Farmers Add Emotional Connection to Food

Bayer Reports Consumers Still Trust Farmers

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Adrian Percy, Global Head of Research and Development for Bayer Crop Science, told California Ag Today recently that he believes the public still trusts farmers.

“There’s a high degree of trust,” he said, “and I think that comes from the fact that there is an emotional connection with food and the fact that growers are known to be trying to work sustainably. Growers look from generation to generation in terms of passing the farm down, oftentimes, and I think that is still understood by the public, even if people have a few reservations about some of the technologies we use in agriculture.”

According to a recent Bayer global study about consumers, Percy reported, “We are seeing, not just in the U.S., but also in the Europe, South America and Asia, a lot of questions coming up around agriculture. As an agricultural input company, we think it’s our role to help understand this [phenomenon], first of all. We think it is very important for us to help activate—be it farmers or other folks in the industry—to come out and talk about agriculture, enter into dialogue with consumers and explain what we do.”

Commenting on some of the study’s most interesting revelations, Percy said, “It was interesting just asking the general question, ‘Do you believe that innovation in agriculture is actually important?’ And people came back, ‘Yes, we do believe that we need to innovate. We do see that there is a need to feed a growing population and that we need to help farmers farm more sustainably with better tools.’”

On the other hand, Percy explained that consumers drew the line, “when we quizzed them about the individual tools. People don’t necessarily like the idea of chemicals on the farm or GM technology in certain cases in certain parts of the world. So those are the types of discussions that we need to really go into.”

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AgVocating Carries a Big Message

AgVocating to the Consumers

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Adrian Percy, global head of research and development for the crop science division of Bayer, recently discussed with California Ag Today the big need for AgVocating for agriculture so that consumers can understand the business.

“We need to make sure that we can maintain or restore trust in food and agricultural production methods because clearly there is somewhat of a disconnection between growers and the community,” Percy said. “Roughly two percent of the U.S. population are farmers. As many folks move to the cities, they are more and more disconnected from agriculture, and people need to understand the story of agriculture and why it is so important.”

Bayer conducted a survey over 10 countries and 10,000 individuals to poll consumers on their opinions of farmers.

“One of the interesting things was that despite a lot of controversy around agriculture, monoculture, GM, organic versus non-organic, still the public trusts farmers. There’s a high degree of trust and I think that comes from the emotional connection with food,” Percy said.

Growers are known to work sustainably and pass on to one another.

“This is not just in the U.S., it is also in the European markets,” he explained.

There are a lot of questions coming up around agriculture. As an agricultural input company, Bayer’s role is to help activate farmers or other folks in the industry to come out and talk about agriculture.

“We think that’s very important,” Percy said.

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Helping Consumers Understand Ag Tech

Bayer Does Consumer Research on Ag Technology

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Adrian Percy, Global Head of Research and Development for the Crop Science Division of Bayer, recently spoke with California Ag Today about consumer opinions on agriculture and ag tech.

“The public trusts farmers. There’s a high degree of trust, and I think that comes from the fact that there is an emotional connection with food, the fact that growers are known to be trying to work sustainably,” Percy said. “Often times, farmers look from generation to generation in terms of passing the farm down, and I think that’s still understood by the public, even if some of the technologies we’re using … people have some reservations about.”

“I mean, it’s not just consumers in the U.S., it’s also in the European markets and South America and in Asia,” Percy explained. “We’re seeing a lot of questions coming up around agriculture, and as an agricultural input company, we think it’s our role to help understand that. And we hope to activate farmers or other folks in the industry to come out and talk about agriculture, enter into dialogue with consumers and explain what we do. I think that’s very important.”

Percy discussed a study that covered different topics, including consumer opinions on innovations in agriculture.

“We looked to a whole bunch of different aspects. One of the things that was also interesting is just asking the general questions about do you believe: that innovation in agriculture is actually important? People came back, ‘Yes, we do believe that we need to innovate. We do see that there’s a need to feed a growing population and that we need to help farmers farm more sustainably with better tools,’” Percy said.

