California Rice Growers are Model of Environmental Stewardship

Understanding Water Usage For California Rice Growers

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

The amount of rain California received in March has put a hold on rice planting.  In a normal year, California rice growers would be finishing up their fertilizer regimen, getting ready for their April planting.  Luis Espino, a UC Cooperative Extension Farm advisor in Colusa County, explained that the wet weather has caused many farmers to push back their planting schedule.  “We had a lot of rainfall, so the ground is pretty soaked. There are some areas that are still flooded; they still have water in the field. It’ll be a while before tractors can get in there, but I’m guessing that as things dry out, things should start moving soon,” Espino said.

Photos Courtesy of Matthew Sligar of Rice Farming TV

After five years of drought conditions, California finally had a considerable amount of rainfall over the winter months.  Available water supplies are at a much better level than they were in recent years, but there is another aspect that could hurt rice planting this season.  “There’s been a good winter, so they’re going to have enough water to plant acreage as they would on a normal year. What’s not helping is the price of rice. It’s a little too low, and so that might hinder some of the plantings,” Espino said.

The California rice industry is a model of environmental stewardship, working closely with regulatory agencies and conservation groups to ensure that rice production improves wildlife habitats while promoting sound management of water resources.  The rice industry has faced quite a bit of scrutiny over the past few years because of misconceptions regarding flooded rice fields.  It is important to understand that the water used to flood rice fields has more than one use and eventually goes back into the water cycle.  “There is a constant flow of water coming into the field and then leaving so that water is going back to the canal, going back eventually to the river and so it does get recycled,” Espino said.

Rice production in the state has changed remarkably over the past 50 years, with improved varieties, increased yields and improved marketability.  With water on the minds of many Californians, Espino explained some of the reasons why rice fields are flooded for planting.  “It can produce biomass and grain when the field is flooded. Maybe more important than that is the fact that water functions as a herbicide. By having water on the field, you have a way to suppress weeds from growing,” Espino said.

Aside from a small percentage of water being lost to evaporation, most of the standing water in rice fields stays in the overall water cycle.  “The water used in rice fields – before it gets back to the river – is used four times, so in four different fields,” Espino said.

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Fine Tuning Almond Irrigation

New technology helps farmers use water to maximum effectiveness

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

At the recent big Almond Conference in Sacramento, there were a lot of discussions on water use in almonds. And while growers are doing a great job in conserving, there’s always ways to improve, according to Larry Schwankl, UC Cooperative Extension Irrigation Specialist Emeritus. He shared with California Ag Today the take-home points of his talk in front of several hundred growers.

larry_schwankl
Irrigation Specialist Larry Schwankl

“We have been researching, ‘How much do growers need to irrigate?’ We want to make sure that their irrigation system are effective and that they know how long to operate it and then ways of checking to make sure that they’re doing a good job and utilizing soil moisture sensors and devices,” Schwankl said.

Schwankl also suggested that growers use pressure bomb to accurately measure the pressure of water inside a leaf. When used, it’s possible to measure the approximate water status of plant tissues.

In using a pressure bomb, the stem of a leaf is placed in a sealed chamber, and pressurized gas is added to the chamber slowly. The device has been calibrated to indicate whether or not that leaf is stressed for water.

“We can predict how much water the tree’s going to need, and we can predict how much an irrigation system is going to put on, but there’s errors in all predictions,” Schwankl said.   “We need to go back and check and make sure that we’re staying on target. That’s where knowing the soil moisture and the plant water status really helps.”

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Past CFBF President Pauli Reflects Back

Former head of California Farm Bureau Federation played instrumental part in many ag issues

 

California Ag Today enjoyed a recent conversation with Bill Pauli who farms wine grapes and Bartlett pears in Mendocino County on the North Coast.

Past California Farm Bureau Federation President Bill Pauli
Past California Farm Bureau Federation President Bill Pauli

Pauli was one of many that interviewed at the California Farm Bureau Federation’s 98th annual Conference in Monterey earlier this month.

Pauli served as President of the California Farm Bureau Federation during some very challenging times.  “I started clear back in 1981 as a vice-president of the California Farm Bureau, and culminated with president in 2005.

“During that period, I was heavily involved with CALFED and the Delta issues, which are so important to us and for which we’re seeing the issues today with the Delta and water supply and water management and availability,” Pauli said.

CALFED was created because of the importance of the Delta to California. The majority of the state’s water runs through the Delta and into aqueducts and pipelines that distribute it to 25 million Californians throughout the state, making it the single largest and most important source of water for drinking, irrigation and industry.

