"Going into the cataclysms the weather will become unpredictable, with torrential rainstorms where not expected, and droughts likewise where not expected. Extremes of temperature will be experienced. Unusually warm winters, where the trees and shrubs will start to bud, thinking spring, and then be subjected to frost. Similarly, frosts will come late in the spring, almost into summer, killing the buds which have already put forth their tender shoots."  ZetaTalk - Crop Failure

This grim forecast from 1995 has become a reality.  In just the past 7 days, the following reports demonstrate the accuracy of yet another Zeta prediction heralding the return of Planet X.

April 19
Early Budding, Then Cold Snap, Takes Toll on Iowa Vineyards

Richard Black, of Farnhamville, shows the dead grape shoots that followed last week’s three nights of freezing temperatures. Black said the damage is “severe” and estimates at least 75 percent of his crop was ruined.


April 18
Hailstorms Annihilate California Fruit Crops

"I estimate the damage at anywhere from 80 percent to 100 percent in fields and orchards where the hail struck. The fruit and nut trees were stripped bare. The trees look like they are in midwinter and haven't even budded yet."

April 18

Wisconsin Cherry Growers Expect 50 Percent Loss From Frost Damage

"I've been doing this pretty much all my life. It's been here 130 years in the family, so I'm the fourth generation, so it's our livelihood," he says.  Robertson says he's been worrying about his trees, which he expects will produce about half the cherries they normally do this year. 

April 16
Cold Causes Devastating Loss for Michigan Grape Crop

Southwestern Michigan grape growers are reeling from last week’s freezing temperatures that seem to have wiped out the majority of this season’s grape crop.  “This is the worst situation we’ve had. ... This is devastating for southwest Michigan growers,"

April 14
Minnesota Apple Crop Crippled by Early Warmth Then Freeze

"It's essentially almost a total crop loss this year," said apple farmer Mike Perbix. Perbix owns Sweetland Orchard in Webster. He says he has lost more than 90 percent of his apple crop.

April 13
Huge Crop Losses in Portugal Due to Frost and Drought

Recent early morning frosts and the ongoing drought, have led to an almost total loss of production in a number of fruit and vegetable farms across the Algarve.

April 12
Frosts Damages Up to 90 Percent of Indiana Blueberry Crops

The overnight lows left some blueberry farms with plenty of damage during a season that had been expected to be the best in years. Some farms saw up to 90 percent damage to their crops.

Freeze Causes Widespread Damage to North Carolina Fruit

Cold temperatures Wednesday night caused widespread damage to fruit crops across Henderson County.  Apple trees bloomed two weeks early as a result of the mild winter, and that left them vulnerable to cold temperatures.

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FULL TEXT FROM ABOVE LINKS

April 19
Early Budding, Then Cold Snap, Takes Toll on Iowa Vineyards

FARNHAMVILLE - Richard Black said he knew the killing frost was possible, even to be expected, but some part of him was hoping it wouldn't happen.  But it did.

Last week, with the first primary grape buds out and a month ahead of schedule, temperatures dipped at official measuring sites to 29 degrees and to 24 degrees on Tuesday. Twenty-eight degrees for four hours is considered a hard frost in farming terms.

But according to Black, his thermometer read 17 degrees overnight on Monday, 16 degrees overnight Tuesday and and in the 20s overnight Wednesday. That was enough, he said, to cause significant yield losses to his grapes, especially his early budding varieties.

"It was bad," Black said, who manages 1,600 grape vines in a 3-acre site around his rural Farnhamville home. "It was devastating."

When told that Mike White, Iowa State University's viticulturist, estimated the statewide grape yield loss at 50 percent, Black said, "That would be good news. But Mike is looking at the entire state."

According to White, vineyards north of I-80 were frost-bit more severely than those in southern Iowa counties.

Some growers attempted to keep heat among their vines, or continually spray water on their vines, and some tried spraying liquid potassium, which acts like an antifreeze to protect the buds during the freezing period, White said.

Black didn't try any of those measures.

"There's not a whole lot you can do," Black said. "Most efforts are not effective.

"The most you can do is give the vulnerable buds a 3- to 5-degree protection."

Once the temperature slips to below 25 degrees, all bets are off.

"And it's not like flowers; you can't just throw a blanket over them," Black said. "And we're not the only ones; the same happened to orchards too."

He said the primary buds of Marquette varieties were out to 3 inches long on Sunday. They looked green and lush. Some of the secondary buds were out, as well.

White and Black both said frost damage varies by cultivar and location. Early budbreak varieties, including Marquette, and low-lying areas normally receive the worst damage.

Black said before the frost, "It would be easy for someone to get overly optimistic. You look at the (vines) and think here's a chance to do a really good job by the book all season long.

"And well, here we are ..."

Black fully expects to see a 75 percent yield loss on his grapes.

"But we'll be able to tell better in about two weeks," he said.

He hires three workers throughout the growing season to tend his vineyard. Are they out of work now?

Not at all, Black said. Half of all the work on vine husbandry is for the current crop and half is for the next year's crop.

"The crop is gone," he said, "but we still have to do everything as if it's otherwise, only there's no income coming in."

Crop insurance on grapes? Forget about it, Black said.

"There is insurance, but you can't afford it," he said. The reason is that, unlike corn and soybeans, the sheer numbers of growers are not sufficient to share the risk, so insurance rates are high on grapes.

