Food & Farm News
Audio ActualityHow crops came through the weekend hot spell
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» May 20, 2008 «
Entering the debate about food prices and biofuels, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said yesterday (Monday) that rising oil prices play a much larger role in driving up food costs. Some analysts blame ethanol production for diverting crops out of food markets into fuel. But Secretary Schafer called that a relatively small factor. On the other hand, he said rising oil prices bring higher costs for transporting, processing, packaging and distributing food.
Most crops appear to have escaped serious trouble through the mid-May heat spell around California. Though the potential for problems existed, Salinas-area spinach and lettuce growers report no sunburn damage. Many cherry varieties in the Central Valley fared well, although one grower reported that the combination of high temperatures and winds made it tough on some varieties. For crops like Central Valley winegrapes, it may be too soon to tell if any substantial damage occurred.
Markets have been strong and it's a water-thrifty crop, so safflower acreage is on the rise in California. A University of California Cooperative Extension agronomist says there has been a substantial increase in acreage in the Central Valley. Even more might have been planted, if farmers could have found more seed. As a result, more farmers will grow the crop for seed this year, though most safflower is grown to produce oil.
In an experimental vineyard at Fresno State University, researchers test grapevine irrigation using new, computerized soil probes. The probes monitor soil moisture, weather conditions and plant vitality, and transmit new data every 15 minutes. The company that developed the probes licensed NASA technology, and plans to market it to farmers. The firm is the first company launched by a water-and-technology business incubator at Fresno State.Top