Study: Remote Sensing of Weeds on Vineyards Has Merit

Aerial Sensing Of Weeds Saves Time and Labor

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

There is a potential use of remote sensing with drones and vineyard weed management. Working on that research is Cody Drake, a senior at California State University, Fresno. He’s working with Luca Brillante, an assistant professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology. Anil Shrestha is chair and professor, also in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at Fresno State. Drake’s research is at a vineyard in Napa County.

“The goal of my research is to make weed management practices in vineyards a little more efficient,” Drake said.

Currently, there is a lot of manpower, money, and time going into scouting for weeds and spraying.

“What we did with the drone is we wanted to map high-pressure weed zones to target spray in the field instead of spraying the entire field,” Drake explained.

This aerial scouting is hoping to become more efficient for time and labor.

“It’s all based on imagery. The drone gives us waypoints as to the areas where we need to spray. We have a company that’s called Drone Deploy, and they go through, and they stitch all the photos together,” Drake said.

Drake’s research has only been on vineyards so far, and his research has been proven to work.

“We did a 30-meter flight and a 10-meter flight, and that just shows the difference in how close you can get to identifying weeds species on the ground at a 30 meter height,” he said.

At 30 meters, it was very hard to tell which species was which. At 10 meters, the weeds were more identifiable.

“We would prefer to do another trial with a higher resolution camera. That way we can see the species, identify them a little easier and a little more efficiently,” Drake said.

By doing this, Drake and his team can pinpoint where the heavyweights are and just go spray that one area. For future research, they are going to try a camera with higher resolution to see if it can see through a denser vineyard.

Alkaliweed Alert! Your Help is Needed!

Information Needed on A New Plant Called Alkaliweed 

By James Schaeffer, Kurt Hembree, and Anil Shrestha, Graduate Student CSU, Fresno, UCCE, Fresno County, and Professor, CSU, Fresno

Pistachio growers and consultants in the southern San Joaquin Valley have recently reported an invasion of a new plant (alkaliweed) along irrigation ditches, roadsides, and into their orchards. Alkaliweed is a California native perennial plant that seems to be rapidly spreading throughout the region.

In some cases, this weed has completely taken over pistachio orchards in a matter of a couple of years after first being spotted. Thus far, repeated applications of postemergence herbicides have only yielded minimal control effects.

Alkaliweed in the field.

Unfortunately, little information is known to date about specific biological and ecological characteristics of this weedy plant, so we are asking for your assistance to help us identify where specifically it has become a problem for you. With this information, we will better be able to understand its growth characteristics and hopefully develop control measures to mitigate the problem.

Studies are currently under way to look at some of these growth characteristics (such as response to salinity, light, and moisture). Your input of where it has become a problem for you and your growers is critical for us to be successful.

Please follow the link https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/1f4753edfd7347ce84cc81f35e65dc02     to take a quick survey on alkaliweed in your area. Your help on this important weed issue is greatly appreciated!

Fresno State Student Studies Palmer Amaranth

Sami Budhathoki Finds Palmer Amaranth Can Adapt to Saline Soils

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
Palmer Amaranth

Sami Budhathoki is in the last semester of her undergrad degree at Fresno State. She spoke with California Ag Today recently about her research on how the Palmer Amaranth can adapt to saline soils in the San Joaquin Valley. Palmer amaranth as among the most troublesome weeds in agriculture because it is a very prolific seed producer and very tough to control due to widespread glyphosate escapes. It is found throughout California.

Her major advisor is Anil Shrestha, a professor in weed science at Fresno State. Budhathoki presented her research at a recent California Weed Science Society Meeting in Sacramento.

“I treated soils with five different salt levels, and I found out that the weed likes that higher salt levels, and they did fine, and they all germinated,” Budhathoki said.

Based on the pictures on Budhathoki’s poster, the Amaranth grew better in soils with higher salinities.

“That gives us the hint that Fresno is more resistant for the Palmer Amaranth plants because the west side has a lot of salt in its soil,” she said.

That is why it is hard to control in those areas, especially because they propagate so easily.

Budhathoki gave California Ag Today more insight on her research.

“Before treating the soil with salt, the plants were all the same height and same size. After the treatment, you can see the differences in how each plant reacted to the salt,” she said.

