News Roundup

News Roundup: March 18 – 24

By on March 24, 2017

News Roundup - this week's top news stories about NC agriculture

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories.

  • “Cold temperatures threaten early strawberry crop,” WWAY-TV: With the usually warm weather we’ve seen this winter Lewis Farms is planning to open earlier than normal.
    Owner Cal Lewis says the threat of freezing temperatures next week is quite a concern though. Above average temperatures prevailed mid-January into February has now caused the local strawberry crop to be three weeks ahead of schedule. Lewis says an early season isn’t a bad thing but it does increase the risk. “It’s a very abnormal year,” Lewis said. “This is the earliest in history that strawberries have been produced in North Carolina.” The stand in Ogden plans to open March 24 which typically doesn’t open until April. The stand was originally going to open sooner, but some of the coldest air we have yet to see is set to arrive next week so they decided to hold off. Using row covers and irrigation, Lewis hopes his fruit will make it through the cold weather because if it does, it could the best season yet.
  • “French apples could be boon to local industry,” Winston-Salem Journal: When St. Paul Mountain Vineyards first wanted to grow French vinifera, or grape vines, in Henderson County, most thought it was likely doomed for failure. But today, the Hendersonville winery boasts gold-medal winning wines from its locally grown French vinifera. And now, owner Alan Ward is hoping to recreate that success with cider, bringing in French and European cider apple varieties to make delicious artisan hard cider and boost the local apple industry with a new, high-value product. Ward and former Henderson County Extension Director Marvin Owings were in the Normandy region of France until March 12, touring growing operations and nurseries and making orders for French apple varieties grown specifically for cider making. Owings has leased land to start his own nursery operation near St. Paul Mountain Vineyards, and wants to help determine which root stocks will work best to raise the varieties, which are susceptible to fire blight, a bacterial disease that can cause extensive damage. Owings and Ward traveled to France in May 2015, also touring growing and cider operations. Owings said they have an interest in the true cider varieties. Because of that trip, they know how important it is to bring back the French varieties, but for whatever reason, they’ve been difficult to attain.
  • “Can ginseng become a WNC cash crop?” Asheville Citizen-Times: In the rugged hills of Watauga County, there grows a highly sought-after medicinal plant that can fetch more than $1,000 per pound on the black market. It’s become a prime target for poachers and a potential cash crop for growers. Ginseng, the medicinal and knobby root prized in Eastern medicine and American-made energy drinks, is taking root in Western North Carolina, planted by farmers looking to tap into what’s becoming a growing market. But with its popularity bolstered by reality TV shows like “Appalachian Outlaws,” growers are finding themselves fending off more than deer. …
  • “Lawmakers, Christmas Tree Association want to save Linville River Nursery,” Watauga Democrat: Legislative efforts are under way to temporarily halt the closure of the North Carolina Forest Service’s Linville River Nursery, which is slated for June 30. “We are trying to work on a solution,” said N.C. Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Blowing Rock). “Rep. Josh Dobson (R-Nebo), Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Spruce Pine) and myself are working on getting the nursery some budget money for the next year or two until they figure out what their operational structure is.” Ballard and Dobson both spoke at the Avery County Republican Convention on Saturday, March 18, and said they would file bills in the House and Senate, respectively, to help fund the nursery for the next two years to the tune of $100,000 per year. “I spoke with (N.C. Agricultural Commissioner) Steve Troxler about the issue, and he’s interested,” Ballard said. Another ally in the fight to save the nursery is the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, whom Ballard said she spoke with before the Avery County Republican Convention. Through a spokesperson, the NCCTA confirmed they are working toward the goal of attempting to keep the nursery open. It was announced by the NCFS on March 15 that the Liinville River Nursery would close, as it has run at a $100,000 deficit each of the past four years. The nursery has sold Fraser Fir and Eastern White Pine seedlings to local growers since 1970, helping Avery County and the surrounding areas become a hub for Christmas tree farms. “The closure might affect some of our smaller growers, so we’re trying to help them out,” Ballard stated. “All of this was a little bit of a surprise, so we’re trying to see what we can do to put a pause on it.”
  • “Late peaches, fine; jury still out on other crops,” Asheboro Courier-Tribune: How did peaches and other flowering crops fare following the days-long cold snap? It depends. Statewide, estimates of damage are not yet in from the N.C. Department of Agriculture. Ben Grandon, horticulture agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Randolph Center, said the jury is still out on damage to crops locally. He called it “a waiting game,” especially for growers of blueberries and strawberries. Freeze damage to individual crops is dependent upon how far along the flowering process was, he said. “Sometimes it takes two or three weeks to see how they fared,” said Grandon, adding that it’s “hit or miss” around the county. “And it’s typically not the last frost of the year.” In neighboring Montgomery County, the answer is not so encouraging. In fact, you may have to wait a bit longer this year for fresh peaches. Garrett Johnson of Johnson Peaches near Candor reported Monday that his freestone peaches “didn’t do too bad” during several recent nights of sub-freezing temperatures. But the early crop is “pretty well gone.” It was the cling peaches, which ripen in May and June that were hit the hardest, Johnson said. “The early ones were in full bloom. They were pretty well wiped out.” However, the more popular freestone peaches, which ripen from mid-July to mid-August, “came through well and we’re very thankful.” …
