Food & Farm News
December 4, 2013
Farmers brace for freezing weather
A wave of cold weather moving through California this week threatens harm to citrus fruit. Farmers say they will activate wind machines and will also irrigate their groves, to help fend off the freeze. Oranges are vulnerable to damage if temperatures drop below 28 degrees for several hours. Most of the California navel orange crop remains on the trees. Growers of vegetables, berries and other crops will also keep an eye on temperatures this week.
Ranchers continue to cope with drought
While farmers prepare for cold temperatures, ranchers continue to struggle against lingering dry weather. Lack of autumn rainfall has worsened grass conditions on California rangelands. Many ranchers have reduced their herds in response to the dry weather, resulting in higher cattle prices. With pastures and springs both dried out, ranchers now must feed hay and provide water to their remaining animals.
Sugar beets become an energy crop
Sugar beets aren’t just for sugar anymore. Two new California projects aim to use sugar beets to produce ethanol. The most recent project, in Tracy, would use city wastewater for steam to generate electricity used in ethanol production. A separate facility, in Mendota, would feature a demonstration biorefinery. Farmers would grow a variety of sugar beet known as the Energy Beet, specially developed for biofuel production.
Scientists decode pest’s genome
In the category of “know your enemy” comes word that researchers have sequenced the genome of a fly pest known as spotted-wing drosophila. The pest attacks crops such as cherries and berries, and spread into California five years ago. Scientists say knowing about the fly’s genetic makeup will help them learn more about its behavior, its preferred food and other characteristics. And that, they say, will lead to new ways to fight the pest.