Monday, March 19, 2012

Winter Gives Way to Spring: Let the 2012 Growing Season Begin

Winter sure is going out with a storm. This past weekend’s storms brought up to 1.5 inches of rain in Fresno and more than a half-inch in Firebaugh. Still, no one is declaring a March Miracle, especially for farmers.
With spring arriving Tuesday, we now can look forward with what I consider the start of the 2012 growing season. Ag activity around the Valley certainly is picking up.
The alfalfa crop is growing nicely.

Alfalfa growers are adding nitrogen and nutrients to give their crop one final boost before the first harvest. Herbicide and pesticide applications have taken place. Growers are treating for alfalfa weevils and a light amount of aphids found in various areas. From what I have seen so far, pest pressure is normal for this time of year. I expect the first cutting for alfalfa to occur in about two to three weeks. The crop is coming along quite nicely.

Beehives are moving out of the orchards.
In the almond orchards, the bees are finished buzzing around doing their important pollination chore for the season. Beekeepers are removing hives from the orchards and heading off for their next job. Most trees escaped damage from the frost that hit our area a few weeks ago. Overall, I’m seeing almond trees with a nice crop set this season. That bodes well for a good producing year. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s still months to go before harvest time.

Right now, almond growers are treating for mites and diseases, especially for shot hole, a fungus that survives in infected twigs and as spores on healthy buds, according to the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management website. Because of the relatively mild and dry winter, growers are seeing early signs of mites. Check out UC IPM for more information about mites.

Cotton growers have completed pre-irrigating their fields.
The last of the cotton growers – those with sandy soil – have wrapped up pre-irrigation of their fields. Those with clay and loam soils are starting to work their field beds. Cotton seeds are arriving. Expect the rebound in cotton acreage the past couple of years to end this year, thanks to soft global commodity prices and a drop in federal water allocations in the Westside. Many growers will put more emphasis on other crops such as almonds. But that’s farming for you.
For me, spring means spending more time in the field. This week, I’ll start my weekly field scouting with alfalfa. I’ll be sending out reports to growers participating in the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project. Give me a shout if you see me driving around.

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