  • “As largest ships ever approach Wilmington port, optimism about impact on pork and agriculture,” Port City Daily: A new trade route with Asia will bring massive new ships to the area. Port of Wilmington officials hope the new deal will have a positive impact, specifically on North Carolina’s pork industry. Cliff Pyron, a spokesman for the port said, “the ships on this route are the largest ships to visit Wilmington for a weekly service – in fact, they’re the largest ships providing consistent service to the east coast.” The ‘EC2’ route – operated by THE Alliance – will connect Wilmington with weekly service from Shangai and other Asian ports by 8,500 TEU (20-foot equivalent) vessels. In comparison, the Maersk and MSC ships that will begin service from northern Europe to Wilmington next month are less than 5,000 TEU (a full-sized 18-wheeler pulls a 2-TEU container). The Alliance, a massive international group of shipping companies, will begin operations in April, with service in Wilmington to begin in May. It was formed, in part, to take on the massive 2M alliance of the world’s two largest shipping company, Maersk and the Mediterranean Shipping Company. …
  • “Will North Carolina farmers be responsible auxin stewards?” Southeast Farm Press: North Carolina must avoid the drift issues that plagued the Mid-South last year and responsibly use the new auxin herbicide technology. Alan York, weed specialist and William Neal Reynolds professor of crop science at North Carolina State University, has said the damage to off-target crops in the Mid-South garnered much national negative publicity for agriculture and he is convinced the issues with off-target deposition has held up the registration of the compounds. He called the drift complaints a “black eye” for the industry and farmers and other applicators must convince the Environmental Protection Agency they are responsible stewards of the new technology. Registration for the new dicamba products is temporary, for two years. York said EPA can choose not to extend the registrations if there is a great deal of off-target deposition of the herbicides. “EPA made it very clear that they are not going to stand for any more of that,” York said of the Mid-South drift complaints. It was with the Mid-South drift issues in mind that the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services mandated training for farmers and other applicators as part of a 24(c) special local need label for all products containing 2,4-D or dicamba applied on Xtend or Enlist cotton or soybeans. More than 3,000 farmers and other applicators have completed the training in 38 meetings held across North Carolina in February and March. Of those trained, 82 percent have been growers with the remainder including dealers, consultants and applicators. York believes drift complaints will be at a minimum this year if applicators follow the guidelines to avoid off-target deposition and use common sense. The goal is to have no problems with off-target deposition and zero incidents. “Obviously, we’re not going to make that goal. Somebody is going to screw up, but we want to keep those screw ups to a minimum,” York said. …
  • “N.C. A&T culinary competition highlights healthy eating,” Greensboro News & Record: College eating isn’t just Ramen noodles. Some students at N.C. A&T will compete against each in a culinary competition to demonstrate there’s more to dorm meals than less-than-healthy staples. Three teams of four students will compete in a competition in the style of the television show “Iron Chef.”
    The competition is the closing event of North Carolina Small Farms Week, A&T’s annual celebration of small-scale agriculture. “Even though agriculture is a foundation of our university, many of our students are not aware of, nor participate in, the variety of programs and resources in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at A&T,” said Michelle Eley, community and economic development specialist for The Cooperative Extension Program. “For Small Farms Week, we wanted to do some things to engage students and make them aware of our depth and breadth. Finding, preparing and consuming food is an experiential way of engaging students in agricultural education.” …
  • “Brace yourself for a summer without many peaches,” The News & Observer: Biting into a fresh, juicy Carolina peach may be a rare experience this summer. Last week’s sudden freezing temperatures, which hit just after an unusually warm February sent peach trees into bloom early, has dealt a serious blow to one of South Carolina’s primary crops. The S.C. Department of Agriculture reports that the state probably lost 85 to 90 percent of its peach crop. The Midland and South Carolina is the largest peach-producing state on the East Coast, second only to California. Its peach crop usually is worth about $90 million, with a $300 million impact on local economies, including 1,500 jobs. That would be the heaviest loss in 10 years, since a devastating late freeze in 2007. Blueberries grown in the Midland and Upstate area of South Carolina also were hit hard, with losses expected to be about the same as peaches. “It’s not looking good right now,” said Bob Hall of Bush N Vine Farm in York. There may be later-season varieties available in August, but he expects they’ll lose about 90 percent of their crop. The total loss won’t be known for another week, when they can see how many blooms are left. On the bright side, he said, strawberries mostly made it through and are already setting fruit. Strawberries are easier to protect from cold and they also bloom again through the spring. He says the strawberry season will start earlier than it ever has, probably in just a few weeks, and he thinks they’ll have strawberries until June this year. They also will have other produce at their farm stands through the summer. At Black’s Peaches in York, they do expect to have a few more peaches. While they lost 80 percent of their crop, a woman at the farm stand said that a new batch of trees planted in 2014, which will yield fruit for the first time this year, actually made it through the freeze. In North Carolina, peach crop losses haven’t yet been reported, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture. Mostly, apples in the mountains apparently weren’t badly damaged. Strawberry damage was spotty because the crop was ahead of schedule. Winter wheat also may be damaged. But it will still be a few days before the extent of loss is known. …

