Ag Uses Sound Science to Help Fish

Ag Collaborates to Help Endangered Fish

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Don Bransford, president of the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) as well as a member of the State Board of Food and Agriculture, expressed major concerns with the proposed State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) diversion of 40% of the water from many irrigation districts on rivers that drain into the San Joaquin River to increase flows in the Delta to protect endangered fish.

 

“It’s a very difficult challenge because it appears that the SWRCB wants to increase the flows in the Sacramento River. That water has to come from somewhere, and it looks like it’s going to come from the irrigation districts. Unless we can do environmental projects on the River to improve habitat for fish and re-manage our water, we have water at risk,” said Bransford.

Don Bransford, president, Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District
Don Bransford, president, Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District

 

Bransford, who is also a rice farmer, said “Everyone has their own science regarding protecting those species. We’re talking about salmon, steelhead trout, and of course the smelt.”

“The difficulty is, we believe they’re using a lot of old science. There is newer science that suggests there are better ways to manage this. And, if something does not work, then you change. You just don’t throw more water at it,” he noted.

“We think habitat improvements are important in providing refuge for the fish,” Bransford explained. “We’re looking at flushing rice water into the rivers to provide food. Currently, the rivers are pretty sterile because they are just channels now. If we could apply flows from rice into the rivers like we did for the Delta Smelt this summer, you’re providing food for smelt.”

Bransford noted the Northern California irrigation districts work with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to increase flows in certain areas of the Sacramento River at certain times. “Our irrigation district managers work with the Bureau to provide flushing flows on the upper Sacramento.” These flows clean out diseased gravel beds in the absence of natural high water flows.”

“So they used some extra water late March of this year,” Bransford elaborated, “to just turn the gravel over to freshen it up. It did help the fish, particularly the salmon,” said Bransford.


Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID), according to its website, is dedicated to providing reliable, affordable water supplies to its landowners and water users, while ensuring the environmental and economic viability of the region. As the largest irrigation district in the Sacramento Valley, GCID has a long history of serving farmers and the agricultural community and maintaining critical wildlife habitat. The District fulfills its mission of efficiently and effectively managing and delivering water through an ever-improving delivery system and responsible policies, while maintaining a deep commitment to sustainable practices. Looking ahead, GCID will remain focused on continuing to deliver a reliable and sustainable water supply by positioning itself to respond proactively, strategically and responsibly to California’s ever-changing water landscape.

Glenn County Farmer on Water Cutbacks for Rice, Nuts

John Garner farms rice and walnuts in Glenn County. Though he is busy harvesting both crops now, Garner says rice acreage was down due to water cutbacks and there was a problem getting the longer season rice varieties in the ground early enough.

“There were cutbacks due to the 75 percent water allocation. That amount of water sounds really good, but we were also unable to plant before May 1st. So, in essence, we were prevented from planting some of the longer-season rice because you have to get those varieties in by April 15th-20th,” said Garner.

Still, Garner said his rice harvest this week is going very well. “My walnut crop had an excellent spring for pollination and a good summer, supposedly a warmer summer. We didn’t have the high temperatures or real strong north winds, so the crop just flourished,” said Garner.

And while the 2013-2014 walnut crop is predicted to be a record, Garner questions how that can be true this year. “I have a good normal crop. There are areas in the state where walnut and almond production are off upwards of 30 percent, and I think that’s due to this drought, the water cutbacks and the lowering of the groundwater tables,” said Garner.

“We were fortunate in our areas because we didn’t have nearly their shortage in water . You win some years, and then you’re on the other end some years,” he said.

Blue Prune Drop

Blue Prune Drop and Leaf Scorch in Glenn and Tehama Counties

According to Bill Krueger UC farm advisor emeritus, Glenn County and Richard Buchner UC farm advisor, Tehama County, overheated prunes are succumbing to pressure due to high temperatures over the last few weeks. Blue prune drop and, in some cases, an associated leaf scorch, often develops following the rapid onset of high temperatures as occurred in June of this year.
Damaged prunes color prematurely (turn blue) and usually drop from the tree. The sun-exposed fruits on the top or south side of the tree are more likely to be affected by becoming sunken or flattened. Leaf scorch and dieback may develop in leaves and twigs near the damaged fruit. When damaged leaves dry, the veins may be a darker brown than the rest of the leaf.
Blue prune  drop is associated with heat stress. Excessive heat results in damage to the fruit that is thought to produce a toxin which is transported to spurs, leaves and shoots resulting in the leaf scorch symptoms. Leaf scorch symptoms are always associated with damaged prunes. They do not occur in areas of the tree with no fruit or on young trees without a crop. Anything affecting fruit temperature can have an effect. This would include:
1. Irrigation – Drop and particularly scorch are generally more severe on shallow soils with limited water holding capacity or in orchards toward the end of their irrigation cycle at the onset of heat. Adequate soil moisture insures maximum evapotranspiration and cooling of the plant.
2. Tree Position or Fruit Location – Leaf scorch is usually worse on overheated border trees, or on the south side of individual trees with greater sun exposure.
3. Cultural Practices – Blue prune appears to be less severe in orchards with cover crops than in clean tilled or drip irrigated orchards. Transpiration from an adequately irrigated cover crop should contribute to orchard cooling. In addition, a vegetated orchard floor reflects less sunlight than dead vegetation or bare ground.
4. Nutrition – While blue prune and leaf scorch does not appear to be directly related to potassium deficiency, anything adversely affecting tree health and condition could contribute to higher fruit temperatures. Adequate tree nitrogen levels promote vegetative growth that shades fruit from direct sunlight.
Krueger and Buchner report they have no sure ways of preventing blue prune drop and the associated leaf scorch. However, you can reduce the risk by making sure trees are healthy, vigorous and well supplied with water. Because the damage is caused by heat and not a disease, it should not continue to expand in the tree. Damaged wood should be pruned out during the dormant season.
Source: University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension