Preparing for SGMA — The Time is Now

It’s Time to Manage Your Water Assets

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

It’s time for growers to start preparing for the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, otherwise known as SGMA, and groundwater consultant Chris Johnson is here to help.

Johnson, owner of Aegis Groundwater Consulting based out of Fresno, stressed the significance of farmers instrumenting their wells.

“It’s good for them to be able to manage them as assets, and then the data is important to defend themselves if they find they are being lumped in through SGMA and not being effectively represented,” he said.

Being misrepresented under SGMA can be a result of an “index well” data measurement. Index wells are a method of measuring water table levels in the area. However, their location might differ from where a farmer’s well is—meaning the data may not be indicative of the water the farmer is actually using.

Some growers might be concerned that metering their well may put them at risk of exceeding a pre-established limit, but according to Johnson, the meters provide enough data to prevent this from happening.

“The flow rate from the well not only tells you how it is behaving, but it also gives you another number to evaluate what the distribution and application systems are doing, so it’s a check that is available for them as well,” he said.

2019-07-11T15:56:37-07:00July 11th, 2019|

Even Organic Production of Strawberries Not Sustainable

Data Shows Even Organic Production Uses Resources

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Is growing strawberries organically sustainable? That’s something that Surendra Dara is trying to find out. Dara is a UC Cooperative Extension Advisor in Entomology and Biologicals. He is based in San Luis Obispo County as well as Santa Barbara County. Dara met with California Ag Today recently and let us in on his research and some of his findings.

“I have not come across a mainstream grower that has told me that organic is sustainable,” Dara said.

After pulling in data and understanding the inputs, Dara is asking if there is anybody out there that has a different opinion.

“When we are talking about sustainability, we are looking only in terms of non-chemical being the sustainable, ecological practice,” he said.

There are such things as organic pesticides that harm natural enemies.

“Some of the organic ones can be as bad as some of the chemicals,” Dara said.

Data is showing that growing strawberries organically has not been sustainable economically. In terms of the carbon footprint and the bigger picture, “even organic production is not sustainable with the resources because certainly some resources are being used up,” Dara said.

2021-05-12T11:05:02-07:00July 10th, 2019|

Help Avoid Cardiovascular Death—Produce is Medicine

Study: Low Produce Consumption Results in Millions of Cardiovascular Deaths

News Release

Over the last two months, the findings of three major peer-reviewed studies have led the lead authors to the exact same conclusion:  We must increase our efforts to promote produce consumption for the benefit of public health.

The most recent study published in Science Daily found that one in seven cardiovascular deaths could be attributed to not eating enough fruit, while one in 12 of these deaths could be attributed to not eating enough vegetables. Put another way, low fruit and veggie consumption resulted in an estimated three million deaths from heart disease.produce

“Fruits and vegetables are a modifiable component of diet that can impact preventable deaths globally,” according to lead author Dr. Victoria Miller, Tufts University, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. “Our findings indicate the need for population-based efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the world.”

Another study recently published found that “prescriptions” for healthy foods could save more than $100 billion in healthcare costs.  The healthy foods included fruits and veggies plus seafood, whole grains and plant oils. And the third found that improving eating and drinking habits could prevent one in five deaths around the world.  “Eating too few fruits and vegetables and too much sodium accounted for half of all deaths and two-thirds of the years of disability attributable to diet,” according to this study.

While these findings about the nutritional benefits of produce are significant and dramatic, the three studies simply support decades of research which found that a plant-rich diet leads to better health and a longer life.

This is why the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) strongly advocates for consumer choice by working to remove misguided safety fears as a barrier to consumption.  Click here to continue reading or to “Like” or share this blog post.

2021-05-12T11:05:02-07:00July 2nd, 2019|

Commentary on Water Issues from Families Protecting The Valley

Unintended Consequences

By Families Protecting The Valley

As Californians endured the drought, they did an excellent job conserving water—maybe too good.  As the article below from Families Protecting The Valley explains, all the low flow toilets, all the 1-minute showers meant less water pushing waste through the sewers.  All that “resulted in corroded wastewater pipes and damaged equipment, and left sewage stagnating and neighborhoods stinking. Less wastewater, and thus more concentrated waste, also means higher costs to treat the sewage and less recycled water for such things as irrigating parks, replenishing groundwater or discharging treated flows to rivers to keep them vibrant for fish and wildlife.”

So now some water agencies are pushing for more outdoor conservation efforts rather than indoor to keep the wastewater flowing.  Adam Link, director of operations with the California Association of Sanitation Agencies asks the key question:  “At what point are you causing more harm than the benefit you are getting from saving those drops of water?”

Another major point we would point out is with the reduced VOLUME of water flows, it has created higher concentrations of pollutants per each gallon of water that gets discharged into the Bay-Delta. With low flow toilets’ rates at 1/2 or lower previous volumes and appliances using less water, all the pollutants that impact fish and people are at double or more on a per-gallon basis getting dumped into the Bay-Delta. Some permit to dump 180 million gallons of sewage water into the Bay-Delta, but the pollutant concentration is double or more.  This makes the pollution from sewage plants going to the delta that much more troubling.

