Sunday, December 13, 2009

Important - Monitor your Citrus!

From Bill Grimes:

We are not yet under quarantine but need to watch for this pest in our own trees. I'm not trying to be alarmist but would like to encourage vigilance.

Click here for more information and photos.


James Bathgate, CRFG Board member from North San Diego County, asked that chapters put the following in their newsletters and on groups such as this:

Citrus Industry Fights New Pest

The letter came while we were out of town. It was in the stack of mail which greeted us on our return. Not quite a summons to report to the draft board or the county courts, but serious nevertheless. We weren't completely surprised. We'd heard rumors.

"CA Dept. of Food and Ag, Pest Eradication Branch"

Dear Grower—

Recently, a serious pest called Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP)was detected in the northern area of San Diego County…….your grove is in the quarantine area.

The Asian Citrus Psyllid is not terribly destructive but it typically ends up carrying Huanglongbing (HLB) an extremely destructive bacterial disease. It is important to control the Psyllid before it begins to carry Huanglongbing (also called Citrus Greening Disease). Trees affected by the Psyllid in southern counties now have quarantine areas and eradication efforts are underway.

Should the Psyllid eventually carry the HLB disease it would be a very significant blow to the citrus industry. The disease has been found in several southern states. Florida is losing 10 to 12 percent of citrus production per year.

The characteristic adult Psyllids are winged and vaguely aphid like. Adults are one eighth inch long and sit at 45 degrees from the surface of new leaves. Psyllid eggs are yellow and deposited on tender citrus leaves. The young nymph stages develop waxy tubules and feed on the leaves causing them to burn back. Nymphs are small, wingless with red eyes.

If the Psyllid is carrying Huanglongbing, the disease will cause mottling of the leaves and misshapen bitter fruit with dark seeds. New shoots will be yellow. The tree will decline and die. In groves where the disease is found the trees are removed to limit spread of the disease.

What can gardeners do? Maintain a regular inspection of any host plants--citrus and many citrus relatives, orange jasmine, and curry leaves. Don't move host plants especially from out of state. If you find Psyllid evidence, call your local Agriculture commissioner or the CA Dept of Food and Agriculture hotline—1 800-491-1899.

The Asian Citrus Psyllid does not attack fruit and the fruit may be moved within a quarantine area. The fruit must be cleaned if it is leaving the area. The Psyllid lives on leaves and stems.

The CDFA, USDA and the Citrus Research Board are trapping and increasing inspections. Your help is critical to the control.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Wolfskill History

Here is an interesting article about John Wolfskill and the history of what is now the USDA Germplasm Repository in Winters. It was published in The Autumn 2009 Leaflet, the semiannual newsletter of the Plant Sciences Department at UC Davis.

Click here to go to the Leaflet; the Wolfskill article is on page 16 of the pdf file.

Friday, November 6, 2009

From SFGate: Reviving blueberry bush attacked by apple moth

Bill Copenheaver, a San Francisco agriculture inspector, confirmed that the light brown apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana, also known as LBAM), a pest accidentally imported from Australia, is now common in San Francisco as well as in all other coastal Bay Area counties and the bay sides of East Bay counties.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Help with the Pomegranate Tasting

Ray Sheehy has passed along a request for help with the setup for the pomegranate tasting this weekend.

If you can help Thursday, Friday or Saturday, please call Marsha at 916-316-4979 or Jeff at 530-752-2747.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pomegranate Tasting

There will be a pomegranate tasting (mostly hard-seeded varieties) at Wolfskill on Saturday, November 7, at 10 a.m.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Citrus Jihad ???

Read between the lines of this Associated Press story I found on about the package of Asian Citrus Psyllids intercepted in Sacramento. It certainly seems like an intentional act of environmental and economic bio-terrorism was targeted at California's fruit industry! This has all the earmarks of a deliberate act of "arms smuggling". What do you think?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Slideshow of Festival of Fruit 2009

Here is a slide show of pictures I took during last week's tours. I wrote about the event on my blog at


Monday, August 17, 2009

Random Fruit Festival Photos

As soon as the fruit-cutting volunteers started to work, people began lining up for the tasting, even though it wasn't scheduled to start for over an hour. Talk about working under pressure!

Mushrooms in their thousands at the Gourmet Mushrooms tour.

Phil Pieri's beautiful Shiro plums.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Growing Bananas in Northern California

Last Saturday, July 11, 2009, we had a potluck, fruit wine tasting, banana talk and garden tour, chez Joe Real in Davis. Although only about a dozen members were in attendance, the potluck lunch was up to our usual high standards, including many different kinds of fruit. We talked about some chapter business, but mostly enjoyed our lunch.

Then, into the next room for the wine tasting. Joe had laid out a dizzying array of 30 different fruit wines, all but one or two made by him. He handed out “score cards” for rating aroma and flavor, and challenged the tasters to determine which wines were from which fruits. At the start, the bottles were all wrapped in tin foil so the tasters couldn’t see which was which. I don’t know what the outcome was (if there was one), but everyone seemed to enjoy the process, and agreed that it is a little more difficult than one might think.

At the end of the tasting, he invited each of us choose a bottle of wine to take home.

After the tasting, we trooped outside where Joe talked for a while about how he grows bananas. It was warm, but there was a breeze and it was very pleasant. Below are some notes from his talk, incomplete and in no particular order, just to give you a taste:

If the pseudostem survives the winter, and blooms in late spring, it should fruit. When fruit is half-filled, cover it with a blue plastic bag to promote ripening.

He recommends keeping 3 stems to a clump: a main one, a medium one, and one pup.

