Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Growers Dealing with New Pesticide Handling Rules



Rules, rules and more rules.

You hear that complaint from farmers quite regularly. But county ag commissioners will tell them, that rules and regulations are a fact of life. And it’s important to follow them or ag inspectors could be knocking on the barn door.

Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner’s points out that the state has enacted new worker protection standards.  Growers can learn about these new rules as well as regulations on pesticides during a field day this Wednesday in Firebaugh.

Growers need to ensure worker safety  in pesticide handling..
Gilbert Urquizi, who oversees pest control operations for the Fresno Ag Commissioner’s Office, will talk about regulations and be available to answer questions at the free event sponsored by the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project. The field day is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Firebaugh Mendota United Methodist Church, 1660 O St., Firebaugh.

Other speakers are: Dr. Pete Goodell of UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management, who will cover the impact of the weather on pest insects in almonds, cotton and alfalfa for the coming season; and Orvil Mckinnis, project manager of the Westside San Joaquin Valley Watershed Coalition, who will talk about the uses of pesticides and their impact on local water quality.
Continuing education credits will be available.More information about the field day is available from SJSFP Director Marcia Gibbs at (530) 370-5325 or Marcia@sustainablecotton.org

Here’s a quick overview from the Fresno Ag Commissioner’s Office about the new worker protection rules:
·         Pesticide safety training: Workers and handlers of pesticides are required to be trained every year.
·         Field posting notification: Growers must post signs for outdoor applications with restricted entry intervals over 48 hours.
·         Drift exposure prevention: There are new “exclusion zones” set up around application equipment up to 100 feet for outdoor applications.
·         Hazard communication: Safety data sheets must be available at a central display location.
·         Minimum age: All handlers and early entry employees must be at least 18 years old.
·         Pesticide safety information display: The pesticide safety information series has to be displayed at decontamination facilities at sites with 11 or more workers.
·         Decontamination: Employers must have available 1 gallon of water for each worker and 3 gallons for handlers.
·         Eye flushing at the mix/load site: When protection eyewear is required on the label or a closed mixing system is in use, employers must provide either from a system able to deliver 0.4 gallons per minute for 15 minutes or from six gallons of water able to flow gently for 15 minutes.
A closed mixing system for pesticides.
What is a closed mixing system?

There are engineering controls used to protect workers from dermal exposure hazards when mixing pesticides with high acute toxicity, according to the ag commissioner. The dermal toxicity of a pesticide is determined by the caution statements on the label.


Regulators have established a new tiered mitigation system based on the chemical’s caution label.

A Tier 1 closed mixing system is now required for workers who handle pesticides with a dermal hazard statement on the label that reads something like “fatal if absorbed through the skin.” This closed mixing system must be able to enclose the pesticide while removing the chemical from its original container. Each emptied container must be rinsed and drained while attached to the closed mixing system.

A Tier 2 closed mixing system is required for workers who handle pesticides with the warning label that reads something like “may be fatal if absorbed through skin” or “corrosive, causes skin damage.”  This mixing system must prevent pesticides from having contact with the handler. However, the container is not required to be rinsed while still attached to the system.

Growers should contact their local agricultural commissioner office for more information.






Thursday, February 16, 2017

Growers Abuzz About Upcoming Almond Season



There’s a definitely buzz around the Valley.

One by one, large white boxes are starting to show up around the borders of almond orchards around the Valley.Yes, the pollination season is around the corner.



Field scout Jenna Mayfield says buds are developing nicely on the trees and bloom should be starting soon.

“The trees are changing. There is a lot of bud swell,” Jenna says. “Beekeepers are coming in and out of the orchards. Growers want them in place by bloom.”

Bee boxes placed around orchards last year.
Growers are hoping the wet winter weather will let up enough to provide sunny days to let the bees do their job. Almond bloom usually lasts about a month.

One concern is the health of honeybees. Beekeepers are reporting bee losses across the country, according to California State Beekeepers Association President Steve Godlin. He says beekeepers cite a number of factors for the loss, including the drought, pest and disease problems and the absence of natural forage.

Another worry is beehive theft. A couple of north Sacramento Valley growers reported more than 700 hives being stolen. One grower put the loss of bees at more than $250,000.

To prevent these thefts, beekeepers are urged to locate bees out of sight and off the road. The hives, lids and frames should be marked with identification. At the same time, growers can protect themselves by verifying the colonies in the orchard match the contract they have with the beekeeper.

Growers need to ensure bee health
Some 1.8 million bees needed to pollinate almonds.
Jenna reminds growers to be mindful of spraying their nearby fields during the pollination period. We need to keep bees healthy.Growers should refrain from treating their trees in the morning hours as bees prepare to go to work in the orchard. It’s best to spray in the late afternoon after bees return to the hive.

Anyone who keeps bees in California must register with the local County Agricultural Commissioner annually. This information will help beekeepers deal with neighbors and be notified about local pesticide and herbicide applications. 

We certainly want to keep the bees healthy.
 
FIELD DAY: Growers can start the season learning the latest information on new state rules governing pesticide use and safety and potential issues with pests. Almond, alfalfa and cotton growers are invited to attend a field day covering these topics during a Wednesday, February 22 field day at the Firebaugh Mendota United Methodist Church, 1660 O Street, Firebaugh. Sponsored by the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project, the free event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and offers continuing education credits. Speakers are: Gilbert Urquizu of the Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, who will talk about new pesticide regulations and safety rules; Dr. Pete Goodell of UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management, who will cover the impact of the weather on pest insects in almonds, cotton and alfalfa for the coming season; and Chris Linneman of the Westside San Joaquin Valley Watershed Coalition, who will talk about the uses of pesticides and their impact on local water quality. More information is available from SJSFP Director Marcia Gibbs at (530) 370-5325 or Marcia@sustainablecotton.org



Monday, February 6, 2017

Valley Growers Focus on Winter Chores While Keeping an Eye on Water Forecasts


Mid-winter has arrived after the Valley and Northern California closed the books on a very wet January.
 