Remember, in 2010, water authorities determined the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant “was discharging too many pollutants into the Sacramento River, threatening public health and harming aquatic life in the Sacrament-San Joaquin Delta.”  The water board found that high volumes of ammonia in the water were disrupting the food chain and endangering fish such as salmon and Delta smelt. Single-celled organisms posed health risks to people who came in contact with the river water.

Wastewater authorities were given until 2021 to remove the ammonia, giardia, and cryptosporidium which endanger fish and humans.  In the meantime, the pollutants keep coming and the policy of cutting off water for farmers is still the favored solution.

This is why farmers are so frustrated.  They see the wastewater situation as the real threat to endangered fish, but water the bureaucrats sole solution to Delta health problems is withholding water from farmers.

More Information at Familiesprotectingthevalley.com

2019-06-26T17:04:54-07:00June 26th, 2019|

North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance Looks for Solutions

Solutions From The Land on System Implementation

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today recently spoke with Ernie Shea, president of Solutions From the Land. He explained the importance of system implementation and the North American Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance.

“Our primary areas of focus at the moment are clean energy, climate change, and soil and water conservation in the 21st century,” he said.

They are integrating these areas of focus and the systems involved. There is still a need to find a solution for profitability.

“The biggest and important areas of focus is finding a way to respond to the changing climatic conditions and deliver solutions that create wealth and job opportunities for agriculture,” Shea said.

North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance is looking for ways to deliver solutions.

“We have created the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance, and it is the continental platform for farm and conservation groups that are looking at ways these landscapes can deliver solutions,” Shea explained.

There are conversations taking place at the state level about becoming more sustainable, resilient, and participating in the low carbon economy.

“Carbon sequestration is one of the more exciting new areas of opportunity that are coming for agriculture,” Shea said.

Farming has been framed as a problem in the past.

“Oftentimes, we’re framed as the problem child,” Shea said.

When managing a farming operation, good solid conservation practices are important.

“No-till cover crops are an example that you are increasing the organic content. You are sequestering carbon at a scale that goes beyond what people originally gave us credit for it,” Shea explained.

Well-managed agricultural systems help on many levels. In the upper Midwest, there are continuous corn operations, even no-till corn operations.

“They were measuring the carbon content in the first meter, and they weren’t realizing that the root systems, we’re pulling carbon down well below one meter down to two meters in deeper,” Shea said.

These monoculture landscapes are labeled as something bad. This landscape, in particular, was a critically needed solution. Well-managed agricultural systems can deliver food, feed, fiber, energy, and environmental services.

“If we can figure out a way to create a monitoring and measuring system, then 21st-century agriculture will be seen as solutions, not defined as problems,” Shea said.

2021-05-12T11:05:03-07:00June 25th, 2019|

Organization is the Missing Link to Supply Chains

Grower Distribution Difficult

By Mikenzi Meyers, Contributing Editor

Creating a link between growers and the distributions of their commodities is becoming increasingly difficult. Aaron Magenheim with AgTech Insight based out of Salinas is helping to create a more efficient communication system to bring supply chains together.

Magenheim described a situation last year where Walmart required IBM technology in order to sell leafy greens, but when growers asked how to implement the technology, they could not get a clear answer. “We need to help move this industry forward and have the right people that work together and understand the right direction,” he said.

Another issue Magenheim has seen is the lack of data on failed trials. This is especially a problem in California, where there is a constant push to test new products. Whether it be hiring an analytics team or making sure growers record their ROI (return on investment), Magenheim said organization is the key to moving forward.

2021-05-12T11:05:03-07:00June 18th, 2019|

California Shows Decreased Use of Most-Hazardous Pesticides

There Was a Big Decline of Hazardous Material Used in 2017

News Release

The amount of pesticides used statewide declined in 2017 according to new data from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.  This includes a drop in many of the most hazardous chemicals, including pesticides that are carcinogens, and those with the potential to contaminate groundwater and air.

According to the 2017 Pesticide Use Report, the overall amount of pesticides used in California dropped to about 205 million pounds in 2017. That was a decrease of 2 percent from the previous year.  Agriculture use, which accounts for the greatest pesticide use in California, dropped by 3.7 million pounds (1.9 percent) from 2016. Pesticide use in other applications, including landscaping and structural pest control, also decreased in 2017. 

“This report demonstrates that California’s farmers continue to lead the way when it comes to using more sustainable pest management tools and techniques,”said Val Dolcini, Acting Director of DPR. “DPR looks forward to continuing its collaboration with growers, community groups, and other interested citizens to ensure that these pesticides are used in the safest manner possible. “

California produces nearly half of American grown fruits and vegetables, and the amount of pesticides used varies annually depending upon pest problems, weather and other factors.

