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Kawamura picked WGA board chair

A.G. Kawamura, a grower and shipper of fresh produce from Orange County, Calif., was elected chairman of the board of Western Growers Association during the group's recent 76th annual meeting in Hawaii.

Kawamura is a partner of Orange County Produce, LLC. He joined his family business as a produce salesman for Western Marketing Co. in 1978. He managed sales and exports for eight years before transitioning to the production side of the firm. In 1966, Western Marketing Co. was changed to Orange County Produce, LLC. Currently Kawamura manages the company's 600 acres of growing and harvesting operations.

Innovations, shiny iron abound at Italian farm show

Farmers are the same the world over when it comes to farm shows. Where there is big, new bright, shiny iron is where most will congregate — and the bigger the better.

Most probably will never need the biggest of the big tractors, but that is where they congregate and discuss the latest manufacturers have to offer.

One of the biggest big iron draws at the International Exhibition of Agricultural Machinery Industries (EIMA) in Bologna, Italy was not Italian, but American, John Deere's new 8020 Series tractor featuring the electronically controlled, fully independent front-wheel suspension system. It had hordes around throughout the five-day event.

Deere calls it suspensions system, the new Independent Link Suspension. It is designed to control the hop in the field via front wheel weight management. The engineering is designed to transfer more power to the ground because of overall greater traction.

It was one of about 20 award winners selected by a committee established by the show's sponsor, the Italian Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Association, to recognize technical innovation.

The Deere tractor, introduced earlier last summer in the U.S., was segregated with the other innovation award winners.

The winning technologies ranged from the huge tractor to a device for changing tension springs on brake drums.

‘Tractorcom’

One of the most unique ones was a “tractorcom” from Andreoli Engineering. It is a self-propelled, low profile, multi-purpose vehicle. It looks more like a car than a tractor. It features crab, all wheel steering and is equipped with power take-off front and rear three-point linkages, a hydrostatic transmission and a steering system for both axles. The enclosed cab is pressurized and equipped with a filtration system.

Another innovation was a tractor mounted pruning tower from Fa.Ma. d Marigonda Gino.

There are two boom cages which can be moved independently by the two workers. Workers position the platforms using electro-hydraulic controls in their cages.

The towers can reach a height of more than 16 feet, adequate for pruning large orchards trees. The booms can be moved independent of each other. The only drawback to traditional pruning towers is that the booms must be lowered to move the tractor.

Steam sterilization

One of the most interesting technologies was not in the innovators circle, but it certainly captured the imagination of Americans. It was a steam sterilization system that promises to replaces methyl bromide.

Using steam to sterilize soil is not novel, but the “Alce Garden” system by Celli in Forli, Italy adds materials like potassium hydroxide, calcium oxide or zerolites to the steam.

According to the company, this creates an exothermic reaction. Soil temperatures reach high temperatures by adding the compounds and the soil stays warmer longer. The result is more effective elimination of soil parasites and weeds on a par with methyl bromide.

The process is enhanced even more when the field is tarped in plastic, much like what is now done with methyl bromide.

Retired University of California Cooperative Extension agricultural engineer John Inman of Salinas, Calif., said the system holds promise as a commercial replacement for methyl bromide.

It has been tested at the University of Pisa in Italy and the company said commercial tests would be done this season in Italy with the goal of introducing the idea into the U.S. in two years.

According to the company, adding the nutrients to the soil also can correct chemical-physical characteristics like modifying pH and supplying nutrients for crops like strawberries, one of the crops most threatened by the eventual ban of methyl bromide.

In trials to control nematodes, the steam/potassium hydroxide system decreased nematode populations by 90 percent compared to control plots. Adding potassium hydroxide reduced nematodes 85 percent compared to steam alone. And, fields can be re-entered almost immediately after treatment.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com

IPM on coastal lettuce adds 4 cents extra cost per carton

The three-year Central Coast Vegetable IPM Project showed use of “soft” insecticides instead of conventional chemicals on head lettuce costs four cents more per carton than standard production costs.

Bill Chaney, Monterey County farm advisor and coordinator of the project, recently told the California Lettuce Advisory Board meeting at Seaside that yields and quality were the same for both grower standard treatments and IPM.

