Growers Face Fire Damage on Avocado Trees

Avocado Growers Should Not Cut Down Trees With Only Fire-Damaged Canopies

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Avocado growers should not make quick decisions on what to do with fire damage on avocado trees. There are right decisions and wrong decisions.

Wildfires in Ventura County have burned over two hundred and thirty thousand acres, and avocado growers are among those affected by the fires;  many orchards have been burned. We spoke with Ben Faber, a UC cooperative extension farm advisor in Ventura County. He told us about this devastation, and how it’s affected avocado orchards.

“I’ve been out looking at burned orchards, and it’s really too early to look. It looks worse than you see, so you see the burn canopies and it looks devastating, but they’ll come back,” Faber said. “It’s when you look at the orchard and see the green canopy and and you say, Oh gosh, I’m saved. But if you get down on your knees and you see these pustule, or boils round the base of the tree, that means the tree is gone.”

“This is tree sap underneath that’s boiled out,” Faber explained. “The cambium is damaged, and you may think, ‘Oh, everything is looking fine,’ and then you get a nice dry wind and the tree collapses all of a sudden because the can’t carry enough water to meet transpirational demand. Oftentimes, that means it was a crown fire and burned around the base of the trunk.”

“Some of the trees that looked the most damaged actually might be much better off than those showing little signs of damage. That’s why it’s important for growers to wait to assess the damage in their orchards,” he said.

In trees showing canopy burn, you’ll have to prune the tree. It’ll come back fine, according to Faber.

“What we are afraid of is that growers will respond in the wrong way. They’ll probably start cutting down trees that have lost their canopies and leave the ones that have a green canopy, and it might be the other way around,” he said. “We’re telling people, don’t do anything. Water if they need to and let nature take its course.”

Editor’s note: Photos by Ben Faber


2017-12-14T14:37:53-08:00December 14th, 2017|

California Supplies Thanksgiving

California Feeds the Nation on Thanksgiving!

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California ranks #8 in turkey production in the United States (2016), and we supply most of the western states from our poultry farms located in several areas in the state.

The famous Mrs. Cubbison’s Stuffing or “Dressing” originated from a ç, born in 1890 in the San Marcos area of San Diego County. In short, Cubbison graduated from California Polytechnical University in May 1920 with a degree in Home Economics having paid her way through school with the money she earned feeding the farm workers.

Cubbison created her popular stuffing in 1948 using broken pieces of the popular Melba toast and various seasonings. The factory in Commerce, California churns it out in mass quantities this time of year.

California farmers produce almonds, raisins, walnuts, prunes, figs, dates, apricots, pistachios, and pomegranates, right on up the food line.

These are all celebrated Thanksgiving foods.

Celery from the Oxnard and Ventura area completes the stuffing mix. Nutrient-dense carrots, lettuce and fresh spinach from Salinas now arrive, pre-washed and bagged, in your local produce department. Your Thanksgiving traditional green beans come from California growers.

An ample supply of freshly harvested oranges and kiwi fruit, table grapes, strawberries, and raspberries are shipped from many areas in the state. Seasonal features include sweet potatoes from the Merced, about an hour north of Fresno, plus all kinds and colors of potatoes and tomatoes, parsley, onions, and garlic—all crops are raised in California.

Nearly all the fruits, vegetables and nuts that are part of America’s Thanksgiving are sourced from California.

Don’t forget about the great varieties of wine grapes grown in the No. 1 agricultural state that are deftly crafted into delectable California wines.

Or the thirst-quenching Martinelli sparkling apple or grape cider from Watsonville California, near the Monterey Bay area. Local growers provide the tree-ripened fruit to the award-winning company that is still family-owned after almost 150 years and is managed by the founder’s grandson and great-grandson. Here’s something to discuss at your Thanksgiving meal:  the company won its first Gold Medal at the 1890 California State Fair in  Sacramento.

How about those heirloom and new apple varieties, plus those small round watermelons that we snack on or toss into a dessert fruit salad, topped with California pomegranate arils?

Of course, we raise poultry, and even California lamb, if you want to go that way. Here is a Did-you-know? challenge for your holiday meal:  What are the most recent Presidental Thanksgiving Turkeys from California pardoned by United States presidents? (Answers are below.)

