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    One in five jobs and $.16 of every dollar created by the Northeastern California economy was tied to agriculture in 2016.

    The Agribusiness Institute (ABI) at California State University, Chico has released its annual report detailing agriculture’s contributions to the regional economy of Northeastern California. The report based on 2016 data shows that despite a continued decrease in commodity prices from the high in 2014, agriculture continues to be a driving force in job creation and economic activity within the region.

    One in five jobs and $.16 of every dollar created by the Northeastern California economy was tied to agriculture in 2016, according to The Contribution of Agriculture to Northeastern California’s Economy in 2016, written by ABI Director Eric Houk, a professor of agricultural business in the College of Agriculture. The report covers economic activity in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity and Yuba Counties.

    The 13 counties in the study area produced $3.9 billion worth of agricultural products in 2016, which was down 5.2 percent from the previous year and 13.3 percent lower than 2014 due to decreased global commodity prices. Despite the decline of the two prior years, agricultural production in the region was up 38 percent from 2007.

    The Contribution of Agriculture to Northeastern California’s Economy in 2016 is supported by U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the California State University Agricultural Research Institute.

    The full report is available online at www.csuchico.edu/ag/about/agribusiness-institute.shtml. 

    Source: California State University-Chico College of Agriculture


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    Using a one-size-fits-all tillage strategy isn’t always the best solution.

    With much focus today on planting technology, tillage ideology and all types of precision technologies, attention to purposeful, precise primary tillage has fallen by the wayside. Fall tillage passes, including vertical tillage, chisel plow, disk ripper and moldboard plow, are done out of routine, tradition or necessity for a variety of reasons. But before you pull out a tillage tool for fall work, there are some things you should consider, says Jeremy Hughes, product manager for Horsch Equipment Co.

    First, ask yourself what you need or want to accomplish with fall tillage. Is it simply to rip up the field? Are you looking at “getting it black”? Or just looking to scratch it up? A fall tillage program is also the start to seedbed preparation, something many farmers forget. The quality of tillage, finish and residue management done in the fall will have direct impact on the quality of the seedbed in spring. Thinking forward, there are several details to consider when approaching fall primary tillage as a step toward seedbed preparation.

    • The combine. First thing to keep in mind with fall tillage and seedbed preparation is that the process starts with the combine during harvest. Whether you are using no-till, minimum till, conservation tillage or conventional tillage practices, paying attention to the details of crop residue management with your combine is the ultimate first step.

    Maintaining sharp knives and stationaries on a wide-spreading straw chopper works wonders when it comes to sizing residue at harvest. Chopping corn heads offer a leap forward to residue decomposition and offers proven yield benefits, year over year. A uniform and consistent layer of finely chopped residue will ensure the beginning of a proper seedbed, whether you no-till or are preparing for fall tillage.

    • Residue sizing. The importance of accelerated decomposition of crop residue can give soils and crops many benefits, but it can also create some issues if not managed properly. One thing to consider with choosing fall tillage techniques is what will work best on your farm to not only maximize residue benefits, but also minimize the negative effects, such as erosion and runoff.

    Residue sizing starts with the combine and must be done with each tillage pass until planting. With today’s GMO and hybrid crop technologies, you have strong stalks to hold plants upright throughout the season. The downside is that these stalks, once the crop is harvested, take longer to decompose than conventional crops. Also, accelerating residue decomposition is essential. The only way to accelerate decomposition is to ensure additional sizing with every pass.

    For example, each time you cut a cornstalk in half, you double the amount of “doors” that digesting bacteria and fungi can enter. This process starts with the combine, with chopping corn heads and with wide-spread, fine-cut straw choppers. As you start your fall tillage program, ensure additional residue sizing beyond what is done with the combine.

    Along with residue sizing, incorporating the residue with soil is crucial for accelerating decomposition. Residue must be introduced to soil bacteria and fungi in order to break down, and the only way to do that is through maximum soil-to-residue contact.

    • Residue security. Have you traveled down the road and seen ditches full of cornstalks? Wind and water can loosen unsecured residue very quickly. Especially when considering a shallow fall tillage pass, ensure you are not only sizing residue but also securing it in the field. Getting residue sized, mixed with soil and firmed down will keep the stalks out of the ditch and accelerate the decomposition process.

    Fertilizer nutrient value (FNV) is a term used to quantify the nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium, micronutrient and organic matter contents found in postharvested residue. When crop residues are properly managed, you can unlock and use the FNV that remains in the residue, which is basically like leftover fertilizer.

    For example, in many studies, 200-bushel corn will typically leave behind 4 tons of residue per acre in the field. For each ton, there are approximately 20 pounds of actual N, 7 pounds of actual P and 33 of actual K left remaining in the residue. That’s not even including micronutrients and organic matter values. Take the current dollar value of N-P-K per actual unit, multiplied by the amounts per ton of residue, and you’ll find $80 to $90 of fertilizer lying in the field. Your choice is to use it or let it go.

    Residue also harbors many pathogens over winter that can linger into future crops. In recent years we’ve seen outbreaks of diseases such as diplodia, leaf streak and others due to spores harboring in residue that isn’t decomposed. The importance of securing residue and promoting accelerated decomposition not only adds nutritional benefits, but also aids in crop health management.

    • Soil integrity. From planting through harvest, fields are constantly compacted. Machinery today gets larger and heavier. Big combines, grain carts, sprayers, tractors and spreaders roll across our soils so that by harvesttime, soil structure isn’t uniform or consistent. Managing soil compaction is one key goal of fall primary tillage.

    When going down to break up compaction, keep this in mind. Rippers don’t always ensure uninhibited root growth by the following crop. Using technology for a thorough horizontal fracture helps ensure a consistent soil structure that will promote deep root growth and provide adequate water infiltration — yet leave a soil structure ideal for spring seedbed preparation. Providing some type of soil firming after fall primary tillage will help keep soils secure to help prevent erosion.

    • What’s best for your farm and your soils. Every farmer has different conditions that require different practices to achieve a sustainable economic and agronomic outcome. Differences in soil type, crop residue levels, weather, climate and topography can all occur from region to region and farm to farm.

    In some areas a thorough, shallow tillage pass is sufficient to prepare the soil and manage residue for next year’s planting. When considering a shallow tillage pass, ensure you are securing residue and promoting rapid decomposition, while maintaining soil integrity.

    In other areas, deeper tillage is needed along with these dynamics to break up compacted soils. Some areas are left with minimal disturbance, and then tillage decisions are made in the spring. It depends on each farmer’s unique situation and cropping dynamics. As cropping conditions change, so does the approach to tillage. A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t always the best solution. For more information, visit horsch.com.

    Source: Horsch Equipment Co.

     


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    The Climate Corporation is moving ahead with Seed Advisor in a prerelease trial for 2019.

    The science of crop modeling keeps advancing. Company software engineers are expanding their knowledge of the interaction among seed, soil, weather and growing conditions to better match crop to location. The latest news on that front comes from The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Bayer.

