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Olive tree pests, diseases discussed
Olive trees are very hardy. Some in the Sacramento Valley are more than 100 years old.
But that doesn't mean they aren't susceptible to pests and diseases just like any other crop-growing tree.
Learning more about those pests and diseases is what brought more than 80 olive growers together on Wednesday to participate in the UC Cooperative Extension's Sacramento Valley Olive Day, held in the Veterans Memorial Hall in Corning.
Some came from as far away as Woodland, others from closer to home, such as Artois, Oroville, Davis, Orland, Red Bluff, Glenn and Corning.
"I came to get more information on olive knot," said Corning grower Gary Strack, who is also the city's mayor. "Olive knot is a disease that is a real problem, and a few years back it caused a lot of damage to my orchard."
Throughout the hall, men and women were busy taking notes as speakers such as Alex Ott, executive director of the California Olive Committee, shared information.
"Right now there are several issues of importance in the industry," he said. "I believe pest and disease control is a big one, as is foreign competition and educating consumers about buying domestic olives."
Ott said he is surprised at the amount of people right here in California that don't know the olives they are buying in the grocery store are grown right here.
"Keeping up with the new exotic pests that are coming into the state about every six months is a huge job," Ott explained. "That is troublesome and can grow to be a very destructive problem if not kept in check."
Already olive growers are having to continue the fight against the olive fruit fly that has infiltrated the region.
Milton Ollenberger who grows table olives in Capay, said he came to the meeting mainly to learn more about the updates on fighting the olive fruit fly.
"I learned a few helpful things such as there is a new product available to fight the olive fruit fly, and that is good news," he stated. "I also got updates on other issues in the industry, and I'm glad I came."
Steve Lohse and his father, John Lohse, of Glenn, also attended the meeting.
"I wanted to find out more about mechanical pruning. That is something we might try to save labor costs from hand pruning," Steve Lohse said.
According to Ott, foreign competition is using mechanical pruning and harvesting, which is keeping there labor costs down and making it possible to sell their crop for less.
"That is very hard to compete with," he said. "Mechanical harvesting is something we have got to work on here in the United States so we can compete on a global level."
Ott believes California has become a very expensive state for agriculture due to over-regulation and -rules.
"It makes it very difficult to keep costs down while at the same time producing a high quality and profitable crop," he said.
Tehama County Assistant Ag Commissioner Doug Compton spoke about the necessity of growers becoming state certified applicators which allows use and supervision of restricted materials, such as sprays and fertilizers.
He also about other state regulations concerning water quality, respirator regulation and employer requirements.
Learning about the new laws and regulations in the state is one of the reasons Corning growers Lee and Judy Turner attended the meeting.
"You have to keep up on anything new to stay in business. We were also wanting to learn more about mechanical harvesting. I believe they are now trying to find a safe loosing agent to spray on the trees to help them drop the olives," said Judy Turner. "That is why olives have to be handpicked is because they don't naturally fall of the tree at harvest time."
This year should be produce a good crop, Ott said, as last year's was very poor.
"Olives are an alternate bearing crop. That means they produce a good crop every other year, with a bad crop in-between. In 2010 the crop in the state was 165,000 tons, and last year just 25,000 tons, so we expect a strong crop in 2012," he explained.
But, due to late frost, rain and hail, it is too early to predict what the crop will be this year.
"We won't give an official projection until July," Ott said.
Bill Krueger, U.C. Cooperative Extension farm adviser, who organized the meeting, said the annual event is held to provide growers the necessary information they need to be productive and stay competitive.
"Things are always changing in the business and this gives us an opportunity to gather under one roof and share the information currently available," he said.
Following the meeting, a tri-tip lunch was served by the Corning Exchange Club thanks to the sponsorship of Musco Family Olives, Bell Carter Olives and California Olive Ranch.
The event was co-sponsored by Musco, Bell Carter, California Olive Ranch, West Coast Olive Products, and the Glenn County Agriculture Commissioner.