Mathesius is New UC Soil Scientist

Mathesius is New Agronomy Farm Advisor in Sutter-Yuba, Colusa Counties

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director


Konrad Mathesius is the new Agronomy farm advisor at the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension, Sutter-Yuba, Colusa Counties. Mathesius first explained his unusual last name. “It means ‘mathematics’ in Latin. I guess we had accountants in our family lineage back there somewhere,” he said.

Mathesius completed his undergrad degree in political science at Utah State, followed by two master’s degrees at UC Davis in Soils and Biogeochemistry; and in International Agricultural Development (IAD)—a graduate group within the Department of Plant Sciences. “The IAD is flexible in its curriculum, which allowed me to take many plant- and soil- specific courses. I took the opportunity at IAD to specialize in soils,” he said.

California Safflower Field
California Safflower Field

“Through the years, we have learned a lot through the pioneers of soil science and it’s an exciting field because there is still a lot to learn,” said Mathesius. “And everything that comes out of soil science, in one way or another, is applicable to life on the planet.”

“Soils also tell a story, and that’s one thing I really enjoy about it. It’s especially evident in California because there is a remarkable combination of parent material that has created an abundance of different soils in the state,” noted Mathesius. “And it’s very relevant to agriculture, ecology, and environmental science. Differences in soils create a stark contrast in how crops grow and how they need to be managed,” he said.

Mathesius is responsible for the agronomic crops grown in his region, including dry beans, oilseeds such as safflower and sunflower, fresh market corn and silage corn, and small grains such as barley, wheat, and rye.

“I’m a soil scientist by trade, but ultimately I am a UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor and available to growers to figure out what their crop issues are—which include pests, diseases and soil fertility,” noted Mathesius. “I am a resource, and the UC system has many other resources and personnel who can thoughtfully consider solutions to crop problems.”

RAIN Damages Alfalfa; Benefits Wheat

Above-Average California Rain Affects Larry Hunn’s Crops

by Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor

For fourth-generation farmer Larry Hunn of Hunn & Merwin & Merwin, Inc., based out of Clarksburg, Calif., the price of alfalfa is low this year due to water damage from late rains. Nevertheless, cannery tomatoes, cucumbers, safflower and wheat are looking pretty hopeful.

Larry Hunn
Larry Hunn

Mold from rainfall is a big issue in growing alfalfa; it not only reduces the quality of the perennial grass, but it reduces the nutritional value as well. Dairy farmers won’t buy it. “It has really depressed our alfalfa prices.” said Hunn.

On the bright side, rainfall has been beneficial for Hunn’s above-average winter wheat and safflower crops this year. “We had nice rainfall spread out through the whole winter,” he said. “It didn’t come all at one time and flood us out, so that was good.”

Hunn’s hard red winter wheat is drying down in the field, and will be harvested mid-June and sent mainly to flour mills for bread making. The safflower is still growing and looking healthy on a few hundred acres—acres that have been in his family for four generations—and won’t “come off” until late August or September.

Beginning in South Sacramento on 47th Avenue, Larry Hunn’s great-grandfather started farming in the late 1800s, and his grandfather moved to the Delta in the early 1920s, where they’ve been farming ever since. Hunn & Merwin & Merwin Inc. now operates on close to 3,000 acres in Yolo and Sacramento Counties.

Hunn’s other crops have already been contracted with a buyer. “All the cannery tomatoes are in the ground growing, and they look pretty good. We’re in the process of planting cucumbers, that’s just a continuous until the first of August,” mentioned Hunn.

The only disadvantage are the cool breezes from snow atop the Sierra Mountain range that is keeping temperatures low on the cucumbers and tomatoes. Hunn remarked, “I wish it would warm up a little bit. We’re only in the mid-seventies, low eighties, and it would be nice to be up in the mid-eighties or low nineties.”

Overall it’s been a decent year for the veteran Clarksburg grower.

(Featured photo: Alfalfa on edge of field of Larry Hunn, Hunn & Merwin & Merwin, California Ag Today)