Produce and Agriculture Threats: America’s Heartland – Episode 901

Produce and Agriculture Threats: America’s Heartland – Episode 901

America’s Heartland
is made possible by.. Farm Credit –
financing agriculture
and rural America since 1916.   Farm Credit is cooperatively
owned by America’s farmers and ranchers. Learn more
at farm credit dot com.   Croplife America..
Representing the companies whose modern farming innovations
help America’s farmers provide nutritious food for
communities around the globe.   Hi I’m Jason Shoultz.
Are you excited about apricots or overjoyed about oranges? Well, Get ready to haul in
a harvest of fresh fruit. This is definitely the show
for those of you who are passionate about produce.   It’s a good bet that
the cherries on your table come from Washington State. We’ll meet a family whose
focus on fruit dates back more than a century. Growers in Florida face a
dangerous disease that threatens to wipe out citrus crops. What will that mean
to consumers?   And there are new concerns
about honeybees. Without them.. produce
that you enjoy may be in peril.. Then.. a “small” story
about a tiny type of tangerine. We’ll take you to California
to talk about the “pixies”.   It’s all coming up
on America’s Heartland.   ♪You can see it in the eyes
of every woman and man♪ ♪In America’s Heartland
living close to the land♪ ♪There’s a love for the country
and a pride in the brand♪ ♪In America’s Heartland
Living close♪ ♪Close to the land♪   Americans love their fruit. On average each person
will consume about 275 pounds of fruit a year. But nutritionists say we
should really be consuming more and.. different kinds of fruit. Apples, oranges and bananas
are always in the top three, but pears, plums and peaches
are a great pick as well.   And with more and more consumers
demanding “fresh” fruit, farmers markets and u-pick-em
farms have become very popular. Pulling that apple from the tree
is a guarantee of freshness and there’s been a growing
demand for organic options
as well.   But there are some dramatic
challenges facing farmers when it comes to
fruit production. We’ll talk about those
in just a moment, but first we’re heading
for Washington State. Where Sarah Gardner says
one family has had a focus on fruit for more
than a century.   It seems nature designed
the Yakima Valley for both beauty and abundance. This scenic part of central
Washington has cold winters, gentle summers,
and modest rainfall.. an ideal seasonal balance
for fruit trees to flourish including the state’s
famous cherries. Washington produces more than
half of all the sweet cherries in the U.S. “We need a few more sprouts,
on that tree, but most look pretty good.” It’s those cherries and apples
and pears that have sustained the Allan family
for nearly a century. The Allans actually started
as dairy farmers here in Yakima Valley in 1901. Two decades later, they began
planting fruit tree orchards. Four brothers “grew” the
business into a thousand acres, passing it along to a third
generation that includes siblings David and George Allan.   they when they would look back
and look at the fact that the family stayed together
on this thing so far, and we’ve been able
to work that out, that’d be pretty
important to them.   Now, their sons, Travis,
and Tom, are taking the reins. A fourth generation acquiring
their parents’ knowledge while enjoying the freedom
to try new things. “Sometimes you sin first
and ask for forgiveness later if it’s needed. But things have always changed
and they’ve understood it, and they get it. So they’ve been really helpful
and their wisdom comes into our decisions a lot. You know, they feed us
information and we take it and then we try to make it
better.”   “George and I,
we conduct an annual review of the upper management
and when we got done we said “You know these boys are doing
a lot better at their stage of development in the company
than we were.” And so we thought, you know,
this thing maybe
has some future.” The harvest usually
begins in early June, with the delicate cherries
hand-picked at the peak of ripeness and flavor. The Allans grow more
than a half-dozen varieties.. including the coveted
Rainier cherry, yellow with a red blush. It’s actually the sweet result
of cross-breeding between two dark red varieties, including the also-popular
Bing cherry.   Inside the Allan Brothers
packing plant, the cherries are repeatedly
washed, separated by size, and packed by a remarkable
