Monday, December 12, 2011

SJ Sustainable Farming Projects Quite a Productive 2011 for Its Growers


Cotton production is on the upswing.
As cotton and alfalfa growers participating in the 2011 San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project gather in Firebaugh this Wednesday morning to recap the season, I’d like to share a few interesting statistics just released from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Upland cotton production (Acala in California) is forecast at 15.1 million bales nationally in 2011, down 14.3 percent from last year. But in California, production is predicted to be 1.2 million bales, up 47 percent from 2010. Pima production – where California accounts for 90 percent of the U.S. acreage – is predicted also to surge 47 percent over last year. At the same time, alfalfa production this year is expected to be up 3.7 percent year over year in California, compared to a 4.7 percent drop nationally.
Small output gain expected for alfalfa.

Whew. That’s a lot of numbers. But the bottom line is California cotton and alfalfa fared quite compared to the rest of the country. Things are looking up and even more cotton could be planted in 2012. We may get some preview into growers’ plans during our meeting Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Dr. Pete Goodell
Meanwhile, Dr. Pete Goodell, an advisor with the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management program, will review the pest management issues during the year and talk about what might be in store for 2012.  Pete always offers a lot of good information and a wealth of knowledge about good IPM practices.

We welcome new growers interested in enrolling in next year’s SJSFP program to stop by the meeting. Farmers thinking about next season’s crop will find especially useful a presentation by UC cotton expert Robert Hutmacher from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Firebaugh Community Center, 1655 13th Street.

Robert Hutmacher
Hutmacher, the director of the University of California Research and Extension Center in Five Points, will discuss cotton variety field trials and new varieties coming down the pike. Test plots have shown promising results with new Pima varieties that have produced good yields. Don’t miss this informative talk. The price is right: Free.

Well, the Central Valley Farm Scout and blog will take some holiday time off and return in a month. Enjoy the holidays and we will see you next year.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Planting, Growing, Harvesting; Time to Call the Season a Wrap



After eight long months, we can finally call it a wrap on the 2011 cotton season.

Growers have picked the last of the cotton in the fields and are starting to plow down their fields before the December 20 deadline. Some already have prepared their beds for next season, readying their fields for another season of cotton or a rotation crop such as tomatoes. Others have planted winter crops. Generally, growers usually rotate their cotton fields every two years.

At the gins, cotton is still being processed, which could last much of December because of the later harvest as well as the increase in cotton planted this year.

Overall, I’d say yields were good for 2011 – even with the unusual weather we had this season – remember the March rains, cool spring, so-so summer heat and unseasonable early fall rain. In the end, though, growers were able to make up the heat units and effectively used growth regulators to help their yields. I estimate the average yield for Acala was about 2 ¾ bales an acre. One Pima field averaged 3 ¾ bales an acre – anything above 3 bales is good.

On the pest front, lygus and late-season worms were a problem. Biological pest controls were effective and some new soft materials worked well. These pay off in helping the environment and the bottom line for growers. I have to say things are looking up for cotton. Don’t be surprised to see growers planting more acreage in 2012.

Robert Hutmacher
 Speaking of the future, growers will have a great opportunity to learn about cotton varieties coming down the pike. Robert Hutmacher, a noted cotton expert and the director of the University of California Research and Extension Center in Five Points, will discuss cotton variety field trials during a presentation from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday, December 14, at the Firebaugh Community Center, 1655 13th Street.  The talk is free and open to the community. It should be very informative. See you there.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Something for Everyone at Our Annual Fall Almond Field Day

Our fall almond field day is just a couple days away and I guarantee you that growers – whether they’re new to the crop or veterans – will come away learning some new. You might call it “I didn’t know that” moment.

Last year, one grower commented:  “These meetings are really needed to help us farm almonds better.”  We couldn’t say it better.
Entomologist Walt Bentley will discuss pests in almonds.
In fact, long-time University of California entomologist Walt Bentley says he can’t repeat his educational message enough to growers. Better yet, his tips can pay off for growers in the long run – often through fewer pest pressures, lower chemical input costs, better practices to protect the environment, including our local waterways, and more importantly improved yields.