“On the other hand, when we quiz them about the individual tools, that’s where there is a reservation,” Percy explained. “People don’t necessarily like the idea of chemicals on the farm or GM technology in certain cases and certain parts of the world. So those are the types of discussions that we need to really go into.”

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“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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Bayer Launching CoLaborator Space in Sacramento

Biotech Startup Lab to Serve as Incubator

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Bayer Crop Sciences Biologics Group in West Sacramento is Bayer’s global headquarters for microbial base crop protection products. The company recently announced that a new biotech startup lab space known as the Crop Science CoLaborator is available in 3,000 square feet within the West Sacramento facility. Jon Margolis, head of research technologies for Bayer Biologics, recently spoke to California Ag Today about the project

Jon Margolis

“This is a part of the original building as we built it out,” Margolis said. “We set aside about 3,000 square feet in the back to be dedicated to this incubator space, and now we’ve just finished the construction.”

The lab space is scheduled to become available in December.

“It’s part of kind of a larger strategy for Bayer,” Margolis said. “So we have actually now three of these so-called CoLaborator spaces. So there’s one in Mission Bay associated with UCSS in San Francisco. There’s another one in Berlin, and then this is the latest. But this is the first one for Bayer that’s dedicated to agriculture and food research.”

We asked Margolis what the meaning is behind the CoLaborator.

“It’s really based around the idea that for start-up companies, there’s a clear benefit of being associated and nearby to Bayer, not so much for the facilities as much as the opportunities to be able to talk to and interact with us,” Margolis explained. “From our side, it’s a great thing because it gives us kind of a reason or an opportunity to be talking to start-ups in this space who might be interested in renting this.”

Bayer is already starting to solicit for tenants for the space.

“It’ll be a combination of office and then fully modern, what we call, wet lab or biochemistry and cell biology kind of labs, which would be able to host up to three different companies,” Margolis said. “So typically, these early stage start-up companies are comprised one to three people, and what they’re really trying to do is get the initial proof of concept to really show that their idea, their technology works, to then be able to go out to investors and get the next round of funding. So this is kind of in that sweet spot because there’s not a lot of that space in the local area.”

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Support Agriculture By Being An ‘AgVocate’

Bayer CropScience Says Farmers Need to AgVocate with Consumers

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

The California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) recently held their 42nd Annual CAPCA Conference & Agri-Expo in Anaheim.  It was a sellout crowd at the Disneyland Convention Center, with about 1,600 registered participants and more than 160 different trade show vendors participating.  The theme of this year’s conference was “Feeding a Nation, Fighting the Fear,” with speakers covering a variety of topics related to public interest in agriculture. 

David Hollinrake, vice president of Agricultural Commercial Operations (ACO) Marketing with Bayer CropScience, talked about a program that Bayer CropScience sponsors called AgVocate.   “AgVocacy really is about engaging the farmer population so that they can represent modern agriculture to the consumer population that has a growing disconnect from what we do,” Hollinrake said. 

vice president of Agricultural Commercial Operations (ACO) Marketing with Bayer CropScience, AgVocacy
David Hollinrake, vice president of Agricultural Commercial Operations (ACO) Marketing with Bayer CropScience

There has been a growing disconnect between those who are involved with agriculture and the overall consumer base.  “With misinformation sometimes comes misconceptions and mistrust,” Hollinrake noted. 

One of the reasons for the divide between growers and consumers is that the number of people involved in agriculture has declined significantly over the past 50 years.  “When my grandfather grew up on the farm, some 40 percent of people were involved in production agriculture. Today, there’s only 1 percent of the population involved in agriculture,” Hollinrake said.

It’s important to bridge that gap by giving consumers a better understanding of what agriculture is really about.  “Our role with AgVocacy is to enable the farmers to take an active role in describing the benefits of modern Ag and really dispelling a lot of the myths that exist in agriculture,” Hollinrake said.

Bayer-Cropscience-agvocate-amplify-your-voice-hero“One of the other topics that we spoke about was the difference between conventional agriculture and organic agriculture,” Hollinrake noted.  The growth in organic farms has created an atmosphere of misunderstanding; with consumers erroneously believing that traditionally grown produce is somehow less safe.  Without being involved in agriculture, it’s understandable for people to have misconceptions about how the industry works.  However, these types of beliefs solidify the need for the AgVocate program.