We asked Budhathoki what it was like working with such a troublesome weed in the ag industry.

“It was my first time working with Palmer Amaranth; it was a good experience,” she said.

Budhathoki says that she thinks there will be more research on this weed in the future so that farmers can find out how to better control it.

Many Questions Around SGMA Law

SGMA Law is Poorly Written

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

A recent meeting brought farmers and other stakeholders to California State University, Fresno to discuss the possible impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

SGMA requires governments and water agencies of high and medium priority groundwater basins to halt overdraft pumping and to bring those basins in equal levels between pumping and recharge. Under SGMA, these basins should reach sustainability within 20 years of implementing their sustainability plans. For critically over drafted basins, that will be 2040. For the remaining high and medium priority basins, 2042 is the deadline.

Don Wright,the publisher of WaterWrights.net, which is the only agriculture water reporting service in the Valley, spoke om the topic.

“SGMA is an overwhelming concept for most people because it’s an overwhelmingly poorly written law,” Wright said. “However, you show me anybody more creative than a farmer trying to get water. Hopefully, people left [the meeting] with the hope that others are looking out for solutions.”

Farmers and other stakeholders attended a recent SGMA meeting at California State University, Fresno.

Wright explained that the meeting helps blunt the impacts, the intended consequences, and the unintended consequences that come from legislation like this.

On the panel were farmers, agronomist, soil engineers, farmers, and a water attorney.

“All of these people are intimately involved in how the junction between water being delivered to the plants and harvest taken place. A lot of questions were answered, more importantly, we started defining the issues that need to be asked. And often that’s often the most critical step,” Wright said.

Lauren Layne, a water law attorney with Baker Manock and Jensen, suggested that farmers take action and put meters on their wells to start collecting data that could be of use to them.

“That’s a double edge sword,” Wright said. “For one it’s, it’s like putting a GPS on your vehicle for the government to follow you around. You don’t want that. You don’t want the government necessarily know how much water you’re using. But on the other side, if you keep that information private, once SGMA starts being implemented, and you can prove that you’ve used X amount of water, you can report your average cost per acre. Also, if a farmer is in an area with surface deliveries, how much does the surface deliveries impact your pumping? That’s a great combination to have.”

Wright said if the industry can get enough information, then they can report that the reason the farming industry needs to repair aquifers is due to cut offs from the deliveries to farmers.

Service providers, product manufacturers, and designers are looking at solutions to SGMA. These products can be seen at Fresno State’s Water Energy and Technology (WET) Center.

“It’s all about how can we keep farmers farming,” Wright said. “I know when a farmer is by himself and your back is against the wall, people are looking out for you.”

Wright also explained that the people that are populating the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) boards are not the enemy.

“They are men and women like you and I, with a stake in it. They are not the ones trying to cut off the water; they are the ones with boots on the ground dealing with a poorly written law.”

Entrepreneurship Forum is Biggest in Valley

Entrepreneurship Forum in Clovis on Nov. 15

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The Central Valley Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum will be held in Clovis on Nov. 15th. This forum should be the largest event for innovation and entrepreneurship in the Central Valley. Industry leaders, angel investors, entrepreneurs and business owners will be there to share advice and strategies on how to make it in today’s economy.

“We are gearing up for our big event that will be held at Clovis at the Veterans Memorial District in the auditorium,” said Helle Peterson, manager of the Center of Irrigation Technology at California State University Fresno.

“We actually have the whole building because we have multiple things going on. We will have a series of workshops during the day that’s all around financing, investment, entrepreneurship, innovation. We also have five companies that will pitch their technology or their business to a group of potential investors. The whole community will be there, and we’re very excited about that,” Peterson said.

“There’s an evening program attached to that, which we call the stock exchange. It’s where we will have 20 entrepreneurs exhibiting their technology business and then the audience will go around and invest in these businesses with monopoly money. It will create excitement of which company we think will be more successful,” Peterson said.

The keynote speaker will be Paul Singh, the founder of disruption Corporation.

“He’s actually one of the founders of 500 Startup, which is a really well-known accelerator in the Bay area, and he can really talk to that entrepreneurship innovation space,” Peterson said.

Find out more about the event and register for it here.

