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UI Rapeseed, Canola and Mustard Probes Grow into International Research Pact

An international company has formally joined forces with University of Idaho plant breeder Jack Brown to develop high-value oilseed crops worldwide for alternative fuel production.

The deal will bring $2 million in research funding during the next five years to Brown, who has developed mustard, canola and rapeseed varieties adapted to the Pacific Northwest and other U.S. regions.

Brown will develop new varieties tailored for world-wide adaptation with high oil yield for all climatic and environmental conditions.

Ian Rosenblatt, chief executive officer of Gibraltar-based Eco-Energy Ltd., visited the university's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to view facilities and discuss future research with officials.

"The University of Idaho's long-term leadership in the development of new oilseed varieties and biodiesel use drew our attention to this lovely city of Moscow," Rosenblatt says.

Eco-Energy Ltd., a subsidiary of Interesorts Investments, was created to use Interesorts' extensive land holdings worldwide to produce biofuels and expand its warm relationships with governments to cultivate additional production, Rosenblatt says.

The company aims to become one of the leading suppliers in the global biodiesel market. The strategy, Rosenblatt adds, calls for controlling the oil source through direct planting and seed-crushing management.

The company plans to contribute to the Third World's economic growth and welfare through oilseed production for biodiesel. Eco-Energy will strengthen its global leadership in land and crop research and development through its partnership with the University of Idaho, Rosenblatt notes.

Eco-Energy has established offices in South America, Europe and China. Interesorts Investments Chairman Robert Noonan began to explore the biofuels business more than two years ago while searching for alternative uses for the company's 25,000-acre farm in Belize, Rosenblatt says.

The work done by the University of Idaho scientists demonstrates that if you grow a better liquid energy crop, the world will beat a path to your door. The oil produced from these crops will have specific characteristics suitable for making the highest quality biofuel.

In addition the crushed meal left over after the seed oil is extracted, can be used as a high protein livestock feed or even a soil pesticide, depending on the qualities Brown breeds into them.

Pacific Gold, for example, is a spicy Oriental table mustard Brown's breeding program produced in 2002. Although seed from Pacific Gold is grown for the food market, it is also grown by potato producers as a biofumigant by plowing green plants into the soil to combat nematodes.

"We are perhaps unique in our approach to bioenergy. We are developing plants which are specifically designed to be liquid energy sources," Brown says.

"We are immensely proud of the accomplishments of our agricultural researchers. They are establishing the university as a global leader in renewable fuels," states University of Idaho President Tim White.

"We look forward to the new discoveries that this agreement will fuel," he says.

"Jack Brown's efforts to develop new varieties are visible across the Northwest each year as growers harvest thousands of acres of his rapeseed, canola and mustard varieties" says University of Idaho Agriculture Dean John Hammel.

Brown's work also aids growers who use the new varieties he developed in crop rotations to lessen pesticide and fertilizer applications, Hammel says.

A partnership between Brown and Jon Van Gerpen, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department head at the University of Idaho, focuses on the direct use of new plant varieties and production of biodiesel.

Van Gerpen leads a $1 million national biodiesel education program based at Idaho and Iowa State University 

The biodiesel program is built on research began in 1978 by Chuck Peterson, University of Idaho Engineering Dean emeritus and agricultural engineer. Peterson studied its use in engines and partnered with the U.S. National Park Service a decade ago to pioneer biodiesel use in Yellowstone National Park.

Some 50 national parks now use biodiesel in some of the nation's most cherished, pristine and challenging environments.

Plan to eliminate genetically engineered traits from rice supply

The USA Rice Federation has recommended a plan of action to remove genetically engineered rice to re-establish a marketable supply of U.S. rice.

Following USDA secretary Mike Johanns’ Aug. 18 announcement of the trace presence of genetically engineered rice in the commercial supply, the federation has worked with industry and government officials to identify the Bayer CropScience LibertyLink traits and mitigate their market effects.

“The action plan released (Nov. 28) proposes urgent, concrete steps to be taken to restore market confidence,” said Al Montna, a California rice producer and federation chairman.

“We are requesting that state authorities take specific actions to ensure that commercial seed supplies for the 2007 crop have tested negative for the presence of LibertyLink genetically engineered traits. The plan also makes recommendations to all segments of the rice industry to further ensure that LibertyLink traits do not appear in the rice supply from 2007 forward.

“A specially appointed USA Rice Federation committee headed by Brian King, chairman of the USA Rice Merchants Association, developed the plan. The committee included individuals from all segments of the rice industry over the last month, and we encourage in the strongest terms that the industry — and appropriate state authorities — take action so we may achieve the goal of removing all genetically engineered traits from the 2007 crop.”

