Lettuce biofungicide cleared A new, recently registered biofungicide has shown to provide effective control of lettuce diseases for California and Arizona vegetable growers.

Serenade biofungicide received a federal registration earlier this year and was recently granted a Section 2E registration on lettuce for control of powdery mildew and Sclerotinia leaf drop.

Serenade also controls major diseases on vines, tree fruit, nut crops and other vegetable crops.

In tests on lettuce last year at the Yuma Valley Agricultural Center, Yuma, Ariz., Serenade at the five-pound rate performed as well as or better than conventional fungicides, including Ronilan and Rovral in controlling leaf drop (Sclerotinia minor), according to University of Arizona plant pathologist Mike Matheron, who conducted the trials. He says further trials for leaf drop control are being conducted this year.

Arizona lettuce growers have experienced unusually high powdery mildew pressure for the past two years. Matheron's powdery mildew trials showed that Serenade alternated with standard sulfur treatments gave comparable results to using sulfur alone. He says alternating treatments can help growers reduce the effects of phytotoxicity that can occur when sulfur is used alone, particularly at the end of the season when temperatures are high.

Matheron says alternating Serenade with sulfur can reduce the amount of sulfur residue left on produce at the end of the season. He used the higher 10-pound rate of sulfur, in anticipation of an expected label change this year from five pounds. Although the higher rate can help growers reduce powdery mildew, he says, it can exacerbate the potential for sulfur phytotoxicity and excessive residue.

Always some mildew "Yuma area growers can always count on getting some powdery mildew on the 50,000 acres of lettuce grown in the area," according to Matheron. "Although some broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are also grown, farmers are growing more lettuce in the area, which may be contributing to the increase in incidence of powdery mildew. We've reached almost epidemic levels in the disease, especially in 1999."

In California, the extremely dry winter this year did not favor powdery mildew development, but the disease is a continuing problem for growers there, according to Tom Turini, University of California Extension plant pathologist in Imperial County, Calif. He says Serenade at both the two-pound and four-pound rates and 11 other products and combinations of products gave commercially acceptable control of powdery mildew control in his 1999-2000 trials, and he is conducting further research this year.

Serenade attacks diseases in several ways from both inside and outside the plant. The product stops plant pathogen spores from germinating, disrupts germ tube and mycelial growth and inhibits attachment of the plant pathogen to the leaf by producing a zone of inhibition, which restricts the growth of disease causing pathogens. Serenade also activates the production of plant anti-fungal enzymes, thus inducing the plant's Systemic Acquired Resistance (SAR) response.

Serenade, from AgraQuest, Davis, Calif., received a federal registration early this year from the Environmental Protection Agency for use on grapevines, fruits, vegetables and walnuts.

"Serenade is the first foliar applied, Bacillus-based biofungicide strong enough to stop diseases of fruits and vegetables," said Pamela Marrone, AgraQuest's president and CEO. "Serenade is a fungicide that can compete head-to-head with conventional pesticides on performance, reliability and ease of use."

The product, according to Marrone, also controls Botrytis bunch rot, sour rot and it suppresses downy mildew. It is also registered for use on cucurbits, leafy vegetables, peppers, tomatoes, cherries and walnuts.

Serenade is the first major biopesticide to be commercially introduced into agriculture by the company launched by Marrone in 1995. AgraQuest recently filed a patent on a product to control insect pests. The company hopes to get this produce on the market soon.

Products developed by the Davis, Calif., company are among those considered environmentally friendly and given a fast track through the registration process. It often takes seven to 10 years to bring a synthetic pesticide to market. AgraQuest's biopesticides can reach the market in one to four years at a fraction of the cost, according to Marrone.

The Northern California company also has discovered a product that enhances the effectiveness of Bacillius thuringiensis. It has filed both U.S. and international patents on the discovery.

The enhancer "significantly" improves the effectiveness of Bt against caterpillar pests, according to Marrone. Because AgraQuest does not currently market a Bt product, the company expects to partner with other biotechnology companies to commercialize the enhancer technology.