According to White, there are only 300 Iowa vineyards, cultivating grapes on 1,200 acres statewide.

"This frost did not kill any vines," White said. "It only set us back. The industry will continue to grow."

Disappointed about the frost damage and the lost yields, Black said he tries not to get too down. "I'm not the only one this happened to."

Ajay Nair, an ISU Extension vegetable specialist, said he noticed damage to fruit blossoms at the Horticulture Research Station near Gilbert after the April 10 frost and temperatures were even colder April 11.

Paul Domoto, an ISU Extension fruit specialist, said the temperature dipped to 20 degrees at the horticultural station, a temperature that damages plants, but especially those near the ground, like strawberries. Strawberries are most vulnerable at bloom, however, only the earliest cultivars have reached this stage of development.

The problem with the fruit crops is that the early spring weather sped up blooming, which is a particularly sensitive stage for the plants. Domoto said although there has been damage it's too early to say how bad the freezes were until growers can assess the conditions in their areas, because site conditions and stage of bud and/or shoot development will have a significant influence on the extent of injury.

Nick Howell, superintendent of the Horticultural Research Station, doesn't expect much of an apple crop because of the freezes. He confirmed there was "significant damage" to the station's vineyard and strawberries. Apple trees typically are "in jeopardy" until the middle of May, he said.

Unfortunately, Howell said the expense of pest management in the apple orchard must be maintained even though there are few, if any, apples produced.


April 18
Hailstorms Annihilate California Fruit Crops

A series of freak April storms hammered the San Joaquin Valley last week, damaging vulnerable crops with a one-two-three punch of hail, lightning and tornados that caused millions of dollars of crop losses.

It will be several weeks before an accurate tabulation of losses can be made, but for some growers it amounted to 100 percent of this year's production. A number of crops suffered damage from the unrelenting power of hailstones measuring 1.5 inches in diameter or larger.

Nature's fury came in the form of "supercells"—large thunderstorms that moved slowly across the valley from Kings County, through parts of Tulare County, up to Merced County and all the way eastward to Mariposa County.

The most destructive storm brought torrents of hail across a six-to-eight mile-wide swath of farmland that extended some 30 miles, accompanied by thunderstorms and numerous lightning strikes.

The epicenter of the more significant of two supercells last Wednesday was in Tulare County near Traver. Grower Ed Needham, who was caught driving near Traver when the storm struck, described it as "the sound of someone hitting my truck with a hammer."

Needham said he was in his truck with two other farmers and had pulled over to watch a huge storm cell to the south when the other cell struck from the north.

"It started out small and was no big deal and then all of a sudden the side-view mirrors on my truck shattered and the road started getting covered with huge hailstones. I looked at the wind and saw that it was going south, so I took off and went to the south and got out of it," he said.

Steve Johnson, a storm chaser with Atmospheric Group International, tracked the storms closely and estimated that the damage to agriculture could reach $25 million or more just from the two supercells that hit last Wednesday afternoon.

"While other thunderstorms were moving at about 25 miles per hour, these two slugs were moving at about 7 or 8 miles an hour, so they just trudged along producing very large hail and a high quantity of lightning," he said. "I estimate the damage at anywhere from 80 percent to 100 percent in fields and orchards where the hail struck. The fruit and nut trees were stripped bare. The trees look like they are in midwinter and haven't even budded yet."

Johnson also reported that a third supercell formed over farmland west of Lemoore, producing a tornado, and another one popped up near Huron, causing considerable crop damage to Westside lettuce and tomato fields.

The following day, a supercell formed in Merced County near Dos Palos and moved northeast between Atwater and Merced, once again accompanied by huge hailstones.

"The hailstones were larger than those on the previous day. There was 1 3/4-inch hail that was recorded near Castle Air Force Base, causing a lot of crop damage as well as other damage before moving up into Mariposa County," Johnson said.

John Diepersloot, one of the owners of Kingsburg Orchards, which grows peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots, said the storms wiped out some orchards while leaving adjacent ones unscathed. He said several of his orchards were struck and that while the visible damage is obvious, it will be several days before any accurate assessment can be made.

"Where the hail hit, it is a complete, 100 percent loss. It was hitting in cells, so one area was a complete disaster and another area got missed," he said. "Some of the fields look like they got beat up pretty bad. Most of the apricots, cherries, pluots and plums got scratched up pretty bad or even knocked off the trees."

Diepersloot also noted damage to other crops, particularly grapes and newly transplanted processing tomatoes.

"The tomatoes on certain blocks were stripped down. The transplants had leaves ripped off. The grapes had everything from tender, new shoots to the bark itself torn off. A lot of guys are planting their corn, but it isn't up yet, so that is still in the ground," he said.

John Thiesen, general manager of Giumarra Brothers Fruit Co. of Reedley, said he is still trying to assess the losses, and that enough fruit to fill from 5 million to 12 million boxes may have been lost.

"That is a pretty big span, so no one really knows for sure. But we do know there is very significant damage," he said.

Thiesen said the magnitude of last week's hailstorms was stunning.

"One doesn't see this kind of devastation very often. I know for us here, we were fortunate to escape, but the emotions are such that we feel just awful for all our grower friends who were affected. It is heartbreaking," he said.

Michael Miya, who farms walnuts, pistachios and field crops such as wheat, corn and onions for seed north of Hanford, said this was the worst hailstorm he has ever witnessed.

