California Agriculture
California Agriculture
California Agriculture
University of California
California Agriculture

Current issue and featured articles

CAv070n03
July-September 2016
Volume 70, Number 3
The evolving berry industry
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Peer-reviewed research and review articles

The evolving fresh market berry industry in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties
by Laura Tourte, Mark Bolda, Karen Klonsky
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Agricultural innovations and increased consumer demand have contributed to the growth of the berry industry in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
The fresh market berry industry in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties has contributed significantly to the agricultural vibrancy of the two counties and the state of California. Dramatic growth in strawberry, raspberry and blackberry production has been documented over the last 50 years, and most notably since the 1980s. Factors influencing this growth include innovations in agricultural practices and heightened consumer demand. Here, we review the historical context for the berry industry in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Organic production, production economics and challenges for the future are also discussed.
Revised chloropicrin use requirements impact strawberry growers unequally
by Rachael Goodhue, Melissa Schweisguth, Karen Klonsky
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In a case study of chloropicrin use in 2013, authors find that recent DPR spatially defined regulations would have reduced treated acreage of 11% of fumigation blocks by up to 45%.
Buffer zone requirements are by nature spatial and their effects are site-specific, with some fields — because of their location — more impacted than others. Using a set of strawberry fields in Ventura County that were preplant soil fumigated in 2013 as a baseline, we examined how much acreage eligible for chloropicrin fumigation would have been lost if either of two buffer zone distance regulations had been in effect: any one of the four sets of alternative distances proposed in May 2013 by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) or the buffer zone distances DPR released in January 2015. Buffer zone distances are based on several factors including the anticipated protection of human health, referred to as the percentile of protection. We find that the effects are highly dependent on the percentile of protection. From 4% to 29% of the fumigated blocks analyzed would have had an increase in buffer zone acreage depending on the percentile of protection. In those blocks, the share of total acreage that would no longer have been eligible for fumigation with chloropicrin varied from 3% to 45%. We also identify strategies that growers employed to reduce required buffer zone distances under use requirements in effect in 2013. The most frequently used strategies were using a tarp type with the lowest buffer zone requirements (“60% tarp”), extending a buffer onto a neighboring property, road and/or farm path, and reducing application rates. The results have an important policy implication: spatially defined use regulations have very different effects for different fields; aggregated industry-level analyses will miss the range of impacts on growers.
Strawberry growers wavered over methyl iodide, feared public backlash
by Julie Guthman
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Survey results show that public protest and the availability of other fumigants both contributed to growers’ limited adoption of methyl iodide prior to its withdrawal. 
Methyl iodide, once promoted as a suitable alternative to methyl bromide for soil fumigation in strawberry systems, was withdrawn from the market in 2012 after a contentious regulatory battle that revolved around its high toxicity. At the time of its withdrawal, Arysta LifeScience, the maker of the chemical, claimed that it was no longer economically viable. In this study, I investigated what made the chemical nonviable, with a specific focus on growers’ nonadoption of it. Interviews with strawberry growers in the four top California strawberry-growing counties revealed that growers’ decisions not to use it were primarily related to public disapproval, although the continued availability of methyl bromide and other fumigants played a contributing role by making adoption less urgent. The study results suggest that policies in place during the methyl bromide phaseout did not strongly encourage the development and extension of less toxic alternatives, which undermined the strawberry industry's position.
Fumigant dosages below maximum label rate control some soilborne pathogens
by Shachaf Triky-Dotan, Becky Westerdahl, Frank N. Martin, Krishna Subbarao, Steven T. Koike, Husein A. Ajwa
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P. ultimum and citrus nematode were sensitive to all fumigants at lower application rates, and V. dahliae was resistant.
The activity of commercial soil fumigants on some key soilborne pathogens was assessed in sandy loam soil under controlled conditions. Seven soil fumigants that are registered in California or are being or have been considered for registration were used in this study: dimethyl disulfide (DMDS) mixed with chloropicrin (Pic) (79% DMDS and 21% Pic), Tri-Con (50% methyl bromide and 50% Pic), Midas Gold (33% methyl iodide [MI] and 67% Pic), Midas Bronze (50% MI and 50% Pic), Midas (MI, active ingredient [a.i.] 97.8%), Pic (a.i. 99% trichloronitromethane) and Pic-Clor 60 (57% Pic and 37% 1,3-dichloropropene [1–3,D]). Dose-response models were calculated for pathogen mortality after 24 hours of exposure to fumigants. Overall, the tested fumigants achieved good efficacy with dosages below the maximum label rate against the tested pathogens. In this study, Pythium ultimum and citrus nematode were sensitive to all the fumigants and Verticillium dahliae was resistant. For most fumigants, California regulations restrict application rates to less than the maximum (federal) label rate, meaning that it is possible that the fumigants may not control major plant pathogens. This research provides information on the effectiveness of these alternatives at these lower application rates. The results from this study will help growers optimize application rates for registered fumigants (such as Pic and 1,3-D) and will help accelerate the adoption of new fumigants (such as DMDS) if they are registered in California.
Managing for soil health can suppress pests
by Amanda Hodson, Edwin Lewis
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Researchers are examining alternatives to fumigants in soil pest management, including solarization, microbial inoculation and organic amendments.
A “healthy” soil can be thought of as one that functions well, both agronomically and ecologically, and one in which soil biodiversity and crop management work in synergy to suppress pests and diseases. UC researchers have pioneered many ways of managing soil biology for pest management, including strategies such as soil solarization, steam treatment and anaerobic soil disinfestation, as well as improvements on traditional methods, such as reducing tillage, amending soil with organic materials, and cover cropping. As managing for soil health becomes more of an explicit focus due to restrictions on the use of soil fumigants, integrated soil health tests will be needed that are validated for use in California. Other research needs include breeding crops for disease resistance and pest suppressive microbial communities as well as knowledge of how beneficial organisms influence plant health.
Inconsistent food safety pressures complicate environmental conservation for California produce growers
by Patrick Baur, Laura Driscoll, Sasha Gennet, Daniel Karp
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Responses from 588 fresh produce growers indicate food safety practices to reduce wildlife in crop fields are prevalent, which may impact conservation.
Controlling human pathogens on fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts is imperative for California growers. A range of rules and guidelines have been developed since 2006, when a widespread outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 was linked to bagged spinach grown in California. Growers face pressure from industry and government sources to adopt specific control measures on their farms, resulting in a complex, shifting set of demands, some of which conflict with environmental stewardship. We surveyed 588 California produce growers about on-farm practices related to food safety and conservation. Nearly all respondents considered both food safety and environmental protection to be important responsibilities for their farms. Responses indicate that clearing vegetation to create buffers around cropped fields, removing vegetation from ditches and ponds, and using poison bait and wildlife fences are commonly used practices intended to reduce wildlife movements onto farm fields. The survey also revealed that on-farm practices vary substantially even among farms with similar characteristics. This variability suggests inconsistencies in food safety requirements, auditors’ interpretations or growers’ perception of the demands of their buyers. Although site-specific considerations are important and practices should be tailored to local conditions, our findings suggest growers, natural resources and food safety would benefit from clearer, more consistent requirements.
Soil testing for P and K has value in nutrient management for annual crops
by Daniel Geisseler, Gene Miyao
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As yields rise and drip irrigation increases, testing for available soil nutrients and understanding the results become more important.
Adequate nutrients in forms available to plant roots are essential for sustainable crop production. Soil testing for phosphorus and potassium availability allows growers and crop advisers to determine whether a soil is likely to respond to fertilization. As yields have risen with improved management and production systems, crop nutrient demand and the removal of nutrients with harvested crops have increased. An in-depth discussion of soil tests for phosphorus and potassium and their use in California cropping systems is clearly needed. We review how these nutrients become available to plant roots, how samples are taken and test results interpreted, complementary ways to assess the adequacy of supplies and what research is needed to improve soil testing for phosphorus and potassium.

