- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Published on: September 27, 2012
KQED and the Center for Investigative Reporting co-produced a documentary about the impacts of climate change on California food production. A half-hour in length, "Heat and Harvest" has three distinct segments:
- Cherries, said reporter Mark Schapiro, are the canary in the climate coalmine for California tree crops. "They're highly sensitive to changes in temperature and rainfall, which scientists say are being altered by climate change," he said.
The segment included comments from Joe Grant, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Joaquin County.
He said California cherry growers have traditionally had a competitive edge in the U.S. because their crop ripens early compared to cherries grown by competitors in Oregon, Washington, Michigan and New York.
"The market price for sweet cherries very early in the season is very, very high," Grant said. But now, California's moderate climate may be getting too warm, and cherry production could become unsustainable.
- Water was the focus of the second part of the documentary, especially the fact that less water and limited drainage options prevent farmers from leaching salts out of crops' rootzones on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. The salty environment for an almond grower featured in the segment has prompted him to consider uprooting the trees and replanting with rootstocks that have greater salt tolerance.
- The third segment dealt with tomato-potato psyllid, which has recently begun surviving the winter in areas where it used to be too cold. John Trumble, professor in the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside, said that, in addition to direct feeding damage, the psyllid transmits a disease in potatoes that creates zebra-like markings when they are fried to make chips.
"Some of them come out with wonderful patterns," Trumble said. "But unfortunately, what's happened, instead of starch they have sugar in the vascular system. When you cook that, it turns brown and the consumer sends it back."
View the documentary below: