January 10, 2013, Ithaca, NY – A tiny invasive fruit fly, native to Asia, has become big trouble for raspberries, strawberries, cherries and blueberries coast to coast in the U.S.
In the face of that danger, Cornell University researchers and peers from Northeast and Canada are working together to zero in on ways to combat the invasive spotted-wing drosophila, a poorly understood and highly destructive pest.
“That’s a terrible combination,” said Julie Carroll, the fruit Integrated Pest Management coordinator for the New York State IPM Program, based at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y.
Spotted-wing drosophila took up residence in California a few short years ago; last year, it caused up to $1 billion in nationwide crop and job losses, according to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
“In my 30-plus years in the blueberry business, this is the worst problem I’ve seen yet,” said grower and U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council board member Dennis Doyle. Meanwhile, many raspberry growers had to abandon fall plantings of what had long been a trouble-free crop.
Although spotted-wing drosophila had troubled growers in the Hudson Valley in 2011, it is now just about everywhere in the state, said Greg Loeb, professor of entomology at Cornell. “Some growers lost 100 per cent of their crops, and those losses weren't just isolated incidents. This new pest is a serious threat.”
While most fruit flies infest fruit that’s already past its prime and unmarketable, “SWD attacks fruit just as it ripens, and you can’t always see the damage until it's too late,” Loeb said. And because spotted-wing drosophila is so new, scientists’ knowledge of it and how to manage it is rife with yawning gaps.
Loeb, Carroll and Laura McDermott, a Cornell Cooperative Extension small-fruit specialist in eastern New York, convened a daylong meeting of 50 researchers and growers from across the Northeast and from the Canadian provinces Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia in November. The attendees reported to and learned from each other, then listed and voted on every possible research, regulatory and educational angle (79 altogether) they could take to tackle spotted-wing drosophila. The top research priorities included repellants, attract-and-kill techniques and over-wintering biology, among others.
Ideally, researchers will find biological controls – diseases or parasites that prey on spotted-wing drosophila alone.
“But that kind of work takes years. Until then we’ve got to devise the best possible combination of lures, trap crops and low-toxicity sprays,” says Dale-Ila Riggs, president of the New York State Berry Growers Association, which helps promote collaboration between researchers and growers.
January 10, 2013, Holland, MI – Siegers Seed Company recently announced the appointment of Jammie Underhill as its new seed consultant for Ontario.
Underhill will provide his processing industry expertise to the company’s customers and service a market segment for Siegers as its processing sales representative.
Underhill has worked in the vegetable industry as a grower for more than two decades and has worked with the majority of the vegetable processors in the United States and Canada. He has worked closely with the research and development team at Siegers over the years to keep up to date on all new trail varieties and how they perform in different geographical areas.
Underhill can be reached by cell phone at 519-617-3429 or office phone at 519-773-3250.
Siegers Seed Company is a family owned Michigan based business and is a distributor of a full line of vegetable seeds and plants in the U.S. and Canada.
For more information visit www.siegers.com or call 1-800-962-4999.
January 10, 2013, Ithaca, NY – Chefs and home cooks could soon have easier access to a homegrown “super food,” thanks to a Cornell-led team of researchers working to expand broccoli's availability at farms, farmer's markets and grocery stores from Maine to Florida.
Broccoli is at the center of a nearly $1 billion-a-year U.S. industry, due in part to growing awareness of its health benefits. But despite increasing consumption, 90 per cent of broccoli sold in the East is produced in California and Mexico, resulting in more food miles, greater greenhouse gas emissions – and profits that leave the region, according to Thomas Björkman, professor of horticulture at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y.
Björkman is leading a team that includes researchers from public broccoli-breeding programs and private seed companies, production specialists and economists in building a regional food network for this nutritious vegetable. Their goal is to move production from isolated pockets to a year-round market worth $100 million a year.
Two years into the project, funded by a $3.2 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and supplemented by $1.7 million in matching funds from participating companies, the goal looks to be within reach.
“Most standard varieties developed for western climates have trouble lasting through hot and humid eastern summers,” Björkman says. “But new genetics have allowed us to develop varieties that don't make misshapen heads when the weather turns consistently warm.”
Over the past two summers, project staff at five field sites in Western New York, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina and southern Maine tested dozens of recent varieties and new hybrid candidates developed by participating breeders. Several new crosses outperformed the best available commercial varieties. With the first new crosses making such a big advance, the team has high hopes for further breeding.
Summer-tolerant varieties could expand a growing season currently restricted to spring and fall, but to make the industry profitable, the team must also figure out distribution, says Miguel Gomez, assistant professor at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.
Gomez has developed an economic model to identify cost-effective pathways for getting broccoli from the farm to the grocery store. Results show the additional expense involved in producing broccoli in the eastern U.S. can be offset by savings in transportation costs. According to Gomez’s model, a 30 per cent increase in eastern acreage has the potential to reduce costs by $5 million a year under current diesel fuel prices. Gomez also found that a year-round eastern broccoli industry would reduce the broccoli growing and transportation system’s carbon footprint.
“More problem solving is needed to identify optimal locations for growing and postharvest facilities and ways of keeping large amounts of broccoli cold,” says Gomez. “But initial findings show that if we can answer those questions, we can have a strong industry here. It’s broccoli today, but we hope the project can be a model for other crops.”
January 7, 2013 – The 2013 Michigan State University (MSU) Tree Fruit School will be held at the Eberhard Center in downtown Grand Rapids, MI, on Feb. 13 to 15, 2013.
The motto for the 2013 MSU Tree Fruit School is be nimble. Faced with new pests, new restrictions on old management tools and climate instability, nimble orchard managers rely on technology to help stay on top. This two and a half day program will explore the use of current and innovative technologies for improving pest management control strategies, harvesting, orchard maintenance and laboursaving tools.
Included in the program will be two hands-on workshops: one on the spotted wing Drosophila fly and another on the brown marmorated stink bug. Participants will learn how to identify, monitor and manage these important emerging pests.
Registration is $210 per person, or $310 after January 29, which includes breakfast, lunch and snack breaks on Wednesday and Thursday (Feb. 13 and 14), breakfast and snack break on Friday (Feb. 15), a binder with all course materials, classroom facilities in the Eberhard Center and speaker expenses. Dinner is on your own and lodging is separate.
To pay by check or money order, please download and complete the registration form and be sure to send it with your payment post-marked by January 29. To pay by credit card over the phone, please call Carolyn Devereaux at 517-884-0392.
A block of rooms is being offered at a special rate at the Holiday Inn Downtown Grand Rapids, just across from the Eberhard Center. Please call the hotel directly to make your reservation by January 29 and be sure to ask for the MSU Tree Fruit School room rate. Room rates are $100/night for a double or $110/night for a triple quad plus applicable taxes. Call the hotel directly at 616-235-7611.
For more information about the program, please contact Julianna Wilson at 517-432-4766 or visit the program webpage.
Under the agreement, AEF Global will distribute RootShield WP, RootShield HC, and MilStop in Canada on a non-exclusive basis, and exclusively market SuffOil-X. AEF Global will also market in these active ingredients under private labels, such as Sirocco, in Canada.
BioWorks will distribute in the United States and Mexico, under private labels, Bioprotec CAF, Influence WP, and a non-selective herbicide. BioWorks will also distribute Cyclone, Tivano, Buran, Influence LC, and Kona, a selective herbicide.
“This opportunity is a chance to introduce Canadian registered products in new markets and explore further outlets for label uses,” said Yannick Bidon, president and CEO of AEF Global. “AEF has over 22 registrations in Canada, placing us as a top biopesticide leader. More Canadian registrations are on the way but it’s time for the current ones to travel further and working with BioWorks will allow just that. We have great active ingredients, made in Canada, and we believe there is a big need for them elsewhere.”
“We are delighted to be partnering with AEF Global,” said Bill Foster, president and CEO of BioWorks. “With the partnership, we are bringing AEF Global leadership in Canada together with BioWorks leadership in the United States and Mexico. Their focus on ecological products fits naturally with our plant nutrition and biological pest and disease control products. Combining the AEF Global products to our portfolio strengthens our ability to meet customer needs.”
October 19, 2012 – Preventing activity of a key enzyme in potatoes could help boost potato quality by putting an end to cold-induced sweetening, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.
