Monday, April 16, 2012

Some Valley Growers Are Willing to Roll the Dice

Sometimes, it seems some farmers have a little gambling streak in them. They like to roll the dice and beat the house – or around here in farm country, Mother Nature.

With the unsettled weather lately, I’ve seen some growers willing to pick up the dice and bet their lucky numbers will come up and yield a nice financial payoff.
Ready for cotton planting.

In one cotton field in Dos Palos, for instance, I’ve seen one grower bet his early cotton planting will pay off in the late fall. Usually, pima varieties are planted earlier than acala because they take longer to mature and, thus, are the last cotton to be harvest. Most growers are holding off. In fact, this cooler weather has some growers considering a switch from planting pima to acala. Right now, that’s the back-up plan.

But there’s still enough time for soil temperatures to reach the threshold for planting. Growers can wait a couple more weeks until around April 25 – to get the pima seeds into the ground.

Overall, cotton growers are pretty much finished preparing their beds. Now it has become a waiting game for planting to start.

Cut alfalfa needed to be turned.
There’s a little game of chance going with alfalfa, as well. I’ve seen some growers bale their cut alfalfa a little early, opting to gamble on getting greenbacks now with a lower-quality, greener bale of alfalfa. Normally, newly cut alfalfa needs about eight to 10 days on the ground to dry. But those that cut the alfalfa about a week ago wound up having their harvested crop rained upon. They are betting on (and hoping for)  sunnier, warmer days this week to dry out their alfalfa.

Good bugs for alfalfa pests:
collops beetles and lady bugs.
On the bug front, I’ve been finding an increase in beneficial insects during my scouting rounds in the alfalfa fields. During my field sweeps, I’ve been finding lady bugs, minute pirates, collops beetles and assassin bugs – a natural predators to alfalfa pests. That’s a good sign. UC Integrated Pest Management offers a list of natural enemies and their common prey in alfalfa.  I am still seeing a lot of aphids around. Alfalfa weevils are down due to the alfalfa cutting. Meanwhile, I’ve been spotting some moths flying around. Growers need to keep an eye out for them.

Last Call for the Almond Field Day: Don’t forget to come to our first Almond Field Day of the season. It will be from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday at the corner of Mercey Springs and Cotton Gin roads near Los Banos. The Almond Doctor, aka  pomologist David Doll of the UC Cooperative Extension in Merced County, and long-time entomologist Walt Bentley of UC IPM will share their expertise as they discuss the fruit development period. We’ll meet at an almond orchard at the corner of Mercy Springs and Cotton Gin roads in Los Banos. Look for the field day signs. You can also find directions at the Sustainable Cotton Project’s events website. Tell your friends and I will see you there.

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