Monday, February 3, 2014

San Joaquin Valley Abuzz with Buds, Bugs and Farm Chores

 Just one month into 2014, it certainly looks like farmers are in for a wild and weird year.

 There is the drought emergency declaration. There’s the unprecedented warm, dry weather. And there are signs of pests already populating the fields. That was just January. Who knows what’s in store for the next 11 months.

Despite all the uncertainly, there is one constant for farmers: Work. Our field scouts Carlos Silva and Jeanna Horine report lots of activity in the fields and orchards.

Workers replace old drip lines in an almond orchard.
Almond growers are busy repairing drip lines and emitters. By this time, they should be finished with orchard sanitation – knocking off those mummy nuts to prevent navel orangeworm (NOW) problems. As we have aid before, NOW, is one of the most serious pests in almonds. The bugs can cause serious economic damage and risk to human health.

Jenna reminds growers orchard sanitation also includes checking the crotch of almond trees. They should remove debris that can serve as a winter home for mice, mites and other pests.

Around the orchards, bee boxes are being set up along the perimeters. Jenna reports buds are starting to emerge on some trees because of the warm, dry weather. The lack of rain could cause trees to become water stressed and ultimately lead to serious mite issues later this season. Right now, almond growers are exploring their options to deal with the water issue. Jenna has seen one grower uproot some older almond trees, pulling those out of production to preserve water supplies for younger, more productive trees.

Cow pea aphids     (Iowa State photo) 

The spring-like weather also is raising concern with some alfalfa growers. Carlos has scouted some fields and discovering an early emergence of blue alfalfa and cow pea aphids on the plant stems. He’s alerting growers about the issue. One grower is seriously thinking about treating his field to head off problems in the future. 

State Water Resources surveyor checks water content of snow pack.
On the water front, the state on Friday ordered a temporary halt to water exports to farms in the San Joaquin Valley. The news came a day after water surveyors reported the Sierra snowpack was less than 15 percent of average for this time of year.
West Fresno County farmers served by the Westlands Water District are anticipating a zero water allocation from the federal government. That news should come in a couple weeks. 

Meanwhile, we can do our part to conserve water. Check out a special state website for water-saving ideas.  Let’s hope last week’s rain in the Valley and snow in the Sierra is a start to help ease the strain on water supplies.  Anything helps.
Field Day Alert: Farmers will get a chance to learn at an event that explores drought impacts, pest management and water issue. The free field day will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 11 at the Firebaugh Community Center, 1655 13th St. Firebaugh. The line-up of speakers:

·         UC Cooperative Extension Merced County pomology farm advisor David Doll on drought impacts on almond production.

·         UC IPM advisor Dr. Pete Goodell covering alfalfa and cotton pest control issues for 2014.

·         UCCE Fresno County farm advisor Gurret Brar on bloom time and spring disease control in almonds.

·         Chris Linneman, program manager and engineer with the Westside SJR Watershed Coalition,  covering pesticide use and the impact on local water and air quality.
Continuing education credits have been applied for. More information is available at the Sustainable Cotton Project website or by contacting  project Project Director Marcia Gibbs at (530) 370-5325.

1 comment:

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