    The company is advancing its predictive seed selection and placement technology to precommercial testing with farmers this fall. This corn-focused effort aims to help farmers in three states in the Midwest better place the right hybrids on their farms. The implication for the tech, however, is wider-reaching; as more information is available, these types of tools will help farmers across the country fine-tune seed selection.

    For now, the test starts with 50 dealers and 200 customers who will be given access to Seed Advisor, which Climate says is a data-driven tool that provides dealers with a ranked hybrid recommendation by field, and optimal seeding rate recommendations for those fields. “There are complex interactions in the field that we have to sort out,” says Sam Eathington, chief science officer. He adds that these tools are powered by “deep data sets and expansive field trial research.”

    During the announcement event at the 2018 Farm Progress Show, Eathington shared a slide from Fred Below, a professor of plant physiology at the University of Illinois, that shows the seven key factors that impact corn production. Eathington observed that 70% of the actions taken to raise a corn crop are controlled by the farmer. “There’s opportunity there to boost yields,” he says.

    During a 2017 test of Seed Advisor, the company reports the system provided an average advantage of 6 bushels per acre, with a nearly 80% win rate in farmer field trials. The results from 2018 testing on more than 100,000 acres have not yet been released. For 2019, the expanded trial will add even more acres, and the company is targeting 2019 for the full commercial launch of the product — pending results of the larger test.

    Building the database
    A key factor in expanded “smart” seed selection is all that information. Climate has been working on that system for several years, and Tonya Ehlmann, placement science lead, Climate, explains that the system has access to full genetic information for Bayer product seeds — including Channel and Dekalb.

    “We’ve invested the time and money to process the data. We’ve worked to build, validate and test the product in real-life situations,” she says. “We have access to the Bayer research and development hybrid product pipeline that helps build the model to predict performance.”

    This means that even a new hybrid loaded into the system comes along with three or four years of added field performance information from development plots. Ehlmann adds that this helps farmers overcome concerns about the system not keeping up with quicker hybrid changes; an issue that has grown in the past decade for farmers.

    In the field
    Steve Moffitt, a Springfield, Ill., area producer, was on hand to discuss his experience with Seed Advisor, and notes his reaction when first approached: “They came to us with an idea that they had a system that would select hybrids better than me. No way. I was skeptical of this thing,” he admits.

    Moffitt took on the system and accepted about 60% of the recommendations offered. In 13 side-by-side trials in the first year, 10 of 13 were won by the Seed Advisor top choice for that field, with a 7-bushel-per-acre advantage on those “winning” acres. For 2018, Moffitt says he took 95% of the recommendations.

    Greg Deim, a Channel seed dealer, will be among the 50 for the 2019 precommercial test, and he was also involved in the 2018 test. He sees this tool changing the way he talks to customers. “For seed sales, the discussion will be more focused on the science of the field,” he says. “We’ll be able to show the customer exactly why we’re recommending those products.”

    The system works by suggesting the top hybrids for a specific field. The “decision engine” was built using real-world seed performance data and is validated against more than 4 million acres of historical, real-farm performance data from the company’s FieldView platform. Farmers get the top three choices of Bayer-brand hybrids for a field and can choose which to plant, along with the planting rate.

    For Rick DeGroote of Parkersburg, Iowa, the tech has value for his operation that operates in a 40-mile radius across a lot of different field types in his area. He shared that in the past, he might take a recommendation and feel he was shooting himself in the foot with the results. His test experience with Seed Advisor, however, gives him a different kind of confidence. “We were making an educated guess, and there was not a lot of science behind that; now, there is,” he says.

    You can learn more at climate.com.


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    While speculation of significant impacts remains from trade war between the U.S. and China, Rabobank sees a bright spot in the growing Chinese middle-class economy

    Ongoing trade wars between the United States and other countries continue to threaten American agricultural exports, according to a Rabobank study.

    Implications of higher Chinese tariffs on U.S. fruits and nuts could limit U.S. exports at a time when the industry is looking forward to higher consumption based on indications of a growing Chinese middle class. It’s the projected growth in this arena that Rabobank Senior Analysist Roland Fumasi says had U.S. farmers optimistic prior to expanded tariffs by the large nation.

    In 2009 about 28 percent of the world’s middle-class population came from the Asia Pacific region. That is expected to increase to 65 percent by 2030, which he says could bode well for U.S. agricultural exports as buying power increases and more consumers demand the kinds of high-quality commodities produced in California and elsewhere in the United States.

    Current impacts to U.S. pistachio producers could be significant as the Rabobank report says 23 percent of all U.S. pistachio production is exported to China. U.S. cherries could also be hard-hit as 14 percent of domestic cherry production is shipped to China.

    While U.S. exports to Hong Kong still outpace those to China by 3:1, Fumasi says the back-door channel Hong Kong has traditionally provided could be closed as China begins to enforce tariffs more closely on imports moved through Hong Kong. This practice of moving agricultural goods through Hong Kong and other countries ultimately destined for China could be halted, or at least severely hampered, he predicts.

    Though China remains the largest producer of fruits in the world and is the main producer of apples, table grapes, peaches, pears, mandarins, and walnuts, those products tend to be consumed domestically. Additional consumption of these products must be met through imports, of which the U.S. has been a trading partner.

    Rabobank believes as demand for U.S. agricultural goods continues to grow, the outlook remains positive for most of the commodities analyzed in the report. U.S. raisins, peaches and pears may see a slight decrease in demand by export partners due to foreign competition and American farmers removing those crops from their portfolios in favor of more profitable crops.

    Should the United States emerge at least somewhat victorious in agricultural trade negotiations Fumasi believes U.S. fruit and nut exports could be positively affected. Even so, he suspects the increased buying power of Chinese consumers could temper any potential U.S. export losses.

    “The saving grace in all of this could be the growing Chinese middle-class,” Fumasi says.

     


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    Corn quality advances one point, with soybean quality rising two points.

    The latest USDA Crop Progress report was delayed by a day due to “technical issues,” meaning analyst had to wait an extra day to see their expectations of falling crop conditions crumble – with USDA moving both corn and soybean quality higher for the week ending Sept. 9.

    Analysts expected USDA to dock corn quality a point, moving it from 67% in good-to-excellent condition to 66%. But the agency moved crop quality a point higher instead, pushing it to 68% in good-to-excellent condition. Another 20% of the crop is rated fair (down from 21% the prior week), with the remaining 12% rated poor or very poor (unchanged from the prior week).

    A state-by-state look at corn quality shows Nebraska continues to be 2018’s biggest garden spot, with 82% of the state’s corn crop in good-to-excellent condition. The central production corridor of Iowa, Illinois and Indiana all have above-average quality this year, too. On the lower end of the quality spectrum, states like Missouri, North Carolina and Texas continue to struggle.

