Friday, November 2, 2018

2018 Looking Like a Good Year for Valley Cotton, Alfalfa Crops


With the harvest season heading for the back stretch in the Valley, cotton growers are banking on 2018 to be a good year for their crops despite the cloud hanging over the market because of the U.S.-China trade fight over tariffs.

The cotton harvest is starting to wind down in the Valley.
Field scout Damien Jelen says growers couldn’t ask for better growing conditions this year.
“For cotton, this was the best year we have had in five years. Growers had the water they needed. We had the weather we needed,” Damien says.

“It was kind of brutal when we had so many over 100 degree days,” Damien says.
You might recall the Fresno region set a record for the most consecutive days of 100-degree temperatures in July. Everyone endured 30 straight days of triple-digit weather through early August.
Gins are running 24/7 to process the freshly picked cotton.
“But cotton loves the long 100 degree days,” Damien says. “You could see the length in the nodes, which translates into a good yield.”

Despite the hot summer, “the pests weren’t too bad. Last year we got hammered with lygus bugs. This year lygus wasn’t much of a problem.  Aphids were not too bad either. I didn’t have any growers with sticky cotton this year. With biological controls we took care of the aphids,” Damien says.
For now, growers will wait for reports from the ginner’s to really find out about their cotton quality and production.

Flat beds with cotton bales ready to be stored in warehouses.
On the market front, Roger Isom, president and chief executive officer of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, told the state Farm Bureau’s AgAlert last week that cotton prices could be hurt because of trade uncertainties and higher retaliatory tariffs China put on U.S. cotton. There’s not much movement on cotton right now, he says.

"Everybody keeps hoping that a solution is around the corner, but it sure doesn't look like it right now," Isom tells AgAlert. "We're a little luckier because it's not a perishable crop, but you can't just sit on it forever. You've got to sell; you've got to pay bills."
Alfalfa growers are squeezing in one more cutting.

Meanwhile, Valley alfalfa growers also anticipate a good 2018. “Everyone is doing an extra cutting this fall. I saw a lot of growers with large bales. Usually we have small bales this time of year. That means their yields are up,” Damien said.

Pests were under control for most of the year, except for a small spike in August. At the same time, there wasn’t much rain to hamper the alfalfa crop.

 Overall, Damien says, “it was a great year for farming.”

Monday, October 29, 2018

Cotton Tour de Force II

The Cotton Farm Tour offered lots of photo opportunities.

Here are snapshots from the Silver Creek Gin in Firebaugh during last Thursday's tour.
Gin manager Greg Gillard gets ready to lead a tour of the gin.
Diagram describes the cotton ginning process.

Sporting hard hats, ear plugs and safety goggles for the gin tour.

Inspecting cotton fiber going through the dryers.

Getting that Kodak moment inside the gin.

Capturing the cotton bale press in action.

Flat beds loaded with ginned cotton bales ready for storage.

Plastic wrapped bale coming off the conveyor belt outside.
Questions after the gin tour.


Getting a handful of freshly ginned cotton.
A mound of cotton seed outside the gin.


Thank you 2018 Cotton Farm Tour participants. - Photos by Gilbert Mohtes-Chan

Cotton Farm Tour de Force



 It was a glorious blue sky, sun-drenched fall day in the Valley filled with endless photo opportunities last Thursday.


SCP Director Marcia Gibgs (center) welcomes tour group.
For more than two dozen women and men from across California, there were more than enough props for their fancy digital cameras and cell phones: Brown, green and white fluffy cotton bolls ready for harvest, a cotton picker working the field and raw fiber speeding through heaters, cleaners and bale presses at a cotton gin.

Xerces Society's Kat Price talks about a perennial hedgerow.

Hand-spinners, sustainability advocates and fashion brand representatives were among the Cotton Tour participants chatting with farmers, a UC farm advisor and other industry experts to get a rare behind-the-scene glimpse of the state’s cotton industry.  Sponsored by the nonprofit Sustainable Cotton Project, this annual Cotton Farm Tour de Force drew rave reviews once again.

