Why It’s Important to Celebrate Ag Day Every Day

Organization focuses on education for California youth 365 days a year RDOWater_AgDay

Author: Judy Culbertson, California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom

If you ask students where their food comes from, many will say, “From the grocery store.” Frankly, that concerns me. Far too many people are unaware of the role of California agriculture in their daily lives and what it takes to have food on their dinner tables.

We know that food and fiber doesn’t just arrive at the grocery or clothing store—or magically appear on our dinner tables or in our closets. There’s an entire industry dedicated to providing safe and plentiful food for consumption, as well as a wide range of comfortable, fashionable clothing choices.

We rely on agriculture for the very necessities of life. From beef and pork to cotton and corn, agriculture is working harder than ever to meet the needs of Californians, Americans and others around the world.

This week, the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, California Women for Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture host Ag Day 2017 at the state Capitol. It is a day to reflect and be grateful for agriculture. It is a day to share with California legislators and the public the educational programs and materials we provide to students and teachers so they can learn, for example, how each American farmer feeds more than 144 people.

Of course, it’s not just the farmer and rancher who make our food possible. The entire agriculture sector, all the way to the grocery store, comprises a chain that brings food to every citizen—and millions of people abroad.

At the Capitol event, 50 agricultural organizations gather to reinforce the appreciation people have for the role California agriculture plays in our lives. The day includes interactive displays, farm animals, dancing, farm equipment and, of course, plenty of food. Legislators join in and see the passion and commitment the agricultural community has for agricultural education.

Student authors of California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom’s Imagine this… Story Writing Contest autograph books of the stories they wrote about agriculture, receive recognition on stage during the program, and are honored by their legislators during a ceremony in the Governor’s Council Room.

Students taught by the CFAITC Outstanding Educator of the Year, Lisa Liss of Woodlake Elementary in Sacramento, take a special walk around the Capitol grounds, sponsored by United HealthCare, to promote healthy eating and lifestyles.

Elsewhere in the state, more than a dozen Farm Days take place this month, organized by county Farm Bureaus, high schools and fairs. From Siskiyou to San Benito to Fresno and Los Angeles, thousands of kids will experience agriculture for a day. Yolo County alone will reach 4,000 students this week.

Ag Day at the Capitol is one location, one day. CFAITC focuses on educating California youth 365 days of the year. Our role is not only to reach students and teachers, but also to equip volunteers and other organizations with lesson plans, hands-on activities and other educational resources that enable them to teach accurately and professionally about this critically important part of our lives.

Ag in the Classroom works to expand that first day of experiencing agriculture through projects such as our Taste and Teach program, sponsored by Raley’s supermarkets. Through this program, Raley’s supports 100 Northern California teachers by providing gift cards and a binder of lessons developed by Ag in the Classroom that focus on fruits and vegetables, their nutritional benefits, growing habits and fun facts about them.

As one of the largest procurers of California agricultural products, McDonald’s is investing in agricultural education by organizing field trips to its restaurants and teaching students that the food there comes from the same farms and ranches as the food they buy in a grocery store.

CFAITC could not do what it does without support from California farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations. For example, the California Farm Bureau Federation has supported Ag in the Classroom since its inception in 1986. The California Dairy Council has brought dairy cows to school sites every day of the school year for years, and has been an innovator in nutrition education since 1919. The 48th District Agricultural Association features agriculture and education and an annual farm day in the Los Angeles Basin. For the past 65 years, the California CattleWomen have traveled to schools in rural and urban areas to help children experience agriculture.

Ag in the Classroom supports thousands of teachers every year. We work with hundreds of farmers, ranchers and associations who share their knowledge, time and energy in support of agricultural education.

More than 7 million students are enrolled in California public and private schools. Is it a lofty goal to reach them all? Yes, it is! Can we reach the goal? Yes, together, we can!

Not every child has an opportunity to grow up on a farm, but through efforts of farmers and ranchers, Ag in the Classroom programs and supporters of agricultural education, every child can learn about where their food and fiber comes from.

Full article shared from Ag Alert, with credit to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

What Will 2017 Mean for California Water Users?

