Deserts – Key to Feeding Future Global Population

Food crop production must expand into land areas considered to harsh, wet, or dry RDO-Water

Author: Lee Allen, Western Farm Press

Merle Jensen may not walk on water, but he knows a lot about it – the water part anyway.

He says, “Farming’s future is totally dependent on the availability of good water for crop production and the proper placement of that water for higher yield. The whole future of growing crops is dependent on the best method of irrigation and fertigation, and farmers would be wise to consider adapting the concept of drip irrigation now – or they might find themselves out of business.”

Jensen, a retired professor Emeritus plant scientist at the University of Arizona (UA), spent his career growing vegetable crops in harsh desert climates over the world – from Mexico and Latin America to Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa.

“There are over 20,000 miles of desert coastline in the world that, if made habitable, could feed millions of people,” he says, strongly recommending drip irrigation for plants grown in sand.

In most cases, edibles are seeded directly into leached beach sand and once growing are put on constant liquid-feed solutions of commercial-grade fertilizer applied through the irrigation system.

With a United Nations estimation that the world’s population will grow by an additional 4 billion to 11.2 billion by 2100, there’s a major concern by food scientists about where food will be grown.

“Vast areas of prime agricultural land are being taken out of production each year and we’re losing farmland and rich river valleys,” Jensen says.

“Production of food crops will have to expand into land areas always thought as too harsh, too wet or dry. If we are to successfully increase our supply of food, we must increase the output our land is producing.”

He adds, “Growth in food production will not keep pace unless we extend agriculture into new areas. And toward that end, the day will come when the world’s deserts must be cultivated.”

That day is here thanks to a variety of issues that work in conjunction toward a common goal, including trickle irrigation where measured amounts of a water and nutrient mix drip onto plants from a narrow hose running the length of the furrow, using whatever soil is available, including sand in Iran, Morocco, Jordan, Israel, and the American Southwest.

A People magazine feature on horticulture quoted Jensen saying, “Year-round growth can give yields 10 to 40 times greater than standard open-field production.”

Another publication, Horticulture magazine, cited “the outlandish world of Merle Jensen” who “has a penchant for blending Buck Rogers with Rube Goldberg for futuristic desert farming.”

Well, the future is now.

According to scientists with degrees from Cal Poly, Cornell, and Rutgers, the pro versus con formula is pretty simple. Over the short term, the negatives include a higher cost to implement along with salinity hazards and an increased sensitivity to clogging.

Jensen replies, “Expensive, yes, but the future alternative is you’re either in production or out of it, and you won’t be in production if you don’t find a way to conserve water.”

Advantages tend to outweigh negatives – maximum use of water maximizes crop yield, less weed growth or soil erosion, relatively low labor and operational costs, less evaporation compared to surface irrigation, and decreased tillage.

AgricultureGuide.com notes, “One of the most important aspects of this method is that the watered zone is only along the plant line, leaving the rest of the field dry – using the least amount of scarce and/or costly water possible. Because the watered zone is shadowed by the plant itself, evaporation is minimal, consumption is lowered, and the required moisture level in the root zone is maintained. Additionally, fertilizers can be used via the drip system, thus reducing that volume needed.”

Jensen proved the efficacy of drip irrigation at the UA’s Environmental Research Laboratory.  Time magazine, in 1967, reported on Jensen’s experiments in the integrated production of vegetables, electricity, and desalted water in the soil-poor desert of Arabia’s Abu Dhabi.

They termed the growing of food in Sadiyat, a sandy, essentially barren, uninhabited island, ‘sand culture.’ And they proved it would work in an area with strong prevailing winds and rainfall that averaged less than two inches per year.

The facility and a previous prototype in Puerto Penasco, Mexico were intended to make a coastal desert agriculturally productive.

In Sonora, plants were seeded in separate plots of beach sand or sphagnum peat moss/vermiculite and grew equally well in either drip-irrigated medium. Once the efficacy of the concept literally bore fruit, it expanded to other countries throughout the world.