Grower standard included all registered materials for the crop, and IPM excluded organophosphates, carbamates, and pyrethroids, wherever alternatives were available.

Although the project originally set out to craft strategies against the pea leafminer, problems with that pest declined and the lettuce aphid emerged as a major threat.

Realigned to deal with the new aphid pest, the project continued to explore the impact of a system that would exclude pesticides under scrutiny of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA).

While the trials demonstrated efficacy of softer products, they also revealed a continuing need for the standard chemistry to fill “holes” in pest control, Chaney said.

The series of commercial-scale field demonstrations during the 1998, 1999, and 2000 seasons were conducted with a broad collaboration between growers, pest control advisors, pesticide manufacturers, University of California Cooperative Extension, and the funding organization, the Pew Charitable Trust.

The project was carried out at 46 field demonstrations on 667 acres from Watsonville to Oxnard. “This acreage,” Chaney said, “represented a risked investment of $2 million, conservatively, by the grower cooperators, which does not include the great expense of staff time donated to cooperating in the project.”

Credits PCAs

Insect populations and damage were monitored by project staff and cooperating PCAs, but treatment decisions were made by the PCAs. Chaney credited PCAs involved with the project as being “aggressive in reducing the use of pesticides.”

Harvest data, along with yield and quality indicators, was gathered for each trial and pesticide costs and yield data were calculated for per-carton costs for each treatment.

Chaney told the lettuce board the reduction in number of IPM applications compared with applications of the three standard insecticide groups was 87 percent for head lettuce, 88 percent for romaine lettuce, and 72 percent for celery.

“However,” he said, “the project clearly shows that eliminating these FQPA-targeted materials is not possible at this time. One or more of the excluded pesticides was used on the IPM treatment for 38 percent of the head lettuce, 29 percent of the romaine, and 100 percent of the celery.”

Chaney also said harvest quality and quantity differed little between the two methods. Yields for romaine and celery were essentially the same between treatments, although in head lettuce, 12 percent of the field trials had significantly higher yields from the IPM treatments.

On the other hand, many of the newer and softer IPM materials are more expensive, contributing an average of four cents more to per-carton costs.

Acre, carton costs

Overall average costs for the 1998, 1999, and 2000 seasons were $308.80 per acre, or 40 cents per carton, for the standard treatment and $358.09 per acre, or 44 cents per carton, for the IPM treatment.

By-products of the IPM project are new photographs and identification materials to distinguish the lettuce aphid from other aphids.

“Lettuce aphid has been a hit-and-miss problem over the last three years. It's been bad but not as severe as we suspected it might be,” Chaney said.

Chemical control is difficult because lettuce aphids move deep into the lettuce heads, safe from sprays and free to reproduce profusely.

Syrphid fly larvae are an important biological control against lettuce aphid. Less than three of the predators can consume 80 aphids, but the trick to using them is timing for the critical lag between syrphid and aphid populations. When syrphid numbers catch up, the aphid numbers fall to zero, at which point the syrphids starve and fade out.

Since both contaminate produce, Chaney explained, the object is to key their presence about a week before harvest so both populations have crashed and are absent before picking crews go into the field.

(In another project funded by the lettuce board, USDA geneticists at Salinas are transferring, by classical breeding techniques, resistance to lettuce aphids from European types to western types. When placed on resistant European lettuce, the aphids fail to thrive and then disappear. The breeding process, intended for protection of both head and romaine lettuce, is expected to take several years before resistant material is available for commercial seed companies to develop new varieties.)

Chaney said he observed that after applying Success for aphid control more aphids were counted on treated portions than on untreated controls. That is because the material acted against syrphid predators.

Neonicotinoid-class products, including imidacloprid in its soil-applied Admire and foliar-applied Provado forms, are also under study as lettuce aphid controls. Chaney said Actara, Platinum, Assail, and others are similar and are in the process for registration.

Pea leafminer

He said data on the project's studies on pea leafminer, which revisited coastal lettuce fields in a late but robust fashion in 2001, are being processed for presentation a future lettuce board meeting.

“We've been looking at a variety of materials in the field, Agrimek, Trigard, and Success as a sort of standard, the neo-nicotinoids, neem products, and Pounce,” Chaney said, adding that he has observed signs of reduced leafminer susceptibility to older products.