Fresno State’s WET Center Home to BlueTechValley Entrepreneurs

BlueTechValley Series – Part 3

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

We’re continuing our series on California Ag Today regarding the BlueTechValley Initiative, which was established on the Fresno State campus in 2011, and part of an innovation cluster that provides access to commercialization services that will accelerate innovation and growth of water and energy-oriented companies in 39 counties from central to northern California.

We spoke to Helle Petersen, the manager of the Water, Energy and Technology Center – also known as the WET Center – at Fresno State, where BlueTechValley is centered.

“The WET Center is a physical building located on the Fresno State campus, and it has six offices for entrepreneurs that want to grow their water, energy or agricultural business and be around companies that share those same visions and the same business,” Peterson said. “The WET Center also has a testing lab to test different kind of water technologies.

“The WET Center is very unique. I haven’t really seen anything at any university that’s the same. It was built in 2007 as a partnership between Fresno State and what used to be the Central Valley Business Incubator, but now it has rolled in under the International Center for Water Technology, and it’s part of their program,” Peterson said.

Petersen said it is a very busy place. “As I mentioned, we have six offices, but we also have about 30 other company startups … [and] also more mature companies that are members of the center, and they really want to be part of the community, if you will, because there’s something synergetic about working with companies or maybe talking about some of the same problems you have when you work in the same industry.”

Peterson said the WET Center is expanding for those entrepreneurs that may be coming out of town.

“Actually what we’re doing is across the street … there’s another smaller building that we are actually incorporating into the WET Center, and we’re going to build an additional six offices there, plus a plug-and-play space,” she explained. “ Let’s say you have a tech company out of the Bay Area and you’ve kind of outgrown that space, because you’ve realized you need to be in the central San Joaquin Valley if you have anything to do with agriculture. So you can come down here for a few days a week or a month, and you have a workspace. You also will have a conference room that you can all use.”

This is part of an ongoing series on the BlueTechValley Innovation Cluster, which includes entrepreneurs at several California State Universities and the Sierra Small Business Development Center. It’s all about finding efficiencies in water and energy.

 

 

 

Blue Tech Valley Innovation Cluster – Part 1

Blue Tech Valley Funded by California Energy Commission

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The Blue Tech Valley Central Valley regional innovation cluster represents an expansion and interconnection of multiple incubators in entrepreneurship programs, with services located at each of the seven designated Blue Tech Valley cluster hubs, collectively serving 39 counties and covering two-thirds of California’s geographic area. Funding for the new cluster is provided by a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission.

The designated hubs for the Blue Tech Valley innovation cluster features Fresno State as the central portion. Other hubs include: CSU Bakersfield, Chico State, Humboldt State University, Cal State University, Monterrey Bay, Sacramento State, and a Sierra small business development center.

California Ag Today recently spoke with Erik Stokes of the California Energy Commission Research and Development Division. Blue Tech Valley was part of a major $60 million initiative the Energy Commission launched about a year ago to really try to create a state-wide ecosystem to support clean energy entrepreneurship across the state.

“As part of this initiative, we created four regional innovation clusters to manage a network of incubator-type services that can encourage clean tech entrepreneurs in the region and really try to help make what can be a very tough road towards commercialization a little bit easier,” Stokes said.

“Blue Tech Valley and their partners were selected to be the Central Valley cluster. A big reason for that was their strength and expertise in the food and agricultural sector,” he explained.

One of the focus areas of the incubator is to find areas in farming to save costs and minimize greenhouse gases.

“We really want to focus on those technologies that can help both reduce water use, as well as energy use,” Stokes said.

Doug Mederos to be Named Tulare’s 57th Farmer of the Year

Doug Mederos to be Tulare’s Farmer of the Year

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

On March 29, the Kiwanis Club of Tulare County will recognize Doug Mederos as the 57th Farmer of the Year. Mederos – a diversified farmer and owner of Doug Les Farms in Tulare County – grows almonds, pistachios, cotton, silage corn and black-eyed peas. Mederos farms 600 acres and manages another 300 acres for his brother.

Mederos told California Ag Today the award caught him by surprise. “It is pretty humbling,” he said, “especially when you see the list of growers they picked [in prior years], and you always wonder, ‘Do I fit in this list or not?’”

Mederos’ family has been farming for several generations. “My grandfather came over in 1920 and started a dairy, P & M Farms, with his brother. When my father got out of the military, he joined the partnership with my grandfather and my uncle and my uncle’s son, Larry Pires.