And by the way, you know that food-safety pop-up turkey timer that indicates when the turkey has reached the correct internal temperature? Public relations genius Leo Pearlstein and a turkey producer in Turlock, a small town north of Fresno in Stanislaus County, invented this Thanksgiving fixture.

Back in the 1960s, they were sitting in a room trying to solve the undercooked poultry challenge, when they looked up and noticed ceiling fire sprinklers. The sprinklers sprayed water when the room temperature became hot enough to melt a tiny piece of metal alloy in the mechanism. This innovative team of two applied the same concept to the pop-up timer!

With the exception of cranberries, our national day of giving thanks for a bountiful harvest is really a California Thanksgiving.

Here are some friendly topics for discussion at your Thanksgiving Table:

  • What is the name of the famous Thanksgiving stuffing that originated in California?
  • What beverage company that is still operating won its first Gold Medal at the 1890 California State Fair?
  • How was the pop-up timer invented and by whom?
  • How does high does California rank in U.S. turkey production?
  • What are the most recent Presidental Thanksgiving Turkeys from California pardoned by United States presidents?

In 2010, President Obama pardoned Apple, a 45-pound turkey from Modesto, California-based Foster Farms; and alternate bird Cider. 

In 2015, President Obama pardoned Apple, a 45-pound turkey and an alternate 43-pound bird named Honest, again from Foster Farms.

The Presidential Turkey flock are Nicholas White turkeys, which originated in California’s Sonoma Valley in 1957. Today, the Nicholas White is the industry standard. (Foster Farms)

2021-05-12T11:17:10-07:00November 20th, 2017|

Successful Temecula Winegrape Harvest Wrap-Up

Temecula Winegrape Harvest to Become More Mechanized


By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director


Winegrape harvest is going well in the Temecula area of Riverside County, east of San Diego. Ben Drake, president of Drake Enterprises, Inc., a vineyard and avocado grove management company there, summarized this year’s winegrape harvest. “We’re doing real well,” said Drake, who is also a grower board member of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

“We had some real hot weather in middle of June, which reduced some of our yields. We got through that warm weather. Vines recovered and some of the fruit recovered. We’re seeing a slight reduction in yield—somewhere between 10 and 20 percent overall—because of that hot spell.”

Ben Drake, Temecula Winegrapes

Ben Drake, president of Drake Enterprises, Inc. and grower board member of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).


Harvest began toward the end of July and is now complete, Drake’s winegrape harvest is all hand done, not yet by machine. Drake said only one winery in the Temecula area has a machine.

Hand labor will change soon, according to Drake, because the new overtime bill mandates that farmworkers will receive overtime pay after working a threshold of 8 hours instead of 10. Drake is looking at machines that will dramatically decrease the hours of his workers—a consequence the state’s agriculture industry warned the Assembly about before they passed AB-1066.

“Overall,” Drake said, “it has been a long season. I grow about 35 to 36 different winegrape varieties, which allows me to pick some earlier and some later. That’s just the way they mature. It allows us to have plenty of time to get everything harvested.”

Drake Enterprises, Inc. the premier vineyard and avocado grove Management Company located in Temecula, California. Drake Enterprises, Inc. provides a full range of vineyard and avocado related activities to its clients. These include site selection, soils and water evaluation, variety, rootstock and scion selection, vineyard and avocado grove layout and development, vineyard and avocado grove management, harvest, consulting, avocado marketing strategy and grape brokerage.

2016-10-26T20:41:03-07:00October 20th, 2016|

Governor Signs AB 1066 Overtime Bill for Farmworkers

Governor Signs AB 1066 With Good Intentions

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director and Laurie Greene, Editor


TODAY, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1066, the overtime bill for farmworkers, despite pushback from agricultural groups and farmworkers in the state. Ian LeMay, director of member relations & communications of the Fresno-based California Fresh Fruit Association, anticipates that not only will farmers in the state lose, but farmworkers, exports, and possibly consumers will lose as well. 

For years, California farm employees accrued overtime pay only after working a 10-hour day, instead of an 8-hour day, like most other employees in California. AB 1066 changes the overtime rules for farmworkers by gradually lowering overtime thresholds in steps over the next four years so farmworkers will eventually earn overtime after an 8-hour day.

