Category Archives: Farm Life

“I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.” – George Washington

Sustainable, Intelligent Farming

IFOOC Solar PanelsIl Fiorello goes solar! We have installed solar panels on our Visitors Center and on our Mill Barn to capture the brilliant sunshine energy of Suisun Valley. We decided to make the commitment and do what we really believe in, using a better way to produce energy. As we expand the Visitors Center we will be adding more panels and it is our hope to expand the solar array to fully support our energy requirements. As the saying goes this is a good thing, and about time too.

To further our commitment to use resources more efficiently, we are mulching and composting to improve soil quality, conserve water, and to add nutrients to our soil. Much of the trimmings from our pruning, as well as the remaining olive material after making oil are used in our compost. It just makes sense to use what we have and be as self-sufficient and productive as possible. Olive trees are drought tolerant but we want ours to thrive so we are monitoring water usage by weekly calculations of both temperature and humidity. We want to produce good food for you.

National Geographic Magazine recently published an article titled “EAT, The New Food Revolution” (May 2014). A team of scientists were confronted with one simple question: How can the world double the availability of food while simultaneously cutting the environmental harm caused by agriculture? After analyzing reams of data on agriculture and the environment, they proposed five steps that could solve the world’s food dilemma.

 

Step One: Freeze agriculture’s footprint internationally

Step Two: Grow more on farms we have

Step Three: Use resources more efficiently

Step Four: Shift diets

Step Five: Reduce Waste

 

Read the entire article at National Geographic Magazine, May 2014, pp 26-59.

We love to have conversations about what we are doing to help a demanding world, come visit and we can discuss our plan.

Solano County’s Stand Against Olive Fly


THE SOLANO COUNTY OLIVE GROWERS MEETING
REGARDING THE OLIVE FLY INFESTATION
FEB 28, 2014

This is a synopsis of the olive fly meeting held on Feb 28, 2014 in Solano County. This represents information given to participants by experts in the field. As with any synopsis this does not constitute a complete coverage of the subject of olive fly and growing olives. It is always best to consult professionals about how to manage pests and chemicals, whether organic or not. We at IL Fiorello use professional support for assistance and information, as you should also. At the end of this article please see a partial list of resources for your support.

 

Albert Katz, Grower and Miller, Katz Farm
Introduction

 

Patty Darragh, COOC
General Comments on Olive Oil Quality and Impact of OLFF to Markets.

Fly first reported in LA county 1997.  Generally the regional parks and landscape olives are not treated.  For the COOC almost 4% (2% previous years) of submitted oils are not meeting certification criteria this year for a variety of reasons, maybe olive fly, maybe early frost. The counties hardest hit with fly are Sonoma, Napa, Solano Co and San Diego Co.

 

Mike Madison, PhD, Grower and Miller, Yolo Bulb, Yolo, CA
Mark Sievers, Grower and Miller, IL Fiorello Olive Oil Co, Fairfield, CA
Impact and Information on Olive Fly and Milling Olives

Use irrigation control as the hot weather dehydrates olive fly so limit/control your irrigation. In 100°F weather don’t irrigate the trees.  Heat makes female flies inactive and you should carefully monitor temperature and humidity in grove. It is mandatory to do annual heavy pruning as the olive fly likes a dark damp quiet eg. no wind, environment.  Black scale likes that environment also. Black scale is a food source for olive fly. Very important to get the fruit off the tree each year so the fly does not overwinter in the “mummy fruit”.

Damaged or frozen fruit falls first so you may have a crop after the bad fruit falls off. But do not let the damaged infested fruit stay on the ground to over winter. It is reported that the fly has a 6 mile flying radius. Discuss your olives with your miller if you have questions or concerns. Transport of olive fly is not a generally accepted practice. Milling olive fly infested fruit is not good practice, and some mills will not accept olive fly infested fruit at all.

 

Louise Ferguson, PhD UC Davis
Life Cycle of Olive Fruit Fly and Implications for Control

Reviewed the biology of the fly, the Bactrocera oleae (Rossi) single host pest that only destroys olives and not the tree. She is recommending that yearly traps are set by March first. Dr. Ferguson referred to a 2009 study by Dr. Frank Zalom, UC Agricultural and Natural Resources, UC IPM online, http://ipm.ucdavis.edu and are peer reviewed articles.

There may be genetic differences and California may have a unique genetic variety but this has not been scientifically proven yet.

 

Dr. Ferguson showed a Dendogram cluster describing the fly cycle.

1. Adult olive fly
2. Egg in fruit
3. First instar (instar being the process of growth of the pupae)
4. Second and third instar
5. Third instar
6. Pupa in fruit

Females can live 11 months and may pupate in the ground. They have 3-5 generations per year and can pupate in the soil. So sanitation in the orchard is important. Disking and tilling the soil around the trees is valuable in controlling olive fly.

