<b>State farm, water agencies meet Tuesday to discuss drought </b>

Representatives from three California agencies will gather Tuesday in Sacramento to discuss agricultural water transfers and drought preparedness.

"California's farmers and ranchers need to prepare for a potentially significant drought year," warned Karen Ross, who heads the state's Department of Food and Agriculture.

The State Water Project already has announced a 5 percent allocation for water contractors, which is among the lowest on record. Nine of California's 12 major reservoirs are at less than 50 percent capacity, and there's been very little rain so far this season.

California State Board of Food and Agriculture and representatives from the state Department of Water Resources and state Water Resources Control Board will meet from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the main auditorium at 1220 N St. The meeting will be streamed online at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/LiveMediaStream.html

<b>Genetically altered 'Arctic' apples may be headed to market</b>

An apple genetically engineered not to turn brown is putting the Agriculture Department and the apple industry on the spot.

The department appears inclined to approve the so-called Arctic apple, designed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, a small Canadian company. First, though, officials must confront some enduring public distaste for genetically modified foods.

"This is an economic disaster," Henry House, an organic apple grower in Davis, recently warned the Agriculture Department.

Organic growers such as House fear that honeybees will spread genetically engineered apple pollen and contaminate organic orchards.

Unlike some other genetically modified crops, the Arctic apple doesn't include genes spliced in from an entirely different species. The Arctic apple's resistance to what scientists call "enzymatic browning," which is what happens when a typical apple is cut or bruised, comes from the insertion of a certain genetic sequence taken from an apple. The inserted sequence essentially suppresses the browning process.

<b>CFDA offers funding for fertilizer research</b>

The state Department of Food and Agriculture's Fertilizer Research and Education Program is currently accepting concept proposals for the 2014 grant cycle.

The program funds research that advances the environmentally safe and agronomically sound use of fertilizing materials.

CDFA is encouraging concepts that demonstrate experimental research trial data at the field scale in organic and conventional fertilizers. Other priority research areas involve ways to increase crop nitrogen fertilizer uptake; reduce nitrogen movement off irrigated agricultural lands; and minimize nitrous oxide emissions from nitrogen fertilizers.

The deadline for concept proposals is Jan. 15. For information, visit www.cdfa.ca.gov/is/ffldrs/frep/CompetitiveGrantProgram.html

Staff and wire reports. Submit items to robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com.