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Articles from 2002 In February


Corn+Soybean Digest

Crossbreeding Yields Two Insect Resistant Soybean Lines

Recent cross-breeding at Ohio State University has yielded two advanced germplasm lines, HC95-15MB and HC95-24MB, that may offer breeders additional management tactics where leaf feeding is a concern.

The two recently released soybean germplasm lines appear to resist defoliation against bean leaf beetle and western corn rootworm, insects that have been known to cause severe crop damage throughout the Midwest. The results of the study were recently published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

"These lines have not been released commercially to growers because the yields they produce are not high enough. But they have potential for breeders who are looking for lines that show good insect resistance that in the future could potentially be crossed with high-yielding lines," said Ron Hammond, an entomologist for the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). "We wanted to look at them in the field against insect problems to see what value they might have."

Researchers found that over a two-year period, amount of defoliation from the adult bean leaf beetle and the western corn rootworm was significantly reduced in the germplasm lines compared to a commercial soybean cultivar. No commercially grown lines are considered to have any level of insect resistance.

Percent defoliation from 1999 data averaged 22.5% for the commercial cultivar, 14.8% for HC95-15MB and 10% for HC95-24MB. In 2000, defoliation levels were 8.5% for the commercial cultivar, 4.1% for HC95-24MB and 3.9% for HC95-15MB.

"We saw less leaf feeding on the resistant lines," said Hammond, adding that the reduction in feeding may be due to antixenosis, a plant defense mechanism that modifies the behavior of the insect without affecting plant or insect metabolisms.

The resistant lines, however, did not reduce bean leaf beetle or western corn rootworm populations. Hammond said the germplasm lines were originally developed specifically to target insects, such as caterpillars and the Mexican bean beetle, whose larvae develop and feed on plant leaves. Bean leaf beetle and western corn rootworm larvae develop in the soil and feed on the plant roots. It is the adult insects that are defoliators.

In addition, the resistant lines were not effective in reducing the pod injury levels associated with bean leaf beetle feeding. Hammond speculates that the plants' defenses rest solely in the leaves.

"These lines may not have the ability to reduce pod feeding and population density, but in terms of defoliation there is definitely some promise. Most insect problems that have historically been on soybeans have been those insects that defoliate the plant, and we know how defoliation can affect the economics of the crop," said Hammond. "With insects like the bean leaf beetle and soybean aphid present that can transmit viruses, continuing research into new soybean lines is very important."

Bean leaf beetles can cause headaches for soybean growers. Not only do they feed on plant leaves, they cause pod injury that can reduce yields. They also transmit bean pod mottle virus, a disease associated with green-stem syndrome where the stems remain tough and green and beans are too dry to harvest.

Western corn rootworm beetles are normally a concern on continuously grown corn. Rotating corn with soybeans has been the first line of defense. However, a new biotype of the western corn rootworm is laying its eggs in soybean fields that hatch into larvae and feed on first year corn that has been planted into those fields the following year. This prevents rotation from being used as a management practice. Though more problematic in such states as Indiana and Illinois, this new biotype of western corn rootworm has been recorded in Ohio.

The soybean germplasm lines were developed by Hammond and Dick Cooper, a USDA soybean breeder at OARDC, as part of on-going soybean breeding research.

Corn+Soybean Digest

U of M publication reveals crop fertilizer recommendations

Applying needed fertilizer nutrients in the right amounts is a key aspect of successful and profitable crop production. Failing to provide enough of the right fertilizer can limit crop yields and reduce the benefits from other crop inputs such as seed, labor and fuel. However, applying unneeded fertilizer is a waste of money and time and may be an environmental concern.

A newly-revised publication from the University of Minnesota Extension Service can help in making good fertilizer decisions. Its title is "Fertilizer Recommendations for Agronomic Crops in Minnesota." The authors are U of M soil scientists George Rehm, Mike Schmitt, John Lamb and Roger Eliason.

The publication has fertilizer recommendations for most of the crops commonly grown on Minnesota farms. Included are row crops such as corn and soybeans, small grains such as wheat and barley, legumes such as alfalfa and clover, and several kinds of grasses. There are also recommendations for canola, sunflowers, sugar beets, wild rice and several other crops.