USDA geneticists at Salinas are advancing toward plant resistance to pea leafminers in head, romaine, leaf, and butterhead lettuces.

e-mail: dbryant@primediabusiness.com

Strawberry cost studies completed

Three new-cost-of-production studies for strawberries grown on the central and southern California coasts are now available from the University of California Cooperative Extension.

The Central Coast study, which covers Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, focuses on strawberry production for the fresh market. The other two studies cover fresh- and freezer-market production in the Oxnard area of Ventura County and the Santa Maria Valley. The vast majority of California strawberries are grown in these regions.

The analysis is based upon a hypothetical strawberry farm operation using practices common in each region. Fumigation practices — a major concern for strawberry growers because of the eventual phase-out of methyl bromide — are addressed in the studies. Flat fumigation is discussed in the Central Coast and Ventura studies, while bed fumigation is used in the Santa Maria study.

Input and reviews were provided by UC farm advisors and researchers, growers, farm accountants, pest control advisers, consultants, the California Strawberry Commission and other agricultural associates. Assumptions used to identify current costs for individual crops, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead are described. A “ranging analysis” table shows profits over a range of prices and yields. Other tables show the monthly cash costs, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs and the whole farm annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.

The three studies — Sample Costs to Produce Fresh Market Strawberries - Central Coast; Sample Costs to Produce Strawberries - South Coast Region-Santa Maria Valley and Sample Costs to Produce Strawberries - South Coast Region-Ventura County (Oxnard Plains) — are available from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616 and local UC Cooperative Extension offices. The publications are available for downloading from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics Web site at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu or call (530) 752-1515.

The studies were prepared by Warren E. Bendixen, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties; Karen M. Klonsky, UC Cooperative Extension specialist, and Richard L. De Moura, research associate, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Similar reports are available for other commodities. Older studies are available with a $3 handling fee. For additional information, call De Moura at (530) 752-3589.

In WTO negotiations: Textile woes increase farmers' stake

U.S. cotton farmers have always had more than a passing interest in world trade, but the economic woes of the U.S. textile industry have increased their stake in world trade negotiations considerably.

“For years, we looked for 60 to 65 percent of the U.S. crop to go to our domestic mills,” says the National Cotton Council's Mark Lange. “In two or three short years, we have seen that turn around, and now 60 percent to 65 percent of the U.S. crop is going to the export market.

“If that doesn't make you nervous, believe me the guy sitting next to you probably is,” he told participants at the recent Crompton Co.-Uniroyal Chemical Cotton College in San Antonio.

Lange said the vagaries of the world market will make selling U.S. cotton far more challenging than it was when farmers could count on U.S. mills buying 10 million to 11 million bales annually.

“Out there in that export world you have all these countries that like to subsidize sales of cotton — just like we do, we subsidize our cotton,” said Lange, the NCC's vice president for policy analysis and program participation.

“But these countries will also turn on and off the valve that says you can import or not import U.S. cotton,” he noted. “So you're growing cotton thinking you can export 8 million or 9 million bales of cotton, and, suddenly, you can export only 7 million bales. That can be a very unsettling situation.”

WTO talks

Lange said National Cotton Council leaders paid careful attention to the trade negotiations that were held by the World Trade Organization in Doha, Qatar a few days before he spoke in San Antonio.

“We are always very anxious when it comes to trade discussions for two reasons,” he said. “One is that the United States does have significant subsidies for cotton and other agricultural commodities, and other countries like to point fingers and say the U.S. is causing problems in world markets.

“The other is that we know that every time there's a meeting to talk about world trade U.S. negotiators are more than willing to talk about further opening of the U.S. textile and apparel markets.”

In recent months, he said, the U.S. cotton industry has seen 3.5 million bales of demand “vaporize” due to the financial problems of U.S. textile industry. “And every time they talk about opening more of our markets to foreign competitors, we know that doesn't bode well for demand for U.S. cotton and textile products.”

Too often, he said, the U.S. cotton industry finds itself doing “damage control” when the United States enters into a new trade agreement that opens more U.S. markets to foreign access without any increase in access to foreign markets.