Hollinrake thinks meeting the dietary needs of a growing population will require both organic and traditional farming. “If we’re going to feed 10 billion people by 2050, it’s going to take all forms of agriculture. To me, it’s not an ‘either/or’ – it’s a ‘yes/and’ conversation,” Hollinrake said.

Unprecedented CAPCA Conference Attendance!

Agriculture Needs a Hero! Welcome to the Annual CAPCA Conference.

 

In an exclusive interview at the 42nd Annual California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) Conference & Agri-Expo TODAY in Anaheim, CAPCA CEO and President, Ruthann Anderson, shared, “We have had an unprecedented response here at CAPCA.”

CAPCA CONFERENCE 2016 audience
Ruthann Anderson, CAPCA CEO and President

“Registrations are at an all-time high,” she continued. “We’ve actually sold out the entire show as well as registrations with 1600 attendees. There were just a handful of walkups that we unfortunately just couldn’t accommodate today. We are excited and looking forward to continuing to have a high professional continuing education program as well as an exhibit hall here today.”

“This year’s theme is ‘Fighting the Fear, Feeding the Nation,’ said Anderson, “so we’ll have Captain CAPCA as well as Doctor Foe here this morning.”

Click here to meet Captain CAPCA and Doctor Foe on this CAPCA ‘NEWS’ video!

 

Anderson reflected, “You know for us, CAPCA really represents the Pest Control Advisors (PCAs) for production ag and turf and ornamental. As a requirement for their continuing education, they need 40 hours in order to renew [their certification]. For us, bringing together continuing education as well as networking is so valuable for them as they move into the new year.”

 

Some “Top Gun” people speaking this year, according to Anderson, “are obviously some of our main sponsors. Bayer CropScience and FMC Corporation are both doing high-level presentations. We also have Kern County agricultural commissioner Ruben Arroyo talking about the new proposed regulations for buffer zones around schools, so that’s going to be a great conversation starter for all of our members.”

 

“We appreciate all of the support we receive,” Anderson stated. “It’s so valuable for us. We exist because of volunteers and we exist because of our membership. We are grateful for all of them.”


The California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) represents more than 75% of the nearly 4,000 California EPA licensed pest control advisers (PCAs) that provide pest management consultation for the production of food, fiber and ornamental industries of this state.

CAPCA is dedicated to the professional development and enhancement of our member’s education and stewardship, which includes legislative, regulatory, continuing education and public outreach activities.

CAPCA membership covers a broad spectrum of the industry including agricultural consulting firms, U.C. Cooperative Extension Service, city, county and state municipalities, public agencies, privately employed, forensic pest management firms, biological control suppliers, distributors, dealers of farm supplies, seed companies, laboratories, farming companies and manufacturers of pest management products.

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Food Tank’s Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento Reveals Knowledge Gap

Food Tank’s 1st Annual Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento Reveals Gap in Agricultural Knowledge

Good Starting Point for Constructive Conversation

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Several hundred food activists attended the First Annual Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento last week, hosted by Food Tank, in partnership with the Visit SacramentoCalifornia Farm-to-Fork Program, and University of California, DavisDanielle Nierenberg, co-founder and president of Food Tank noted having the event in Sacramento enabled West Coast agricultural experts to contribute to the discussion.

“We were really excited to feature California agriculture, because it’s such a huge part of the American economy,” said Nierenberg. “Californians are feeding the world, and we need to really highlight what these amazing producers are doing. When the Farm to Fork program of the Visitors Bureau reached out to us, we were thrilled to partner with such an amazing group of people, as well as UC Davis folks and the Center for Land-Based Learning,” she said.

Food Tank, an abbreviation of Food Think Tank, is a 501(c)3 non profit organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters that values education, inspiration and change.

According to their website:

Food Tank is for the 7 billion people who have to eat every day. We will offer solutions and environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty by creating a network of connections and information for all of us to consume and share. Food Tank is for farmers and producers, policy makers and government leaders, researchers and scientists, academics and journalists, and the funding and donor communities to collaborate on providing sustainable solutions for our most pressing environmental and social problems.