The California farm industry has appreciated the prior overtime policy, according to LeMay, because agriculture is not a typical 52-week type of job. The workload of farming ebbs and flows with the seasons, weather, cultural practices and tasks.Farmworkers

For instance, harvesting of crops such as strawberries, citrus and table grapes, normally occurs during short 2- to 3-week periods in the state and is accompanied by an increase in demand for labor. As one might expect, the need for labor declines during non-harvest and non-planting phases, to the extent that farmworkers may endure periods of no work, and hence, no pay. So farmworkers have appreciated the opportunity to work extra hours and earn overtime during busier phases.

Labor costs for California growers of all fresh fruit, avocados and many vegetable crops will be most affected by this change. “This is going to have a very, very big impact on crops that require a high degree of labor like our stone fruit, table grapes and the rest,” said LeMay, “It’s definitely going to change the way our members have to approach doing business,” he said.

“When you compare it to the other states in the union that we are going to have to compete with,” LeMay elaborated, “when you take into account recent changes in minimum wage, piece-rate compensation, increasing farm regulations and now overtime, it’s going to be very difficult to compete not only in a domestic market, but also internationally. That’s the disappointing part about this.”

LeMay also explained that over the last 40 years, the California legislature has crafted labor law to create the highest worker standards in the U.S. “California was the only state in the union that had a daily threshold for overtime of [only] 10 hours per day, and we were one of four in the union that had a weekly threshold for overtime of [only] 60 hours. So in terms of ag overtime, California was already the gold standard.”

And, although lawmakers intended AB 1066 to help farmworkers, LeMay noted, “ultimately, the measure will impact farmworkers the most because farmers in the number one Ag state will find a way to keep its bottom line from eroding any further.

“California farmers will need to solve the puzzle of how to achieve the same amount of work in fewer hours per day,” said LeMay. “They will consider hiring double crews, increasing mechanization in packing facilities, orchards and vineyards, and reducing farm acreage to match their workforce. Or, for those commodities that require increased labor, you could see a transition to commodities like nut crops that use less labor.”

LeMay explained that during down periods on the farm, farmworkers generally collect unemployment, which is based on gross annual income. Now, by giving the farmer an incentive to reduce worker hours, farmworkers’ unemployment compensation may decrease as well.

Furthermore, for the consumer who desires fresh local food from small farms, the phase-in schedule AB 1066 provides to smaller companies is actually a competitive disadvantage. “While AB 1066 allows small farmers—those with fewer than 25 employeesmore time to phase in changes,” LeMay asked, “why would a farmworker stay at small farm under the prolonged 60-hour per week overtime threshold rule, when he or she could work at a larger farm under the phased-in 40-hour per week threshold?”



Are consumers willing to pay for increased labor costs on the farm? “As the saying goes,” LeMay quipped, “generally farmers aren’t price makers, they are price takers. Consumers are usually unwilling to pay extra for their produce, so farmers usually have to absorb increased costs.”

“Economically,” LeMay summarized, “the legislature has taken us from high labor standards to economically disadvantaging farmers and farmworkers. Lawmakers are not paying enough attention to keeping California companies viable, sustainable and successful.”

2016-09-12T18:40:13-07:00September 12th, 2016|

It’s Avocado Month!

Celebrate the Magic of California Avocados.

By Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor


Chefs and foodies alike, get ready for California Avocado Month which begins TODAY, June 1st. Menus across California are celebrating this magical fruit, not only for its postive health benefits as a source of Omega-3 and Vitamin E, but also for its resiliency to thrive in spite of the prolonged drought.



“Avocados are at their peak of the season,” said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the California Avocado Commission (CAC), “so we’re in very good supply and their eating quality is just second to none.”


Avocados are so diverse, they can be incorporated into daily menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, beverages and even desserts. Consider celebrating summer gatherings with chocolate avocado pudding, avocado ice cream or, perhaps, even an avocado cake. Links to recipes are included at the end of the article.


Would you believe California avocados can be used as a butter alternative—with 300 fewer calories per quarter cup serving?


Despite entering year five of the drought, California and its farming industry received enough rain in the northern part of the state this year to replenish reservoirs and actually increase this year’s avocado harvest. Roughly 4,000 growers on approximately 53,000 acres have harvested 392 million pounds of avocados.


