Monday, May 15, 2017

It’s Time to Assess the Best Time to Irrigate Cotton

Young cotton plants are basking in the warm, sunny weather.

Field scout Damien Jelen reports everything is progressing well as growers prepare for the first irrigation after planting. But UC experts caution growers about opening the water spout earlier than usual. 

Bob Hutmacher, a local UC Cooperative Extension specialist, says it’s tempting to do so because of the increased availability of water following the drought-busting winter. Resist the temptation, though, he says.
UCCE's Bob Hutmacher.
His reasoning: If growers had pretty good moisture for planting and early root development in the upper 18 to 24 inches of the soil, it is better to wait because you will end up cooling the soil. That could slow growth.

Hutmacher also says early irrigation also can heighten the risk of plant loss because of seedling diseases. The time to water is before planting, which leachesout the salt built up. Growers that didn’t do that can make it up by adding more water and making an earlier first in-season irrigation this month or in June.

Cotton plants are quite salt tolerant. Salt accumulation can wind up affecting plant growth and yields.

The first post-planting cotton irrigation will be soon.
If well water with mild to moderate salinity levels was used to irrigate on previous crops in the area where cotton was planted this season, then growers should consider collecting soil samples to determine salinity levels in the upper root zone.

This season’sheavy rains are likely to prompt growers to do more weed management in the fields, Hutmacher says. The increase in weeds coupled with fewer fallow fields may translate into more complicated pest management issues. Early season thrips and lygus could lead to increased crop damage in 2017.

Almonds are getting big.
Meanwhile in almonds, field scout Jenna Mayfield reports no significant pest concerns orchards. She says almonds are larger than normal for this time of year. That’s a good sign so far. Of course, there’s still a long way to go before harvest.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Almond Season and Pests Are Right on Schedule in Valley

 It’s always nice to hear that the almond season is progressing well.

Trees are chock full of nuts. Weather has been warm. And, of course, pests are out in the orchards.
“Everything is on schedule for almonds, including the pests,” says field scout Jenna Mayfield.
Gumming occurring on the outside of the hull
Those bugs, she says, include leaffooted bugs and stink bugs. They are gumming things up onthe developing fruit. “It’s pretty widespread and extensive.”

On the technical side, the condition is called gummosis. 

Usually stink bugs and leaffooted bugs are considered infrequent pests in almonds. But the two pests do surface when weather and other conditions are right.

Stink bugs feed on almonds from early spring through July and can cause the kernel to abort. The pestwill migrate into the orchards when weeds or other host habitat start to dry up.
Stink bug feeds on almond. (UC IPM photo)
Both bugs will bore a pinhole in the hull and young kernel.  The gumming is clear oozing-like substance that can be found on various locations on the nuts.

Even if the pest doesn’t reach the kernel, too much feeding activity can trigger crop loss, fungi and bacterial infections and discoloration of the kernel. 

Jenna points out you need to split open a nut to determine if the bug penetrated the kernel. Damage is evident by finding a small pinhole caused from the pest’s feeding mouth part.

A leaffooted bug is on the prowl in this almond tree.
UC Integrated Pest Management says there are no treatment thresholds for stink bugs. Growers should base their treatment decision on the amount of damage. The decision to treat should be based on the appearance of damage and the extent of the damage. Stink bugs aren’t very mobile so sprays can be quite effective, according to UC IPM. Studies indicate one application cuts down the population enough that another treatment may not be necessary for three years.

Here’s what UC IPM says about the leaffooted plant bug pest: “The leaffooted bug overwinters in the adult stage in orchards or near orchards on native host plants, from which it migrates into orchards in March or early April in search of nuts on which to feed. Feeding by adult leaffooted bugs on young nuts before the shell hardens can cause the embryo to wither and abort, or may cause the nut to gum internally, resulting in a bump or gumming on the shell. It can also cause nut drop. After the shell hardens, leaffooted bug feeding can still cause black spots on the kernel or wrinkled, misshapen nutmeats. Varieties with softer shells such as Fritz, Sonora, Aldrich, Livingston, Monterey, and Peerless are more susceptible to plant bug damage for a longer period during the season.”

Slicing open an almond to look for bug damage.
Growers can be confused about what pest is creating the damage to their nuts since both the stink bug and leaffooted bug cause gumming on the hull. Gumming also can be caused by other factors.
Because the symptoms are similar, advisers recommend finding the actual pests or their egg masses. Check out UC IPM online for more information about monitoring and treating for stink bugs and leaffooted bugs in almonds.

Alfalfa field after harvest
Meanwhile, field scout Damien Jelen says alfalfa growers have wrapped up another cutting for the season. He expects many growers to start irrigating the fields this week. So far, there aren’t any significant pest issues.