"We inspected the damage to our walnuts and it chopped a lot of the young leaflets. It covered the ground in green where the hail went through. We are concerned with the nuts that are already set on the trees," he said. "Some of my neighbors with almonds say they lost about a third of their crop, some less and some more, depending on where they were located. One of my neighbors with cherries said he has probably lost 80 percent of his crop."

Johnson, a severe-weather specialist who provides private weather forecasting for farming operations, utility companies and irrigation districts in the San Joaquin Valley, said it has been at least 20 years since something this severe struck the region.

"I feel really bad for the farmers who have been annihilated, because they work very hard," he said.


April 18
Wisconsin Cherry Growers Expect 50 Percent Loss From Frost Damage

For many, Door County cherries are a Northeast Wisconsin tradition.

But for Kris Robertson, the owner of Robertson Orchards, they're so much more than just that.

"I've been doing this pretty much all my life. It's been here 130 years in the family, so I'm the fourth generation, so it's our livelihood," he says.

Robertson says he's been worrying about his trees, which he expects will produce about half the cherries they normally do this year.

That's because our unusually warm March caused the buds to start developing about a month early. And now with the chilly weather and overnight freezes, some are already damaged.

"Oh yeah, there's a lot of blossoms I open up. The pistils are black, which shows that they should be dead so they're not going to bloom," says Robertson.

UW-Madison agricultural researcher Matt Stasiak says this a common problem for Door County cherry growers this season.

He conducted a sample study a few weeks ago.

"We looked at, as we do every winter, a number of buds and we were seeing a fair amount of damage, the average was about 70- to 75 percent of flower buds were damaged," says Stasiak.

Stasiak says we won't see the full impact of this inclement weather until harvest in June.

In the meantime, cherry growers like Kris Robertson will be getting a lot less sleep.

"Oh, it keeps you up at night worrying, but there's nothing you can do. You just have to hope that the weather changes and you get some crop out of it," says Robertson.


April 16
Cold Strangles Southwest Michigan Grape Crop - Loss Called 'Devasta...

It’s not sour grapes, it’s fact: Southwestern Michigan grape growers are reeling from last week’s freezing temperatures that seem to have wiped out the majority of this season’s grape crop.

Although fruit growers in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties are still assessing the damage, it appears that virtually the entire grape crop grown for Welch's Foods in southwest Michigan has been lost.

Unusually high temperatures at an unusually early time made the plants bud early, making them susceptible to temperatures that dipped into the 20s.

John Jasper, area manager with the National Grape Cooperative Association, which owns Welch's, oversees 250 farmers and 12,000 acres. Of those farmers, he said, more than 90 percent of their primary buds died.

There’s a “glimmer of hope” for some secondary growth to push out a little later but as Jasper pointed out, for most farmers that’s not going to pay the bills or perhaps even make it economical to harvest the few grapes that are left.

“This is the worst situation we’ve had. ... This is devastating for southwest Michigan growers," he said.

According to Jasper, Welch's gets about 17 percent of its grapes from the area, perhaps prompting the company to change recipes for some of its products.

At Bixby Orchards in Berrien Springs, Patricia Bixby said the damage was similar to a 1997 hailstorm that also wiped out the farm’s grape crop. Cherries, she said, “don’t look too bad,’’ adding strawberries will be OK thanks to irrigation that insulated them against the 29-degree cold.

As for apples, she said, she and her husband Paul might lose 75 percent of their crop.

'You just go on,' she said.

The news was better at the Lemon Creek Winery where Jeff Lemon, a business partner and wine maker, said 140 acres of wine grapes offer enough varieties, and in such a wide range of development, that all won’t be lost.

“Some of the buds were still pretty tight. Those came through a little better,’’ he said.

The farm also features peaches, apples and cherries, with apples taking the biggest hit of the three, he said.

At Round Barn Winery in Baroda, wine maker Matt Moersch said he expects some of the younger varieties of grapes will have a 40 to 60 percent loss but older varieties may lose just 10 percent. Retails prices for the winery’s wines shouldn’t be affected this year but could go up in 2013, although not dramatically, he said.

At the Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire, Herb Teichman said the few grapes he grows for personal use are “in good shape’’ but some varieties of apple trees didn’t fare as well.

“With some (apples), there was very little (damage) but some others were quite serious,’’ he said.

Tart cherries also had some damage but Teichman said he’ll still have a crop to harvest.

“It’s a reduction but not a wipeout by any means,’’ he said.

Federal government relief could be forthcoming for some grape growers, most likely in the form of low-interest loans. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, is on record stating grape growers deserve relief.

The apple crop at Kercher's Sunrise Orchards in Goshen was also heavily damaged, the owner said Sunday.


April 14
Minnesota Apple Crop Crippled by Early Warmth Then Freeze

"It's essentially almost a total crop loss this year," said apple farmer Mike Perbix. Perbix owns Sweetland Orchard in Webster. He says he has lost more than 90 percent of his apple crop.

The reason is two-fold.

The warm weather we saw recently back caused many of his apple flowers to bloom. But then this week's freeze left them uncovered and unprotected. "You open it up and all you see is black right in there. And you can tell that's not going to produce anything viable," said Perbix when he opened up a flower bud.

That brings us to the consumer side of this story.

What does it mean for those who like to eat an apple a day? The short answer: it is still too early to tell.

"Our producers, they're really just beginning to understand what happened to them," said Gary Johnson with Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville.