    “Yield estimates based on USDA’s ratings improved for both corn and soybeans last week, matching gains noted on the latest Vegetation Health Index maps out today, says Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr. “While the VHI showed deterioration in the eastern Midwest due to heavy rains from the remnants of last week’s tropical system, nationwide it showed the same improvement as the Crop Progress condition reports. Our model based on ratings put the yields in a range of 176.1 to 177.7 bushels per acre, up around a third of a bushel.”

    Physiologically, 86% of the corn crop has reached dented stage, up 11 points from last week and trending about a week ahead of the five-year average of 75%. And 35% of the crop is now mature, versus a five-year average of 21%.

    Corn harvest has also kicked off in several states, reaching a nationwide average of 5% complete. Southern states like Texas (63%), North Carolina (43%), Kentucky (24%) and Tennessee (23%) have made the most substantial progress so far.

    USDA also bucked analyst expectations of soybean crop quality, moving from 66% rated good-to-excellent the week prior up to 68% for the week ending September 9. Analysts expected the agency to lower quality by a point this week.

    “Soybeans showed even better improvement, gaining nearly a half bushel per acre, though some of the same stress seen in the VHI in the eastern Midwest also showed up,” Knorr says. “The ratings point to yields of 50.7 to 51.6 bushels per acre nationwide.”

    Physiologically, the 2018 U.S. soybean crop is maturing faster than it has in recent years, with 31% of the crop now dropping leaves, versus 20% a year ago and a five-year average of 19%.

    This year’s spring wheat harvest continues to push toward the finish line, reaching 93% completion – mostly in line with last year’s pace of 94%, and moderately ahead of the five-year average of 85%. Some other crop harvests are just getting started, including sorghum (24% complete) and cotton (10% complete).

    And planting for the 2018/19 winter wheat crop is underway with 5% complete, matching 2017’s pace as well as the five-year average. Washington (29% complete) is the runaway leader so far, with 10 other states making single-digit progress so far.


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    A UC Riverside study quantifies the impact a vibrant and successful citrus industry has to the state's overall economic health

    The commercial production of citrus in California contributes over $7 billion to the state’s economy each year, according to a study from a University of California, Riverside public policy professor.

    Dr. Bruce Babcock wrote a report commissioned by the California Citrus Research Board that quantifies the economic impacts of the citrus industry. His report looks at data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, California Department of Food and Agriculture, county crop reports and other statistics to arrive at his estimate.

    In summary, the report pegs the value of citrus production in the 2016/17 marketing year at over $3.3 billion, with nearly one-third of that value coming out of the counties of Kern and Tulare. For instance, Tulare and Kern counties produced a combined $998 million worth of Navel oranges alone in the 2015/16 marketing season. Babcock quantifies the $3.3 billion value on “citrus sales to all participants in the citrus supply chain up to and including the packinghouse.”

    Beyond the direct sales figures are what economists call “indirect” and “induced” effects. These impacts factor into the $7.1 billion total economic impact of the citrus industry and consider activities such as the sale of goods and services to citrus growers and packinghouses, and the use of payroll by citrus industry employees throughout their communities.

    Babcock’s report also looked at a potential 20 percent reduction in citrus acreage – either through continued regulatory constraints or the loss of groves due to the citrus disease Huanglongbing – and the economic impact that could have. Such a reduction in acreage could cost the state over 7,000 jobs and more than $120 million in reduced employee income as the state sheds over $500 million from its gross domestic product as a result.

    The reason that California’s economy relies as heavily as it does on the citrus industry, and agricultural in general, is due to the sheer volume of agricultural products produced in the state, Babcock states in his report. Food processors exist across the state to convert raw commodities into a plethora of consumer products. Agriculture and closely-related industries account for about one million jobs, representing about 6 percent of total state employment.

    California’s food processing industry employs more than 234,000 and generates $15.7 billion in employment earnings. This compares to farm employment of 241,000 and earnings of $15.9 billion, Babcock writes in his report.

    California’s production of oranges, mandarins, lemons and grapefruit use about 2.4 percent of total farm acreage yet generated about 6.8 percent of the state’s 2015 crop value. Because about 80 percent of the state’s citrus production goes for higher-value, fresh fruit production, the value of citrus in the state is higher than it would be if the fruit were processed for juice.


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    California's citrus industry finds success in collaboration

    California’s rich history isn’t without its recognition of citrus. Cities, counties, streets and schools are named to commemorate the tasty and healthy fruit.

    Commercial citrus growers can thank two organizations for the success the industry has enjoyed over the past 50 years. Together, they’ve helped build an iconic industry worth over $7 billion to the state’s economy.

    California’s Citrus Research Board (CRB) turns 50 this year under the leadership of President Gary Schulz and a board of 20 citrus growers and one public member. It was in 1968 that the industry reacted to the need for a research organization to assist the industry with scientific studies.

    The scientific research funded by CRB is useful not just to California growers, but to a global industry seeking answers to difficult challenges. Certainly, the introduction of Huanglongbing into the United States will rightly command much attention. This will be a critical fight for California’s fresh-fruit industry as history shows the disease has decimated Florida’s citrus industry.

    California Citrus Mutual (CCM) is the industry’s watchdog. Formed about a decade after CRB, CCM got its start in similar fashion – growers recognized a need that could not be addressed singularly and collaborated on a solution.

    For nearly the entire life of CCM, Joel Nelsen has been the board’s choice to lead the organization, which today represents about 80 percent of the state’s industry through voluntary membership.

    By all indications Nelsen does an effective job serving the citrus industry. He’s a skilled communicator, an effective negotiator and is fiercely supportive of the California citrus industry. He understands issues and his leadership is sought in Sacramento and Washington. I understand CCM may have influenced a recent State Water Resources Control Board decision to table a controversial water decision until November.

    Though commodity-specific, CCM is an organization that brings various interests to the table for common goals and objectives. This is important for an industry with its branded products that compete against each other for bin space at the grocery store. Agriculture in general could learn a lesson from such cooperation.

    This was seen a couple years ago when Nelsen spearheaded a meeting where competing companies agreed to privately fund a Level 3 biosafety lab in Riverside after years of effort to publicly fund such a facility failed. Though Nelsen says the credit belongs with the consortium of companies who gave $7 million for the project, Nelsen and CCM deserve credit for moving the ball on this one.

    While each have completely different missions, CCM and CRB are two of the crown jewels of an industry deserving continued support for their collective efforts. Whether it’s the scientific research necessary to find a cure for HLB and other critical pest and disease issues, or the political advocacy meant to protect growers from an onslaught of onerous regulations, both groups are a necessary and important part of an iconic California industry.


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    50 years ago the California citrus industry asked for a marketing order to oversee critical research to benefit an iconic state industry

    As milestone anniversaries go, 50 years is significant. For the California citrus industry and its reliance upon the Citrus Research Board (CRB) for critical research advancements the continued grower support suggests the marketing order is on the right track.