These actions are recommended despite statements by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the food safety organizations in foreign markets that the GE rice at issue is safe for human consumption.

The task group recommendations call for:

· A standard seed-testing protocol for the detection of the presence of LibertyLink traits for all head row/breeder and foundation seed with test samples pulled by state certifying agencies using state-approved methods.

· Each seed processor to agree to submit samples with a state seed-certifying agency number to one of the Bayer-approved and USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) proficiency-tested labs.

· No Cheniere rice seed to be sold for rice production in 2007 and no 2007 crop-year Cheniere to be accepted at the first point of delivery; the allowance that buyers may accept 2006 crop-year Cheniere until July 31, 2007.

· An allowance for an increase of Cheniere rice seed production in 2007 for 2008 and 2009 seed stocks provided all such seed stocks are certified negative for LibertyLink traits.

· State agencies to notify all seed processors, growers and dealers of these requirements and the need for certification.

· Growers to provide, and first points of delivery to receive, documentation certifying GMO-negative results, with the Association of Official Seed Certification Agents to provide all LibertyLink-negative certification for commercial seed and USDA-GIPSA to certify that the process was completed under accepted protocols.

“The action plan we are proposing here is a living document,” said Montna. “As the industry learns more from the USDA investigation, scientists, customers and other industry experts, we will amend the recommendations as necessary and communicate those adjustments to the industry.”

To read the document detailing the recommendations summarized above, see: http://www.usarice.com/industry/communication/SeedRecs.pdf.

Reducing EU Trade Barriers Would Benefit Calif. Tomato Growers

A recent report from the University of California advises the California processing tomato industry to work toward negotiating reduced trade tariffs and subsidies for European Union tomato producers. The report, published in the Fall 2007 issue of California Agriculture magazine, said reducing trade barriers such as import tariffs and subsidies for EU producers would be a significant boon to California processing tomato growers.

Reducing tariffs by 50 percent would raise the market price for California tomatoes by about 6 percent, and improve net returns to California processing tomato growers by $34 million a year. Additionally, a 50-percent reduction in subsidies to EU growers would improve net returns to California growers and processors by $8.5 million annually.

California and the European Union each supply about one-third of the world’s processing tomatoes. According to the UC study authors, ag economists Bradley Rickard and Daniel Sumner, many countries apply import barriers for processing tomatoes, but the European Union is the main producer that uses export and production subsidies.

New Virus Plagues Desert Melons

A new whitefly-transmitted virus identified as Cucurbit Yellow Stunting Disorder Virus hit the fall melon crop for the first time this year in Arizona and may also account for some crop damage in the Imperial Valley, though it was still being confirmed there. The virus caught growers and PCAs by surprise not only because it is new, but also because it was so widespread in Arizona.

“There has been a pretty widespread incidence of this virus occurring in this area,” said Mike Matheron, University of Arizona research plant pathologist at the Yuma Agricultural Center. “Every melon field was affected to some degree or another.”

The virus, which was first identified in the U.S. on melons in West Texas, was confirmed in Arizona after widespread damage this season. DNA testing was still underway to confirm its presence in the Imperial Valley, where fall melon growers also reported unusual symptoms and some crop damage.

The virus is transmitted by whitefly after feeding. Older leaves on infected plants turn yellow, starting with a splotchy light green mottling that progresses later into completely yellow leaves.

“As the disease progresses, more and more of the leaves get this yellow color. Initially if you look at the field, it looks like a yellow strip down each row that in time gets wider as more leaves become infected,” Matheron said.

In its native Middle East and in Texas, where the disease is also confirmed, the Yellow Stunting Disorder Virus leads to yield reductions and reduced quality as a result of lower sugar content. Arizona growers are reporting similar losses.

“One grower in Arizona told me that if his melon plant normally puts out four melons, the virus-infected one would put out three,” he said. “But you could get even further reductions in marketable melons because infected melons don’t reach size or have lower sugars. It all depends on how early the plant or field got the disease.”

The virus is closely related to lettuce infectious yellows virus that lettuce and then melon growers first spotted years ago. That virus is no longer considered a pest in Arizona because the whitefly that transmitted the virus is no longer the predominant whitefly species in Arizona. Matheron said the yellow stunting disorder virus appears to be exclusive to cucurbits.

He said good sanitation will be key to helping prevent a re-infestation of the virus next year. He suggests growers rapidly disk their fields after harvest and manage resprouts diligently.

“We can hope that next year the conditions that brought this about won’t be the same, as virus intensity does go up and down from year to year. But one of the important things for virus diseases in general is you don’t want to carry over infected plants from year to year,” he said. “Fall melon plantings right now should finish up in another month and if all those plants are destroyed by spring we will have broken the cycle.”

