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.
Leading up to the California Strawberry Festival, to be held this weekend at Strawberry Meadows at College Park in Oxnard, the Ventura County Star championed the fruit's contribution to the local economy in an article published yesterday.
In 2009, strawberries contributed $515.4 million to the county's $1.6 billion of total agricultural revenues, the story said. That was up 31 percent from $393.5 million in 2008.
Ventura County agricultural commissioner Henry Gonzales said the next crop report will show growers added another 100 acres of strawberries in 2010.
"It's a good thing," Gonzales was quoted. "It says to me there's still room for growth in the production side because there's growth on the market side."
Reporter Stephanie Hoops contacted UC Cooperative Extension strawberry advisor Oleg Daugovish to get his take on the current strawberry season.
The article said Daugovish described the season as "decent."
Meanwhile, strawberry growers are feeling pressure from a controversy over a new soil fumigant, methyl iodide, which the Department of Pesticide Regulation approved in December.
"Concern about the ability to use it is great," Daugovish was quoted.
In March, Gov. Brown said he plans to take "a fresh look" at the DPR decision. Environmental and farmworker groups are opposed to methyl iodide use in agriculture, but DPR approved the pesticide's use under strict safety measures, including buffer zones and site-specific permits from local agricultural commissioners.
Strawberries are considered the jewels of Monterey County, but their production numbers will probably drop with the phase-out of methyl bromide, a highly effective soil fumigant that depletes the ozone layer, according to an article in the Salinas Californian.
"It's a new world for strawberries," the story quoted Mark Bolda, farm advisor for strawberries and caneberries for UCCE in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. After the phase out, "yields will go down and production will fall, but it's not Armageddon."
Bolda told the reporter that scientists have been searching for chemical alternatives to methyl bromide for about 20 years, but progress is slow because it's hard to top the effectiveness of methyl bromide mixed with chloropicrin.
One alternative to methyl bromide is methyl iodide. It does not damage the ozone layer, but has other drawbacks, including its cost, severe restrictions on its use, and a safety risk to workers or the public if they are exposed to the chemical.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation approved the use of methyl iodide in early December.
According to an op-ed by Barry Bedwell of the Grape and Tree Fruit League that was published in the Bakersfield Californian Wednesday, growers can safely use methyl iodide.
"The reality is that California's restrictions on methyl iodide are many times greater than those required by U.S. EPA or any other jurisdiction," Bedwell wrote. "The use restrictions include large buffer zones, the requirement of only DPR-approved highly retentive tarps, specific groundwater protections, reduced application rates and stronger worker-protection measures."
Bedwell believes growers must have access to crop-production tools based upon rational and reasonable science in order to continue production in the state.
"If we allow the process to become a prisoner of emotion, we will not only find ourselves without methyl iodide but in the not-too-distant future the majority of our food production will come from places with much less regulatory oversight," Bedwell wrote.