Vegetable production is starting the annual shift from the desert back to California’s coastal areas. This time, there are higher stakes than the normal run-of-the-mill disease and insect problems.

“The obvious change this year is that growers are paying much more attention to food safety,” says Michael Cahn, Monterey County Farm Advisor. “However, there are so many unanswered questions that the industry doesn’t know what measures will give effective protection. In many cases, the food safety measures that growers are being told to implement can be in conflict with other regulations for water quality and wildlife protection. This is particularly true for food safety practices such as non vegetation buffer areas and fences around fields.”

Cahn will attempt to answer some of those questions in the upcoming season with two research projects focused on balancing food safety and water quality protection.

Meanwhile, winter vegetable harvesting is progressing along the southern coastal areas while field work is underway northward for the new crop.

“We’re getting ready to harvest lettuce in the Oxnard and Santa Maria areas,” says Jim Dana, Western Farm Services Marketing Manager. “Thrips are starting to show up now that the hills are drying out. Strawberries got hit hard with the freeze – probably about a 20 percent reduction in yield. We’ll soon see. The freeze also hit the avocados hard. Growers didn’t necessarily lose trees, but it was tough on the crop.

“The quality is down, especially in crops such as broccoli. They’re stringy. In terms of disease pressure, the lack of rain has been beneficial because nothing has really gotten started yet. Of course, the dryland growers are not looking at a good situation right now.

Weed pressure is also looming with some crops being hit harder than others.

“Right now we are dealing with yellow nutsedge in onions,” says Richard Smith, Monterey County Farm Advisor. “The problem is more intense this year because it is a warmer, drier year. Nutsedge is off to an earlier start and is causing problems in crops such as onions.