California residents urged not to move citrus material this summer due to harmful plant disease – From the Orange County Breeze

California residents are being urged to avoid transporting citrus fruit during the upcoming summer travel season due to the highest-ever threat of a deadly citrus tree disease called Huanglongbing (HLB).

HLB is spread by a tiny insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, as it feeds on citrus tree leaves. The small pest can have devastating consequences to California’s citrus trees – both backyard and commercial – if it is unknowingly transported on citrus tree leaves and stems. While HLB is not harmful to humans or animals, there is no cure for the disease and infected trees will die.

According to AAA, over 68 million families are expected to travel this summer. All citrus tree owners among those travelers should obey quarantine restrictions throughout the state that limit the transport of citrus across state and international lines, and between areas where the psyllid and disease have been found.

Currently, more than 1,000 square miles within Southern California in numerous communities of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties are in an HLB quarantine area. At this time in 2018, 683 square miles were in quarantine, meaning the disease is spreading to new areas and the overall HLB quarantine area has increased by 47%.

“The threat of HLB in California serves as a reminder that all residents should not transport citrus in and out of quarantine areas, bordering counties, state lines or international borders,” said Victoria Hornbaker, interim director of the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). “We must work together to limit the spread of the pest and disease to ensure California citrus continues to grow in our backyards and commercial orchards.”

Tree owners may choose to share fruit with friends and family within their quarantine area, but all leaves must be removed and fruit washed thoroughly before moving it from the property. Residents should be sure to dry out citrus clippings or double bag them before disposal. This prevents the psyllids or leaves infected with Huanglongbing from spreading to new areas.

All California residents are critical to protecting the state’s citrus trees. Tips for citrus tree owners include:

  • Proactively inspect citrus trees for the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB monthly, and whenever watering, spraying, pruning or tending trees.
  • Look for the Asian citrus psyllid. Adults are brown, about one-eighth of an inch long, and feed with their body at a 45-degree angle on citrus leaves.
  • Symptoms of HLB include blotchy and yellowing leaves, premature and excessive fruit drop, lopsided fruit, and bitter, inedible fruit.
  • Call the state’s pest hotline at 800-491-1899 if the pest or disease is spotted.
  • Cooperate with agriculture officials who may ask to inspect or treat citrus trees.
  • As part of tree maintenance, visit a local nursery or garden center to get advice on products that can help protect citrus trees.
  • When pruning citrus trees, be sure to dry out citrus clippings or double bag them before disposal.
  • Refrain from moving citrus plants, foliage or fruit as doing this may unknowingly spread the pest.

More information and photos of the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB symptoms are available at the CDFA web site or at

Link to article

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Women Farmers Rock – video from Western Growers Association

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After contest win, Davis company will start producing animal feed from insects – from the Sacramento Business Journal

The BioMilitus team won $22,000 and in-kind services valued at $3,000 in the 2019 Big Bang! Business Competition at UC Davis. Shown left to right are UC Davis researcher Jesus Fernandez-Bayo and graduate students Lydia Palma and Matthew Paddock. Photo by Jose Villegas for the Sacramento Business Journal

By Emily Hamann

A Davis company is buzzing after winning big at University of California Davis’ annual innovation and business competition.

BioMilitus, which studies the use of insects in reducing agricultural waste and creating animal feed, took home a total of $22,000 in prize money from the Big Bang! Business Competition last Thursday.

The company, a team of four UC Davis graduate students and one researcher, won a total of five awards, including the $10,000 Central Valley Innovation Award and the $7,500 People’s Choice Award. It also won $3,000 in services at the UC Davis-HM.Clause Life Science Innovation Center, an off-campus business incubator with biochemistry, molecular biology and chemistry lab space.

BioMilitus plans to use that incubator space to build a pilot program this summer.

“We’re basically going to be gathering data and getting ready for scaling up,” BioMilitus chief financial officer Lydia Palma said. The company’s research and core products focus on a type of insect called the black soldier fly, which looks like a smaller version of the common house fly. BioMilitus is looking into how the fly can be used to take agricultural byproducts and turn them into animal feed.

“We’re trying to solve two problems,” Palma said.

The first is food waste. BioMilitus takes pre-consumer food waste and feeds it to insect larvae. The company is currently experimenting with hulls and shells from almonds and other nuts, as well as pulp, skins and other byproducts from tomato processing and winemaking.

The second problem BioMilitus is trying to solve has to do with animal feed. Right now, poultry feed is usually a combination of soy, corn and fish meal, which require lots of land and water, and compete with the human food supply.

BioMilitus proposes to take that insect larvae and turn it into animal feed. Currently, its research is focusing on creating a feed for poultry, but Palma said the company is also looking at its application in aquaculture.

“Insects are already a natural component of a poultry diet,” Palma said. “Insects are already really healthy for them.”

In BioMilitus’ pilot program this summer, Palma said the team will start off with a few different products. One is live larvae, which can be fed to pets like lizards and backyard chickens, and is an easier market to get into than commercial animal feed. Another product BioMilitus will be selling is compost made from insect waste.