Another strong proponent of subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) is fellow Arizonan Howard Wuertz of Sundance Farms in Coolidge, the 2016 winner of Netafim USA’s Award for Advancement in Microirrigation – http://www.westernfarmpress.com/irrigation/wuertz-honored-subsurface-drip-irrigation-pioneer.

“SDI delivers many benefits and we encourage growers to take measures to ensure the sustainability of their farming operations for generations to come,” says Wuertz.

“Successful farming in the desert is not only about using water more efficiently, but about being productive with the resources we have and subsurface drip irrigation has allowed us to boost our productivity per acre with less water than traditional irrigation methods.”

The Wuertz family estimates a reduction in water usage up to 50 percent on their 3,200-acre farm.

While Wuertz has been referred to as “the father of subsurface drip irrigation,” Jensen claims some of that parentage too due to his longevity in drip cultivation trials throughout the globe.

Former colleague Hassan Elattir, Morocco’s first horticulturist, worked with Jensen to initiate drip irrigation there. Elattir praises the growth since their first drip irrigation experiments in 1975.

“By 2020, there will be more than 500,000 hectares of crops under drip irrigation,” Elattir says.

And that’s good news as the estimation is that more food will needed in the first half of this century than was produced in the previous 100 centuries combined.

Jensen isn’t one to generally say ‘I told you so,’ but in this case, he does.

“The projects we’ve been involved with have demonstrated it is possible to produce vegetables in many sandy areas of the world where almost nothing now grows,” said Jensen.

Full article shared from Western Farm Press website.

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.

Crops Benefit from Holiday Demand

Marketers say the just-concluded year-end holidays brought an upturn in sales RDO-Water

Author: Ching Lee, Ag Alert

Year-end celebrations may be finished, but a number of California agricultural products continue to feel the benefits of a traditional bump in sales created by increased baking, feasting and toasting during the holiday season.

Holiday festivities boost sales across many wine categories but particularly sparkling wine, which remains a favorite for ringing in the New Year. About 30 percent of sparkling wine sales happen during the last two months of the year—10 percent in November and 20 percent in December, according to Nielsen. During the rest of the year, each month represents about 6 to 7 percent of total annual sales.

Table wine also sees a spike in sales—with the last eight weeks of the year averaging 9 to 10 percent of annual sales. This compares to average monthly sales of 7 to 8 percent the rest of the year.

“Wine sales are pretty consistent throughout the year,” said Gladys Horiuchi, spokeswoman for the Wine Institute. “Sparkling wine is the wine that shows the most seasonality of sales.”

That may be changing, as more people break out the bubbly for different occasions year-round. Horiuchi noted that sparkling wine sales in the U.S. have been on an upward trend. During the first nine months of 2016, U.S. sparkling wine sales grew 11 percent.

Turkey remains popular year-round as deli meat, but the whole-body bird is still a favorite for Thanksgiving and Christmas, said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation. About 30 to 40 percent of annual turkey sales occur in November, he noted, while 25 percent of what’s normally produced for Thanksgiving is for the Christmas market.

“Thanksgiving is a huge time for us,” he said. “This year was really good too, because we basically sold everything we produced for the holidays; all of the turkeys were gone.”

Chicken sales, however, typically drop off in November and early December, and tend to pick back up by the end of December, Mattos said, noting that January is usually “a huge chicken month because people are ready to cut back and eat something lean and healthy.”

Other poultry such as duck and squab also have become more popular during the holidays, especially in ethnic communities, he said. Those types of birds “are really big” during the lunar New Year celebration at the end of this month, he added.

California egg producers felt the pinch of low egg prices for most of 2016, as U.S. egg production recovered from the 2015 outbreak of avian influenza with fully restocked barns and supplies that now outpace demand.