Walt, a specialist with the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, will be joined by Merced County UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor David Doll, during our Monday, November 28 field day. They are among the top almond experts in the state and they’re eager to answer your questions.

Farm Advisor David Doll writes the Almond Doctor blog.
The free event will be from 10 a.m. to noon at the Rushing Ranch, 11599 W. Shaw Ave., Fresno. Walt will discuss sampling for scale and crop-damaging pests during the fall and winter. David, also known for his informative Almond Doctor blog, will cover dormant season practices to help prevent almond diseases and reduce the risk of fungicide resistance for the state’s leading export crop, worth $2.7 billion a year.

Sponsored by San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project (SJSFP), the field day qualifies for two hours of continuing education credit.  For more information and directions contact Project Director Marcia Gibbs at (530) 370-5325 or at marcia@sustainablecotton.org.

           The sustainable farming project is a state- and federally funded program under the direction of the Sustainable Cotton Project (www.sustainablecotton.org), a nonprofit which has worked with San Joaquin Valley growers in the past decade to bring Cleaner Cotton™ to the multi-billion-dollar green consumer market. See you at the field day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving Thanks for a bountiful Harvest in the Great Valley


 Almonds are being processed. The last cutting of alfalfa is a distant memory. And the cotton harvest is nearly finished.

With sunshine sandwiched between rain storms, growers are hoping for sunny windy days this week to allow them to pick the remaining 10 percent of cotton left to be harvested. If Mother Nature cooperates, many growers will enjoy their Thanksgiving turkey knowing their cotton crop has been picked and headed for the gin.

It certainly has been another weird weather year. But farmers are a resilient group and they certainly have weathered the storms …and the pests … and they plant diseases this season.

For cotton growers who have wrapped up their harvest, now is the time to cut the stalks and plow down their fields. Many are starting to prepare their beds for next season.
Cotton gin workers are busy processing the harvested crop.

In the almond orchards, growers are starting to prune their trees and get ready for the dormant season. I often see trees with some mummy nuts left. Almond experts remind growers to knock off those mummies to prevent problems with navel orangeworms next season. Remember good winter sanitation practices pay off in the long run.

If you want to learn more about preparing for next year’s almond crop, be sure to attend our Almond Pest Management Field Day on Monday, November 28. It’s a must-attend event if you want to get a jump on planning for the 2012 season. The free event will be from 10 a.m. to noon at the Rushing Ranch, 11599 W. Shaw Ave., Fresno.
UCCE's David Doll, left, offers tips to growers.

University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management program entomologist Walt Bentley will discuss sampling for scale and crop-damaging pests during the fall and winter. The “Almond Doctor” David Doll, aka the Merced County UC Cooperative Extension pomology farm advisor specializing in almonds, will cover dormant season practices to help prevent almond diseases and reduce the risk of fungicide resistance. 

This is a great opportunity to get your questions answered from two of the state’s leading almond experts. At the same time, you can earn two hours of continuing education credits.

As we think about next season, we can look back at this season and give thanks to a bountiful and we hope profitable harvest. Happy Thanksgiving.



Monday, November 14, 2011

Cotton Harvest on Final Stretch; Farm Tour Gets Up Close and Personal

With the on-again, off-again rainy weather lately, growers have been scrambling to harvest their cotton. So far, about three quarters of the Valley’s cotton acreage has been harvested, University of California experts told us during our annual Cotton Tour last week.

Acala is in. The Pima harvest is still out with growers hoping to get out into the fields and complete their second and final picking soon.
On Friday, we had more wet weather with rainfall totals overnight ranging from 0.1 of an inch to a half-inch in various parts of the region. More rain could raise concerns about mold developing in the harvested cotton. Let’s hope for a little wind and dry weather in the coming days. Weather forecasters are predicting more rain by the end of the week.

Cotton Tour participants get a chance to pick some cotton.
Fortunately, we had nice sunny weather during our farm tour – one of the best ever with lots of people attending – from students, to apparel company representatives to U.S. Department of Agriculture officials. During the all-day tour, we saw a nice perennial hedgerow at Windfall Farms, cotton harvested at George Bettencourt’s farm and saw- and rolling gin in action at Silvercreek Gin. We had lots of good questions: “How many people does it take to harvest cotton?” “How many acres of cotton are harvested per hour?” And “what is the difference between organic cotton and Cleaner Cotton™?’