There are two ways consumers may be affected if this wacky weather continues.

First, experts believe there is a good chance the local selection will not be as good. "So what they might find is more apples are coming from out state. You may see more apples come in from Washington for example," he said.

The second way this year's apple crop may bite consumers is at the checkout counter. Prices may go up. However, at Valley Natural Foods, their apple producer has not seen a problem with its crop yet. "They're going to provide apples to their whole sale partners at last year's prices," said Johnson.

David Bedford is a researcher and apple breeder with the University of Minnesota. He says he has never seen the apple crop start so early in his 32 years of breeding. "It's very unusual," he said. "But we're not in disaster mode yet."

He says most crops only need about 15 percent of the flowers to produce a healthy amount of apples. Typically, apple flowers come out of dormancy around May 15; this year it is at least a month early.

"We should know more in three weeks," he said of the extent of the apple crop damage.

Back at the orchard in Webster, Perbix knows where he stands. His apple money is all but gone for this year, thankful his wife is not in the family business. "The best insurance policy is that my wife works off the farm," he said.


April 13
Huge Crop Losses in Portugal Due to Frost and Drought

Recent early morning frosts and the ongoing drought, have led to an almost total loss of production in a number of fruit and vegetable farms across the Algarve.

The Association of Farmers of Faro and Surrounding Councils, which represents the majority of fruit and vegetable producers in the region, has said it is unhappy with government measures announced on Monday, adding that some of its members are on the verge of bankruptcy and despair.

The drought impact is confirmed by an official report dated March 13th, which states a 50% loss of greenhouse vegetables in the Algarve - especially in Faro and Olhão.

The report highlights the losses caused by frosts in the greenhouses to tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans and melon. in addition it says that open air crops such as broad beans, peas and potatoes have been affected. In relation to citrus fruit, the report says that the fall in production is "significant."

"I have lost 80 percent of my tomato plantation, which corresponds to a total loss because no one is going to water and pick the remaining 20 percent," said 44- year-old Paulo Cristina, who has six hectares of greenhouses on the outskirts of Faro.

With 120 tonnes of tomatoes lost, and with the selling price of tomatoes at 45 cents per kilogram, he calculates that he has lost €54,000, corresponding to half a year’s work.

Mr. Cristina awaits EU funds that have been promised by the Ministry of Agriculture, but says he is angry about the lack of available insurance to cover such events.

Similarly, the President of the Regional Agricultural Association, Ana Lopes, laments that insurance companies don’t provide policies adapted to each region, as "each area of the country is unique and has its own agriculture."


April 12
Frosts Damages Up to 90 Percent of Indiana Blueberry Crops

The overnight lows left some blueberry farms with plenty of damage during a season that had been expected to be the best in years. Some farms saw up to 90 percent damage to their crops.

Local farmers said the combination of warm winter months with the recent frosts was too much for certain varieties of blueberry bushes to handle.

“The real situation was a month ago when we had that beautiful weather, when everyone was just so happy,” Pick-N-Patch owner Sam Erwin said. “I’m going this is horrible weather. It brought all the fruit out early. “

The more advanced the blueberries are, the more that is at stake when a freeze warning goes into effect.

“Some of the earlier varieties were hurt a lot more,” Erwin said. “We have some that were almost 100 percent lost.”

April 12
Freezing Temps Causes Widespread Damage to Fruit Crops in North Car...

Cold temperatures Wednesday night caused widespread damage to fruit crops across Henderson County, according to Marvin Owings, county extension director.

"And we still have tonight," Owings said Thursday, referring to a freeze watch in effect through today's predawn hours. It will be a few days before growers can assess the extent of the damage to their crops, he added. "It is almost impossible to determine how bad it is the day after a freeze," Owings said.

Temperatures Wednesday night and Thursday morning fell to between 25 and 28 degrees in some areas. Temperatures 28 degrees and below can impair the fruits' growth cycle, Owings said.

Apple trees bloomed two weeks early as a result of the mild winter, and that left them vulnerable to cold temperatures.

"They are in full bloom, and that is the most critical stage of development," Owings said.

Farmers will check today to see whether Thursday night's temperatures caused more damage. The National Weather Service was forecasting a low around 32 degrees.

Henderson County grower Kenny Barnwell said Thursday that frost had ravaged his 10 acres of peach trees in Edneyville. "They were hurt pretty bad," Barnwell said. "I saw a lot of dead peaches."

His apple crop also was affected.

"A couple varieties (of apples) were severely damaged," Barnwell said.

Peach and strawberry growers in Upstate South Carolina reported that their crops had not been affected by the cool overnight temperatures, and some farms in Henderson County were spared.

"So far (the peach crops) are OK because the peaches' blooms have come and gone on most varieties," Danny McConnell said.

On Thursday, McConnell said it was too soon to tell whether the cold had impacted his apple trees in Dana, but he expected them to be fine.

It takes about 24 hours after a cold night to notice any damage to the apple blossoms, McConnell said.

Local strawberry growers said they were taking precautions to protect the soft fruits.

J.D. Obermiller had a long night Wednesday as temperatures dipped into the upper 20s at his strawberry farm in Horse Shoe.

He started the irrigation system at 2 a.m. to protect his crop, and by 10 a.m. Thursday, the last bit of ice melted off the strawberries.

"The berries look good," Obermiller said. "The blooms look bright and shiny."

