Monday, January 23, 2012

Doing a Rain Dance for the Central Valley Farm Region

You might wonder what was that stuff falling from sky recently. Yes, it’s rain – something we haven’t seen since last year.

For growers across the San Joaquin Valley, the dark skies and rain drops are welcome sights. Indeed, almond trees and young alfalfa plants were starting to look a little parched.
During the early winter dry spell, I was seeing some growers irrigating their fields and orchards to keep their trees and plants alive. It’s important that first-year alfalfa plants get adequate water to help develop strong root systems and foliage.

Lately, you started to hear whispers about the dreaded “D” word again. Just the thought of drought is daunting, bringing back painful memories of the fallow fields and abandoned orchards across the Valley.
The good news is some weather forecasters are predicting above average rainfall for February. We’re counting on the storm door to stay open and bring more rain to the Valley and snow to the Sierra Nevadas.
Not only is rain good for the fields and orchards, it also helps reduce the salinity building up in the soil. Let’s keep up the rain dance.

With the start of the New Year, the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project is busy recruiting new almond, alfalfa and cotton growers from Madera, Merced and Fresno counties to join our program. Our participating growers have become better environmental stewards by embracing biological-based Integrated Pest Management practices. They have learned they can improve yields, reduce pesticide use and stay profitable. Growers have access to some of the state’s leading University of California extension farm advisors and IPM specialists.

Through our program, growers can save thousands of dollars in material and labor costs by cutting back on pesticide applications. I estimate each treatment can cost $10 to $20 an acre. For a 200 acre field, for example, that’s a savings of $2,000 to $4,000 for just one pesticide application. Growers interested in signing up for our program can contact me at (559) 259-1981 or by email at Tell a fellow farmer as well.