Monday, November 24, 2014

Winter Chores Ahead After Farmers Celebrate Fall Harvest

With a little welcome rain sweeping across the Valley in the past week, farmers are pretty much moving into winter mode.

Field scout Carlos Silva spotted a few stragglers wrapping up their alfalfa and cotton harvest in the past couple weeks. The forecast of rain last week – you remember the wet stuff coming from the sky – spurred them to get moving on their last cutting of alfalfa and picking of remaining cotton.
Rootknot nematodes can hit almond orchards.
Unlike bears, though, farmers won’t be going into hibernation for the winter. There are plenty of chores ahead as growers prepare for the next season.

In the almond orchards, for example, some growers are performing nematode soil sampling in orchards that lacked vigorous growth during the season. Rootknot nematodes can be a pesky problem because they can cause knots to form on the roots, leading to reduced tree productivity. Post-harvest also is a time to monitor for diseases and weeds, UC IPM says.

Alfalfa growers now  looking out for weeds. - UC IPM photo
From now until January, alfalfa growers will be surveying for weeds and comparing the results to last year’s records. Annual winter weeds often grow faster than fall planted alfalfa seedlings. The surveys will help growers develop a weed management strategy such as grazing or overseeding with grasses. They also will be looking for signs of vertebrates and monitoring for weevils during the winter, according to UC IPM’s year-round plan for alfalfa

For cotton growers, the most important task after harvest is shredding, uprooting and plowing under plant stocks to comply with state plowdown regulations. Plowdown prevents bollworm infestation and plant regrowth and minimizes additional build up of white flies. UC experts also advises growers to maximize the time between harvest and planting white fly host crops.

A grower plows down cotton stalks after the fiber is harvested.
Each fall, county agricultural commissioners will issue a deadline for all the cotton fields to be plowed down. County ag officials are required by state law to enforce plowdown rules and a host-free period for the pink bollworm. While cotton acreage has slipped in recent years, the crop remains an importance piece of the local farm economy. In Fresno County, cotton has ranked among the top 10 crops economically. Remember, California produces about 90 percent of the nation’s coveted, high-quality pima variety.
State-required plowdown controls pink bollworm in cotton.

Here’s how the Fresno County ag commissioner’s office says about the importance of cotton plowdown: “Pink bollworm is a pest that destroys cotton by burrowing inside unopened bolls. This type of larval damage prevents the cotton lint from developing correctly. These larvae can overwinter in the stalks of cotton plants. In order to have a host-free period, cotton must be plowed down (by a set date) … and planting cannot begin until March 10 of the following year.”

 Ask any grower and he or she will tell you farming is a 24/7 job – year-round. There is little time for rest – except during Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. You can be certain farmers will be enjoying their turkey dinner.

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