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» June 26, 2006 «
"Too hot, too fast." That's how Central Valley fruit growers describe the current weather pattern. They say trees and other plants are like people, having a difficult time adjusting to the extreme heat that suddenly descended on the valley during the past week. Farmers do what they can to cool their orchards and vineyards, but fear that sunburn will damage some of their fruit. They say one or two degrees on the thermometer can make a big difference in how their crops are affected.
It started later than usual and ended earlier than expected. By today (Monday), the California cherry harvest should be virtually complete. Cool, rainy spring weather reduced the state's cherry crop and delayed the start of the annual harvest. Because of that, the California Cherry Commission had expected harvest to continue into July. But warm weather speeded ripening of the crop in coastal orchards. Official estimates put the cherry crop about 15 percent lighter than last year's.
Retail prices for fresh vegetables have been slightly lower this quarter, compared to a year ago. But the U.S. Agriculture Department says vegetable prices could rise this summer. In part, that's because veggie prices were unusually low a year ago. And, the USDA says, shippers and retailers may pass along higher costs for packaging materials and transportation. California farms account for half of the nation's fresh-vegetable production.
In California, state officials are working to prevent a newly introduced pest from reaching commercial farms. The diaprepes root weevil has been found in four urban neighborhoods in Southern California. In Florida, citrus farmers have been fighting the weevil for more than 40 years. Now, researchers say there's a new, natural way to control the pest. Farmers may soon be able to release tiny worms that attack the weevils.Top