“The reason for that is that if you look at the world the way the trade organizations do, they take what they refer to as the developed countries, the United States, Europe, Japan and a few others, and then they add the rest of the world, which is the less developed countries,” he said.

“The less developed countries get to play by a different set of rules than the developed countries. Amazingly, when it comes to rules governing reciprocal market access, the developed countries have to abide by them and the developing countries don't.”

That un-level playing field can have a tremendous impact on the U.S. textile market.

“Three countries — China, Pakistan and India — have two-fifths of the world's population and the largest concentration of the world's textile industry,” he noted. “These three countries have almost half of the world's textile mills. But because they are developing countries they get to play by different rules.”

Lange said it seemed ironic that China could announce, as it did the day he spoke in San Antonio, that they have developed a space program that could put a man on the moon. “But for trade purposes, they are a less developed country.”

Farm policy impact

Trade negotiations, such as those announced in Doha, can also have an impact on U.S. domestic farm policy, Lange noted.

“Today, there is a limit in place on the amount of money the U.S. government can spend in any year for what are referred to as trade-distorting subsidies,” he said. “Trade-distorting subsidies are any subsidy payments that can be tied directly to production or can be tied to price decisions.”

Under the current World Trade Organization rules, Agricultural Marketing Transition Act or AMTA payments are not trade-distorting because they are not tied to production, he said, but loan deficiency payment and the proposed counter-cyclical payments in the House farm bill are because farmers must produce a crop to receive them.

Supplemental AMTA payments, which were issued when farmers began experiencing a combination of weather disasters and low prices in 1998, are considered trade-distorting by USDA because they were tied to prices.

The WTO rules limit the United States to spending no more than $19 billion a year on trade-distorting subsidies or it will be in violation of the agreement it signed in 1994 at the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of world trade negotiations.

So far, the United States has not exceeded the cap, but critics of some of the farm bill proposals now under consideration in the Senate have said they contain subsidies that would be in violation of the 1994 agreement.

“Now, on one hand, you have our negotiators, when they were in Doha last week, saying that we would have to go in and reduce trade-distorting subsidies,” he said. “On the other, you have an agricultural economy that has been absolutely devastated by a strong dollar that continually pushes down the value of U.S. commodities.”

Lange noted that in 1996, the year the current farm bill was passed, market returns for the eight major U.S. crops — the seven program crops and soybeans — totaled about $12 billion.

Down every year

“Since then, they have decreased every year, and by USDA's own estimates they probably will be a negative $15 billion to $17 billion this year,” he said. “Without any government payments, the total sum of the earnings of production agriculture in the United States has dropped nearly $29 billion.

“It's virtually a straight line loss over those five or six years, and a whole lot of the loss is due to the strength of the dollar,” he said. “That's something the average U.S. producer can do little or nothing about.”

That was part of the background for the Cotton Council's decision last spring to seek new farm legislation that would provide growers with the same level of returns they received in 1999, an average of 80 cents per pound.

“The farm bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives got us to 74 cents or close to what we wanted, so cotton farmers have a major interest in getting the House bill or something close to it passed by both houses and sent to the president,” he said.

When Lange spoke in San Antonio, the Senate had yet to take up its Ag Committee farm bill. He said Council leaders were concerned then about the potential for lack of Senate action on the bill until some time in 2002.

“If we have to wait until 2002 on a new farm bill, we are looking at a very different budget situation than when Congress approved the budget resolution that provided $73.5 billion over the baseline for agricultural spending last spring,” he noted.

“If we go into a new budget cycle with this legislation, we will be lucky to get half that amount.”

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Waxy buildup on weeds affects control decision

Non-ionic surfactants and emulsifier-laced crop oil concentrates are essential for breaking down weed surface tension and maximum contact herbicide efficacy, according to University of Arizona Extension weed specialist Bill McCloskey.

However, not all weeds have the same waxy or hair surface, McCloskey told the 11th annual Desert Vegetable Crop Workshop held recently in Yuma, Ariz., sponsored by the UA, University of California and Western Farm Press.

While there is variability in waxy surfaces of broadleaf weeds, most grasses have very waxy surfaces, particularly summer grasses like johnsongrass.

