Monday, January 14, 2013

A Winter Wonderland in the High Sierra is Cool Down in Central Valley Farm Country

As Central Valley farmers start mapping out plans for their crops for the New Year, they do so with an eye to the sky. So far, the early winter storms and snowfall in the Sierra Nevada are putting a little twinkle in their eyes.

Water Resources surveyors measure the winter snowpack.
                                   - Department  of Water Resources photo
Here’s why: state Department of Water Resources surveyors took a trek up Echo Summit a few days into 2013 and took their first measurements of the Sierra snowpack. The good news is the statewide water content came in at 134 percent of average for this time of year. Moreover, the snowpack is almost half way to the April 1 average – the date when the snowpack usually hits its peak before the spring melt.

Why is this important? Well, the snowpack provides about one-third of the water for our farms as well as residences and businesses. Last year, thanks to a series of late spring storms, farmers south of the Delta received a 40 percent water allocation from the Bureau of Reclamation.

So far, 2013 is off to a nice snowy start. Let’s keep doing our storm dance.

While water availability plays a role in crop decisions, the west stuff also can influence pest management issues. Take cotton, for example.

Dr. Pete Goodell, integrated pest management cooperative extension advisor with the UC Statewide IPM Program, has this rainy day advice for cotton growers:

It is valuable to watch the rainfall patterns between November and May.  Remember the 2012-13 rainy season is being labeled “La Nada” because of a weak El Ninõ situation and the resulting unpredictability in the existing weather pattern. Rainfall amount and duration during late autumn, winter and early spring is the largest determinant of potential lygus severity the following summer.”
 Remember to check your rain gauges and keep those rain boots handy.

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