The Fresno County Crop Report was released this week on Tuesday, October 10.
Click here to view the full document.
By Jeff Cardinale
As the 4th most valuable crop in California, the strawberry industry continues to advance in many ways, including innovative methods of pest management. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) honored the Cal Poly Strawberry Center for its innovation and commitment to implementing IPM (Integrated Pest Management) during the IPM Achievement Awards ceremony today.
The Cal Poly Strawberry Center improves IPM and sustainability in strawberry production through prolific research and outreach programs with a focus on plant pathology, entomology, and labor automation. The center is conducting ongoing research to increase commercial beneficial predatory mite quality and improving the Lygus bug vacuum as alternatives to traditional pesticides. The center also provides IPM training for undergraduate and graduate students who plan to advance to positions within the strawberry industry and carry the center’s IPM and sustainability philosophy throughout California and beyond.
“On behalf of the Cal Poly Strawberry Center, it is an honor to accept this award and to be recognized by DPR as a leader in the use of sustainable pest management methods. The Strawberry Center is proud to be a part of this industry, helping develop IPM solutions through applied research and training students along the way,” said Dr. Gerald Holmes, Cal Poly Strawberry Center Director.
IPM is an approach to pest management that uses the least toxic, effective method to solve pest problems. The Strawberry Center’s work on advancing technology and efficiency of the bug vacuum is just one example of a non-chemical solution to pest management in the strawberry industry.
“California strawberries are grown on less than one percent of all California farmland. Despite this small footprint, pest control is critical to sustainable farm practices. The California Strawberry Commission and the Strawberry Center are constantly working to provide California strawberry family farming operations with the best tools to combat pests and do so with safer and more sustainable pest management practices,” said Rick Tomlinson, Strawberry Commission President.
The Strawberry Center is a partnership between the Commission and Cal Poly that began in 2013. The initial team began conducting research on soil-borne pathogens and fumigation alternatives, two critical pressing issues facing the industry. Over the last 10 years, the Strawberry Center has expanded its research to three main programs: plant pathology, entomology, and automation.
Through innovative research, California strawberry farmers are expanding sustainable farming practices. Ongoing partnerships provide ample opportunities to collaborate locally and globally to search for effective solutions to manage plant pathogens and insect pests. These partnerships support rural communities to protect the residents and the environment.
By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR
Searchable database of growers experienced in growing cover crops launched
Growers are invited to tour orchards and vineyards and hear from other growers about their experiences with cover crops.
UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, UC Cooperative Extension, the Napa Resource Conservation District, and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers have created a searchable database of orchard and vineyard growers experienced in growing cover crops that will help other growers bring the benefits of the prctice to their operations.
“The tours are part of a project for which we recently unveiled new tools for orchard and vineyard growers to learn about cover cropping from experienced growers,” said Sonja Brodt, associate director of the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.
The database describes cover cropping strategies, details of field practices, benefits and challenges experienced by cover crop growers in orchards and vineyards in the southern Sacramento Valley (including the Capay Valley) and the North Coast viticulture region. The cover crop grower database is available at https://sarep.ucdavis.edu/covercropsdb.
Feb. 8, 1-5 p.m., Capay Valley tour:
The tour will visit three organic farms in the Capay Valley that are integrating cover crops and grazing in their orchard and vineyard systems. Topics of discussion will include:
• Strategies for integrating cover crops into orchards and vineyards
• Impacts of cover cropping and grazing on soil health
• Funding and information resources for growing cover crops
Speakers will include:
• Rory Crowley, Director of Habitat Programs, Project Apis m.
• Amélie Gaudin, Associate Professor, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis, Endowed Chair in Agroecology
• Hope Zabronsky, Climate-Smart Agriculture Program lead, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources
To register for the Feb. 8 tour, visit https://sarep.ucdavis.edu/events/grazing-cover-crops-orchards-and-vineyards-capay-valley-tour.
