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.

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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.

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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.

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Interior Dept: Water Grab at New Melones Devastating for Central Valley

Comments Come After Secretary of the Interior’s Visit

News Release from the Office of Rep. Jeff Denham

Following Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s visit to Don Pedro and New Melones Reservoirs at the request of U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), the Department of Interior issued an official comment on Friday regarding the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed water grab.

The Department of Interior’s comment notes that the proposed water grab “directly interfere[s] with the New Melones Project’s ability to store water” and “elevate[s] the Project’s fish and wildlife purposes over the Project’s irrigation and domestic purposes contrary to the prioritization scheme carefully established by Congress.” Interior’s comment also specifies that siphoning off at least 40 percent of Central Valley’s rivers during peak season would result in significant reductions in water storage at New Melones and result in diminished power generation as well as recreational opportunities. DOI recommends the Board reconsider and postpone the scheduled August 21-22 public meeting to allow for “additional due diligence and dialogue.”

Rep. Jeff Denham, photo courtesy of his Facebook page

“Sacramento’s radical water grab would cripple the Central Valley’s economy, farms and community.  Secretary Zinke saw that when he visited New Melones and Don Pedro reservoirs with me last week,” Denham said. “They cannot drain our reservoirs and ignore our concerns.  I will continue fighting to make sure Central Valley voices are heard.”

“Under Sacramento’s plan, the Valley will suffer skyrocketing water and electricity rates.” Denham explained. “After a decade and millions of our money spent on a study that they required, the board ignored the science based proposal that would save our fish while preserving our water rights.  We will not allow them to take our water and destroy our way of life”

Last week, Denham’s amendment to stop the state’s dangerous water grab passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of a Department of the Interior appropriations bill, and put a major spotlight on this issue. The amendment, currently awaiting a vote in the Senate, prohibits federal agencies from participating in the state’s plan to deplete the federally owned New Melones reservoir, which provides water for the Central Valley Project and generates hydropower. Sacramento’s plan would drain significantly more water from New Melones each year, potentially leaving it completely dry some years. This would put in jeopardy critical water supplies for Central Valley farmers and communities who rely on the water for their homes, businesses, farms, and electric power. The amendment takes this issue head-on to protect Valley water.

Denham will continue fighting to protect Central Valley water, support science-driven river management plans that revitalize our rivers without recklessly wasting water, and push major policies like the New WATER Act that will solve California’s water storage crisis and keep the Valley fertile and prosperous for generations to come.

To read the full comment from the Department of the Interior, click here. For more information about what Denham is doing to fight for water in the Valley, visit www.Denham.house.gov/water, where you can also sign up to receive periodic updates on his work in Washington to improve local water infrastructure, storage and delivery.

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UC and Israel Sign Agricultural Research Agreement

California and Israel Face Similar Challenges

By Pam Kan-Rice, UC ANR News
From left, Ermias Kebreab, Eli Feinerman, and Mark Bell sign the agreement for Israel and California scientists to collaborate more on water-related research and education.

Pledging to work together to solve water scarcity issues, Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Davis recently. The signing ceremony kicked off the 2018 Future of Water for Irrigation in California and Israel Workshop at the UC ANR building in Davis.

“Israel and California agriculture face similar challenges, including drought and climate change,” said Doug Parker, director of UC ANR’s California Institute for Water Resources. “In the memorandum of understanding, Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization, UC Davis and UC ANR pledge to work together more on research involving water, irrigation, technology and related topics that are important to both water-deficit countries.”

The agreement will enhance collaboration on research and extension for natural resources management in agriculture, with an emphasis on soil, irrigation and water resources, horticulture, food security and food safety.

“It’s a huge pleasure for us to sign an MOU with the world leaders in agricultural research like UC Davis and UC ANR,” said Eli Feinerman, director of Agricultural Research Organization of Israel. “When good people, smart people collaborate, the sky is the limit.”

Feinerman, Mark Bell (UC ANR vice provost) and Ermias Kebreab (UC Davis professor and associate vice provost of academic programs and global affairs) represented their respective institutions for the signing. Karen Ross (California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary) and Shlomi Kofman (Israel’s consul general to the Pacific Northwest) joined in celebrating the partnership.

“The important thing is to keep working together and develop additional frameworks that can bring the people of California and Israel together as researchers,” Kofman said. “But also to work together to make the world a better place.”

Ross said, “It’s so important for us to find ways and create forums to work together because water is the issue in this century and will continue to be.”

She explained that earlier this year, the World Bank and United Nations reported that 40 percent of the world population is living with water scarcity. 