“I was also involved in a lot of the worker compensation issues, because when Governor Schwarzenegger came in, that was the big issue, or rates and what we were paying. That was always the important issue for me. We had all the other issues related to labor over that period of time, along with the environmental issues that continue to expand.

It’s not news that California Farm Bureau carries the water for almost all the other farming organizations in many ways noted Pauli.

“The thing that’s so unique about the California Farm Bureau, and our county farm bureaus in every county of the state, is that we represent all of agriculture.

CFBF represents 450 different commodities for the individual grower all the way down to the local ag level in California.

We have the big, broad-picture issues, but there’s also the local issues that are so important to the individual producer,” Pauli said.

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Better Year for Western Cotton Growers

Western Cotton Growers See Market Improvement

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Cotton growers throughout California and the West fared better this year compared to last year in terms of prices and exports, as reported at the Calcot, Ltd. 89th Annual Meeting last week in Tempe, Arizona. Jarral Neeper president and CEO of the Bakersfield-based Calcot, Ltd., the cotton marketing cooperative representing growers in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, announced, “Last year we produced about 13M bales. We should be a hair over 16M this year.”

California Cotton, Merced County, Sept 2016
California Cotton, Merced County

Neeper estimated, “We’re going to go from about 10.2 million bales in exports to 11.5 million based on a review of our historical shares of the marketplace and the world, the foreign production/consumption gap, our historical shares of filling that gap, and how much we should export.”

“One year ago at this time, cotton prices were at a very low $0.61 per pound,” said Neeper. “The market eventually fell. Prices rallied a little bit, and then fell down to $0.55. Then, the last month of the crop year, we had calcot-logothis unforeseen $0.10 rally—almost $0.12 rally.

In cotton marketing where there are highs and lows, Neeper acknowledged, you can’t always sell high; you have to sell when you can. “As a cooperative, in order to make progress payments to your membership, you do have to sell cotton and turn it into cash.”

“The cotton futures look good,” Neeper said, “even better for the coming year. We’re sitting at roughly $0.70 a pound, about ten cents higher than a year ago. And, generally, California cotton growers tend to get a $0.05 to $0.10 premium per pound because of our growing additions and high quality lint.”

Neeper believes the future of Calcot, Ltd. is “terrific.” He added, “89 years and still going strong; we’re looking for another 89 years.”

 

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Calcot Could Market 70 Millionth Bale this Year

Calcot Ltd. Chairman Talks California Cotton at 89th Annual Meeting

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Calcot Ltd., a democratically-run cotton marketing cooperative owned by 1,200 select cotton growers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, held its 89th Annual Meeting in Tempe, Arizona, this week. 

Gregory Wuertz, chairman of Calcot and an Arizona cotton grower, said, “The cooperative started in 1927, and it is just amazing to me that we will reach 70 million bales sometime this year.”

“That’s a lot of cotton if you think about it,” Wuertz said. “And it has a great effect on all the growers. A lot of money has been run through the organization, and we are still doing it.”

Wuertz said Calcot directors are in the field across the western cotton belt, interacting with the industry.

“We have Calcot personnel in each cotton region who are also out in the fields talking to people and bringing up questions. They just don’t stay in their office. We try to get great members, and we work really closely with gin managers and their staff. We want to be on a first-name basis,” he said.

Wuertz noted, “You have to love the lifestyle of cotton production. You get attached to the crop. You plant it in March and harvest it in November. It’s a long-term thing.”

Yet, Wuertz acknowledged, “There are ups and downs. There always are. There is always a new catastrophe because you deal with the weather and the water issues. I think you just build up a little bit of a strength and have tougher skin than maybe some growers have with other commodities.”

Many Calcot growers outside of California are in awe of California producers. 

“California has a lot more regulations,” Wuertz said. “They’re blessed with a really nice climate—just a perfect area. Our climate is a little harsher, but California people work with air quality, labor laws, and their water issues. They have to have a real sharp pencil to make all that work.”

However, Wertz says, California growers always enjoy a better per-pound price for their cotton.

“I think over the years they have developed markets, and because of their climate, they do grow a real [high] quality crop that just demands a higher price. Everybody says there’s no difference, but there is some kind of difference that is just a little better,” he said.

Wuertz explained that the Calcot cooperative is good for growers when it comes to the prices they receive.

“It is the classic cooperative idea,” he said. “It is too risky to try and peak these cotton markets. It is risky to just hold all your cotton and try to peak it at one time.”

“You have to be conservative,” he continued. “Like cotton growers are — very conservative. So you sell some and hold some and seek financing from banks for the short term. We have good tight covenants with the bank, and that’s part of our risk-management policy. We don’t want to speculate, so that is why we sell throughout the year, and we try and watch all those things.”

