Pretty interesting conference on biological control cooking for March 5 in Santa Maria overseen by colleague Farm Advisor Surendra Dara.
I was invited too, but had to decline because of conflicts. Even so, pretty stellar list of speakers - personally I'd ante up some pretty good money to catch the talk by Dave Holden on application strategies for biological controls in the field.
Just thumbing through a mail order catalog from a high end retailer yesterday afternoon for a Valentine's Day gift (don't forget all that this day is also our big annual strawberry production research meeting in Watsonville!) for my one and only, when my eyes lit upon the arresting photo below.
Those blackberries are more than half reverted to red. How is this even possible for a STAGED photograph?
Once I settled down again, it did dawn on me that our blackberry growers and we researchers are a bit ahead of the game in insisting the blackberries we sell to our customers, who aren't necessarily picky about it, be all black, with no blemishes, discoloration or crumbliness.
Perhaps we could describe it as being much as in the same way that Apple does, that we are striving to make things that people don't even know yet they need.
My colleague Oleg Daugovish has been super generous and is offering his annual caneberry meeting this year up in Watsonville so we can all be together and mites (including Lewis mite), substrates from an expert, plant nutrition, tunnel management, new variety evaluations for blackberries and raspberries, and a discussion of market trends are all on tap.
Don't miss it!
Just sampled some strawberries in white chocolate from Japan this afternoon for lunch (picture below). What's interesting is how dehydrated the strawberries are inside, they couldn't be bigger than the tip of my pinky finger. Great texture though, the berries basically dissolve in one's mouth.
Suspecting that these tiny little berries are in fact alpine strawberries Fragariae vesca, I asked my wife but she assured me that these are indeed normal strawberries, the ones we know as Fragaria x ananassa. Reading the package didn't help since it just says 乾燥イチゴ, or "dried strawberries". I didn't realize freeze drying would result in such a terribly small fruit.
Anyway, if you get the chance, try them, they are quite good.
The idea of "confirmation bias", which is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories, has been covered before in the abstract in this blog as being a route to erroneous judgment and mistakes on the farm.
Let's take an actual story to see what this looks like in the field.
What happens is the grower finds a suspect pest arthropod on his plants, and calls the person serving as the Pest Control Advisor to check it out. There is no visible damage in the field. The guy comes out, takes a look and says since this pest is quite small and has a lot of benign kin, tells the grower that it's going to take a trip to headquarters and some time to get a positive identification on this deal.
Lo and behold a little while later, the grower calls back and has indeed found damage that matches that of the purported pest. He goes ahead with the spray, which probably is the conservative thing to do, but will certainly disrupt the biological controls already in place in the field and cause problems further on down the road.
WHOA. Did you see what happened here? The grower was forcing his own belief, that the arthropod in question was a pest, on the situation in the field, and to support that belief, was discovering evidence, the damaged plants, to support this preconception. In other words, once the possibility of a certain pest was brought up, he found evidence to support that belief, even though a clear positive identification was yet in the offing.
I can't emphasize how important it is be alert to the snare of confirming one's own bias. While it's only natural for us to build up stories and find evidence for things we want to be true, if we aren't we aren't careful about managing these tendencies we can make very costly mistakes, both in terms of money and time.