere was short. Actually, they’ve been short the last two crops. That’s kind of opened up a hole in the global marketplace for some lower and generic white juice and to some degree wine,” Bitter said.

Bitter said the demand for raisin variety grapes at wineries is mostly from concentrate, not so much for wine making.

“Some wineries will blend in concentrate into the wine for added sweetness, depending on what style wine they’re making. By and large, the concentrate that’s made from Thompsons is going to the food industry and to the juice market,” he explained.

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Simplifying Ag Terms Important in Advocacy

Advocating for Ag with Simplified Terms

By Brianne Boyett, Associate Editor

It’s important when the agricultural industry is speaking with others outside the industry to use more simple ag terms that people can understand.

“Every industry, whether you’re a lawyer, a doctor, an agriculturists, we talk in code, and we kind of assume that other people understand and mostly, they don’t,” said George Soares, a partner of Kahn, Soares & Conway LLP.

Soares said we have to be clear in our message, and the way to do that with most public officials is to simplify the message, build off the simple starting point and through conversation, providing as much detail as you may need to provide.

“Instead, we lunge in, with all that we know about a topic, and many times, we just lose our audience by doing it that way,” Soares explained.

For example, many  wanted to comment on the importance of chlorpyrifos, a crop protection material that was meeting new regulations.

“You might go into a meeting with a legislator and launch in with the word chlorpyrifos and people cannot pronounce it, much less understand it,” Soares said. “We need to talk more simplistic, whether it’s chemicals or virtually anything that we do in agriculture, because the typical person just cannot relate.”

Soares suggested keeping the human condition in mind when talking with people.

“In my view, the human condition is a simple term but it takes the issues down to its essences. It’s talking about people and the effect on people of decisions that are being made,” he said. “It’s not a particular layer of people, but all people are impacted.”

“For example, when you prevent water from flowing like it should in California, what is the impact on the human condition? When you start probing at that level, you tend to get people’s attention,” Soares explained. “But too often, we in agriculture get ourselves lost in the technical and in the great detail of things, instead of boiling it down to its essence.”

Soares discussed the 2010 water bond negotiation and the fact that it wasn’t obtaining many votes until he brought in a group of Latinos to share how the lack of water affected them personally.

“It was very interesting, as it almost turned the votes on the dime, supporting the water bond. Because now, in the minds of the legislators, here are real people, experiencing the human condition. That brought a lot more authority to their message than other people. The legislatures started listening, and all of a sudden, the impossible became possible,” Soares said.

The legislature saw that these people might lose their jobs, have to move and most importantly, lose their American dream.

“An employee can speak more effectively about impacts on themselves instead of having their employer represent their interest in a conversation. We’re just not as believable as the individual themselves, speaking for themselves,” Soares explained.

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