Recipe: Walking Meal

By on March 23, 2017

Spring is here and schedules are getting busy. This means eating healthy and well-balanced meals often take a back seat to what’s easy and quick.  Good nutrition is all about food choices that promote health and prevent disease. In celebration

DIY Cankerworm Sticky Bands: Time to remove them!

By on March 22, 2017

A surprise to us all, the groundhog was right this year, and winter came back to rear its ugly head once again! But warmer weather is already making its comeback, and this week marks the first week of spring. Many

Today's Topic

Today’s Topic: Small Farms Week

By on March 21, 2017

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.” For 31 years, the Cooperative Extension program at N.C. A&T State University has highlighted North Carolina’s small farms with Small Farms Week.

Tenita Solantol, owner and operator of Green Panda Farms, delivers microgreens to the Bulldega Urban Market in Durham.

Urban and small farms are a big part of the fabric of North Carolina’s agriculture industry

By on March 20, 2017

To celebrate N.C. A&T State University Small Farms Week, March 19-25, we are highlighting urban farmer Tenita Solanto from Raleigh. Staff from the NCDA&CS Small Farm Program works with small, urban and limited-resource farmers like Solanto, helping them access resources

News Roundup

News Roundup: March 11-17

By on March 17, 2017

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. “Urbanization, food safety regulations among challenges facing N.C. farming, speaker says,” Salisbury Post: On another subfreezing

Local dish: Biscuits and apple butter

By on March 16, 2017

  Ask 100 North Carolinians where to go to get the best breakfast biscuit and you’ll probably get about 100 different answers. We are passionate about who makes the softest, fluffiest, best-tasting, melt-in-your-mouth, worth-every-calorie biscuit. Ask these same residents what

North Carolina dairy industry leads way in secure milk plan

By on March 15, 2017

The dairy industry is a fine-tuned machine. From the farm to milk processors to the grocery store, today’s dairy industry is regional in scope and streamlined to run in a most efficient manner. In North Carolina today, there are about

Today's Topic

Today’s Topic: NC Ag Awareness Day

By on March 14, 2017

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.” Bruce Ferrell subs for Rhonda this week and talks to Commissioner Troxler about the 2017 Ag Awareness Day at the Legislature. Farmers

Faces in the Field: Dr. Tahseen Aziz, avian pathologist

By on March 13, 2017

When we say that our avian pathologist wrote the book about his field of veterinary pathology, we mean it.  When it comes to diagnosing problems in birds, ducks and other avian species, the book that pathologists reach for is Avian Histopathology. And it