The organization begins with the premise, “Our food system is broken. Some people don’t have enough food, while others are eating too much. There’s only one way to fix this problem—and it starts with you and me.”

Food Tank, Farm Tank SummitWith the goal of feeding the hungry world of nine billion people in a few years, “Food Tank highlights hope and success in agriculture. We feature innovative ideas that are already working on the ground, in cities, in kitchens, in fields and in laboratories. These innovations need more attention, more research, and ultimately more funding to be replicated and scaled-up. And that is where we need you. We all need to work together to find solutions that nourish ourselves and protect the planet.”

Nierenberg clarified, “I don’t necessarily think we need to scale up food production; I think we need to scale out different innovations that are working. We’re wasting about 1.3 billion tons of food annually. That’s enough to feed everyone who’s hungry today, so we don’t necessarily need to ramp up production. We need to have better distribution, and processing practices that can help get food to people who need it the most,” she said.

“We need the political will behind those things,” she continued, “to build the infrastructure necessary for farmers to have better processing facilities, to have better storage facilities, to have better roads—if we’re talking about the developing world. I don’t necessarily think that we need to invest in producing more calories; we need better calories. We need more nutrient-dense food, and we need less starchy staple crops,” she noted.


Editor’s Note: Activists overtook the stage during the event, and the conversation was notably challenging for panelists. In an effort to Cultivate Common Ground to link consumers with the farmers who grow their nutritious food—and vice versa—California Ag Today has chosen to share some interesting statements from presenters and attendees to illustrate, perhaps, where the discussion could begin:

Regarding farms and processing facilities, big is bad, and small is good.

Regarding food quality, organic produce is healthy and safe, while conventional produce is unsafe and full of pesticides.

One of many moderators from the Bay Area, Twilight Greenaway, managing editor of Civil Eats mistakenly introduced Oscar Villegas, Yolo County Supervisor, District 1, as being from Sacramento County. When Villegas corrected her, Greenaway said, “I’m showing my Central Valley and Bay Area eliteness.”

Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First, noted that farmworkers are invisible in California agriculture. “There is racism in the fields. We need more worker unions and we need farmworkers to be paid much more than they are now and the farmworkers should be getting pensions from the farmer.”

Michael Dimock, president, Roots of Change, said to the audience, “You guys are doing a great job. Keep doing it. Keep working with your NGOs. They know policy. In turn, they can work with the legislators.”

“You need to be in the capital, pursuading the legislatures to support their bills. They want to be reelected, and if they don’t do what we ask them to do, they are scared.”

“In the meantime, we have to be nice to farmers because farmers are scared. We are putting a lot of pressure on them; They are in a vice. Our movement has supported bills AB 1066 – the overtime bill, minimum wage increases, organic farming legislation,  and workers’ rights.”

Kerryn Gerety, founder and CEO, Lazoka, referred to John Purcell, vegetables global R&D Lead, Hawaii business lead, vice president and distinguished fellow, Monsanto Company, and said, “There is an elephant in the room, the Monsanto rep. Monsanto has all the technology patents. We all want transparency and we need you to be more transparent.”

Continuing, “Why doesn’t Monsanto open-source some of your patents and release the intellectual property so others can take advantage of your teçhnology?”

Purcell answered, “We are an Ag company. Why would our company invest a million dollars on technology and let everyone have it? It is our investment and we need to have the opportunity for a return on that investment.

During a panel discussion of food companies including Blue Apron, Almond Board of California, and Bayer CropScience, that covered organics, Jennifer Maloney, food chain sustainability manager, Bayer CropScience, said, “We do support  the organic industry, because we have biological products that work in organic as well as conventional [farming].”

Maloney also talked about agricultural Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technology such as smart sprayers that spray only targeted areas.

Matt Wadiak, founder & COO, Blue Apron, responded, “It’s not about smart sprayers; it’s about biological systems in the field and trying to lean on them instead of spraying.”

Maloney replied, “Yes, that is exactly what IPM is.”