Mc phial trap:  Torula yeast is used in the Mc phial trap and is effective in capturing females because of the liquid especially with the addition of GF-120 to the container. Read the directions carefully and keep up with the trap maintenance.

The olive fly population is bimodal: spring and July August.

Control essential with:

1. Early season control NO host able olives.
2. Winter sanitation program
3. Preseason and throughout the season control with Spinosid GF-120 is critical.
4.  High heat over 100° F will kill first instars
5.  Mass trapping should never be done alone use Spinosid GF-120
6. Harvest as early as possible to miss fall generation.
7. Consider the use of Kaolin clay, which does not prevent photosynthesis but seems to be effective as a fly deterrent.

 

Danitol

Danitol pyrethroid registered for use in 2012, is not organic. Valent technologies states that “Danitol is a synthetic pyrethroid that provides a powerful knockout punch for more than 100 of the most troublesome pests, including the invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB). It is labeled for more than 120 crops—such as peach and other stone fruit, citrus, pome fruit (apples and pears), grapes, cotton, tomatoes, strawberries, peanuts, bushberries and blueberries. Unlike other synthetic pyrethroids, Danitol is proven not to flare mites and combines the effectiveness of both an insecticide and miticide.”

Dr. Ferguson states that “it is to be used only late in the season and only once, then return to GF-120.”  See the manufactures handout on their instructions for application of the product.

Spinosid resistance was an ongoing question, but the investigated ration is a resistance ratio of about 10.93. Which is described as quite low.

 

Resistance is a function of the total number of applications.  We don’t have a resistance problem now but we could.  Monitor the fruit as well as the traps. Danitol should be used only once and only late in the season. It is not organic. Use a HOBO data temperature and humidity monitoring station that displays real time data information. This is very useful in irrigation monitoring.  Set two traps per 5 to 10 acres in the orchard. Place them mid canopy in the shade in the north-east side of the tree.  Monitor weekly for catch.

 

 Jill LeVake, DOW Chemical
Considerations for use of GF-120 Spinosid in Controlling OLFF

Spinosid is an organic compound composed of sugars and protein. It has stabilizers to improve shelf life and humectants to prevent drying. The re-entry interval (REI) is 4 hours and the pre-harvest interval (PHI) is 3 days. Once mixed use that amount within one day, as it begins to deteriorate after being mixed. The use amount is 20 oz per acre per tree 2 to 3 ounces of the ratio based per tree.  The 1 to 1.5 dilution ratio results in little bait stations on each tree.  The use is about 20 ounces in 80 ounces of water. The nozzle stream is important, use a D 1 to D 2 size nozzle with no swirl plates or screens.  Almonds near olive orchards should be also treated and provide some synergistic effect for the olives. Put the traps out March first. Get them out early and monitor them. Then begin applications of GF-120 in April. Apply to every other row every 7 days.

Spinosid is pH sensitive 7.0 so mix with neutral water, and test well water if that is what you are using for diluent.

PLEASE ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE PRODUCERS FOR GF-120, DANITOL, and McPHAIL TRAPS.

 

Jim Allen, Solano County Ag Commissioner
Regional Approaches to Pest control and Abatement

These are regional issues and proximity is really the issue.  Agricultural commissioner has the authority to supervise re abandoned orchards. This is a civil vs commercial issue.

Another pest is being monitored for progression, the olive psyllid is a relative of aphids and sucking insects.  Don’t bring fruit or fruit trees from Southern California to stop this infestation. If you do not want olives apply Fruit Stop at bloom or purchase Swann Olives that are non-bearing.

 

Dan Flynn, Executive Director of the UC Davis Olive Center
Future for Olive Fruit Fly control, Making New Tools Available

He stated that the goal of the center in multipurpose, including table olives and oil producing olives. He is dedicated to quality in all olives both table and olive oil and to research in both areas. There is funding and ongoing projects in both.

Please refer to the UC Davis IPM pest management site for great information.

He repeated the caution of using Danitol to use it only late in the season and then go back to GF-120. To research the use of Kaolin clay and referred to an article by Paul Vossen from 2006.

There is research being done regarding the olive fly

1. Kent Dane at UC Berkeley has a funded study on parasitoids with initial funding of $250,000.
2. USDA is investigating a male olive fly irradiation methods of sterilization.
3. Research in Spain is investigation a genetically engineered male olive fly study.
4. CDFA olive psyllid research ongoing
5. Frank Zalom researching GF-120 resistance in table olives.

Flynn also reminded everyone that there are years to come to have the research answers.

Olive center can be the distribution of information and he is placing articles on line for reference. Please find best practice information on line at the UCD Olive Center web site, and the IPM web site.

