Kearney News Updates
The first stop on country music artist Michael Peterson's whirlwind tour of San Joaquin Valley agriculture today was the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, where he enjoyed fresh fruit produced by local farmers and was introduced to the science behind the California agricultural industry's tremendous success.
Peterson was a member of 4-H as a youth in eastern Washington. That early exposure to agriculture, he said, may have planted the seed that developed into his current affinity for the farming industry.
Peterson brings a measure of celebrity to the effort to share the message about California agriculture. His country music debut album in 1997 produced four hit singles, “Drink, Swear, Steal and Lie," "From Here to Eternity," “Too Good To Be True” and “When the Bartender Cries.” He was named Top New Artist of 1997 by Billboard and Radio & Records and honored as Country Weekly's Male Newcomer and Gavin's Artist to Watch in 1998.
More recently, Peterson has been active in youth development and veterans' programs. He presents a school assembly called "Tag, You're It," which blends illusions, humor, interactive multi-media, audience participation and the power of the internet to help improve test scores and boost high school graduation rates. He has also traveled to Iraq several times to perform for the troops and is creating a music project for the Military Child Education Coalition.
Peterson said he was impressed by his visit to the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
"I never thought about the science part, on this level, being so important in agriculture," he said. "Thank goodness y'all are here."
In the video above, Michael Peterson expresses esteem for California agricultural science. For a transcript of the video, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hispanic farmers gathered at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center today for a half-day seminar in Spanish about small-scale agricultural production.
A key topic was food safety. UC Cooperative Extension small farm advisor Richard Molinar acknowledged at the meeting that farmers who have been producing crops for dozens of years without incident might wonder why documenting food safety procedures is warranted. He said heightened awareness of food safety issues has consumers and retailers demanding such documentation, even if it isn't required by law. In the future, government agencies might develop food safety guidelines for small-scale farmers.
"Retailers are asking packinghouses and wholesalers for the food-safety documents," Molinar said. "They want to see written policies in place."
Other topics addressed at the meeting were squirrel and gopher control, sucking insect control, groundwater protection and pesticide calibration.
BMSB is now found in 33 states. Although not established in California, it has been identified in Los Angeles and Solano counties. BMBS can fly, but they primarily move into new areas by hitchhiking on vehicles and equipment.
Native to Asia, it's thought that BMSB arrived in packing crates shipped to the Eastern U.S. It has a large host range that includes grapes and many of the fruits and vegetables grown in California. Damage can be substantial when BMSB populations are not identified early and managed appropriately.
Apple growers in the Mid-Atlantic states have reported losses of $37 million representing 18 percent of their fresh apple market. Growers and wineries are also concerned that the “stink” from any bugs accidentally crushed in wine or juice grapes could taint the product with off flavors. This insect should concern homeowners as well, since people in the Mid-Atlantic states have reported large populations of BMBS overwintering in their homes and becoming a nuisance.
BMSBs resemble some other California stinkbugs, such as the rough stink bug, a beneficial predator of other insects. If you think you’ve found a BMSB, or any other odd or unique looking insect pest, you should collect it and bring it to your local university advisor, ag commissioner or state ag department entomologist for proper identification. Early identification of invasive pests is critical for protecting California’s billion dollar agricultural industries.
You can learn more about the BMSB and current research here.
UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Manuel Jimenez hosted the annual blueberry meeting and field day at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center today. The event attracted about 75 farmers and industry representatives.
Blueberry experts from Oregon and North Carolina joined University of California scientists to present the latest research findings on blueberry nutrition, blueberry disease management, blueberry pest management and blueberry postharvest research.
The milestone is significant, since the southern highbush blueberry cultivars grown in California originated in the Sunshine State. Southern highbush cultivars are well adapted to the California climate because they require fewer “chill hours” to produce fruit.
A leader in the development of the California industry, Jimenez has conducted blueberry observational trials – looking at yield and flavor characteristics – for more than a decade at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier. In addition, the Kearney blueberry plantings have been the scene of ongoing studies on plant spacing, mulches and pruning, research that has helped farmers successfully establish the crop in the semi-arid San Joaquin Valley.
Jimenez will invite blueberry farmers and those considering entering the industry to Kearney this week to taste and compare 35 varieties of berries. Looking over the plots, Jimenez said it wouldn’t be difficult for a farmer to use information from the Kearney trials to select good-tasting berries that ripen sequentially for months, extending one farm's blueberry season from spring until mid-way through the summer.
“You could plant Snow Chaser, a very sweet, early variety, in hoop houses and start harvesting in the second or third week of April,” Jimenez said. “Next, Reveille could come into production. Southmoon is really late and then Centurion, a rabbit eye blueberry that’s small and sweet, would be ready in late July.”
On Wednesday, May 18, Jimenez will lead a tour to small and large commercial berry farms and packing facilities. Discussion topics include blackberry sunburn prevention, blackberry trellising systems, blueberry field design and layout, soil and water acidification, irrigation scheduling, harvest practices and blueberry packing and cooling.
A blueberry meeting on Thursday, May 19, features presentations on world production systems, blueberry nutrition, frost protection and blueberry market outlook. Following lunch, participants adjourn to visit the research plantings and industry exhibits.
For more information about the blueberry meetings this week at Kearney, see the flyer.