March 8, 1-4 p.m., Arbuckle area tour:
The tour will visit two conventional farms in the Arbuckle area that are integrating cover crops into their orchard and vineyard systems.
Topics of discussion will include:
• Strategies for integrating cover crops into orchards and vineyards
• Impacts of cover cropping on soil and water balance
• Frost risk protection and prevention
• Funding resources for growing cover crops
Speakers will include:
• Rory Crowley, Director of Habitat Programs, Project Apis m.
• Kosana Suvocarev, UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in Biometeorology, UC Davis Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources
• Hope Zabronsky, Climate-Smart Agriculture Program lead, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources
To register for the March 8 tour, visit https://sarep.ucdavis.edu/events/cover-cropping-conventional-orchards-and-vineyards-arbuckle-area-tour.
Have you ever noticed the word Nut in the word nutritious? Well, I’ve never noticed it before when it comes to the nut industry, and it took the American Pecan Council to bring it to my attention. Alex Ott is the Executive Director of the American Pecan Council.
“We have a great team, and Weber Shandwick is our PR company that’s there. We work with other folks such as Eat Well Global in the dietitian areas,” said Ott. “And the staff and a lot of the members that participate, both on and off the council as well as the boards, provide a lot of great insight. So we’re very fortunate to have a fantastic team,” he noted.
When you think of nuts, they are nutritious. It’s perfect. The word nut in the first three letters of the word nutrition.
“It’s nice when the industry all comes together with one purpose. Everybody uses their talents to really drive the message.
I asked Ott if Weber Shandwick, the PR company, came up with that concept.
“They definitely helped out with the website and the messaging, and we’re very fortunate to have Weber as our team, absolutely,” he said.
Leading climate tech investor, Elemental Excelerator, announced today their 11th cohort of investments, comprising 17 companies focused on climate technology and decarbonization. Renewable fertilizer pioneer, Nitricity, has been included in the cohort as part of Elemental Excelerator’s focus on climate resilience.
“Nitricity solves two crucial components of the food system’s emissions: removing fossil fuels from the production of fertilizer, and preventing the need to transport that fertilizer from across the world,” said Mitch Rubin, Director of Innovation, Elemental Excelerator. “We need local, renewable production of fertilizer to enhance our resilience to global fertilizer markets, given massive price increases this year. Nico and his team are extremely committed to improving how we grow food and providing better alternatives to farmers, and we’re very excited to be working with them.”
The investment and guidance from Elemental Excelerator will bolster Nitricity’s plans for growth, including operating its renewable fertilizer technology at scale in agricultural applications. The funding will support Nitricity’s ability to produce agriculture-grade climate-smart nitrogen fertilizers such as calcium nitrate to be tested in the field, with one such trial to be conducted in almond orchards in partnership with Olam Food Ingredients (ofi), a global leader in natural food ingredients and raw materials.
“The support from Elemental Excelerator and membership in this esteemed cohort will be an important catalyst for Nitricity’s next phase of growth,” said Nicolas Pinkowski, CEO and Co-Founder of Nitricity. “Our focus is now on scaling our technology to establish regionalized fertilizer production for farmers.”
Read the complete press release from Elemental Excelerator and learn more about Elemental Excelerator Cohort 11.
Nitricity produces nitrogen fertilizer with only air, water and renewable electricity. Founded by a team of graduate students from Stanford University in 2018 – Nicolas Pinkowski serving as CEO, Joshua McEnaney serving as president and CTO, and Jay Schwalbe serving as CSO – the company is scaling its technology to provide cost-effective, regional, and decarbonized fertilizer production. For more information, please visit www.nitricity.co.
About Elemental Excelerator
Elemental Excelerator is a leading non-profit investor focused on scaling climate solutions and
social impact for all communities. Elemental fills two gaps that are fundamental to tackling
climate change: funding first-of-a-kind projects for climate technologies in real communities, and
embedding equity and access into climate solutions.