    Careful scientific study and the results from them take time, money and effort. Organizations like CRB spend much of each addressing issues that in the end are designed to improve the sustainability of an industry worth over $7 billion to the California economy.

    Citrus handlers and processors pay the assessment that funds the marketing order. The rate for the 2017-18 season is just over five cents per 40-pound field box, or equivalent. This funds everything from general production research to variety improvement, quality assurance studies on agricultural chemical residues, pest and disease control functions, and other pertinent activities of the state’s citrus industry.

    The board in turn funds other programs, including much of the work of the California Citrus Quality Council (CCQC). According to CRB President Gary Schulz, it’s the CCQC’s job to work with packinghouses and overseas trade offices on non-tariff trade barriers, such as maximum residue levels created by trading partners. Because it is a marketing order, the CRB cannot lobby politically.

    “The industry is pretty unified behind the need to develop tools and solutions to the problems that face us,” says Jim Gorden, a current CRB board member and past board chairman.

    Critical Research

    CRB Chairman Dan Dreyer says the implications of the research performed or funded by CRB is legion and not a day goes by that he doesn’t learn something new that he can employ in groves he manages through his own farm management company or through Limoneira, where he serves as ranch manager for Central Valley operations.

    Current topics of research include, but are not limited to, early detection methods for HLB that may be able to give growers a hint at which trees are diseased well ahead of when current lab testing methods can render qualified proof.

    Much of CRB’s focus is centered on the one issue of critical importance to California citrus growers: Huanglongbing (HLB), or citrus greening disease. This is the bacterial disease that got its U.S. roots in Florida and eventually found its way to Texas and California after the introduction of an invasive insect called the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP). While the disease has been confirmed in over 850 urban citrus trees in the greater Los Angeles area, its discovery has not been confirmed in commercial groves in any of the main growing regions of the state.

    A regulatory HLB quarantine now exists in two zones across the southern California region while quarantines for the ACP exist throughout the state.

    Cure-related research and studies to find useful and easily-deployed early detection methods for HLB are ongoing as scientists continue to learn about the disease and the bug that vectors it. For instance, the latency period between when a tree is infected by feeding ACP and when the tree elicits a sufficient response to the disease can be a year or more.

    The only approved method to determine if a citrus tree has HLB is through PCR testing. Known fully as the “polymerase chain reaction,” this is a lab-based, scientific method used to amplify small segments of DNA for detection of bacteria, viruses and many other uses. While it is effective at diagnosing diseased trees, the industry has learned that it is critical to know which part of a tree to collect samples as the bacteria that causes HLB can be present in one part of a tree, and not in other segments of the tree.

    Disease-centric focus

    Gorden is a citrus grower with groves along the eastern edge of the San Joaquin Valley near Lemon Cove, Exeter and Strathmore. He was CRB chairman when the industry wanted a state-run citrus program to address the ACP and HLB. He now chairs the state Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program Committee, an organization that partners with CRB and the industry to address HLB.

    In addition to the new state program, CRB worked with the industry to fund insect-proof screenhouses and greenhouses to protect the state’s citrus clonal protection program. Duplicate systems are in place to protect citrus materials in Riverside and the Lindcove Research and Extension Center. An experimental packing line was also added to the Lindcove Research and Extension Center as part of the industry’s studies into ACP spread.

    “Where our focus used to be water, water, water, and it still is to a large degree, now with California citrus our focus is HLB, HLB, HLB,” said Schulz. “If we don’t resolve it or figure out a way to manage it – and this is a risky position to take – it could be very detrimental to us.”

    California citrus industry leaders have closely watched the Florida citrus industry since HLB was found in south Florida in 2005. This was seven years after the first ACP was discovered in Miami. Since then both the bug and the disease have spread across the state and citrus production is down about 70 percent. California is trying to prevent that from happening to its high-value, fresh fruit market.

    Gorden thinks California’s mix of fresh-market varieties might bode well in the fight against HLB as some varieties might be less susceptible to the disease. He also believes fighting hard against the ACP in the main citrus production regions of the Central Valley and Central Coast can be helpful as the mountains between southern California and the San Joaquin Valley provide a natural barrier to the pest. The only known way for the pest to migrate into the San Joaquin Valley is by hitchhiking on loads of citrus coming north from southern California, or by homeowners transporting infested fruit or plant materials throughout the state. Quarantine rules are in place to prevent the movement of ACP into the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere.

    Early Detection

    There are currently no recognized early detection methods that growers can easily employ for HLB. Dogs are currently being tested in California and have been tested elsewhere, but some in the industry are not ready to trust a method that relies on dogs detecting an odor or some other sensory signal.

    Dogs were recently studied at the University of California, Riverside campus where they alerted on several trees in the research grove. Those trees have since been covered and are being watched to see if they may be infected with HLB.

    “The hypothesis is the dog potentially has the ability to detect HLB sooner than the PCR,” says Dreyer. “While a PCR test must find a specific location in the tree that has been infected, the dogs can potentially smell the entire tree. We just don’t know what the dogs are detecting at this point.”

    Other early detection methods include molecular tests. Some promising work seems to have been made related to specific proteins elicited as a response to the disease. These proteins are only present with the disease and seem to be detectible sooner than the disease. Creating such a tool for growers to use that is easy and cost-effective may still be years away.

    According to Schulz, CRB retains a business developer and attorney specializing in intellectual property rights to help both the industry and a potential inventor when a new early detection tool is developed.

    Funded-projects

    Dr. Melinda Klein is the chief research scientist for CRB. Her job includes overseeing five major research areas. These include production efficiency, new variety development, vectored diseases, post-harvest diseases and technology, and pest management. CRB also supports the citrus clonal protection program, which was established over 50 years ago as a mechanism to introduce citrus varieties from throughout the world into California for research, variety improvement or use by the commercial citrus industry.

    When it comes to HLB studies, Klein says California still must rely on Florida research for outdoor field work because California law requires diseased residential trees be removed and destroyed. There are no known commercial trees with the disease.

    UC Davis has a quarantine lab to study diseased plant materials and a level three biosafety lab is near completion in Riverside to study HLB.

    The CRB will commemorate its half-century of service to the citrus industry during the 2018 California Citrus Conference, Oct. 10, at the Wyndham Visalia, 9000 Airport Drive, Visalia, Calif. Registration opens at 6:30 a.m. To register online visit https://tinyurl.com/ya4tmmh3.


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    As industry watchdog groups go, California Citrus Mutual maintains influence and credibility in Sacramento and Washington

    With a rich history that dates to the settlement of West Coast locations like Los Angeles, Pasadena and Hollywood, California’s iconic citrus industry can be traced back more than 100 years.

    For the past 40 years one organization helped lead this industry through an ever-expanding set of issues that started in the mid-1970s over a single issue. This month marks the 41st anniversary of the organization that today successfully represents much of the state’s citrus industry on a broad array of economic, regulatory and political issues.

