In 1997, the last time meteorologists recorded a strong El Niño, strong rains from April through August caused $1.1 billion in damage to California's economy because of severe flooding and landslides, the article said. In February of 1998, weeks of rain caused an additional $550 million in damages to the state's economy.
For the strawberry industry, flooding can be tolerated part of the season, but closer to harvest, flooding is not good, said a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) expert.
Surendra Dara, the strawberry and vegetable crops advisor for UC ANR Cooperative Extension for Central Coast counties, said strawberries are planted early in the winter. Young plants might be able to survive torrential downpours or even flooded fields, but rain later in the season is harmful to mature berries.
“Not only the rain, but the dampness,” Dara said. “If there's too much moisture for too long, (strawberries) … will rot in water, that kind of thing.”
Normally strawberry season starts in early April, but in the Fresno area Rodriguez found a dozen roadside stands already selling the springtime favorite.
Rodriguez spoke to Michael Yang, an agricultural assistant with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension in Fresno County. Despite warmer temperatures and a shortage of water for some growers, the overall quality of the crop looks good, Yang said.
“You may see that on some farms where the growers have had trouble getting enough water,” Yang says. “The fruit may not size up, but that sweet taste will still be there.”
Most of the region's growers produce Chandler or Albion strawberries, two cultivars that were developed by University of California researchers.
Merced Sun-Star reporter Ana Ibarra interviewed UC ANR advisor David Doll, who said the strawberry industry in Merced is small but important. According to Doll, the success of this year's strawberry season will be mainly dependent on the heat. Just as the heat accelerated the season, it also can be cut short if the high temperatures continue, he said.
Record reporter Reed Fujii spoke to Brenna Aegerter, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Joaquin County. She said she's never seen such losses due to beet curly top virus.
"In my eight years here in this county, I had only seen curly top in two fields," she said. "The virus was present in every tomato field I have seen this season, though in most fields, the incidence was so low as to not be a concern."
Beet curly top is spread by beet leafhopper. The insect don't like tomatoes and peppers, but will briefly feed on the crop and infect them before moving on, Aegerter said. The high leafhopper population is most likely a cyclic peak.
"The hope is we'll go back next year to not seeing it," Aegerter said.
Amy Asman of the Santa Maria Sun used UC Cooperative Extension materials for her story on the serious pallidosis-related disease threat in local strawberries. For detailed information about the strawberry decline, see UCCE advisor Surendra Dara's story in the Strawberries and Vegetables blog.
The county’s strawberries were valued at more than $179 million in 2011.
Surendra Dara, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Luis Obispo County, a strawberry expert, said the 2012 crop is still larger and doing very well.
“In the fields I’ve been checking, they’re very tasty,” Dara said.
The factor that has the greatest impact on strawberry sweetness and flavor, he said, is variety. The most popular variety is the Albion, which was developed by the University of California. The UC-developed San Andreas variety is also popular.
- Author: Brenda Dawson
According to the article, Chandler was introduced in 1983 and was dominant in Southern California production in the late '80s and early '90s, before being surpassed by other varieties. Chandler was bred by Victor Voth and Royce Bringhurst of the University of California.
This year, a well-known strawberry grower among Southern California farmers markets has resumed growing the Chandler variety. Harry's Berries otherwise grows Gaviota and Seascape varieties, both also developed by the UC strawberry breeding program, but will be bringing Chandler berries to markets this year.
4-H Million Trees Project shelters Pacifica Gardens with natives and fruit trees
The Pacifica Tribune
4-H volunteers continue to plant trees for the 4-H Million Trees program, which was started in Pacifica by 4-H member Laura Webber. Reporter Jane Northrop covered 4-H volunteers planting hedge trees at Pacifica Gardens recently.
So far, the paper reports, the program has seen at least 41,000 children plant 350,000 trees.
The program has spurred many 4-H members to propose tree-planting projects at nearby schools, parks and neighborhoods. One of the teens who wrote a grant proposal for another tree-planting event explained why she took on the project.
"I basically wanted to write the grant because I thought it would be a great experience for me and I wanted to help in more ways than just showing up to the plantings. I also wanted to really push myself to do something that I had never done before," said Julia Hurley, a Pacifica 4-H member and eighth-grader.
Fresno farm meeting attracts Asian growers
Reporter Robert Rodriguez covered a meeting of Southeast Asian farmers in Fresno, where one of the primary topics was government regulations.
Richard Molinar, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Fresno, has helped Southeast Asian farmers comply with regulations. At the meeting, he urged farmers to spread the word about how to follow government regulations and who can help.
"Part of this is your responsibility to find out what you need to do," he said. "This not an insurmountable problem."
The meeting was presented by the National Hmong American Farmers, and USDA's Joe Leonard, Jr., was the keynote speaker.