You can see a short video at https://youtu.be/QKgExqdRpNM

Other highlights of the 2017 Pesticide Use Report data include:

  • The use of carcinogenic pesticides decreased by 5.6 percent to 41.7 million pounds, compared to 44.2 million pounds in 2016.
  • The use of fumigant pesticides decreased by 5.8 percent to 39.5 million pounds, compared to 41.9 million pounds the previous year.
  • The use of pesticides that are toxic air contaminants decreased by 6.4 percent to 43 million pounds, compared to 45.9 million pounds in 2016.
  • The use of pesticides with the potential to contaminate ground water decreased by 25.3 percent to 0.4 million pounds compared to 0.5 million pounds in 2016.
  • The use of pesticides identified as cholinesterase inhibitors, which can affect the nervous system, decreased by 2.6 percent to 4.2 million pounds compared to 4.3 million pounds in 2016. The pesticide chlorpyrifos is included in this category. In 2017, the use of chlorpyrifos increased by 5 percent to 946,000 pounds, compared to 903,000 pounds in 2016. However, overall use of chlorpyrifos has been decreasing for the last decade, and last month, DPR announced plans to  cancel the registration of this pesticide.
  • The use of biopesticides, which have been identified as likely to be low risk to human health and the environment, increased to approximately 8.1 million pounds. This is a 5.5 percent increase from 7.7 million pounds used in 2016.

The pesticide-use data, which has become more comprehensive in the decades since such information started being collected in the 1950s, helps support DPR in its regulatory and enforcement mission.  It can be viewed online: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/pur/purmain.htm.

2021-05-12T11:01:47-07:00June 18th, 2019|

Ag Start Provides a Place to Start for Agriculture Innovations

California Ag Start Helps Startup Companies

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

With the help of corporate sponsors, new agriculture technology companies are making strides to improve efficiency for growers. California Ag Start, a nonprofit incubator for startup companies in the food and agricultural technology sector, is helping to process these sponsors and support innovations throughout the industry.

“We have access to our corporate sponsors who are also in the Ag Technology space, and we can access some of their science and other professionals as mentors to these startup companies,” said John Selep, President of AgTech Innovation Alliance—the 501(c)3 non-profit behind Ag Start.

One of the ways Ag Start is helping to improve efficiency in the field comes from a company using hyperspectral imagery to check nutrients in soils. “They can actually do almost a continuous scan as a plow is going through the field and develop a continuous map of the nutrient profile within that soil,” Selep explained.

Typically, when a grower tests their soil, they pick two to three spots to sample from and will not receive data on it for a couple of days. According to Selep, hyperspectral scanning will not only help eliminate that wait time, but will provide a much more detailed analysis of the entire field.

“You’d be much more precise about where you put nutrients. Just enough in the places it’s needed as opposed to blanketing the field and pouring on gallons of fertilizer,” Selep said.

2021-05-12T11:05:03-07:00June 14th, 2019|

AgTech Insight Improving Business

Customer Satisfaction is Key in AgTech

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Working in the agricultural industry demands integrity and honesty. California Ag Today recently spoke with Aaron Magenheim with AgTech Insight, a global, full-spectrum agricultural and tech consulting firm based in Salinas.  They are currently tracking 3,000 digital ag companies around the globe, allowing them to work with real companies to make a huge impact on the world’s food supply.

Magenheim started by selling weather stations 10 years ago when people started asking if he could help aid in soil moisture, imagery, and tracking equipment.

“I got to the point that I wasn’t going to a farmer saying, ‘I’m selling you something.’ I’m going to them saying, ‘Let’s see how we can improve processes and where you’re going,’” he said.

Magenheim’s focus is to help positively impact business for farmers.

Customer satisfaction is the main focus for AgTech Insight.

“If proper customer support is not achieved, then that piece of equipment is in the trash, and you are classified as a company that did not follow through,” Magenheim said. “This would result in an area where you cannot do business anymore.”

2019-06-11T16:58:11-07:00June 11th, 2019|

Food Safety in the Field and Post Harvest

Farmers See Food Safety As Critical

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

There was a recent panel discussion at the Safe Food of California Convention on how to keep food safe in the field and post-harvest. Tom Jones, senior director of analytic services with the Safe Food Alliance, stated that microbial food safety is being looked at to see what the key factors are.

The morning session was focused on getting the essential points of microbial food safety, such as what to worry about, key parameters to minimize the chance of contamination, and chemical contaminants.

“California agriculture is involved in growing crops for around the world, and so there are other concerns that we have to think about, such as pesticides or mycotoxins, where regulations might be different in different countries,” Jones said.

The Safe Food Alliance has to think about what products the consumer, customers, and buyers are looking for.

Innovative ideas like Blockchain are being used to keep food safe by tracking information.

“There are alternative treatments to traditional thermal processes that maintain the freshness of the food and its nutritional quantity, but [are] also able to destroy the pathogens,” Jones said.

Experts in Sacramento are advocating for food safety every day. They also advocate for agriculture and the challenges faced both domestically and internationally.

“We talked about everything from the challenges of Immigration and Labor to proposition 65 toxins regulations, the current trade disputes internationally, and how those are impacting California agriculture,” Jones said.

2021-05-12T11:05:03-07:00June 7th, 2019|
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