Fertilizer recommendations are based on the results of soil sampling and analysis of soil samples. The publication includes a section explaining soil sample analytical reports.

"Fertilizer Recommendations for Agronomic Crops in Minnesota" is on the Internet at www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/cropsystems/DC6240.html Printed copies are available at a nominal cost from county offices of the U of M Extension Service. Or, call (800) 876-8636 or (612) 624-4900 and ask for item BU-06240.

Corn+Soybean Digest

USDA To Use Farmer-Friendly Computer System

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced that farmers and rural residents will soon benefit from a common customer computer data base used by agencies in USDA Service Centers. The database, called the Service Center Information Management System, or SCIMS, will help reduce the paperwork requirements for USDA programs and will lead to customers being able to sign up for programs from their home computer.

"These enhancements to the information system will lead to our customers being able to access their individual records, apply for loans and sign up for USDA programs from their personal computers or other remote locations," says Veneman. "SCIMS is a major step to provide more convenience and quality service to agency customers."

The first phase of SCIMS allows all USDA service center agencies to share personal profile data of participants in USDA programs. This will eliminate the need for participants to provide the same information to multiple offices, an important feature to those who have farms in more than one state or county.

SCIMS also is a critical link to promoting a "Common Computing Environment" in the centers and will serve as a foundation for subsequent phases of the project. SCIMS both supports and compliments congressionally mandated e-commerce requirements that must be met in June.

Service center agencies include the Farm Service Agency, lead agency for SCIMS, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Rural Development mission area.

Two Arkansas counties reject eradication

A majority or 60.3 percent of growers and landowners voted for the program, but 66 percent was required for passage. In a previous referendum last fall, 61 percent cast their votes in favor of the program.

“The mood was pretty somber today,” said Joe Burns, a producer from Rector, Ark., and chairman of the Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Program. “We got the same vote count today (Feb. 27) after a concerted advertising effort to get out the vote. We didn’t increase the votes much (from the last referendum) and didn’t increase the positive votes.”

Burns said that unofficially, Mississippi County cast 428 votes for and 299 against the referendum and Craighead County voted 200 for and 115 against.

The number of ballots cast in the last two referenda, “were almost identical,” Burns said. “It seems like everyone’s minds are pretty much made up.”

Burns said the faltering farm economy didn’t help the cause. “Everybody is waiting on the farm bill to get thrashed out and those two counties may be impacted as hard as any in the nation by the Grassley amendment. So I think that proposal cost us some votes.”

The northeast Arkansas delta area now joins the St. Lawrence area of Texas, the lower Rio Grande Valley and the Northern Blacklands around Dallas as the only regions in the United States not participating in official boll weevil eradication.

According to Burns, officials in states/counties surrounding northeast Arkansas are already talking about a quarantine for the coming year. A quarantine could require cleaning of any seed cotton, equipment and cotton products transported from a contaminated area into an eradicated area.

Farmers who produce cotton both inside and outside the quarantine area “would have to clean equipment before they brought it from the infested zone into an eradicated zone,” Burns said. “It could be a real nightmare. I hate it that we would get into a situation like that.”

Frank Carter, manager, pest management and regulatory issues, at the National Cotton Council, said a quarantine, “is kind of like a band-aid. It can do a good job of stopping weevils from being transported on equipment from an infested area to an eradicated area, but it can’t stop weevils from flying from one area to another.”

In the fall referendum, growers in the area were to pay $70 per acre over a seven-year period for eradication. In the February referendum, the assessment was reduced to $50 per acre over five years in a low-pressure area within Mississippi County known as Buffalo Island. The area contains 103,000 acres of cotton.

“I really wanted it to pass,” Burns said. “It would have been good for cotton growers across the Mid-South. Now the area is like the Afghanistan of boll weevil eradication. It’s the refuge of our enemy (boll weevils).”

Ballots were counted on Feb. 27 after the deadline for returning them was delayed from Feb. 15 to Feb. 22 because of problems with mailing them.