“We have a very strong relationship with mills and we can sell directly to them, which I think demands more of a premium for Calcot growers,” Wuertz said. “And while most cotton-spinning mills are offshore, we still have a good chunk of cotton going to some very good domestic mills, where they turn out top of the line sheets and higher-count shirts.”

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Breaking News: Cal Poly Opens New Greenhouse and Insect Rearing Facility

New Greenhouse Facility Opens to Save Citrus from Psyllids that Vector HLB

Facility to Rear Tamarixia Radiata, Natural ACP Predator

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Scores of citrus industry leaders, citrus growers, scientists and CDFA officials attended the ribbon cutting event TODAY at the opening of a new greenhouse on the Cal Poly Pomona campus to rear Tamarixia radiata, a tiny parasitic wasp imported from Pakistan because it is an Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) nymph predator. ACP, in turn, is a serious nonnative citrus pest that can vector Huanglongbing (HLB)—a deadly citrus disease also known as Citrus Greening—that has devastated the powerhouse citrus Screenshot 2016-07-25 12.24.41.png

industry in Florida, threatens to ruin additional citrus economies, and is the biggest threat the California citrus industry has ever faced.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), infected citrus trees “produce fruits that are green, misshapen and bitter, unsuitable for sale as fresh fruit or for juice. Most infected trees die within a few years.” ACPs have been detected in Alabama, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of those locations, the HLB disease has been detected in California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

ENTER:  Tamarixia radiata

Use of the ACP predator, Tamarixia radiata as a biological control for ACP was discovered by Mark Hoddle, biological control specialist and principal investigator, UC Riverside ( UCR), Department of Entomology. The first release of Tamarixia was in December 2011 after USDA-APHIS cleared the natural enemy for release from the Quarantine Facility at UCR.

Mark Hoddle UC Riverside Department of Entomology
Mark Hoddle UC Riverside Department of Entomology

“Tamarixia can kill ACP nymphs in two different ways,” explained Nick Hill, a Tulare County citrus producer and Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPC) chair.  “The first is parasitism. In this instance, a female parasitoid lays an egg underneath a fourth or fifth instar—the larger and final developmental stage of the ACP nymph before becoming an adult—nymphs that are most preferred by Tamarixia for parasitism. When the egg hatches, the Tamarixia larva begins to feed on the under-surface of the ACP nymph. Eventually the larva completely excavates the body cavity of the ACP nymph and pupates inside the empty shell of its host.”

Hill explained the first releases of the tiny and harmless wasp will occur this fall in urban areas, “to help control ACP so that we do not have to do mitigations such as spraying in those areas. We hope to get to a point where we no longer need to go into people’s yards and ask if we can treat the trees.”

“The issue,” commented Valerie Melano, professor and chair, Cal Poly Pomona Plant Sciences and interim chair, Cal Poly Agribusiness & Food Industry Management/Agricultural Science, “is that we need to come up with the best possible ways to raise enough wasps for big releases to prey on ACP. We will have CDFA employees working in this green house, as well as student workers who have participated in our research program all along,” noted Melano.

Nick Hill, CPDPC chair
Nick Hill, a Tulare County citrus producer and Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPC) chair.

Hill added, “The idea is to get enough Tamarixia out there so they start reproducing themselves and they become self sufficient. This is tough to accomplish, but researchers think if they can get big numbers of the wasp into the urban areas, they can put a big dent in lowering the populations of ACP.”

Cal Poly Pomona Greenhouse

The new Cal Poly 5,040-square-foot research greenhouse, built in collaboration with Citrus Research Board and constructed through a $400,000 grant from the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program, will house the second Tamarixia production program in California. CDFA’s Mount Roubideaux facility in Riverside houses current production. Both facilities will support the CPDPC biological control program that oversees releases in urban areas with high ACP populations.

The new greenhouse should produce a 1-ACP Research Greenhouse1.5 million wasps. “It’s a very nice facility,” said Hill. “We are trying to boost the biological control program to produce four million Tamarixia a year.”

California Quarantine

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) operates an extensive monitoring program to track the distribution of the insect and disease in both residential areas and commercial citrus groves. Results have determined quarantine zones, guided releases of biological control agents, and prioritized areas for a residential chemical control program. Nearly all of southern California is under quarantine for ACP, due to the fact that more than 15 residential trees have been discovered to be in infected with HLB.

The ACP quarantine in California includes parts of the following counties:  Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Stanislaus; and the following entire counties: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Tulare County, and Ventura.