combination of equipment and people power.   Up to 27 tons of cherries
are processed each hour… destined for hungry diners
across the U.S. and in faraway and rapidly
growing markets like China, Taiwan, Japan and India.   Back here in the orchards, Travis Allan says he’s
constantly looking for new ideas and innovations to increase
the size of each year’s harvest. Reflective foil bounces sunlight
from the ground back up into the trees. Branches are trimmed,
and then trussed with an elaborate system of ropes to
stretch them towards the sky. So by opening up the tree
and pushing the limbs
to the side, that we have these
light channels that would allow us to produce more fruit
per linear foot per acre. But all that work goes to waste
if our feathered friends have their way. Birds can wreak havoc
on a cherry crop. (pop!) The loud noise from
a propane gun sometimes will scare them off,
but they often get used to it. Netting is another option,
but it can cost thousands
of dollars per acre.   “You know, as farmers
I think you can’t just say what worked last year
is gonna work this year. And so you’ve got to continue
to challenge yourself, what’s making sense to move
forward.” That’s why Travis is trying out
new technology – laser beams sweeping
out from atop a tower. “It doesn’t harm in any way. When the birds fly
into the light, it scares them and it will push
them away and then hopefully not eat any more
of my cherries!”   “So I think the system
seems to be working..” Each generation
of the Allan family walking these fields expresses gratitude
for the hard work and sacrifice that’s come before. And there’s a sense of
responsibility to carry it on, to adapt, to make it better
for the next generation.   “Things are evolving a lot
faster and so, in order to stay competitive,
you got to keep changing at an ever-increasing rate. Really planning that out
and figuring out where
you need to go, having that vision and then
being able to execute it.” You know, we’ve been at this
for over 40 years. 5, 6 years ago we took a look at
each other and we said.. we look pretty old. And what’s really amazing to me
is most of our management now is probably under 40 years old. We have a lot of potential
as we go forward.   I’m not pessimistic
about this industry at all. There’s challenges but
I think we can meet ’em.”   “Being a farmer is unique
and people don’t appreciate how much fun it is. You know, benefit someone’s life
by producing a quality piece of fruit or anything
that they enjoy. It’s like, ‘Oh man, you grow
the Rainier cherries, I love them so much!’ And it’s like, wow,
I do that every day, so..”   Washington grows
a lot of cherries. The Evergreen state has more
than 25 thousand acres of cherry trees. While there are more than
a thousand varieties of cherry trees in the U.S.,
only about ten grow the commercial fruit
we see in stores. And cherries are good for you! The bright red fruit delivers
high levels of anti-oxidants and beta carotene. France’s King Charles the fifth
was said to have loved cherries so much that he planted
more than a thousand trees in his royal gardens. Oh..
and if you’re in a baking mood.. it takes more than 200 cherries
to make your average cherry pie.   If you’ve joined us on other
episodes of America’s Heartland, you know that farmers,
ranchers and growers often face challenges in getting products
to you the consumer. Those challenges could be
weather, transportation, or sometimes.. pests. That’s part of a significant
problem for citrus growers in Florida. The Sunshine State is a major
producer of citrus for U.S. and overseas consumption. But that picture
may be changing.   In the citrus groves
of Florida.. a menace is lurking. It’s a silent
but destructive force.   It doesn’t have the horsepower
of a hurricane, the desperation of a drought or
the ferocity of a sudden freeze. But grower Paul Meador knows just how dangerous
this threat is.   So Paul what are we
looking at here? Well this is a younger tree
inside of a mature orchard that’s showing severe symptoms
of greening.   It’s called
Citrus Greening Disease. Caused by a bacterium
that’s spreading through Florida’s citrus trees
like wildfire. Once it attacks a tree,
the oranges don’t grow in their typical round shape. Paul Meador showed me
a telltale sign
of infected fruit.   If you look at the healthy piece
this is centered in the piece of fruit which is
where the stem runs through through the piece of fruit We’ll cut open the fruit
