Innovation is Bowles Farming Co.’s #1 Objective

Bowles Farming is Major Innovator in Merced County

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

As every industry continues to be pressured by increasing technologies and the expectation to innovate, it is without question that agriculture is no different. With 160 years of experience growing various crops, Bowles Farming Co. in Merced County is not only a leader within the industry but strives to stand on the forefront of innovation.

Danny Royer, Vice President of Technology at Bowles, gave insight to California Ag Today recently as to how his company is using technology to make irrigation more efficient.

“There’s a lot that goes into the irrigation before it even gets to the farm,” he explained. “Our canal company that delivers our water is working on automating their system to meet our automation needs.”

Royer is utilizing water control and data gathering technology through innovative companies such as WaterBit and WiseConn to better regulate how Bowles Farming Co. resources are used.

He is in charge of the technology behind growing various crops, including tomatoes, cotton, wheat, watermelon, and other organic commodities. He said that the key to solving issues is by sharing data within the operation.

“Data is what’s going to provide the solution, but we have to create systems that give the people [the data] who have the competencies to solve the problem,” he explained.

One way Bowles Farming Co. is able to achieve this is by using Google Hangouts on the farm, which enables them to communicate with different sectors of the operation single-handedly.

“We’ve got to be a little more transparent and open about sharing our information with people that are coming from the tech sector trying to help us.”

Royer concluded, “the most important thing when we talk about tech and ag is talking about the impact on the operation … people’s jobs are going to change, how people function is going to change, and if you rule tech out, it’s going to be resisted.”

Irrigation Industry Needs Help

Promoting Efficient Irrigation

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

What will affect the irrigation industry in the future? California Ag Today asks Brent Mecham, the industry development director with the Irrigation Association located in Fairfax, Virginia. Promoting effective irrigation is important.

“I work on the things that are going to affect our industry or the future and trying to position ourselves so we can continue to promote efficient irrigation,” Mecham said.

His occupation includes working on codes and standards, new technologies, technical programs, and educational programs. This is becoming popular among policymakers.

Everyone in the world is benefiting from irrigation. Everybody in the world is benefiting from water whether they know it or not.

“It’s something that affects everybody’s life, and they will not notice it until there’s no lettuce for your salad or no tomatoes. So irrigation affects people all around the world,” Mecham said.

There is more demand on water resources in property. Irrigation is very important for a state like California.

“There is more demand on water resources than ever before, and a lot of places where it is very sensitive, like in California, and the water shortages are becoming prevalent,” Mecham explained.

Farmers have been doing their part to be more profitable in their operations. Cities, too, need to do their part to prevent water running down gutters, which is not efficient.

Sound Science Funding for Farmers

Funding for Sound Science is Critical

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Increased funding to make farming easier is a priority, an expert told California Ag Today recently. LaKisha Odom is the science program director for the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research based in Washington, DC. Funding sound science is a goal for the foundation.

“We are interested in increasing the amount of funding that is available to make farming and decision making easier,” Odom said.

This is all based on sound science. Their foundation base depends on the readily available funding.

“We match public-private dollars and increase that amount of funding available to fund sound science,” she explained.

The funding is for foundations and agencies that will assist farmers.

“The universities, industry partners, foundations and the research that’s funded by those entities can then inform those decision makers to assist those farmers who are making those decisions,” she said.

“We were provided $200 million dollars in the 2014 Farm Bill,” Odom added.

There are seven challenge areas that the foundation focuses on: water scarcity; urban agriculture; food waste; food loss; making my plate your plate, which focuses on nutrition; protein challenge, which focuses on animal sustainability; and innovation pathways.

Fresno State is one of the founding partners.

“I’m working with the irrigation innovation consortium, which is a consortium of university partners as well as industry partners, and Fresno State is one of our partners in that,” Odom said.

They are working with Dr. Davis at Fresno State for ways in which they can make innovations in irrigation and make water issues a little less challenging for farmers.