McConnell kept his strawberries covered with plastic to protect them from freezing temperatures, but he planned to uncover them today because warmer weather is in the forecast.

High temperatures are expected to be in the 70s and low 80s this weekend, with lows between 40 and 55 degrees.

As he waited out the freeze threat on Thursday, Obermiller was hoping for minimal frost exposure, but he was prepared. "If need be," Obermiller said, "we'll sprinkle them again."

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Comment by Corey Young on March 28, 2014 at 2:58pm

@Howard,

Apart from the obvious hail and extreme weather damage on the crops, I noticed that Reuters left out one of the most important points to this suicide and the debt accumulated by the farmer. Monsanto and GMO crops which have permeated through India have put pressure on farmers regardless of the weather changes. In fact there are many documentaries and studies (just type Monsanto and Indian farmers in youtube) that show the suicide rate in the Indian farming community since Monsanto and GMO crops were introduced has increased exponentially. The debt and burden of providing for ones family when crops fail is too much. Since the farmers have signed a deal with the 'devil' essentially...they feel there is no way out.

So you can also add that along wth the Extreme Weather Changes this is definitely a Sociological change as well!

Comment by Howard on March 28, 2014 at 2:26am

Indian Farmers Driven to Suicide as Hail Ruins Crops (Mar 23)

Nearly five dozen farmers in Maharashtra and the central state of Madhya Pradesh have committed suicide this month over debt worries, farmers' advocacy groups say.

Unseasonal rains and hailstorms this month have damaged the winter-sown crops of millions of Indian farmers, but Rekha Garole lost more than others.

Her 42-year-old husband Santuka killed himself this month after hail devastated the wheat and chickpea crops that they had been counting on to repay a bank loan of 90,000 rupees ($1,500).

"He committed suicide to escape his debt burden," says Rekha, who met nearly a dozen political leaders in a week at her mud house in the Nanded district of western Maharashtra state but has yet to receive any financial aid.

Santuka, like other farmers in his village of Golegaon, prayed last year for bountiful rains to end two years of drought in the region.

Ample rainfall did come, but at the wrong time. In September, cloudbursts damaged soybean and sorghum crops that were ready to be harvested, forcing farmers like Santuka into debts that they could not pay due to the latest crop damage.

Millions of small Indian farmers are struggling to survive as erratic weather hits their only source of income. They are seeking government help to stay afloat until the next harvest, but bureaucrats are moving slowly to record crop losses.

Anger is mounting among affected farmers tired of hearing empty promises. Many have given up hope.

Source

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/23/us-india-crops-damage-idU...

Comment by Derrick Johnson on February 24, 2014 at 9:15am

California almond farmers face tough choices

Some California almond farmers decide to rip out high-value trees in face of record dry year

FIREBAUGH, Calif. (AP) -- With California's agricultural heartland entrenched in drought, almond farmers are letting orchards dry up and in some cases making the tough call to have their trees torn out of the ground, leaving behind empty fields.

In California's Central Valley, Barry Baker is one of many who hired a crew that brought in large rumbling equipment to perform the grim task in a cloud of dust.

A tractor operator drove heavy steel shanks into the ground to loosen the roots and knock the trees over. Another operator, driving a brush loader equipped with a fork-like implement on the front, scooped up the trees and root balls and pushed them into a pile, where an excavator driver grabbed them up in clusters with a clawing grapple. The trees were fed into a grinder that spit wood chips into piles to be hauled away by the truckload and burned as fuel in a power plant.

Baker, 54, of Baker Farming Company, has decided to remove 20 percent of his trees before they have passed their prime. There's simply not enough water to satisfy all 5,000 acres of almonds, he said. "Hopefully, I don't have to pull out another 20 percent," Baker said, adding that sooner or later neighboring farmers will come to the same conclusion. "They're hoping for the best. I don't think it's going to come."

There are no figures yet available to show an exact number of orchards being removed, but the economic stakes and risks facing growers are clear. Almonds and other nuts are among the most high-value crops in the Central Valley — the biggest producer of such crops in the country. In 2012, California's almond crop had an annual value of $5 billion. This year farmers say the dry conditions are forcing them to make difficult decisions.

Gov. Jerry Brown last month declared a drought emergency after the state's driest year in recorded history.

The thirst for water has sparked political battles in Washington, D.C., over use of the state's rivers and reservoirs. This month President Barack Obama visited the Central Valley, announcing millions of dollars in relief aid that in part will help the state's ranchers and farmers better conserve and manage water.

Baker, who favors farming over politics, explained the math leading to his decision. Between now and the summer almond harvest, he would need to irrigate his orchards with scarce, expensive water and pay to have the trees pruned and sprayed. Bringing in bee hives to pollinate the blossoms costs nearly $500 an acre.

That all would amount to a $2.5 million gamble, without knowing if the next couple of months will bring significant rain to the valley floor and snow to the mountains. "You'd have wrapped a lot of money up in those trees to see what happens," he said.

Removing old trees is common practice. Almond trees remain productive for about 25 years, growers said. The state's almond farmers removed over 10,000 acres of trees in 2012, according to a report by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Most were past their prime. No figures are available on how many orchards farmers are removing today, said department spokesman Steve Lyle.

But Alan Thompson of G&F Agri Service LLC, who leads the crew ripping out Baker's orchards, said the drought spiked his business by 75 percent. This time of year is typically slow, but Thompson, 31, said his heavy equipment operators start at dawn each day and works until sundown, removing orchards in short order.

