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» July 13, 2006 «
After setting records a year ago, California grape production will decline this year. The first official forecast of the state's grape production, issued yesterday (Wednesday), predicts a 14-percent reduction in the total crop. The harvest of winegrapes, table grapes and raisin grapes are all expected to be down, because of weather problems during the winter and spring. But associations representing grape growers note that the overall crop could be near the average for the last 10 years.
Wet, cool spring weather has taken its toll on the California peach crop. Yields will be lower in both freestone peaches, which are usually sold fresh, and especially in cling peaches, which mainly go for canned or processed products. Officials estimate the cling-peach crop will be down 21 percent. In part, that's because farmers have removed orchards. Peach harvest has been progressing later than usual.
It'll be at least three weeks before the sweet-potato harvest hits full stride. Usually, farmers start digging up the vegetables about now, but spring weather slowed planting. Late rains also stimulated weed growth in many sweet-potato fields. But observers say the crop is developing well and they expect quality to be excellent. Carryover supplies from last year's crop will keep California sweet potatoes in stores until the new crop comes to market.
To try to keep one step ahead of a destructive rice disease, researchers have identified rice genes that resist it. "Rice blast" disease infects nearly a third of the world's rice plants each year. It showed up in California fields several years ago. A collection of rice plants at a U.S. Agriculture Department facility provided the genes to resist blast. It is expected the newly discovered genes will give rice plants a needed boost to overcome the fungal disease.Top