Early view articles

PEER-REVIEWED
How many workers are employed in California agriculture?
by Philip Martin, Brandon Hooker, Muhammad Akhtar, Marc Stockton
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An analysis of data from agricultural employers suggests that California has a stable agricultural workforce.
In 2014, the average employment of hired workers in California crop and livestock agriculture, counting all occupations, rose by 10% to 410,900. However, although the state reports the number of jobs on farms regularly, it does not report the number of workers who fill these jobs. We analyzed all Social Security numbers reported by farm employers in 2014 and found two workers for each average or year-round equivalent farm job, making the total number of farmworkers employed in agriculture 829,300, or twice average employment. Approximately 83% of farmworkers had their maximum earnings with an agricultural employer in 2014, and almost 80% of those primary farmworkers were employed by crop support firms (392,000) or fruit and nut farms (154,000). Over 60% of all workers had only one farm employer, followed by 27% with two or more farm employers, and 35% were employed in Kern (116,000), Fresno (96,000) and Monterey (82,000) counties. These data show that California has a remarkably stable farm workforce: most farmworkers are attached to one farm employer, often a labor contractor who moves them from farm to farm.
OUTLOOK
Unanswered questions for implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
by Michael Kiparsky
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Editor Jim Downing discusses the July-Sept issue.

 

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UC Agriculture & Natural Resources researchers at Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center are helping growers produce profitable blackberry crops. UC Cooperative Extension & Hansen Ag Research Center, Ventura County

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