AgraQuest scientists discovered the enhancer while screening for microbial natural products for pest management. The company collects samples from natural habitats and niches. For every 5,000 microbes AgraQuest screens, the company discovers three product candidates that can compete with chemical pesticides on effectiveness, reliability, shelf life and ease of use, according to Marrone.

AgraQuest currently has two biofungicides, two biopesticides and two bionematicides in development.

"Nature still holds many opportunities and is relatively untapped for crop protection. Only seven percent of all pesticides are derived from nature compared to more than 50 percent of human pharmaceuticals," said Marrone.

Marrone is an entomologist with a doctorate from North Carolina State University. She spent seven years as head of the pest control unit at Monsanto in St. Louis. In 1990 she was hired by Nova Nordisk, a Denmark-based company to start a biopesticide subsidiary, Entotech, in Davis. Abbott Laboratories purchased Entotech in 1995, and Marrone left to start AgraQuest using seed money and later venture capital funds.

AgraQuest is focusing on products for fruit, nut and vegetable crops, home and garden use and the turf market, a combined $13 billion pesticide market. It is leaving the major commodity crops to the major players.

Marrone expects the biopesticide market to grow, as registrations for traditional pesticides are lost under the Food Quality Protection Act.

AgraQuest officials are quick to point out that the company is not involved in the genetically engineering nor are its products focused exclusively on the organic food market.

"Our goal is to develop natural products that work and are competitive with other products in the market in terms of cost and efficacy," said Kurt Schwartau, vice president of sales and marketing.

California avocados contain more vitamin A than many other popular fruits, including apples, bananas and grapefruit.

The famous "Golden Apples" of Greek mythology were actually apricots. Commercial growing of apricots in California started in 1872 in California's fertile Santa Clara Valley.

How much did a Bartlett pear cost in the mid-1800s? $20.67. they were so delicious, people paid the same price for Bartletts as they did for an ounce of gold!

California leads both the nation and the world in apricot production with a 10-year average of about 180,000 tons. Of that only 6 percent is consumed fresh.

More than two-thirds of the U.S. production of Bartlett pears is harvested in California. The peak season for Bartletts is from mid-July to November.

In orchards where water infiltration is limited, gypsum applications can be helpful. Gypsum is especially effective in increasing water penetration.

Good management practices and common sense will help prevent the spread of weeds. Prevention now can reduce the need for additional control measures in the future.

On average, only one in 20,000 chemicals makes it from the chemist's laboratory to the farmers field, says the Alliance for Food and Fiber.

The top five walnut producing counties in California for 1995 according to production share were San Joaquin, Tulare, Stanislaus, Butte and Sutter.

The U.S. walnut industry is made up of over 5,000 growers and 52 walnut processors (marketers).

Dating back to 7000 B.C. the walnut tree is the oldest known fruit tree. Fifty percent of the world's supply of walnuts comes from California.

The California Farm Bureau heard through the grapevine that 75 percent of all California raisins are eaten at breakfast.

Figs were not only eaten by the first Greek Olympians for their great tasted and healthful qualities, they were also worn as medals for their Olympic achievements.

Almonds are really a fruit. They originated in China and are related to such fruits as peaches, plums and cherries.

The No. 1 olive producing county in California is Tulare.

The "Gala" apple was first found in 1939 in New Zealand. It is a cross between a Golden Delicious apple and a Kid's Orange Pippin.

The pistachio is a relative of both the mango and the cashew. California grows all of the nation's commercial pistachios on 60,000 acres.

Grapefruit is very high in vitamin C and is a source of potassium, folacin and Vitamin A. Dieters are especially fond of grapefruit because it is sodium and fat-free.

During the Super Bowl, enough avocados were consumed to cover a football field 18 inches deep in guacamole!

The Farm Bureau points out that California farmers and ranchers produce an average of $67 million in food, fiber and flower products every day of the year.

California produced 151 million pounds of pistachios last year; Iran leads the world in production of pistachios.

Milk is California's top ranked commodity, having a value of $2.9 billion in 1994. Grapes follow in second, with cattle and calves rounding out the top three spots.

California avocados contain more vitamin A than many other popular fruits, including apples, bananas and grapefruit.

The famous "Golden Apples" of Greek mythology were actually apricots. Commercial growing of apricots in California started in 1872 in California's fertile Santa Clara Valley.

