Research is being done on drought tolerance and sorghum. California Ag Today recently spoke with Jeff Dahlberg, director of the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier about the topic.
“The sorghum research has gone pretty well for the drought tolerance; we have just finished publishing our fifth article on their first year of data,” he said.
There is a lot of interest in the research findings developing through all the drought work. California is a unique spot to do drought work on a field scale because it does not rain very often.
“That allows us to basically control the field through our ability to add water whenever we want to. I’m really excited about this,” Dahlberg said.
There are genes that are turned off and on with the application and/or lack of water.
“The challenge for us now is to start taking all this data and trying to make some sense out of it,” Dahelberg explained.
It is critical to find out which genes are needed for drought tolerance and how they can get them expressed in plants.
“I think this is long-term basic research but has long-term implications in our ability to produce more drought tolerant crops to help feed the world,” Dahlberg said.
Sorghum has a long-standing history in California. It was grown here in the late 1800s. The USDA brought sorghum to California as a drought-tolerant feed.
“In the 1960s, there were almost 400,000 acres of grain sorghum grown in the state, primarily as a rotation crop for cotton,” Dahlberg said.
This crop is making a come-back with all of the droughts California has been going through.
“It’s a very drought tolerant crop. Probably one of the most drought tolerance cereal crops that we grow worldwide,” Dahlberg explained.
The award-winning documentary, “The Fight for Water: A Farm Worker Struggle”, has been invited to screen at 5:40 pm, Saturday, March 8th at Columbia College’s Dogwood Theatre in Sonora, California, as part of the “Official Selection” at this year’s Back to Nature Film Fest Series.
Presented by the college’s Forestry & Natural Resources Club and the ITSA Film Festival, the screening will be followed by a Q & A with the filmmaker.
The film documents the impact of a federal decision on people living in a Central Valley farming community in the Spring of 2009 when their water supply was cut off and they staged a march to fight for their water.
The film proudly tells the humble story of Joe Del Bosque, who came from parents who were migrant farmworkers to become a farmer and a major Ag leader in the California Central Valley.
He was recently thrown into national spotlight when President Barack Obama visited his farm on February 14, 2014 to address the current drought in California.
Hollywood actor Paul Rodriguez, who helped organize the March for Water in the style of Cesar Chavez, and former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are also featured in the film.
The documentary film, which serves as a cautionary tale and precursor to the current drought in California, has screened at over 10 film festivals, winning accolades and worldwide recognition. The film was produced by Juan Carlos Oseguera, 40, a San Francisco State University alumnus who has been a published film critic and an accomplished producer of several award-winning short films.
It recently received the Best Documentary award at the 2013International Monarch Film Festival and at the 2013 Viña de Oro Fresno International Film Festival. The film also received runner-up honors for Best Documentary in Cinematography andfor Best Political Documentary Film at the 2013 Action on Film International Film Festival, where it also received a nomination for Excellence in Filmmaking.
“People should see this film,” stated Lois Henry,a newspaper columnist who reviewed the film for The Bakersfield Californian. “It’s important that we understand that perspective of what the ‘Water Wars’ mean on a really, really human scale.”
The President Visits CA Farmer Joe Del Bosque, Sees Drought-Ridden Farmland First-Hand
By Laurie Greene, Associate Editor
In an exclusive interview with Joe L. Del Bosque, Jr. after he and his wife, Maria Gloria Del Bosque,hosted President Obama on his farm in Merced County, Empresas Del Bosque, Inc., Del Bosque reflected on the eventful day.
A grower of almonds, cherries, cantaloupes, honeydew melons, asparagus, and mini watermelons, Del Bosque commented, “It was such an honor to have him there, for him to fly all the way out from Washington, and drop in on our farm. We were speechless.”
“My wife was so excited and so nervous about President Obama’s visit, but I told her, “Don’t get nervous. He is coming to our place; this field is our home. We’re inviting him here, it’s a great honor, but we have an important message to tell him.”
“The privilege that we got to be the ones to tell him our story, to represent the Valley—it was just awesome,” said the down-to-earth melon farmer. “It was just awesome; I can’t describe it any other way.”
In addition to Joe and Maria Gloria Del Bosque, participants included:
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Michael Connor, Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
California Governor Jerry Brown
Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer
Representative Jim Costa
Nancy McFadden, executive secretary for Gov. Brown
Ann Notthoff, Natural Resource Defense Council California Director
Mario Santoyo, California Latino Water Coalition
Martin McIntyre, San Luis Water District
Thomas Birmingham, Westlands Water District
Ronald Jacobsma, Friant Water Users
Steve Chedester, Exchange Contractors
Barry Bedwell, California Grape & Tree Fruit League
Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau Federation
Tom Nassif, Western Growers Association
Manuel Cunha, Nisei Farmers League
Andy Souza, Fresno Community Food Bank
Arturo Rodriguez, United Farm Workers President
Gabriel Agustin, Farmworker
Janie Fleming, Ag and Industrial Supply
“And the audience was just my six daughters and their husbands.”
“I know that California is very complicated,” said Del Bosque; “water is very complicated in California. “ I hope they did get the message; it is not easy to understand. But we have some very capable agricultural leaders there who all contributed to this event.”
“I think they got a crash course in California water and Ag,” reflected Del Bosque. “One important thing I came away with is the President said that California is very important to the nation, Ag in particular. I think he has a great awareness and respect for what we do for the country in agriculture here.”
“He certainly mentioned that he and his wife, Michelle, are into eating healthy food,” Del Bosque commented, “and I told him that we don’t just grow food in California; we grow healthy food. And I think he took that with him.”
The President’s trip was brief and very structured, but at one point, Del Bosque and Maria Gloria were invited to join the President and the Governor in the presidential Suburban. “It was a short ride, probably less than 10 minutes. But we got to chat there. It was great: that one-on-one conversation, sitting face-to-face, and the governor there, listening. The President asked me about my life, so I told him a little bit about it. And he mentioned that during the press conference in the field.”
In his speech, President Obama remarked that Joe told him there are three things that make farming work California: soil, water, and people.
“I think the President understands,” continued Del Bosque. “He heard the message of what the potential losses are from some of our agricultural leaders. And I even mentioned that there are far-reaching losses—not just the loss of the communities, the jobs—but loss of food too.”
“The President heard a lot of things; whether they all registered and how well he understood it is hard to say,” Del Bosque remarked. “Because a lot of times, when people come from the city to the country, they don’t know what they are seeing, and sometimes they don’t know the language that we tell them. For instance, President Obama made a mistake in his speech: instead of saying “aqueduct”, he said “aquifer”.
“So, when people come from the city like that, you don’t know whether they are really understanding it. I’m hoping he did, but certainly we are going to keep after this, pursue this, to make sure that he understood.”
Del Bosque also thinks this event puts a great deal of pressure on the Governor to do something.
Del Bosque gave careful thought to his own role, “I always try to bring up the impact on farmers and farmworkers because I feel that I don’t just represent farmers; I represent farmworkers and the communities, so that’s what I bring to the table.
“I don’t try to propose solutions. That is for the water guys; they know those things. My job is to say, ‘What is the effect on the Valley and communities?’ So, I always try to bring that approach.”
Del Bosque summed it up, “It was such a great experience today and for the whole week because I was involved in the preparations since last Saturday.”