San Diego County egg farmer Frank Hilliker said the holidays and winter season have helped to increase demand a tad, with people eating more eggs now that temperatures are colder. He’s seen a 10 percent jump in sales because of holiday baking, but he noted the stronger prices won’t last.

“It’s all going to go away,” he said. “Prices have been horrible since after Easter (last year) because of overproduction. I imagine sometime in January to sometime in February, we’re going to see the market go down again.”

Another baking staple—butter—also does well during the fourth quarter, said Beth Ford, chief operating officer of Land O’Lakes. The dairy cooperative typically begins planning for holiday production and building inventory during the second quarter by reviewing market trends and talking to its customers.

“Consumers continue to make the switch to butter from other products, continuing a several-year trend,” she said. “Over the last two years alone, our demand on a pound basis is up 15 percent from just two years ago.”

California almonds and walnuts are used in many holiday foods and fourth-quarter sales are typically the heaviest, said Chad Temel, who markets the nuts for Stockton-based Pearl Crop. He estimated the company ships 55 to 60 percent of its crop during the last three months of the year.

Because the company exports more than 95 percent of its nuts, Temel said the holiday rush usually starts as soon as the crop is harvested to allow for shipping time—and because the nuts often need to be further processed, packaged or used in different forms once they arrive at their overseas destinations. He noted export markets buy mostly in-shell nuts and prefer to do their own shelling.

The California Walnut Board began its advertising campaign with heavy emphasis on holiday baking in early November and ran it right up until Christmas, said Jennifer Olmstead, the board’s director of marketing and domestic public relations.

“November, December is a very traditional time of year to use walnuts, particularly for holiday baking,” she said. “We have really embraced that with a lot of our outreach efforts.”

Although shelled walnuts still make up the bulk of the domestic market, consumption of in-shell walnuts remains a popular tradition during the holidays, Olmstead noted. Walnut sales don’t necessarily slow down after the holidays, she added, as more nuts are moved to replenish markets.

Board Executive Director Michelle Connelly also pointed out that the holiday season for walnuts is not limited to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day in the U.S. A string of holidays in the fall through the end of January in Canada, Europe, India, Korea, Japan and China all help to bolster walnut exports and consumption, she said.

The use of California raisins in more recipes for moon cake, a traditional Asian pastry popular during the lunar New Year celebration, also may help boost sales later this month, said Larry Blagg, a senior vice president of the California Raisin Marketing Board. But November and December remain peak months for raisin consumption, as people use the dried fruit in their holiday dishes and baking recipes, said Jackie Grazier, marketing director for Sun-Maid Growers of California. Data from the market research company IRI show sales of raisins, not counting snack-sized units, are 30 percent higher during this period.

Not all holiday food items experience the seasonal market uptick, however. Even though flour is a major baking ingredient during the holidays, a rise in flour purchases hasn’t necessarily translated to better prices for wheat, said Claudia Carter, executive director of the California Wheat Commission. Unlike specialty products such as raisins, nuts and wine that are produced mainly in California, wheat is traded globally and grown in many regions of the world. Not only is there a huge surplus of wheat on the global market, but U.S. wheat consumption has been flat, she added.

“Wheat is more related to the commodity market and currently prices are very depressed,” Carter said.

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

What Growers Can Do With Precision Ag Technology

Growers learn at inaugural North State Precision Ag Expo and Farm Business Forum Agriculture-Technology

Author: Tim Hearden, Capital Press

Rice growers Joe Richter and Jim Bell wanted to get a bird’s eye view of their own fields to gain a better understanding of how well their crops grow.

So they took aerial photographs of their fields using a program from AgPixel, an Iowa-based firm that uses sensing technology to detect plant stresses before they are visible to the naked eye.

Now the two have their own company, Willows, Calif.-based AgVision, and provide aerial surveying of rice fields, nut orchards and row crops for growers throughout the Sacramento Valley.

“The most critical thing is, data has to be usable” to help growers cut costs or increase revenue, Richter told a gathering Nov. 15 at the Glenn County fairgrounds in Orland. “We wanted something that would be high-quality and flexible when people needed it.”

