Huanglongbing control effort moves to Riverside County – from the Riverside Press-Enterprise

CDFA agricultural technician Maritza Paredes uses an aspirator to collect adult Asian citrus psyllid samples from a tangerine tree in the backyard of a home in Riverside. It’s part of the work underway to try to detect additional cases of huanglongbing, or citrus greening in the area. Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG

By Mark Muckenfuss

Workers with the California Department of Food and Agriculture are methodically checking what are likely hundreds of citrus trees in a mostly residential area north of the 60/91/215 freeway interchange in Riverside for signs of a deadly disease.

Huanglongbing, or citrus greening, is a bacterial disease that wiped out much of Florida’s citrus industry in the past decade, was positively identified in a grapefruit tree near Chicago Avenue and Marlborough Street last week. The tree was removed from the property.

Since then, agricultural inspectors have been canvassing an area within an 800-meter-radius of the infected tree.

“We’re doing a house-to-house survey and checking every tree,” said Yenny Melgoza, a pest-prevention assistant. “We started the survey the day we got the positive (results on the) tree.”

Temperatures that have pushed beyond 100 degrees and some heavy thunderstorms have not stopped the work. Melgoza said she doesn’t know how long it will take the 17 workers the state has deployed to finish the testing. There is no count yet on the citrus trees in the test area.

About 20 leaves are being collected from each tree, with a focus on those that might show symptoms of the disease.

“I’m just looking for any type of leaves that have any kind of yellow on them,” said Maritza Paredes, a technician who is not only collecting leaves, but any Asian citrus psyllids she might find on a tree.

Huanglongbing is transmitted to citrus plants by a tiny insect, the Asian citrus psyllid. Not all psyllids carry the bacteria, but they are the only known insect that serves as a vector for it. Symptoms of the disease may not show up for a couple of years, but citrus greening disease usually kills a tree within three to five years.

The fruit of infected trees doesn’t ripen properly. Fruit is green and misshapen and has a bitter taste. Leaves become mottled and misshapen.

Melgoza said patchy yellowing of the leaves is usually asymmetrical. She singles out a leaf on a tree in the yard of Charlie Glick, where she and Paredes are working. While the leaf is mottled, the yellow and green patches on either side of the leaf’s midline are about the same. With HLB, she said, the patches are more random.

Officials have been expecting the disease for some time.

The Asian citrus psyllid arrived in California in 2008 and soon moved into the Inland Empire. The first tree infected with huanglongbing was found in Hacienda Heights in 2012. Since then, trees have been identified in San Gabriel, Cerritos and, in May, La Habra.

The disease has infected about 75 percent of citrus trees in Florida, resulting in more than $4 billion in lost citrus. More than 26 million citrus trees have been lost in Brazil. Texas growers also are battling the disease.

Glick, 70, said he has been keeping track of the progress of the disease. He said he won’t be heartbroken if his six small citrus trees are found to be infected and have to be removed, but he worries about the bigger picture.

“It is very concerning,” he said. “I just hope we can keep our California oranges. What would the Orange Blossom Festival be without oranges?”

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Link to CDFA web page

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Secretary Ross joins state ag directors meeting with high-level federal officials – from Capital Press

By Sean Ellis

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — The directors of 13 Western state departments of agriculture were joined by what they described as an unprecedented number of top officials from federal agencies during their annual conference.

They viewed that as a positive sign of the importance the Trump administration places on agriculture and working cooperatively with states.

The annual meeting of the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture always attracts officials from government agencies such as USDA, said Celia Gould, director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, which hosted this year’s conference July 24-28.

“But this year we had an unusual number of federal partners who were able to join us from the highest levels of federal government,” she said. “This is the first time that we’ve had this level of engagement across the board, not just from USDA but also from EPA and FDA and APHIS.”

Gould said those officials didn’t just give a speech, field a few questions and leave, but spent in some cases a few days meeting individually with state ag directors.

“For me, the highlight of the conference was having those people willing to come to Idaho to sit down with us and hammer out issues, individually and collectively, and sit down with each director and talk with them and find out what our problems are,” Gould said.

The conference included Ken Wagner, senior adviser to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who told WASDA directors that serious conversations are taking place within the agency to ensure better communication and collaboration with states.

Kevin Shea, administrator of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, fielded questions about an array of topics ranging from brucellosis to pest eradication. Before arriving at the conference, he spent time in East Idaho talking with potato farmers in their fields.

Officials from federal agencies provided WASDA members with agency updates about important issues such as the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act and USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, viewed the participation of so many high-level federal officials as a positive sign from the new presidential administration about its intention to work closely with states as partners.

She was particularly impressed with Wagner’s attendance.

WASDA has always enjoyed a good relationship with federal partners, she said.