"We don't even mess around with cutting them up with chain saws," he said. "That grinder is the way to do it right there."

Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, said he expects that almond growers will be removing trees through the spring and summer because of the drought. "I have no doubt permanent crops will be taken out because of this," he added.

Tim Lynch of Agra Marketing Group said power plants in the state nearly have more wood chips from almond trees than they can handle. Lynch's firm acts as the middle man between growers getting rid of their trees and the power plants that need bio fuel to burn. The dry weather this winter has allowed growers to work in their orchards that are typically soggy, and the drought pushed them to take out trees earlier than normal, he said.

The high value of almonds has caught the eye of investors in recent years, who paid top-dollar for land to plant almond orchards and cash in on the bonanza. Their value remains strong, making the decision for farmers to remove orchards difficult.

William Bourdeau, executive vice president of Harris Farms in Coalinga, said he and his colleagues within the next 30 days will have to confront the hard decision about scaling back their almond orchards. They've already decided not to plant 9,000 acres of vegetables — including 3,000 acres of lettuce that would have produced 72 million heads and generated 700,000 hours of work.

Next, they may rip out 1,000 acres of almonds, a permanent crop, Bourdeau said.

"I hesitate to use a number that big. Unfortunately, it's going to that big or bigger," he said, still holding out hope the season will turn wet. "We're trying to limp along as long as we can."

Leaving the orchards un-watered and expecting they'll somehow survive the drought is no option, Bourdeau said, because insects infest the dying trees and multiply, spreading to other orchards.

Drawing well water is a bad option, he said. Their wells sink 2,400 feet below ground in his region of the Central Valley, providing water that's unhealthy and compromises the crops for years, if the trees survive at all, he said.

They have considered blending well and surface water to minimize the harm. Or they can remove some almonds to direct their limited water to fewer orchards.

"There's a lot of what-ifs," Bourdeau said. "There's no good decision. It's what's the least worse option."

http://news.yahoo.com/california-almond-farmers-face-tough-15473485...

Comment by Howard on February 11, 2014 at 4:22am

Montana Farmers Report Record Hail Damage in 2013, No Coverage in 2014 (Feb 9)
Crop damage due to hail in Montana exceeded $14 million in 2013, the most expensive year in the 98-year-history of the state's crop-hail insurance program.

As a result, the Montana Department of Agriculture announced that the state's hail insurance program will not offer refunds in 2014.

The Montana state hail insurance program was created to provide basic hail insurance coverage on any crop grown in the state.

"The department was able to cover 186% of premiums in 2013. After reviewing the actuarial report at our annual meeting, the hail board voted to not offer refunds to farmers this year to keep the program whole for next year," said Montana Department of Agriculture Director Ron de Yong.

The program, with existing reserves, can cover 122% of claims next year (2015).

Sources

http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/montana-farmers-repor...

http://www.kxlh.com/news/montana-board-of-hail-insurance-paid-out-r...

Comment by Derrick Johnson on January 15, 2014 at 9:17am

North California drought threatens farmers, ag workers, cities – and you

Driest conditions in 100 years could hit the nation’s food basket hard, affecting half of US fruits and vegetables

California, drought, agriculture, food basket, Folsom, Gov. Jerry Brown

A visitor to Folsom Lake, Calif., walks his dog down what used to be a boat ramp, now hundreds of yards from the water’s edge. The state is in its third year of drought.Rich Pedroncelli/AP

LOS ANGELES — The 20 people who work full time for Fresno County farmer Joe Del Bosque are on winter break now. But he is not sure they will have jobs to return to, let alone the 300 temporary workers he usually hires to harvest melons.

“I’m worried about my workers,” said Del Bosque, who farms 2,000 acres in a region known as the nation’s food basket because it produces almost half the fruits, vegetables and nuts on America’s tables.

“Right now we’re not sure if we’re going to bring them back or how many … Crops are all in jeopardy right now,'' he said. "This is the driest year in 100 years.”

California is entering the third year of a drought, and Gov. Jerry Brown is under pressure to declare a drought emergency that could ease pumping restrictions. It is a huge problem for the state’s vital agriculture sector and one that farmers are starting to protest about. On Thursday, Del Bosque will lead hundreds of farmers to the steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento to demand solutions, from relaxing water restrictions imposed by environmental laws to facilitating water transfers from districts that have it to those who don’t.

“We’ve got to go up there and rattle their chains,” Del Bosque said. “We’re actively looking for water from other sources … Because of supply and demand, we could end up paying four or five times more — exorbitant.”

Reservoirs store water that flows from the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada, but many are at less than 50 percent capacity. A recent survey of the water content in the snowpack in the Sierras found it at 20 percent of average for this time of year.

“That’s rather dismal,” said Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman for the California Department of Water Resources. “If we don’t get big storms to build up that snow pack, we can’t expect much in reservoirs.”

Harsh realities

drought, California, Folsom Lake, Gold Rush, agriculture, Jerry Brown
Children explore remnants of an old gold-rush town that was flooded in 1955 by California’s Folsom Lake but reappeared as the water level fell. Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee/MCT/Landov

Water shortages are affecting urban areas too. Voluntary and mandatory water restrictions are in effect in Northern California cities and counties. Mendocino declared a state of emergency. The city of Folsom’s 72,000 residents are under mandatory water restrictions: Limit lawn watering to twice a week, use a shutoff valve on hoses when washing cars.