with greening symptoms..   and you can see
it’s off centered. Of course it’s not
just funny shaped fruit with off-centered stems. In time the disease can weaken
the very core of the tree and cease its production
of fruit. And you can see it also has
some greening to it, some green color to it
instead of it being
bright orange.  >>And what happens here
to this fruit, then? Well, typically
it will fall off. And if you look on the ground, that, you see a lot of fruit
on the ground. Those are pieces of fruit
that are showing severe symptoms of the greening disease. It’s an industry that’s seen it
share of challenges in the past. Hurricanes, freezes, and most recently
another disease called citrus canker have reduced the
acreage of citrus by a third. But this latest challenge has
folks here the most concerned. Greening has been found in
more than 30 Florida counties.   Greening potentially
has the ability, if left unchecked, to wipe out the entire industry.   Fritz Roka is an
agricultural economist with the University of Florida. He says losing the state’s
9-billion dollar citrus industry would send economic shock waves
across the state. Consumers could see
a dramatic rise in the cost of orange juice
and other citrus products. But it goes far beyond that- Impacting everything
from pickers, citrus growers, processors, shippers,
to grocery stores. The second ripple effect
would be the workers that pick the citrus. The workers that tend
to the groves the works and the owners
of these groves earn income and then they take that income
and they spend it on things..   You’re taking away the infusion
of cash and money that comes into the region or into
the state because of citrus.   The state’s citrus growers,
government agencies and researchers are working
to combat the menace, investing tens of millions
of dollars in research. The first plan of attack was
to cut down trees that show the first signs of the disease. But it can take two years
for trees to show symptoms
of greening. And deciding to cut down trees
that are initially producing fruit
is not easy for any grower.   There were certain places
where if you wanted to take out all the greening trees you would
have basically taken out their whole block,
They would have lost everything and so some growers
were unwilling to do that. We were behind the 8 ball
with this disease. We didn’t recognize the disease
until it had already infested a good part of the state. So hopefully we are
at the change in the curve now and we’ll be able to manage
the disease a little more
aggressively.   The best hope right now seems
to be going after the bug that carriers the bacteria. Called a psyllid..
it’s a tiny flying bug that feeds on the sap
of citrus trees. And when it feeds
on an infected tree and moves to another tree it transfers
the bacteria. Phil Stansly is an entomologist
researching the tiny disease-carrying psyllid. Those are the nymphs. So those are
the immature stages. Those are the ones that
pretty much pick up the disease and then adults
spread it around. In his research lab,
Stansly and other researchers are studying one approach:
beetles and tiny wasps that feed on the
psyllids-reducing their numbers.   For now, however, the growers are spraying pesticides
to kill the psyllid. But spraying has environmental
and economic limitations.   It’s a stop gap is what
it is until we come up with a more permanent solution. And what we’re hoping for is
that through genetic changes, improved varieties
or whatever we find citrus, we develop citrus that is
no longer susceptible to the bacteria.   Chemicals, genetic research
and battling bugs.. all part of the arsenal. But in this war.. with growers and scientists
on the front lines, a magic bullet has so-far,
been elusive.   You can’t look back and be sad
about what took place. You just got to keep looking
forward and hope for the best.   While Florida is one of
the best known citrus producers
in the world, oranges are not native
to the Sunshine State. Spanish Explorers brought
the first oranges to Florida in the 16th century. The majority of the state’s
orange crop goes directly into orange juice.   Let’s talk about another
challenge impacting farmers and growers. It’s a challenge which may
affect what you pay for fruits and vegetables that depend
on pollination from honeybees. It has to do with
a condition called “Colony Collapse Disorder”. A dangerous pest.. called the verroa mite..
