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

           The sustainable farming project is a state- and federally funded program under the direction of the Sustainable Cotton Project (, 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.