Food and Farm News Dec. 14 – Christmas tree farms face balancing act

Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Christmas tree farms face balancing act
As California Christmas tree farmers work to rebuild their inventories after years of drought, they’re balancing that with trying to satisfy their customers. Some farms that typically allow people to cut their own trees are doing the cutting instead, to avoid over-harvesting their properties. Other farms have closed early. The California Christmas Tree Association says fewer precut trees from the Pacific Northwest have been coming into the state, as well. 
Almond byproducts find new uses
Growing almonds produces more than the nuts themselves. Almond trees also produce the hulls and shells around the kernels–and researchers say they’re finding new uses for those “coproducts.” The Almond Board of California says materials created from hulls and shells show potential in cosmetics, foods, pharmaceuticals and plastics. For example, the board said almond shells could be used to create a product suitable for strong, biodegradable plastics. 
Projects battle invading pests, diseases
Efforts to combat invasive agricultural pests and diseases in California received a boost Tuesday, from grants announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Thirty-six projects in California will share nearly $12 million in funding from USDA. Projects supported by the grants include a “detector dog” program to sniff out smuggled agricultural products in packages, and an early-detection system for honeybee pests. 
Radar tracks waterfowl to protect poultry
People are used to looking at weather-radar maps, but how about bird radar? A team of researchers is testing radar to track waterfowl populations in the Central Valley, to alert poultry producers of bird-migration patterns. The system uses the same radar as in weather observation. Because wild birds can carry disease to domestic poultry, researchers say the radar tracking could help farmers monitor waterfowl locations.