National briefs: Wildfires damage California's famed wine country

Wisconsin State Farmer
National briefs


Hurricane Irma causes $2.5B in damage to Florida crops 

State officials say Hurricane Irma caused more than $2.5 billion in damage to Florida's agricultural community. 

Irma dealt Florida's iconic orange crop the most devastating blow causing more than $760 million in damage. Beef cattle and dairy were next with $237 million and nearly $12 million respectively. 

The preliminary assessment was released Wednesday by Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. 

The powerful hurricane damaged nearly all the citrus fruit in some Southwest Florida groves and seriously damaging groves in Central Florida. Growers talked of trees standing in 3 feet (.9 meters) of water, which is a death sentence for a crop already under a decade-long siege by citrus greening disease. Much of the fruit was young, and it's too late in the season for a new crop. 

The sugar industry saw about $382 million in damage. 


Wildfires damage California's famed wine country

Workers in Northern California's renowned wine country picked through charred debris and plotted what to do with pricey grapes after wildfires swept through lush vineyards, destroying at least two wineries and damaging many others.

The wind-driven wildfires came as Napa and Sonoma counties were finishing highly anticipated harvests of wine grapes.

Signorello Estate winery in Napa Valley and Paradise Ridge Winery in Sonoma County were destroyed by fire.

The Napa Valley Vintners, a trade association, said that most wineries were closed because of power outages, evacuation orders and employees who couldn't get to work.

The organization said it did not have firm numbers on wineries burned or how the smoke might affect this year's harvest or the industry in general. But it said most grapes had already been picked.

About 12 percent of grapes grown in California are in Sonoma, Napa and surrounding counties.


Corn maze marks 100 anniversary of women voting in New York 

An upstate New York farm is marking the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in the state in distinctly fall fashion, with a corn maze in the shape of Susan B. Anthony. 

Stokoe Farms' owner Suzanne Stokoe says she wanted to honor one of Rochester's most famous citizens with the three-acre maze, which features the activist's profile and her house, which has been turned into a museum. 

This year is the centennial of women's voting rights in New York. Three years later, in 1920, ratification of the 19th Amendment gave all American women the right to vote. 

The maze is open from this weekend through the end of October. 


Planting design against weevil yields numerous benefits

A planting design that outwitted a weevil in Texas citrus groves has yielded numerous other benefits for growers and brought better quality oranges and grapefruits to consumers, experts say.

Studies found all it took to stop the pest was a layer of plastic mesh over the soil beneath the tree, according to lead scientist Dr. Mamoudou Sétamou, professor of entomology at Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center in Weslaco. 

The plastic forms a barrier that the weevil cannot penetrate either from the ground up or from the tree to the soil, the researchers on the project explained, and thus the pest’s life cycle was interrupted, and it could not live there. 

Raised beds covered with plastic mesh have proven to stop the life cycle of the Diaprepes root weevil on citrus trees in Texas. Scientists are now documenting other positive effects of the novel planting technique.

The team now plants citrus trees on raised beds of soil and then covering the beds with plastic mesh. This design has proven effective in stopping Diaprepes root weevils and preventing soil accumulation to build.


Inspection finds maintenance flaws in salmon net pens

State officials say an inspection has found maintenance issues at Cooke Aquaculture's farmed salmon operation off Bainbridge Island.

The state Department of Natural Resources issued a default notice and gave the company 60 days to fix the problems.

Officials say the company needs to make sure salmon farms are structurally sound given the Aug. 19 collapse at its Cypress Island facility. Tens of thousands of non-native Atlantic salmon were released into Puget Sound.

A contractor hired by DNR found issues at Cooke's farms in Rich Passage, including a hole in netting and severe corrosion on floating piers.


New plant to process Montana's booming pulse crop harvest 

An Oregon-based company is building a large crop processing plant in northeast Montana that it says will double the amount of peas and lentils it takes from 150 farmers. 

The investment by Columbia Grain was reported by the Billings Gazette and comes as Montana has emerged as the largest producer of so-called pulse crops such as lentils, peas and chickpeas. 

Tim McGreevey of the U.S. Dry Pea and Lentil Council says the new plant in Plentywood will be the largest such processing facility in Montana. 

The new processing plant is expected to be completed by July 2018, in time for next year's harvest.