Burns isn’t sure what the future holds for eradication in the two-county area. But should the farm economic situation improve, “we would always be open to working with those growers in that area.”

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com

Boll weevil leaving Mississippi?

Boyd, who spoke Feb. 21 at the Joint Conference of the Mississippi Agricultural Pest Management Societies in Greenville, Miss., told attendees that the eradication program had successfully eradicated more than 90 percent of the pests from the 1.6 million acres of cotton planted statewide in 2001.

“We had 10 counties in the state with zero weevil captures in 2001,” he says. “There are still a few hotspots in the state, including areas in Adams, Jefferson, Grenada, Carroll, Montgomery, Bolivar, Desoto and Tate counties. But for the most part, we’ve seen very good progress in all of the eradication regions.”

The “no fly” order that was issued after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and remained in effect for a longer period of time around cities such as Memphis, likely affected the number of boll weevils found in the “hot spots” located in Desoto and Tate counties.

“The no fly zone area did have a significant impact on the number of weevils trapped, but what kind of impact it will have on the number of treatments needed in 2002 is still to be determined,” Boyd says.

In the four-month period between May 9 and Sept.12, 2001, Boyd says, 0.005 weevils per acre were trapped in Region 1 and 0.008 weevils per acre were trapped in Region 2. In comparison, 0.04 weevils per acre were trapped in each of the two eradication regions during the six-week period that the no-fly order was in effect, preventing aerial applicators from operating around the Memphis area.

Despite this minor setback, each of the four regions has experienced a substantial reduction in weevil populations since boll weevil trappings were initiated. Experiencing the biggest drop in weevil numbers was Region 4 with 99.5 percent fewer weevils, followed by Region 3 with a 98.2 percent drop, Region 2 with a 93.9 percent decrease, and Region 1 with 92.8 percent fewer weevils trapped per acre.

According to Boyd, the Mississippi Boll Weevil Eradication Program trapped less than one weevil per acre, on average, in 2001. Breaking it down further, eradication personnel documented 0.13 to 0.26 weevils per acre in Region 1, 0.12 weevils per acre in Region 2, 0.15 to 0.35 weevils per acre in Region 3, and 0.03 weevils per acre in Region 4.

A big help to the program, Boyd says, was the weather during the winter of 2000-2001, which may have decreased the number of overwintering boll weevils.

Between the 2000 and 2001 crop seasons, the number of boll weevils infesting cotton fields dropped by 92.8 percent in Region 1, 82.2 percent in Region 2, 89.1 percent in Region 3, and 97.3 percent in Region 4.

In fact, Boyd says, the majority of Mississippi’s cotton acreage required less than one control treatment for boll weevils in 2001. Meeting treatment criteria for the eradication program were 29 percent of fields in Region 1, 28 percent of fields in regions 2 and 3, and 17 percent of fields in Region 4.

Looking forward to the 2002 season, Boyd says the eradication program’s goal this year is to completely eradicate the boll weevil from Mississippi cotton fields. “While we are striving for eradication in all four regions of the state, we plan to adjust our personnel and trap density in relation to the boll weevil populations, and treat those areas where weevils are found,” he says.

“Because the winter of 2000-2001 has put us on an even keel with boll weevil populations across the state, we plan to put many of our baited pheromone traps at 600-foot intervals, instead of the 350-foot spacing we’ve used previously,” Boyd says. “Our research data shows that a 600-foot interval is the widest space that will work in those fields that have not captured a single boll weevil from Aug. 1 to the end of the crop season. However, if these fields catch more than one boll weevil during the 2002 season, we anticipate that those field will be moved back to the 350-foot spacing.”

e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com

House names farm bill conferees

There were no surprises among the 14 House members, who included the chairman and ranking minority member of the House Agriculture Committee, the chairmen of its subcommittees and several prominent farm-state representatives. Other members could be added for discussions on specific sections of the farm bill.

