Monday, September 19, 2016

Autumn’s Arrival Signaling Start of Cotton Defoliation in Valley



The arrival of fall on Thursday means cotton picking time is just around the corner.

Field scout Carlos Silva reports spotting the first cotton grower defoliating his cotton field. Look for defoliating to ramp up over the next couple weeks.

Carlos says caution signs warning workers and the public about the upcoming chemical applications are popping up along the borders of the fields. At the same time, a number of growers are prepping their fields by smoothing the margins around the fields to allow tractors to treat the fields by ground.  Others will use airplanes to apply defoliants.
 
Growers often will defoliant twice to ensure adequate coverage. In about a month, harvesters will invade the fields to start picking the fiber.

Why do growers defoliate their cotton fields?

Well, this is a typical cotton production management practice designed to prepare the crop for harvest and boost the quality of the fiber. 

Defoliation causes the leaves to drop and plant to start drying. This helps the harvesting machines pick the cotton cleanly off the plants and lessen the amount of leaves and debris, or trash, collected during the harvest.

The timing of defoliation is crucial. If done too early, the cotton yields could suffer because there are too many immature bolls. If done too late, growers run the risk of pest damage.
 
To determine the right time to defoliate, growers will count the nodes above cracked bolls (NACB). The number depends on the cotton variety. UC IPM offers these guidelines:

·         It’s safe to defoliate if 60 percent or more of the bolls are open.
·         For upland or acala cotton, the count is four to five NACB.
·         For pima, it’s three to four NACB.

Carlos finds most fields are about four to five nodes above cracked boll. Some are even at seven NACB.  “Defoliation is around the corner,” he says.

 
FIELD DAY ALERT: Growers are invited to hear  Merced County Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Sean Runyon talk about new pesticide regulations for crops, worker safety and protection for schools during a Thursday 
field day in Dos Palos. The free program, “Alfalfa Management: Pests, Water, Manure Use and Regulatory Update,” will be from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Scout Hut, 1910 Marguerite Street, Dos Palos.

Other speakers are:
·         UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management extension advisor Dr. Pete Goodell, who will introduce growers and PCAs to the national and UC pest management tools and discuss the importance of IPM during the past year.
·         University of California at Davis Cooperative Extension specialist Dan Putnam. He will discuss irrigation issues facing growers and trends in deficit and drip irrigation.
·         Nicholas Clark, UCCE farm advisor in agronomy and nutrient management for Kings, Tulare and Fresno counties. He will address the benefits and challenges of using manure in alfalfa and explain timing, best uses and application rates.
Continuing education credits are available. The field day is sponsored by the San Joaquin Sustainable Farm Project. For more information, contact Project Director Marcia Gibbs at (530) 370-5325.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Knock It Off or Your Cash Could Go Down the Drain



Would you throw away hard-earned cash?

Probably not. But some almond growers are doing just that. All they have to do is look up at their recently harvested trees.

“A lot of good nuts are still left on trees. It worries me,” says field scout Jenna Mayfield. “It’s like wasting money.”

Usually at harvest time, Jenna will spot trees with a smattering of nuts that mechanical shakers could not rattle off. It seems different this season. During her weekly scouting trips to almond orchards, Jenna has been seeing more quality nuts remaining in the trees. Normally, there are maybe 10 to 15 still left on a tree and most of those are bad ones – often undeveloped or pest damaged.

Almond growers don't want mummy nuts left on trees.
Last week, Jenna started alerting some growers about leftover nuts and suggested they send out a pole crew to manually knock off the remaining almonds.

There are multiple benefits to following Jenna’s advice:
·         These remaining nuts can serve winter homes for the dreaded navel orangeworm (NOW).
·         NOW problems next year translates into extra money spent on pest treatments in the spring.
·         Some of the extra nuts could be sent to the processor and bring in bonus money.

Jenna said the high number of leftover nuts could be connected to growers rushing to harvest early to lock in a higher price. But the strategy could backfire if a grower ends up spending more on pest control expenses next season.

You might ask “Doesn’t it cost money to send out a pole crew?” Yes it does. But Jenna notes, “A lot of growers believe it pays for itself.”
 
We’re sure Jenna will continue telling almond growers to knock it off.

FIELD DAY ALERT: Growers are invited to hear Merced County Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Sean Runyon talk about new pesticide regulations for crops, worker safety and protection for schools during a September 22 field day in Dos Palos. The free program, “Alfalfa Management: Pests, Water, Manure Use and Regulatory Update,” will be from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Scout Hut, 1910 Marguerite Street, Dos Palos.
Other speakers are:
·         UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management extension advisor Dr. Pete Goodell, who will introduce growers and PCAs to the national and UC pest management tools and discuss the important IPM during the past year.
·         University of California at Davis Cooperative Extension specialist Dan Putnam. He will discuss irrigation issues facing growers and trends in deficit and drip irrigation.
·         Nicholas Clark, UCCE farm advisor in agronomy and nutrient management for Kings, Tulare and Fresno counties. He will address the benefits and challenges of using manure in alfalfa and explain timing, best uses and application rates.
Continuing education credits have been applied for. The field day is sponsored by the San Joaquin Sustainable Farm Project. For more information, contact Project Director Marcia Gibbs at (530) 370-5325.