By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR
Cover crops offer many potential benefits – including improving soil health – but not knowing the costs can be a barrier for growers who want to try this practice. To help growers calculate costs per acre, a new study on the costs and potential benefits of adding a winter cover crop in an annual rotation has been released by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, UC Cooperative Extension and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
Led by UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors Sarah Light and Margaret Lloyd, the cost study is modeled for a vegetable-field crop rotation planted on 60-inch beds in the lower Sacramento Valley of California. Depending on the operation, this rotation may include processing tomatoes, corn, sunflower, cotton, sorghum and dry beans, as well as other summer annual crops.
“This cost study can be used by growers who want to begin cover cropping to determine the potential costs per acre associated with this soil-health practice,” said Light, a study co-author and UC Cooperative Extension agronomy advisor for Sutter, Yuba and Colusa counties.
“Based on interviews with growers who currently cover crop on their farms, this cost study models a management scenario that is common for the Sacramento Valley. In addition, growers who want to use cover crops can gain insight as to what standard field management practices will be from planting to termination.”
At the hypothetical farm, the cover crop is seeded into dry soil using a grain drill, then dependent on rainfall for germination and growth.
“Given the frequency of drier winters, we included the cost to irrigate one out of three years,” said Lloyd.
A mix of 30% bell bean, 30% field pea, 20% vetch and 20% oats is sown in the fall. Depending on winter rainfall, soil moisture and the following cash crop, the cover crop is terminated in mid to late spring. The cover crop is flail mowed and disced to incorporate the residue into the soil.
The study includes detailed information on the potential benefits and the drawbacks of cover cropping.
Another consideration for growers is that multiple programs such as CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program, various USDA-funded programs (EQUIP, the Climate-Smart Commodities, etc.), and Seeds for Bees by Project Apis m. offer financial incentives for growers to implement conservation practices, such as cover crops.
“This study can provide growers with a baseline to estimate their own costs of using winter cover crops as a practice. This can be useful to calculate more precise estimates when applying for some of these programs and/or weigh the costs per acre with expected benefits in terms of soil health, crop insurance premium discounts or other benefits provided by the cover crops,” said Brittney Goodrich, UC Cooperative Extension agricultural and resource economics specialist and study co-author.
“Last year, the USDA’s Pandemic Cover Crop Program gave up to a $5/acre discount on crop insurance premiums for growers who planted a cover crop, and there is potential this will get extended going forward,” Goodrich said.
A list of links to resources that focus specifically on cover crops is included in the study. Five tables show the individual costs of each cultural operation from ground preparation through planting and residue incorporation.
The new study, “2022 – Estimated Costs and Potential Benefits for a Winter Cover Crop in an Annual Crop Rotation – Lower Sacramento Valley,” can be downloaded from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available on the website.
This cost and returns study is funded by the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
For an explanation of calculations used in the study, refer to the section titled “Assumptions.” For more information, contact Don Stewart in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at email@example.com, Light at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Lloyd at email@example.com.
Mario Santoyo served as Assistant Manager for 30 years on their Friant Water user’s authority has been fighting for water for decades. He said he remembers better times when it comes to South of the Delta farming. Those good years were prior to 1993 when the Delta Smelt was put on the Federal Endangered Species List.
“I remember the good years. I was around during those days, but I’ve now lived through what is now, the hard years,” said Santoyo. “The unfortunate fact is that there will no longer be good years, it will only be worse years because for those folks that think it’s bad right now, they’re wrong. It’s going to get worse.”
And the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is going to making farming worse.
SGMA is structured in such a way that the Department of Water Resources saying, “Okay, we’ll let you have local control, you guys formed the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSAs),” said Santoyo.
“We’ll let you do your thing, but if you don’t do it right, we’re going to come in as the state of California and we’re going to take over,” said Santoyo.
