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» March 31, 2006 «
Experience fighting another poultry disease prepares California officials for any possible outbreaks of avian flu on poultry farms. Speaking at a Flu Summit in Los Angeles yesterday (Thursday), state Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura said agencies test more than 100,000 birds each year. He said the agencies have maintained bird-health policies established during an earlier outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease among chickens.
Signaling continued growth in grape production, the amount of young or "non-bearing" vineyard land in California rose 15 percent last year. A government report issued yesterday shows that most of the new vineyards will produce winegrape varieties. Total acreage of raisin grapes decreased slightly, while acreage of table grapes and winegrapes increased. Grapes represent California's number-two crop, behind milk, and vineyards fill more than 860,000 acres of land.
California lemon growers are fighting rain and fog as they harvest their fruit. Shipments of lemons have been running nearly two-thirds behind last season's pace. Farmers in Arizona have been picking up the slack, sending a much larger crop to market. U.S. Agriculture Department analysts say the larger Arizona crop and imports of Mexican fruit have forced lemon prices downward. California farms account for more than 85 percent of domestic lemon production.
With California honeybees weakened by outbreaks of a parasitic mite, researchers have been looking for other insects to pollinate crops. A species known as the blue orchard bee shows promise as a pollinator for crops such as almonds and apples. Scientists say the bees are active at cooler temperatures than honeybees, are more efficient at pollination ... and don't appear vulnerable to the mites. California farm groups have asked for more research into the blue orchard bees' potential.
On the Calendar:
Students from more than 100 California high schools converge on Modesto Junior College tomorrow (Saturday) for the annual Future Farmers of America Field Day.