Keith Knopf, COO, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, commented on the organic question, “the way we see organic versus inorganic—that is not the discussion for us. What’s more important to us is, is it the candy bar or the apple?”


This two-day event featured more than 35 speakers from the food and agriculture field, interactive panels moderated by top food journalists, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees. This was the second in a series of three 2016 Summits, following the Washington, D.C. Food Tank Summit that completely sold out and drew in more than 30,100 livestream viewers. The third Summit will be held in Chicago on November 16, 2016.

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The Fight Against the Asian Citrus Psyllid

California Citrus Mutual on the Fight Against the Asian Citrus Psyllid and HLB

By Laurie Greene, Editor

On Saturday, June 4, 2016, Patrick Cavanaugh, California Ag Today’s farm news director, hosted iHeart Media’s Ag Life Weekend show on “Power Talk 96.7 FM Fresno and 1400 AM Visalia stations, sitting in for broadcaster Rich Rodriguez. Cavanaugh’s invited guests included Alyssa Houtby, director of public affairs, and Chris Stambach, director of industry relations for the Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, to discuss the status of the state’s citrus industry amidst the ACP and HLB Infestation.Ag Life Weekend

The Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), certainly the number one pest for California citrus, can spread a bacterium known as Huanglongbing (HLB) that is fatal to citrus trees. As of 2016, 22 trees in the state have been infected with the fatal disease and had to be destroyed. The entire citrus industry of California has been and continues to be concerned that the ACP could take down the citrus industry, as it has in Florida.

Alyssa Houtby explained that the fight against ACP in California “is going well, we hope. The Florida citrus industry has been completely decimated by HLB; an estimated 90 percent of their acreage is infested with this disease.”

Asian Citrus Psyllid Evidence on New Growth (Source: California Ag Today
Asian Citrus Psyllid Evidence on New Growth (Source: California Ag Today)

“Here in California,” Houtby continued, “we saw it crop up in residential citrus before we saw it in commercial citrus. All of the HLB finds, to date, have been in the Los Angeles Basin.” Houtby said they are working diligently to keep the psyllid population down to decrease the exposure of trees to HLB.

The California citrus industry spends approximately $15 million annually on an ACP assessment program, which includes extensive public outreach. Part of the research entails trapping the pest, conducting survey work in the regions in question, applying treatments in residential areas, and managing a delimitation survey around the area of Los Angeles where the disease has populated.

“That means that we’re scouting very consistently,” explained Houtby, “looking for other trees with the disease and pulling those trees out as soon as we find them. We are doing everything we can here in California to keep the pest and disease from spreading—now that we have it,” she noted.

Alyssa Houtby, director of public affairs, California Citrus Mutual
Alyssa Houtby, director of public affairs, California Citrus Mutual

“The California industry has always been one to use a proactive approach,” Houtby elaborated. “We saw what happened in Florida, and we realized really early on that we couldn’t stand by and wait for this disease to find us. We had to actively go look for it and find it—before it found commercial citrus—and we’ve done that.” Regarding the 22 trees in the state that have been destroyed thus far, Houtby said, “It could be a lot worse if we weren’t as proactive as we are.”

When locating a positive ACP find in a residential area, Houtby noted, generally speaking, homeowners have mostly been compliant. “There are pockets in this state where folks don’t like government coming in, knocking on their door and asking to spray their trees with pesticides. We understand that. It’s an opt-in/opt-out scenario here. We’re not forcing homeowners in most cases to treat their trees.”

Chris Stambach
Chris Stambach, director of industry relations for California Citrus Mutual

“But that’s a different situation if HLB is present,” she emphasized. “Then we do. We get a warrant, and we go in and treat the surrounding trees. If we’re treating in response to an ACP find, homeowners can opt out, but overwhelmingly, they don’t. They support our program. They understand that citrus is a part of the California heritage, they like their citrus trees, and they want to keep them in their yards. They understand that the alternative to not treating is that tree will eventually die if it becomes infected. We’ve worked really hard to communicate to the general public about the seriousness of this issue. We’re pleased with the results.” Houtby said.

Chris Stambach discussed the importance of homeowners having a general understanding of the ACP, so if they find something unusual in their citrus tree, they know to call the local ag commissioner.