The 14 House conferees, who will join seven members of the Senate, face a formidable task by all accounts whether they finish work on the farm bill by March 22, the date Congress begins in recess.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest and Ranking Minority Member Charlie Stenholm, both of Texas, said they were pleased with the wide regional representation on the House side of the conference committee appointed Thursday morning.

“The House goes into conference with a well-thought-out and balanced farm bill, backed by a bi-partisan, two-to one margin of support behind its Oct. 5th passage,” Combest said. “We built the House-passed farm bill with input from all kinds of farmers in every region, and we will maintain that balance with the conferees appointed today.”

Besides Combest, Republicans on the conference committee include John Boehner of Ohio, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, Richard Pombo of California, Terry Everett of Alabama, Frank Lucas of Oklahoma and Jerry Moran of Kansas.

The other Democrats are Gary Condit and Cal Dooley of California, Eva Clayton of North Carolina, Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Tim Holden of Pennsylvania.

Senate Democrats on the committee will include Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin of Iowa, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Kent Conrad of North Dakota. Republicans are Richard Lugar of Indiana, Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

The conferees face a number of thorny issues, including how to resolve an $8.2 billion difference in the cost estimates for the first five years for the House and Senate versions of the farm bill.

That’s after the Congressional Budget Office released a new cost projection of $44.7 billion for the farm bill passed by the Senate on Feb. 13. The total is about $6 billion more than the CBO had said when the Senate was debating the Daschle-Harkin bill back in December. The House bill would spend $36.5 billion in the first five years.

Bush administration officials have said they object to the manner in which the Senate bill appears to “front-load” its benefits into the first five years of the farm bill in comparison to the House bill, which spreads its funding evenly over the 10-year life of its legislation.

Other areas of disagreement:

  • Payment limitations. The Grassley-Dorgan Amendment in S. 1713, the Senate bill, contains a lower payment limitation of $275,000 than the House bill’s $550,000, but it also eliminates the three-entity rule, applies means testing and does away with the availability of generic commodity certificates.
  • Some observers say that including the Grassley/Dorgan provisions in the final farm bill could mean that half the farmers in some southern counties would be forced out of business in 2002.

  • Packer ownership of slaughter cattle. The Senate bill contains an amendment authored by Democrat Tim Johnson of South Dakota that would ban the ownership of slaughter livestock by meatpackers. The House bill does not.
  • Higher loan rates. The Senate bill contains marketing loan rates for the major row crops that are 10 to 20 percent higher than the current rates in the House bill with the exception of soybeans. The latter are reduced as part of the Senate bill’s attempt to re-balance loan rates between the commodities.
  • Crop base and yield updates. The Senate bill would allow producers to adjust their crop bases and yields, while the House bill covers crop bases only.
  • Increased conservation spending. The Senate version includes spending for the new Conservation Security Act authored by Sen. Harkin. The House bill increases spending for conservation, but directs more money to commodity programs.

Washington observers say it is impossible to predict how long the conference committee will take to work out those and other differences. Combest has said House members will work as quickly as possible, but it may take longer than expected for him to produce a “good” bill, or one closer to the House-passed legislation.

USDA officials have said they won’t make predictions about how long the conference committee might take, but that it “would be helpful” to USDA’s efforts to implement the farm bill for the 2002 spring crops if they completed their work by March 22.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Table grape defects blamed on early-season 2001 heat

Nick Dokoozlian, University of California viticulturist at the Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier, said he saw a 20 to 25 percent reduction in berry weight and diameter in his table grape research plots farmed the same as in 2000.

High temperatures in the southern San Joaquin Valley were prominent at the critical first three weeks after fruit set. Weather records show temperatures 100 degrees or higher, with duration from three to seven hours, occurred eight times during that period.

In essence, high temperatures cause vines to consume carbon supplies for survival rather than for developing new cells, he said.

Temperature effects

Berry color was also affected by temperature. Although the processes are known, the causes ultimately rest with Mother Nature.

Plant growth regulators can make differences in berry size and color, but they really don’t mitigate the effects of temperature extremes, Dokoozlian said during the recent SJV Table Grape Seminar in Visalia.