What will 2017 mean for California water users and the farmers who need it to grow crops? california-water

Author: Todd Fitchette, Western Farm Press

Winter across California has been a tale of two seasons in the past couple years.

Last year this time we were coming off a wet December. Little did we know at the time, but the taps would largely be in the “off” position for a couple months before faucets reopened and liquid gold began falling from the skies.

Knock on wood, that hasn’t happened. At least not yet.

Let’s hope it doesn’t.

Forecasters are calling for an “atmospheric river” to pummel California this week and bring continued blessings to a state parched by several years of severe drought conditions.

All this rain and snow is a good thing for Mediterranean Climate zones that produce the volume of food as California does.

The recent December freeze that kept citrus growers up at night wasn’t the blockbuster of previous seasons. Instead, it helped growers leave fruit on the trees rather than rush to harvest them.

Now they’re rushing as I write this because heavy rain is expected later this week in the San Joaquin Valley. The rain will put a temporary halt to citrus harvest as I’m told the fruit cannot be picked when it’s wet as it damages the fruit.

Meanwhile, tree nut growers were shaking their trees as part of their winter sanitation protocols to remove “mummy” nuts, a necessary activity to rob pests like the Navel orangeworm from a place to hunker down and over-winter.

Navel orangeworms, later in the growing season, can wreak havoc and cause yield losses in almonds and pistachios.

On the flip side of the natural water blessings California is experiencing, the State Water Board is moving ahead with plans to take half the natural flows from several key rivers used to irrigate millions of acres of farmland and produce billions of dollars’ worth of crops.

The decision isn’t final and likely won’t be until later in the year. Though thousands of farmers and others reliant on waters from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers spoke in unified opposition to the state’s plans, the looks on the faces of water board members at public hearings suggested they were simply going through the motions to do what they want, regardless of how damaging it will be to the state’s economy and the people who live here.

This certainly won’t be the only challenge farmer’s face in 2017. Regardless of whether Mother Nature calls an end to the climatic drought, regulators and lawmakers appear to be laser-focused on continuing their regulatory drought in California.

Time will tell how effective the promises of the upcoming Trump administration will be to pull back on the onerous rules, regulations and laws keeping California farmers from adequate water supplies.

Meanwhile, bring on the rain.

Full article shared from Western Farm Press website.

Indio Store Hosting Open House

Customers invited to get a first look at newly combined RDO Water / RDO Equipment Co. store RDO-Agriculture

Author: RDO Water

RDO Water / RDO Equipment Co. in Indio is hosting an open house on Thursday, November 17 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Customers and individuals interested in learning more about complete agriculture equipment and irrigation solutions are encouraged to attend the event to meet the team, tour the store, and enjoy lunch.

A full-service John Deere agriculture dealer, RDO Equipment Co. offers both new and used equipment, vast parts inventories, and service departments with highly-trained, certified technicians in all stores.

Bruce Daughters, Vice President of RDO Water, says he’s eager to show both RDO Equipment Co. and RDO Water customers the advantages of working with a single enterprise. “We’re poised to offer Indio growers solutions for their agriculture equipment and irrigation needs, as well as access to new opportunities” he said.

RDO Water’s full irrigation offerings include pipe and system rental, pipe and pump repair, system automation, consulting, design and installation services, and products including drip tape, sprinkler heads, and fertilizer.
Team members from RDO Equipment Co. and RDO Water will be available to answer questions and talk with attendees about the products, services, and support offered.

“The RDO Equipment Co. team is really looking forward to the opportunity to meet RDO Water customers,” Joe Castillo, General Manager of RDO Equipment Co. in Indio said.

To learn more about the open house, contact your account manager, or stop by or call RDO Water in Indio.

Pistachio Growers Wrap Up Record Harvest

Minimal insect damage and “blanks” found in this year’s crop California-Pistachios

Author: Tim Hearden, Capital Press

Pistachio growers in the San Joaquin Valley are wrapping up their harvest of a bumper crop that’s set to easily surpass the record 555 million pounds produced in 2012.

Growers are taking heavy hauls while finding very little insect damage, said Richard Matoian, executive director of the Fresno-based American Pistachio Growers.

The group has estimated this crop will end up weighing in at between 650 million and 800 million pounds.