Stambach detailed ACP and HLB specifications to increase homeowners’ understanding about their beloved citrus trees. “HLB is symptomatic, but it takes a long time for those symptoms to show up in the tree,” said Stambach. “You really have to know what you’re looking for because some fertilizer deficiency issues in the tree will mimic what HLB looks like.”

“Though the ACP is a really tiny little bug, there are some key signs the public can look for,” explained Stambach. “You want to look for that psyllid and the little tubules it excretes on the new flush of growth—pretty much right there at the end of the terminals where all that new growth comes in the springtime and in the fall. That’s key to California, because there are only certain times of the year when that ACP is actively feeding on the citrus tree.”

California has a real benefit over the Sunshine State, where they have to spray 12 times a year to keep the psyllids at bay. “It hasn’t been effective for [Florida],” noted Stambach. “We had a couple of growers out this last winter to our Citrus Showcase. They planted new trees, 4 years old, and although they spray 12 times a year, their orchards are 100% infected with HLB. That’s the devastation that this insidious disease can bring. It’s really difficult to get your hands around it because it takes so long to be able to detect it.”

Another benefit for California citrus, according to Houtby, is, “We have a lot of areas in the state where we don’t have to spray at all because we can use beneficial insects. That’s just the great part about farming in California.”

Asian Citrus Psyllic Yellow Trap 2 (Source: Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program)
Asian Citrus Psyllic Yellow Trap (Source: Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program)

Houtby and her team often look to Florida for ideas and recommendations on what has worked for them, what hasn’t and what citrus growers here can do to prevent the disease from taking hold of their citrus. She clarified that 90 percent of the Florida citrus market is used for juice production; whereas, California is a “fresh-oriented industry, meaning that over 90 percent of our product goes into the fresh market.”

Although California citrus looks for recommendations from Florida, “here in California, there are a lot of things that we can’t afford to do because of the [fresh] market that we’re serving,” said Houtby.”  That is what we’re fighting so hard to maintain because we cannot sustain as long as Florida has; we don’t have the luxury of sending a bad-looking piece of fruit into the marketplace like Florida can, because they just juice it. Knowing that, we’re working really hard to never get to the point that Florida has reached.”

As if the dire situation in Florida couldn’t be any worse, they battled with “another deadly bacterial-based citrus disease, citrus canker, brought in from the far reaches of the world,” Stambach said. “That’s a concern we always have with importing citrus. When we import Argentine lemons, for example, we risk our domestic plant health by exposing orchards to a lot of plant diseases they have that we don’t. We want to keep those out of our country,” noted Stambach.

Abandoned citrus trees also pose problems for the industry; they can be sanctuaries for ACP. “If those trees are dead, that’s not a problem. They may look bad, but if they are not living, that’s not a problem. It’s when those trees aren’t cared for, aren’t sprayed in a normal routine, and there is a flush of new growth, the trees provide a sanctuary for the psyllids,” he said.

Abandoned Citrus
Abandoned Citrus

“And ACP are very good at finding citrus. They’ll target the perimeters of new growth on the very first citrus they find. Boom, they’re right on it,” he noted.

“Those abandoned groves create a real problem, particularly when they’re in close proximity to other commercial acreage or even homeowners,” he said. Neglected neighborhood citrus trees can become ACP sanctuaries. “ACPs will feed on them and move on to another tree, and feed there,” Stambach explained. “All that time, if an ACP is infected with the HLB bacteria, it will spread that disease, with a latency period of 2 to 5 years.”

Stambach and his team are working on a critical program in Southern California to remove abandoned citrus trees. “Sometimes it’s just getting a hold of the landowner and making them aware of the situation,” he said. “Our county ag commissioners are really key in contacting those people. We’ve had growers go in and spray their neighbor’s orchard to help them out. There are a lot of different ways to attack that problem.”

Compared to counties in the San Joaquin Valley, Riverside and Ventura Counties typically have a big-ag urban interface, which means there is a lot of acreage intermixed with home sites—small homes with citrus trees. Stambach said, “It’s not really commercial production, but it’s a significant amount of acreage with a number of trees that don’t get treated.”

