Emergency proclamation aims to fight insects ruining tomatoes in Fresno County

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Friday, April 19, 2024
State of Emergency for Fresno County farmers as insect destroys crops
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors has declared a state of emergency that allows farmers to use a pesticide to scare off the beet leafhopper insect.

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- An emergency proclamation is allowing Fresno County farmers to use a weapon against a prolific pest.

Fresno's County Administrative Officer and Emergency Services Director has declared a state of emergency that allows farmers to use a pesticide to scare off the beet leafhopper insect.

"The proclamation is important because it allows our growers to have a tool to combat the beet leafhopper which spreads the curly top virus, which is a pretty devastating virus for tomatoes and Fresno County and kind of throughout the San Joaquin Valley," said Melissa Cregan, Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner.

After the insect feeds off the crop, the plant is left dried and dead.

Cregan says with new pesticide regulations, it was difficult for farmers to use Neonicotinoids, also known as Neonics.

The pesticide helps fight off the insects.

"Unfortunately, there are some toxicities to bees, various studies on that sort of thing. And so, the department of pesticide regulation have put some restrictions on the use of the pesticide," said Cregan.

The emergency proclamation grants farmers the use of the pesticide.

It's something crop manager Chris Coelho of Woolf Farm is grateful for.

"These tomatoes here are gonna do roughly 53 to 55 tons of organic. The conventional tomato's can do up to 80 tons," explained Coelho.

Coelho works for Woolf Farming and says during the winter, beet leafhoppers live in the mountains

Once the grass dries out, the insect makes its way into Valley crops.

"The hopper will feed on one plant and then fly to the next plant and go to the plant and continue feeding but as it feeds, it passes the virus so we can see up to seven out of 10 plants in a row, infected with the virus and then succumb to the virus," said Coelho.

California is the largest producer of processing tomatoes and the second largest producer of fresh tomatoes in the U.S.

The County Board of Supervisors will consider ratifying this proclamation on April 23rd.

60 days after that, the board will determine if they need to continue the local emergency or dispose of it.

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