The common question comes up all the time – “What can I grow here that will make money?” Why not lemons or avocados. The coastal California area is generally well adapted to these crops and infrastructure and markets are developed. Still people want to diversify and do have serious concerns about ACP and other problems that might affect these two big coastal crops.
A recent class of Cal State Channel Islands students was asked to identify crops that would make a difference if introduced to the Ventura/Santa Barbara agroenvironment and would make money based on the exceptional climate here. The crop had to fit into the rules:
1) Something that could be grown here, or only with difficulty somewhere else where it was too hot/cold, or that it is out of sync with production somewhere else
2) Or the corollary, that it couldn't be grown somewhere else more cheaply or processed or stored, somewhere with cheap land/water/labor/laws. Cheap
3) It needs to be fresh and even delicate to make it hard to ship distances.
4) Or if it doesn't meet rules 1-3, it can be marketed so that it takes on the specialty of the locale. “It really cant be grown anywhere else, but here, because it can only be found in Ojai.” Or something of that nature.
So, the proposed perennial crops were:
Pitahaya – Hylocereus undatus or ‘dragon fruit' is already being grown in the county, has a good market and potential and has some drought tolerance although it can have problems in full sun, even along the coast.
Azerole – Crataegus azarolus or ‘Mediterranean medlar'. Does best where not too cold, but with those thorns its going to be a tough crop to pick and will require a lot of marketing even though it can take drought.
Yuzu – Citrus junos is a high demand fresh fruit that grows similar to standard lemon, although a bit more cold hardy. Demand is primarily from Japanese and Korean restaurants. And being citrus might be susceptible to huanglongbing.
Jaboticaba – Myrciara caulifora, a new crop, well adapted to the coast, very tasty and fits in with the locavore trend. And Fresno cant grow it unless in tunnels. And you cant eat just one.
‘Santa Rosa' plum – this is the standard Prunus salicina stone fruit, but because it is early along the coast and can be picked “just so O, ripe” for shipment to LA restaurants that would welcome an alternative to the standard tasteless store-bought fruit
Persimmon – Diaspyros kaki – one of the flat ‘Fuyu' varieties, because they crop earlier along the coast than the Central Valley. And there's nothing more satisfying than that crunch.
Moringa – Moringa oleifera or drumstick tree is often produced for oil, hence the botanical name. It can also be grown for cattle food, but the deal here is it's grown for fresh market for its spinach-like leaf and it's a perennial which you just keep on cutting and cutting and cutting and there's not replanting. A money machine.
Mulberry – Morus alba and nigra. Nothing could be more sweet, but ever so delicate than a mulberry fruit. Harvested off tarps (to comply with food safety) and shipped immediately to farmers markets and to the finest LA restaurants, you can make a bundle or a lot of permanent stain if it doesn't get to the consumer in good shape. Drying is an option, but the Turks have that market.
Tamarillo – Solanum betaceum or ‘Tree Tomato” really like coastal weather and depending on the variety can be quite sour (red) or sweet (yellow). This is one that will take some market development, but could take off as the new fruit on the block.
Hops – Humulus lupulus is a crop that most adults know about it. The grow local/drink local crowd could really get into this. There are so many small breweries looking for a distinguishing mark, and what better than a “Big Piru Pilsner with Priu Hops”. There was a small hop industry along the coast before Prohibition.
Yellow oleander – Thevetia peruviana is an unusual choice for the coast here, but it seems there's a black market for the beads and hard to get. It could be legally grown here to supply a specialty market.
Papaya – Carica papaya. This is one of those crops that has a developed market and already a lot of import to fill the demand. Growing this to go after a new consumer willing to pay more for a high-quality piece of fruit. This is going to take some market development.
Governors plum – Flacourtia indica, a new fruit to the area, although it grows as a weed in Florida. It's gonna take some marketing to get this into the mouths of consumers
According to the group of students who proposed these crops, the most likely to succeed in one year's time (immediate acceptance) was hops because of the drink local move happening here and around the country, but it would be limited to consumers in this area probably. The most likely to succeed in the long term, with market development, would be moringa. It would be a new perennial vegetable crops that could be mechanized and might come to rival spinach itself, because of it perennial nature.
Almost all of these crops could have various health benefits associated with them – longer life, improved vision, springier step, snake-bite remedy, etc. So, they all have promotion potential, aside from their ability to grow here. There are lots of other possible crops here that might rival what is currently commonly grown here. Something or things will rise to replace those that are.
At one-point Oxnard was the sugar beet capital of the world. The world's largest walnut growing area in the country was Ventura Co. and Lima was Rex here. They are all good crops, but their importance has been eclipsed many times by other crops gown here.
Yes, Coffee is now being Commercially Grown in California!
Are you interested in growing, processing and marketing Coffee in California? Would you like to learn about new opportunities for this high-value crop and speak with industry professionals?
The Huntley College of Agriculture is hosting an Inaugural Industry “Coffee Summit” on January 18th at the AgriScapes Outreach Center located on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona.
Hear from the California coffee industry leaders from Santa Barbara and San Diego Counties and from long-time professionals with the University of California, University of Hawaii and USDA. In addition you'll learn about current research field trials to determine which varieties are suitable for production in California.
Summit topics include development of estate coffee, coffee production, pests and diseases, processing methods and marketing. Please join us on January 18th at the AgriScapes Conference Center from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Continental breakfast, lunch and coffee tasting will be provided!
Summit Contact: Duncan McKee - Cal Poly Pomona firstname.lastname@example.org
And more info along with agenda and registration:
In the meantime watch the CBS "This Morning" video of California coffee growing
- Author: Jeanette Warnert
California avocados are the best in the world. So says downtown restaurant manager Daniel Avalos in a Valley Public Radio story by reporter Ezra David Romero.
