Olive fruit fly back
Julie Johnson, Orland Press-Register
There are considerably more olive fruit flies this year than at this time last year, said Bill Krueger, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Tehama and Glenn counties. "When it comes to the olive fruit fly we really don't understand everything we need to know, and this is just one example," he said.
Nonpareils' arrival marks start of big almond harvest
Tim Hearden, Capital Press
Nonpareil almonds have been coming out of the orchards in California, ushering in the harvest of what's expected to be a record 1.95 billion-pound almond crop this year. Hullers and shellers in the San Joaquin Valley got their first loads on Aug. 19. "I think all of our orchards look pretty good," said Rick Buchner, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor. "It's a good crop, really clean."
The USDA issued a news release on Friday announcing $55 million in block grants to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops around the country, with California receiving more than $17 million. Of the 64 California projects, 19 are led by researchers affiliated with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
"Scientists and researchers with the University of California and industry groups are exploring everything from whether frogs and lizards are potential carriers of E.coli to whether dust from a cattle operation can carry E.coli into a vegetable field," wrote Bee reporter Robert Rodriguez.
The executive director of the Center for Produce Safety, Bonnie Fernandez, told Rodriguez the funding comes at a time of heightened awareness of food safety among consumers and farmers.
"There are simply a lot of unanswered gaps of knowledge on these issues," Fernandez was quoted. "We want to know where the pathogens came from, how it attaches to a product and how we can reduce the risk of that happening."
Management of exotic pests is another issue where USDA provided funding for UC research, according to the listing on USDA's website. For example, grants will support efforts to:
- Release and evaluate four exotic olive fruit fly parasitoids in order to improve sustainable table and oil olive management
- Test the area-wide application of mating disruption of vine mealybug in Napa County
- Evaluate the efficacy of organic pesticides for Asian Citrus Psyllid control so science-based control recommendations can be made to organic citrus growers
- Survey resistance ratios in olive fruit fly populations from California regions not sampled in a previous study
Funds were also made available to expand and improve the online specialty crop production information now available on UC's Fruit & Nut Research and Information Center website and call-in center.
In addition, the new funding will allow UC researchers to work with several school districts and their regional partners to expand their procurement of local seasonal fresh produce, enhance their ability to integrate a specialty crop nutritional curriculum by providing outreach and professional development to school personnel, and assess changes in food preferences and dietary behaviors of children in participating school.
Other UC projects receiving the funding will look into onion seed production, strawberries' ability to restore impaired insulin, steam injection for soil disinfestation, and mealy plum aphid and leaf-curl plum aphid control in prunes./span>
Sarah Palin's dismissal of fruit fly research (criticized in a Salon.com article that was covered in this blog) is reverberating on the Internet. In the news blog "The Scientist," writer Bob Grant included reaction from two UC entomologists and other scientists.
Here's the YouTube video in which the vice presidential candidate derides "fruit fly research in Paris, France":
UC Davis entomologist Frank Zalom was quoted in The Scientist blog:
"[Palin's comment] does kind of bother me. Clearly there's no understanding about the problem of the pest or the methods being studied to control them."
From UC Berkeley entomologist Kent Daane:
"I doubt [Palin] has any idea what the funds were being used for. Almost any politician would not understand the complexity of any project that they just gloss over in a one-line joke like that."
As the 2008 presidential election reaches its crescendo, even ANR experts get into the action. Salon.com today posted a mocking commentary on what it calls "Sarah Palin's latest swat at science" that included comments from UC Cooperative Extension's Paul Vossen.
In a speech in which Palin ridiculed earmark money, she noted sarcastically that one such allocation was made for "... fruit fly research in Paris, France," Salon writer Kevin Berger reported.
But, of course, there is more to the story. Berger surmised that Palin was referring to money secured by Mike Thompson (D-Napa) for olive fruit fly research.
The olive fruit fly has infested thousands of California olive groves since it was introduced to the state in the 1990s. The USDA will use a portion of the $750,000 award at a USDA research facility in France because Mediterranean countries have dealt with the olive fruit fly for decades, the Salon article says.
For the story, Berger spoke to Vossen, a Marin and Sonoma county farm advisor who is ANR's resident olive oil expert. He said eradicating or controlling olive fruit fly is important to California's significant olive oil industry.
"If each gallon of olive oil sells for $22.50 in the bulk market," Vossen is quoted, "that would be a value of almost $17 million and quite similar to winter pears, kiwi and figs."
In terms of retail sales, Vossen said, the value of the California olive oil industry would be nearly $85 million.
The article was linked to and quoted the UC IPM Pest Note on olive fruit fly, noting that "the olive fruit fly occurs in at least 41 counties in California," and adding that, in other areas of the world where the olive fruit fly has flourished, the pest has wiped out 100 percent of some olive varieties.
"You might imagine that a conservative vice president candidate would be on board with a burgeoning American industry showing signs of beating Europe at its own game," Berger wrote disdainfully in the commentary. "But then you would not be thinking of Palin."