Here’s a glimpse of the whirlwind day.
Capturing fluffy cotton fiber ready to be harvested.

Cotton is certainly the fabric of choice.

Cotton picker ready to unload a round module.
Recording the harvester in action.
A rare treat was hand-picking colored cotton.
Growers Mark Fickett (left) and Frank Williams.
UC Farm advisor Dan Munk talks about cotton plants.
Getting a close shot of milk weed at a perennial hedgerow.
Cotton grower Dan McCurdy describes a harvester's spindles.
Watching a cotton picker in action at McCurdy's field.
Posing with branches of a colored cotton plant.
A tound cotton module is a perfect backdrop for pictures.   Photos by Gilbert Mohtes-Chan





                                   























Monday, October 22, 2018

It's Important to Ensure the Cotton Harvest Isn’t All Wet


Some six months after planting the seeds of another cotton crop, growers are finally ready to reap the benefits of their hard work. Yes, it’s harvest time.

The plants are a dry, golden brown after defoliation and the cut-off of irrigation. You can see a sea of puffy white fiber across the fields.

“We’re harvesting,” declared field scout Damien Jelen. “Harvesters are working all day.”

Growers monitor cotton moisture before picking the crop.
Crews are working the fields for 12 hours, often starting around 10 a.m. after the fiber dries off from the morning dew. Usually, the harvesters – with their twirling spindles twist the fresh cotton from the burrs attached to the dried plant stems – end the day around 10 p.m. or when cool nighttime temperatures start increasing the fiber’s moisture content.

While farmers are early risers, they often won’t start at the crack of dawn. It is important for them to manage the moisture content of cotton so that they can maximize yield and protect the fiber quality. 

If the cotton is too wet, the fiber can stick to the machinery and cause jams that can damage cotton balers and gin equipment. Also, harvesters can pick up more trash and leaves along with the fiber. 

Moreover, wet cotton packed into modules can create another problem: “It can catch fire,” Damien says through spontaneous combustion.

On the flip side, overly dry cotton can become damaged during harvest and even ruin the fiber quality..



A round cotton module is ready to be unloaded.
Experts say growers should check moisture content frequently at the beginning and the end of the day. They can hand test or use a meter. Here are some tips:


  • Harvest when there is no dew present and the humidity in the air is less than 70 percent. A good rule of thumb is if there is dew on vehicles during harvest then the cotton is probably too wet.
  • Bite into a cotton seed. It should be hard and crack in your teeth.
  •  Feel the cotton to determine if it’s too wet. The ideal reading on a moisture meter should be around 6 to 8.5 percent, according to the USDA. The reading shouldn’t be more than 12 percent.
  • Moist cotton will jam up in a harvester, causing the fiber to be thrown in front of the picking heads.
  •  Check if dense globs of fiber are thrown into the collection basket.
Alfalfa growers looking for one more harvest this season.
While the cotton harvest is gearing up, the alfalfa crop is winding down its harvest season. Damien says a little rain during the first three days of the month was enough water to trigger a growth spurt in alfalfa.

“Growers are going for one more cutting,” Damien says. Usually, growers in the Valley will harvest six to eight times during the season. They cut when the alfalfa is at least a couple feet tall.

Damien says this final cutting will take place when alfalfa reaches around 18 inches tall. “It will be small bales.”

COTTON FARM TOUR: There is still time to sign up for a behind-the-scenes look at cotton production. The day-long tour is set for Thursday, October 25.  Leading experts and professionals will offer insights about cotton cultivation and processing, addressing issues such as water use, cotton farming practices and the state of the market for Cleaner Cotton™ fiber. Cost is $40 a person and covers bus transportation, a catered lunch at the Cardella Winery in Mendota and snacks and water. The tour starts at 8:15 a.m. at the Best Western Apricot Inn, 46290 West Panoche Road, Firebaugh. Register through the Sustainable Cotton Project’s Eventbrite site.