Asian Citrus Psyllid Cooperative Program California, Arizona, Baja California, and Sonora (USDA-APHIS)
Asian Citrus Psyllid Cooperative Program
California, Arizona, Baja California, and Sonora (USDA-APHIS). Visit our Citrus Diseases page to identify a plant infected by citrus greening, citrus canker, citrus black spot and sweet orange scab. If you detect an infected plant, report it  immediately.

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Celebrate National Ice Cream Month!

Celebrate National Ice Cream Month with California Ice Cream and Flavors!

By Lauren Dutra, NAFB Summer Intern and Assistant Editor

Jennifer Giambroni, director of communications, California Milk Advisory Board
Jennifer Giambroni, director of communications, California Milk Advisory Board

First established in 1984 by Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, National Ice Cream Month was scheduled for the month of July, with the third Sunday of the month designated as National Ice Cream Day.

Jennifer Giambroni, director of communications, California Milk Advisory Board, explained why Californians, in particular, have so much to celebrate during National Ice Cream Month. “As the number one ice cream state,” she said, “we produce 126 million gallons of ice cream a year.”

Thats a lot of scoops!

California also leads the nation in milk production, and 99 percent of dairies in the state are family-owned. Including milk production on farms and milk processing, the California dairy industry, supports about 190,000 jobs in the California economy and contributed about $21 billion in economic value added in 2014, according to “Contributions of the California Dairy Industry to the California Economy,” by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center (May 14, 2015). 

Blueberry Ice Cream Float
Blueberry Ice Cream Float (Source: California Milk Advisory Board, Kristina Vanni Blogger, 2012)

Ice cream, being both timeless and innovative, has evolved in flavors and varieties over the years, according to Giambroni, while still holding true to the traditional treat you grew up with as a kid. “Ice cream is an important category that represents a lot of the milk produced on California’s more than 1,400 family dairy farms and carry the Real California Milk seal,” she noted.

“We’re seeing adult-friendly milkshakes with the addition of spirits, ice cream sandwiches made with more than cookies, and sundaes with everything from balsamic vinegar reductions to red bean paste,” Giambroni elaborated. Other new ice cream trends include hyper-indulgent flavor combinations, including nuts and fruits grown in California, and “better for you” versions with probiotics, varying levels of fat and sugar, added calcium, lactose-free, and different kinds of oils. “We’re loving the olive oil and walnut oil ice creams for their subtle flavors,” Giambroni noted.


Approximately 12 pounds of Real California Milk are used to make just one gallon of California ice cream.


Watermelon Chill Ice Cream (California Milk Advisory Board)
Watermelon Chill Ice Cream (California Milk Advisory Board)

The California Milk Advisory Board works with bloggers on how to incorporate ice cream into events for children of all ages:

TomKat Studio – DIY Ice cream Sandwich Bar

Hostess with the Mostess – Healthy Milkshake Bar

Hostess with the Mostess – How to Set Up a Cocktail Milkshake Bar

Hostess with the Mostess – Kids Sundae Party


Check it out:

Ice Cream Sandwich (California Milk Advisory Board)
Ice Cream Sandwich (California Milk Advisory Board)

Rick’s Ice CreamBlue Moon-A fruit loops tasting ice cream with super-secret natural ingredients

McConnell’s Boysenberry Rosé Milk JamCentral Coast, grass-fed milk & cream and cane sugar, slowly-simmered to a thick, rich and decadent milk jam – then churned into house-made, boysenberry & rosé wine preserves. 

Breyer’s Strawberry Ice Cream-packed with sun-ripened California strawberries picked at the peak of happiness!

Gilroy Garlic Festival Garlic Ice Cream-July 29-31, 2016

The Orange Works‘ Orange Ice Cream and Chili Mango Ice Cream

Where Is the Best Ice Cream in California? (PBS, 2014)

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CCA Exam Signup Open

California Certified Crop Advisor Exam Signup Open

Certified Crop Advisers (CCAs) in California and Arizona have the opportunity to register for the August 5, 2016 CCA Exam until June 24, 2016.  The exam will be given in Sacramento, Tulare, Ventura and Yuma.  Registration for the exam is available at: https://www.certifiedcropadviser.org/exams/registration.CAPCA ED

More than 1,000 active CCAs in California and Arizona are playing an important role assisting growers with the efficient and environmentally sound use of fertilizer and crop management.  Many California CCAs recently completed the University of California/California Department of Food and Agriculture Nutrient Management Training Course which qualified them to complete grower nitrogen management plans that are or will be required by the various California Regional Water Quality Boards.