“We’ve gotten some support from some of our partners in the chemical industry. Bayer CropScience has stepped up and worked with us to put together a program. We’re really happy. We’re working hard to take [ACP and HLB] out.” Stambach said.

“Fresno has even found ACPs in residential areas,” commented Houtby on the Central Valley situation. “ACPs are endemic in Southern California, but we’re still at a point in the Central Valley at which we can control these populations and knock them down really quickly when they arrive here.”CA Citrus Mutual

Houtby points to the Central Valley’s vulnerability when citrus plant material is moved over the grapevine or from the Central Coast. “We ask that homeowners, and the citrus industry as well, not move plant material out of Southern California into the Central Valley,” she stated. “The psyllid lives on that plant material and not on the fruit. If you’re going to buy a citrus tree, buy it at a local plant nursery or a local Home Depot or Lowe’s. Don’t buy it in Southern California and drive it to the Central San Joaquin Valley,” she urged.

“Our biggest task for homeowners is that they cooperate when the California Department of Food and Agriculture knocks on the door and wants to look at their trees,” Stambach said. “That is the best way you can help us win this battle against the ACP.”

Homeowners can learn how to protect their citrus trees at:

CaliforniaCitrusThreat.org

U.S. Department of Agriculture

California Department of Food and Agriculture

University of California Cooperative Extension

Contributors to this report include Patrick Cavanaugh and Emily McKay Johnson.

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Bee Health Fugitives

Bee Health: Varroa Mite Is Public Enemy No. 1

By Laurie Greene, Editor

The varroa mite is “Public Enemy No. 1” for bees, according to Becky Langer, the North American Bee Care manager for Bayer CropScience. “It’s the giant tick that’s attaching to [bees],” said Langer, “transmitting viruses and bacteria. This mite has to be constantly managed and we’ve seen very high levels. When our bee experts were out visiting with people last fall, people were reporting very high levels of mites. So we anticipate high [bee] losses coming out of this winter because of the cyclic effect of the mite.” Langer explained. “It really re-emphasizes the necessity of controlling that mite—all the time—and staying on top of it.

Bayer Bee Health's Feed a Bee Program
Bayer Bee Health’s Feed a Bee Program

Commenting on other “Most Wanted Criminals” against bee health, Langer discussed recent research findings that well-fed bees are better able to defend themselves against the notorious nosema, a fungi-related parasite. “They actually found higher counts of nosema in those bees, but the well-fed bees could manage the nosema populationas opposed to not-well-fed bees.”

“That of course ties into Bayer Bee Care Program‘s Feed a Bee Program and its forage and nutrition initiative,” commented Langer. Launched last year to address the lack of food and habitat for bees Feed a Bee worked with more than 250,000 people and 75 partners to plant 65 million flowers and thousands of acres of forage across the country. “We’ve got to be feeding these bees better,” Langer reinforced.

According to their website, this year, Feed a Bee kicks off the spring with the launch of a new song and video for children of all ages. Other ways people can become involved with the program to help these hardworking insects are: request a free packet of wildflower seeds, for a limited time while supplies last; commit to growing pollinator-attractant plants of your own; and locate Feed a Bee plantings in your own communities on the interactive partner map. You can also tweet a emoji and #FeedABee to have Bayer plant on your “bee-half.” 

Langer commented on crop protection products—”the usual suspects”—by stressing the importance for growers to follow labels.  “If that’s the case and they are used properly and in the proper settings, there is no long-term effect on colony health,” she said. “Really, where we see colony health problems correlates well with the varroa mite and with forage and habitat issues.”

Among the Feed a Bee Program collaborators in California are: Wilbur-Ellis, San Francisco, CABee Happy Apiaries, Vacaville, CA; Carmel Valley Ranch & Golf Course; PROJECT APIS M.; and Vitamin Bee.

__________________________________________

Resources:

Fleming, James C.; Daniel R. Schmehl; James D. Ellis,Characterizing the Impact of Commercial Pollen Substitute Diets on the Level of Nosema spp. in Honey Bees (Apis mellifera L.),” PLOS ONE [an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication], July 30, 2015.

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