“We actually have more fruit this year than we had last year,” acknowledged DeLyser. “Our growers are continuing to be good stewards of the resources that are available to them and able to produce avocados for us all to enjoy throughout the summer months.”


The CAC’s collaboration with chefs around the country to feature California avocado items, helps support growers of the tree-bearing fruit in the state. Approximately 90 percent of the nation’s avocado crop comes from fertile, California soil, mostly on small family farms, which can ensure the avocados are carefully handled and inspected.


Recipes incorporating delectable avocados:  Chocolate Avocado CakeAvocado Ice Cream

2021-05-12T11:05:56-07:00June 2nd, 2016|

Agriculture Detector K-9 on Duty!

Agriculture Detector K-9 on Duty!

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

[embedvideo id=”Il2TOH1NvOM” website=”youtube”]

California Ag Today’s associate broadcaster Charmayne Hefley recently asked Soya, a mixed-breed agriculture detector K-9 (canine) with big responsibilities, and Samantha Tomlinson, Soya’s handler with the Fresno County Ag Commissioner’s office, what type of dog Soya is.

ST:      We don’t know exactly what she is for sure, but we’re thinking about getting her DNA-tested someday. We’re thinking she’s a lab-border-collie.

Samantha Tomlinson, Soya and Charmayne Hefley

Samantha Tomlinson, Soya and Charmayne Hefley

CAT:   How long have you and Soya been together?

ST:      We have been matched up since mid-July when we went through the training program in Georgia through the National Detector Dog Training Center.

CAT:   What is Soya able to do for the Ag Commissioner’s office?

ST:      Soya smells out parcels for potential plant material and she alerts us [to suspicious ones] by scratching. We check to see if [the material] has been properly certified and if it’s good to go.

CAT:   What are some of her recent detections?

ST:      She can detect a number of things. She was initially trained on five scents: mango, stone fruit, apple, guava, and citrus. From there, through scent association, she’s been able to find a number of additional agricultural materials, including avocados, blueberries, nuts, soil, cut flowers; anything that is plant material, Soya can find.

CAT:   What region does Soya cover?

ST:      Right now we’ve been covering only Fresno County because we still are in what we call the “acclimation phase,” as she’s still new. We’ve been working at FedEx and UPS, but we’ll broaden our horizons eventually and we’ll be in the post office, GSO, OnTrac, any service that ships parcels.”

CAT:   How important is it for the agricultural industry to have dogs like Soya working for it?

ST:      Well Soya and I are considered a “first line of defense” for California’s multi-billion dollar ag industry. She is in the facilities checking boxes sent from potentially quarantined areas from within the state and from outside the state for materials that may contain any pests or diseases that could prove detrimental to California agriculture.

CAT:   People may not know when they’re shipping certain items—certain plant materials—from one county to the next that the destination county may have a quarantine in place. How do people properly ship plant material?

ST:      Every county is actually different. If you are thinking of shipping some of your backyard fruits to your nephew or grandson, I would contact your local ag commissioner and make sure there are not any quarantines in place for both the county you’re shipping from and the county you’re shipping to. In these facilities, we look for boxes to be properly labeled with the growing origin and we inspect thye contents inside. Depending on what is inside, where it’s grown and where it’s going, we act accordingly.

2016-05-31T19:24:13-07:00February 5th, 2016|

UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Ventura County

UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Ventura County

By Laurie Greene, Editor California Ag Today

Ben Faber, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Ventura County, works with growers who farm a variety of different crops including blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries as well as lemons and avocados.

Faber is developing new approaches for better avocado pruning to increase yield. “We have not done a lot of pruning on avocados in the past,” Faber said, “because this plant species responds to pruning in a very rapid fashion with a lot of shoots and water sprouts, so people have been scared to prune avocados. Over time, we have learned how to prune avocados somewhat differently than other tree crops.”

Faber said the two pruning choices are a heading cut and a thinning cut. “A heading cut,” he explained, “is often what you see peach growers doing, indiscriminately cutting into a branch. Well, they are actually doing is selecting the branches that will be the fruiting branches for the next year. Whereas, if you do that in avocados, you just get a lot of wild regrowth.”

So Faber believes the strategy in avocados has to be a thinning cut, “where you prune back to a sub-tending branch or a crotch so the remaining branch continues growth. This method controls growth lower down in the branch. It has taken a long time to discover this, though it seems simple now.”