To reserve a motel room at the special event price, contact the Apricot Inn at
 (559) 659-1444 and ask for “Sustainable Cotton Project — Cotton Farm Tour” rate.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Final House Call for The Almond Doctor



He guided almond growers through deep freezes, rainstorms, drought and tree diseases. He dispensed sage advice about combating tree diseases and feeding crucial nutrients to the soil.

Often dubbed The Almond Doctor – a title he liked to downplay despite the catchy title on the blog – David Doll has written about everything almonds during his tenure as University of California Cooperative Extension pomologist and almond expert in Merced County. His column featured eye-catching titles such as “Got Voles? Perhaps anthraquinone is the answer” or straight forward titles like “Almond Frost Warning and Protection Methods - 2018.”
  

“David exemplifies the best in cooperative extension work. His ability to communicate and outreach to all types of growers and those in the industry is unparalleled,” says Marcia Gibbs, director of the Sustainable Cotton Project and San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project. “He makes folks comfortable with his easy style and has an amazing ability to answer questions, supplying insights from not just his own experience butbacking his answers with scientific data on the spot. David is one of the best advisors in the UCCE system.” 

Gibbs has worked with David since he started with UCCE more than a decade ago. The farm advisor has become a fixture at almond field days and steadily earned the respect of growers during his tenure.  He is a major draw at field days.

“David is truly an innovative thinker who understands what growers need to know, always tailoring his talks to meet their needs.His willingness to step across county lines to meet the needs of Fresno and Madera County growers as well as those in Merced shows his commitment to the extension model.” Gibbs says.

“At almond meetings during the growing season and we can always count on David to find the time to come and speak with growers. When David is on the agenda, we can count on a good turnout of interested growers with great questions. Our meeting evaluations always rank David at the top of the agenda. Growers know they can bring their damaged nuts, tree branches and pressing pest or disease issues and David will get them the information they need. He follows up and provides a high level of technical expertise, tempered with a good understanding of the pressures facing California farmers.”

 

Doll will make his final Almond Field Day appearance on Wednesday at West Valley Hulling, 45475 W. Panoche Road, Firebaugh. The free meeting with be from 10 a.m. to noon. Growers also will hear from Kris Tollerup,UC Statewide IPM advisor who will share information on managing navel orangeworm in almonds. Nick Tatarakis, Manager and Steve Malanca, Field Rep at West Valley Hulling will give a short talk about the huller followed by a tour through the facility.

David earned his Bachelor of Sciencedegree in plant biology from Purdue University in 2004. In 2008, he earned a master’s degree in plant pathology from the University of California, Davis. He has specialized in almonds, pistachios, walnuts and urban forestry.

David boasts an extensive bibliography, writing about issues ranging from “Climatic constraints to the potential of Microsphaeropsis amaranthis as a bioherbicide for common waterhemp” to “drought management in almonds.”His California agriculture article contributes include “Biological control program is being developed for brown marmorated stink bug” and “Managing the almond and stone fruit replant disease complex with less soil fumigant.”

“David’s work is of the highest caliber. His ideas and forward thinking are irreplaceable. David has put in endless hours of time helping make UCCE Merced a well-respected source for quality service and information,” Gibbs says.

 David will definitely be missed by Valley almond growers. Don’t miss the opportunity on Wednesday to wish him well on his new adventure.
                        
COTTON FARM TOUR: This popular eventis back, offering a behind-the-scenes look at cotton production. The day-long tour is set for Thursday, October 25. Leading experts and professionals will offer insights about cotton cultivation and processing, addressing issues such as water use, cotton farming practices and the state of the market for Cleaner Cotton™ fiber. Cost is $40 a person and covers bus transportation, a catered lunch at the Cardella Winery in Mendota and snacks and water. The tour starts at 8:15 a.m. at the Best Western Apricot Inn, 46290 West Panoche Road, Firebaugh. Register through the Sustainable Cotton Project’s Eventbrite site.

To reserve a motel room at the special event price, contact the Apricot Inn at
 (559) 659-1444 and ask for “Sustainable Cotton Project — Cotton Farm Tour” rate.

See you there.