 

SOURCES OF INFORMATION/REFERENCES

1. UC Davis Olive Center

2. UC Davis Integrated Pest Management

3. Olive Fruit Fly F. G. Zalom, Entomology UC Davis

4. L. Ferguson PhD Pomology, UC Davis

5. California Olive Oil Counsel

6. Dow Chemical,  Dow AgroSciences LLC GF-120 Naturalyte Fruit Fly Bait

7. Marvin Martin,  Master taster and olive oil expert at mmoliveoils.com

 

NOTE:

 PLEASE ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE PRODUCERS FOR GF-120, DANITOL, and McPHAIL TRAPS.

 

 

Olive Fly: Time to Start Spraying

olive-fruit-fly

The olive fruit fly, Bactrocera oleae (Rossi) (Diptera:Tephritidae), is an important pest to be very aware of if you grow olives (Olea europaea). This pest was introduced and invaded California around 1998, and spread rapidly throughout the state and northern Mexico (Rice et al., 2003). It is very prevalent in Europe.

We are spraying our trees every other week. Some growers spray each week. Each time we spray every other row and then alternate each two weeks. I always spray each of the border trees. Not sure if it makes a difference but it makes sense to me to set up a barrier. I spray a target spot on each tree about the size of a dinner paper plate, at mid-level of the tree. I must admit that I have a great time spraying, me in the early morning, with little Casey riding along beside me. With coffee in hand and dog biscuits, we drive around the property and watch the birds and inspect each tree.

Paul Vossen is one of the leading experts in olive growing in California. His chapter in Organic Olive Production in the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Publication No. 3505 from 2007 is very relevant and worth reading. Along with his co-author Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne, Mr. Vossen states that this is the most economically significant pest of olives. If you spray you can save up to 80% or more of the crop. This is very economically important.

Per Mr. Vossen, “The Olive Fruit fly belongs to the family Tephritidae, a group that includes such economically important flies as the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata), the walnut husk fly (Rhagoletis complete), the apple maggot (R. pomonella), and the Oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis). Chapter 6, Pg. 47.

olive fly maggot

An adult can lay 50 to 400 eggs in a lifetime, one in each olive. As the maggot grows it eats the inside of the olive and destroys the fruit.

To prevent this destruction we spray with GF-120 Naturalyte a bait spray using the active ingredient Spinosad. Spinosad is a fermentation byproduct of the actinomycete bacteria Saccharopolyspora spinosa. Hence the name spinosad. This is a certified organic spray. It seems to have little effect on honey bees and ladybugs.

Begin spraying early and continue into the Fall harvest. We inspect each batch of olives and may reject olives that are heavily infested as this will affect the taste of the oil. And we do not want olive flies here at our Farm.

Call us if you have any questions or problems with olive fly. We can help you with some small amounts of GF-120 if you have only a few olive trees.

The Owls of Il Fiorello

We have an owl! There are lots of owls in the valley but this one has chosen to grace us with her presence. Earlier this year we had an eagle and then found remnants of an owl that became dinner. We did not think that we would have owlets this year. BUT! On Saturday June 29, I walked around the corner to water our roses and wisteria. To my surprise found a very large and not so friendly owl on the ground facing in my direction. It was clearly a teenage owl as it had full feathers and some pin feathers. He was very hot and in distress from the heat. After consulting Wildlife Rescue and Bird Rescue we ran a hose with a water mister close to the bird and within an hour it was obviously much better.

Owls can be dangerous birds as they are predator birds with large beaks and large talons. Do not approach the birds as they will be aggressive, even if they are ill. We have owl boxes on the property to control rodents, and support good agricultural practices. We would rather have the owls control the little critters that eat our trees than use pesticides.

On Sunday morning we arrived to find the owl in the tree branches and much happier, the wings were closed and eyes shut just riding the branches of the tree with the wind.

Today Jenny and I went out to check on the birds and there were two on the perch outside of the box. We were very happy to see them healthy and enjoying the Suisun breezes. Mark then went out and declared that there are three teenage owls. So of course we named them Olive, Olivia, and Oliver.

I hope you enjoy their pictures. They are very wary and move back into the house if I get close. We do not want to disturb them as they need the breeze to cool off. We are taking pictures with a very long lens so as not to disturb them.

We treasure the presence of the owls and respect that they are wild and aggressive birds. We hope sharing these pictures will give you a sense of what it is like to live on a working farm.

Pruning

After the very long hours of harvest and milling, we pruned our trees – all 1,400! Fortunately we have a crew to help that is knowledgeable and works very hard. Mark and I just follow behind and pick up the trimmings. We plop them into the trailer and then to the compost pile. The truck only got stuck once in the deep grass. Marvin said it was like wet spinach, spoken like a true chef. Our little mule pulled the trailer out with its four-wheel drive. Pruning is so important to the trees’ health and production. The beautiful Italian saying is that a swallow should be able to fly through the olive tree without touching its wings.