Meanwhile, in Santa Cruz, residents can’t wash paved surfaces and may be cited if they water their yards between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Local restaurants may serve water only on request, and swimming pools may not be drained and refilled. If the drought continues, restrictions will get tighter, said Eileen Cross, the city’s community-relations manager.

“We are asking for a 20 percent cutback in water use,” said Sue Ryan, public information officer for Santa Cruz. Folsom Lake, the city’s primary water source, is at a near-record low. The water level is so low that it uncovered the ruins of a 19th century gold-rush community inundated in 1955, spurring souvenir hunters to flock to the site.

State officials are concerned these conditions are likely to spread as the drought goes on. “If it stays dry, certainly more water districts and cities will have to impose conservation measures,” Vogel said.

“We’re in the middle of what potentially is looking like a huge catastrophe,” said Ryan Jacobsen, chief executive of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. “We’re looking at some very harsh realities, as far as water allocations.”

The San Joaquin Valley is at great risk, especially on the west side, which relies largely on the runoff from the mountains. On top of that, some farmers are feeling the squeeze from federal pumping restrictions in place to protect endangered species like the delta smelt. A salmon restoration project in the San Joaquin River has also curtailed water supplies.

“Possibly hundreds of thousands of acres of land will go fallow,” Jacobsen said.

Fall planting of lettuce in Fresno County, which provides 95 percent of the nation’s head lettuce, was half what it was the previous year, he said.

Ripple effect

For Del Bosque, the hardship has been worsened by previous cuts in water supply. He had to deal with an 80 percent reduction in 2013 and said, “We have very little water to carry into this year.” His first priority will be to save his permanent crops — almond orchards and the asparagus to be harvested in March. “We have to find water for them to survive.”

That may mean giving up on planting cantaloupes in April and May. The drought’s effects will ripple far beyond the fields. Consumers can expect tighter supplies and higher prices for some fruits and vegetables by summer. And farm suppliers will feel the pinch.

“We buy boxes — over a million boxes a year — to pack our cantaloupes,” Del Bosque said. “That may be reduced or may not happen.”

Southern California, which also draws water from the northern part of the state, is not feeling the squeeze as much because it built more storage in recent years and its Metropolitan Water District was able to stockpile in wetter years. Warm, dry and windy conditions are raising fire worries, however.

Farmers who will rally in Sacramento this week are pushing for expanded storage capacity in Northern California to help ease shortages in northern counties and the Central Valley.

“Most of the dams and storage projects were built more than 50 years ago, when we had less than half the population,” Del Bosque said.

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/1/14/california-droughtt...

Comment by Derrick Johnson on December 17, 2013 at 9:43am

 

Banana Fungus, Insect Outbreak Threaten Global Supply

Banana lovers better satiate their appetites now. The world's supply of the fruit is under attack.

According to Scientific American, strains of a particular soil fungus -- Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense, or Foc -- have struck a key variety of banana grown for export in Mozambique and Jordan. Scientists fear that if the banana fungus spreads further, the popular Cavendish banana could become critically threatened.

The fungus, which has been found on several plantations, causes the incurable Panama disease, or Fusarium wilt, that rots bananas. In the 1950s, another strain of the banana fungus nearly wiped out the Gros Michel cultivar, once as common as the Cavendish variety. After the fungus decimated banana populations in Central and South America, producers switched to the Cavendish, which was resistant to the strain of fungus at the time.

But scientists have long feared that the Tropical Race 4 strain of the fungus -- previously confined to areas of Asia and Australia -- would eventually spread around the world and wipe out the Cavendish supply, just as a previous strain did to the Gros Michel banana.

"Given today's modes of travel, there's almost no doubt that it will hit the major Cavendish crops," Randy Ploetz, a plant pathologist at the University of Florida who studied the new strain of fungus, told Popular Science back in 2008.

With instances of the banana fungus recently popping up in the Middle East and southeast Africa, it seems it may not be long before Foc overtakes plantations in Latin America.

For his book Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World, author Dan Koeppel spoke to several banana researchers who agreed it was only a matter of "when" bananas would be destroyed by this fungus.

"It only takes a single clump of contaminated dirt, literally, to get this thing rampaging across entire continents," Koeppel said in an interview with NPR.

However, the fungus is not the only threat to the world's supply of bananas. Last week, Costa Rica declared a "banana emergency" due to an outbreak of insects that feed on the fruit and leave unsightly blemishes. Though the attacked bananas are still edible, they are not aesthetically suitable for export, which is a major cash cow for the Latin American country.

Magda González, director of the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry’s State Phytosanitary Services, blames climate change for the country's pest problem.

“Climate change, by affecting temperature, favors the conditions under which [the insects] reproduce," González recently told The Tico Times.

To combat the mealybugs and scale insects, banana producers in Costa Rica will be allowed to use pesticides and biological control agents on their crops. However, to fend off the possible fungal attack on Cavendish populations, the answer may be to use a method that's worked in the past: Find a fungus-resistant banana variety to replace the vulnerable crop.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/16/banana-fungus-threatens-pl...

Comment by lonne de vries on October 31, 2013 at 11:19pm

Frost bites Victorian and New South Wales farms

Severe and widespread frost has ruined hundred of thousands of hectares of crop across New South Wales and Victoria, costing producers millions of dollars.