Monday, September 5, 2016

It’s No Time to Rest for Valley Farmers This Labor Day



It may be Labor Day, but it’s no day off for Valley farmers.

Field scout Jenna Mayfield and Carlos Silva report the almond orchards and cotton and alfalfa fields are abuzz with activity. 

The almond harvest continues with shakers rattling trees, nuts drying on the ground and sweepers picking up the crop. Alfalfa growers are starting to cut their crop again with the season expected to last into the fall.
Alfalfa growers expect to harvest into the fall this season.

Then there’s cotton.  The crop has been at cutout, which means 95 percent of the cotton bolls are mature and terminal growth has ended. This is the final stage before the bolls open up.
Determining the dates of cutout is important in identifying the final group of productive bolls. This group of bolls helps growers map out end-of the-season plans.

Carlos reports about 75 percent of the fields that he tracks have open bolls. 

September is an exciting time with defoliation and then harvest around the corner.
Cotton has reached the cutout stage.
On the pest front, Carlos reports more aphids are showing up in the cotton fields. In fact, a couple fields are experiencing heavy mite pressure and these growers may have to start thinking about pest treatment.

Carlos says one alfalfa grower harvested his field last week. Another has started irrigating again with another cutting looming later this month. “It looks pretty good. Growers will be getting a whole season in this year.
 
FIELD DAY ALERT: Speaking of alfalfa, growers are invited to hear Merced County Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Sean Runyon talk about new pesticide regulations for crops, worker safety and protection for schools during a September 22 field day in Dos Palos. 

The free program,  “Alfalfa Management: Pests, Water, Manure Use and Regulatory Update,” will be from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Scout Hut, 1910 Marguerite Street, Dos Palos.
 Other speakers are:
·         UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management extension advisor Dr. Pete Goodell, who will introduce growers and PCAs to the national and UC pest management tools and discuss the important IPM during the past year.
·         University of California at Davis Cooperative Extension specialist Dan Putnam. He will discuss irrigation issues facing growers and trends in deficit and drip irrigation.
·         Nicholas Clark, UCCE farm advisor in agronomy and nutrient management for Kings, Tulare and Fresno counties. He will address the benefits and challenges of using manure in alfalfa and explain timing, best uses and application rates.
Continuing education credits have been applied for. The field day is sponsored by the San Joaquin Sustainable Farm Project. For more information, contact Project Director Marcia Gibbs at (530) 370-5325.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Shake, Shake, Shake, Shake … Shake Your Buttes, Padres and Nonpareils Off the Trees



The almond harvest is in full swing. Perhaps, we should call it the almond harvest season.

Some might think, harvesting an almond orchard amounts to knocking down the nuts, letting them dry on the ground for a week or two and then hauling them off to the processor.

No so. In fact, the harvest stretches from summer to early fall for growers.

Shaking takes place more than once during the harvest.
“You harvest one almond variety at a time. Some growers have three to four varieties in their orchard,” says field scout Jenna Mayfield. That’s a whole lot of shaking going on.

In California, growers produce 30 difference almond varieties – although 10 varieties make up 70 percent of the state’s production.  Overall, all varieties fall under three general classifications – Nonpareil, California and Mission.

One interesting fact about almonds is you need at least two different varieties in an orchard for the trees to produce. Growers will plant one variety in one row and another in the next row.
The soft shell nonpareil varieties are the first to be harvested. Hard shell varieties such as Padre are harvested later.

That’s why you see dust clouds produced by tree shaking machines more than that once during the season. Jenna points out harvesting can be a chess game with multiple growers vying to schedule tree shakers and sweepers to work in their orchards. Smaller farms sometimes will work together to line up shakers for multiple orchards to avoid delays.

Jenna adds that each grower usually has a different opinion about harvesting. Some, for example, will come back and re-shake the same rows again to catch all the nuts on the trees. Others, she adds, will send out pole crews to knock off every nut to prevent over wintering of the dreaded navel orangeworm and pest damage the next season. “Shaking isn’t going to get every nut off the tree.”

Drive slowly on dusty roads to avoid stirring up mites.
Right now, a number of growers are irrigating between harvests. A few are treating orchard blocks prone to mites. You need four to six weeks between the application and next harvest.

Jenna reminds growers to slow down when driving on dirt roads to avoid stirring up mites in the ground. “There are a lot of mites out there.”

Right now, ants have been a problem for those nuts still drying on the ground. Doing a quick check of samples, Jenna is finding nuts with ant damage.

Meanwhile, field scout Carlos Silva says aphids and worms are still present in alfalfa but there hasn’t been a push for growers to treat. The plants generally are 14 to 15 inches tall and a few weeks away from the next cutting. 
Cotton plants are getting their last irrigation of the season.

In cotton, growers are irrigating for the last time before the fall harvest. He reports more fields with bolls opening up and lint visible. Aphids and whitefly are lurking, posing a threat for sticky cotton to show up later on. “It’s important for growers to stay on top of these pests,” Carlos says.