Richter and Bell use a fixed-wing, manned aircraft to capture their images, while some other growers and businesses use drones. Aerial imagery can help a rice grower spot inconsistencies in aerial applications of fertilizer or seed and help a nut grower see troubled areas in orchards that would otherwise take days or weeks to survey from the ground, Richter said.

“The most important thing is not just the information you collect but what you can do with it,” he said, noting that the data could help a grower know where to take soil samples or do weed control.

Richter spoke during the opening session of the inaugural North State Precision Ag Expo and Farm Business Forum, a two-day conference that was to feature more than 30 presenters on precision technology and farm management as well as about 40 trade show vendors.

Fair director Ryann Newman created the event after hearing from growers that they’d like to learn more about all the new ag-related technology available. Other discussion topics were to include precision nutrient management, irrigation and soil moisture testing and mobile device applications that can change how a grower does business.

Among the trade show booths was one operated by Bob Myre of Myre Distributing in Willows, who was demonstrating a computerized tractor steering system used for planting crops.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Myre said of the conference, adding it would teach growers about the technology that’s available. “We have the tools to obtain precision when farming, when doing fertilization.”

Butte City, Calif., alfalfa and walnut grower Cameron Jantz, a beginning farmer, wanted to learn what tools are available to make the job easier.

“I’m actually here looking at precision irrigation stuff, like drip tape,” he said.

The conference and trade show come as a recent USDA study found that many growers aren’t using the precision technology with which their farm machinery is equipped.

Richter said he became interested in the subject two years ago at a conference in Oregon, but he said much of the emphasis then was on drones.

“Everyone is interested in the hardware but not what you can do with the pictures,” he said.

“For precision ag to work,” he said, “you’ve got to be able to take the information and turn it into action.”

Full article shared from Capital Press website.

Early Start for California Desert Vegetables

Volumes of red bell peppers expected to pick up as Thanksgiving nears California-Lettuce-Field

Author: Mike Hornick, The Packer

Green bean prices were high and U.S.-grown red bell peppers are scarce as the California winter desert vegetable deal gears up.

 

Those volumes could pick up as Thanksgiving nears, and grower-shippers in the state’s Coachella and Imperial valleys expect ample supplies generally on mixed vegetables and leafy greens.

 

Cauliflower markets may strengthen as growing conditions suggest the volatility of that crop over the past year could return.

 

Bushel and 1-1/9 bushel cartons of round green beans shipped for about $39 from Coachella, Calif., on Nov. 3, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last year’s price was $25.

 

“The green beans market looks like it’s going to be active for a while,” said Richard Cowden, sales and marketing at Fresno, Calif.-based Baloian Farms. “Some of the growing districts in the east that were affected by Hurricane Matthew may have contributed to it.”

 

“We’re in the middle of green bean harvest, which we try to target for Thanksgiving,” Mike Aiton, director of marketing for Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International, said Nov. 2. “We will have good volume through the month of November.”

 

Green bell pepper production in the California desert was already well underway as November began, but red bells were just kicking off.

 

“Prices are really good on reds,” John Burton, general manager for sales and cooler at Peter Rabbit Farms, said Nov. 1. “Market demand exceeds supply. It’s just the opposite on greens.”

 

Red bells were not listed among shipping prices from U.S. regions reported Nov. 2 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But Mexico greenhouse product crossing at Texas shipped for just $7.95-8.95 in 11-pound cartons, sizes jumbo and extra large.

 

Coastline Family Farms expected to start mixed vegetables in Brawley, Calif., around Nov. 21 and head lettuce there about Dec. 5.

 

Coastline focuses on Imperial Valley for the winter but has some early overlap with Yuma, Ariz.

 

Pacific International Marketing plans to start conventional spinach about Nov. 18 in Brawley and El Centro, Calif., and organic lettuce and conventional broccoli close to Thanksgiving.