    California Citrus Mutual (CCM) advocates on behalf of the state’s $7.2 billion citrus industry that over four decades ago began as an idea borne from the frustrations of low grower returns, according to CCM President Joel Nelsen.

    “Their net revenue wasn’t what they thought it should be and they couldn’t get any answers from their packinghouses or marketing group,” Nelsen said.

    “There was a feeling back then that this was as good as it gets,” he continued.

    About that time California growers got wind of the success of Florida Citrus Mutual, an association known to be extremely active on behalf of its grower members. This was at a time Nelsen said California citrus growers were also considering the formation of a bargaining association to promote higher prices for their fresh-market fruit.

    Formed in 1976, CCM volunteers gave themselves one year to achieve a committed response from growers representing 44,000 acres of citrus. By October, 1977 they achieved this and immediately found themselves “in a bit of a civil war” as the packinghouses resented the fact that growers were organizing.

    Growers began to immediately challenge citrus packers on pricing issues and what Nelsen understands as “less-than-solid” information on what marketers and packers were doing.

    “There was some controversy when it started,” he said.

    As citrus growers became more organized and better informed on pricing issues – growers were already talking to each other in greater detail about the specifics of their returns – it became evident that packinghouse statements were inconsistent. From this CCM developed “The Market Memo,” which in those days was a newsletter that discussed market dynamics and pricing in specific terms.

    “There wasn’t a lot of integrity in the packinghouse statements at the time,” Nelsen said. “The accounting was accurate, but there wasn’t a lot of integrity relative the statements themselves.”

    Nelsen was enticed by CCM board members to take his current position in 1982 while serving in the fresh produce industry in southern California.

    In his former position Nelsen worked with local media on challenges in the marketplace, organized events for home economics teachers, pioneered a newspaper column on fresh commodities, and teaching consumers how to select fresh produce. Today he is perhaps one of the longest-tenured agricultural executives in the state. As such, he is is widely-known across agriculture circles as his efforts on behalf of the citrus industry sometimes carry over into other commodities and agriculture in general.

    Leadership

    Current CCM Board Chairman Curt Holmes says part of the organization’s mission includes constantly meeting with regulators and lawmakers in a continued effort to make them aware of issues important to the industry. Aside from Huanglongbing issues, which have commanded the industry’s attention since it was found in California in 2012, water sits atop industry concerns.

    “We’re hoping that if we speak long enough and loud enough we can swing the pendulum back in our favor,” Holmes said. “There’s no way we can farm when SGMA gets implemented the way it’s going to be. There’s got to be more water supplies.”

    To date Holmes says CCM has been successful in its negotiations on federal issues, including Farm Bill programs that could help the citrus industry.

    Growing influence

    Citrus mutual’s influence did not happen overnight, but rather came through a series of “watershed moments” Nelsen says can be attributed to the organization’s success and clout in agricultural and political circles.

    One was an industry-wide advertising program CCM wanted, but Sunkist, the dominant marketer of the day, didn’t. Nelsen said he and Sunkist leadership negotiated a deal that was voted upon by growers. The controversial plan failed, but through it Nelsen developed a good working relationship with Sunkist.

    Another of these moments came with the 1990 freeze, which wiped out the state’s citrus crop as temperatures in the San Joaquin Valley never warmed above 25 degrees for several days.

    “We took this seriously,” Nelsen said. As offers of assistance came in from Sacramento and Washington, CCM continued to assert itself as a voice of the California citrus grower.

    “You couldn’t solve the freeze or the lack of revenue, but you could create some solutions for growers,” he continued.

    Nelsen says the organization’s success it’s not just about him, but his board of directors and staff. He also talks positively about leadership in the citrus industry that two years ago recognized a new challenge in Huanglongbing, a lethal citrus disease discovered four years earlier in a southern California yard and was already responsible for reduced commercial citrus production in Florida and Texas.

    “I invited a handful of people into a room in Exeter and explained the situation and suggested we do something,” Nelsen said. This was the genesis of construction of the new biosafety level 3 (BSL3) laboratory next to the University of California, Riverside campus that the citrus industry will own and control.

     “Within 60 days we had commitments to fund the lab and 60 days after that we had $7 million in the bank,” Nelsen said.

    “It’s not that I did that; it’s that the industry provided the leadership to generate support to accomplish an objective,” he continued.

    Nelsen says the primary goal of the BSL3 facility is to find a cure for HLB and beat back the disease so it’s not an issue to commercial growers. To date well-over 800 residential citrus trees across southern California diagnosed with the disease have been removed and destroyed by state officials. The disease has not been found in commercial citrus, though growers and the industry suspect it may be there.

    Holmes says the BSL3 lab is an important step in addressing that challenge as growers look for resistant trees and early detection methods.

    HLB challenges

    The proliferation of HLB in southern California has CCM and others in the citrus industry on edge as over 850 diseased residential trees have been removed in the greater Los Angeles area because of confirmed disease testing. Though the disease has yet to be found in commercial citrus, industry officials are not counting their blessings just yet as some will quietly admit they believe the disease may be hiding in a commercial grove somewhere.

    That’s why Nelsen says the industry will soon begin the difficult conversations surrounding the probably discovery of HLB in commercial California groves.

    While the state currently tests residential trees for HLB, it does not do the same in commercial groves. Growers must do this at their own cost and effort.

    The larger concern becomes when a grower finds HLB – what does he or she do? Will they quietly go on; will they remove that tree and replant; or, will the industry force additional trees to be removed as a potential safeguard against harboring a disease that is not completely understood?

    Trade issues

    When talks of a “trade war” between China and the United States recently became public “citrus got hit first with these trade tariffs,” Holmes said. “And that’s when we landed in Washington.”

    Nelsen told members at a recent membership meeting that the citrus industry’s inclusion in the trade disputes was “an unintended consequence” of larger trade negotiations President Trump was engaging with other nations over things like intellectual property rights and the unfair balance of trade affecting U.S. aluminum and steel manufacturers.

    “Those guys are hurting,” Nelsen says of the metal manufacturers.

    Nelsen believes the Trump Administration is trying to fix trade problems left unsolved by previous administrations, and that’s why CCM is actively working with the USDA on potential solutions to ensure the California citrus industry does not suffer unduly by potential trade tariffs.

    Still, citrus stands to be negatively impacted by Chinese tariffs that CCM is working to address.

    Holmes told federal officials “if the citrus industry is going to be a pawn to leverage other deals, then you’ve got to help us out. We need help with water and HLB to keep us in business.”

    Holmes farms various citrus varieties from Reedley to McFarland. As a grower he knows he can’t simply focus on HLB but must concern himself with an onslaught of state and federal regulations that reduces his returns and threatens to put him out of business.

    “Water is a huge deal for us as well,” Holmes says.

    He receives irrigation water from the large Friant Water Authority system, which several years ago was drawn into the larger federal water curtailments that left growers with no surface irrigation in the state.

