Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Got My Drift? That’s Not Good for Crops, Workers and Water

The grower surveyed his orchard teeming with lush almond trees.

With field scout Jenna Horine in tow, he pointed to some branches with dying, yellow leaves. It was affecting new growth – branches on the bottom of the tree – on all different varieties in the orchard.
Was the die-back caused by pests? Diseases? 

The grower seemed was puzzled. Jenna asked if he had used Round-Up to control the weeds that popped up over the winter. Indeed, he did – in windy conditions.

The lesson here is growers need to be reminded to be aware of wind conditions when applying pesticides and herbicides. Drift can be an issue that not only impacts the individual grower’s farm, but the neighbor’s operations as well. It also can affect the health of workers and water quality.
Some might recall a string of pesticide drift issues a dozen years ago in Kern County that affected more than 500 people. That prompted UC IPM and Kern County ag officials to conduct a series of safety classes.
 “The old mentality where limited pesticide exposure is just considered part of the job has evolved into a regional ‘zero tolerance’ movement," UC IPM’s David Haviland said at the time.

Turning our attention to the fields, alfalfa growers are in the midst of their second harvest of the season. The recent heat wave is helping dry the freshly cut alfalfa on the ground.

Many growers are planning for a third alfalfa harvest.
Yes, it seems growers are prepared to irrigate again to get at least one more harvest, according to field scout Carlos Silva. Because of the drought and tight water supplies, growers had talked about getting only two harvests in 2014. After that though, it is anyone’s guess if they can squeeze out a fourth cutting.

Carlos says the alfalfa harvest appeared to arrive at the right time. He was finding an increase of caterpillars in the fields. Fortunately, growers didn’t have to deal with growing pest pressure because it was time to harvest. That was a bit of good news during this tumultuous drought-plagued year.

Cotton is up and growing with no significant issues. Stay tuned.

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