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Posts Tagged: Maxwell Norton

Northern San Joaquin Valley is basking in the cold

Cold winter weather is good for dormant fruit and nut trees.
During the recent cold snap in California, the media turned to UC Cooperative Extension advisors for information on the weather's impact on agricultural production in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

The consensus for this part of the state: cold weather is good news. The Stockton Record checked in with Joe Grant, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Joaquin County.

"We'll take any and all cold that we can at this time of year to fulfill the chilling requirements of the trees," Grant said.

Paul Verdegaal, UCCE advisor in San Joaquin County, a viticulture expert, agreed.

"The good side of the story is we're catching up on the chilling hours, which will produce a good strong bud bread and bloom for all the perennial crops," Verdegaal said. "(Subfreezing temperatures, however,) may be hurting some younger trees and vines, but generally, things are in dormancy, so it's not too much of a problem."

Maxwell Norton, UCCE advisor in Merced County, spoke to the Merced Sun-Star.

"For us out here, the cold nights are good," Norton said. "We fare quite well because we don't grow subtropical crops like citrus and avocados."

Scott Stoddard, UCCE advisor in Merced County, said crop storage facilities need to pay attention to temperature control when the weather gets very cold.

"We have a lot of sweet potatoes in storage," he said. "They guys need to make sure their storage rooms are working properly and don't get too cold."

Roger Duncan, UCCE advisor in Stanislaus County, told the Modesto Bee that warm winters are more harmful than cold snaps such as the one we're experiencing.

"Actually, this is beautiful," Duncan said. "Tree crops need cold in order to break their rest."

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Posted on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 10:03 AM

Valley farmers are pulling out peaches

Cling peaches.
Low production, low prices and labor issues are plaguing the California cling peach industry and prompting farmers to pull out their orchards in favor of growing something that carries less risk, reported Joshua Emerson Smith in the Merced Sun-Star.

Many environmental factors can significantly compromise a peach harvest, said Maxwell Norton, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County.

"For tree fruit you need to have a greater net profit than you do raising tree nuts because growing tree fruit is so much more risky," he said. "The biggest risk of all is not being able to find enough labor during harvest. Peaches, when they're ripe, you have very few days to harvest."

In the Northern San Joaquin Valley, including Merced and Stanislaus counties, about 8.2 percent of bearing acres for clingstone peaches, or 667 acres, have been pulled out of production this fall, the article said.

Because trees are being pulled out, processors are beginning to increase the price they are offering.

Delhi farmer Glenn Arnold said he's clinging to peaches for now.

"I was happy when I heard the price because it's a fair price," he said. "A hail storm can take your whole crop in two minutes. If you don't get compensated adequately for the risk, you might switch to an alternative."

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Posted on Friday, December 21, 2012 at 10:33 AM
Tags: cling peaches (3), Maxwell Norton (11), peaches (18)

ANR in the news during winter break

While many offices are closed between Christmas and New Year's Day, the media don't stop distributing news. Following is a sampling of recent news stories with an ANR connection.

In battle to save Bonny Doon vineyards, scientists try tricking bacteria
Beth Mole, Santa Cruz Sentinel

UC Berkeley plant pathologist Steve Lindow is studying the use transgenic grapevines to control Pierce's disease.
Scientists are now investigating less costly methods of managing glassy-winged sharpshooters and the spread of Pierce's disease. Steve Lindow, a plant pathologist from UC Berkeley, is using something similar to a Jedi mind trick: Convince the bacteria they've already caused disease.

But to stop these microscopic killers, scientists had to do some criminal profiling.

When Xylella get into a grape vine, they're released in the vascular tissue -- the plumbing of the plant that pumps water up from the roots. From there, the bacteria use the tissue as "hallways" to invade the whole vine. They then start exploring and munching on the plant.

"We think that the exploratory phase involves rather promiscuous movement of bacteria," Lindow said. But as they spread from place to place, there are only a few bacteria in each area, he said.

Each bacterium constantly sends out a molecular beacon that allows them to collect. Lindow and his team of researchers realized that this beacon is the bacteria's glaring weakness -- without it, they wouldn't make it into their next sharpshooter or kill the vine. So, the researchers engineered transgenic grapevines to make the same beacon.

Pesticide use rises throughout Merced County
Joshua Emerson Smith, Merced Sun-Star

Pesticide use in Merced County is on the rise, according to the annual report from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. The bump followed a statewide trend that saw an increase in pesticide use after four years of decline.

