Celebrate Labor Day With California Strawberries!

Add California Strawberries to Your Labor Day Event

 

By Laurie Greene, Editor

 

Many people will be out and about with an extra day off on Labor Day, trying to get that last swallow of summer. They’ll crowd beaches, lakes, parks and backyard BBQs. What better way to celebrate the achievements of American workers than to add fresh-picked California strawberries to the menu?

Carolyn O'Donnell
Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director, California Strawberry Commission

 

“Any holiday can be celebrated with strawberries as they are available year-round,” said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director of the California Strawberry Commission in Watsonville. “Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits around. They are sweet but low in sugar, and they are quite nutritious. People are often surprised to find out that having just eight medium strawberries gives you more vitamin C than eating an orange,” she said.

 

“Grown year-round, right now strawberries are coming mostly from the Salinas-Watsonville area on the Central Coast and also in the Santa Maria area,” noted O’Donnell. “As we get more into the fall there will be less coming from the northern sections and more from the Ventura County area to the south. Eventually strawberries will come out of Orange County and Northern San Diego County. The crop will roll back up the coast again with the New Year. By next April or May, strawberries will be coming mostly from the Watsonville area again,” O’Donnell explained.

generational_small strawberries

 

O’Donnell said that strawberry growers are very dedicated to growing the best possible product they can for their customers. “Their strawberries are actually often a crop of opportunity. A number of our farmers started as field workers and were able to work their way up to owning a farm because you can produce a lot of fruit and make a good living on a small amount of land.”

 

O’Donnell said supplies should be plentiful in the grocery store. “We probably have more fruit this time of year than usual probably because rain this past winter delayed harvest, which was good news. Now we’re just working our way along. Folks in the Watsonville areas are also beginning to start preparing their other pieces of fallow ground so that they can plant around Thanksgiving and produce next year’s crop,” she said.

 

Photos: Courtesy of California Strawberry Commission

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ACP Found Near Juice Plant

More Asian Citrus Psyllids Found in Tulare County, 10 ACPs near Juice Plant

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor, and Laurie Greene, Editor

 

Announced Today, more Asian Citrus Psyllids (ACP) were found recently in several Tulare County traps, two of which were adjacent to an orange juice plant near Tipton.

“There were a few [ACPs] on sticky traps on a residential tree, one in a commercial grove, and even more concerning, four on one and six on a second sticky card near the juice plant,” said Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County ag commissioner.” ACP is known to vector Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, a disease that is fatal for citrus trees.

Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County ag commissioner
Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County ag commissioner

“The juice plant ACP finds could have come from southern California trees, most likely from Ventura, Orange, Riverside, and Imperial Counties, that were stripped of crop and did not go through a shed,” said Kinoshita, referring to a necessary cleaning protocol. “It’s very frustrating because there’s a certain protocol in shipping citrus but not everybody follows it.”

“When citrus is field-run [from the field to the packing shed],” continued Kinoshita, “the fruit should be separated from stems and leaves—which may harbor ACPs—then cleaned and manipulated over rollers before being packed for shipping or transported in bulk by truck to the juice plant.”

“So it’s a real concern finding ACPs at the Tipton juice plant,” Kinoshita explained, “because it is isolated from our citrus belt and they are the first ACPs found near a plant. It means that the psyllids possibly hitchhiked to the plant in Tipton, which is right along Highway 99. Even if the fruit had been cleaned, the psyllids, which are strong fliers, could have ended up in the cab of the truck and transported to Tulare County,” noted Kinoshita.

Kinoshita noted protection spray protocols are now in motion. “We’ve got two active programs, residential treatments in unison with our orchard treatments, and those are all managed by a treatment coordinator who works with our treatment groups. These are smaller groups of growers, so their treatments are hopefully done within a 2-week period to cover an area and try to control this pest.”

“The Number One citrus county in California doesn’t need ACP,” said Kinoshita, “and heaven forbid they come in while infected with HLB disease! Already about 20 trees have tested positive for the fatal HLB—all in southern California, starting with Hacienda Heights in April 2012, with more found in and around San Gabriel residential areas, last year in July and this year in February.”

Kinoshita advocated for everyone to stay vigilant and keep educating—not only the citizens of the state, but these transporters too. “They need to be more careful,” said Kinoshita. “All equipment that moves though the citrus groves must be cleaned before moving into another grove. It’s going to take everyone’s cooperation.”

“There is so much capability for [ACP] hitchhiking into this County where we are ground zero for potential problems—for the sheer number of packing sheds, orange groves and juice plants. So it’s a pretty difficult situation, but fortunately we’ve got a system that is in place; we just have to keep at it and not let our guard down,” she said.

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Everyone Plays a Part in Protecting California Citrus

Protecting California Citrus

By Victoria Hornbaker; Ag Alert 

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its final crop estimate for the Florida orange crop, reflecting a reduction of 30 million cartons in total production from the previous season. There is no denying the devastating impact that Huanglongbing has had on the Florida citrus industry since the disease was first discovered in 2005. A drive through Florida citrus country will offer vastly different scenery than that of California’s premier citrus-producing regions.

In some respects, the California citrus industry has been fortunate to learn from the situation in Florida and has taken a very proactive approach to protect itself from a similar fate. In 2009, the industry supported a mandatory self-assessment to fund a comprehensive treatment and trapping program to manage the insect carrier of HLB, the Asian citrus psyllid, and prevent HLB from taking hold.

