Food and Farm News

Wildfires cause agricultural losses

As firefighters work to control massive Northern California wildfires, farmers and ranchers assess the agricultural impact. In Shasta County, the Carr Fire has burned rangeland, and local officials say it's too early to know the full extent of losses. Evacuations due to the Mendocino Complex fires closed a pear packinghouse in Lake County, delaying harvest. The University of California says rangeland at its Hopland research center was "hit hard" by fire.

Plum growers reach height of season

It's the peak of plum season in the San Joaquin Valley. Farmers report a normal-sized crop, despite some weather concerns earlier in the season. But the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China could affect markets. China has been the top export market for California plums, but the nation placed retaliatory tariffs on the fruit and a number of other U.S. farm products. California produces 100 percent of U.S.-grown plums.

Solar heat protects crops from pests

Hot weather in California's desert farming regions gives farmers a good opportunity to kill pests and weeds, by heating the soil. Farmers use soil solarization: spreading clear plastic tarps over fields that will be planted with crops later in the year. The tarps heat the ground and kill soil-borne pathogens, insects and many weed seeds. Farm advisors say placing the plastic sheets on the soil for four to six weeks appears effective.

Research looks at natural habitat near farms

Having natural habitat near farms can benefit growers by attracting natural enemies of crop pests. But a new study indicates there can be negative effects on crop yields, as well. The study, headed by California researchers, looked at evidence from 31 countries, and found highly variable results. The lead researcher says natural habitat may not always help with pest control, but can help farmers with pollination and other benefits.

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