Abnormal Weather, Temperatures, and Pests

A Year of Unusual Weather Affects Vegetable Crops

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

A year filled with abnormal weather is starting to show its effects on vegetable crops. Tom Turini of the University of California Cooperative Extension Fresno County, who is a plant commodity specialist, shared some of the early seasonal problems he has witnessed.

“We had unusual weather this year—a very cool, late spring—and with the rains we’ve had, we expected to see some issues that are unusual. We just didn’t see the incidence of those problems that we would have expected,” Turini said.

Turini added that levels of beet curly top are relatively low and tomato spotted wilt is densely populated in some areas. He also noted that the early appearance of the consperse stink bug seems to be having a measurable impact on crops, specifically on the west side of Fresno County.

First-Ever UC Cost Study for Primocane-Bearing Blackberries Released

Primocane-Bearing Extends Production Season

By Pam Kan-Rice, UC ANR

The first-ever cost study of primocane-bearing blackberries in California has been published by UC ANR’s Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension. With primocane-bearing, growers can extend the blackberry production season.

“What differentiates primocane-bearing blackberry from the traditional floricane-bearing is that it bears fruit in the first year rather than the second,” explained co-author Mark Bolda, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor.

“Which, of course, opens a world of opportunity for growers, since they are able to produce fruit in the first year rather than the second, as has traditionally been the case,” Bolda said. “That’s what makes this study so interesting to us.”

Primocanes are the green, vegetative stalks of the blackberry plant, generally the first-year cane. The second year, they become floricanes, flowering and fruiting. 

The study presents sample costs to establish, produce, and harvest primocane-bearing blackberries in the Central Coast region of Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties.

The analysis is based on a hypothetical well-managed farming operation using practices common to the region. The costs, materials and practices shown in this study will not apply to all farms. Growers, UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors, and other agricultural associates provided input and reviewed the methods and findings of the study.

This study assumes a farm operation size of 30 contiguous acres of rented land, with primocane-bearing blackberries for fresh market planted on 15 acres. The crop is hand-harvested and packed into 4.5 pound trays. During the establishment year, there is a four-month harvest: July through August. Primocane blackberries can produce fruit on first-year growth. There is also a four-month harvest for each of the four production years.

The authors describe assumptions in detail and present a table of costs and returns based on those assumptions about production, input materials, prices, and yields. A ranging analysis shows the impact on net returns of alternative yields and prices. Other tables show the monthly cash costs; the costs and returns per acre; hourly equipment costs; and the whole farm annual equipment, investment, and business overhead costs.

The study also has an expanded section on labor, which includes information on California’s new minimum wage and overtime laws.

“This work investigating the economics of a newer cultural system for our area came out of a close collaboration between UCCE academics and area growers,” said Bolda, who serves Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties, “so the level of detail and accuracy is outstanding.”

Free copies of this study and other sample costs of production studies for many commodities are available. To download the cost studies, visit the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at https://coststudies.ucdavis.edu.

The cost and returns studies program is funded by the UC Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension, both of which are part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact the UC Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651 or UC Cooperative Extension advisors Mark Bolda (831) 763-8025 or Laura Tourte (831) 763-8005 in Santa Cruz County.

Livestock Owners Asked to Weigh in on Fire Impact

Livestock Owners Should Participate in Fire Survey

By Pam Kan-Rice, UC Agriculture & Natural Resources

Preparing a farm for wildfire is more complicated when it involves protecting live animals. To assess the impact of wildfire on livestock production, University of California researchers are asking livestock producers to participate in a survey. 

People raising cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, swine, horses, llamas, alpacas, aquaculture species or other production-oriented animals in California who have experienced at least one wildfire on their property within the last 10 years are asked to participate in the FIRE survey.

“We will aim to quantify the impact of wildfires in different livestock production systems,” said Beatriz Martinez Lopez, director of the Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “The idea is also to create a risk map showing areas more likely to experience wildfires with high economic impact in California.

“This economic and risk assessment, to the best of our knowledge, has not been done, and we hope to identify potential actions that ranchers can take to reduce or mitigate their losses if their property is hit by wildfire.”

Martínez López, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Medicine & Epidemiology at UC Davis, is teaming up with UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisors and wildfire specialists around the state to conduct the study.

“Right now, we have no good estimate of the real cost of wildfire to livestock producers in California,” said Rebecca Ozeran, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Fresno and Madera counties. “Existing UCCE forage loss worksheets cannot account for the many other ways that wildfire affects livestock farms and ranches. As such, we need producers’ input to help us calculate the range of immediate and long-term costs of wildfire.”

Stephanie Larson, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and range management advisor for Sonoma and Marin counties, agreed, saying, “The more producers who participate, the more accurate and useful our results will be.”