“But to meet with the senior policy adviser from EPA this early in an administration that has so few appointments done is very meaningful,” Ross said. “I think it’s meant a lot to everyone that this early in the administration we’re getting folks like him to meet with us.”

The event included a presentation by Lawrence MacAulay, Canada’s minister of agriculture, who spoke about the upcoming renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and how important it is to agriculture.

Jeff Witte, director-secretary of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, said the annual event “always give us the opportunity to share with each other what’s going on in our respective states and get caught up on all the issues but this year’s conference has been extra special because of the high-level participation we had.”

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Video – Farm to Folks

From CDFA’s Growing California video series, an encore presentation, “Farm to Folks.”

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Good Bug, Bad Bug; the worldwide search for prized pest fighters – from California Bountiful

UC Riverside entomologist Mark Hoddle in Pakistan on a search for natural predators for invasive species.

By Shannon Springmeyer

Mark Hoddle sees a hidden world that others often overlook.

“The most fascinating and really important stuff that’s happening all around us is too small for 99 percent of people to see,” he said.

Hoddle’s expert eye is trained on the world of bugs, a dramatic landscape with predators and prey locked in a primal struggle for survival. Watching them in his garden was one of Hoddle’s earliest enthrallments. As an entomologist and extension specialist in biological control for the University of California, Riverside, his childhood passion has become a life’s work, using the insect food chain to protect gardens, farms, orchards, urban landscapes and forests from invasive insects.

Hoddle relies on the unsung heroes of the insect world: natural enemies of bugs we consider pests.

“Most people’s reaction when they see an insect is they want to kill it,” Hoddle said. “What they don’t appreciate is that (people are) often killing things that are really helpful.”

Bugs to the rescue

Beneficial bugs come in many forms: winged and crawling beetles, tiny mites, carnivorous caterpillars and parasites that live on or in their hosts, even laying eggs inside their hosts’ bodies. California is home to many native species of these beneficial, natural-born killers. But when invasive, non-native pests make their way to a new territory where there are few natural enemies that feed on them, their populations can explode, Hoddle said.

That’s what happened in the 1880s, when a pest called cottony cushion scale arrived in California from Australia and began devastating citrus groves. No available control method proved successful, and growers grew desperate, Hoddle said.

“It’s kind of mind-blowing to think that that one insect had the potential to derail California’s citrus industry right at its inception,” he said.

That’s when the chief entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture did something that had never been done: He sent a colleague to Australia to find the pest’s natural enemy in the wild.

The scientist returned with a few hundred small vedalia beetles that he’d collected and managed to keep alive during the weeks-long sea voyage. After the USDA liberated the beetles in California, the problem disappeared completely within nine months, Hoddle said.

“The citrus industry couldn’t believe how spectacular this biological control program was,” Hoddle said. “That beetle is still working in California today, and you don’t have to spray your trees for cottony cushion scale.”

It was the birth of a revolutionary new approach to pest management, and California remains a world leader in biological control. The approach is more essential than ever in an age of globalized trade and transit. The annual rate of the introduction of non-native insects into the state has accelerated by 50 percent since 1989, Hoddle said.

Hoddle spends much of his time studying invasive pests, combing the globe for their natural enemies, and rearing and studying the populations he’s brought back. When a natural enemy with good potential for success is identified, tested and approved by officials for release, it often becomes the job of insectaries to figure out how to raise millions of them at a time.

Bug farming for farmers

Associates Insectary in Ventura County is the oldest commercial insectary in the nation, rearing several essential beneficial species for citrus and avocado growers. The insectary also sells to growers on the East Coast and in Canada, Mexico and Central America. Brett Chandler, president and general manager, emphasized beneficial insects alone can’t solve all of a commercial grower’s pest problems, but they are an important tool.

“The insects have a tremendous role,” he said. “A significant portion of the pest control is performed by natural enemies in the field—both native and the extra, introduced ones that we add to the field. It is such an integral part of what we do that we don’t even consider how we would function without them.”

Raising 800 million head of tiny “livestock” each year is a job that never gets boring, Chandler said.

“In order to grow a beneficial insect, you have to grow something for it to eat,” he explained. “You also have to grow something for that something to eat, a food for the food.”

The result is a complex, highly synchronized operation in which different species of insects are raised through all life stages in 43 separate, climate-controlled rooms. The insects are sensitive to subtle changes in the environment, such as atmospheric pressure, and have a herd behavior that changes daily, Chandler said.

Link Leavens of Leavens Ranches in Ventura and Monterey counties is one of 150 member-growers who benefit from the program. For 25 years, the insectary’s production of a parasite called Aphytis melinus has helped Leavens control red scale infestations and maintain the delicate ecological balance of his citrus grove.