Our trees will be about 12 to 15 feet high so we can harvest without using tall ladders or, as Mark says, without using helicopters. Olive trees can grow to be very old and very large. Old like hundreds and hundreds of years old and still producing. Large as in 40-50 feet tall, too tall to harvest safely. We have seen pictures of trees during harvest of huge trees with 10 ladders and 20 people surrounding the tree.

Mother Nature vs Mother Nature

There is a battle between Mother Nature and Mother Nature. Our olive trees are growing and more trees are better for our carbon footprint offset. But we are also growing bugs , weeds, and some unwanted animals are living in my grove. So a balance is important. Although we are not certified organic, we practice sustainable agriculture. We are very sensitive to the overall environment. We only use an organic spray for the olive fly, which is one of the most dangerous pests for olives. The olive fly drills holes in the olives and lays their eggs. The worms hatch and eat the inside of the olive, destroying it. We would prefer not to have partially eaten olives to mill into oil.

The lanes between the olive trees are mowed to develop a thatch, protect the soil from erosion and add nutrients. If we mow we do not have to till the soil nor use any weed killers. It is better for the environment. The areas around the base of the trees have to be cleared to protect the roots and avoid competition. As the trees get bigger, the trunks grow stronger and the roots reach deeper, we will have to do less and less intervention and the land will be better sustained. The trees will be happy and grow strong.

Another great example of support for Mother Nature is our owl boxes. We have 4 at the Olive Farm and one at home, where our more mature grove thrives. The owls seem to like the boxes. They nested and hatched little ones last year. Owls need homes in the orchard and eat mice, gophers, moles and voles, and snakes. Mice and gophers eat trees and the roots of our trees are little as many are less than 5 years old. No roots, no trees and no olives for oil. The red tail hawks are plentiful and they follow the tractor when we are mowing. Lots of delicious mice and moles to catch.

Next season our project will be bat boxes. Bats eat insects like mosquitoes

 

DECANTING OLIVE OIL

Olive oil, like wine, needs decanting. Even with two very powerful centrifuges some olive particulate matter remains suspended in the oil. Many people, ourselves included, love the thick rich flavorful Olio Nuovo, New Oil the first of the season. Right out of the centrifuge, it is thick, pungent, unctuous, and just wonderful. We all line up to taste the first oil of the season. The olio nuovo is spectacular in its freshness and richness and is only available during harvest and milling season, November to very early January.

Decanting means letting the oil settle for 2-4 months and then siphoning off the clear oil leaving the sediment. The purpose of decanting is to remove the vegetal olive matter that can ferment and ruin the oil. If you do not decant the oil, you can taste a “winey” or “fusty” flavor that is not favorable. Following decanting, the oil then goes back into storage or is bottled. Our oil is stored in large glass containers or 55 gallon drums, depending on the volume. It is kept at a constant temperature of 61 F and in darkness until bottling. Just-in-time bottling allows the oil to be untouched and undisturbed, protecting the quality. This is very important so that the flavors are maintained and as little oxygen as possible is touching the oil. Air produces oxidation and degrades the oil. Light and high temperatures also degrade the oil. At home keep your oil in a relatively cool protected place, not right next to the hot stove.

So early in March we decanted all the oils from this last harvest. We will bottle in the next month enough to sell and keep the remainder undisturbed until we need it for further sales. This is a serious process that protects the oil.

The funny part of the whole process is how slippery the oil really is. There are inevitable drips from the siphoning tanks and hoses. We slip and slide and hoot and holler. Now add soap to help clean and we can slide from one end of the mill building to the other. Ultimately after we wash everything with biodegradable soap, the oil and soap go to a state-of-the-art filtration septic system and ultimately out to the trees for irrigation support. This is a good farming practice.

 

WINTER IN THE GROVES

A quiet time. The olives have been harvested; the trees are giving a sigh of relief- their work done for the year. They rest until the days grow longer and the weather warms. The little olives are already beginning to form from the new branches. Olives will only grow on each branch once. Correct pruning is so important to produce new growth and olives. Inside the mill, we are still cleaning the equipment and watching and tasting the oils. The trees are growing and our job is to re-tie, prune, and support the baby trees. The winds of Suisun Valley in early spring can reach 40 MPH and our little trees are learning to stand up by themselves. Last year our new citrus trees had every leaf blown off and they had to start all over again. This year they produced, so I guess it didn’t hurt them much.

The rain made a pond in the frontage area with ducks having a fine time swimming in the drainage ditches. The local blue heron and white egrets are fishing for frogs in the drainage pond. Our local flock of geese and ducks watch us from the top of the Putah Canal, and “yell” at us as if they owned the place, I guess they do.