“We hope the survey results will be used by producers across the state to prepare for wildfire,” said Matthew Shapero, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, “And by federal and private agencies to better allocate funds for postfire programs available to livestock producers.”

The survey is online at http://bit.ly/FIREsurvey. It takes 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the number of properties the participant has that have been affected by wildfire.

“Survey answers are completely confidential and the results will be released only as summaries in which no individual’s answers can be identified,” said Martínez López. “This survey will provide critical information to create the foundation for future fire economic assessments and management decisions.”

Grain Crop Variety Trials Important

Grain Crop Variety Trials Ongoing in California

By Brianne Boyett, Associate Editor

Grain crop variety trials are taking place around the state in hopes of measuring productivity among a diverse range of environments. California Ag Today spoke with Mark Lundy, UC Cooperative Extension Specialist for grain cropping systems at UC Davis, about the topic.

“We’ve been doing statewide variety trials as an institution for decades, almost a century. The goal is to be consistent, as California is such a diverse environment and because there are different conditions from year to year,” Lundy said.

“We are conducting trials that we measure yield and crop quality, disease reactions, agronomic traits on small grains—which are predominantly wheat in California, but we also do trials on barley,” Lundy explained.

The goal is for producers to be able to utilize this data and apply it in their own management systems.

“We want to take that data and put it into a format that growers can use to make decisions about what to plant. Also, we want to make it so the breeders can use it to make decisions on what to advance in, what lines to make available for growers,” Lundy said.

These trials are widespread and take place in a variety of locations.

“We have trials as far north as Tule Lake in the intermountain region, as far south as the Imperial Valley. Trials are conducted on a combination of grower fields and also at research and extension centers where we can have better control over the variables. We want to get a little better understanding of not just the location and its inherent characteristics, but the management in terms of how much water or nitrogen it may need,” Lundy explained

For More information on Mark Lundy:

http://www.caes.ucdavis.edu/about/directory/fsd/mark-lundy

 

 

 

New Aerial Images to Help Almond Farmers

Aerial Image Tools Help Almond Irrigation

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Aerial images of orchards can effectively tell farmers which almond trees aren’t getting enough water, according to the preliminary results of a five-year study by almond researchers at the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), with funding support from the USDA.

Researchers from the UCCE are confirming the utility of Ceres Imaging’s new-to-the-industry aerial views of farmland that helped the startup win a water innovation competition last year. The preliminary results follow four years of replicated research plots in a large commercial almond orchard.

Why does almond irrigation matter? California only recently emerged from a major drought, and for almond growers, water efficiency is a top priority. Since 1990, California farmers have increased the use of sprinklers and micro-irrigation systems from 33 percent to 57 percent of total acreage. But micro-irrigation, the method that usually offers the highest water use efficiency (crop per drop) is prone to clogging and other maintenance problems, which can stress crops and reduce yield.

“Water is the number one input for most growers and is managed carefully in terms of how much is used and when,” said Ashwin Madgavkar, CEO and founder of Ceres Imaging. “This study shows that Ceres imagery can be used with high confidence to monitor if your crop is getting sufficient water or if the crop is in a water-stressed condition, so you can make timely corrective actions. Ultimately, the tool can be used to help catch issues before they result in crop losses.”

Maintaining ideal irrigation levels is a huge challenge for farmers, as is predicting the final harvest tonnage, which is why the study examined the usefulness of Ceres aerial images in those areas. Detecting deficient irrigation quickly is one way Ceres images offer early warnings to growers.

“Findings over the last four years show that the average Ceres conductance measurement from their imagery over the season has provided the best correlation with applied water,” reported Blake Sanden, UCCE Farm Advisor for Kern County. “While there’s no perfect predictor of final yield, Ceres aerial sensing of canopy plant stress has a significant relationship with final yield.”

This UCCE study has been under way since 2013 and will end after results for 2017 are recorded.

RED PALM WEEVIL ERADICATED FROM LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA

Agricultural officials confirm eradication of Red Palm Weevil in the United States

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), working in coordination with California agricultural officials, TODAY declared the Red Palm Weevil eradicated from the Laguna Beach area of Orange County. The weevil was first detected by a local arborist in October 2010 in a Canary Island date palm tree in a residential area of Laguna Beach.

The Red Palm Weevil is considered to be one of the world’s most destructive pests of palms and an infestation typically results in the death of the tree. In an effort to make the local community aware of this invasive species, the USDA, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and the Orange County Agricultural Commissioner teamed-up with specialists from the University of California, Riverside, and UC Cooperative Extension to work closely with residents, local community officials and arborists.

“This pest is a serious threat to our nursery growers and palm date farmers,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, “It endangers all of the decorative palms that are common in our landscape and part of the classic California image. A special thank you goes out to the local arborist who originally reported this pest. That gave us a valuable head-start.”

