International Visitors Get Close-Up Look at Value Chain Best Practices

By: Louisa Namicheishvili, Chief of Party of the USAID Agriculture Program

Top agricultural experts from the nation of Georgia joined U.S. counterparts this fall to tour key production and processing sites in California and Washington State for a first-hand look at integrated pest management techniques in high value chain crops.

The study tour, which ran from Oct. 28 through Nov. 2, was organized by Trécé Inc., a U.S. manufacturer of pheromone-based insect monitoring and control products, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Agriculture Program a five-year program implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), an international development organization.

The seven-day tour built on the success of two earlier scientific missions to Georgia organized by the partners to strengthen U.S.-Georgian collaboration in the management of the brown marmorated stinkbug (BMSB), which poses a threat to Georgian crops such as hazelnuts.

The tour, led by Trécé founder and CEO Bill Lingren, was designed to provide participants with first-hand information about the techniques and technologies applied in the production, processing, packaging and pest management of high value chain crops in the United States, as well as knowledge on early detection programs for invasive pests, and information on environmentally friendly integrated pest management systems.

Key participants included two top Georgian officials involved in the country’s BMSB-control efforts — head of the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture’s National Food Agency (NFA) and head of NFA’s Phytosanitary Department. Attending from Georgia’s private sector was Agrovita Ltd., a major Georgian input provider and one of the country’s leading Farm Service Center companies.

In addition to Lingren and other members of the Trécé team, participants included USAID Agriculture Program Deputy Chief of Party Louisa Namicheishvili and the Technical Assistance Director David Servashidze, who accompanied the group to help establish links between NFA and U.S. universities, and to plan follow-up activities among the participating partners.

Over the course of the week-long event, participants got a close-up look at U.S. pest management practices during tours of major West Coast production and processing operations. Sites visited in California included the Field Fresh Produce processing plant, the California Giant Berry Farms packing house, Driscoll’s strawberry greenhouses, and the Tanimura & Antle Inc. vegetable production and processing facilities. Participants also visited GAR Tootelian Inc., an input and extension service provider outside of Fresno. Over the course of the trip, the group also toured almond, walnut, pistachio and mandarin orchards, and table grape vineyards across the San Joaquin and Salinas Valleys before heading to Washington State to visit various apple growing, packing, storage and shipping operations.

Participants also attended a number of technical pest control presentations during the week, including a session on walnut pest management presented during the group’s visit to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center. Other presentations during the study tour included a session on the management of the fruit pest Drosophila Suzukii, and a USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service presentation on implementation of pest exclusion and detection programs.

At the conclusion of the event, the tour organizers identified a number of opportunities for further collaboration — including the possible introduction of new codling moth management methods on test sites at selected Georgian farms, the potential development of a third scientific mission to Georgia focusing on pests other than BMSB, and USAID Agriculture Program support of Trécé should the company decide to establish a Georgia-based assembly facility for its pest control products.

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