Tour participants were treated with Indian Summer weather.
We explained our growers produce Cleaner Cotton™ without applying the most toxic chemicals used in cotton production. They follow biological controls and Integrated Pest Management practices – something that can save money for growers and help protect the environment. We pointed out that in California it isn’t economically viable to grow organic cotton because of high labor and input costs. I think many people on the tour came away with a better understanding of Cleaner Cotton™. They also left with a better appreciation for farmers and the cotton industry.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Say Hello to More Rain: The Cotton Harvest Put on Hold



“Rain, rain, go away
come again another day
the farmer wants to harvest cotton …”
It is a good bet that many San Joaquin Valley cotton growers would love to recite to this little variation of the classic nursery rhyme. They would love to have the unseasonable early fall rain go away and come back again in December. Cotton growers certainly have had to deal with weird weather this season.
First, early spring rain delayed planting for many growers. Then early fall rain slowed defoliation of the cotton plants. Now, last Thursday’s and Saturday’s storms, which dropped up to a half inch  of rain in our region area – put a temporary halt to the cotton harvest. Growers are counting on two days of sunny weather with light winds to dry the lint before resuming the harvest.
While the fields weren’t muddy for the harvesters, the rigs were idled because the fiber had absorbed too much moisture. Wet cotton stored in modules waiting to be ginned could develop mold. Growers don’t want to risk that.
 Around central and north part of the Valley, I estimate about 80 percent of Acala – which develops earlier than Pima cotton – has been harvested. There is still lots of cotton left in the fields waiting to be harvested. In California, growers planted 190,000 acres of Acala and 260,000 acres of Pima.


 Some Pima growers have finished their first harvest and are ready for the second picking. Others haven’t even started harvesting at all. In fact, there is concern the rain has spurred re-growth of the Pima plants and may require growers to defoliate again.
So far, growers are not overly concerned. For some, the rain gave them an unexpected break. Others could get a jump preparing to plow down their harvested acreage. We’ll see how the weather plays out later this week with more rain in the forecast for Friday and the weekend. For now, repeat after me: “Rain, rain go away …”
Cotton Tour Here: Don’t be alarmed to seek large tour buses traveling the country roads on Tuesday. That’s our annual Cotton Tour passing by. If you see us, wave hello to our participants, who will meet with local growers, visit a gin and even pick some cotton. Buses will leave the Best Western Apricot Inn – Interstate 5 and West Panoche Road about 23 miles southwest of Firebaugh – at 8:30 a.m. and return about 4 p.m. I’ll let you know how it goes next time.



Monday, October 31, 2011

Almond Nut Quality Earns High Marks for the 2011 Season

Editor’s note: We welcome again our guest blogger UC IPM entomologist Walt Bentley, whose specialty includes managing pests in almonds.

The final almond harvest samples are being evaluated and most of you have already gotten the quality grades from your processor. Based on what laboratory assistant Alex Newton and I have found, nut quality was excellent. As might be expected, navel orangeworm (NOW) was the most common problem followed by shriveled nutmeats. There was no plant bug or ant damage and very minor peach twig borer damage. 

Table 1 below presents the infestation summary for the orchards in the San Joaquin  Sustainable Farming Project, which is directed by the Sustainable Cotton Project.

UC IPM photo by Jack Kelly Clark
Not all samples have been evaluated. Nut infestation ranged from zero to 4.8 percent.  Interestingly, the variety with the greatest damage was a Butte (hard shell) orchard. It is the orchard where our greatest navel orangeworm egg counts were found and the mummy load going into the summer was high.

Overall the infestation levels are very low. You can see from the harvests sample data that there were numerous locations where we found no infestation. Be sure to compare these results with what you get from your processor. We are still in the process of cracking almonds so, if you don’t see your orchard code in the table it means it has not been evaluated yet.  This information will be available for the fall SJSFP almond meeting, which is scheduled for November 29. A field day announcement will be mailed to you.

Figure 1 presents the pooled egg count information from all 13 almond farmers in the project. This information comes from the trapping data in the egg counts. The egg laying is not the same as the harvest sample.