“And the way it’s structured is that there’s a high probability that most GSAs are going to fail, which is going to let the state through the door and once the state gets their hands on regulating water, it’s goodbye in terms of having any kind of control on the usage of water,” noted Santoyo. “So things will only get worse as we move through time,” he said.
By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR
Wildfires are an increasing threat to people’s lives, property and livelihoods, especially in rural California communities. Cannabis, one of California’s newer and more lucrative commercial crops, may be at a higher risk of loss from wildfire because it is mostly confined to being grown in rural areas, according to new research by scientists in the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management at UC Berkeley.
“Our findings affirm that cannabis agriculture is geographically more threatened by wildfire than any other agricultural crop in California,” said Christopher Dillis, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley’s Cannabis Research Center. “This is an issue in almost all major cannabis-producing counties, not only those in Northern California.”
With licensing to grow commercially in the state only since 2018, the $3 billion cannabis industry is already one of California’s top five grossing agricultural commodities (though not included in the California Agricultural Production Statistics because USDA doesn’t recognize cannabis as an agricultural crop). In 2020, California tax revenues from legal cannabis sales amounted to over $780 million.
To assess the risk of cannabis crops being burned by wildfire, the researchers analyzed licensed cannabis farms in 11 cannabis-producing counties. Dillis and his colleagues overlaid CAL FIRE maps of fire hazard severity zones, historic wildfire perimeters and areas likely to experience increased fire activity in the future with the locations of cannabis farms and other crops in Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Monterey, Nevada, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Trinity and Yolo counties. Legal cannabis cultivation is still prohibited in most other parts of the state.
CAL FIRE classifies fire hazard based on vegetation, topography, climate, crown fire potential, ember production and movement and fire history.
The researchers found cannabis fields were located in “high” and “very high” fire hazard zones and closer to wildfire perimeters more than any other crop. About 36% of the cannabis cultivation area, or 986 farms, were in high fire hazard zones and 24%, or 788 farms, were in very high fire hazard zones. Grapes had the next largest percentage of acreage in high (8.8%) or very high fire hazard zones (2.9%), followed by pasture at 4.3% and 1.7%, respectively.
“This work only serves as a starting point for understanding how vulnerable cannabis farms may be to wildfire, as this analysis did not include indirect impacts, such as smoke and ash damage, which may be far-reaching,” Dillis said. “However, we can confidently say that the places where cannabis continues to be grown are at greater risk now, and likely in the future as well.”
For cannabis farms already established in high-risk areas, the authors recommend fire-safety programs to reduce the impacts of wildfire to crops and human health. They suggest traditional wildfire-risk reduction activities, such as managing vegetation and creating fire breaks, but also measures to prevent exposure of farmworkers and crops to wildfire smoke. In addition, they recommend the state pursue options for providing crop insurance to licensed cannabis farmers, which are available for most other agricultural crops through federal programs, but not cannabis.
“In light of the sector’s growing economic importance in the state, the vulnerability of cannabis to wildfire should be considered in future cannabis and rural development policies,” said co-author Ted Grantham, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and director of UC Berkeley’s Cannabis Research Center.
“The legal cannabis market in California is facing substantial headwinds from both market forces and a burdensome regulatory environment,” Grantham said. “This study shows that cannabis agriculture is uniquely exposed to wildfire impacts, which presents yet another challenge for licensed cultivators in the state.”
The Cannabis Research Center is currently conducting a statewide survey of licensed cannabis cultivators to better understand the impacts of wildfire on crops, infrastructure and farmworkers. The survey is funded through a grant from California’s Department of Cannabis Control.
The study “The threat of wildfire is unique to cannabis among agricultural sectors in California” is published in Ecosphere and authored by Dillis, UC Cooperative Extension specialist Van Butsic, postdoctoral researchers Diana Moanga and Ariani Wattenberg, graduate student Phoebe Parker-Shames and Grantham.