    Holmes points to California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and other water issues that could regulate farmers out of sufficient irrigation supplies.

    “We have a lot of ground that doesn’t have district water, which could idle tens of thousands of acres,” he continued.

    Win some, lose some

    Nelsen admits the organization doesn’t win them all. He points to the recent USDA decision to allow lemons from Argentina into the United States after a successful 1998 effort to keep the fruit out of the country because of pest and disease concerns.

    Holmes says it’s still too early to tell how the import of Argentine lemons into the U.S. will affect California’s industry, “but it can’t help.”

    Nevertheless, CCM maintains credibility in state and federal discussions by remaining vigilant and a constant presence in political circles. This was evident with Nelsen’s recent promotion to chair the USDA’s Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee for specialty crops. He was asked several years ago to serve on this committee after helping the USDA resolve a free trade agreement with South Korea that at first did not go well for the United States, but one in which CCM was initially not involved.

    California Citrus Mutual is a voluntary membership organization representing 75-80 percent of the industry, which produces much of the nation’s fresh-market citrus. The organization is based in Exeter, Calif.


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  • 09/17/18--01:52: Editing in a yield increase

  • Yield10 is an ag bioscience company focused on targeted genes that show promise in boosting yield.

    The promise of gene editing to boost crop performance is real. The key is finding which genes that can be turned on or off will help reach the desired result. There’s success for editing soybeans for high-oleic production and work being done on waxy corn. Yield10, a Massachusetts company, has recently announced success with work on camelina; but for this company, success with the alternative crop is just the start.

    Oliver Peoples, CEO, Yield10, talked with Farm Progress about the company’s approach and his insights into the regulation of gene editing and why it shows promise for the future. “We use traditional genetic engineering to identify targets, and we work with those targets,” he explains.

    Camelina, often touted as a potential source for biodiesel, gets a boost from a Yield10 innovation. The company identified C3004 as a novel yield trait, and in growth chamber studies it found seed yield increases as high as 65% over wild types. The company is going into a field test program in 2019 for the trait to further prove how it works.

    Yield has often been a target for enhancing crops. Peoples explains that it’s possible to see a yield increase with a single gene. The keys are understanding key plant processes and working on genes that overcome issues or enhance those processes. Yield10 works on how plants interact with carbon, which can be a limiting factor to performance. C3004 is one of several genes the company has identified for camelina and canola, but Peoples says there’s more opportunity.


    MORE SEEDS, BRANCHING: The novel yield trait C3004 deployed in the camelina plant on the right shows increased seed yield and branching as compared to the control camelina plant on the left. (Photo courtesy of Yield10)

    “Our seed increase in camelina is pretty impressive,” he notes. “We can move that to canola, soybeans, corn.” He noted that his company is working to identify the specific gene that can enhance seed production in those crops, too, but he’s not ready to share.

    “We are working with traits, but we have to prove what we’ve found works,” he says. “The reason we announced the C3004 results is that we’ve filed a patent on the gene.” He notes that there are equivalent genes in key row crops, and Yield10 researchers are working extensively to flesh that information out.

    “We want traits to be as robust as possible,” he adds.

    Complete package
    Yield has often been a challenge for plant breeders. Many believe that it’s a multigene trait, which makes the process more complicated. “It’s a single gene trait for yield increase,” says Peoples of his company’s work. “We’re really focused on seed yield as the primary driver for the farmer.”

    Yield10 will develop and identify the technology and then offer it up as a license it to key seed companies such as Corteva, Beck’s and Bayer. “You have to stack that trait with other key agronomic traits that farmers expect, including herbicide tolerance and insect resistance,” he says.

    As with any trait, the key is having it expressed in the best commercially available germplasm. A higher seed yield doesn’t do much for a farmer if the plant gets hit by rootworms or overcome by weeds. But partner a seed-increasing supertrait with those known agronomic protective traits, and there’s interesting potential there.

    Peoples, who is Scottish by heritage, offers interesting insight into the recent ruling by the European Union that gene-edited plants would be regulated as if they were GMOs. That’s a totally opposite approach being taking by the U.S., China and other countries.

    “I’m actually Scottish, and I look at the EU and I shake my head,” Peoples says. “The protectionism, bureaucracy, NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and false claims have taken over the conversation, and they have no interest in changing that dynamic. They do not have regulations based on real science; in my cynical view, they’re more interested in protecting the Common Agricultural Policy [of the EU].”

    He points to the irony that there are already dairy starter cultures in use in Europe that were produced through gene editing. This is bacteria in yogurt directly consumed by people — not a gene-edited crop that is processed and not consumed in its original form. “They’ll eat live microbes that are gene-edited, but they are concerned about an edited crop that’s harvested and processed,” he says.

    Yet Peoples is optimistic about gene editing and all the molecular biology tools in the plant breeding world. The use of gene-editing tools like CRISPR-Cas9 is a turbocharged technology that holds a lot of promise for the future. “Gene editing can accelerate plant breeding, and companies are working to make that happen,” he says. “One of the big challenges is, what you know includes what you think you know, and what you actually know about a gene and its action. Companies are using data and investments in plant genomics to define a small number of actionable gene targets to get meaningful outcomes.”

    The net result is that farmers are just starting to see the true commercial potential of this technology. You can learn more about Yield10 at yield10bio.com. The site also explains the key plant pathways the company has targeted for gene discovery: how plants metabolize carbon.

     


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    "In North Carolina we’ve been here before. We know what this is. We don’t like it. We will weather this storm but it will take some time."

    Hurricane Florence could not have come at a worse time for North Carolina agriculture.

    “We are in the middle of harvest season on some crops, just beginning harvest season on some and haven’t really begun on others,” said North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten in a Monday afternoon interview with Southeast Farm Press following the weekend storm.

    “Our tobacco crop was a little late this year. Fifty percent of the tobacco was still in the field and the best quality tobacco was still in the field. It is yet to be determined whether that tobacco that is left in the field will be salvageable or not. It depends on the temperature and the wind damage. In some areas we know it won’t be salvageable,” he said.

    As for cotton, Wooten says preliminary reports show damage ranging from very little to a total loss. He is concerned about the damage by wind and rain to the cotton that has already opened up.

    “We haven’t begun peanut harvest yet. Our peanuts are still in the ground. If the water gets off of them, with blue skies and the wind blows with these sandy loamy soils, these peanuts will probably be OK, but I’m not sure.”

    Wooten is also concerned about North Carolina sweet potatoes because 75 percent of the crop is still in the field. Quality and yield could be down this year, depending on soil type or if the sweet potatoes remain under water for an extended period of time. “They could sour and rot, and that certainly would not be a very marketable quality potato. If sweet potatoes are on a hill, and a lot of them are, then they can dry out and they can be dug, and we could be OK,” Wooten said.

    Wooten is also concerned about the North Carolina soybean crop. The North Carolina Soybean Association notes that due to the timing of the storm, most of the soybeans in the state are not mature and at significant risk of damage due to moisture or flooding.