After reviewing his data from the hot spells in 2001, he said, "if you have 100 degrees for five hours or more, you will get severe reductions in berry growth. And any time the temperature is above 95 degrees, you can expect some inhibition of berry growth. The warmer the temperature, the less time is required for the exposure to take effect."

Table grape growers also saw shortcomings in color in 2001, and Dokoozlian said response to heat and light is variety specific. A group of pigments govern berry color, and the proportions differ from one variety to the next.

That accounts for the ability of Tokay, once a principal table variety, to develop its intense, flame color in the cooler nights of the Lodi district, while Tokay grown in the warmer Delano district fails to develop color.

Dokoozlian said the improved color on second-crop grapes is because the later conditions are more conducive to pigment development.

An isolated problem with "pink berry" on white table grapes, including Thompson Seedless, Italia, and newer varieties with a Muscat heritage, was also blamed on heat stress in 2001.

An imbalance in pigments can cause red or black berries to lack color, but in this case, the imbalance brings on color where it is not wanted.

Dokoozlian said the genes for producing color are carried in the white varieties but typically are not expressed. However, heat stress after veraison can activate the color mechanism in the plant. The effects usually occur after several weeks of warmer-than-average temperatures.

Accumulations of pigments triggered by heat stress also produced surface browning seen on some Thompson Seedless in the 2001 season. Some growers reported pitting on berry surfaces, and Dokoozlian attributed that to build-ups of phenolics, the same enzymes that cause raisining inside and on the surface of the fruit during hot weather.

Grassley could impact 1,000-acre cotton growers

That’s the question being asked by thousands of farmers as members of a House-Senate conference committee begin negotiations on whether the payment limit amendment and other similarly controversial provisions remain in the 2002 farm bill.

The answer? Well, it depends on a number of factors, including a grower’s mix of crops, what happens with other commodity provisions in the House and Senate versions of the bill and actual prices.

“It’s hard to figure out exactly what is going to happen,” says Mark Lange, the National Cotton Council’s vice president for policy analysis and program coordinator who discussed the potential impact of the amendment during a presentation at the USDA Outlook Forum in Washington.

Lange says it appears the Grassley/Dorgan amendment, named for its principal authors, Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, would do the following:

  • Eliminate the three-entity rule (which allows producers to receive a full payment on one farm entity and share the payments in two others).
  • Apply means testing to the entities (producers cannot have earned more than $2.5 million in any of the past three years).
  • Put a $75,000 limit on fixed and counter-cyclical payments (Agricultural Marketing Transition Act or AMTA and target price or target revenue payments).
  • Retains the $150,000 marketing loan gain payment limit.
  • Increases the combined $225,000 payment by $50,000 if a farmer’s wife participates in the farming operation.
  • Converts nonrecourse loans to recourse loans when the farmer hits the marketing loan payment limit ceiling.

“The amendment says that as soon as you hit the limit for marketing loan gains, there are no certificates, and it’s a recourse loan,” said Lange, referring to CCC loans in which the collateral cannot be forfeited to the government.

“What that tells me is that a cotton producer has to look at the acres he has in his mix of crops and figure out the acres covered by the marketing loan. Then, he has to look very carefully at whether he plants one more acre of cotton because any cotton he produces beyond the marketing loan, he’s looking at 35 cents (based on Feb. 22 New York futures).”

If a grower is producing 1,000 pounds of lint per acre, which is considerably above the U.S. average, Lange notes, “that says he has to have production costs of less than $350 per acre on those additional bales. Nobody that I know of has those kinds of costs unless he’s just dusting the crop in and praying for a rain.”

A farmer can produce 2,003 bales before he hits the $125,000 limit for a husband and wife on fixed or AMTA and counter-cyclical payments in the Senate bill, which has an initial AMTA payment of 13 cents per pound. (That is, 2003 bales X .13 cents X 480 pounds = $124,987.)

“But the one I think is more important is the limit on loan deficiency payments,” he said. “If the loan deficiency payment falls to 20 cents — and that may be optimistic, it could be bigger than that — 1, 562 bales of cotton, and you’re done. That 1,563rd bale sells for 35 cents per pound, and that’s all you get.”