In a letter sent to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton, a coalition of agricultural organizations offered their support, assistance and counsel for the immediate implementation of drought funding from the Inflation Reduction Act.
Key coalition principles include:
The Bureau of Reclamation should quickly release a Notice of Funding Availability with guidance to water managers currently developing drought response proposals and urgently deploy that funding to address the most critical needs.
As the Bureau of Reclamation develops a plan to deploy drought funding, they should work with local water managers, set goals focused on driving the voluntary participation needed, and keep the process, selection criteria and any necessary agreements simple and transparent.
Any program designed to temporarily reduce agricultural water use must recognize the value of lost production, the extended impact on the rural community and the cost of developing incremental new water supplies. It is also important to avoid any actions that result in permanent disruptions to our long-tern capacity to produce the food and fiber that is relied upon in the U.S. and across the globe.
Agriculture should not be the only sector expected to reduce water use for the benefit of river systems. Urban planners and water users must also seriously address growth and reduce overall use or diversions to protect these systems.
Here is the letter:
Throughout the Western United States, dire challenges are being faced by agricultural water users in the Colorado River Basin, California’s Central Valley, the Klamath Basin, the Columbia River Basin and its tributaries in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, the Rogue River Basin in southern Oregon, and the Great Basin. We could dedicate reams of pages describing the agonizing plight faced by the farmers and ranchers and the rural communities in these areas.
As you know, Western water managers are actively responding to extreme drought. This is forcing unprecedented actions by local water purveyors and agricultural producers to react to significant water shortages. In the Colorado River Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation recently declared the first ever Tier 2a shortage and is calling for a total of 2 to 4 million acre-feet to protect critical levels in Lakes Mead and Powell. In recent months, many of our local producers and water managers with senior water rights have been engaged in a thoughtful effort to develop plans to protect the Colorado River system.
Like you, we were pleased to see that Congress recognized the dire situation by appropriating $4 billion to respond to the ongoing Western drought. We now urge the Biden Administration to move quickly to implement the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and other available drought funding to use on the ground.
Beyond the urgency of the dire hydrologic situation faced in many Western watersheds, this prompt action is essential for a variety of other reasons. Significant time and effort are being put into the development of response plans. For those to result in meaningful progress, it is essential to understand the key factors that will be considered by the Department in providing any future financial assistance. The ability of agricultural producers to participate in any voluntary, compensated water reduction program becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, if not initiated and implemented soon. This is due to the timeframes associated with contracting, purchasing, and planting of crops for the coming year. This is particularly important in areas like the Imperial Valley in California and Yuma, Arizona, where large-scale winter-time agricultural production occurs. The process and timing for distributing drought response funding must recognize and be responsive to this reality.
We write today to encourage you, as a first step, to work with our organizations and members to quickly release a Notice of Funding Availability with guidance to water managers currently developing drought response proposals and quickly deploy that funding to address the most urgent needs. As you develop a plan to deploy drought funding, we also encourage you to consider the following:
Adhering to the recommendations provided above will help ensure that agricultural water users can be meaningful partners in our collective effort to manage water supply and protect important supply systems in exceptionally dry times like those we face now, from the headwaters in the upper basin to the last user in the lower basin.
In addition to focusing on critically needed, near-term steps to endure the current drought, it is essential that we also continue to advance solutions that will improve water management in the long-term. These opportunities include forest restoration activities that improve the health and productivity of our watersheds that are severely out of balance, robust conservation and efficiency measures, and augmentation of supply ranging from groundwater development and recycling to new conveyance and storage, where appropriate. To this end, the immediate deployment of IRA drought response funding will perfectly complement longer-term investments made by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), IRA Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Forest Service funding, and other programs. Together, these opportunities present an integrated approach that will boost short, medium, and long-term drought response, preparedness, and resilience for both farms and communities across the West.