In cotton, the young plants are moving into the true leaf development stage at many farms. Some growers are preparing for the first irrigation of the season.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Scouting Cotton & Alfalfa Fields Paving a Career Path in Ag

 He drove tractors for Lapenta Farms. He repaired, welded and hauled farm equipment for San Juan Ranch.

That is how Damien Jelen spent his summers and free time outside of classes at Merced College. “I enjoyed the farm environment. I had a good mix of jobs,” the Dos Palos resident says.

His farm experience cemented his interest to pursue a career in agriculture.  “I became interested in becoming a PCA (pest control adviser) when I heard about the career while working for San Juan. I knew Ag was for me after this job I had,” he says.

Today, Damien is honing his skills further as the new alfalfa and cotton field scout for the San Joaquin Valley Sustainable Farming Project, which is part of the Sustainable Cotton Project (SCP) in the Valley.

As a Dos Palos resident, he grew up in the heart of the state’s farm basket. His family roots, though, aren’t planted in agriculture. His father is a police officer and mother is a nurse.

“I wanted to be a police officer in high school,” Damien says. In fact, he went on police ride-alongs to get a taste for the law enforcement profession. He opted to explore agriculture, becoming an equipment hauler for San Juan Ranch and later a chemical applicator for Lapenta Farms. While working for the farms, he has a chance to meet PCAs and agricultural chemical company representatives.

Pest Control Advisers (PCAs) are state licensed professional production consultants.  An Ag PCA specializes in pest management and servesas an important resource for famers on production issues related to plant health. They will write down pest management recommendations for growers and provide advice on pest management products and their use, including worker safety and environmental impact.

Damien is intrigued by the idea of a PCA seeing the results of his pest management recommendations on a crop. He says his field scouting experience will offer good preparation for obtaining his PCA license.

Currently, Damien is working on his associate of applied science degree in crop science at Merced College. Next year, he plans to transfer to Fresno State University and major in crop science.
Meanwhile, Damien will be providing another set of eyes for local alfalfa and cotton growers participating in the SJSF project. He’ll give us weekly updates on pests in the field and crop development throughout the season.

“I like going to work outdoors. I find it interesting looking for bugs,” he says.
SJSFP and SCP Director Marcia Gibbs says Damien has a good foundation for the field scout position. “Damien brings some good knowledge of cotton and alfalfa and is really looking forward to working with growers,” she says.

Monday, April 24, 2017

After Catching Bugs for Many Years, Field Scout Will Be Hanging up His Sweep Net

Field scout Carlos Silva has collected lots of bugs populating cotton and alfalfa fields across the San Joaquin Valley since 2013.

It’s tough to quantify the number, but you can safety estimate the pest count number in the tens of thousands. “I really enjoyed looking for bugs,” he says.

Catching an assassin bug and lots of aphids.
He’s seen blue alfalfa aphids, cowpea aphids, cotton aphids, alfalfa loopers, lygus bugs, stink bugs, spider mites, beet armyworms, assassin bugs, alfalfa caterpillars, alfalfa weevils and Egyptian alfalfa weevils to name a few.

After combing the fields the past four years, Carlos is hanging up his sweep net from the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project (SJSFP). He is joining the Better Cotton Initiative as a local staff member of the international nonprofit organization, which has its main global offices in London and Geneva, Switzerland. 

Dos Palos resident Damien Jelen will take over from Carlos, who in recent weeks has been showing Damien the ropes and the way around the many SJSFP-enrolled cotton and alfalfa fields. Jenna Mayfield continues as SJSFP’s almond field scout.

 “We are very pleased for Carlos and think it’s a great new job for him,” says Marcia Gibbs, Director of SJSFP, a program of the Sustainable Cotton Project. “We want to thank Carlos for four years of good work and dedication to our project. “
Field scouts Carlos Silva and Jenna Mayfield picking cotton.

Carlos says he won’t forget the field scout experience. “It has been great working with everyone. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the program staff, growers and University of California extension and farm advisors,” Carlos says.

Carlos enjoyed building relationships with local growers and seeing how they farm up close. He is impressed by the dedication and resiliency of growers during the drought.

Carlos uses his sweep net to snag bugs in an alfalfa field.
“They were really tested during the drought,” he says. Yet, they found ways to farm with tight water supplies, combat pests and manage their operations to stay afloat.

He also cites the expertise and dedication of UC extension advisors for helping growers deal with water, pest and disease management issues as well as developing innovative farm practices.
Carlos says he will miss his daily rounds scouting cotton and alfalfa fields. One thing he won’t miss: “the 110-degree weather.”