Cold-induced sweetening, which occurs when potatoes are put in long-term cold storage, causes flavour changes and unwanted dark colours in fried and roasted potatoes. But long-term cold storage is necessary to maintain an adequate supply of potatoes throughout the year.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists found that during cold storage, an enzyme called invertase causes changes in potato sugars – more accumulation of sucrose and a corresponding increase in the amount of glucose and fructose in tubers stored at very low temperatures.
At the ARS Vegetable Crops Research Unit in Madison, Wis., plant physiologist Paul Bethke, geneticist Shelley Jansky, and technician Andy Hamernik used a recently developed technology to show that decreasing the activity of invertase is sufficient to enable cold storage of potatoes without compromising the appearance of potato chips or the growth characteristics of the potato plants.
Bethke and his colleagues are using molecular tools to improve understanding of what is controlling the process of cold-induced sweetening. Potatoes are sensitive to their environment and highly sensitive to low temperatures, and respond to these temperatures by producing certain sugars called “reducing sugars,” primarily glucose and fructose. When chips or fries are made from these potatoes, they tend to be dark-coloured and bitter. The scientists’ research paper in Plant Physiology provides a proof of concept that the invertase enzyme is critically important in the process.
However, invertase’s level of importance has never been clear, because there are other biochemical steps that might also contribute, according to Bethke.
September 7, 2012 – John Deere Water recently announced the availability of the John Deere F Series Metal Filters to North American customers.
The F Series Metal Filters include the F1000, F3200, F3300 and F3400 models. Each model has features to meet the irrigation needs of grower customers in diverse crop production and green industry markets.
All John Deere Metal Filters with hydraulic parallel automatic suction type screens use a continuous linear movement (CLM) mechanism, which eliminates the need for pistons to change cleaning direction. The metal filters have large sintered screens that provide a larger filtration area and four layers of screen strength. Self-adjusting nozzles and brushes are standard on all John Deere automatic electric suction screen and brush filters for maximum cleaning effectiveness.
For more information on John Deere F Series Metal Filters, visit www.JohnDeereWater.com.
Sept. 7, 2012, London, UK - The G20 Nations, said a Russian representative, will decide within the next month whether to take joint action on soaring grain prices.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Russian Deputy Agriculture Minister Ilya Shestakov said that the issue will be addressed by the middle of October at the Rapid Response Forum with other senior G20 officials.
"We are not planning any emergency measures, we want to carry out analysis, discuss possible scenarios and our joint actions to calm down the market," he said. "We will take the decision on whether joint actions are needed."
For more information on what the G20 could do to help food prices, as well as whatcould happen if no action is taken, please visit the Chicago Tribune.
Aug. 22, 2012, Chicago, IL - BMO Financial Group today announced a financial relief program to assist customers affected by dry conditions throughout much of North America.
Record heat and lack of rain have been unforgiving in the U.S. Midwest this summer, leading to the worst drought the U.S. has seen in 56 years. Reports estimate that as of July 31, nearly two-thirds of the continental U.S. was experiencing some level of drought. For most of the growing season in Ontario, farmers have faced close to record low levels of precipitation that have reduced yields for crop farmers and limited feed availability for livestock producers.
“Banks have a unique responsibility in the creation of economic prosperity. Society rightly expects that bankers will do the right thing and stand behind the people who put food on our tables,” said Bill Downe, President and CEO, BMO Financial Group. “For almost 200 years, we’ve earned the trust of farmers and become one of the largest agricultural lenders in North America – not just by working with them in good times, but by being there when it really counts.”
Under the program BMO customers can apply for:
- Working capital assistance
- Deferral of loan payments
- Other measures to assist farmers
“As one of the top ten ag-banks in the United States, we at BMO Harris Bank believe it’s important to stand with our customers during these trying times,” said Sam Miller, Managing Director and Group Head, Agriculture, BMO Harris Bank.
"Farmers and rural communities in Ontario have been affected, and we hope that these initiatives will help alleviate some of the difficulties they face," said David Rinneard, National Manager of Agriculture, BMO Bank of Montreal.
BMO customers in both countries are invited to contact their local branch and to speak to a commercial account manager about their particular financial needs.
About BMO Financial Group
Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly-diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $525 billion as at April 30, 2012, and more than 46,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.
Aug. 17, 2012 - Cranberries are already known to be rich in fiber, and to provide vitamin C and potassium, both of which are essential nutrients. But the tart, colorful berries are also a source of natural compounds known as polyphenols. These compounds have been the focus of a series of studies by former U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) chemist Ronald L. Prior and his colleagues.