Growers in some regions would reach the new limit faster than those in others based on differences in average yields, he noted. In the Mid-South, a grower would reach the limit for the fixed 13-cent payment with 1,439 acres and the 20-cent marketing loan payment at only 1,000 acres.

In the Southeast, it would take 1,468 acres to reach the 13-cent fixed payment limit and 1,153 for the 20-cent marketing loan limit; in the Southwest, 2,279 acres for the 13-cent fixed limit and 1,875 acres for the marketing loan; and in the West, 874 acres for the fixed 13-cent limit and 615 for the 20-cent marketing loan limit.

“Now, the bulk of production in the Mid-South comes off operations that have significantly more than 1,000 acres of cotton,” said Lange. “The bulk of production in the Southwest comes off farms that are right around 1,800 acres. The bulk of the production in the Far West comes off enterprises that are much larger than 600 acres.

“So, a lot of production in the Mid-South and Far West is located on acres that won’t be covered by the marketing loan due to the new attribution requirement in the Grassley amendment.”

The Congressional Research Service, which has conducted a study of the impact of both the House and Senate bills on payment limitations, says that a farmer would only have to grow 881 acres of cotton to reach the new “fixed, decoupled and counter-cyclical payment limit under the Grassley amendment compared to 1,470 acres under the House-passed farm bill.

If his spouse qualifies for a payment under the Senate bill, he could grow 1,321 acres before hitting the expanded limit. Under the three-entity language in the House bill, he could grow 2,940 acres before hitting the limit.

The Congressional Research Service study apparently assumes a national average yield and the payment provisions in the two versions. It also says that it would take a 36-cent adjusted world price or AWP to reach the marketing loan limit under the House bill and a 29-cent AWP under the Senate bill. Subtracting the AWP from the marketing loan rate gives you the marketing loan gain for cotton of average grade and staple.

For rice, the CRS study says it would take 930 acres for producers to reach the fixed, decoupled and counter-cyclical payment limit under the House bill and 881 acres under the Senate’s Grassley amendment. For a husband and wife, it would be 1,860 acres for the House bill and 731 acres for the Senate.

It would require a $3.87 AWP to reach the marketing loan gain limit for the House bill and a $1.83 AWP under the Senate version.

Responding to a question following his presentation, Lange said he believes that passage of the Grassley amendment in the final farm bill would lead growers in California to cut their cotton acreage in half. “Most of those acres would go to grain and to crops like tomatoes and garlic,” he noted.

In the Mid-South, farmers would reduce their cotton acreage by at least 25 percent with the acres being split 50-50 between corn and soybeans, he said. In the Southeast, the reduction would range from 15 to 20 percent with the shifted acres evenly divided between corn and soybeans.

“The ones that would really get hurt would be those with cotton and peanuts in the Southeast,” he said. “It wouldn’t take a combination of many of those acres to hit the new payment limits.”

Lange says he would expect only a minimal impact on cotton acres in the Southwest because of the generally lower yields in those areas.

“I think it’s a difficult time for cotton farmers in the Mid-South and Far West to figure out what to do,” he said. “I think they just have to wait and see what this conference package ends up being.

“I have to tell you that the uncertainty and the anxiety that exists in the U.S. cotton production sector right now is probably greater than anything certainly in my experience with cotton and in that of those who have been involved with this industry much longer than I have.”

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Australia opens market to California table grapes

Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission, was on hand for the announcement during a visit to Fresno by Veneman and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Anticipating expanded shipments next year, Nave said initial exports will be extremely small, and the terms, even after a dozen years of negotiations with protectionist Australian authorities, have been "unnecessarily restrictive."

She told a seminar of table grape growers in Visalia she visited Australia last year and retailers and importers there are anxious to bring in California grapes. The Australian minister of agriculture, however, is opposed and "has worked very hard to keep your grapes out of that market," she added.

Even so, Nave said, the table grape industry "is confident that access will be expanded in the 2003 season because the Bush administration is committed to bringing Australia back to the negotiating table."

