Pest detection is a proactive program designed to identify and prevent the introduction and establishment of agriculture-threatening pests, not known to occur in the state and/or Kings County. This program functions as an alliance between three cooperating agencies: The California Department of Food and Agriculture, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the County Agricultural Commissioner. Over 900 insect traps are monitored throughout the county for the presence of exotic pests. These include fruit flies (Mediterranean, Mexican, Caribbean, Oriental and Western cherry), Gypsy Moth, Japanese Beetle, European Corn Borer, European Pine Shoot Moth and Khapra Beetle (all “A” rated pests). These pests are specific in their preferred hosts and traps are placed accordingly. Most traps are maintained on a seasonal basis (April through October) while a few are maintained all year. Each trap is serviced on a scheduled frequency, amounting to nearly 9,000 trap inspections annually. Early detection programs are beneficial to protecting our environment by limiting the need for increased pesticide applications for control or eradication efforts, and to help our growers provide consumers with an ample quantity of quality produce at affordable prices.
Pest eradication involves intensive control measures aimed at eliminating introduced pest species. Pests classified as “A” rated are viewed as a serious threat to agriculture and the environment. County and state agencies work together in an effort to eliminate these pests. In Kings County, Alligator Weed eradication efforts have been in place for 15 years. Small infestations are occasionally located in the county, but are of such limited scope that control efforts have been successful. Another success story has been the control of the Pink BollWorm. This cotton pest is managed by maintaining a host-free period through mandated cotton crop plow-down dates. By eliminating host plant material, these pests are unable to complete their life cycle. Also, millions of sterile adult moths are released by the state throughout the growing season to help combat this pest.
Among the most common vertebrate pests needing control are squirrels, gophers and coyotes. Ground squirrels are a significant source of damage to agriculture. Damage from these rodents range from actually feeding on crops such as fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables, to flooding losses due to destruction of waterway banks from their burrowing. California ground squirrels can also be a carrier of the Plague, which is transmitted to humans by their fleas. Other rodents that are destructive to agriculture include rabbits, gophers, beavers, rats, and mice. Vertebrate pest damage to agriculture in California is estimated to be nearly $200 million each year.
Quarantine regulations are designed to help prevent the introduction of pests that are not known to exist, or are of very limited distribution in the county and/or state. County Agricultural Commissioners receive notification from state border stations alerting them of shipments that may contain possible quarantine pests destined for their county. The shipments are inspected upon arrival in the county. Kings County agricultural inspectors examine nearly 3,500 such shipments each year.
Fruits, Nuts and Vegetable Standardization
This function ensures compliance with California's minimum standards regarding quality and marketing of all produce commercially grown and/or marketed in the state. Locally, this provides protection to growers and markets.
Inspections are performed at the retail and wholesale establishments which sell seeds. Samples are drawn for germination and purity testing. Labeling is inspected for compliance with state requirements. Through this program, certification services are also performed for growers and processors, in cooperation with the California Crop Improvement Association. Inspectors provide certification of quality standards required of equipment to insure the purity of seed varieties.
Through this program the Ag commissioner Department inspects the growing, propagation, production and sale of nursery stock to assure cleanliness from pests, true variety, vigorous and healthy plants for sale to the consumer.
Retailers and packers of eggs in the county are inspected to enforce state and federal health, quality, and grade standards.
This program emphasis the registration and site location of bee colonies in the county. At the request of beekeepers or growers, the County Ag Commissioner inspects colonies for strength and health to insure effective pollination.