Non-ionic surfactants are the most widely used in agriculture. However, McCloskey said to avoid organo-silicone surfactants, which can actually impede the efficacy of Roundup, especially in controlling grasses. One reason for that is that it spreads droplets too thin and under desert arid conditions the herbicide evaporates too quickly.

However, nutsedge does not have as much wax coating on its leaves, yet it is one of the most difficult weeds to control with glyphosate, according to McCloskey, who did his research based on the increasing use of that herbicide and other contacts.

The proper micro size helps disperse the surfactant and herbicide tank mix. McCloskey recommends 200 to 400 micron size. “The smaller droplet size, the better,” McCloskey said. “However there is always the need to balance the need for good coverage against the chance of drift.”

Water needs

Most herbicides perform best with water gallonages of 10 to 43 gallons per acre. The exception is glyphosate, which is most effective in the 3 to 10 gallon range, noted McCloskey.

Adding ammonium sulfate to the tank before pouring in glyphosate also can enhance the herbicide's efficacy, but the 17 pounds per 100 gallons recommended on the label is too much, according to McCloskey.

UA researchers analyzed a wide array of well and surface water sources in Arizona for calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium, the most antagonistic elements in water to glyphosate.

It only took about 8.5 pounds of ammonium sulfate to buffer the lowest quality water, which had 1,000 ppm salts, according to McCloskey.

“You can analyze your water and use the chart developed by the university to add the correct amount of ammonium sulfate. If you do not know your water quality, adding 8.5 pounds per 100 gallons of water should be adequate to do the job,” said McCloskey.

“Ammonium sulfate is not that expensive, but it may save a little if you add only what you need,” McCloskey said.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com

These firms were sponsors for workshop

This year's 11th annual Desert Vegetable Crop Workshop in Yuma, Ariz., was made possible with the financial support of the following companies:

Gold Sponsor

Syngenta

Silver Sponsors

BASF Corp.
Bayer Corp.
Booth Machinery/Case IH
Dow AgroSciences
Valent

Bronze Sponsors

C. Cain Seed
Certis USA
FMC Corp.
Keithly-Williams Seeds

In addition, Western Growers Association sponsored the savings bonds awarded to the three winners of the forklift rodeo.

Alfalfa horse market quirky, needs help

One bale at a time, bought from the feed store. That hardly makes sense economically, but it's only one peculiarity of the market of alfalfa for horses, according to Ann Rodiek, professor in the Department of Animal Science at California State University, Fresno.

Rodiek says chances are hay producers and marketers would just as soon not deal with horse owners. Alfalfa isn't the be-all, end-all of hay for all life stages of horses, but it has key nutrients many classes of horses need. Grass hay is short on nutrients for a growing horse but is valuable as a filler. Mixes bring out the best in both.

Regardless, the horse population in California, estimated in the broad range of at least 400,000 and as many as one million, can't be overlooked.

At the recent 31st California Alfalfa and Forage Symposium in Modesto, Rodiek profiled the horse-owning public. Among the characteristics: women make up 80 percent of the group, and 90 percent have some college education. Since 80 percent of the horses are kept for recreation, personal pleasure, or other non-profit reason, the owners perceive their livestock more as pets.

And that could account for the horse owners tending not to buy hay in bulk for an entire year when the price is low. They don't always take a business-like approach to their horse operation or finances. Many don't have adequate space or they don't manage their hay supply well. Unprotected bales break open, become infested with mice, or are damaged by water.

Even though an average 1,100-pound horse can go through 22 pounds of alfalfa a day or four tons per year, many horse owners simply can't afford to buy a year's worth of hay at one time.

Sadly too, at times the appearance of a bale — maybe no more than sun bleaching or a missing tie — is of more concern to horse owners than the complicated, less-than-stimulating details of nutrition.

She suggests hay sellers, in addressing the horse market, prepare to provide buyers some service along with the hay. What about lighter weight bales, something of well less than 120 pounds, that a woman can heft into the trunk of her car? What about delivering it tarped and palletized? What about delivering smaller lots to stables that don't have adequate and secure storage space? Or what about selling a year's supply at one time but delivering it at intervals during the year?

