Monday, May 19, 2014

Ag Workers, Crops Cope with Hot Times in the Springtime

 Whew… Summer came five weeks early last week as the Valley baked under the sun.
That prompted field scouts Jenna Horine and Carlos Silva to hit the road early and wrap up their work in the fields and orchards by early afternoon.

Last Thursday, the high temperature soared to 102 degrees, matching the record high first set in 1927, before “dipping” to 100 on Friday. For much of the week, temperatures had hovered in the mid- to high-90s.
For farmers, drought and hot weather isn’t a good combination.
Almond growers are irrigating to avoid heat stress.
Jenna reports that almond growers moved quickly to lessen the heat stress to their trees and crop. “Everyone is putting on a lot of water.”

On the flip side, the young cotton plants are thriving in the hot weather. Many are one or two nodes above stem. The heat also is speeding up recently cut alfalfa drying in the fields.

Heat speeds up drying of alfalfa in the field.
Meanwhile, pest numbers have been fairly low in almonds. But the hot weather could cause a bump up in crop-threatening bugs.

While we’re accustomed to hot weather around here, this early season heat wave is still tough to take. It’s particularly hard for those working outdoors. 

Farm groups along with Cal/OSHA stress the importance of taking precautions to beat the heat. Carlos, for example, always grabs a large container of cold water and a floppy hat before heading out.
The Fresno County Farm Bureau says growers should implement heat procedures when temperatures top 95 degrees. Here are some tips from the bureau:
  • Drink small amounts of water frequently.
  • Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink.
  • Take advantage of shade-and-rest breaks.
  • Start work earlier in the day, to avoid the afternoon heat.
  • Know how to recognize the symptoms of heat illness, such as poor concentration, cramping, fatigue, blurry vision, headache, dizziness and nausea.
  • If you notice heat illness symptoms in yourself or a co-worker, have the victim stop working, find shade, loosen clothing, get fluids, and fan the body with any item available.
  • Serious fluid loss can lead to heat stroke, which is an emergency -- if this happens, seek medical help right away.
Workers should drink lots of water. - Associated Press photo
Growers also can sign up for a heat illness prevention class offered by organizations such as AgSafe, a nonprofit group led by farmers such as Joe del Bosque, an active growers in the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project and chairman emeritus of AgSafe. Following these basic precautions are good for the worker and the farm.

To Joe, it’s important for employees to work in a safe environment.  And it’s good for the operation. “They (workers) are a vital part of my business,” Joe told us recently. “It’s very important to me being able to work in a fair and safe environment.”

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