Monday, February 6, 2017

Valley Growers Focus on Winter Chores While Keeping an Eye on Water Forecasts


Mid-winter has arrived after the Valley and Northern California closed the books on a very wet January.
 
Cotton field beds ready for planting this season.

Cotton growers have pretty much finished cultivating fields and added soil amendments to prepare the beds for spring. Cold weather alfalfa fields have had herbicide applications made or sheep brought in for grazing and weed control. Local alfalfa seed was exported to Algeria, Bolivia, Italy and Saudi Arabia.

In the office, growers are wrapping up paperwork for county agriculture commissioners and mapping out crop plans for this season. Some are turning in continuing education hours records to renew their private applicator cards. Others are turning in crop report survey forms.

Sheep grazing in an alfalfa field. (Bruce Hoar photo)
Growers also are catching up on new rules and regulations, such as revisions to the state’s worker protection standards. 

Of course, the big issue among growers is water – how much to expect this season after five years of drought.
  
“Most growers are cautiously optimistic that they will get a higher water allocation,” cotton and alfalfa field scout Carlos Silva says. “They still don’t know how much water they are going to get.”
Growers tell Carlos they are encouraged by the heavy winter rains.
State Water surveyors on their monthly snowpack check.

The optimism was reinforced by last Thursday’s monthly check of the snowpack water content in the Sierra Nevada. State Department of Water Resources (DWR) surveyors reported 31 inches of snow water statewide, the most since 2005. It also was 173 percent of average.

State officials aren’t celebrating yet. “Although this year, so far, is exceptionally wet, storms can cease. Hopefully this year will end up being wet, but we cannot say whether it will be one wet year in another string of dry ones,” state climatologist Mike Anderson said.

Officials point out that many Californians continue to feel the effects of drought and that a number of Central Valley towns still rely on bottled water and water tanks. Groundwater basins are still declining after years of well water use.
California Aqueduct carries state water.

On the good news front, though, State Water last month increased its estimate of this year’sState Water Project (SWP) supply from 45 to 60 percent of most requests by water agencies.
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“With more rain andsnow in the forecast, DWR hopes it will be able to increase the allocation further,” officials said.

Under the current allocation, State Water Project contractors would receive more than 2.5 million acre-feet of the 4.17 million acre-feet they sought. An acre-foot is enough water to supply two typical households for a year.

Valley growers are waiting for the feds to make its water allocation announcement. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation usually makes its first allocation of Central Valley Project water in mid-February, though last season’s was on April 1. Stay tuned.

FIELD DAY: It’s important to start the season learning about the latest information on new state rules governing pesticide use and safety and potential issues with pests. Almond, alfalfa and cotton growers are invited to attend a field day covering these topics during a Wednesday, February 22 field day at the Firebaugh Mendota United Methodist Church, 1660 O Street, Firebaugh. Sponsored by the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project, the free event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and offers continuing education credits. Speakers are: Gilbert Urquizu of the Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office,  who will talk about new pesticide regulations and safety rules; Dr. Pete Goodell of UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management,  who will cover the impact of the weather on pest insects in almonds, cotton and alfalfa for the coming season; and Chris Linneman of the Westside San Joaquin Valley Watershed Coalition, who will talk about the uses of pesticides and their impact on local water quality. More information is available from SJSFP Director Marcia Gibbs at (530) 370-5325 or Marcia@sustainablecotton.org



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