Organic Cotton Acreage Down 99% in California


The US produces about 1% of the world’s organic cotton with most of the production in low-wage countries such as India and Turkey. In the early 1990s, there was tremendous interest in organic cotton-growing in California and many acres were planted. However, high costs for labor-intensive tasks, especially weeding, resulted in clothing companies turning to the foreign producers.

“Organic cotton production reached its height in the late 1990’s in California’s Central Valley with as much as 20,000 acres being grown. Hundreds of textile companies began using organic cotton in their products. (Hanna Anderson, American Apparel, Norm Thompson, Nike, Patagonia, Mountain Equipment Coop, IKEA, Eddie Bauer, to name a few).

Patagonia and Mountain Equipment Coop fully converted their cotton products to 100% organic. However, by 2000, it soon became apparent that organic cotton produced overseas could be grown at about half the price and so the market for domestic organic all but disappeared, with only about 100 acres of organic cotton being grown in California in 2004, 2005 and 2006.”

Authors: Gibbs, M.
Affiliation: Sustainable Cotton Project of Community Alliance with Family Farmers.
Title: Creating Market Demand For Biologically Based Growing Systems in Cotton.
Source: 2007 Beltwide Cotton Conferences. New Orleans, Louisiana. January 9-12, 2007.


An Ancient Practice on an Ancient Crop: Hand Weeding Lentils



The lentil is a bushy annual plant grown for its edible seeds. Lentils have been part of the human diet since Neolithic times, being one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. Lentils are an essential source of inexpensive protein in many parts of the world. Health magazine has selected lentils as one of the five healthiest foods. The ancient practice of hand weeding lentils is no longer practical.

“Lentil is among few legume species adapted well to dry conditions in traditional rainfed cereal based farming system in Turkey. Due to extensive government support for the production of lentils in order to reduce large areas left annually to fallow, its acreage and production have sharply increased over the last two decades. Currently, lentil is grown on 517,000 ha land in dry areas and its production reached 380,000 t. However, long term national yield increased only marginally in consequence of unfavorable cultural practices, especially weed control.

Lentils because of their small stature do not grow tall and do not build up a protective canopy to prevent establishment of weeds. Therefore, lentils are poor competitors and good weed control is essential for successful production… Yield losses due to weeds in lentil of 40-80% have been reported.

Hand weeding is practiced in traditional production areas, but is impractical in the extensive production areas. Hand weeding is labor-intensive and therefore an expensive operation when done by hired labour and, if delayed, the operation does not prevent adverse effect of the weeds on crop yield. The use of appropriate herbicides can eliminate this early weed competition and prevent yield losses. It is therefore necessary that effective herbicides should be used to reduce unwanted competition.

In conclusion, two years of trials showed that herbicide applications considerably increased lentil yields compared with the unweeded control under Erzurum’s dry conditions.”

Authors: Elkoca, E., et al.
Affiliation: Department of Plant Pathology, Ataturk University, Turkey.
Title: Effects of chemical and agronomical weed control treatments on weed density, yield and yield parameters of lentil.
Source: Asian Journal of Plant Sciences. 2004. 3[2]:187-192.

Moldy Oranges Not Acceptable in Europe

Green mold and blue mold

Green mold and blue mold

Green mold is caused by a fungus which is ubiquitous to all citrus growing regions. Spores of this organism are airborne and large numbers are produced by the fungus on the surface of infected fruit. These spores will contaminate the packinghouse and its equipment, storage rooms, transit containers, and even the retail marketplace. Spores accumulate in water used in drenches and soak tanks. The fungus survives in the field on soil debris and produces spores that infect split and injured fruit in the tree and on the ground.

“Satsuma mandarin, one of the most economically important citrus crops in Izmir (Turkey). The most widely grown cultivar is primarily exported to European markets. Postharvest green mould caused by Penicillium digitatum and blue mould P. italicum are the most significant postharvest diseases of Satsuma mandarins. Control of the postharvest decay of mandarin is most commonly achieved by applications of synthetic fungicides.”

Authors: Yildiz, F., et al.
Affiliation: Department of Plant Protection and Horticulture, Ege University, Turkey.
Title: Effects of preharvest applications of CaCl2, 2,4-D and benomyl and postharvest hot water, yeast and fungicide treatments on development of decay on Satsuma mandarins.
Source: Phytopathology. 2005. 153:94-98.

A Crop Variety May Resist a Disease but May not be Desired by Consumers.

Blight on stems

Blight lesions on chickpea stems

The planting of disease-resistant varieties is often promoted as an alternative to the use of fungicides. If a plant variety is produced through traditional crop breeding and is able to somehow resist penetration and infection by fungi, then fungicides are not needed. Right? The problem is that when new varieties are produced through crop breeding, they often lose quality traits that are desired by consumers. In Turkey, the best quality chickpeas are susceptible to blights and require fungicide treatments in contrast to the lower quality resistant chickpea varieties.

“Chickpea is one of the most extensively grown legume crops in Turkey, the area and production being 622,214 ha and 548,000 tons, respectively. Chickpea blight, is one of the most important diseases affecting this crop wherever it is grown. The disease, which originates from infected seeds and diseased plant debris remaining in the field, mainly affects all the above-ground parts of the plants, causing lesions mostly on stems and stem breakage. Chickpea blight can be effectively controlled by using tolerant or resistant cultivars, but none of them has good quality or sells for high prices in Turkey; unfortunately, high-value cultivars are susceptible to the disease. Seed transmission is especially important where crop rotation is practiced. For this reason, effective chemical control is needed for seed and foliage treatments.”

Authors: Demirci, F., et al.
Affiliation: Department of Plant Protection, Ankara University, Turkey
Title: In vitro and in vivo effects of some fungicides against the chickpea blight pathogen, Ascochyta rabiei.
Source: Journal of Phytopathology. 2003. 151:519-524.

IPM Research in Turkish Tomato Fields Shows Importance of Fungicide Sprays

Tomatoes are a major vegetable crop grown in Turkey with an annual production of about 10 million tons. Fresh market tomatoes account for 80% of production while canned, dried and paste products from Turkey’s 55 tomato processing plants account for the remaining 20%. Late blight is a devastating disease of tomatoes for which Turkish farmers typically spray twice a season. However, IPM research has shown that 5 carefully-timed applications are much more productive.

“In 1997, Phytophthora infestans (Late Blight) caused an epidemic and great crop losses, especially in the Marmara and Trakya regions. Turkey, as a tomato paste producer, had to import tomato paste to satisfy the contracted commitments. IPM studies were conducted by Ege University, Faculty of Agriculture and Department of Plant Protection in Marmara Region (Bursa) during the years 2000-2005.”

“In all IPM programs, a total of 5 fungicide applications were made depending on which IPM program was followed. … The grower’s standard had two fungicide applications when first symptoms appeared. All of the IPM weather timed spray programs increased marketable tomato yields resulting in higher net economic returns to the farmer. The growers recognized how poorly their standard spray program yielded, resulting in lost income to their farm operation.”

Authors: H. Saygili, N. Tosun and H. Türküsay.
Affiliation: Ege University, Faculty of Agriculture, Izmir-Bornova, Turkey
Title: Integrated Disease Management in Processing Tomato in Turkey
Publication: Acta Horticulturae. 2007. 758.