Explore niche markets

Seller, she went on to say, could consider exploring niche markets. One might be low-magnesium hay to prevent enteroliths, those deposits of magnesium or other minerals in the large intestine of some horses. On the other hand, high-magnesium hay might appeal to horse-rescue groups for feeding to starved horses. Other hays having high-selenium or other tailored mineral content might be developed.

Horse owners appear to be trending toward feeding more grass hay, and Rodiek said she sees a future for grass-alfalfa mixes. “There is a very good market for a grass-alfalfa mix. It still brings the good nutrition of alfalfa hay but in a watered-down concentration, which is lower in protein, brings the calcium to phosphorous ratio to a more reasonable number, and is usually quite palatable.”

And it doesn't hurt for hay dealers to do some solid networking with owners, feed stores, and vets. One outcome of the word-of-mouth approach might be the seller putting together several smaller loads for delivery at the same time to horse owners near each other.

Touching on the profile of horse owners, Rodiek said since so many have some college education, it should be possible to educate them about the best way to buy and feed hay.

e-mail: dbryant@primediabusiness.com

Colusa Farm Show set

California's oldest agricultural exposition, the Colusa Farm Show, opens its 37th annual three-day run Feb. 5 at the Colusa, Calif., fairgrounds.

Hours of the Northern California show are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

There will be exhibits featuring farm equipment and agricultural services and materials in four exhibit buildings plus expansive outdoor exhibit areas.

Parking is free, and there is no admission charge for the show sponsored by the 44th District Agricultural Association.

The fairgrounds are located on State Highway 20 south of Colusa.

Coachella Valley's table grapes guarded against SWSS

In terms of insect pest migration, it is but a stone's throw from where the glassy-winged sharpshooter (GWSS) was first discovered in California (Irvine) to the agriculturally rich Coachella Valley in Riverside County.

The Temecula Wine Country where GWSS has all but decimated wine grapes is only two driving hours away from where America gets it first table grapes in the spring. However, the 14,000 acres of table grapes in the southern end of Coachella Valley have yet to be touched by GWSS or the deadly malady it vectors, Pierce's Disease.

The insect is there, albeit in much smaller numbers than Temecula, and the disease is there, but Robert Bianco, co-owner of Anthony Vineyards in Coachella and president of the California Desert Grape League is perplexed to understand the good fortune of the two dozen growers who make up the region's $150 million early season table grape deal.

It could be the stifling summer heat of the southern desert valley where temperatures of 120 degrees are not uncommon, said Bianco. GWSS may not be able to survive the heat in large numbers. Others think it could be the use of Admire to control another recent troublesome pest, the grape mealy bug. Admire is very effective against GWSS, and growers could have been unknowingly controlling GWSS while keeping the mealy bug in check.

‘Very lucky’

“We have the glassy-winged sharpshooter. However, we have not detected the disease in our vineyards and don't know for sure why. What we do know is that we have been very lucky,” said Bianco.

But the table grape growers know luck is what you take to local casinos. It won't stop GWSS and Pierce's Disease. That is why they are fully supporting the research and trapping efforts of their new University of California Cooperative Extension viticulture farm advisor, Carmen Gispert, a University of California, Riverside doctoral candidate who has researched GWSS and PD.

Since April 1 Gispert, who is based in Indio, Calif., has been weekly monitoring 190 GWSS traps in the Coachella Valley in a $92,000 advance-warning program for GWSS and Pierce's Disease

She also has been sampling vineyards and has examined 7,500 vines for possible Pierce's Disease. She sent 180 suspect samples to a lab, but none came back PD positive.

“It can be very difficult to detect Pierce's Diseases since the reservoir is low,” she said. “So far, however, we have not found the disease in vineyards.”

“We have been very impressed with the work Carmen has been doing here,” said Bianco, who described her efforts as “good business due diligence. We know what can happen when Pierce's Disease gets into a vineyard with sharpshooter high numbers. All we have to do is look at Temecula and see what they are facing in Southern Kern County in the San Joaquin Valley.

“Carmen is the best we have had here and is working to give us the research answers we need right now. We are very confident that she can detect any problems before they become too widespread,” said Bianco.