Previously with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center in Little Rock, Prior is now an adjunct professor of food science at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
In one investigation, the researchers closely examined the kinds and amounts of compounds in cranberry pomace—the stems, skins, seeds, and pulp that are left over when the berries are pressed to make juice or canned products. According to Prior, cranberry processors are looking for new, value-added uses for these byproducts.
Much is already known about the major polyphenols in fresh cranberries. But the Arkansas study was apparently one of the first to extensively investigate and document the kinds and amounts of major cranberry pomace polyphenols.
The researchers used sophisticated analytical procedures to measure the molecular weight of pomace constituents and, from that, to determine their identity. If appropriate reference standards were available, the quantity of the constituent was determined.
Among other findings, the team determined that the pomace contained appreciable levels of flavonols, a class of polyphenols that includes, for example, quercetin and myricetin.
Fresh whole cranberries are already known to contain high levels of flavonols—more than most berries and, in fact, more than most fruits or vegetables. But the research was the first to show that nearly half of the total flavonol content of whole berries was left behind in the pomace.
Prior collaborated on the research with Luke R. Howard of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and with food technologist Brittany L. White, formerly at the university and now with ARS in Raleigh, N.C.
Published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, this 2010 study is still the most up-to-date analysis of its kind for cranberry pomace. The findings are a readily accessible reference for medical and nutrition researchers, food processors, and others, Prior noted.
Read more about this research in the August 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
Aug. 14, 2012, Regina, SK - Widespread drought in the United States could create opportunities as well as challenges for Canadian producers, according to Farm Credit Canada's Senior Agriculture Economist Jean-Philippe Gervais.
"Canadian producers are certainly not immune from the impacts the near-record drought could have on commodity prices, input costs and industries connected to agriculture," said Gervais, after reviewing the latest United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) drought update. "The ripple effect is already impacting some commodity prices and it matters to all Canadians because one in eight jobs in Canada is connected to agriculture and the agri-food system."
The U.S. accounts for nearly 40% of world corn production and 35% of world soybean production. Significant changes in U.S. production therefore have a major impact on world prices for these commodities and, in turn, all agriculture commodity prices. This year's U.S. drought is the most extensive since 1956.
According to the USDA, the decline in the corn and soybean crop is unprecedented. The average national corn yield is expected to be 123 bushels per acre or 10.8 billion bushels nationally, down from July's forecast of 146 bushels per acre or 13 billion bushels. This represents a decrease of approximately 20%. Projections for soybean yields were also reduced. At the same time, price projections for all feed grains were raised substantially.
Gervais mentioned that corn and soybeans have already experienced price spikes, which benefits Canadian producers in general, as well as Western Canadian farmers who grow canola and wheat. These commodities are seen as substitutes for corn and soybeans.
Conditions remain favourable for most commodities throughout Canada, with the some exceptions. Dry conditions and poor soil moisture may reduce corn and soybean production in parts of Ontario and Quebec. Some producers in the Prairies are dealing with excess moisture and disease. Thankfully, most Canadian crop producers are facing a positive outlook. "At times like this, when crop producers are benefiting from higher prices, they should look at their financial management plan to see if accelerating debt repayment is possible," Gervais said.
With a more scarce traditional feed supply, costs for feed are escalating, which adversely affects livestock producers."For Canadian cattle producers, it will likely be a case of short-term pain followed by long-term gain," said Gervais, who noted that cattle prices should rebound over the long haul as U.S. producers reduce herd sizes due to the drought conditions, which happened in Texas last year. The impact of higher feed costs on Canadian hog producers is compounded by the challenges faced by the industry in recent years.
When facing challenges posed by higher input costs, planning and execution are key. "Risk management tools, such as price contracts and hedging feed costs, can help make the best of a difficult situation," Gervais said. "Another strategy used by hog producers is to maximize feed efficiency by adjusting diet formulations and ensuring that feeding equipment is working accurately. Producers may want to revisit their planned marketing weight of pigs in relation to weight discounts and feed prices. They should also think about running the numbers to see what makes sense for their operations. This is a great example of the complexity of production and marketing."
The market impacts of adverse weather events are usually short-lived, but Gervais notes that the current drought has occurred at a time when stocks were already below historical average levels. "It is more important than ever to determine what your risk tolerance is, and stick to your marketing plan," he said.