The fact that they currently thrive only on a small swath of coastal Southern California is being challenged by UC Cooperative Extension specialist Mary Lu Arpaia. She is on a mission to find avocado varieties that withstand the hot summers and cold winters of the San Joaquin Valley, where irrigation water and crop land are more abundant and cheaper.
She hopes to find avocado varieties that ripen at various times of year, and varieties that might be an alternative crop for citrus growers should huanglongbing, a disease that has devastated the Florida citrus crop, take hold in Central California.
"There's a void of California fruit on the market in the months of November, December and actually early January," Arpaia said. "So if we can find different selections that maybe are unique that fit into that window, then we help the entire California avocado industry."
Romero visited the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center to see the trees in Arpaia's study. Currently, the vast majority of California avocados are the Hass variety. The goal is to breed varieties with similar eating quality that grow to a moderate height and have high yield. One potential that is already being produced by nurseries is called "gem."
"This is gem," said Eric Focht, a staff research associate in Arpaia's lab. "You can see it's a little more oval or egg shaped than Hass. It has the speckling on the skin. Now as this ripens, it will turn dark and a lot of times the speckled lenticels with get a yellow kind of golden color it it."
Another promising variety is called "lunchbox" because of its small size. According to Focht, it "just falls out of the skin." Arpaia said, "It makes wonderful guacamole and I found, with a non-replicated test in my refrigerator, the fruit doesn't brown."
Arpaia's favorite guacamole recipe is featured at the end of the story on the KVPR website. And there is more on this story at:
Mary Lu Arpaia
An increasingly sought after health product are the fruit and flowers of elderberry – Sambucus mexicana. It is a nutraceutical which has more antioxidants than other dark fruit like blackberry and pomegranate. It's a California native, but it is estimated there may 30 species worldwide. And some are not that edible because of hydrogen cyanide which can lead to displeasing reactions. The bulk of production is in Europe – Hungary, Germany, France and much of the other countries. They make, jams, wines, topping for yogurt, pies and other tasty things. Most of the elderberry that comes into the US comes from Europe. Oregon used to have large commercial plantings, but the big players today are Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Minnesota. Rather than selling pills made of elderberry, growers are finding consumers want the juice.
It's hard to find statistics on elderberry – acreage, sales, number of growers, etc. - but it's a growing industry, with varietal selections and a harvesting machine developed. The trees get to about 30 feet in height, handle drought and wet feet, alkaline soil. They are attractive to bees and other beneficials. The fruit is attractive to birds which might be a food safety issue. It would also bring back some windbreaks that have disappearing.
To read more about the potential market go to:
- Author: Gary Bender
Farmers in our county who are using high-priced water are really thinking about “niches” in the market. They
simply must get the best prices they can if they are going to stay in business.
So, what are these “niches”? One niche is simply converting to an organic operation. This can usually mean higher prices, but the increase in cultural costs must be carefully considered (spraying glyphosate for weed control is a lot cheaper than hoeing, but glyphosate is not organic!). It can be an early variety that hits the market ahead of other areas (early season, low-chill blueberries), or it can be a crop that is later than other farming districts (Gold Nugget mandarins), or it can be a crop that is desired by a local market (tropical guavas for the Hispanic population).
We might have a niche local market for hops developing right before our eyes. According to Wikepedia, San Diego has 87 craft breweries and brewpubs, with 31 more on the drawing boards. I have heard that our local craft beer makers might like to buy local hops.
But, can they be grown here? Over the last 30 years I have tried to steer growers away from growing crops that have a high chilling requirement. I've talked would-be pistachio and cherry growers from planting because they both have winter chilling requirements in excess of 900-1000 hrs below 45 F. In the case of hops, they have a chilling requirement and we think a long daylight requirement, which they get in the Northern climates. And I've told a lot of people that hops don't do well south of San Francisco (because that's what I read on the internet). But some people planted hops anyway, and guess what! They do grow here!
But they don't always bear fruit (cones). Local growers have told me that ‘Willamette', ‘Centennial' and ‘Northern Brewer' do not produce well. But ‘Cascade' and ‘Nugget' have been producing from young vines at the Star B Ranch in Ramona. And other growers have been able to produce with 'Chinook', ‘Galena', ‘Perle' and ‘Tomahawk'. Now, will they produce the quantities needed to compete in a commercial market, pay the water bills and make a profit? This sounds like a farm advisor trial in the making!
You may wish to read a good article on growing hops that was prepared by Gordon W. Morehead and Paul Vossen with UCCE in Sonoma County http://cesonoma.ucanr.edu/files/27166.pdf.
Growing Hops. Hops are usually started from rhizomes (root cuttings) planted in hills about five feet apart in the early spring. Hops grow quickly as vines on a tall trellis. Most growers erect poles about 16-20' tall, run wires between them and drop stings down about five feet apart for the vines to climb. Three trainings are done every fifteen days to get the vines to grow up the stings properly.
For irrigation a local grower in San Diego has reported to me that (in her second year) she used drip irrigation with a 1 gal/hr dripper/plant for 20 hrs in a set, two sets per week. She fertilized 3 times per season with 1 lb 5-1-1 organic fertilizer and liquid fish emulsion (not sure how much) through the irrigation system. She just completed her second year so I'm not sure what her water and fertilizer requirements will be in the third year when the vines are in full production.
Harvesting is done in August-September by cutting down the vines and either taking them to a machine that separated the cones from the leaves and vines, or by hand. In her case she bought a harvester for $14,000 that “is a necessity if you have a lot of vines”. Depending on the requirement of the buyer, the grower may have to dry the cones and chop them. The grower should work out the marketing requirements well in advance of the harvest.
Are hops going to make it as a new crop in San Diego? We don't know, but stay tuned!