High-level officials of both USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, she said, are committed to expand the access after 2002.

Australia has a potential for about $10 million in sales of California table grapes and might become one of the top five markets for the industry. The California crop in recent years has been about 85 million boxes, of which about 35 percent is customarily exported.

The industry-funded commission, which is preparing a marketing plan for the Australian market, has been involved since talks began and has supported research required to assure the Australians that shipments are free of pests.

Australian industry

Nave blamed the limited access thus far on Australia’s own large and influential table grape industry, which is against the imports. She said the season there is mostly opposite to California, and once complete access is gained the imports will enable Australians to enjoy table grapes year-round.

The commission promoted grapes in 2001 in 22 overseas markets with publicity and sales materials. Among the most recent is India, opened to California grapes last year after a four-year campaign of negotiations.

New Zealand, a market for about 350,000 boxes, was closed late in the season last year after a dispute over spiders found in shipments. Nave said New Zealand’s demands for inspection and fumigation are not acceptable because they would set a precedent for other destinations to insist on similar expensive procedures.

"We are working to re-open this market but are taking a fairly hard-line position with both governments, making it clear that the industry is unwilling to add any additional steps to the shipping requirements."

The commission last year received in excess of $2 million from the federal government for international promotion under a marketing plan that requires the commission to match the federal contribution 70 cents on the dollar.

Disease research

While promotion absorbs about 85 percent of the commission’s resources, Nave said it is also involved with funding vineyard research, including work on glassy-winged sharpshooter and Pierces Disease in the Arvin-Bakersfield area.

"There is a plan in place to take what has been learned in that research project and transfer it to identified vulnerable areas in the southern Kern County region. The problem has to be addressed on an area-wide, multi-commodity basis.

"The state," she continued, "has agreed to fund monitoring, trapping, and transfer of information to growers. The only remaining issue is who will pay for treatment if it is needed, in table grapes, citrus, almonds, and other crops involved."

The California Grape and Tree Fruit League is leading a multi-commodity effort to resolve the issue, and one possibility is for existing pest control districts to forge a legal arrangement for them to work together. No such district for table grapes presently exists, however, and creation of one is being discussed.

For the past several years, some growers and shippers have challenged the commission and other commodity boards as violations of free speech. Nave said the commission, established in 1968, "was created because the industry had lost significant market share and wanted the ability to work together to regain it."

In terms of market access and promotion abroad, she said, the commission augments the collective power of the industry. "Governments will work with industry organizations on behalf of the whole but generally will not work with individual companies."

The table grape industry recently conducted a referendum among its 600 growers to decide whether to continue the commission for another five years, and results were expected to be announced early in March.

IPM, new chemistry

Another speaker at the Visalia seminar, Bill Peacock, Tulare County farm advisor, credited integrated pest management, the now-familiar IPM, and new chemistry for protecting the table grape industry.

During the past 30 years, California grape growers have been challenged by introduction of a significant, new, insect or disease pests every three years, most recently the glassy-winged sharpshooter and the citrus peelminer.

Federal, state, and local governments, the industry, and the public will have to "put their best foot forward" to prevent additional pest introductions from outside the state, he said.

IPM practices originated from the University of California in the late 1950s, a time when the grape leafhopper had developed considerable resistance to the then new synthetic organic insecticides and serious biological upsets of spider mites and grape mealybug were appearing.

This set the stage for an effort by several UC specialists who launched intensive studies for the new practices integrating chemical, cultural, and biological controls. Subsequent financial support by the California Table Grape Commission and Raisin Advisory Board and participation by progressive growers led the way for eventual adoption of the integrated approach.

Among the serious economic pests that must now be controlled in vineyards up and down the state is vine mealybug, which first appeared in the Coachella Valley in 1994. By 1999, it had spread through the entire Coachella Valley and penetrated northward as far as Fresno County.

Peacock urged growers to avoid contamination with movement of workers and machinery and keep the mealybug from spreading farther in California vineyards.

He said the industry cannot afford to be complacent and when an exotic pest is detected the immediate response must be to eradicate it, or at the very least, confine it.