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.