Cotton field beds ready for planting this season.

Cotton growers have pretty much finished cultivating fields and added soil amendments to prepare the beds for spring. Cold weather alfalfa fields have had herbicide applications made or sheep brought in for grazing and weed control. Local alfalfa seed was exported to Algeria, Bolivia, Italy and Saudi Arabia.

In the office, growers are wrapping up paperwork for county agriculture commissioners and mapping out crop plans for this season. Some are turning in continuing education hours records to renew their private applicator cards. Others are turning in crop report survey forms.

Sheep grazing in an alfalfa field. (Bruce Hoar photo)
Growers also are catching up on new rules and regulations, such as revisions to the state’s worker protection standards. 

Of course, the big issue among growers is water – how much to expect this season after five years of drought.
  
“Most growers are cautiously optimistic that they will get a higher water allocation,” cotton and alfalfa field scout Carlos Silva says. “They still don’t know how much water they are going to get.”
Growers tell Carlos they are encouraged by the heavy winter rains.
State Water surveyors on their monthly snowpack check.

The optimism was reinforced by last Thursday’s monthly check of the snowpack water content in the Sierra Nevada. State Department of Water Resources (DWR) surveyors reported 31 inches of snow water statewide, the most since 2005. It also was 173 percent of average.

State officials aren’t celebrating yet. “Although this year, so far, is exceptionally wet, storms can cease. Hopefully this year will end up being wet, but we cannot say whether it will be one wet year in another string of dry ones,” state climatologist Mike Anderson said.

Officials point out that many Californians continue to feel the effects of drought and that a number of Central Valley towns still rely on bottled water and water tanks. Groundwater basins are still declining after years of well water use.
California Aqueduct carries state water.

On the good news front, though, State Water last month increased its estimate of this year’sState Water Project (SWP) supply from 45 to 60 percent of most requests by water agencies.
.
“With more rain andsnow in the forecast, DWR hopes it will be able to increase the allocation further,” officials said.

Under the current allocation, State Water Project contractors would receive more than 2.5 million acre-feet of the 4.17 million acre-feet they sought. An acre-foot is enough water to supply two typical households for a year.

Valley growers are waiting for the feds to make its water allocation announcement. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation usually makes its first allocation of Central Valley Project water in mid-February, though last season’s was on April 1. Stay tuned.

FIELD DAY: It’s important to start the season learning about the latest information on new state rules governing pesticide use and safety and potential issues with pests. Almond, alfalfa and cotton growers are invited to attend a field day covering these topics during a Wednesday, February 22 field day at the Firebaugh Mendota United Methodist Church, 1660 O Street, Firebaugh. Sponsored by the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project, the free event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and offers continuing education credits. Speakers are: Gilbert Urquizu of the Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office,  who will talk about new pesticide regulations and safety rules; Dr. Pete Goodell of UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management,  who will cover the impact of the weather on pest insects in almonds, cotton and alfalfa for the coming season; and Chris Linneman of the Westside San Joaquin Valley Watershed Coalition, who will talk about the uses of pesticides and their impact on local water quality. More information is available from SJSFP Director Marcia Gibbs at (530) 370-5325 or Marcia@sustainablecotton.org



Monday, January 30, 2017

Wind, Rain and Fungus Alert for Valley Almond Growers





It’s been wet – enough to give the Valley farm land a nice soaking.

It’s been windy – enough to topple weakened, but once productive trees.

Storm clouds give way to a rainbow over an almond orchard.
Even so, we pretty much survived the gusty winds that reached up to 33 mph and the more than 1.6 inches of rain that battered the Fresno region a week ago.

“We had such crazy rain and crazy wind,” says almond field scout Jenna Mayfield. “We haven’t seen such weather in years.”

So far, more than 6 inches of rain has fallen this month – nearly double the amount a year ago. Of course, we all remember how a meager .2 inches fell in January 2015 and a quarter inch during the first month of 2014.

Yes, after five years of drought, everyone has welcomed the rain. And despite the inclement weather, Jenna points out almond orchards survived fairly well – with only some trees along the margins that were already weakened by years of dry weather being uprooted by the winds.

Almond tree toppled by the wind.
The rains also bring worries. Almond growers are starting to think about fungicide treatment to protect their trees against diseases. 

“Fungus can be spread by the wind,” Jenna said. Because of this year’s weather, “we may have problems that we haven’t experienced before with fungus.”

University of California farm advisors point out that almond orchards always have fungi present that can cause diseases. The amount depends on the previous year’s disease level and the current weather conditions.

It’s important to be proactive, especially this stormy winter. A good disease control program hinges on a combination of choosing the appropriate fungicides and good timing and coverage. Proper identification of the disease in the orchard will dictate the selection of materials.

Here is the impact of armillaria root rot on an almond tree.
Remember, not all fungicides are equally effective on diseases. Growers should use more than one variety of fungicide to broaden the effectiveness.  Jenna says growers should consult UC’s fungicide efficacy table to help with fungicide selection.

Jenna also points out the return of a wet weather pattern this winter should make it an interesting year on the tree disease and pest front.

 It could be the winds and rains will impact the overwintering pests and keep those numbers down this upcoming season. It also could be this year’s winter storms could trigger disease problems.

“Growers will have to be really vigilant and monitor their orchards closely this year,” Jenna says.  In farming, it is safe to say that every year brings a new surprise.