Perfectly formulated exposition on one of the advantages of writing. Don't get me wrong, I like to write anyway, but I too have found myself with a much better understanding of a topic once I've gone through the process of writing about it. Writing about something forces me to wrestle with it, to research parts about it and nail down in my mind how all the parts fit together. The net result of course is that I have much richer understanding of the topic than before I started to write about it.
Adding on to this thought, I remember reading in Erica Jong's seventies bestseller "Fear of Flying" about one of the protagonist's high school boyfriends who could just wind a piece of paper into a typewriter and pound out a multi-page paper on medieval history. No forethought, no editing, just straight through and done. While at the time I was pretty impressed with the massive amount of knowledge it would take to actually do this, in my maturity I'm actually thinking those papers weren't that good - undoubtedly the raw facts of that subject were there, but I just can't see how anyone could piece all of them together in a coherent form in one go. Good writing just doesn't work that way, and I am made to wonder if a strong, reflective writer like Jong wasn't making that statement too.
There have been some reports of a small black wasp (photos 1& 3 below) associated with hollowed out raspberry laterals and some lateral death this past summer. What confounded us was actually getting a live sample, but we finally had a good one submitted (thanks Jaime!) and could make an identification that these are sphecid wasps of the genus Pemphedron.
According to the High Plains Integrated Management Website, sphecid wasps of the genus Pemphedron are aphid hunters. This is good, but the more interesting part for us on this is that these wasps actually excavate chambers out of the pith of plant branches (see second example photo below). Critically, the wasps gain entrance to the branch by any vertical break - pruning, tipping or branch breakage. Since neither the xylem nor the phloem elements of the plant are concentrated in the pith, one would not expect a lot plant damage coming from this activity. That said, the grower who has been communicating with me on this has indeed reported a correlation with some dead laterals and Pemphedron wasp excavation.
To answer the inevitable question, this is a "C" rated pest, meaning it's not invasive and not going to generate unwanted regulatory attention. I would leave it alone, but things change all the time and so it still it bears watching given the ability to cause plant problems.
Thanks to Jaime Lopez from Reiter Affiliated Companies, Pamela Cassar from the Santa Cruz County Agricultural Commissioner and of course Kevin Williams who did the ID for us at the CDFA. Great teamwork once again to get to the right answer and keep us in the know.
This just out of Growing Produce magazine:
"While berries as a whole have been on a strong upward trend for some time, organic growth continues to be at a faster pace than its conventional counterparts."
Year over year sales in organic berries have surged 22% in dollar value and 16% in volume.
The last paragraph of the article is probably the most informative, as it quotes retailers stating that the biggest hurdle to growing sales in organic is cost, indeed finding the "sweet spot" between convenience and fair pricing (is the implication that pricing is currently NOT fair!?) will be the key to future growth in this space.
I've had this forwarded to me a bunch of times over the past few days, and finally did have a chance to read the whole thing. Although I trend more towards the meat and potatoes fare of the Wall Street Journal, it's always a pleasure to read the beautiful mastery of English on tap at the New Yorker magazine.
I wouldn't say the title is quite congruent with the content, since the UC program plays a huge role in the story as well.
Final comment without getting into too much detail, is that while the author did a really good job of writing, some of the opinions shared with her (yes, opinions) don't agree with what I believe.
I've been getting some calls as of late concerning the correct soil moisture for growers to have prior to fumigation with chloropicrin, now that fumigation with methyl bromide is no longer an option. Anyway, I checked with a colleague at Trical, who stated that the moisture requirement has definitely not changed, methyl bromide or chloropicrin, and a requirement of 50% or greater available water content in the soil has been in place for a long time.
One of the labels for chloropicrin attached below with specific instructions on soil moisture, see pages 11 & 12.
Soil moisture prep for fumigation is the same as it always was, end of story.
Also found a pretty nifty pictorial guide put out by the NRCS on estimating soil moisture, including the critical 50% or greater available water content, for different soil types.