For the last month, successive frosts have damaged crops from Dubbo in western New South Wales, across to Goulburn and the Australian Capital Territory and down to Rutherglen in north-east Victoria.

Some crops of wheat, canola and wine grapes have been totally wiped out, while other producers are reporting 20 to 30 per cent yield loss.

The damage also extends to horticultural crops such as cherries and strawberries.

The timing is now critical for cereal croppers if they want to make any money from their crops.

Hay mowing and cutting contractors are working around the clock to cut stacks before all nutritional value is lost.

The price for hay is falling as a result and commodity analysts believe the price for feed grains will drop too.

One rural counselling service in the Riverina has written to various members of Parliament, asking for a disaster declaration so that financial assistance can be offered to affected farmers.

In the Riverina, cropping agronomist with the Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority, Lisa Castleman, estimates 300,000 hectares of wheat, canola and barley have been hit by successive frosts in the last few weeks.

Wheat and canola

The series of successive frosts over the last fortnight has stolen the season from many New South Wales grain farmers.

Many good looking crops have now been reduced to ruin and aren't even worth harvesting.

The worst frost occurred on Monday night, October 14, across the areas of Greenethorpe, Cowra, Canowindra, Grenfell and Young.

Wine grape crops have also suffered dramatic losses as a result of the frosts.

Wine grapes

Grape growers in the Riverina, the biggest wine producing region in NSW, are in disbelief after entire blocks of fruit were wiped out.

The cold snap which hit the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area in mid-October affected both red and white varieties right across the region.

Horticulturalist Peter Reynolds says it's a big blow.

Source

Comment by Howard on October 15, 2013 at 12:18am

Cyclone Phailin Destroys Crops Worth Billions (Oct 14)
A deadly cyclone which slammed into the coast of India has caused the loss of $4 billion worth of crops across an area the size of Delaware,  or 1,930 square miles.

Cyclone Phailin hit the state of Orissa on Saturday and is the most destructive to affect the subcontinent in 14 years.

Phailin has affected some 150,000 villages, caused almost one million people to evacuate the region, and killed at least 25.

“Repairing and renovating the destroyed villages and infrastructure could well cost several billion dollars on top of the $4 billion lost in rice crop damage,” veteran Indian broadcaster Venkat Narayan said.

Of the near one million people who evacuated their homes, 870,000 were from Orissa and more than 100,000 came from neighboring Andhra Pradesh.

On Sunday, Kirti Mishra, operations manager at Catholic Relief Services in the state of Odisha, spoke of the damage to infrastructure.

“It looks so devastating, I could see all roads blocked with uprooted tree and response teams clearing the roads,” she said. “Houses made of mud and bamboo are worst hit, slums in the town are mostly affected, their houses have completely collapsed and roofs are blown away.”

Source

http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/14/20959626-deadly-cyclo...

Comment by lonne de vries on October 4, 2013 at 11:04pm

Chile frost hits fruit crops and wine, emergency declared

SANTIAGO, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Chile declared a state of emergency on Thursday after a late frost caused an estimated $1 billion worth of damage to fruit crops, potentially hitting wine production as well.

The affected central region is the main fruit and wine producing area in Chile, the world's No.7 wine producer, and includes vineyards owned by prominent local wine label Concha y Toro.

The industry is one of Chile's most important after copper, with fruit exports worth $4.3 billion in 2012 and wine worth $1.8 billion, according to government figures.

"These frosts are the worst that agriculture has faced in 84 years, impacting the area from Coquimbo to Bio Bio," the national agricultural society said as Agriculture Minister Luis Mayol pledged aid for affected farmers.

Fruit trade association Fedefruta has given an early estimate of up to $1 billion of damage from the extensive cold snap in late September.

It estimates the frost damaged between 35 percent and 61 percent of stoned fruit crops, 57 percent of almonds, 48 percent of kiwi crops and 20 percent of table grapes.

Source

Comment by Howard on August 31, 2013 at 11:39pm

Record-Breaking $17.3 Billion in U.S. Crop Losses in 2012 (Aug 30)

Extreme weather forced the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP) to pay out a record-breaking $17.3 billion in crop losses last year, more than 4 times the average annual payout between 2001-2010.

Payments made to farmers during the 2012 growing season to cover losses from drought, heat and hot wind alone accounted for 80 percent of all farm losses, with many Upper Midwest and Great Plains states hit hardest.

From 2001 to 2010, crop losses averaged just $4.1 billion a year, making the 2012 record-breaking FCIP payouts even more staggering.

The top ten states with the largest overall crop insurance payouts due to drought, heat and hot wind were:

  • Illinois: 98 percent of all crop losses were caused by drought, heat and hot wind, costing $3,011,443,799
  • Iowa: 97 percent of losses, costing $1,924,444,160
  • Indiana: 97 percent of losses, costing $1,130,302,660
  • Kentucky: 96 percent of losses, costing $454,380,256
  • Missouri: 95 percent of losses, costing $1,098,310,111
  • Wisconsin: 94 percent of losses, costing $372,479,370
  • South Dakota: 93 percent of losses, costing $1,029,780,352
  • Kansas: 93percent of losses, costing $1,273,662,944
  • Nebraska: 92 percent of losses, costing $1,427,738,976
  • Texas: 75 percent of losses, costing $974,548,606

Sources

http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2013/08/30/235901.htm

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/08/government-pays-17-b...

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