This year almond development was quite late and early harvest was not really possible. We didn’t see the initiation of hull split (Nonpareil - NP) until July 20 and 100 percent NP hull spit until August 3.  NOW deposition, although later than normal, was not as affected after May. Consequently, most of the Nonpareil crop avoided infestation in July, but was completely exposed to moths in late August.

Compare your harvest date to the graph showing the development of the third period of egg laying beginning on August 10. This time frame is important because the new crop is not susceptible to NOW until the hulls split.  Once 100 percent hull split occurs the new crop can be attacked.  When moths are abundant and hull split has completed, infestation results. 

Finally, I have included a graph from work done by Dr. Dick Rice, University of California, Davis emeritus, that compares the dynamics of NOW based on either male moth capture, black light capture of males and females, and eggs found on egg traps.  Figure 2 presents this information. I interpret this to show that the egg traps are very effective in determining the dynamics of moth activity, particularly late in the season.  It gives us confidence in the information gained from egg traps.

UC IPM photo by Jack Kelly Clark
After studying the cause of your rejects, make a mental note to count mummies left after harvest in your orchard. This will be done after the leaves are gone, but it is important.  Unharvested mummies left in the orchard are the single best indicator of navel orangeworm problems to come.  Only two trees counted per acre gives a good estimate of potential problems.  Problems result when the orchard averages two mummies per tree.  Remember it is a pair of deuces, two trees per acre counted and two nuts per tree.

Walt Bentley is a long-time entomologist with the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management program at the Kearney Ag Center in Parlier.

Annual Cotton Tour Nears: The deadline nears to sign up for our annual Cotton Tour on Tuesday, November 8. The free day-long tour offers participants have the opportunity to meet growers, visit a gin and even pick some cotton. Buses will leave the Best Western Apricot Inn – Interstate 5 and West Panoche Road about 23 miles southwest of Firebaugh – at 8:30 a.m. and return about 4 p.m.  Spread the word to anyone you think is interested in joining us. Registration is required. Sign up at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RQG9P3G


Table 1.  SJ Sustainable Farming Project: almond crack out, 2011 based on 500 nut sample.

Grower ID
Variety
Harvest date
% NOW
% PTB
% Total
30
NonPareil
24 Aug
0.0
0.0
0.0
14
Butte
31 Aug
4.6
0.2.
4.8
11
Butte
1 Sep
0.0
0.0
0.0
12
NonPareil
12 Sep
2.2
0.0
2.2
12
Fritz
26 Sep
0.0
0.0
0.0
0
NonPareil
12 Sep
2.6
0.0
2.6
15
NonPareil
15 Sep
0.2
0.0
0.2
29
Butte
---
0.0
0.0
0.0
29
Padre
---
0.2
0.0
0.2
13
Monterey
13 Sep
0.4
0.0
0.4
16
Padre
23 Sep
0.0
0.0
0.0





Fig. 1. NOW egg trap oviposition, 13 Orchards West Side  
Fresno and  Madera counties, Sept. 28, 2011.



Monday, October 24, 2011

It's Cotton Picking Time for Growers Across the Valley



Acres and acres of cotton are ready for harvest in the Valley.
The wait is almost over.

 In a few days, we should see some Pima growers sending out harvesters to pick their cotton. These grower will have a head start over other Pima producers because they were able to plant their crop during a break between storms in March.

 I wouldn’t be surprise to find the Pima harvest wrapping up after Thanksgiving – thanks to early season cool weather.

Acala cotton harvest is in full swing.
Even with the late harvest, growers should have amble time to shred the cotton stalks and disc their fields to meet the plow-down deadline aimed at managing the crop-damaging pink bollworm in the spring. Of course, Mother Nature needs to cooperate. Last year, the deadline was extended in December because rain made the fields too muddy for farmers to get equipment into their fields.

For Acala growers, their harvest is well under way and they should continue picking their cotton for another week to 10 days.

Overall, the lint looks good. Acala growers should get good yields. Right now, cotton modules are lining up at the gins. To save costs, gins start firing up in November when lower winter electrical rates kick in. Then the ginning picks up steam.