Matheron said managing whitefly populations will also help, although controlling the vector helps reduce but not eliminate the disease because the vector must feed on plants before applied materials can kill it.

“Application of insecticides is a secondary way of managing the disease,” he said. “It’s better to somehow kill the whitefly before it has a chance to feed on plants.”

Researchers this year will continue studying the biology and origin of the virus and its vector and looking at other potential hosts to provide more information to growers and PCAs for next season.

“Time will tell if it’s going to be a perennial problem of the same intensity,” Matheron said.

Research Update

California’s crop diversity poses unique challenges in developing new chemistry.

One of the biggest is plant back restrictions. DuPont development representatives spend considerable effort in keeping plant back restrictions to a minimum to allow growers as much crop rotation flexibility as possible.

This is the focus of development representative Hugo Ramirez’s field work with the popular pre and post emergence carrot herbicide, DuPont™ Lorox® DF herbicide. Right now, the herbicide has a one year plant back restrictions.

However, DuPont has new, shorter six-month and nine-month plant back restrictions now going through the registration process*.

Hugo is developing data to shorten that even more, but “that is a few years off.” Ramirez said reducing Lorox® plant back restrictions would make it easier for producers to rotate into crops like potatoes (nine-month plant back), barley, garlic (six-month plant back) and other options.

“It is important to make DuPont products more user friendly by expanding grower rotation options when these new rotations are approved,” commented Bill Hume, DuPont area sales manager in Fresno, Calif.

*The shorter plant back restrictions for Lorox® DF in carrots is pending registration. Consult your DuPont representative for more information.

Always read and follow all label directions and precautions for use.

The DuPont Oval Logo, DuPont™, The miracles of science and Lorox® are trademarks or registered trademarks of DuPont or its affiliates.

Copyright © 2006 E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. All Rights Reserved.

November 29, Issue 9

As fall temperatures brought a cooling trend across much of the West, activity shifted in full swing to interior regions of California and Arizona.

Cole crops, lettuce and leafy vegetables have been planted under good conditions with emergence reported to be very good and few significant pest problems.

San Joaquin Valley processing tomato harvest trickled off as temperatures cooled, while winter vegetables were in full swing in the area. In the desert regions, cole crop and leafy vegetables were in various stages of planting and thinning, and sidedress applications were just getting underway.

In late October, temperatures in the Imperial Valley were well below average for the time of year, pushing down insect pressures. Still, PCAs were busy irrigating, fertilizing and treating manageable levels of the usual weeds and insects.

As the weather broke, desert PCAs started thinking more about preventative sprays for pathogens, such as powdery mildew on peppers. Green bell peppers were reportedly near harvest the last week in October in Coachella and Imperial Valleys and colored bells were beginning to turn.

In the desert, Imperial County UC Entomology Farm Advisor Eric Natwick said cabbage looper was showing up on lettuce and cole crops. Beet armyworm pressures appeared sporadically, though in smaller numbers than loopers, and whitefly pressures have generally decreased as the weather has cooled.

Fields not treated at planting with a systemic, may have to be treated for whitefly through the winter with foliar insecticide sprays.

“Whitefly numbers will continue to decrease as it gets cooler and we expect worm numbers to drop off in November,” Natwick said.

“Cabbage loopers will vary from location to location but PCAs are having to treat for those now too,” he said. “There is typically a mixed population of worms in the field, with more looper than armyworms.”

Flea beetle, which plagued some growers early on, seems to have waned some, though crops located near or following alfalfa still have some problems with that pest.

Early transplant cole crops will be harvested beginning in about mid-November if crops stay on schedule, sources said, with later plantings harvesting through March.

Pest pressures were also waning in the Yuma area as temperatures cooled.

“Everything is looking pretty good now,” said Dan Fox, with the Dune Company, Yuma, Ariz. “The pests were a little heavy early on but since the weather broke it’s calmed down. Right now we are dealing mainly with armyworm, looper and budworms.”

Head lettuce in the Arizona desert was at thinning to sidedress stages, and should begin harvest the second week of November or so, with broccoli to follow by a couple weeks. Baby greens and spinach harvest already is underway. Spinach acreage is reportedly down in desert areas, following the market disaster resulting from this year’s E. coli outbreak. Some growers are planting with the hopes a market will develop.

“They’re ready to cut, but we don’t know if a market will be able to take it. That’s a whole different ball game,” Fox said.