    Wooten said corn should be in better shape than other crops because much of the corn is grown in eastern North Carolina, and farmers worked around the clock with the help of other farmers and their neighbors to harvest much of the crop before the storm.

    When it comes to crop insurance, Wooten urges farmers to remain patient. “You can’t adjust all of those claims in one day, two days or one week. We’re going to ask folks to have patience with crop insurance. In our case with our insurance company, if your adjusters can’t get out and travel the roads and get to the places, you can’t really adjust the claims. We had a lot of claims that have been filed online, which is a good thing.”

    Wooten says he is confident North Carolina farmers will persevere. “Our thoughts and concerns go out to those farmers and farm families. In North Carolina, we’ve been here before. We know what this is. We don’t like it. We will weather this storm, but it will take some time,” he said.


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    Corn stays at 68% good-to-excellent, with soybean dropping one point to 67%.

    For the week ending Sept. 16, USDA has elected to keep corn quality steady, while docking soybean quality by a point, as harvest progress begins to accelerate for both crops.

    Largely in line with analyst expectations, USDA kept 68% of the 2018 U.S. corn crop rated good-to-excellent, with another 20% of the crop rated fair and the remaining 12% rated poor or very poor. None of those figures shifted from the week prior.

    Even so, some significant regional shifts occurred last week – particularly with the presence of Hurricane Florence moving through the Mid-Atlantic, notes Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr.

    “The impact in corn so far in North Carolina amounts to a loss of nearly six bushels per acre of yield potential, with soybeans losing almost two bpa in the state,” he says. “Coupled with a pullback in conditions noted in last week’s Vegetation Health Index maps, it suggests yield estimates from USDA may have peaked for the season.”

    Broader yield losses aren’t nearly as severe, Knorr adds.

    “The drop in ratings amounted to around 0.15 of a bushel nationwide for soybeans, but just 0.06 of a bushel for corn,” he says.

    Physiologically, corn’s progress remains ahead of recent averages, with 93% of the crop now dented versus 84% a year ago and a five-year average of 86%. And 54% of the crop has reached maturity, versus 32% at the same time in 2017 and a five-year average of 36%.

    Harvest progress is slim but definitely started, having reached 9% completion by Sept. 16. That’s compared to the prior week’s progress of 5%, last year’s pace of 7% and a five-year average of 6%.

    USDA docked soybean quality by a point this past week, moving the crop from rated 68% good-to-excellent to 67%. Another 23% of the crop is rated fair (up a point from the prior week), with the remaining 10% rated poor or very poor (unchanged from the prior week).

    A total of 53% of this year’s crop is dropping leaves, up from 31% the prior week, and well ahead of last year’s pace of 38% and a five-year average of 36%.

    Soybean harvest has reached 6%, which is also ahead of 2017’s pace of 4% and a five-year average of 6%. Three states (Louisiana, Mississippi and North Dakota) have made double-digit progress so far, with USDA only reporting zero measurable progress from two of the top 18 production states (Kansas and Michigan).

    Spring wheat harvest edges closer to completion, passing the 97% mark last week. That pace is in line with 2017’s pace of 98% and a bit ahead of the five-year average of 92%. Each of the top six production states have made harvest progress totaling at least 94% at this time.

    And winter wheat planting progress continues, moving from the prior week’s progress of 5% up to 13% complete – quite in line with 2017’s pace of 12% and a five-year average of 14%.

    Cotton’s harvest pace of 13% is slightly ahead of 2017’s pace of 11% and moderately ahead of the five-year average of 6%.


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    Bayer management outlines the course of action for the newly combined business

    With the final ink barely dry on the papers that finalized the acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer, the new management took on the Future of Farming Dialogue sponsored by Bayer in Germany. Liam Condon, president, Bayer Crop Science division, and Bob Reiter, global head of research and development, Bayer Crop Science, shared the future vision for the new company detailing its direction.

    Condon outlined the challenges facing agriculture, and it starts with food security, which he acknowledged has no easy solutions. “It’s easy to provide black and white simplistic answers to complex questions but creating food security in a sustainable manner requires a holistic approach,” he told the audience. “Food is one of the most culturally sensitive topics in the world.”

    Talking about sustainability and food security for Bayer also means offering solutions in the context that Bayer is a company, “It’s a business, not an NGO, not a not-for-profit,” Condon added. “This is a business that firmly believes it’s a better business by doing good in society.”

    Condon noted that acquisition of Monsanto creates an opportunity for a transformation for agriculture setting out ways to use science for a better life, for crop science, for farmers, for consumers and the planet, he said. “That’s what the new company is all about.”

    Running the numbers of the new company, Condon noted there are 35,000 employees, 8,000 scientists in the lab and in the field, at work for the company. While final numbers of market share, sales and other key factors haven’t been locked down since the acquisition is still coming into focus, Condon laid claim to being No. 1 in corn and soybean seed; No. 1 in fruit and vegetable crops; No. 1 in cereals; and he’s taking out the top position in digital farming with The Climate Corporation.

    “Across the board we have an extremely strong starting position, but it doesn’t make sense to say ‘Mission Accomplished’ we are aiming to set entirely new standards in the market in three areas,” he said. The areas are innovation, sustainability and digital transformation.

    In the overlap of the three disciplines, Condon noted the creation of tailored solutions to be available for farmers around the world. “Those are the defining pillars of our strategy going forward, and we’ve only been together for three weeks, this is not the shiny, polished presentation of what the new company stands for, but it is what this company is going to stand for and what we’re aiming for,” Condon said.

    The how of a strategy

    That listed set of pillars – innovation, sustainability and digital transformation – all sound good but how will Bayer achieve those goals? “We know what we’re going to do, but how we’re going to do it and how as a company we want to be perceived matters,” he said.

    Condon pointed to three areas of the ‘how’ including working responsibly to create a dialogue with society and work as a company to do the right thing.

    The second area is to be collaborative, which Condon explained is having the company in a listening mode to learn what customers want and he says the company plans to “walk the talk” of collaboration.

    Finally, Bayer will be transparent, working to make company data more available to consumers and others. While he said the company won’t release intellectual property or process information, there’s no reason that all safety data can’t be released, he said. And that’s true for glyphosate, a product that’s gotten its share of unwanted attention recently with the California court loss.

    In a discussion later in the day, Condon noted that the “gift” of the glyphosate lawsuit was like that “Christmas sweater you get that you don’t want to wear,” he smiled. “That’s not the final decision and we will deal with it and move on.”

    Condon explained that the new business will bring an “entirely new level of innovation, sustainability and digital transformation” to agriculture. “I think we’re a company that needs to think in the long term. It takes 10 years to develop a new product,” he said. “Farmers think in terms of generations. We have to think long term and address the huge societal challenge [ahead].”

