Exotic species, pest control and the industry’s next generation

Of all the hundreds and hundreds of farmers and growers I’ve known over the years, most of them don’t so much complain about the weather as discuss it pragmatically. “Yup, going to be a scorcher tomorrow,” “Boy, could use a good soaking out there,” and “That wind last week sure did a job on the trees in the back corner of the orchard,” are pretty common topics of discussion around the kitchen table. There’s an understanding amongst folks who make a living and a livelihood with the land that you can’t control it, you can’t change it, and there’s only a certain degree to which you can plan and respond to what weather might bring.

Around the country, over the last few years, we’ve seen wildly differing conditions from floods to droughts and frosts to fires. Rarely do we get the weather we’d like for optimal conditions, and, of course, what a cherry grower knows to be the best weather for a big, healthy crop isn’t the same for an almond grower. Each fruit, nut and vegetable has its own ideal weather needs – and challenges.

However, weather’s impact on growers often comes well beyond just rain and sunshine today, tomorrow or this season. Changing weather patterns and temperatures impact pests, diseases and invasive species expansion. Regardless of your position on climate change and global warming, we’ve always understood that different weather patterns result in different challenges, and right now, warming trends in some areas have left growers battling new and different pests and invasive species. Bugs, fungus and weeds that were hitherto unknown to growers have moved into their fields, and that’s a real headache.

In our State of the Industry report for 2012, beginning on page A6, Sally Colby takes a look at some of these evolving challenges you’re likely to face (and a few that many of you probably already battle) and what you can do.

Much of what’s on the horizon for growers is weather-related, but there is one issue that isn’t controlled by the weather: encouraging and raising the next generation of growers, which we also address in our State of the Industry cover story. Labor was, is and will always be a challenge for our industry, and growers – like everyone in agriculture – face a generational issue as well. An aging population, coupled with a smaller youth movement, means real problems but also real opportunities.

So, what’s that mean for you? Control the things you can, and don’t waste cycles on the things you can’t. In other words, assume the worst, plan for anything and hope for the best.

Also, your mother was right; take a hat and coat, just in case.

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Bob M. Montgomery