Welcome to our Ag Blog. Our field scouts will offer a unique ground-level perspective from the field to you as an independent field scout with the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project. Our mission is to promote sustainable farming systems throughout the Central Valley and provide you with the latest information about cotton, almond and alfalfa crops. From time to time, you'll also find guest posts from our project team and other contributors. This Blog is edited by Gilbert Mohtes-Chan.
Monday, July 8, 2013
If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Under Some Cool Shade and Drink Lots of Water
Hot dogs and hamburgers weren’t the only things sizzling across
the San Joaquin Valley over the holiday weekend.
A string of suffocating triple-digit temperatures beat down
on the Valley. In fact, the Fresno area recorded its highest low temperature
ever at a “cool” 80 degrees on the Fourth of July morning. In some parts of the
region, highs topped 110 degrees, report field scouts Jenna Horine and Carlos
While 100-degree weather is common here – we average 36 days
of triple-digit temperatures every year – this heat still takes your breath
away, especially if you’re working outdoors. Weather forecasters called this heat
wave extreme even by our standards. Forecasters say the string of consecutive
100-degree-plus days could finally be broken Satursday with the temperature
dipping below triple digits (albeit 99 degrees) for the first time in over two weeks.
It was extreme enough to worry about the safety of field
workers. Carlos tells us the farm where his father works as a foreman sent its
workers went home early during the heat wave, calling it a day by 2 p.m.
Indeed, Carlos heads out to scout the cotton and alfalfa
fields by 6 a.m., packing lots of water in an ice chest and wearing pants, a
long sleeve shirt and floppy hat. He covers up to protect himself for the
scorching sun. Jenna, too, sets out at 6 a.m. so she can wrap up her scouting
in the almond orchards by 1 p.m.
Yes, heat illness is a serious matter for farmers and ag
workers. Every spring, Cal-OSHA works with farm community to sponsor training
sessions about preparing for the hot summer months. State law entitles outdoor
workers to have cool, fresh water as well as a shade area for hourly breaks.
The California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association offers
a Heat Illness Prevention Program Tool Kit for farm supervisors to carry in
their pickups. For more information, contact the association office at (559)
Another resource is heat illness compliance aids prepared the
Ventura County Agricultural Association. You can access them online here.
Meanwhile, this heat can be a double-edge sword for crops.
Cotton plants are growing well under the hot weather while
pests are in check at the moment. The plants are at 15 to 18 main stem nodes
with up to 10 fruiting branches. We’ll start looking at square retention rates
soon. However, some growers are concerned the extreme heat could have an impact
on yield. We will have to wait to see how that plays out as the season
Spider mites found on a leaf.
The extreme heat at the onset of hull split presents some
challenges for growers. In its latest monthly crop round-up for the region,
Blue Diamond Almonds reported: “Growers are
monitoring soil moisture levels closely as they work to withhold irrigation to
one-half of consumptive use for a two-week period in an effort to reduce the
incidence of fungal hull rot infections, while not imposing undue stress on the
trees. This delicate balance is made much more difficult by the heat wave
currently enveloping the entire Central Valley.”
“Everybody is trying to keep up with the water because of
the heat,” Jenna reports. Water-stressed orchards can trigger an explosion of
spider mites. These pests will suck the cell content from leaves and ultimately
can cause leaves to drop. A number of growers have been treating for mites.
Some are applying orange oil, considered by UC IPM as one of the “organically
acceptable ways of managing spider mites.” Check out UC IPM online for more about spider mites.
A tractor sprays for pests in a Valley almond orchard.