As Canada's leading agriculture lender, FCC is advancing the business of agriculture. With a healthy portfolio of more than $23 billion and 19 consecutive years of portfolio growth, FCC is strong and stable - committed to serving the industry through all cycles. FCC provides financing, insurance, software, learning programs and other business services to producers, agribusinesses and agri-food operations. FCC employees are passionate about agriculture and committed to the success of customers and the industry. For more information, visit www.fcc.ca.
Aug. 7, 2012 - Many agricultural colleges in the United States are seeing an increase in enrollment, as student believe they offer a clear path to employment.
According to an article from the USA Today, the boom is due to its envionmentally friendly view and provides valuable skills to combat global hunger and obesity. The newspaper reports that even with the large increase in enrollment, colleges cannot meet the industry demand for graduates.
"We are definitely in growth mode, and agriculture is a bright spot in the economy," said Cindy Heser, DuPont Pionerr's senior human resources manager. "We really need people to help us meet those world challenges."
To learn more about the substantial increase in agriculture program enrollment in US. colleges, read the entire article on USA Today.
July 30, 2012, Marysville, CA – Peach growers near Sacramento, Calif., are searching for workers that can pick their peaches before they rot.
One peach producer says he’s losing five per cent of his crop every day because his peaches can’t be picked before they soften and bruise. In desperation, he is going door to door with the help of friends to recruit pickers. READ MORE
Jul. 25, 2012, Salt Lake City, UT - EcoScraps, a leading provider of organic, chemical- and manure-free lawn and garden products, today announced it received $1.5 million in series A venture financing. The round's lead investor was Utah-based KickStart. Other institutional investors included California-based DBL Investors and Utah-based Peterson Ventures.
"This represents a significant round of financing for EcoScraps and will be used to expand our products into new markets, continue developing our line of products, and attract new talent to our growing team," said EcoScraps CEO and co-founder Dan Blake. "Americans generate more than 30 million tons of food waste each year. Our company offers a sustainable solution to repurposing leftover fruits and vegetables."
EcoScraps diverts produce waste taken from local grocery stores and restaurants away from landfills, and turns it into compost and other lawn and garden products. The company's no-chemical, no-poop products are not only sustainable and contain twice the amount of essential soil nutrients than typical manure- and chemical-based soil products on the market, but are safe for kids and pets too.
"The strong support and adoption of EcoScraps is not surprising," said Clarke Miyasaki, managing director at KickStart. "Their business model is truly unique and profitable. By repurposing organic waste that would ordinarily sit in landfills, they have zero cost raw materials that keep costs down while creating an extremely high quality product. We see EcoScraps leading a new generation of environmentally-friendly and highly profitable companies in America."
"EcoScraps is perfectly positioned to become an industry leader," said Ben Capell, principal at Peterson Ventures. "The company's business model is unique and goes beyond anything we've seen. EcoScraps has gained an incredible amount of traction over the past year. The company's growing retail base already includes some of the nation's largest home improvement stores."
Founded just two years ago, EcoScraps is now manufacturing its products in Utah, Arizona and California. Currently, the company sells its sustainable manure- and chemical-free organic compost throughout Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and California.
"EcoScraps is led by a strong management team and is addressing the fast-growing market for green lawn and gardening products. Today's consumers want beautiful gardens that are also good for the planet, and EcoScraps is poised to become the leader in answering this important need," said Nancy Pfund, managing partner at DBL Investors. "We are pleased to support the mission of EcoScraps and are confident in its future growth."
EcoScraps is an organic lawn and garden products manufacturer that was established in 2010. Its process recycles food waste into nutrient-rich products that help plants grow healthier in the most environmentally friendly way possible. EcoScraps has received several awards in its short history, including the 2010 Sparkseed Innovator honor, 2010 SOCAP Scholar and was named as one of the "Top 25 Most Promising Social Ventures in America" by Businessweek. To learn more about EcoScraps, visit: ecoscraps.com.
Jul. 20, 2012 - California Department of Public Health have traced the E. coli illnesses in the U.S. and Canada to California grower, Amazing Coachella Inc.
According to ana rticle from The Packer, Amazing Coachella grew and distributed the infected lettuce that sickened nine poeple in California with E.coli O157:H7, as well as at least one in Quebec and 18 in Miramichi, New Brunswick.
