Monday, July 15, 2013

A Farmer’s Life: Going from One Worry to Another

This time of year, it seems growers find a few extra gray hairs on their head and wrinkles on their forehead.

You might call it a case of “worry fever.” Day and night, growers worry about bugs, plant diseases, rising expenses and crop yields. The height of the summer season exacerbates this condition.

Take almond growers. Right now, says almond field scout Jenna Horine, growers are worried about mites flaring up in their orchards at the onset of hull split. And they are also concerned about navel orangeworm and peach twig borer, too.

How should they time hull split spraying? How can they protect pollinators? Should they turn to softer, more environmentally friendly materials? How effective are organic oils such as orange oil. Are there other options?

Watering heavily traveled dirt roads can help control mites.
Jenna says the answers aren’t always black and white. Many factors come into play. Growers should consider the surrounding environment, such as neighboring crops or dusty roads, she says. For example, spraying water on well-traveled dirt roads can control dust and prevent mites from being blown into the orchards. Or natural predators can help manage the pests and lessen the amount of chemical applications.

A good stress reliever is education. Yes, more growers have become better educated and understand the big picture about integrated pest management. They are asking more questions of the pest control advisors. And many are no longer just following what their neighbors are doing.

Rust can develop on leaves in humid regions. - UC IPM photo     
What happens after mites are finally out of the picture this season? Well, the next worry for growers will be rust, a disease that can be triggered by the high humidity we have been experiencing in the Valley. Rust can cause leaves to fall and impact bloom the following year. Decisions, decisions.
Of course, almond growers don’t have a monopoly on crop worries. Cotton farmers are showing a few more gray hairs as they worry about plant getting overstressed by hot, dry conditions as well as emerging lygus          populations.
The extreme heat prompts growers to irrigate cotton again.
Field scout Carlos Silva says plant development and lygus are key concerns at this time.  The extreme heat prompted many growers to start the second irrigation of the growing season – this piggybacks the first irrigation just a couple weeks ago. While cotton can tolerate a certain amount of water stress, this prolonged heat wave has growers worried these conditions could slow plant growth and ultimately lower yields. 
 So far, lygus counts have been low. In fact, growers are finding pests to be under control at the moment. Of course, that’s not going to stop growers from worrying about their crop. Soon, they’ll be concerned about whiteflies and aphids and preventing sticky cotton.

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