Farm worker gets hand caught in onion-sorting machine

A man in his 30s was taken to the hospital with serious injuries today after his arm became caught in a machine at Aloun Farms in Kapolei.

Honolulu fire Capt. Carlton Yamada said the man was almost finished with his shift when he was trying to remove debris from the bottom of an onion sorter with a conveyor belt mechanism. The man’s arm got caught and was pulled into the machine, where it became stuck between the frame and the roller system, causing deep lacerations in his arm.

An Emergency Medical Services supervisor said the man was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

Yamada said firefighters were dispatched to the farm in the 91-1400 block of Farrington Highway at 2:37 p.m. and found others had already freed the man from the machine.

Farm worker gets hand caught in onion-sorting machine – Hawaii News – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Australia faces the end of Big Dry

Phew! What a scorcher that was.

Australians call it the Big Dry and, after nine parched years, it’s over.

It’s the drought that has afflicted large areas of this vast country and now the federal government is about to declare it officially at an end.

The final two areas to be given the all-clear are Bundarra and Eurobodalla in the south-eastern state of New South Wales.

In practical terms, it means that the last of special subsidies to farmers are being withdrawn.

It’s the end of “Exceptional Circumstances”, or EC, to use the bureaucratic jargon.

“The seasonal outlook is brighter than it has been for many years and the improved conditions are a welcome reprieve for farmers across Australia,” said Joe Ludwig, Australia’s agriculture minister.

He said the end of the drought would be a “a major milestone for agriculture in Australia”.

Since 2001, the government has provided 4.5bn Australian dollars ($4.7bn, £2.9bn) in EC assistance.

That’s the money handed out to struggling farmers, totalling between 400 and 600 dollars each, every fortnight.

Some farmers say the move to take away the EC assistance is premature.

The National Farmers Federation said the government’s “snap decision” to cut subsidies was “baffling”.

California braces for a deadly stalker of citrus

LOS ANGELES >> The worst disease known to the citrus industry may have arrived in California on a bud of friendship.

A graft of pomelo — a symbol of good fortune and prosperity in many Asian cultures — was the likely source of the state’s first documented case of huanglongbing, a citrus disease with no known cure, say researchers involved in the investigation. The suspected plant shoot, or budwood, was passed freely among San Gabriel Valley church friends who loved to garden and experiment with hybridization, according to residents.

Until a month ago, California was the last major citrus-growing region in the world to avoid a scourge that has decimated groves in China, Brazil and Florida. The disease arrived the way experts had long predicted: in a tree in a Southern California yard. Now, agriculture officials are scrambling to slow the disease’s march north and save a $2 billion industry based in the Central Valley.

Authorities launched a massive containment effort involving quarantines, pesticides and public hearings when a lemon-pomelo tree in Mary Wang’s lush Hacienda Heights yard tested positive for the disease on March 30. The sickly looking tree was quickly removed for study.

Geothermal meeting gets heated

Geothermal wells tap into something much more than a renewable energy source, members of the Pele Defense Fund and other geothermal opponents told the Hawaii County Council on Tuesday evening.

They drill into the goddess Pele herself, a process that can also lead to the release of a “toxic soup” of chemicals from under the surface during leaks and blowouts, the activists said.

At the council meeting attended by over 300 people at the Pahoa High and Intermediate School, the group and other geothermal opponents called for better monitoring of Pahoa’s geothermal plant, protested past leaks, and urged the council not to allow more facilities to be built on the Big Island.

“We’re not getting a fair shake,” said Robert Petricci, who argued that money used on geothermal could be spent on solar power for residents and other forms of energy.

“To say that we have no other choice … is not a true statement.”

The council held the rare meeting at the school to hear concerns on geothermal power from those most affected by the issue, which has been gaining attention since the Hawaii Electric Light Co. announced earlier this year that it would like to more than double its use on the island.

And they got plenty of feedback.

Eighty-one people signed up to speak, with geothermal opponents, many from the Puna District, where the island’s only geothermal power plant is located, dominating the testimony.

Only six of those who signed up wrote that they planned to speak in support of geothermal power.

It took two hours of testimony before one of them made it to the microphone.

The first, Richard Ha, said the island needs to move away from oil-burning power plants to avoid steep increases in rates.

“The only way I can see that being done is through geothermal,” he said.

Some question whether sustainable seafood delivers on its promise

Seafood counters used to be simpler places, where a fish was labeled with its name and price. Nowadays, it carries more information than a used-car listing. Where did it swim? Was it farm-raised? Was it ever frozen? How much harm was done to the ocean by fishing it?

Many retailers tout the environmental credentials of their seafood, but a growing number of scientists have begun to question whether these certification systems deliver on their promises. The labels give customers a false impression that purchasing certain products helps the ocean more than it really does, some researchers say.

Backers respond that they are helping transform many of the globe’s wild-caught fisheries, giving them a financial incentive to include environmental safeguards, while giving consumers a sense of what they can eat with a clear conscience.

To add to the confusion, there are a variety of certification labels and guides, prompting retailers to adopt a hybrid approach, relying on multiple seafood rating systems or establishing their own criteria and screening products that way.

As of Sunday, for example, Whole Foods stopped selling seafood listed as “red” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute — including octopus, gray sole and Atlantic halibut — because these species are overfished or caught in a way that harms ocean habitat or other species. The move has sparked criticism from New England fishermen, who are now barred from selling to the upscale chain. Whole Foods also sells only pole- or line-caught canned tuna, which harms fewer species than conventional tuna-fishing methods.