“Over 700,000 people are at risk of relocation due to water scarcity,” Ross said. “We’re already seeing the refugee issues that are starting to happen because of drought, food insecurity and the lack of water.”

Ross touted the progress stemming from CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program to promote healthy soils on California’s farmlands and ranchlands and SWEEP, the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, which has provided California farmers $62.7 million in grants for irrigation systems that reduce greenhouse gases and save water on agricultural operations.

“We need the answers of best practices that come from academia, through demonstration projects so that our farmers know what will really work,” Ross said.

As Parker opened the water workshop, sponsored by the U.S./Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development (BARD) Program, Israel Agricultural Research Organization and UC ANR, he told the scientists, “The goal of this workshop is really to be creating new partnerships, meeting new people, networking and finding ways to work together in California with Israel, in Israel, with other parts of the world as well.”

Drawing on current events, Bell told the attendees, “If you look at the World Cup, it’s about effort, it’s about teamwork, it’s about diversity of skills, and I think that’s what this event does. It brings together those things.”

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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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Farm Water Coalition Shames State Water Resources     

Farm Water Coalition Shames SWRCB Over Proposal 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

The California Farm Water Coalition (Coalition) was formed in 1989 to increase public awareness of agriculture’s efficient use of water and to promote the industry’s environmental sensitivity regarding water.

Mike Wade, executive director of the Sacramento-based Coalition, has major concerns about the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB)‘s proposal of taking 40% of the water from many irrigation districts along three rivers that flow into the San Joaquin River to protect an endangered fish. The SWRCB proposes to divert water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers to increase flows in the Sacramento Delta.

Mike Wade, executive director, California Farm Water Coalition
Mike Wade, executive director, California Farm Water Coalition

Wade explained, “The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is important for the United States, and we want to see it work. However, it’s not working. It’s not helping fish, and it’s hurting communities.” But Wade wants to revise the ESA “in how we deal with some of the species management issues.”

Wade said SWRCB is doubling down on the same tired, old strategy that is not going to work any more now than it has in the past. “What happened in the past isn’t helping salmon. What’s happened in the past isn’t helping the delta smelt. You’d think someone would get a clue that maybe other things are in play, there are other factors that need to be addressed.”

The State Water Resources Control Board estimated the proposed 40% diversion of river flow would decrease agricultural economic output by 64 million or 2.5% of the baseline average for the region.

Ag officials warn that if the proposal goes through it would force growers in the area to use more groundwater—which they have largely avoided because the Turlock Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District historically met the irrigation need of local farms.

This is the only agricultural area in the Central Valley that does not have critical overdraft problems. If the state takes away 40% of water available to growers, it could lead to a critical overdraft issue there as well.

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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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Zoldoske honored as state’s Irrigation Person of the Year

The California Irrigation Institute recognized Dr. David F. Zoldoske as its Person of the Year at its 53rd annual conference on Feb. 2-3 in Sacramento.

Zoldoske, director for the Center for Irrigation Technology at Fresno State, is the 36th recipient of the award sponsored by the state’s oldest independent forum on irrigation and water.

“On behalf of the board of directors, it is a pleasure and honor to bestow this award upon our friend and colleague, Dr. Zoldoske,” said Inge Bisconer, California Irrigation Institute board member and past president. “He has worked tirelessly for decades to promote water and resource use efficiency in agricultural and urban applications in California and beyond. We are fortunate that he chose to apply his passion, energy, skill and expertise to help address one of the most important topics of our generation: water.”

Zoldoske is the third recipient with Fresno State ties. Winston Strong, former plant science and mechanized agriculture professor was recognized in 1985 for his pioneering work in sprinkler testing, and former Center for Irrigation Technology director Kenneth Solomon was honored in 2004.

The annual conference brings together water experts, government agency representatives, water district managers, innovative farmers, urban water managers and commercial interests to focus on pressing water issues, explore innovative solutions, and discuss results of research and practical experience in the field.

Zoldoske was recognized with a similar national award in November 2013 as the Irrigation Association’s Person of the Year.

Fresno State has been involved in irrigation testing and research for more than 60 years, and Zoldoske has played a key role for four decades. He started his irrigation career as a graduate student research assistant before beginning work as a full-time research technician in 1983.

In 1994, he was named director of the center that is internationally-recognized as an independent testing laboratory, applied research facility and educational resource.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by a group representing all of California’s irrigation partners,” Zoldoske said. “The award is more of a recognition of our talented staff and all their successful and hard work. We have been tied closely with the California Irrigation Institute since the 1980s, and look forward to working with them for many years to come.”

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