Lastly, we urge you to continue to bring all water users together to develop solutions and ensure agriculture has a place at the table. There has been an unfortunate narrative lately that demonizes irrigation and minimizes the importance of domestic food production. Recent letters and comments by some in the West are clearly designed to encourage moving significant volumes of water offfarm for other uses. These unfortunate portrayals fail to recognize that in many cases their proposals will make senior water rights available as a mechanism to benefit junior water users by preventing cuts that would otherwise be required under water laws.
This also comes at a time when agricultural water users are busy developing voluntary proposals to help respond to these dire drought conditions that will result in financial losses for many individual family farms, and the rural communities in which they live, if proper compensation is not provided. In addition to the many Western communities and cultures that sustain the American food supply being at risk, we are also jeopardizing the highest labor, crop protection, and food safety standards in the world while simultaneously exacerbating climate change and food insecurity by increasing our avoidable reliance upon imports.
Protecting the agricultural economy, Western urban and rural communities, and a healthy aquatic environment not only benefits the West, it benefits the entire Nation. For that reason, our members across the West are stepping up, at their own expense, to provide solutions for the viability of their basins and the communities those basins serve. In many cases, that means making senior water rights voluntarily available in order to benefit junior water users. This prevents cuts that would otherwise be required under water laws and, in most cases, would provide immediate measurable protections for the water supply system as a whole. Urban, agricultural, and environmental water users would all benefit from such efforts in the short and long-term.
Our organizations look forward to working with you further to advance the recommendations included in this letter.
If you have questions or concerns about this letter, please do not hesitate to contact Dan Keppen (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Agribusiness and Water Council of Arizona
Arizona Farm Bureau Federation
California Farm Bureau
Colorado Farm Bureau
Family Farm Alliance
Oregon Farm Bureau
By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR
Thinking about commercially growing organic strawberries on the Central Coast?
To help prospective and current growers evaluate financial feasibility, the University of California has estimated costs to produce and harvest organic strawberries for fresh market in Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties.
“This revise of the last cost-of-production study incorporates the newest in labor costs along with updates on cultural techniques,” said study co-author Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension strawberries and caneberries advisor in Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties.
The new study, “Sample Costs to Produce and Harvest Organic Strawberries in the Central Coast Region-2022,” has been released by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
The analysis is based on a hypothetical well-managed organic strawberry farm using practices common to the region, but the costs, materials and practices shown in this study will not apply to all farms. Growers, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors and specialists, pest control advisers and others provided input and reviewed the methods and findings of the study.
“Current growers can use it as a baseline to compare with their own cost and returns estimates to make sure they have an accurate picture of the profitability of their organic strawberry enterprise,” said co-author Brittney Goodrich, UC Cooperative Extension agricultural economics specialist. “Many agricultural lenders use these studies as a baseline to determine whether to approve operating or investment loan requests from current and potential strawberry growers.”
The researchers assume a farm operation size of 30 contiguous acres of rented land, with strawberries are planted on 27 acres. The study includes a list of suitable strawberry varieties for the region, but no specific variety is used in the study. The crop is harvested by hand and packed into trays containing eight 1-pound clamshells from April through early October, with peak harvest in June through August.
The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for production material inputs and cash and non-cash overhead. Ranging analysis tables show net profits over a range of prices and yields. Other tables show the monthly cash costs, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs, and the whole farm annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.
The study’s expanded section on labor includes information on California’s new minimum wage and overtime laws.
“It’s reached a wider audience this time through presentations of the material to students at Cal Poly [San Luis Obispo] and also a group of USDA officials at the California Strawberry Commission,” said Bolda.
“All of this just underlines the value of these studies to California growers and others working in agriculture,” Bolda said.
Free copies of this study and other sample cost of production studies for many commodities are available. To download the cost studies, visit the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at https://coststudies.ucdavis.edu.
This cost and returns study was funded by the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact Jeremy Murdock, UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, at email@example.com or UC Cooperative Extension’s Bolda at (831) 763-8025.