    Research leader outlines goals

    Reiter took a deeper look at the role of development for the company in the future. Adding to Condon’s comments regarding work in seeds and traits, crop protection and digital data science, he noted that “every one of our customers is unique and we can tailor solutions to help each individual customer.”

    Sharing how far tech has come, Reiter pointed to the DNA chip, which represents information from 14 acres of field research that can be used to make decisions in the breeding program. “Our breeding organization has made thousands of decisions using those chips,” he said. “We conduct our entire first year of testing in the laboratory. That was unfathomable 20 years ago. We’ve gained tremendous ability in molecular biology.”

    But what does bringing Bayer and Monsanto really do? He points to a key advantage as the new company moves forward with product development: the move from sequential to parallel product development. With Bayer’s extensive crop protection product portfolio, Reiter explains it would be possible to develop a crop that’s tolerant to a herbicide at the same time the new herbicide is going through development. The result could shave years off bringing out a new herbicide tolerance system.

    These kinds of advantages can add up on the bottom line pretty quickly. During a post presentation conversation, Reiter was asked what he’s most enthused about with the combination. “Personally, our research and development people are so excited to collaborate together,” he said. “At Monsanto we had a few chemists, at Bayer they had a few biologists. Together we have thousands of scientists in these two disciplines for the future.”

    He noted that on plant visits soon after the acquisition was final, he came across several examples of people working on one area on the biological side that wanted to know which Bayer chemist to reach out to; and on the Bayer side there were chemists who wanted to know whom to call for a specific project at the legacy Monsanto office.

    Combining two companies isn’t easy. There are thousands of details to work out, culture changes to make and even figuring out capabilities for staff members in different divisions can be time consuming. But Condon and Reiter shared the common theme of being ready to move forward and get the work done. It’s an important time in agricultural history, and it bears watching.


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    Amid a push for more practical education, scientists’ research and advice helps industry survive.

    In recent years, I’ve had the good fortune to visit and work with some of California’s most successful trade schools and career-technical education programs.

    About a year ago, I visited with instructors and students involved with an apprenticeship program at Stockton’s San Joaquin Delta College called ThinkBIG, in which students split their time between classes and work in the service department of a Caterpillar dealership.

    I’ve done several projects involving the agriculture and heavy equipment program at Shasta College in Redding, whose dormitory immerses students in the campus’ farming operation. Shasta’s heavy equipment program offers certificates in trades such as welding, equipment operation, and maintenance, which students can use to get jobs in logging, construction, or other industries.

    Many argue that programs such as this are the wave of the future, as recent high school graduates become wary of racking up thousands of dollars of debt going to a four-year university and risking not being able to find a job when they earn their degrees.

    Highlighting this fear was a 2013 report by economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York asserting that only 27 percent of graduates found jobs related to their majors, and only 62 percent of graduates ended up with jobs that required a college degree.

    Some commentators point to declining enrollment in many universities’ humanities and social sciences programs as evidence that higher education in the future will be dominated by STEM subjects, such as business and economics, as students seek degrees that will lead to better employment.

    If this is the case, I can think of no more practical application of science and technology than occurs in the agriculture departments of land grant colleges, including the University of California. In fact, it’s not an overstatement to say the vast network of Cooperative Extension offices and research facilities operated by the UC has enabled agriculture in the Golden State to survive amid daunting challenges.

    Drought? The UC is developing soil maintenance strategies, conducting groundwater recharge trials, and giving growers updated evapotranspiration information so they can manage water stress in trees. Labor shortages? The UC is working on numerous automation projects.

    There’s no greater example of the UC’s practical approach than its relationship with the Citrus Research Board, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Among their numerous joint efforts, the UC and CRB are working feverishly to protect the state’s commercial groves from the deadly tree disease Huanglongbing, which has devastated citrus in the U.S. Southeast.

    Stephanie Doria, a UC-Davis graduate who is now a staff research assistant at the UC’s Lindcove Research and Extension Center, puts it this way: “It’s very practical — that’s the best thing. We’re producing research that actually helps people.”

    For that, growers throughout California, particularly in the citrus industry, are grateful.


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    “There are a lot of ifs right now. Unfortunately, it looks like the if is very negative,” North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler says.

    Both North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and South Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers surveyed damage from Hurricane Florence by airplane Tuesday. In North Carolina, the area east of I-95 appears most devastated from the storm while in South Carolina, Dillon, Marion, Marlboro Counties - in that order – appear to be the most severely impacted by crop damage.

    Troxler flew for five and half hours, surveying the worst areas impacted by Florence. He says many of the areas he surveyed showed utter devastation with nothing but rooftops sticking out and crops totally under water. He said it looks like it will be awhile before the water completely recedes in the most impacted areas.

    “The duration of the event, when it started and when it ended made this storm particularly bad,” Troxler said. “The lower end of Duplin County, Pender County and Bladen County are totally devastated. Lumberton is almost completely under water. We’ve got flooding equal if not worse than Hurricane Matthew.”

    Troxler said  the impacted area runs from the southern part of the state to the northern part and then back toward Raleigh. “It’s a huge area. The area east of I-95 is where most our agriculture production and value is, and that’s where it is worse,” he adds.

    A considerable amount of tobacco was harvested before the storm hit, but Troxler says a “goodly amount” is still in the field and is at least damaged. “Is it damaged beyond selling? We won’t know until they get the tobacco out of the barn,” he said.

    “There are a lot of ifs right now. Unfortunately, it looks like the if is very negative,” Troxler said. “2015 was an exceptionally wet year in eastern North Carolina and then we had Hurricane Matthew in 2016. We had a decent crop in 2017 and now we have Florence. It’s been ugly, and we’re going to have to do everything we can to help our farmers so that they will be back again.”

    Troxler says it is incredibly difficult for farmers to find encouragement amidst the devastation.

    “Being a farmer myself I have lived through some disasters and I understand it. You don’t have a choice. You put your head down, you bow your neck and you go forward. After what I’ve seen, there are some definite disasters out there,” he said.  

    “Pray for the people in the affected area. Every time I do this, I come back almost distraught from what I’ve seen. When you see people’s homes under water, farms under water, crops under water, it’s a pitiful situation, but we in North Carolina have always been a place of partnerships and a place where neighbor helps neighbor and we will depend on that this time for a better outcome.”

    In South Carolina, Weathers and U.S. Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.)  flew over Chesterfield, Dillon, Florence, Hory, Marlboro and Marion Counties.  Weathers reports that cotton was most impacted by high wind, followed by peanuts damaged by drenched soil and soybeans whose pods were blown from plants. He said Dillon, Marion, Marlboro Counties - in that order – appear to be the most severely impacted by crop damage.

     “No crop was a total loss; those that suffered the most were the closest to harvest,” Weathers said.

    “As I said to the farmers at one of the stops, this has become all too familiar.  One of the farms we visited today, I’ve actually visited that same farm two of the last three years because of natural disasters,” he added.

     

     


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