On the marketing front, wholesale market prices held steady for most vegetable crops. Broccoli and cauliflower were selling for $6 to $9 a carton. Iceberg prices inched upward the week of Oct. 23 to $8 to $9 for 24-count cartons with romaine steady at about $9 to $11. Other leaf lettuce varieties were slightly higher at $11 to $13 per carton.

Sen. Harkin’s ag committee

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin will become chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry when Democrats assume control of the House and Senate in January.

Incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he anticipates naming Harkin Agriculture Committee chairman when he meets with the new Republican minority leader to discuss the make-up of each committee.

Harkin is no stranger to the post, having served there during the debate over the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act or 2002 farm bill in 2001 and 2002. (Democrats controlled the Senate when Vermont’s Jim Jeffords declared himself an independent in 2001.)

Although he didn’t get everything he wanted in the legislation, Harkin was able to include the new Conservation Security Program and the first ever energy title in the 2002 farm bill.

The naming of an Iowan to such a key role in the next farm bill debate may cause some apprehension among cotton and rice farmers because of the payment limit stance of Iowa’s senior senator, Charles Grassley.

But commodity group leaders say Harkin has never shown the same enthusiasm for tightening payment limits as Sens. Grassley and Byron Dorgan, Harkin’s Democratic colleague from North Dakota.

“Obviously, the setting has changed a little bit,” said one farm group staffer. “But, at the same time, I believe you will have two chairmen who are extraordinary supporters of U.S. agriculture, as were the previous chairmen. (Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is expected to chair the House committee.)

“So having an Iowan and having a Minnesotan in the House is not a concern because they both are very interested in what’s best for U.S. agriculture. They bring a different sort of view, but they have a desire for a strong agricultural sector for the U.S. economy.”

Harkin said budget pressures are likely to lead to efforts to streamline farm programs, but he doesn’t expect the alterations to be earth shattering. “I’ll be the last person to pull the rug out from underneath our established farmers. They can’t have that done. If there’s a transition, it’s got to be a smooth one.”

Harkin said he wants to provide more incentives to farmers to experiment with crops such as switchgrass that may have potential for use in cellulosic ethanol. The latter could help U.S. agriculture meet the growing demand for renewable fuel supplies.

The senator is also expected to push for increased funding for the Conservation Security Program, which the Republican-controlled Congress has refused to fully fund and the Bush administration has never fully implemented.

Harkin and Peterson’s first challenge may be dealing with the Bush administration’s farm bill blueprint, which some expect it to unveil in January. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has said subsidy payments should be reduced to prevent further legal challenges to U.S. farm programs.

“We’re not going to have the WTO write our farm policy,” he said, adding that a new farm bill “needs to be predictable, equitable and beyond challenge.”

e-mail: flaws@farmpress.com

Sustainable agriculture pest control conference nears

The California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and Cal Poly’s Sustainable Agriculture Resource Consortium will co-sponsor a two-day conference on sustainable pest control for agricultural consultants and growers on Friday, Dec. 1, and Saturday, Dec. 2, in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Workshops on Dec. 1 will address incorporating sustainable agricultural practices into a comprehensive Integrated Pest Management program. The Dec. 2 agenda features a workshop entitled “Assessing Operational Sustainability from a Pest Management Perspective” at the beautiful Castoro Cellars winery in Templeton. Continuing education units are available for participants.

The conference offers a wealth of information on biologically integrated pest control, including updates on pesticide resistance management strategies, non-toxic vertebrate pest control, beneficial soil organisms, new IPM programs offered through the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), important regulatory issues and risk reduction strategies for certified organic operations.

The topic of this year’s annual round table presentation will be Vertebrate Pest Control. The discussion will be led by Cal Poly’s David Headrick with Senior Public Health Biologist Richard Davis, UCCE Farm Advisor Rachel Long and Josh Reilly, Santa Cruz County IPM coordinator. The tools and methods featured at this event will benefit conventional and organic growers alike.

The Dec. 2 workshop at Castoro Cellars is titled “Assessing Operational Sustainability from a Pest Management Perspective.” Participants will learn about the natural (ecosystem), human (societal) and engineered (infrastructure) environments to help participants maximize operational sustainability on farms. The use of beneficial soil organisms, solar energy, bio-fuels, and the cultivation of ecological habitat will be outlined.

Special guest presenters include Cal Poly Professors Tom Ruehr and Terry Vassey, SLO Agricultural Commissioner Bob Lilley, UC entomologist Beth Grafton-Cardwell, Earthbound Farm Director of Quality Assurance Will Daniels, Jason Hoar - President of Agri-Fuels, Ryan Park of REC Solar, farm energy specialist Mike Morris of ATTRA, Jean-Pierre Wolff of Wolff Vineyards, and more!