“Along the way, my two brothers and my cousin’s sister, Loretta, all worked at the farm. My cousin Larry and I eventually became partners in the Pires and Mederos Dairy operation after we graduated from college.

The partners decided to move the dairy out of California and chose South Dakota. Mederos explained, “I stayed here farming in California, and I’ve been pretty fortunate over the years. We’ve had good years and bad years, but the majority of them have been good. Hopefully continuing on so that at some point I get to retire.”

Mederos’ children may continue their family’s legacy of farming in the Central Valley. “Probably my son or somebody will take over,” Mederos said. “He’s going to go off to Fresno State and to major in Ag business, so hopefully in a few years, he’ll be back here. Who knows, maybe it will be my daughter who comes around and ends up running the farm. You never know.”

Fresno State Launches New Agricultural Leadership Program

Fresno State’s Avery Culbertson Launches Solid Agricultural Leadership Program

 

By Lauren Dutra, Associate Editor

 

Dr. Avery Culbertson, who is passionate about agricultural leadership joined California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) in August, in a newly created position to develop an Ag leadership curriculum for the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

Dr. Culbertson’s interest in Ag leadership was initially sparked by “being a product of National FFA Organization* (FFA). You have a lot of role models and influences around you. You start getting an idea of what Ag leadership is,” said Culbertson.

“After I got my degree in agricultural education and was looking for a job, I met with a colleague who said, ‘There are adult leadership programs around the country, and I want you to start one at New Mexico State University.’”

Having been trained by the California Agricultural Leadership Program, Culbertson was confident that she could successfully launch a program. “They really opened their arms to me,” she commented, “and provided resources. As that progressed, I started defining what leadership was.”

Culbertson asserted, “An agricultural leadership program is not only [about] understanding our industry, but understanding our customer. That became very important to me in and outside of the job. The only way that agriculture can lead in society is by understanding our stakeholders.”

Culbertson thinks it is critical not only to know how to lead—having the skill set to be a great speaker or to be knowledgeable in different fields,” she explained, “we also need to know who we are leading. As I’ve been discussing with my classes right now, leadership is a matter of taking a group of people and accomplishing a collective goal,” she said.


*National FFA Organization (FFA), formerly known as Future Farmers of America, helps students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

Ryan Metzler Juggles Many Farm Operations

Ryan Metzler Juggles Farm Operations—Large and Small

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Ryan Metzler grew up as a fourth generation California farmer, as his dad and uncle had a fairly big farming operation producing tree fruit and winegrapes in the Fresno area throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Eventually, Ryan’s dad spun off on his own, enabling Ryan to work with his dad for many years.

 

Today, Metzler is a graduate of Fresno State, lives in Fresno, and as vice-president of Capital Agricultural Property Services—the property management division of Prudential Ag Investments—he manages many farm operations in the West. “Most of our clients are large investment groups,” said Metzler, “so these clients will typically look at large agricultural properties as an investment.”

 

As these investment companies typically know little about farming, Metzler explained, “our role is to not only make recommendations about what to plant, but also how to diversify, how many acres, how to process, and who gets to buy the fruit. So we end up growing fruits, nuts and vegetables and just about anything that is consumed,” he said.

 

“My charge is the western region of the U.S., but we manage farms in the Midwest and the East,” Metzler said. “It does give me opportunities to be involved with a lot of different commodities, but I have to say that growing winegrapes is probably my favorite.”

 

Managing many properties takes a very strong team. “I work directly with some managers and then we hire a secondary layer of management to do the tractor work and the day to day operations. We have both the economic responsibility, but also the practical farming responsibility to maintain these properties because they do change over time.”

California Cabernet Winegrapes

 

Metzler also farms 200 acres of winegrapes and tree fruit in the Fresno/ Sanger area. “What I find the most interesting, is that I get to be a small grower and deal with small grower issues, and I also get to be a large grower and deal with large grower issues. And I love to marry up those two challenges because it gives me a great perspective on decision making. Sometimes you have to make a strategy choice and other times you have to make a tactical choice, and I find that mix to be really rewarding,” said Metzler.

 

Metzler summed up farming as “an absolute thrill. I wake up everyday and pinch myself to be lucky enough to do something like this for a living.”