The Asian citrus psyllid is now endemic throughout a majority of Southern California, particularly in dense, urban areas where citrus trees can be found in six out of every 10 backyards. In March 2012, HLB was discovered for the first time in a backyard citrus tree in Los Angeles County. Although there have not been any additional confirmed cases of HLB since then, as an industry we must remain vigilant statewide in order to protect our $2 billion citrus crop.

Currently, there are eight counties in California that are entirely quarantined for the Asian citrus psyllid: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura. Additionally, portions of Fresno, Kern, San Luis Obispo and Tulare counties are also under quarantine for the Asian citrus psyllid.

The total quarantined area statewide is now 46,530 square miles. Maps are available online at www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/go/acp-quarantine.

With a large portion of the state’s commercial citrus production now within quarantine zones, it is increasingly important that growers and packers are up to date on current regulations and protocols, to best manage psyllid populations and prevent the pest from spreading any further.

There are two approved options under the Bulk Fruit Movement Performance Standard available for commercial citrus growers and packers to comply with the quarantined regulations: Remove all leaves and stems/plant debris using a field cleaning machine, or apply a University of California integrated pest management-recommended material within 14 days prior to harvest.

There are no restrictions on moving fruit with leaves and stems if shipping to a packinghouse or processing facility located within the same quarantine boundary.

Asian citrus psyllids can easily “hitchhike” on citrus plant debris, so it’s important that we all do our part to minimize the movement of plant material between work sites. It is strongly recommended that growers and packers work with farm labor contractors, picking crews, pesticide applicators and hedging/topping services to ensure that all equipment, picking bags, field bins, clothing and gloves are free of stems and leaves before leaving the field.

We all have a commonality in agriculture and can understand the pressures posed by invasive insects and diseases. This is a fight that no commodity can win without the support of homeowners and consumers, which is why everyone with a backyard citrus tree should:

  • Not move citrus—Do not move citrus plants, plant material or fruit into or out of a quarantine area or across state or international borders.
  • Inspect your trees—Inspect your citrus trees for signs of the psyllid or HLB whenever watering, spraying, pruning or otherwise tending to trees.
  • Plant responsibly—Plant trees from reputable, licensed California nurseries.
  • Talk to your local nursery—Ask about products that are available to help stop the Asian citrus psyllid.
  • Graft with care—Use only registered budwood that comes with source documentation.
  • Be mindful of clippings—Dry or double-bag plant clippings prior to disposal.
  • Cooperate—Cooperate with agricultural officials who are trapping and treating for the Asian citrus psyllid.

By working together, we can help stop the Asian citrus psyllid and protect California citrus from Huanglongbing.

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Massive Ant Hunt Launches Across 7 O.C. Cities

Source: Scott Martindale; Orange County Register

Susie Federico peered through her glasses at the dozens of ants swarming a tiny plastic trap she’d staked in the ground.

Federico, an agricultural technician for the state Department of Food and Agriculture, used a pair of tweezers to inspect all sides of the plastic basket, filled with one of ants’ favorite foods – Spam canned meat.

Unless they were big-headed ants, Federico let them go free.

“I’m looking for the larger head,” Federico said as she flicked off ants that had crawled up her hand and arm.

“There is not a sample as of now.”

Assigned to a residential neighborhood in northwestern Santa Ana, Federico was part of a team of state agricultural technicians that began setting ant traps Monday across a 79-square-mile swath of Orange County.

State officials are looking for the aggressive Pheidole megacephala species of big-headed ants, which were discovered last month in the front yard of a Costa Mesa home near the Santa Ana River.

“Knowing the extent of the infestation is an important consideration,” said Steve Lyle, a spokesman for the state Department of Food and Agriculture. “We’re still evaluating what this means. Is it something that needs to be taken care of? Is it something we can take care of?”

Named after their disproportionately large heads, big-headed ants are considered an agricultural pest and one of the world’s most invasive insects. They aren’t dangerous to humans.

In all, state officials plan to place Spam traps at 1,570 locations in seven Orange County cities in the coming days – the equivalent of 20 per square mile.

A team of up to eight state workers will spend at least a week systematically placing traps in neighborhoods up to 5 miles from where the original colony was discovered, Lyle said.

The study area encompasses all of Costa Mesa and parts of Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Westminster, Santa Ana, Irvine and Newport Beach.

Once officials know how far the ants have spread, they can decide whether to move forward with extermination, Lyle said.

Although California is home to native varieties of big-headed ants, the species discovered in mid April in Costa Mesa was the first documented sighting of the aggressive Pheidole megacephala species in its natural environment in California. It can displace other ants and eat beneficial insects, authorities say.

The Costa Mesa colony was first spotted by amateur entomologist Gordon C. Snelling of Apple Valley, who was visiting a friend in mid April.

The friend had been complaining about aggressive ants invading his house and winding up dead in his swimming pool, Snelling said.

Snelling said the big-headed ants had likely traveled to his friend’s home inside potted plants or sod, and that they had probably been there at least a year.

“I knew the state and the county would get in an uproar as soon as I let them know,” Snelling, 55, told the Register last week.

“It’s one of those things that gets the adrenaline pumping and your brain churning,” added Snelling, who runs the website armyants.org and has published scientific papers on ants. “It’s certainly caused more response than anything else I’ve done.”

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