I encourage readers of this blog to peruse the attached file, written by Margareta Lelea, a post-graduate researcher at UC Davis, with Frank Zalom, Jim Greishop and Jennifer Sedell. This study, funded by a Cooperative Agreement between the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and UC Davis, is a comparison of the emergency responses on the part of the USDA and CDFA (California Department of Agriculture) to the light brown apple moth (LBAM) and European grapevine moth (EGVM).
The experience of the LBAM emergency response was negative for many people on the Central coast of California. Seemingly dead set on the eradication of LBAM no matter what the cost, the USDA and the CDFA brooked very little community input as they attempted to put into place a program of aerial pheromone application accompanied by a quarantine regime composed of intrusive field inspections, disruption of farm business operations and costly field closures.
In contrast, the regulatory experience of EGVM emergency response was more positive for many (including me), and was a program which found its success in the working relationships between local regulatory officials, locally based USDA officials and agents (many of whom were already here for the LBAM program), UC Cooperative Extension and a diversity of other groups including growers and pest managers.
As one can draw from reading this report, that these two programs should have really different outcomes currently should then not be surprising.
The hugely unpopular LBAM emergency response program has had its budget virtually eliminated through the representative political process and has garnered a real distrust of the USDA and CDFA by the affected communities, which to some extent continues to this day.
LBAM continues to flourish on the Central Coast, although it still doesn’t cause a lot damage besides not being anything that can’t be managed easily with environmentally sensible methods. Nevertheless, LBAM still affects trade in a big way, the current situation being a threatened closure of our Canadian and Mexican export markets for berries or broccoli should LBAM arrive there in any shipment of either of these commodities.
In contrast, EGVM has been eradicated following its brief appearance in Santa Cruz County in 2011 and its numbers have been dramatically lowered in other infested areas such as Napa, Sonoma and the Central Valley.
The attached paper does a first class job in outlining and comparing LBAM and EGVM emergency responses and shows us what we and the regulatory agencies can learn from these two experiences to guide us in the future.
Some key takeaways from the paper:
1- Agencies lose credibility and trust from communities when they undertake actions against the will of the people. This the USDA and CDFA did in spades on the LBAM emergency response, pushing ahead while initially ignoring many community concerns about their activities and creating a perception of an abuse of science and government power.
2- Agencies gain credibility and trust through a willingness to engage and effect change, which includes responding to the needs of the communities and the environment and adapting new information from science as appropriate. This was clearly the case with EGVM, as USDA and CDFA agents (many of whom were also involved in LBAM programs) worked together with local regulators, UC Cooperative Extension and growers to arrive at a workable, successful solution to the issue.
3- Aerial spray programs must be enacted only with the support of affected communities.
I guess what I think about after reading through this report is how did the LBAM emergency response go so awry? Most of the USDA and CDFA people involved in the response are very competent, decent people who truly want to serve the public and the agricultural industry in the best possible way.
Have these agencies become bureaucracies, who, to quote the philosopher Ludwig von Mises, “are no longer eager to deal with each case to the best of their abilities; they are no longer anxious to find the most appropriate solution for every problem” and whose “main concern is to comply with the rules and regulations, no matter whether they are reasonable or contrary to what was intended."? I would today answer in the negative, because even if the USDA and CDFA started out behaving as the bureaucracies described by von Mises, they both seem to have learned from their experience and turned the corner pretty promptly. Indeed, that both seemed to undergo pretty well a paradigm shift in their approach on the EGVM emergency response just a few years later after the difficult start on LBAM is a testament to their ability to learn and evolve to best serve the publics who have entrusted them to keep invasive pests out of California.
Kudos to a really thought provoking and illuminating report by Dr. Lelea and her colleagues about two signal invasive pest responses. A must read for entomologists, regulators and pest managers on the Central Coast.
- Author: Mark Bolda
- Author: Steven Koike
Slime molds, classified in the group called Myxomycetes, are primitive fungi that feed on dead or decaying organic matter and have elaborate life cycles. The mature fruiting bodies of slime molds are quite diverse and can appear as sheets, mounds, crusts, blobs, and even eggs or structures of insects (Photo 1).
Occasionally, slime molds can be found growing incidentally around or on crops. The pictures below are of the slime mold Fuligo septica that is emerging from the bark mulch of a local blueberry field. The immature stage (Photo 2) is yellow, without distinct shape, and has a sticky, gooey feel when touched. This is the form that one finds oozing and moving onto organic material. When mature, a tan to off-white, crusty calcium layer forms on the top of the creeping mass (Photo 3). When fully mature and dried, the calcium layer breaks, exposing and releasing millions of brown spores.
Slime molds can also grow onto living plant parts and appear to cause a disease. Photos 4 and 5 show a slime mold growing on top of strawberry leaves; photo 6 shows slime mold colonization on a wasabi leaf. However, it is important to emphasize that slime molds are completely saprophytic, meaning they feed on dead organic material only. Slime molds therefore do not present any harm to plants.
Slime molds will only develop if there is sufficient organic matter present to feed the fungus and if there is ample and consistent moisture to allow it to develop. For these reasons, slime molds are rarely seen in cultivated fields but are more common in forests, shaded landscape areas, and lawns.
An excellent article by the "Agricultural and Resource Economics Update" from the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics of the University of California regarding the future of farm labor for California growers and beyond:
Following the statement summarizing the author's research showing that the era of farm labor abundance is coming to an end, arrives the money line:
"This means that immigration policy will cease to be a solution to the U.S. farm labor problem in the long run and probably sooner. In fact, we already may be witnessing the start of a new era in which farmers will have to adapt to labor scarcity by switching to less labor intensive crops, technologies, and labor management practices."
Seriously recommended reading for those in the berry business.
This is an announcement for a light brown apple moth (LBAM) training meeting to be held this coming May 9 at 40 Zils Road in Watsonville. The purpose of the meeting is for growers and others to obtain LBAM identification certification in order to be able to implement on-farm Integrated Pest Management practices to meet San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz County quarantine area compliance agreement requirements for export.
Everyone planning to attend the meeting must RSVP for this meeting by contacting Sofia Hernandez of the California Strawberry Commission at email@example.com, (831)724-1301 or Hillary Thomas, firstname.lastname@example.org, (831)254-1184.
The link for the meeting announcement and agenda is:
The annual Watsonville Strawberry Pomology Field Day will take place this year on Tuesday, May 7. Talks will feature performance updates of recently released cultivars, research on soil diseases and a general pest management update.
Agenda is posted below.