Our annual Cotton Tour is a perfect photo opportunity.
 Cotton Tour Nears: Our annual Cotton Tour is around the corner. The free event is Tuesday, November 8 and includes lunch in downtown Firebaugh. Participants will have an opportunity to meet growers, visit a gin and even pick some cotton. One of the stops will include a visit with Windfall Farms’ growers Frank Williams and Mark Fickett. Visitors will have a chance to inspect Windfall’s cotton fields and perennial hedgerow. So spread the word. Buses will leave the Best Western Apricot Inn – Interstate 5 and West Panoche Road about 23 miles southwest of Firebaugh – at 8:30 a.m. and return about 4 p.m. Registration is required. Sign up at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RQG9P3G
                         


Monday, October 17, 2011

Growers Finally Start the Cotton Harvest in Central San Joaquin

Growers have started picking the Acala cotton in the Valley.

   It’s mid-October and the cotton harvest is finally here in the central San Joaquin Valley.

 With the unseasonable rain behind us, harvesters started traversing local Acala cotton fields last week. Pima growers began defoliating their crop and in another few weeks, they will start picking the fluffy fiber.
I’m seeing anywhere from nine to 14 open bolls per plant. In my plant mapping, I’m counting an average of four locks (bunches of lint) within the boll in Acala and three locks in Pima as well as six to seven seeds per boll. All this indicates  good crop set.

Wet cotton after last week's rain. The
lint dried quickly once the sun came out.
Because of this, Acala growers should see good yields this season. For Pima, it could turn out to be an average year for yields. But good commodity prices certainly will help everyone. You can attribute this year’s healthy yields to three things: Good pest management, ample availability of water (unlike those drought years) and warm summer weather, which allowed the cotton plants to make up some of the lost time due to late plantings caused by last-spring rains and cool temperatures.

Speaking of the rain, the early October wet stuff didn’t harm the fiber. Lint dried up quickly with the return of warmer temperatures. The rain did help wash off dirt and sticky honeydew from the cotton. Overall, growers are excited as they head for the final stretch of the season. They certainly will be ready for a little post-season rest and relaxation.
I'm describing a harvester to last year's Cotton Tour group.
Cotton Tour Countdown: Don’t forget to spread the word about our annual Cotton Tour on Tuesday, November 8. There’s still room available for the free event, which includes lunch in downtown Firebaugh. Participants always enjoy the opportunity to meet growers, visit a gin and pick a little cotton. For many, it’s the first time they have come face-to-face to a real cotton farmer. Buses will leave the Best Western Apricot Inn – Interstate 5 and West Panoche Road about 23 miles southwest of Firebaugh – at 8:30 a.m. and return about 4 p.m. Registration is required. Sign up at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RQG9P3G






Monday, October 10, 2011

Rain Leaves Cleaner Cotton Plants as Growers Prepare for Harvest






The sun is shining. And Indian summer is back in the Northern San Joaquin Valley with high temperatures heading back into the 80s for the rest of this week.

October sure started off with a storm. We had up to 1 inch of rain around the region. On the plus side to cotton growers, the rain helped wash off any dust or sticky honeydew on the plants. Right now, growers don’t expect to have any mold or mildew problems with the fiber.

Kevin Long of Olam Cotton in Fresno tells us that he doesn’t think any fiber quality issues will develop because of the rain. “The sun was out after the rains and additionally there was a nice wind blowing afterwards that would help dry the cotton out. There is a smaller percentage of cotton exposed to the rain now vs. what will be open and exposed three weeks from now.”
Last week's rain across the Valley left fields muddy.

The rain did interrupt work in the cotton fields last week. Now, everything is buzzing again.  Acala growers are ready to harvest their crop and Pima farmers are moving ahead with defoliation.  Around our area, many growers should start picking Acala around mid-week.

As I traveled around Friday, the fields were too muddy for any ground application of defoliants. I saw some planes making aerial applications as growers rushed to take advantage of the warmer weekend weather.

With the later-developing Pima varieties, I expect growers to start defoliating sometime this week. If Mother Nature cooperates, look for the Pima harvest to start the first week of November.