He added, “Thinning cuts are all about keeping the tree from ‘crowning out,’ which reduces yield. As neighboring trees start shading each other, the flowering and fruiting spreads to the very top of the tree.  This is where you see significant yield reduction because instead of having fruit form all over the tree’s canopy, fruit and flower production forms only on the very top of the canopy.” Faber said.

“Keeping the avocado fruit lower in the tree is better for harvesters to grab,” Faber commented. “So, growing fruit high in the tree presents not only yield loss, but a worker safety issue as well.”

2016-05-31T19:28:11-07:00July 9th, 2015|

A Tough Shot Hole Borer Pest Impacting Northern San Diego County Avocados

Traps Are Being Set up for Monitoring Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer

The California Avocado Commission continues to deploy traps and lures for polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB) monitoring in the major avocado growing regions. The infestation is currently limited to Northern San Diego County, where thirteen groves have confirmed PSHB. Those groves have a total acreage of about 1,000 acres, but not all of the acreage is infested.

To date over 100 traps have been set-up in avocado groves in San Diego and Riverside Counties to monitor current infestation beetle levels and to serve as an early warning system should the beetle spread. In addition, traps with lures have been deployed in other avocado production areas to serve as sentinels. Ventura County now has 24 traps in place and another five are in San Luis Obispo County, and soon traps will be located in Santa Barbara County.

These traps are strategically placed in locations that have a higher susceptibility for the introduction of the PSHB, such as campgrounds, nurseries and green-waste facilities. There are also a few traps within avocado groves. Considering the high number of PSHB hosts, it is believed that movement of firewood and other plant materials from infested areas into non-infested areas presents the greatest risk. Most of the major handlers have set-up traps at their facilities as an additional safeguard.

Traps within the infested groves have shown some significant increases in beetle captures when the temperatures warmed. During January as UCR researchers monitored fifteen traps the average total number of beetles was around 100. In early February, though, when temperatures warmed those same fifteen traps had over 1,000 combined beetles in one day. This data is preliminary, but it suggests how rapidly the beetle activity may increase as summer temperatures begin to occur. Accordingly, it is imperative that growers who are located within a few miles of infested groves remain vigilant in their monitoring for PSHB, especially with spring and summer fast approaching.

Additional information regarding how to identify signs of PSHB may be found here:

The Commission, prior to the start of harvest, worked with handlers to develop protocols for harvest and transportation practices to mitigate possible risk of PSHB spread, and these protocols may be viewed here:

Finally, a grower meeting has been scheduled for March 24th, 2015, from 9-11 am in Escondido. UC Riverside researchers and Commission staff will provide an update on field trials evaluating possible curative and/or prophylactic pesticides and fungicides. The meeting will be held at the California Center for the Arts, 340 North Escondido Boulevard, Escondido, CA 92025.

Tom Bellamore, President
Ken Melban, Director Issues Management
Tim Spann, Research Program Director

2016-05-31T19:30:29-07:00March 1st, 2015|


Apply for “AVOCADO PRODUCTION FOR NEW GROWERS”    a  6-Week Course  
Attention new and beginning California avocado growers,
Dr. Gary Bender, Ph.D., is offering a new six-week course entitled “Avocado Production for New Growers.” The course will be held on Thursday afternoons and conclude with a Saturday trip to the UC Cooperative Extension high-density trial and commercial grove.
The course is sponsored by UC ANR and UCCE-San Diego and supported by the California Avocado Commission.
The course schedule is as follows:
January 30  — Introduction to Agriculture in San Diego County, History of Avocado Production in California
February 6 — Botany, Flowering, Varieties, Harvest Dates, Rootstocks
February 14 (Friday) — Irrigation Systems, Irrigation Scheduling, Salinity Management
February 20 — Fertilization, Organic Production
February 27 — Insect and Mite Control, Disease Control
March 6 — Canopy Management, Tree Spacing, Frost Management
March 13 — Ag Waiver Water School Training
March 15 (Saturday) — Field trip to UC Cooperative Extension high-density trial and commercial grove
Because space is limited, register online early or mail in the registration form. The fee is $105 and includes class materials and a bonus publication. For more information, contact Cristina Lomeli at 760.752.4724.
2016-05-31T19:41:11-07:00January 23rd, 2014|
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