Food & Farm News
» April 4, 2012 «
As crews investigate the first California discovery of a lethal citrus-tree disease, federal officials work to keep out other threats to farms and the environment. Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month kicked off this week. The US Agriculture Department encourages people to buy plants from reputable sources, have all fruits and vegetables inspected prior to shipment, and take other steps. The citrus disease known as HLB may have been carried into California by an invasive insect.
Honey production in California dropped by 35 percent in 2011, according to a government report. Bee specialists say the number of colonies producing honey also declined, but the reasons are varied. For example, some beekeepers focused their colonies on pollination instead of making honey. Other factors affecting honey production include how many nectar-producing plants are available and how weather and soil conditions affect nectar production.
With a dry, warm winter and a wet beginning to spring, farmers have had to remain flexible. A crop weather report notes that grain growers and cattle ranchers have particularly appreciated the recent rain. Other farmers have generally welcomed it, too, though noting it may be too little, too late. A survey this week estimated the Sierra snowpack at 55 percent of average, indicating reduced water supplies this summer.
Barn owls are becoming more valuable on California farms. The owls' natural instinct to hunt rodents comes in handy for farmers, who want to curb populations of pocket gophers and other pests that can damage farmland, crops and equipment. A program to place owl boxes in vineyards and on farms has shown promising results. The boxes provide a home for the owls and in turn, the owls keep rodent populations in check.Top