Farmers, ranchers brace for dry times

Rainfall levels in Upcountry areas are below normal this year, and there’s a bleak outlook for rain for ranchers and farmers as the islands head into the normally dry summer months, a hydrologist said Thursday.

“We’re headed out of our wet season. The outlook is not too good,” said Kevin Kodama, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service on Oahu.

From January through March, Kula received 5.5 inches of rain. Normally, it gets around 8.7 inches, Kodama said. Pukalani received 4 inches in the same time period while it normally gets around 16 inches. Ulupalakua received a little under 5 inches, and it usually gets about 10.

“We’re in really bad shape,” said Sumner Erdman, president of Ulupalakua Ranch. “The economic impacts have already hit.”

Erdman said this will be the fourth year his ranch has been impacted by dry conditions.

The economic losses amount in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.

The ranch has had to sell cattle. It now also sees cattle with lower weights because less rain means cows have less grass to feed on. The ranch also has lower reproduction rates because there are fewer cows to breed, Erdman said.

Over four years, the number of breeding cows has gone from 2,300 to 1,500, as the ranch sells them off to deal with the drought conditions, Erdman said.

The ranch currently has 3,800 head of cattle, with preparations under way to sell more, he said.

Warren Watanabe, executive director of the Maui County Farm Bureau, said the dry weather trend seems to follow the long-term prediction of scientists.

Because areas of extreme drought in Hawaii have increased in the past few months, with the hardest hit being the pasture areas on the Big Island, Maui and portions of Molokai, the farm bureau’s priority during this legislative session has been to fund drought mitigation projects.

Unapproved pesticide found in basil from Ewa farm

An Ewa farm has been ordered by the state Health Department to cease the sale of basil because it was using unapproved pesticide.

The basil will be destroyed today at FAT Law’s Farm three-acre farm in Ewa. The farm also maintains a farm in Kunia.

FAT Law’s Farm, Inc. was notified Tuesday to cease the sale of all suspect basil after test revealed the presence of the pesticide methomyl. There is a zero tolerance for methomyl on basil, a pesticide that is not approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use on basil.

Basil samples were collected on FAT’s Ewa farm on April 12. The results received from the state laboratory on April 16 indicated a range of 0.045 to 3.49 parts per million (ppm) of methomyl.

Additional samples from the Kunia farm were collected on Tuesday and analyzed for the presence of methomyl. Results received on Thursday indicated a range from non-detectable to 0.507 ppm of methomyl on the basil.

No basil will be allowed to be sold by the farm until subsequent samples indicate zero levels of methomyl.

The Health Department believes that the basil crops tested on April 12 and 17 may have been distributed to consumers in Hawaii. However, since the pesticide is allowed in greater amounts on other crops, the department does not consider the situation to be a significant threat to public health. Methomyl is approved by the EPA for use on a variety of vegetables and has an allowable range from 1 ppm for tomatoes up to 6 ppm for parsley leaves. There is a zero tolerance for methomyl on basil.

Unapproved pesticide found in basil from Ewa farm – Hawaii News – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Washington Nationals’ John Turnourkeeps the field perfectly manicured

The grass at Nationals Park has brought John Turnour to his knees.

Eight hours before the first pitch on a brilliant morning last week, halfway through the Washington Nationals’ first homestand, he’s just mowed his first pass along the checked pattern in the outfield.

Now he’s on all fours, nose to the turf, squinting at individual blades of Kentucky bluegrass, looking for flaws.

When you cut the most prominent lawn in Washington (now that football is over and the White House Easter Egg Roll is behind us), you don’t just mow and go. You get down on the ground and seek perfection.

“This is what you want,” says Turnour, 32, the sun casting his hunched shadow across center field as he squints at a green shard cleanly beveled at the tip.

“But not this.” He holds up a second, slightly more jagged tip, the sign of a steel blade beginning to lose its ideal razor’s edge. Too many cuts like that, Turnour knows, and the high-definition green luster of the field will dim by some tiny degree on widescreens all over town.

“We will change those blades this weekend,” he declares, wiping his hands on his khaki shorts as he climbs back on the John Deere, inserting ear buds so that he and Kelly Clarkson can get back to mowing. Behind him, a crew walks by with the detached head of Teddy Roosevelt, one of the park’s Racing Presidents.

There may be no more carefully coiffed patch of grass in the city than the 2.2 acres of lawn within these outfield walls. In a country that spends $40 billion a year on lawn care, this is sodding extreme. It’s a bonsai pasture, 100,000 square feet of landscaping Zen.

And Turnour is the deeply tanned Zen master. The stadium’s head groundskeeper for the past two years, Turnour thinks constantly of the thousands of eyes on his grass each night, not to mention a few highly paid feet.

Lanai solar energy project operating at full capacity

A solar energy project that supplies Lanai with 10 percent of its electricity needs recently began operating at full capacity after a battery system was installed to better integrate the renewable power into the small island electrical grid.

The La Ola photovoltaic solar project, owned by Castle & Cooke, has a maximum output of 1.5 megawatts of direct current, or 1.2 megawatts of after converting the power to alternating current for household use.

Since launch of the La Ola project in December 2008 its output had been restricted because officials were concerned that the power fluctuations associated with solar energy might damage the electrical grid. To address the issue Castle & Cooke installed a battery back-up system developed by Xtreme Power to smooth out the volatility of the solar energy. Completion of the battery installation, orignally scheduled for last summer, was delayed due to technical issues.

When operating at full power the La Ola project has the largest percentage of solar energy penetration of any independent island grid in the world, according to Castle & Cooke.

Lanai solar energy project operating at full capacity – Hawaii News – Honolulu Star-Advertiser