“As I’ve talked with growers, the harvest has gone really well across the board,” Matoian said. “There’s no trailer-busters or over-the-top huge crops, but every orchard seems to be running pretty heavy.”

Trees were loaded with nuts after achieving sufficient chill hours last winter for the first time in three years and after last winter’s rains improved drought conditions in many orchards.

The big crop is a contrast to last season, when the drought and a lack of winter chilling hours caused growers to encounter an inordinate amount of “blanks” — fully formed shells in which a nut never developed.

This year’s percentage of blanks was closer to normal, or about 10 percent of the crop, Matoian said. What growers are dealing with this season is closed shells, but they can open them up mechanically, he said.

“The other thing I’m hearing is that staining on the shells is low,” he said. Hulls that adhere to the pistachio shell can cause discoloration, which can affect quality, he said.

While walnut and almond growers in California are trying to rebound from a steep drop in prices, wholesale pistachio prices from last year to this year are only off about 15 percent, Matoian said.

Growers have initially been guaranteed between $1.70 and $1.80 per pound, but that will likely go up via a negotiated “marketing bonus” at the season’s end. Farms ended up receiving roughly $3.50 per pound for their 2014 crop.

Matoian expects the worldwide market to be “pretty much on par with last year,” when California’s light crop was offset by big crops in other parts of the world. This year, it’s California that has the big crop, he said.

“We’re going to be able to regain a lot of export-country share that we had lost in the last year,” Matoian said. “That’s my belief.”

Full article shared from Capital Press website.

Demand for Brussel Sprouts is Booming

Growers are seeing good yields, good quality, and good prices Brussel-Sprouts

Author: Kevin Hecteman, Ag Alert

Remember when kids made funny faces at the dinner table when they were presented with a plate of Brussels sprouts?

Yeah, not so much anymore. These days, people are eating them faster than Steve Bontadelli can grow them.

Despite expanding his acreage beyond the Santa Cruz area, “we still haven’t been able to catch up with demand,” he said. “The market is still strong. But we’re doing our best.”

Santa Cruz County had 1,129 acres planted to Brussels sprouts in 2015, according to the county’s crop report. Those acres produced about $16.4 million worth of sprouts. About 300 of those acres in the Santa Cruz area have Bontadelli’s name on them; other growers he works with have close to 300 acres among them. Through a partnership, Bontadelli has additional land in Oceanside and Mexico for winter planting and harvesting.

So far, 2016 has been kind.

“It looks really good,” Bontadelli said of his crop. “We started harvesting by hand in July; that’s just now winding up as we’re moving into the machine harvest part. Quality’s been excellent. It was a perfect growing summer because of all the fog we had. They really like that cool summer weather.”

Too much heat results in leafy, fluffy sprouts, he added. Buyers should look for “a nice green color, no yellow leaves, firm compact heads, inch and a quarter or so in diameter.”

As of last week, a 25-pound carton of Brussels sprouts was going for $30, still a high price, Bontadelli said.

“Records have been broken for the last couple of years,” he said. “It was $40 for a month last year, which a few years ago was unheard of.”

The harvest in Monterey County is looking good, too.

“So far, production here in Salinas and Monterey County has been off to a great start,” said Katie Harreld, sales manager and Brussels sprouts commodities manager at Ippolito International in Salinas. “We’re seeing very good yields, very good quality, and production continues to pick up each week as we get more and more into the fall and ready for the big holiday pushes we get in November and December.”

Ippolito has sprouts growing in Monterey County, Oxnard and Mexico to help keep up with demand. Acreage has increased each year, Harreld said. She attributed the growing popularity of Brussels sprouts to chefs looking for new dishes to prepare.

“You’re seeing Brussels sprouts on so many menus now in restaurants, on a lot of the cooking shows that you see on TV and a lot of the food magazines,” Harreld said. “They’re being prepared so many different ways now. The creativity the chefs are using is giving people more ways to taste them than they ever did before—they were just getting steamed and boiled—but it’s just each year the demand and the pull just gets larger and larger. They’ve almost become an everyday vegetable.”

That growth led Bontadelli to look for ways to boost production. One way is to begin harvesting earlier in the year.