For more information on the official report and investigation, see the full article on The Packer.
Jul. 16, 2012, Summerland, BC - The U.S. government is now seeking the public's input on Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny apples, two nonbrowning varieties that have been produced through biotechnology by Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF).
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) has opened its review for U.S. public comment, which allows U.S. citizens to submit their input on Arctic Apples for APHIS' review.
OSF's Arctic Apples are among the first biotechnology plants/plant foods to undergo a recently-enhanced U.S. agency review process that now includes two opportunities for public input (summarized here). APHIS announced opening of the first 60-day public comment period regarding the petition for Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden apples and eleven other biotechnology products in the July 13, 2012 edition of the Federal Register. This first comment period will close on September 11, 2012.
"We are delighted to reach this important milestone in the U.S., and to be one of the first to participate in the expanded APHIS review processes," said OSF founder and President Neal Carter, who grows apples and cherries. "We're confident these public comment opportunities will reassure consumers and producers alike that Arctic Apples address browning in an innocuous way, so that we can move on to the work of getting more people eating more apples."
The second U.S. comment period is expected to open approximately six months following the closure of the first comment period. If no substantive issues have been raised, the public will have 30 days to review APHIS' assessments of Arctic Apples' Pest Risk Assessment (PPRA), Environmental Assessment (EA) and a preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). After reviewing received comments, if no further substantive issues have been raised APHIS' FONSI decision is published as final, thereby determining nonregulated status.
"We have approximately 10 years of real-world field trial experience demonstrating that our Arctic trees behave no differently from conventional trees, and that Arctic Apples are compositionally and nutritionally similar to conventional apples," said Carter. "It's not until an Arctic Apple is bruised, bitten or cut and doesn't brown that the Arctic difference becomes very clear."
Arctic Apples use gene silencing to suppress the apple's expression of polyphenol oxidase (PPO), the enzyme involved in browning when the fruit is bruised, bitten or cut. This virtually eliminates PPO production, so in turn the fruit doesn't brown. Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny are just our first nonbrowning varieties; any apple variety can be transformed this way. Test orchards were planted in 2003 and 2005 in Washington state and New York state, two of the chief apple growing areas in the United States.
OSF submitted its petition for nonregulated status to APHIS in May 2010; APHIS notified the company its petition was complete in February of this year.
"When there's no 'yuck' factor, more apples get eaten, fewer get thrown away, and more of a family's hard-earned money stays in their pockets," said Carter. "Increasing apple consumption is a goal everyone can support."
OSF is currently seeking U.S. partners to commercialize Arctic Apples, including growers and processors.
About Okanagan Specialty Fruits
Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc. is a dynamic biotechnology company dedicated to developing new commercial tree fruit varieties that are attractive to consumers, and are more profitable for producers and retailers. OSF is operated and largely owned by tree fruit growers based in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. For consumer information, visit www.arcticapples.com; for information about the company and partnership opportunities, visit www.okspecialtyfruits.com.
Jul. 16, 2012, Glendale, CO - Nearly a year after the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in more than two decades in the U.S., Colorado cantaloupes are back in supermarkets.
Farmers near the town of Rocky Ford are going on the offensive to restore the fruit's reputation a year after melons from one of the area's farms caused a nationwide listeria outbreak. They have banded together to trademark Rocky Ford melons and fund $800,000 worth of safety upgrades to prevent future outbreaks, but they must convince buyers that the melons are safe.
Last fall's listeria outbreak traced to Jensen Farms in eastern Colorado was blamed for the deaths of 30 people. It infected 146 people in 28 states with one of four strains of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
''When everything happened, after 125 years of growing a safe product, people were so upset,'' said Nathan Knapp, a Rocky Ford melon grower who drove to a Denver-area supermarket Friday to see the cantaloupes go on sale.
Some farmers who had raised melons for decades decided to stop growing Rocky Fords this year. Only about a third of the land devoted to growing the cantaloupes last year is now growing this year's crop, according to the USDA's Farm Service Agency.
''Quite a few people just dropped out,'' Knapp said. ''They had no interest anymore in dealing with the risk.''