 

With fewer U.S. regions supplying vegetables in the fall and winter, buyers have fewer choices and a bigger freight bill than they might have before. Celery hearts that shipped for $13.45-15.56 out of Salinas on Aug. 3, were up to $18.45-20.45 on Nov. 3.

 

Ocean Mist Farms anticipates good volume for its desert artichoke deal that starts in late November and runs until about March 10.

 

The Castroville, Calif.-based shipper, which grows more than 30 vegetables in the region, has doubled its brussels sprouts acreage and will for the first time offer Coachella-grown head lettuce to supplement Yuma production, said Jeff Percy, vice president of production for the southern desert region.

 

Ocean Mist will start romaine hearts around Nov. 16 with other leafy greens plus broccoli to follow Nov. 20.

 

“The plants look good, but I predict cauliflower will be about a week late, probably Nov. 25,” Percy said.

 

“The desert is a bit of a challenge,” said Henry Dill, sales manager for Pacific International Marketing. “The front end of the desert is coming on a little sooner than originally anticipated. Usually when that happens, your yields aren’t quite as good because some of the plants have grown fast. Sometimes you have seeder problems. You run into yields on your first couple fields that may not be as good.”

 

“If that’s the case, sometimes just 15% or 20% less in the pipeline can change the market,” Dill said.

Full article shared from The Packer website.

RDO Water in Indio Moves to RDO Equipment Co. Store

Agriculture equipment, parts and service, and irrigation solutions now in one location RDO-Equipment-Co

Author: RDO Water

RDO Water and RDO Equipment Co. announce RDO Water in Indio has relocated into the existing RDO Equipment Co. store at 83-300 Avenue 45. The move brings to the store RDO Water’s full irrigation solutions including 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 Equipment Co. in Indio is a full-service John Deere agriculture and construction equipment dealer with both new and used equipment, a vast parts inventory, and highly-trained service department. Not only does moving to a larger building enhance RDO Water’s offerings, it opens additional opportunities for customers as well.

“We want to provide our customers with the opportunities and solutions they need to be successful,” Bruce Daughters, Vice President of RDO Water said. “By combining our agricultural equipment, service, and irrigation solutions, we’re offering customers new opportunities and ways to enhance their business, enabling them to maximize that success.”

In addition to the Indio store, RDO Equipment Co. and RDO Water have combo stores in Salinas and Watsonville, California. The company has 16 total stores throughout the state of California.

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

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.

Salinas and Watsonville Stores Hosting Open Houses

 Attendees invited to meet the staff, learn more about full company offerings, and enjoy lunch RDO-Equipment

Author: RDO Water

RDO Equipment Co. / RDO Water in Salinas and Watsonville are hosting open house events for customers and individuals interested in learning more about complete agriculture equipment and irrigation solutions.

The Salinas event takes place on Thursday, October 6, while Watsonville’s event is happening on Friday, October 7. Both events will begin at 11 a.m. and end at 1 p.m., during which time the stores will be open for tours and lunch. 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.

As a full-service John Deere agriculture dealer, RDO Equipment Co. stores offer both new and used equipment, vast parts inventories, and service departments with highly-trained, certified technicians.

“We’ve been proud to partner with agricultural professionals in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties,” Darrell Olson, General Manager of RDO Equipment Co. in Salinas and Watsonville said. “I personally look forward to seeing our longtime customers, as well as meet new ones.”

Bruce Daughters, Vice President of RDO Water, echoed Olson’s enthusiasm, saying, “We have unique strength in the Salinas and Watsonville stores, with RDO Equipment Co. and RDO Water operating under one roof. Our team is eager to show customers the advantages of working with a single enterprise for their agriculture equipment and irrigation needs.”

RDO Water’s full irrigation solutions 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.

To learn more about the open houses or offerings from RDO Equipment Co. / RDO Water in Salinas and Watsonville, contact your local store.

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.