In full production, BioMilitus’ animal feed will be dried larvae. At the end of the company’s five-year growth plan, Palma said, it hopes to produce 4 tons of larvae per day, as well as lots of compost.

Link to article

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#CDFACentennial – Centennial Reflections video series with Tony Herrera

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a state agency in 2019. Throughout the year this blog will feature a number of items to commemorate this milestone. Today we continue with the Centennial Reflections video series, featuring CDFA employees remembering their histories, and the agency’s.

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Meet the California prune – from the Packer

By Chris Koger

The California Dried Plum Board is once again embracing “prunes,” 19 years after changing its name and the way the dried fruit was marketed.

Once again called the California Prune Board, the marketing order that promotes the fruit has launched a new website — — and brand that boosts a health message with the tagline: “Prunes. For life.”

“The world comes to California for prunes, and we take that seriously,” Donn Zea, executive director of the California Prune Board, Roseville, Calif., said in a news release. “California is the most reliable and consistent source in the industry for quality, size and taste.”

Much has changed since the brand change to dried plums, according to the group: gut health has gained more interest and relevance, new research shows eating prunes may support bone health, and the foodie culture has brought new interest.

The new brand, California Prunes, is being used globally and the board officially launched it at the recent INC World Nut & Fruit Congress in Boca Raton, Fla.

The board began exploring the new brand about two years ago.

“California Prunes have earned a premium reputation in global markets,” Zea said in the release. “The message of our new brand is clear: Choose California for prunes.”

Link to story

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CDFA joins invasive mussel prevention effort over holiday weekend

California Department of Fish and Wildlife News Release

California agencies combating the spread of invasive quagga and zebra mussels remind boaters to remain cautious over the three-day Memorial Day weekend.

Quagga and zebra mussels are invasive freshwater mussels native to Europe and Asia. They multiply quickly, encrust watercraft and infrastructure, alter water quality and the aquatic food web and ultimately impact native and sport fish communities. These mussels spread from one waterbody to another by attaching to watercraft, equipment and nearly anything that has been in an infested waterbody.

Invisible to the naked eye, microscopic juveniles are spread from infested waterbodies by water that is entrapped in boat engines, ballasts, bilges, live-wells and buckets. Quagga mussels have infested 33 waterways in Southern California and zebra mussels have infested two waterways in San Benito County.

To prevent the spread of these mussels and other aquatic invasive species, people launching vessels at any waterbody are subject to watercraft inspections and are strongly encouraged to clean, drain and dry their motorized and non-motorized boats, including personal watercraft, and any equipment that contacts the water before and after use.

“While enjoying this long holiday weekend outdoors experiencing the great variety of recreational opportunities that California has to offer, we ask everyone to please continue their vital, long-standing practice of helping us slow the spread of invasive mussels,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Habitat Conservation Planning Branch Chief Rick Macedo.

Take the following steps both before traveling to and before leaving a waterbody to prevent spreading invasive mussels, improve the efficiency of your inspection experience and safeguard California waterways:

  • CLEAN — inspect exposed surfaces and remove all plants and organisms,
  • DRAIN — all water, including water contained in lower outboard units, live-wells and bait buckets, and
  • DRY — allow the watercraft to thoroughly dry between launches. Watercraft should be kept dry for at least five days in warm weather and up to 30 days in cool weather.

CDFW has developed a brief video demonstrating the ease of implementing the clean, drain and dry prevention method. In addition, a detailed guide to cleaning vessels of invasive mussels is available on the CDFW’s webpage. Additional information is available on the Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) websiteand the Department of Water Resources (DWR) website.

Travelers are also advised to be prepared for inspections at California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Border Protection Stations. Over the past 10 years, more than 1.45 million watercraft entering California have been inspected at the Border Protection Stations. Inspections, which can also be conducted by CDFW and California State Parks, include a check of boats and personal watercraft, as well as trailers and all onboard items. Contaminated vessels and equipment are subject to decontamination, rejection, quarantine or impoundment.

Quagga and zebra mussels can attach to and damage virtually any submerged surface. They can:

  • Ruin a boat engine by blocking the cooling system and causing it to overheat
  • Jam a boat’s steering equipment, putting occupants and others at risk
  • Require frequent scraping and repainting of boat hulls
  • Colonize all underwater substrates such as boat ramps, docks, lines and other underwater surfaces, causing them to require constant cleaning
  • Impose large expenses to owners

A multi-agency effort that includes CDFW, DBW, CDFA and DWR has been leading an outreach campaign to alert the public to the quagga and zebra mussel threats. A toll-free hotline, (866) 440-9530, is available for those seeking information on quagga or zebra mussels.

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Wet spring delays California crops – from Associated Press via Morning Ag Clips

Strawberries are a crop impacted by recent rains.

California growers are frustrated by an unusually wet spring that has delayed the planting of some crops like rice and damaged others including strawberries and wine grapes.