has been identified as one important factor in
a threat to entire colonies
of bees. Our Rob Stewart says research
is underway in Louisiana to find a solution.   Honeybees may be small in size,
but the loss of bee colonies
worldwide is a huge concern
for agriculture. Bees pollinate some 30%
of the food crops that we enjoy every day. But in recent years,
both a predator called the Verroa mite
and something called “Colony Collapse Disorder”
have been decimating hives and killing off bees.   “It’s an enormous problem
and it is a result of
several things coming together all
at the same time.”   Dr. Tom Rinderer directs
research for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
Honeybee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology
laboratory in Baton Rouge Louisiana. We’ve got new pests
and pathogens, the parasitic mites have been
with us for too short a time for any solution other than
the ones we’ve provided to be available so we’re
in the leading edge of that. We do have stocks, bee stocks,
that are resistant
to Verroa mites. Those bees.. bred with what’s called
Verroa Sensitive Hygiene.. or VSH.. can interrupt
the process of mites
attacking the hive. So these are bees
in a VSH colony that are basically
searching and destroying mite-infested pupae.>>Baby bees.. Baby bees. These bees are now removing
the injured pupa and you can see
the pupa is destroyed.. and there’s another one being
pulled out and as you can see, It’s infested with verroa mite. There’s the mite.   Outside the lab, these hives
contain 60 thousand bees used in a nationwide field test. Bees that have been bred
with the VSH trait.   “These three colonies
did the best. We use them as breeding
material.” Healthy bees insure
plentiful crops.. affecting prices for many
fruits and vegetables at the supermarket.. The new breed of bees here
will go to commercial beekeepers across the nation.   And basically
just breaking this down. This is in action,
what is really helping to repair some of the major
problems we’re seeing with bees. We think this could
be very useful, yes. You know, any of these
breeding programs to increase the natural genetic-based
resistance in these bee populations can’t help
but be useful.   Researchers here say
the impact on agriculture
is huge. One study from
Cornell University put the value of pollination at
15 billion dollars a year. There is a lot of industry
support for it. I think that they see
that we are doing it and that we are moving forward, and I think they are very
very excited about that.   As research continues
on colony collapse, The lab has also developed
improved honey bee strains using varieties
from eastern Europe.   This is great stuff.
This is great biology. Without bee pollination,
we could not possibly have the food production
that we have the agricultural systems
that we have So it’s a small industry,
but it’s key to the agriculture that we have
and that we see today.   Honeybees are getting some help
in several parts of the country. Many farmers and farm groups
have begun “native pollinator”
projects- promoting the growth of native
plants to attract
and support honeybees. the projects also enhance
wild bee population in addition to plant pollinators such as moths, butterflies,
insects and even some animals.   Hello, I’m Paul Robbins
and here’s something that you may not have known
about agriculture. You know a lot of the foods
that we enjoy today have been around a long time. Tomatoes, potatoes, avocados,
all of those date back thousands of years but not
all of them have the history of one piece of fruit
that early writers called “The Gift of the Gods”.. and if you like to sing
“The Twelve days of Christmas” around the holidays,
you already know that colorful partridge
was sitting in a pear tree. Travel back in time
some 5000 years and a Chinese writer was already
documenting ways to improve the pear trees by different
methods of grafting
the branches. In The Odyssey the great poet
Homer lauds pears as a “Gift of the Gods” Pears were one of the first
fruit to be grown commercially with orchards springing up
everywhere across Europe by the 17th century. Pears were a popular prop
for artists as still life in those renaissance paintings
and if the picture didn’t sell, you could always eat the fruit. Early colonists brought pears
to America by 1620 and orchards thrived
on the east coast until a crop blight
destroyed many of those trees. Fortunately by that time,
settlers in Oregon, Washington and California had begun their
own orchards which today provide a majority of the pears
grown in the U.S. There are hundreds of varieties
of pears grown around the world but Bartlett pears which
originated in England in the 1700’s are the most
popular variety grown
in the U.S. Pears were once known
as butter fruit because of their juicy delicate
texture and flavor. Pears are a good source of fiber
and vitamin c and pear trees can live to be 100 years old
and while it may seem that there’s no similarities at all,
pears are actually a member of the rose family, happily,
without thorns.   Specialty fruits
often have their own fans. People who wait for the season..
and just the right moment.. when their favorite apples,
oranges or peaches will be just right for picking. And that’s the case
in southern California where Akiba Howard found a small
fruit with a big following.   When you look at them..
the name seems to fit. Small and sweet tasting,
they are easily the “pixie” members of the citrus family. Some say it’s like
growing candy.. on a tree.   And kids love that, because
you don’t have that tang, that, you know, many Ovals
or Navels tend to have. They’re just super sweet.