Growers supportive

And growers backed that opinion with cash. Gispert received $30,000 from valley grape growers to begin her research earlier in the year when research grant money was slow coming in.

Gispert said traps typically catch one or two GWSS each week. Some, however, have had much higher counts. She traps both in agricultural areas and in urban areas where there is a wide range of GWSS hosts.

Pierce's Disease is present in the valley in many plants. Several years ago the Smoke Tree Sharpshooter vectored Pierce's Disease along roadways in Southern California and decimated oleanders.

Gispert also is monitoring GWSS movement from citrus to grapevines, trapping in 50-, 100- and 500-foot intervals between citrus and grapes.

“A lot of the grape growers also are citrus producers, and that makes cooperation much easier here,” said Bianco.

Citrus, which is not affected by GWSS or Pierce's Disease, was pinpointed early on as the major breeding ground for sharpshooters in the Temecula area. GWSS has been in Southern California citrus in high numbers since the early 1990s. Temecula area citrus has been treated with insecticides to try and ward off GWSS invasions.

Gispert also works in the Temecula area and has seen first hand the devastation of Pierce's Disease. Unfortunately, some of the remedial efforts to control the disease, like cutting off diseased cordons, have proven futile.

Once a vine is infected with Pierce's Disease, there is little a grower can do to prevent it from dying eventually — even if he cuts off visually infected cordons in an attempt to save the trunk of the vine, she said.

Coachella Valley table grape producers do not want to wait for that slow death.

“It is tough enough to make it in the early season table grape deal with competition from Mexico and Chile without having to deal with glassy-winged sharpshooter,” said Bianco.

“So far we have been very fortunate, and we want to keep it that way with Carmen's help,” said Bianco.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com

U.S. needs program to help Afghanis, farmers recover

It's been four months since the attacks of Sept. 11 seared their images in the minds of the American people. Much has changed in the United States and the world. But some things remain the same.

Despite evidence of America's inattention to the economic woes of Afghanistan played no small part in the attacks of Sept. 11, the U.S. government has yet to develop a plan for bringing the Afghan people into the 21st century.

After supplying the Mujahedeen with billions of dollars in weapons for battling the Soviet Union in the 1980s, U.S. officials basically turned their backs on the Afghanis. That led to years of anarchy, which ended with the Taliban taking power in 1995. Americans know the rest of the story all too well.

Fortunately, Afghan rebels aided by U.S. air power and special forces troops were able to route the Taliban and organize a transitional government that has pledged to bring peace to the country.

It will need help. Some say thousands of Afghanis could die this winter because of the lack of shelter and food supplies. Part of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan is aimed at restoring airfields so that relief supplies can be flown in.

According to the latest figures, the United States will have 1.5 billion bushels of corn, 687 million bushels of wheat, 42 million hundredweight of rice and 330 million bushels of soybeans it can't sell at the end of this marketing year.

USDA had already promised to send 300,000 metric tons of wheat as part of its food aid commitment to Afghanistan before Sept. 11. Some of those shipments were delayed because of the U.S. bombing campaign.

Those shipments and more will be needed to help the Afghanis overcome the food shortages brought on by the war and four years of drought.

USDA, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the State Department and the U.S. military need to be brought together to develop a plan for distributing as much food aid to the Afghanis as possible, preferably from surplus stocks of U.S. wheat, corn, rice and soybeans.

What does that have to do with cotton? Last spring, U.S. cotton producers planted 16.3 million acres, the highest planted acreage since 1995. Favorable weather and lower abandonment resulted in a crop of more than 20 million bales.

USDA projects 8.4 million bales or nearly 48 percent of total U.S. consumption will not be sold this marketing year. Clearly, U.S. cotton producers need crop alternatives or a miracle product that will take about 5 million bales off the market this spring.

Several months ago, Michael Dicks, an Oklahoma state agricultural economist, proposed a new farm program built around donations of U.S. commodities to developing countries instead of continued cash outlays to U.S. producers.

Given the failure of the Senate to produce a new farm bill before Christmas, it may be that farm organizations need to take a new look at the proposal to see if it can be used to provide more aid to countries like Afghanistan and remove burdensome stocks from U.S. markets.

The Afghanis — and U.S. farmers — could use some breaks.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com