“Crop consultants are encouraged to become CCA s to show that they have the commitment, education, expertise, and experience to make a difference in a client’s business,” said California CCA Chairman, Fred Strauss, Crop Production Services.  “The CCA certification is largest, most recognized agriculturally-oriented program in North America.  The CCA Exam Preparation Course, scheduled in Sacramento on June 24,  will help candidates prepare for the test. Registration for the exam prep course is available at https://capcaed.com/june-24,-2016-ca-cca-exam-preparatory-workshop. 

For more information on the California CCA program, go to: www.cacca.org, or contact Steve Beckley at (916)539-4107 or steve.beckley48@gmail.com for more information. The California CCA Program is also on Facebook.

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Pistachios Trump Diabetes

Pistachios Trump Diabetes

By Brian German, Associate Editor

Just eating the right foods can benefit people diagnosed with pre-diabetes or with type 2 diabetes.  Recent research* suggests including pistachios as part of a balanced diet is a sound strategy to help lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And the news could increase pistachio imports into China, where the disease is rampant.

Judy Hirigoyen, vice president of global marketing for the Fresno-based American Pistachio Growers organization that represents more than 800 growers in California, Arizona and New Mexico, noted pistachios have a good future in the global diabetes epidemic, especially in China. “Believe it or not,” she explained, “one-third of the entire world’s population of diabetics lives in China. Diabetes is associated, not with overweight or obesity, but with their diet. In particular, a lot of fingers are pointed at a lot of white rice,” she said.

“The good news for the pistachio industry,” said Hirigoyen, “is the Chinese population really loves American products, including pistachios. They’re looking for healthy foods to eat, and pistachios are very widely recommended, especially as part of a diet for someone who either has diabetes or who wants to prevent pre-diabetes from developing into diabetes.”

American Pistachio Growers Infographic - Pistachios and Diabetes
American Pistachio Growers Infographic – Pistachios and Diabetes

__________________________________

*A study, published in Diabetes Care, suggests that pistachios may have glucose- and insulin-lowering effects and promote a healthier metabolic profile in people with pre-diabetes. (Hernandez-Alonso, P., et al. Nutrition attributes and health effects of pistachio nuts. Br J Nutr. 2015 Apr;113 Suppl 2:S79-93.)

Another study, published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, suggests that daily consumption of pistachios may shift the lipoprotein size and particle profile to a less atherogenic pattern in people with pre-diabetes. (Hernandez-Alonso, P., et al. Effect of pistachio consumption on plasma lipoprotein subclasses in pre-diabetic subjects. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2015 Apr;25(4):396-402.)

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Replanting Trees as Harvest Ends

David Doll on Replanting Trees

By Laurie Greene, Editor

As harvest comes to a close for many tree crops, the time for replanting trees is swiftly approaching. David Doll, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Merced County, said that if California receives significant rain this year, the replanting process in orchards would be more difficult.

“If we are potentially coming into a wet winter, it’s going to provide challenges in establishing new orchards,” Doll said. “In the case of heavy rainfall, it’s important to keep a few things in mind and plan accordingly. First, if we’re doing any type of soil modification, we need to get a little bit of moisture to help the soil settle.”

Doll said second step is ‘pulling’ berms—the small hills or walls of dirt or sand in an orchard created to divert rain and irrigation water from the tree trunk. He explained, “We want to pull them before the soil gets too wet. We don’t want to walk into a heavy soil field, such as clay or clay loam, and pull berms because in doing so do, we would actually slick that soil over and have to deal with compaction and future issues with the orchard.”

“Third, when we start planting our trees,” Doll said, “it’s important to make sure that we dig a proper hole with wet soils.” Doll warned if you don’t spend the time to dig a hole,  you can ‘glaze’ the soil or form a crust on the sides of the holes, particularly in clay soils, leaving a hard, compact surface that is impenetrable to young roots. He advised to fracture or scratch glazed soil on the sides of the hole with a shovel or rake before filling in to ensure proper root growth.

Doll also said that when planting, the graft union—the point on a plant where the graft is joined to the rootstock—needs to be kept aboveground. “Countless times I’ve seen people plant the graft union below the ground,” said Doll. “Or they’ll plant the tree, pull up a berm, and actually put the graft union below the ground. Keeping the graft union about one hand’s width above the soil line will ensure the graft union remains aboveground as the tree settles.”

“Lastly, if machine planting in very wet clay loam soil, clods [lumps] and air pockets may form,” Doll said. “That’s problematic. The same thing also may occur with hand planting. It’s important to make sure the planters are digging a properly-sized hole and the roots need to be sufficiently covered. The soil needs to be broken down and then replaced around the tree. Finally, to ‘tank’ the tree, apply about 4-5 gallons of water after replacing the dirt to reduce the air pockets and allow the tree to get a good, solid start.”

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