Irrigation Improvement Continuum Part of Almond Board’s CASP

California Almond Sustainability Program Offers Big Help to Growers

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The Almond Board of California has an Irrigation Improvement Continuum, which is part of the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP). California Ag Today recently spoke with Spencer Cooper, senior manager of irrigation and water efficiency with the Almond Board of California, about the program.

CASP
Spencer Cooper, Almond Board

The Irrigation Improvement module allows growers to move through from the most basic to the most advanced.

“We’re key on growers understanding the fundamentals and foundation of irrigation management practices,” Cooper said. “The more we can get out there with growers understanding the basics, the more we can advance and continue to be progressive and leaders in the industry.”

Cooper said if growers sign up for CASP at SustainableAlmondGrowing.org and complete all nine modules, growers will receive a copy of the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, a 154-page of soup to nuts on irrigation management that has taken more then 40 years of research that almond growers have funded.

UCCE Publications Available on Irrigation Efficiency Systems

At February’s Ag Employer Seminar, UCCE Farm Advisor Franz Neiderholzer discussed several UCCE publications helpful to growers working to improve irrigation efficiency. Below are the discussed titles, with links for online purchase ($20-$25). For questions on the titles listed below, contact Franz Niederholzer at (530) 822-7515.Monitoring for Moisture

Monitoring for Moisture for Irrigation Water Management; ANR Pub. 21635 

Monitoring soil moisture is an alternate method to water-based balance methods of managing irrigation water. Using this method you can “see” what is going on in the soil and determine answers to some key irrigation management questions.

•Did enough water infiltrate the soil?
•Is too much water being applied?
•What is the water uptake pattern of the roots?
•When should irrigation take place?
•What was the depth reached by the irrigation?

Includes 24 figures and 7 tables, metric conversions, and an appendix of typical root depths.

Maintaining Microirrigation Systems;  ANR Pub 21637 

This handy publication discusses the maintenance issues of microirrigation systems that can be used on tree crops, row crops, and trees and vines.

Chapters include an overview of maintenance needs, monitoring and water assessment, causes and prevention of clogging, flushing and safety concerns. Also includes methods of preventing root intrusion, soil ingestion, bacterial growth, and backflow contamination.

2009 winner of a “Blue Ribbon” award for excellence in educational publications from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Fertigating with Microirrigation;  ANR Pub 21620

  • Characteristics of Selected Fertilizers Commonly Used for Fertigation
  • Where does the Nitrogen Go?
  • Fertigation Strategies
  • Applying the Right Amount of Fertilizer
  • Nitrogen Irrigation in Water
  • Frequency of Fertigation
  • Applying Fertilizers Uniformly with Microirrigation
  • Nitrogen Fertilizer Distribution Around Drip Lines
  • Phosporus and Potassium Fertilizer Distribution Around Drip Lines
  • Injecting Gypsum
  • Mixing Considerations
  • Injection Devices
  • Preventing Backflow
  • Safety Concerns

Irrigation Pumping PlantsIrrigation Pumping Plants_Page_1; ANR Pub 3377 

Getting maximum output for every energy dollar spent is the primary objective in operating an irrigation pumping plant. This manual answers growers’ most frequent questions about irrigation pumping plants. Here you’ll find everything you need from the basics of how different pumps work to detailed information about pump design, motors vs. engines, performance tests, troubleshooting, and maintenance.

Agricultural Salinity and Drainage;  ANR Pub 3375 

SalinityThis handbook has been developed to bridge the gap between the advanced salinity literature and practical information on salinity intended for lay audiences. A user-friendly resource for agricultural consultants and advisors, as well as for local, state and federal agricultural and water agency management staff. Includes thirty-eight chapters covering a broad spectrum of salinity and drainiage topics, written so as to be easily understood by anyone with a general agricultural background.

Also includes appendices presented as a shorthand guide to assessing soil salinity and to determining the suitability of a given water for irrigation. Illustrated with 27 tables and 44 figures.