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» February 6, 2007 «
Unless rain falls soon, winegrape growers around California say they may need to begin irrigating their vineyards. Farmers say they would welcome rain predicted for later this week, because vineyard soil has dried out. Moist soil warms more slowly, so vines remain dormant longer. Farmers prefer that, because a later "bud break" means vines will be less susceptible to frost. Grapevines usually start to bud in early March.
Farmers and ranchers in 47 California counties have become eligible to apply for freeze-related relief, as the result of a disaster declaration announced yesterday (Monday) by the U.S. Agriculture Department. The USDA declared a natural disaster in 18 counties, meaning that affected farmers in those and neighboring counties may apply for low-interest emergency loans. The mid-January freeze caused more than $1.2 billion worth of crop damage.
As orange farmers work to assure that no freeze-damaged fruit reaches market, University of California researchers will demonstrate two experimental methods for quickly assessing citrus fruit damage from a freeze. One method uses a breath-alcohol analyzer, to measure ethanol emitted by damaged fruit. The other uses black-light flashlights to scan a grove for fruit hurt by a freeze. Demonstrations are scheduled today and tomorrow (Tuesday and Wednesday) at Central Valley packinghouses.
The number of farms in California declined slightly last year, according to a U.S. Agriculture Department report. The annual report shows California has 76,000 farms, down 500 from the year before. The state's average farm size, at 346 acres, is exactly 100 acres smaller than the national average. Acreage devoted to farming declined nationally and in California, as land was diverted to non-farm uses.Top