“It’s worked really, really well,” he said.

Waging war on a new pest

Now, Leavens has turned his attention to a challenging new foe, the invasive Asian citrus psyllid. The tiny insect can infect trees with a deadly bacterial disease called huanglongbing, or HLB. The plant disease has caused catastrophic citrus losses in Florida and Brazil in recent years. California growers fear their trees will be next.

Though psyllids have become common pests in commercial citrus groves, so far HLB has been found only in backyard citrus trees in urban areas of Southern California. To help contain the disease, growers and researchers are again turning to biological control.

Hoddle traveled for several years to Pakistan, where the Asian citrus psyllid is a native pest, searching for a suitable natural enemy. He returned with Tamarixia radiata, a tiny parasitic wasp that targets psyllids. A single female can kill hundreds of the pests in her lifetime. After testing and government approval, Tamarixia was introduced in affected areas in 2011. Psyllid populations have since dropped considerably in urban areas, in some instances by as much as 75 percent, Hoddle said.

“We’ve sort of set the battle lines,” he said. “This is urban guerilla warfare.”

For growers such as Leavens, Tamarixia offers an important line of defense and a ray of hope in a desperate fight. Leavens said he tries not to imagine a future where enjoying oranges becomes a thing of the past, but the threat to the industry is real.

“If you don’t control those psyllid populations, HLB will be here,” Leavens said. “We just know it’s coming. We’re kind of treading water.”

Growers are spending $25 million through the California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee to combat HLB. Leavens, a board member, said they would like to multiply production of the wasp a hundredfold to keep urban psyllid populations at bay. And Associates Insectary has begun experimenting with raising Tamarixia as a possible tool to fight >psyllids in commercial groves.

In this case, biological control won’t likely be the only solution, but it’s an important start. Once again, a tiny insect may just prove one of California farmers’ greatest allies.

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Garlic harvest brings good quality, plentiful supplies – The Packer

The end of the drought in California has led to increased volume and great quality, says Bill Christopher, president of Christopher Ranch.

By Tom Burfield, The Packer

Most of the U.S. fresh garlic now being harvested is coming out of California, where grower-shippers say supplies are plentiful and quality is good.

“We had a great growing season,” said Bill Christopher, president of Christopher Ranch, Gilroy, Calif.

“The size is good, and the quality is some of the best we’ve ever seen, especially on some of the early garlic.”

California growers finally are out of the drought, which caused Christopher Ranch to reduce garlic plantings by about 10% the past couple of years, he said.

This year, the company’s volume actually is slightly above normal.

“We had a great California crop this year,” Christopher said.

Planting took place from September through November, and harvesting started in June and will continue until early September.

“We’re well underway right now,” he said in late June.

Orlando, Fla.-based Spice World Inc. also has a good-looking California garlic crop, said Louis Hymel, director of purchasing and marketing.

“Weather has been cooperative,” he said.

The rains over the winter and spring “came at the right time.”

“The reservoirs are at record levels. The snow melt in the Sierras is good,” he said. “It’s a change of pace from what we’ve had the past few years.”

A mid-June heat wave was helping the garlic dry and cure, he said.

The Garlic Co. in Shafter, Calif., got a late start on harvesting this year, and things were running behind in early June, said Joe Lane, one of the owners.

“We had a pretty cool spring,” Lane said.

But by late June, the warm weather helped picking get caught up, he said.

This year’s crop has “the best quality we’ve had in a few years,” Lane said.

Rain was a big help, but the cold winter weather was even more important, he said, adding that he would like to have seen a few more frost events.

Volume at The Garlic Co. is up slightly because of added acreage and better-than-average yields resulting from the good weather.

Most of the firm’s garlic, much of it peeled, is destined for foodservice operators, he said.

I Love Produce LLC, West Grove, Pa., is finishing up its season from Mexico and has new-crop garlic arriving in July from Spain and China, said president Jim Provost.

“We are also waiting for information about the new California crop,” he said.

Spain and China both have excellent new-crop garlic, Provost said.

“Yields are up 10% to 20% on both accounts, and when yields are up, it is normally an indication of healthy quality and a larger range of sizes,” he said.

Garlic volume for all Northern Hemisphere growing areas is up.

“Farmers planted more garlic as a result of tight garlic supplies and higher-than-normal markets the last two years,” he said.

Typically, when a crop makes money, more of that crop is planted until the cycle goes the other way, Provost said.

He added that prices should be “promotable” this season.

Christopher doesn’t expect significant price swings for the immediate future.

“I see the market staying pretty stable,” he said.

Growers are faced with rising costs of things like labor and insurance, he said, but higher yields and lower growing costs are helping to offset those.