The early registration fee for applications postmarked before Nov. 15 is $150 for Dec. 1 and $65 for Dec. 2. The cost after Nov. 15 is $175 and $75.

The fee for students with valid identification is $35 for Dec. 1, $20 for Dec. 2. Fees include parking, breakfast, lunch, refreshments and qualification for Continuing Education Units (CEU) upon successful completion of conference.

Fourteen Continuing Education Units (CEUs) have been approved by the CA Dept. of Pesticide Regulations for PCAs attending both days, including 3.5 “Laws and Regulations” units (on Day 1). A total of 12 CEUs are available for Certified Crop Advisors. 7 ‘Ag Waiver’ Units are also being made available, by the Statewide Regional Water Quality Control Board.

For more information, visit www.ccof.org/pcaconference.php, call Colleen at 831-423-2263, ext. 27, or e-mail colleen@ccof.org.

Agro-terrorism prevention resource offered

The National Cotton Council has established an online resource ( http://www.cotton.org/tech/safety/biosecurity.cfm) to raise awareness of how the agro-terrorism threat applies to the U.S. cotton industry. This includes USDA’s voluntary “Pre-Harvest Security Guidelines and Checklist” for farming operations.

The potential of terrorist attacks against agricultural targets is recognized as a national security threat by the federal government. The Department of Homeland Security, in concert with other federal agencies, continues to develop strategies to protect agricultural production and processing from terrorist acts.

NCC, as a member of the Food and Agriculture Sector Coordinating Council, is working with state and federal government agencies to monitor and communicate counter-terrorism measures that affect all cotton industry segments.

Corn prices buck the trend; move higher on big crops

Most years when farmers are coming off three straight seasons of bin-busting crops, economists would say, prices more than likely are going into the tank. (Well, economists probably wouldn’t say it that way, but you know what I mean.)

Until USDA’s latest crop production report, U.S. corn farmers appeared to be on track to harvest their third straight 11-billion-bushel-plus crop, starting with the record 11.8-billion-bushel harvest in 2004. (The October report lowered the previous month’s 11.1-billion-bushel forecast to 10.9 billion due to dry conditions in the central Corn Belt.)

Even with 200 million fewer bushels in 2006, three years of 11-billion-bushel harvests would normally have sent corn futures tumbling. Instead, Chicago Board of Trade December futures were trading at a historically high level of $3.44 per bushel at press time.

Corn futures prices could continue to improve in late fall and winter, according to Kurt Guidry, agricultural economist with the LSU AgCenter. Guidry spoke on the outlook for wheat and feed grains at the Southern Region Agricultural Outlook Conference in Atlanta.

Why are corn prices moving higher when supplies are growing by leaps and bounds? Because the demand for corn could actually soak up most of those added bushels of corn, he says.

“I do believe that the domestic demand will be relatively strong and that export demand will be strong,” Guidry said. “I think we will see seasonal improvement in the remainder of 2006 and into 2007.

“I think we can see considerable upside potential in the next few months and thus the need for some upside protection to be able to capture some of that potential,” he said, referring to the need for hedging the 2007 crop.

Those higher prices are expected to attract more acres into corn in 2007, he said. A few days before he spoke in Atlanta, Informa Economics, the Memphis-based agricultural and commodity market research, analysis and consulting firm, said it expected 2007 corn plantings to be up 4 million acres.

But with the nearly 600-million-bushel increase in demand for corn for ethanol that USDA is projecting for the 2006-07 marketing year (June-May), “we could use most of that up in ethanol,” says Guidry.

You have to go back to the mid-1980s to find corn supplies approaching the levels they are now, he notes. In 1986 and 1987, beginning stocks and production combined to push the available supply to 12 billion bushels each year. Current supplies are expected to hit 13.14 billion bushels in 2006, down slightly from 2005’s 13.24 billion.

The difference between then and now is that demand in 1986 and 1987 only accounted for 7 billion to 8 billion bushels, pushing carryover stocks to a record 5 billion bushels in 1986. Corn demand is expected to reach nearly 12 billion bushels or 1.2 billion bushels below the expected supply of 13.14 billion bushels for 2006.

As a result of the phenomenal expected offtake, corn-ending stocks could drop to 1.2 billion bushels or 9 percent of total supply for the 2006-07 marketing year.

Ethanol demand is playing a big part in the dramatic increase in usage. USDA expects the amount of corn going into ethanol production to rise from 1.6 billion bushels in 2005-06 to 2.15 billion in 2006-07. The latter would be up 1 billion bushels from 2004-05.

e-mail: flaws@farmpress.com