The reporter talked to Paul Towers, a spokesperson for the Pesticide Action Network, who said, "California is stuck on a pesticide treadmill."

UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Maxwell Norton said the idea that alternatives to pesticides aren't being pursued is false.

"Pest management has more resources dedicated to it than any other field of agriculture research," he said. "Agricultural researchers are putting a lot of resources into alternative systems. The research reports are there in the hundreds for people to read. We will eventually come up with alternatives."

Leaf curl dilemma
Debbie Arrington, The Sacramento Bee

Folks with backyard peach or nectarine trees face a major problem this winter. Used to control leaf curl, Micro-cop copper fungicide spray and lime sulfur no longer are available to California home gardeners due to environmental concerns. The fungicide sprays that are available have much lower concentrations of copper.

"It's a pretty big deal right now," said Chuck Ingels, Sacramento County UC Cooperative Extension's horticulture advisor. "Those products worked. We don't really have an alternative yet."

This month, Ingels and master gardeners are conducting tests on possible alternatives, such as Liqui-Cop and Concern copper soap, at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center's orchard. Because the fungus needs water to multiply, they're also testing another approach: Covering whole trees with breathable fabric to prevent moisture from accumulating on the branches.

"Until we know what works, the best option is to plant varieties that are resistant to leaf curl," Ingels said.

Olive oil's secret: Not enough real virgins
Ronald Holden,

In a report a year ago, UC Davis researchers found that 69 percent of imported "extra virgin" olive oil (and 10 percent of domestic oil) wasn't what it pretended to be. Even the best-known brands showed signs of adulteration —blended with inferior grades of olive oil or cheaper oils from soybeans, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds.

The lone import to receive top ratings on all points was Costco's Organic Extra Virgin Oil, which sells for one-fifth the price of competing brands.

Posted on Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 1:31 PM

Grasshoppers are devastating Mariposa greenery

A swarm of locusts cast a shadow over Egypt when Pharaoh wouldn't let Moses' people go. Throughout history, locust swarms in most parts of the world have been known to strip farmland and rangeland to the nub. Now, Mariposa County is faced with a devastating population of the voracious insect, according to an article in the Merced Sun-Star.

Reporter Carol Reiter spoke to the interim director of UC Cooperative Extension in Mariposa County, Maxwell Norton, about the 2011 grasshopper population. He explained that this year's wet weather was ideal for the winged pests. When the hills and rangelands where the grasshoppers hatch started drying out, the insects began invading gardens and crops in Mariposa by the thousands.

"They'll eat almost anything green," Norton was quoted. "People all over the foothills have been complaining about the numbers of them this year."

The article said Norton responded to the high grasshopper numbers by offering a seminar to Master Gardeners on how to keep gardens and plants safe from the insects.

He described the use of Semaspore bait for grasshopper control. After eating Semaspore, a product approved for organic gardeners, grasshoppers become sick, eat less and begin to die. The disease spreads to healthy grasshoppers when they eat their dying brethren. The product is safe for people, pets and the environment.

This article also appeared in the Modesto Bee, the Sacramento Bee and the Fresno Bee.

For more on grasshopper management in gardens and landscapes, see the UC IPM Pest Note about grasshoppers.

An adult devastating grasshopper, Melanoplus devastator.
An adult devastating grasshopper, Melanoplus devastator.

Posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 10:22 AM

String thinner could cut peach production costs

Farmers in the northern San Joaquin Valley saw a demonstration of new stonefruit thinning technology at a UC Cooperative Extension field day in Stanislaus County last week. Reporter John Holland and photographer Bart Ah You filed a story, photos and video about the event for publication in today's Modesto Bee.

The German-made "string thinner" has been researched for two years by farm advisors Roger Duncan and Maxwell Norton and pomology specialist Scott Johnson. It involves running a column of spinning plastic strings around and above the trees during bloom to knock off some of the blossoms.

The result is less fruit set and therefore reduced thinning expenses later in the season. In addition, the fruit that remain have less competition on the tree during their early development, which boosts fruit size at harvest.

"For one variety that was tested, the grower's gross income rose $997 per acre and the thinning cost dropped $386, resulting in a $1,383 (per acre) gain," Duncan explained at the field day.

The machine costs about $16,000, but it quickly pays for itself, said Modesto farmer Paul Van Konynenburg, Holland reported.

Farm advisors introduce peach producers to new thinning technology.
Farm advisors introduce peach producers to new thinning technology.

Posted on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 9:38 AM

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