Buses  will shuttle dozens of Cotton Tour participants
directly to the field to meet and talk with cotton growers.


Cotton Tour Coming Up: Here’s another reminder about our annual Cotton Tour on Tuesday, November 8. There’s still room available for the free event, which includes a tasty lunch in downtown Firebaugh. Participants will have an opportunity to meet growers, visit a gin and even pick some cotton. Buses will leave the Best Western Apricot Inn – Interstate 5 and West Panoche Road about 23 miles southwest of Firebaugh – at 8:30 a.m. and return about 4 p.m. Registration is required. Sign up at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RQG9P3G




Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cotton Experts Weigh in on Early Fall Rain in the Valley

Because of the unseasonably cool weather and early fall rain swooping into the San Joaquin Valley this week, we are publishing a special post updating growers about the weather's impact on this year's cotton crop. We thank two leading California cotton experts for providing their perspectives and tips.

Dr. Pete Goodell, University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management advisor, Kearney Ag Center: Westside Fresno and Merced counties received between 0.35 inches at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points and 1.28 inches in Los Banos.
Dr. Pete Goodell

In general, a half inch is considered good for cleaning dust, dirt and honeydew off plants. However, if cotton is still green with defoliation weeks away, rainfall could wash more dirt and honeydew onto lint.

If defoliation has occurred, this will affect efficacy due to lower temperatures. It might also cause some re-greening as plants receive some limited moisture. If defoliation and harvest is still a ways off, it might have no effect.

The bottom line: It all depends on location, amount of rainfall and condition/maturity of crop.

Bob Hutmacher, UC statewide cotton specialist: Lower temperatures and the start of rain bring some challenges to getting this cotton crop harvested and out of the field.

Bob Hutmacher
Lower temperatures slow the rate of maturation of later developing bolls, making it harder to get them open and ready for harvest. The cooler weather also means that chemicals like Ginstar don’t work quite as well as harvest aids. As a result, you may need to consider higher application rates at lower temperatures (such as with Ginstar), or if temperatures drop well below 80 degrees, you may do better by changing to different harvest aids (defoliation/prep combination, for instance) that work better at lower temperatures.

Rain is always a threat as we prepare for harvest. In some cotton varieties, cotton is held relatively “loose” in the boll and the added weight of rain can cause the cotton to “string out” even more than would otherwise occur. This brings the real threat of cotton dropping to the ground instead of hanging on the plant waiting for the picker. Fields usually hold up pretty well through the first rain, but repeated rains can result in some significant losses, particularly those varieties with loosely held cotton and fully mature bolls (such as some of the Acalas). Try to stage harvests to get the worst-affected fields harvested first, before losses can become more severe.

Storm clouds hover over Firebaugh area Thursday morning.
To be harvestable, some of the really late-developing cotton bolls need some additional heat units to fully mature and be ready to open up as we apply harvest aids. If there are too few heat units for the really late bolls, such as some of the late bolls in the upper canopy on Pima plants this year, it is unlikely that those can be opened for harvest no matter what combination of harvest aid chemicals are used.

In many parts of the San Joaquin Valley this year, particularly in Pima fields, there may be more second-picking of cotton fields, as the growers get the first picks out of the way during better weather and then see if a second pick might be a possibility for later maturing bolls.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cooler Weather Puts Pima Defoliation in Holding Pattern




Ominous rain clouds hover over the California Aqueduct.

When it comes to farming there’s one prediction that’s sure to come true: Unpredictable weather.
That’s certainly the case for cotton growers.

First rain and cool weather pushed back spring plantings. Now, Mother Nature is at it again in early fall. Unseasonal cool daytime high temperatures and the chance of rain in the coming days have put prepping and defoliation plans on hold for pima cotton growers. (Acala bolls develop faster so growers don’t have to do prep work. They started defoliating last week).
Rain will impact work in cotton fields.
Pima growers will prep their plants with materials (boll openers) to enhance boll development before applying defoliants. You want plants to have at least 50 to 65 percent of the bolls open. 

 However, growers are in a holding pattern because any significant rainfall could wash away some material and force growers to spend more money on re-application. Moreover, daytime temperatures need to be above 80 degrees for several days to ensure proper defoliation. The forecast calls for highs in the 70s through Friday. Historically, Valley daytime highs hover in the 80s during the first couple weeks of October. So we wait. The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management website has more information about harvest aid chemicals for cotton.