According to international standards, a three-year period free from any Red Palm Weevil detections is necessary to declare eradication. This standard was met as the last confirmed detection of RPW occurred on January 18, 2012.

The weevil is native to Southeast Asia and has spread throughout the Persian Gulf. It is found in parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands. Prior to the detection in Orange County, the closest confirmed infestation to the United States was in the Dutch Antilles.

Female Red Palm Weevils bore into a palm tree to form a hole into which they lay eggs. Each female may lay an average of 250 eggs, which take about three days to hatch. Larvae emerge and tunnel toward the interior of the tree, inhibiting the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients upward to the crown. Early symptoms of weevil infestation are difficult to detect because the entry sites can be covered with offshoots and tree fibers. In heavily infested trees, fallen pupal cases and dead adult weevils may also be found around the base of the tree.

If residents suspect an infestation, they are encouraged to call the CDFA Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899 or contact their local county agricultural commissioner.

(Photo credit: UC Riverside Center for Invasive Species Research)

Cottage Food Industry on Growth Trend in California

A little more than a year ago, a California law went into effect that gave small farmers and even home gardeners a new opportunity to sell value-added products.

Shermain Hardesty_Page_1
Shermain Hardesty

The California Homemade Food Act permits individuals to produce certain types of cottage food in home kitchens to sell in limited quantities to the public.

That sounds simple, but like most laws, there are plenty of caveats. The legislation has stipulations about the types of foods allowable, registration, permits and labeling requirements.

UC Cooperative Extension has been helping farmers and home gardeners who produce fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, and honey take advantage of the new opportunity at workshops around the state, reported the Stockton Record.

Shermain Hardesty, UC Small Farm Program extension economist, is coordinating the project. Hardesty thinks that marketing may be the hardest part of creating a successful cottage food businesses for many farmers and other entrepreneurs.

At the workshops, Hardesty teaches the basic “Four P’s” of marketing: product, place, price and promotion.

Pistachio Growers: Beware of Gill’s Mealybug

David Haviland
David Haviland says pistachio growers should be aware of the damage caused by Gill’s Mealybug.

Gill’s Mealybug May Appear in Orchards Over the Next Few Weeks

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

As Gill’s Mealybug overwinters, a new generation will appear in May, and growers should treat the first generation around June 1.

Gill’s mealybug is a relatively new pest of pistachios in California. “It was first recognized in the late 1990s in a an orchard near Tulare. It has now spread up to Colusa County and has move down to Kern County,” said David Haviland, UC Cooperative Extension Kern County, who organized the field day with Elizabeth Fichtner, UC Cooperative Extension Tulare County.

Tulare County is a hot spot with most pistachio orchards having the bug, which has three generations per year. “Right about harvest time there are a whole bunch of mealybug crawlers hatching, and then they overwinter and become adults in May. These adults will produce an enormous amount of new crawlers the first week of June, which is an important treatment time, right when those crawlers come out,” said Haviland. “The ones that are born the first week of June will become adults in about mid-to-late July, which is the second generation. The mealybugs that are in the tree now are the start of the third generation when they become adults then hatch more young bugs at harvest.”

“Population-wise, growers will get millions of crawlers at harvest, but if you come back to the tree in the spring, you will see maybe one or two per pistachio cluster, so there is a huge winter mortality,” said Haviland.

Haviland stood by a tree that had only about one mealybug per 10 clusters in the May, but now the untreated trees in the trial have clusters that are covered with honeydew, and now blackened with sooty mold, with 30 or 40 adults on the clusters. The lower leaves on the trees were turning black from the sooty mold.

“Typically growers go out in their orchards April and May and see about one mealybug for every 10 clusters. In fact they might not even notice it. But that mealy bug produces about 20 live young, which increases the count to about one per cluster, but now those adults give rise to 15 or 20 crawlers per cluster which causes clusters to be moist and black,” said Haviland. “So the point is that one or two per cluster can cause many more per cluster near harvest time, so May is the time to be thinking about spraying the first of June.”

Haviland looked back at the tree he was standing next to, and said: “If you have tree that looks like this, with a lot of mealybugs and sooty mold, let it go; you can’t do anything about it. Come back the first week of June 2014 and treat it with an insecticide and you should be clean at harvest next year. It’s really that simple.

Insecticide timing is important, but there is a widow. Of all the products registered, they are most effective on crawlers. “So you really want to get them the first week of June when the crawlers are out regardless of which product your using,” Haviland said.

During the upcoming harvest season, Haviland warn growers to ask the harvest crew to wash down the harvesting equipment and make sure no tree debris from another orchard is on the equipment. “And if growers have an orchard with mealybug, please inform the harvest crews so that they clean the equipment before moving to another site, which may not have mealybug.

“The harvest crew should blow off all leaf trash and hose the equipment down before it goes from property to property. Growers should insist upon this,” Haviland said.