The state’s wet conditions come as much of the West is experiencing weird weather. Colorado and Wyoming got an unusually late dump of snow this week. Meanwhile temperatures in Phoenix have dropped 15 degrees below normal.

Large swaths of California have seen two to five times more precipitation than is normal for this point in May, the National Weather Service said. A series of storms soaked much of Colusa County where rice grower Kurt Richter was forced to wait weeks to seed his land.

“You should be seeing green lawns of rice out there right now,” Richter said Tuesday from his farm about 120 miles (195 kilometers) north of San Francisco. “But it’s just flooded fields, with nothing sticking out of the water.”

Rice he managed to get into the ground during brief dry spells is in a “refrigerated state” because of colder than usual temperatures that threaten to reduce yields, he said. Richter’s property typically grows about 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) of rice annually, but he predicted “we won’t even get close to that this year.”

In a 24-hour period last weekend, parts of Sacramento County in the northern part of the state recorded more than 3.25 inches (8.25 centimeters) of rain. The wet trend will continue through the month, forecasters said.

Strawberry grower Peter Navarro said it’s been at least a decade since heavy rains have affected his Santa Cruz County fields like this year.

“The month of May produces some of your best berries,” said Navarro, grower for Well-Pict Berries in Watsonville. But he told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that ongoing wet weather was disrupting the picking schedule and causing a loss of production.

Too much rain can damage strawberries’ delicate skin, causing the fruit to decay before being picked. Berries that start to rot on the vine can affect green fruit and bring disease to the plant, Navarro said.

To the south in wine country, May showers and accompanying winds have damaged some vines and brought unwelcome moisture that could delay blooming. On top of that growers worry lingering humid conditions will cause mold and mildew on vines that could take an even greater toll.

The result could be a smaller yield for certain varieties including chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, vintners said.

“It’s not ideal,” Alison Crowe, director of winemaking at Plata Wine Partners in Napa, told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat . “It’s not necessarily impacted quality. It will impact the quantity.”

Link to Morning Ag Clips

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California dairy family provides habitat for 25,000 imperiled birds

Luciana Jonkman and tricolored blackbirds on her farm.

News release from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service

A Merced dairy family is playing a key role in protecting imperiled Tricolored Blackbirds, a California-native species federally listed as a Bird of Conservation Concern and as a State of California Threatened Species.

A large colony of the birds has been nesting at Diamond J Dairy since late March, and Luciana and Wiebren Jonkman halted their silage harvest to allow the birds to complete their nesting cycle. Now the colony, which peaked at 25,000 birds, is nearing fledging.

“At least 10 percent of this entire species is nesting on this one Merced farm,” said Aaron Rives, soil conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Merced. “Without the help of the farmers, this species could be set back for years. And once it’s gone, that’s forever.”

Because Tricolored Blackbirds are colonial nesters, thousands of birds may impact—and be impacted by—farming operations near their nests.  By delaying harvest farmers can allow the young birds to safely fledge.

“We are grateful for the tricolored blackbird restoration project,” said Luciana Jonkman.  “We are a first-generation farming family, and we know that sustainability is vital to our farm families and our community. At Diamond J we are constantly looking for opportunities to partner with the community, the state and the federal resources. I hope that folks will see this as a huge win-win for conservation and dairy food security in the state of California.”

The last population estimate was done in 2017, when there were 178,000 birds. If the population is of a similar size this year, that means that over 70 percent of the birds were found on dairies. Two NRCS wetland projects have also provided nesting sites for nearly 20,000 birds.

Most Tricolored Blackbirds reside in the Central Valley, typically nesting in wetlands and dairy silage fields. The young birds need up to 45 days to fledge. With the help of NRCS and partners at Audubon, Western United Dairymen, California Farm Bureau and DairyCares, farmers receive technical and financial assistance to delay harvest until the birds have safely fledged. This year NRCS enrolled nearly 600 acres on 14 dairies, investing $385,000 on forage harvest delay.

Over the past seven years, farmers’ participation in this program has resulted in nesting success for tens of thousands of birds.

Link to news release

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#CDFACentennial – Centennial Reflections video series with Amadou Ba

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a state agency in 2019. Throughout the year this blog will feature a number of items to commemorate this milestone. Today we continue with the Centennial Reflections video series, featuring CDFA employees remembering their histories, and the agency’s.

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Video series on vegetable production of the future

A 26-episode weekly video series has debuted on YouTube to help train the next generation of vegetable crop workers and increase their use of effective stewardship practices in vegetable production.

Projections for near-future retirements of people working in California’s agricultural production, marketing and post-harvest handling sectors indicate severe re-staffing needs in the coming years. Technological advances have reduced manual labor in agriculture, but increased the need for skilled labor to maintain the sustainability of the vegetable industry.

The video series is offered on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) YouTube page on a playlist titled “Expanding the Capacity and Training of a New Generation of California Vegetable Producers.” UC ANR is the outreach arm of the University of California which, among other services, provides agricultural research, teaching and advising in all California counties.

The project received financial support from the CDFA’s Specialty Crops Block Grant Program.

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