They’re like candy.   Most fruits, grains
and vegetables ..have been around for hundreds
even thousands of years. But these hybrid,
seedless mandarin Pixies were developed less
than a hundred years ago with commercial production only
getting underway in the 1960’s.   Pixies like year round cool days
and warm nights which is why California’s Ojai Valley..
just east of Santa Barbara.. has become “Pixie Central” for
growers of this specialty fruit.   Pixie tangerines can be grown
anywhere in the world, but they’re not gonna develop
good flavor everywhere in the world. Much like wine grapes, you know,
taste better if grown in Napa versus Stockton. Emily Thacher Ayala is
a fifth generation Ojai farmer. Her father, Tony, raised
a tangerine variety called Dancys along with other
citrus for market. With no commercial
demand however, he reserved his “pixies”
for family and friends.   “So do you think we can
get them to wait? The customers? Yeah. I’d like to wait until May. Why don’t we.”   But here in the valley,
the Pixie’s profile was
about to change. Enter Jim Churchill
and his wife Lisa Brennies. After a leaving
a big-city career, Jim returned to his
hometown of Ojai in 1979. He was looking
for a new challenge and found it after trying
one of Tony Thacher’s Pixies. And I just said,
“Tony, what is this?” And he said,
“That’s a Pixie tangerine.” And I said,
“Well do you sell them?” And he said, “Well, I only have two trees
and by the time I’m done selling
all the Dancys, my kid have eaten
all the Pixies.” And that was market research.   Acres of trees
were planted the next year. Their efforts paid off following
a taste test by the owners of a specialty food market
in northern California.   He just thought,
“This is good,” you know. And so by the end of the phone
call he bought a thousand pounds more than we had
ever sold to anyone.   The growing demand for the
juicy jewels energized an eclectic group of established
and first time farmers.   All the growers are different,
you know. We’ve got doctors and lawyers
who have, you know, a couple of acres
of Pixies in the backyard. And then we have some growers
that have ten acres.   They formed the Ojai
Pixie Growers Association to share information
about raising, harvesting and marketing the fruit.   We looked at the fact that there
were all these other people that had tangerines coming on,
and we thought that it would be better if all
the tangerine growers
worked together.   Pixie trees take four years
to bear their first commercial crop with heavy harvests
available only every other year.   This tree has a lot of fruit
on it, as you can see, but it has no blossoms
for next year. It’s spending all of its energy
growing fruit for this year, and so it’s not gonna make
any fruit for next year.   As a part of their
marketing efforts, growers here ship only
as the fruit ripens on the tree.   We want them to be
on store shelves, you know, within 10 days of being picked,
whereas some of the other citrus you see
in grocery stores, it’s been a month.   Pixies have proven a favorite
with several high profile chefs and the fruit has earned a
“Best of the West” vote from the foodies
at Sunset Magazine.   I like that we
produce something, and I like that we produce
something that people like.   I love being able to take
my favorite food and give it to people and put a smile
on their face and know that they’re getting something
that’s good for them.   That’s going to do it
for this time. Thanks for traveling
the country with us on this edition
of America’s heartland. We’re always pleased
that you can join us.   We know that we pass on
a lot of information to you in every program
and in case you missed something or you just want to check out
videos from this or other shows, we make it easy. Just log on to our website
at America’s Heartland dot org. And, of course,
there’s lots going on in the social media arena..
You’ll find us there as well. We’ll see you next time
on America’s Heartland.   You can purchase a DVD
or Blu Ray copy of this program. Here’s the cost:   To order, just visit us online
or call 888-814-3923.   ♪You can see it in the eyes
of every woman and man♪ ♪In America’s Heartland
living close to the land♪ ♪There’s a love for the country
and a pride in the brand♪ ♪In America’s Heartland
Living close♪ ♪Close to the land♪   America’s Heartland
is made possible by.. Farm Credit –
financing agriculture
and rural America since 1916.   Farm Credit is cooperatively
owned by America’s farmers and ranchers. Learn more
at farm credit dot com.   Croplife America..
Representing the companies whose modern farming innovations
help America’s farmers provide nutritious food for
communities around the globe.   ♪♪  

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5 thoughts on “Produce and Agriculture Threats: America’s Heartland – Episode 901

  1. For that bacterial disease use symbiotic bacteria to combat them. It needs a selection and trial program. If the budget is available we can do it for you.

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