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Three old trees might save the citrus industry

Three citrus trees that produce inedible fruit at the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Visalia may be a game-changer for the citrus industry, reported Ezra David Romero on Valley Public Radio.

The trees are thought to be resistant to huanglongbing, a severe disease of citrus that has devastated the Florida industry and could become a serious problem in California. The citrus-saving potential of the three 34-year-old trees was outlined in an article by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources writer Hazel White in the most recent issue of California Agriculture journal.

UC Riverside citrus breeder Mikeal Roose collected seed from the trees and will test seedlings as soon as they are large enough. 

"So what (breeders) have to do is cross this with some edible varieties and eventually create something that has the gene for resistance, but also the genes for good fruit," said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, Lindcove director and research entomologist.

Huanglongbing disease has cut citrus production in Florida by more than half. It's been found in residential citrus trees in Southern California, but hasn't reached the state's vast commercial orchards yet. Grafton-Cardwell said she expects the disease will arrive in 4 or 5 years.

Eremocitrus crosses at Lindcove REC are potentially promising in the pursuit of a genetic source of resistance to HLB. The fruit is golfball size and inedible.
Posted on Friday, February 24, 2017 at 1:35 PM

UCCE part of World Ag Expo throughout its 50-year history

Last week the World Ag Expo in Tulare County marked it's 50th year, reported Luis Hernandez in the Visalia Times-Delta. UC Cooperative Extension played a role in creating the event in 1967 and in 2017 was one of 27 organizations that have been involved every year since.

The article featured a picture of Jim Sullilns, who served as director of UC Cooperative Extension in Tulare County from 1993 to 2015. He now volunteers at the World Ag Expo, coordinating educational seminars.

“We always tried to provide an educational component on what's going on in agriculture and what's being done at universities,” he said. “We wanted to make sure it was available. We always had a booth here.”

As a volunteer, Sullins said he is getting a different perspective on the selfless acts of others.

“I see how much volunteers put in out of their own dime,” he said. “I realize how much it is hands on.”

2017 marked 50 years of involvement in World Ag Expo for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.


Posted on Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 11:40 AM

South American palm weevils are destroying SoCal palms

Communities in Southern California are watching their valued landscape palm trees suffer mortal damage from an invasive pest that is making its way northward from Mexico, reported Marty Graham in San Diego Reader. The South American palm weevil lays eggs in the palm tree's crown, where its grubs destroy tissue that holds the fronds.

"The first sign of infestation is seeing the crown droop and turn brown," said Mark Hoddle, UC Cooperative Extension biological control specialist at UC Riverside. In time, the crown can fall off.

Dead palms Hoddle observed at a high school in Tijuana, Mexico.

"The crowns weigh a couple of hundred pounds and, if they fall on something like a car or house, they can do considerable damage," Hoddle said. 

For now, the pest appears to be focusing on Canary Island palms, but have been known to lay eggs in other ornamental palms and date palms.

"I hate to think of what could happen if they reach the palm oases in the Anza-Borrego Desert," Hoddle said of the treasured California native palms that grow in Southern California desert canyons.

South American palm weevil is a relatively large pest capable of flying substantial distances. 

"We've tested their flying capacity and our data suggests it can fly quite far," Hoddle said. "It's potential territory in California and the Southwest is enormous."

South American palm weevil can fly tens of miles in a day.

The only control measure at the moment is repeated treatment with pesticides.

"There are palm trees in the Mediterranean with PVC pipes up the side and a shower head at the top where a pump blasts pesticides every few months," he said. "There are also systemic pesticides you can put in the tree roots."

For more information or to report a possible South American palm weevil infestation, see the Center for Invasive Species Research website

Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 1:27 PM

Short-lived gag order on USDA raises concerns

UC ANR vice president Glenda Humiston says USDA communication with the public is critically important.
This week, the Trump Administration imposed a gag order on USDA agencies, then after public outcry, quickly rescinded it, reported Dan Nosowitz in Modern Farmer.

The peculiar actions prompted the reporter to find out why USDA must continue to communicate with the private sector and the public. He spoke to Glenda Humiston, vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, who previously served in USDA as undersecretary for agriculture and natural resources during the Clinton Administration and as California director of USDA Rural Development during the Obama Administration.

She said USDA collaborations with the university and the private sector are numerous and complex, involving satellite imagery, invasive pest control, and other issues of vital concern.

"Not only jobs could be lost, but frankly, the food supply could be put at risk," she said. "We are constantly battling pests and diseases and dealing with food safety issues and all of that requires constant communication."

As an example of the critical nature of USDA-public communication, Humiston pointed out that the USDA monitors dams, many of which are 50 to 100 years old, and, in the West, dealing with record rainfall and floods. Without transfer of data between USDA, other government agencies and the public, lives could be lost. 

"This isn't just a matter of keeping reporters from doing their jobs," Humiston said. "There are real safety issues at stake here."

Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2017 at 4:14 PM

Farmers are disappointed Trump has scrapped TPP

California farmers could have reaped substantial profits if the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership had become law, reported Robert Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee, but President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal.

According to the American Farm Bureau, California fruit and nut producers could have made $562 million in sales through lower tariffs and the elimination of tariffs. Dairy producers could have made $53 million in additional revenue.

Rodriguez spoke with Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Agriculture and Natural ResourcesAgricultural Issues Center. Sumner said an outcome of Trump's decision may be for the U.S. to negotiate individual deals with Pacific nations.

"Vietnam could prove to be very useful," Sumner said. In Vietnam, a growing middle class is making the country a more attractive destination for California agricultural products.

Trump also promised during the campaign to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Sumner said could prove difficult because Canada and Mexico are key California trade partners.

"When you unilaterally open a trade agreement that has been successful, it can be very scary," Sumner said. "It is a huge market for California."

Trump's decision to withdraw from TPP has significant financial implications for California farmers. (Photos: Pixabay)
Posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2017 at 1:10 PM

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