Monday, March 5, 2012

Ready to Spring Forward with This Year's Growing Season

Valley almond orchards are showing their brilliant colors.

With daylight lasting longer every day, activity is picking up in the fields and orchards across the San Joaquin Valley. I expect it to get a lot busier next week as we spring forward with Daylight Savings Time coming up this weekend. Longer, sunlit days certainly signal another growing season is upon us.

Cotton growers pre-irrigating their fields.
Cotton growers are continuing to pre-irrigate their fields in preparation of the spring planting. Those with sandy soil are just starting pre-irrigation.

Around the orchards, there is a sea of white and pale pink lighting up the landscape. Trees are in full bloom – a spectacular sight and wonderful Kodak moment for photo buffs. Small leaves are already developing on the trees.

Impact of shot hole fungus.
UC IPM photo/Jack Kelly Clark
While there was steady snow falling in the mountains, the late-winter storm didn’t produce much rain on the Valley floor. We had anywhere from a 1/10th to 1/20th of an inch of rain. Still to guard against disease and what rain we had, a lot of growers are applying their second bloom spray. That will prevent brown rot blossom blight and shot hole fungus from developing. Thanks to the warm weather, bees have been active pollinating the almond trees.

 You can see the visible signs of  brown rot blossom blight.
                                                 UC IPM photo/Jack Kelly Clark
The alfalfa crop is growing nicely. I anticipate the first cutting to take place in about three weeks – a little earlier than the usual because of the mild winter. Growers are now treating for alfalfa weevils as well as weeds. Some are combining treatments with one application to save on labor costs. Growers should keep in mind that it’s a good practice to rotate their chemicals to avoid long-term pesticide resistance.

Growers are treating for alfalfa weevils.
If you want to learn more about pest management guidelines for alfalfa weevils, the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) program offers a wealth of information through its website. UC IPM also offers tips about weed management for alfalfa.

Water update: Despite last week’s heavy dusting of snow in the Sierra Nevada, the water outlook remains iffy for Valley growers, especially those in the Westlands Water District. The Bureau of Reclamation announced an initial forecast of 30 percent water allocation. Westlands General Manager Thomas Birmingham called the announcement both “disappointing” given the near-record amount of water stored in reservoirs and “outstanding” in light of the dry conditions this winter. That is prompting some growers to cut back on their cotton planting this year and opt for other crops such as tomatoes. I’m sure we haven’t heard the rest of this story. To be continued…

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