“The reason we hand-harvest is to get them sooner,” he said. “The plant naturally develops from the bottom up. In order to machine-harvest them, they all need to be the same size. So you go in, you pinch the terminal bud on the plant about 60 days before your harvest time. The sprouts on the bottom are maybe a half-inch diameter. That stops the plant from growing, and the sprouts all even up, become about the same size on the stem, so that you can pretty much harvest everything that’s on the plant.

“So you pick them by hand … the bottom ones get to be an inch, inch and a quarter in diameter, and you just pick the bottom two or three rings. You water them, you come back a couple of weeks later and pick another couple of rings and work your way up the plant as the sprouts mature, which allows you to start harvesting in 90 days instead of 150 days that you have to wait for them to be all the same size.

“It’s a lower-volume thing,” Bontadelli said. “There didn’t used to be very much demand in June or July for Brussels sprouts. It was more corn or watermelon.”

Bontadelli is a fourth-generation farmer; his father and uncle developed the Brussels-sprout operation in the 1960s, he said.

“They were growing strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, a lot of the things that we grow here on the Central Coast,” Bontadelli said. “When the Brussels sprouts started becoming popular in this area, we found that they grew very well. They made the decision to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond rather than the small fish in the big pond.”

Ippolito is another of those big fish. The company describes itself as the largest grower and shipper of fresh-market Brussels sprouts in North America. Harreld said her company sends the vegetables all over the United States and into Canada; others find their way onto cruise ships sailing out of Florida. Harreld said her company has been able to keep up with demand, but it’s not easy.

“One of the challenges with Brussels sprouts is they’re a very long crop, from when it’s planted to when it’s harvested,” Harreld said.

“Brussels sprouts can be a six- to seven-month crop depending on the time of year,” she added. “That can pose a challenge when trying to keep up with that demand because it’s hard to make a quick reaction. You’ve got to be really on top of your numbers and your plantings.”

Bontadelli, of course, highly recommends adding these sprouts to one’s diet.

“They’re really good for you,” Bontadelli said. “They have more vitamin C than an orange, high in (vitamin) A and folic acid, a lot of anti-cancer benefits, too,” he said.

Kevin Hecteman is an assistant editor of Ag Alert.

Full article shared from Ag Alert, with credit to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Micro-Sprinklers in Strawberry Production Saves Water

Research study conducted in partnership with RDO Water Strawberry-Micro-Sprinkler

Author: RDO Water

In October 2014, a 10-month research study began on the use of micro-sprinklers in strawberry production. RDO Water was a key participant in the study, conducted at Manzanita Berry Farms in Santa Maria, CA, in partnership with University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension.

RDO Water released its results and analysis of the study in January of this year. Earlier this month, UC published a story specific to the water-savings discovered in the study, as included below.

The Issue
Water is an important resource for growing plants, and it has become scarce due to epic drought conditions in California. Conserving water through improved irrigation practices is critical for maintaining acreage of a lucrative commodity such as strawberry. Strawberry growers typically provide supplemental irrigation through overhead aluminum sprinklers to mitigate the dry conditions of the region. However, they can be inefficient systems, because they require a significant amount of water, and because there is plastic mulch on the beds, which limits the water that enters the soil and increases runoff potential. Micro-sprinklers, commonly used in orchard systems, could offer an efficient alternative to conventional aluminum sprinklers.

What Has ANR Done?
A study was conducted at Manzanita Berry Farms in Santa Maria during the 2014–2015 production season to evaluate the potential of micro-sprinklers in strawberry production. The study compared conventional aluminum sprinklers with micro-sprinklers on about one hundred and twenty 330-foot-long strawberry beds. Data were collected on the amount of water distributed, electrical conductivity of soil that determines salt condition, strawberry yield, and the incidence and severity of powdery mildew and botrytis fruit rot. While there were no conclusive findings about diseases, there were significant water savings without a negative impact on fruit yield. Detailed information about the study design and findings can be found at: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcorepostdetail.cfm?postnum=19699.