The popularity of garlic in the U.S. continues to increase in part because of the growing number of immigrants, especially Asians, who tend to consume more garlic than native-born Americans, Christopher said.

Also, consumers are becoming more aware of the health benefits of garlic, and they’re seeing it featured on TV food shows, he said.

“Everyone is eating garlic now,” Christopher said. “It provides great flavor, and the health benefits can’t be ignored.”

See the original article on The Packer site here.

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CDFA welcomes foreign buyers to Fresno Food Expo

Jorge Garcia de Leon, a buyer from Mexico, samples products at this week’s Fresno Food Show.

CDFA had the pleasure this week of welcoming 19 buyers from Central America, Mexico and Southeast Asia to the seventh annual Fresno Food Expo. The buyers were part of trade delegation facilitated by the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association (WUSATA) to help expand U.S. agricultural exports to international markets.

While in Fresno, the buyers will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with more than 35 Central Valley businesses and visit local producer facilities. The Fresno Food Expo is an great venue that highlights the agricultural diversity of the region and provides opportunities food business to explore both domestic and international markets.

CDFA’s partnership with WUSATA, the State Center Community College District and the Fresno Center for International Trade Development makes opportunities like this available for California’s farmers, ranchers and food processors.

California is the largest agricultural exporter in the nation, with more than $20.6 billion in exports worldwide. On average, California’s farmers and ranchers export approximately 26 percent of the state’s agricultural production.

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Healthy Pigs – California swine health program review: Pseudorabies “free” reconfirmed

If you are a fan of pigs, you will be happy to know that, after an in depth disease prevention program review by USDA veterinarians and other scientists in 2017, California has once again been classified as Pseudorabies “free.”

While Pseudorabies only impacts the health of swine, it is highly transmissible and can be fatal to pigs.  Maintaining “free” status is a credit to CDFA and particularly to California’s swine producers, because wild pigs in California can carry and spread the disease to our domestic hogs. Continued vigilance in monitoring for any signs of renewed infection via maintenance of programs standards was particularly appreciated by the review team.

Pseudorabies is a viral disease in swine that is endemic in most parts of the world.  It is also known as Aujeszky’s disease and is considered to be one of the most economically important viral diseases of swine.  Pseudorabies means “false rabies,” or “ rabies-like;” however, Pseudorabies is related to the herpes virus, not the rabies virus. It does not infect humans.

The Pseudorabies Eradication Program began in 1989 and California initially became Stage-V “free” of the program in February 2001.

Pseudorabies still exists in feral swine. Sporadic cases are occasionally identified in swine herds with exposure to feral swine.  Targeted surveillance is utilized for pseudorabies because it increases the odds of rapidly finding disease and helps protect  and ensure the commercial swine industry is disease free.

To support this goal, samples are collected from diagnostic laboratories, domestic swine premises with increased risk of exposure to feral swine, livestock markets and buying stations, and various slaughter establishments including sow-boar and market swine.

For more information:

Pseudorabies CDFA Fact Sheet
Pseudorabies Virus Swine Health Information Center
USDA Swine Disease Information
State Status Map

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Video – Garlic in Gilroy

The annual Gilroy Garlic Festival will take place this weekend, July 28-30. In this encore presentation from the Growing California video series, “Gilroy’s Glory,” CDFA takes a look at the festival’s history and the crop itself.

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Join National Moth Week – from

National Moth Week (July 22-30) celebrates the beauty, life cycles, and habitats of moths. “Moth-ers” of all ages and abilities are encouraged to learn about, observe, and document moths in their backyards, parks, and neighborhoods. National Moth Week is being held, worldwide, during the last full week of July. NMW offers everyone, everywhere a unique opportunity to become a Citizen Scientist and contribute scientific data about moths. Through partnerships with major online biological data depositories, NMW participants can help map moth distribution and provide needed information on other life history aspects around the globe.

Visit the website at to find a mothing event near you and to register your mothing location. Also on the website you can find links to data depositories site to submit your moth observations.

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In this video CDFA shows how its collection of moths and other exotic insects at its Plant Pest Diagnostics laboratory helps protect California.

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Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program: Improving Nutrition, Health for our Seniors

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program

California’s certified farmers’ markets are great places to give your diet a nutrition boost. CDFA’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program helps low-income seniors accomplish just that. It’s a 100 percent federally funded program that provides check booklets that these seniors may use to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables along with specialty items such as fresh-cut herbs and honey.

The program is a continuing partnership with 32 Area Agencies on Aging, and together we will distribute approximately 42,000 check booklets this year. Each booklet is valued at $20. On average, the statewide redemption rate for the SFMNP has been 92%. That’s good news for vendors at the markets, but the real payoff is improved nutrition and health for our low-income seniors.


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