But Knapp and a few dozen other farmers in Otero and Crowley counties decided to band together to restore confidence in Rocky Fords, melons with a distinct sweetness thanks to the area's hot, sunny days and cold nights. First the farmers patented the name Rocky Ford _ an important step because the source of the outbreak was 90 miles from Rocky Ford but was using the name.
Then the farmers overhauled their production practices to restore public confidence. They hired a full-time food safety manager to monitor melon-picking and started paying the seasonal pickers by the hour, not by the amount of cantaloupes picked. The farmers also built a new central packing shed where all Rocky Ford-labelled melons will be washed with soap and a chlorine oxide, then rinsed with well water tested for contamination.
After being washed, the melons will be cooled to reduce condensation and then packed into boxes labelled with codes traceable to the fields where the melons were grown. The boxes will be packed with slips that interested shoppers can scan using a smartphone to read about where their melons originated.
The Food and Drug Administration said last year that melons at Jensen Farms likely were contaminated in the operation's packing house. The FDA concluded that dirty water on a floor, and old, hard-to-clean equipment probably were to blame.
''We've built a brand new system, top to bottom,'' said Michael Hirakata, a farmer and head of the new Rocky Ford Growers Association. ''It's early, but so far it's working well.''
Jensen Farms, located in Holly, Colo., has filed for bankruptcy and isn't growing melons this year.
Lawsuits against Jensen Farms are still pending but may be settled this fall, lawyers said last month. The lawsuits were filed by people who were sickened or who had a family member die after the outbreak.
''I would say we are very close,'' Jim Markus, an attorney for Jensen Farms, said last month.
The bigger challenge facing Colorado melon growers may be restoring public confidence in the cantaloupes. So far, the growers' investments seem to be paying off.
Hirakata, who has 120 acres of Rocky Ford melons, said prices are up. He said boxes of Rocky Ford are wholesaling for $17 to $20, up from about $14.50 last year. The fall listeria outbreak happened after almost all the crop was in and sold, so this is the first market response farmers have seen to the outbreak.
A spokeswoman for King Soopers, the supermarket chain that started selling Rocky Ford cantaloupes Friday, said there was no plan to reduce orders for the melons this year.
''We support the product and believe this product is safe to consume,'' King Soopers spokeswoman Kelli McGannon said.
A few shoppers said they recalled last year's problems but didn't fear buying more cantaloupe.
''I remember the outbreak of course, but I figure if it's happening again, they would take the melons off the shelf,'' said Cindy Lewis, a Glendale woman who picked up a melon Friday. ''There could be a risk from any food, or from just walking down the street, you know? I'm not going to worry about it.''
Another shopper, Paul Borger, picked up a fruit tray including cantaloupe to serve guests. The tray's melon wasn't from Rocky Ford, but Borger said he didn't check either way before putting the tray in his buggy.
''I'm not worried. Whatever the problem was, they got it fixed,'' Borger said.
July 10, 2012 – The re-emergence of Potato Virus Y in potato seed stock is of great concern to farmers because insecticides used to control the aphids that vector PVY do not effectively decrease transmission of the disease.
In response, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has granted an Emergency Exemption to the Montana Department of Agriculture for use of BmJ to control PVY on up to 2,675 acres of seed potatoes. Manufactured by Certis USA, BmJ contains Bacillus mycoides isolate J, a bacterium discovered by Montana State University that has been shown to trigger a plant’s immune response to pathogenic fungi, bacteria, and viruses. READ MORE
June 22, 2012 - On Thursday the Senate completed a five-year farm bill that will see cuts to direct subsidy payments to farmers while still protecting sugar growers.
The bill passed with a vote of 64-35. It replaces four farm commodity subsidy programs with one, consolidates 23 conservation programs into 13, and ending several sources of abuse in food stamps.
The biggest change is the elimination of direct payments to farmers - wheather they plant crops or not. This subsidy will be replaced and there will be a greater reliance on crop insurance programs.
To read the full article, click here.
May 22, 2012, Frazee, MN – Don and Norma Smith couldn’t understand why their sheep stopped producing lambs in the mid-1990s. When half the animals died mysteriously over one winter, they gave up on the profitable hobby that had won blue ribbons for their kids at the Minnesota State Fair.
It was only later that they figured the problem might be connected to the use of chlorothalonil on the potato fields that had grown up around their small farm on the sandy soil in west-central Minnesota. READ MORE
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