Bananas like the temperature to be between 80 and 90 degrees F.

He adds 4 cubic feet of steer manure per clump per year, and fertilizes with K Mg or SulPoMag (not N) every 2 weeks until August. No fertilizer after that, so as not to encourage growth during the winter.

He waters twice a day, about 1 gallon per clump each time. Bananas have wide, shallow roots. It doesn’t matter if they blow over – they just keep growing.

After harvest, he recommends cutting just half off the pseudostem, and leaving the other half until it dies back. This gives time for the nutrients contained in the stem to translocate down to the corm.

Leave any dead leaves. In the winter they can be used to help wrap the stem to protect it from the cold. They should then be wrapped with something like jute netting. Not plastic – it holds water which can freeze. Then put Christmas lights around the whole bundle, and plug them in if it gets really cold. The stem should be wrapped just before the first frost, and unwrapped after the last one.
He recommends putting plastic at the base of the plant in the winter to divert water away from the trunk to prevent rot. Bananas are not growing during the winter, and are very drought tolerant during this time. They can be dug and left in the garage for 3 months, watering only once per month.

There is a variety called “California Gold” that is probably OK for cooler areas. He has a friend growing it in Pinole.

Don’t eat the flowers of Cavendish bananas – too much oxalic acid. Plantain or cooking types should be OK.

After a lot of banana questions, Joe took us on a tour of the rest of the garden. It looks innocent enough, until you begin to discover that he has grafted hundreds of varieties onto the various plants! 80 kinds of citrus on one tree. Apples, pears, many plums and pluots, apricots, guavas, grapes, 50 kinds of persimmons on one tree, grapes, blueberries, peaches, on and on.

Joe was a wonderfully gracious, generous and knowledgeable host – a big thank you from us all!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tasting Fruit at Andy Mariani's

There are still a few summer fruit tastings to go at Andy Mariani's. On July 5, the second apricot tasting, and August 1 and 9 for peaches, nectarines and plums.

Click here for more info.

Monday, June 15, 2009

In Paris

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Edibles at the Conservatory of Flowers

The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park has just opened a new exhibition, Edible Expeditions, lush demonstration gardens showcasing over 50 species of edible plants from around the world.

Photo: Nina Sazevich

The exhibition will be on through November 7, 2009. Click here for more information.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New Fruit Tree Forum

Dave Wilson Nursery, grower of many varieties of fruit trees, has started a new forum for discussing fruit growing. Click here to check it out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Diablo Valley College Plant Sale

DVC Horticulture Department Plant Sale
Saturday, May 16th, 9 AM - 1 PM
(same day as our next chapter meeting)
321 Golf Club Road
Pleasant Hill, CA

Cash or checks accepted
For more information: 925-685-1230 ext 1985

Plus ceramic sales, hosted by the DVC ceramics department

Friday, April 24, 2009

Plums with no Pits

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are making progress in determining the genes that control pit formation in plums—the first step in a project to develop pitless varieties of this fruit.

ARS molecular biologists Chris Dardick and Ann Callahan and Prunus breeder Ralph Scorza at the ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, W.Va., discovered that a set of genes necessary for production of lignin is rapidly turned on specifically in pit tissue—not the flesh or skin—just before hardening. Then these genes quiet down just as quickly after the stone hardens.

Lignin is a material involved in the formation of pits in stone fruit. Fruit pits consist of the seed and the hard woody material, or stone, surrounding the seed.

The researchers' goal is to establish techniques to stop the genes' activity and prevent hardening of the pit, thus producing a pitless plum that would be more appealing to consumers. Pitless fruit would be a premium product that could provide higher income for growers and could increase consumption of these nutritious foods.

The idea of pitless fruits is not new. In the early 1900s, Luther Burbank, a prolific horticulturalist, crossed a partially stoneless wild plum with California French prune varieties. These crosses led to commercial-quality fruit that almost completely lacked the stone, but still contained the seed. The group used samples of Burbank's crosses for their work.

Read more here.

By Sharon Durham
April 21, 2009
Photo: Ripe plum fruit from one of Burbank’s remaining stoneless selections. The fruit is cut to reveal a naked seed surrounded by a cavity where the stone would normally form.
Photo by Mark Demuth.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Botany of Desire - the Musical!

No kidding!

In April 2009, director Alex Harvey and composer John Gromada will be artists-in-residence at the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley, developing a new theatrical adaptation of the book The Botany of Desire by Professor of Journalism Michael Pollan. During the residency they will lead a workshop with an ensemble of student actors and singers that will conclude with a public work-in-progress reading of a section of the play on Friday, April 24th, 2009, at 5:30pm in Wheeler Auditorium on the Berkeley campus.

The reading will be introduced by remarks from Harvey and Gromada and followed by comments by Michael Pollan and a question and answer session with the audience.

The event is free, but tickets are required. Tickets are available online, by phone at 510.642.9988, at the Zellerbach Hall Ticket Office (Tues-Fri 10am-5:30pm, Sat-Sun 1-5pm), and at Wheeler Auditorium one hour prior to event.

For more information on this and other events that are part of this project, go here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Scientists Sequence Citrus Disease Bacterium

ARS scientists have sequenced the genome of the bacteria that causes citrus greening, a disease that threatens the nations's $2.2 billion citrus industry. Click here for the full story.

Photo by Keith Weller

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sonoma Valley Olive Festival

It's the last month of the Sonoma Valley Olive Festival - sounds interesting.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Maybe a CRFG band would liven things up

Here is some music made from vegetables.

There must be plenty of fruit that would work as well.

I like this one even better.