How much did a Bartlett pear cost in the mid-1800s? $20.67. they were so delicious, people paid the same price for Bartletts as they did for an ounce of gold!

California leads both the nation and the world in apricot production with a 10-year average of about 180,000 tons. Of that only 6 percent is consumed fresh.

More than two-thirds of the U.S. production of Bartlett pears is harvested in California. The peak season for Bartletts is from mid-July to November.

A 50-acre apple orchard with 44 trees per acre can lose about $27,000 a year to deer.

The key for long-term success of drying raisins "on-the-vine," will be new varieties, according to UC Davis viticulture specialist Pete Christensen

The almond industry experienced a record crop in 1997 of 756 million pounds. In 1998, production dropped to 509 million pounds of receipts, according to the Almond Board of California.

While other citrus crops sang the "citrus-freeze blues," the blood orange from Southern California endured and is wooing citrus lovers with its memorable flavor and dramatically sanguine juice. Its unexpected brilliance adds a vivid touch as a garnish or in a salad.

The most well-nourished families are those that prepare foods from scratch, buy more fruits and vegetables and use a variety of cooking methods.

Want the comforting effect of a glass of good wine without the alcohol? Eat some grapes. Their abundant glucose content stimulates production of serotonin in the brain - a natural relaxant. In addition, reports Farm Bureau, those sweet, juicy grapes are packed full of potassium and iron.

Pick California cherries, the first stone fruit of the season, for a succulent snack that's high in potassium but low in calories. California is one of the top three cherry producing states, shipping over 750,000 18-pound boxes a week in June.

Prunes top the list of antioxidant fruits, followed by raisins and blueberries. Heading the list of antioxidant vegetables is kale, followed by spinach and Brussels sprouts.

"Pink Lady" is not the name of a fruity drink garnished with a parasol. It's a cross between Golden Delicious and Lady Williams apples. This Australian native is causing a sensation in California, Farm Bureau says, where it's sweet-tart, flavor, hot pink color and growing popularity are projected to reach an estimated production of one million boxes by the year 2002.

Sixty percent of California's raisins are sold as an ingredient to food processors, according to the California Raisin Marketing Board.

Marketing research studies show consumers praise low-cost raisins as a source of nutrients, as a convenient and nutritious snack, and as a useful cooking ingredient.

The glassy-winged sharpshooter rides again! No, it's not a cute, little gun-totin' winged fairy. It's an insect that poses a serious threat to California viticulture. Why? Because it spreads Xylella fastidiosa - the bacterium that causes Pierce's disease - for which there is no effective treatment.

Rural crime has changed. It's no longer just a neighbor's kid swiping Tipe cherries from your tree on a warm spring day - it's serious business. Commercial orchards are particularly vulnerable to thefts of walnut burls that sell for thousands of dollars and are used in luxury vehicles.

California continues to lead the U.S. in production of apricots, avocados, grapes, lemons, plums, prunes and strawberries.

Eating a handful of walnuts everyday will lower your blood cholesterol. A study at Loma Linda University found that people who ate any kind of nuts at least five times a week had half the risk of heart attacks as those who ate nuts less than once a week. California leads the nation in production of walnuts, which ranks 10th in agricultural export commodities. What, countries import them? Japan, Spain, Italy, Germany, Canada, Netherlands and Israel.

Differences in color are not the only thing that distinguishes white-fleshed peaches and nectarines from traditional varieties. Yellow varieties continue to ripen after harvest, while white varieties taste sweet even while they are quite firm to the touch.

Ben Franklin predicted that in the future food would be our medicine. He was right! Farm Bureau reports that researchers found certain compounds in cherries which can help prevent heart disease, block inflammatory enzymes and are more effective than aspirin for reducing pain. So, if you hurt...eat 20 cherries and call me in the morning.

What do wine and angel food cake have in common? Cream of tartar. Farm Bureau sources report that this major ingredient in baking powder is a natural, pure substance left behind after grape juice has ferments to wine, and keeps egg whites from foaming.

Winery shipments increased for the sixth consecutive year, reaching a record high of 446 million gallons in 1999.