For the optimists, a little rain could help clean off dust and any honeydew on the plants, which can prevent sticky cotton and a downgrade on fiber quality. If Mother Nature cooperates, we may see some Pima being harvested after Thanksgiving.

Overall, everything is pretty much moving ahead.  Pests aren’t a real concern now. And growers are expecting some good yields this season.
The media learns about cotton cultivation during our annual farm tour conducted at harvest time.
Annual Cotton Tour Reminder: Don’t forget to spread the word about our annual Cotton Tour on Tuesday, November 8. It’s a free event and includes lunch in downtown Firebaugh. Participants will have an opportunity to meet growers, visit a gin 
and even pick some cotton. Buses will leave the Best Western Apricot Inn – Interstate 5 and West Panoche Road about 23 miles southwest of Firebaugh – at 8:30 a.m. and return about 4 p.m. Registration is required. Sign up for the tour at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RQG9P3G
                         





Monday, September 26, 2011

Better Late Than Never: It's Time for Cotton Defoliation


Finally… Westside growers are ready to start defoliating their cotton plants in preparation for the fall harvest.

It’s been an anxious time for growers. The defoliation timetable is about a week to 12 days later than normal compared to the 30-year average – thanks to the wet spring which delayed planting. Usually, growers start applying defoliants around Sept. 15 to 20 – just as the summer winds down. Well, it’s now fall and growers will finally start this week.

Westsiders have seen their fellow cotton growers in the southern San Joaquin Valley – from Five Points south – already start defoliating their pima and acala crops. Dos Palos growers began last week on their acala.
This year, growers are trying to maximize yields because of the strong cotton commodity prices. That meant holding off as long as possible with defoliation. If Mother Nature cooperates, the wait should pay off. We could see growers achieving an average yield increase of 5 to 8 percent this season. Proper defoliation requires temperatures for several days to be above 80 degrees during in the day and more than 50 degrees in the morning.
The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management website has more information on scheduling defoliation.

Our YouTube video features UCCE
Fresno Farm Advisor Dan Munk.
You also can view the Sustainable Cotton Project’s short YouTube video featuring University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor Dan Munk, who discusses cotton defoliation. The video was taken during  our Sept. 7 Cotton Field Day.

On the pest front, aphids and white flies have been an issue, especially in cotton fields west of Fairfax. But treatments have been effective in managing these pests.
Cotton Tour participants get a first-hand look on Valley cotton cultivation.
Annual Cotton Tour Alert: Once again, buses carrying consumers, apparel company representatives and textile industry officials will be crisscrossing the Valley during our annual Cotton Tour on Tuesday, November 8. The price is right for the tour – FREE. Participants have the opportunity to meet growers, visit a gin and even pick some cotton. Buses will leave the Best Western Apricot Inn – Interstate 5 and West Panoche Road about 23 miles southwest of Firebaugh – at 8:30 a.m. and return about 4 p.m.  Spread the word to anyone you think is interested in joining us. Registration is required. Sign up at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RQG9P3G

Monday, September 19, 2011

Knocking Off Leftover Almonds Can Yield Double Dividends


Walt Bentley
Editor’s note: We welcome again our guest blogger UC IPM entomologist Walt Bentley, whose specialty includes managing pests in almonds.

We are collecting almond nut samples from the orchards to check for damage. To date, the damage is quite low.

Damage has been low this season.
I want to remind farmers that they should be evaluating 200 to 300 nuts throughout the orchard. Then they should compare the samples with the information received from the processor.


Worker uses pole  to knock
off remaining nuts in tree.
- Jack Kelly Clark photo
As a rule, trees should have two or fewer mummy nuts per tree by February 1. You can go to the UC IPM website for more information about pest management guidelines for NOW.

 Lack of good mummy nut removal last year was quite evident in many of the west side orchards.  This needs to be a priority if NOW is to be kept at manageable levels. It will pay off in the long run.

Walt Bentley is a long-time entomologist with the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management program at the Kearney Ag Center in Parlier.