The Payoff
Significant water savings without additional maintenance costs.
This study demonstrated 32% water savings in just 3 weeks of using the micro-sprinkler system. This new information can inform future growing practices for this important California crop, valued at $2.2 billion. An initial estimate by a vendor suggests that equipment and handling costs of the micro-sprinklers are more or less similar to those of the aluminum sprinklers. If adopted, strawberry growers could conserve resources without incurring additional maintenance costs or experiencing any changes to strawberry yield.

 

To learn more about micro-sprinklers, contact Danilu Ramirez at dramirez@rdowater or a local  RDO Water store. The full list of RDO Water’s eight locations in Arizona and California can be found at http://rdowater.com/contact.

 

Full article shared from UC Delivers, with credit to Dr. Surendra Dara.

Record California Walnut Crop at 670,000 Tons

2016 crop is 11 percent larger than last year Walnut-grower

Author: Cary Blake, Western Farm Press

California English walnut growers are poised to produce about 670,000 tons of nuts, up 11 percent from last year’s production of 603,000 tons, according to a survey by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) at Sacramento.

NASS’ 2016 Walnut O.M. Survey utilized a total of 729 blocks with two sample trees per block. Survey data suggested average nut set at 1,406 per tree, up 11 percent from last year’s 1,272.

In the survey, 2016 statewide percent of sound kernels in-shell was 98.7 percent with the in-shell weight per nut at 21.6 grams. The average in-shell suture measurement was 32.2 millimeters. The in-shell cross-width measurement was 32.7 and the average length in-shell was 38.2 millimeters.

All sizing measurements were below average levels since 1985.

NASS says the 2016 walnut season began with fair amounts of winter moisture and adequate chilling hours. Weather during the walnut bloom was average – a mix of ideal days and others with stronger winds and wet weather.

Rain during the spring moths increased blight chances.

Full article shared from Western Farm Press website.

RDO Water Acquires Kuida Ag Supply Company of Salinas

Acquisition expands irrigation offerings at RDO Water stores in Salinas & Watsonville RDOWater_Salinas

Author: RDO Water

RDO Water, along with RDO Equipment Co., announces the acquisition of Kuida Ag Supply Company of Salinas. Over the next few weeks, RDO Water will be moving all Kuida Ag operations to its combination RDO Equipment Co. / RDO Water stores in Salinas and Watsonville.

The acquisition expands RDO Water’s offerings of irrigation products and solutions, which includes pipe and system rental; pipe and pump repair; system automation, design and installation services; consulting services; and products including drip tape, sprinkler heads and fertilizer.

RDO Water is also retaining the full Kuida Ag staff, bringing its strong community ties, deep knowledge of the industry and region, and more than 25 years of experience to the RDO Equipment Co. and RDO Water businesses.

“We’re thrilled to be adding Kuida Ag to the RDO Water team,” Bruce Daughters, Vice President of RDO Water said. “The company’s strong customer relationships and regional insights are all valuable on their own, but most important is the philosophy of Kuida Ag. One that treats customers as stakeholders in the business and, above all else, puts people first. It aligns with how we’ve always done business at RDO Water and will continue to do going forward.”

Not only does the acquisition enhance RDO Water’s offerings, it opens additional opportunities for RDO Equipment Co. customers as well. Darrell Olson, General Manager of RDO Equipment Co. in Salinas explained, “Our customers have come to expect a total solutions experience from us, with agricultural equipment, service, and irrigation solutions. It’s exciting for us to provide them even greater opportunities to enhance their business.”

RDO Equipment Co., a full-service John Deere agriculture equipment dealer, has been serving the Salinas and Watsonville areas since the dealerships were acquired in 2011. The company acquired RDO Water – Salinas in 2013 and added RDO Water to the Watsonville store in 2015.

A grand opening celebration is planned in October at the RDO Equipment Co. / RDO Water store in Salinas. Customers and partners can stay up-to-date on details by visiting the RDO Water and RDO Equipment Co. websites.

Butterflies May Signal Future Alfalfa Problems

Alfalfa caterpillars, the larvae of butterfly eggs, can cause reductions in yield and quality Butterflies-Alfalfa

Author: Mike Rankin, Hay & Forage Grower

Butterflies in alfalfa fields may be free and make for a good photo opportunity, but they also can indicate future alfalfa worm-feeding issues. That’s the warning coming out of Central California where alfalfa fields are awash with yellow and white butterflies this summer.

“Some alfalfa fields appear more yellow and white than green with outbreaks of alfalfa caterpillar butterflies in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys,” notes Rachael Long, an extension farm advisor in the region. “In certain cases, the populations have been massive,” she recently reported in the University of California extension’s Alfalfa & Forage News.

It’s not that the butterflies do any direct damage, but the eggs they lay soon develop into larvae known as alfalfa caterpillars. The yellow butterflies, sometimes referred to as sulfur butterflies, are cyclical, occurring in large numbers every few years. According to Long, contributing to high populations are factors such as slow and uneven alfalfa growth, a lack of predator insects such as the parasitoid wasp, and hot, dry weather.

The alfalfa caterpillar worm is green with a white stripe along each side. “They consume entire leaves and strip a plant, causing significant reductions in yield and quality if numbers are high enough,” Long notes. In severe cases, plants can be completely stripped of the high-value leaves.

Sulfur butterflies and the associated alfalfa caterpillar are not confined to California. The species can be found throughout the United States. According to the “Compendium of Alfalfa Diseases and Pests” (Third Edition), this pest does the most damage in the southwestern U.S., usually on irrigated fields. In southern regions, up to seven generations can occur, whereas in northern locations there may be as few as two.

The economic threshold for controlling alfalfa caterpillars is 10 healthy, nonparisitized caterpillars per sweep of the net. California specialists recommend scouting for the pest in conjunction with armyworms. They have produced a video that helps growers and consultants identify the worms, their natural parasite enemies, and how to differentiate a healthy worm from one that is parasitized.

If treatment thresholds are reached and the field is not close to harvest maturity, there are several chemical control options available for spraying alfalfa. Products containing the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are also an option. Long reports that a number of fields in Central California have already required chemical applications to control their worm outbreak.

Full article shared from Hay & Forage Grower website.

Drip Irrigation Study Shows WUE Improvement

Study evaluated drip system distribution uniformity in key produce regions of California California_Drip_Irrigation

Author: Hank Giclas, Western Grower & Shipper

Water use efficiency has long been a priority for produce growers in the United States, but with diminishing water resources there has been a renewed urgency to improve efficiency in drip irrigation systems.

Western Growers, in concert with JR Simplot Water Services and The Toro Company, recently concluded a study to evaluate distribution uniformity in drip irrigation systems in key produce regions in California, including both the Oxnard Plain and the Coachella Valley.  This study was done in cooperation with Western Growers members who were interested in water efficiency and will be published soon to provide useful information to those operating drip systems.

An irrigation system’s uniformity of water distribution or distribution uniformity (DU) is a key measurement of a system’s water use efficiency.  If water is not distributed evenly or uniformly on a field, areas receiving less acre-feet of water may have poorer plant health and reduced crop yields.  Conversely, to compensate for unequal distribution and avoid reduced yields, the system must over-irrigate.

DU, expressed as a percentage, is considered outstanding when above 90 percent, as good between 70-90 percent, and poor when it is below 70 percent.  Operating with a DU above 90 percent makes good economic sense in that DU correlates closely to crop yield and reduces costs related to increased water use, which includes the water itself, energy to power the system, and often fertilizers and other chemicals run through drip systems.

These increased costs can be significant.  For example, an irrigation system operating at 75 percent DU versus 85 percent DU can use more than twice the water, three times the fertilizer and increase energy cost by three times.  In addition to increased costs, poor DU also impacts yield revenue.  A study in 2014 (J Anshutz, “Retrofitting your irrigation system for success and profitability”) assumed an average yield of 2,500 pounds per acre and a crop value of $3 per pound.  In a field with 85 percent DU, the author estimated a per-acre revenue loss of $188 due to DU degradation, while in a field with 75 percent DU, the loss grew dramatically to $563 per acre.  These numbers increase substantially as DU further degrades below 70 percent, demonstrating a real impact on the bottom line for growers using poorly designed and maintained irrigation systems.

Read the rest of the article here.

Full article shared from Toro DripTips website.