Initial Walnut Irrigation Can be Delayed

Walnut Irrigation Research Update

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

 

First springtime walnut irrigation can be delayed, according to a UC Cooperative Extension team in Tehama County working on some fascinating research regarding irrigation practices. Allan Fulton is an Irrigation and Water Resource Advisor who covers Tehama, Colusa, Shasta and Glenn counties. “We actually just finished one of our irrigation experiment harvests this weekend. It was looking at early season water management decisions, basically deciding when to begin the irrigation season,” Fulton said.

allan_fulton
Allan Fulton, UC Cooperative Extension Irrigation Specialist

Growers typically begin irrigating their walnuts sometime between late April and early May. In order to be as thorough as possible in their experiment, Fulton and his team have been pushing the limits beyond what most growers would ever consider. “We had some treatments that got no irrigation until almost the end of June,” Fulton explained.

Now in its third year, the research experiment is generating information that will provide a variety of benefits. “The whole motivation is to avoid possible injury to the trees from irrigating too much, too early, from lack of aeration and damage to the root system,” Fulton said. Delayed irrigation, while having no impact on yield or nut size, can also provide a bit of water savings. “We’re trying to look for the sweet spot,” with less intensive early season irrigation in favor of root health, tree health and disease prevention.

California walnut orchard, walnut irrigationThe research is being conducted in the northern Sacramento Valley primarily using the Chandler variety of walnut trees. Fulton has spent some time working in the San Joaquin Valley as well and understands different weather conditions can be a significant factor when applying their findings to other regions. “Our spring rainfall is quite a bit different than other walnut growing areas. Usually we’ve got an added source of water that sometimes you might not have in the southern San Joaquin Valley,” Fulton noted. From his experience, he suggested growers could usually wait until “the first week of May in most years, before really getting pressed for irrigation.”

The location of the research exposes groves to the opportunity to receive “more rain during the dormant season with a better chance at a deeper profile in moisture before you ever break dormancy,” Fulton said. More regional rainfall is possible in the spring as well, while the trees are growing.

The information gathered so far indicates growers should not jump the gun on springtime irrigation, particularly if there is still any kind of standing water issues. “The data is starting to suggest that you’ve got some room. You don’t have to irrigate at the first sign of heat; you can use a little bit of the stored moisture coming out of winter,” Fulton said. He also noted “It’s a lot more difficult to recover from a damaged tree with a sick roots system,” than it is to recover from a lack of early season irrigation.

Duarte Farmland Under Siege

Duarte Farmland Under Seige By Army Corps of Engineers

By Brian German, Associate Editor

The Duarte family has been in a lengthy court battle with the federal government regarding the right to farm their own property.

John Duarte, a fourth generation California farmer and president of the family-owned nursery in Hughson, commented on how this dispute began, “My family owns a piece of property up in Tehama County that we purchased in 2012 and planted wheat that fall. The property is in some slightly rolling grasslands, and has some minor wetlands on it, vernal pools, vernal swales. Like most grasslands, wheat areas and wheat plantings, we had a local contractor go out and plow the field for us, 4-7 inches deep, and we flew on some wheat seed for a winter wheat crop in 2012.

“The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers called us and told us we were deep-ripping the property. I think they were under the misunderstanding that we were getting ready to plant orchards or vineyards there. They looked at it and assumed we were deep-ripping, three feet deep, which we were not,” Duarte said.

“They sent us a cease and desist notice in early 2013, then refused to tell us what their evidence was or how they had drawn their conclusion that we were deep-ripping. We sent two letters from an attorney, under the Freedom of Information Act, requesting evidence we had deep-ripped, the assumption that apparently warranting a cease and desist notice.”

“They refused to answer the first letter. They kicked the matter up to enforcement and then sustained the cease-and-desist notice without ever giving us a hearing and without ever giving us specific cause for their action. They obstructed our farming operations indefinitely,” Duarte noted.

As their request for the evidePacific Legal Foundationnce against them continued to be ignored, Duarte said, “We went to the Pacific Legal Foundation, where they filed a due process suit against the Army Corps of Engineers on behalf of a farmer’s right to farm their ground. The Army Corps of Engineers now claims that our 4-7 inch tillage through ground that has been tilled 18-24 inches in the past destroyed wetlands.”

“They are making extremely spurious claims that the small plowing furrows through some of the minor vernal pools are now mini mountain ranges and the valleys of those furrows are still wetlands. But the top of the furrow, maybe five inches higher than the bottom of the valley, is now a converted upland and therefore we have destroyed wetlands across the property and are subject to a destruction of wetlands lawsuit filed by the Army Corps of Engineers against Duarte Nursery.”

Nevertheless, Duarte doesn’t think this was strictly in the interest of habitat preservation, “We believe this lawsuit is completely vindictive and retaliatory because we are challenging the Army Corps of Engineers’ ability to simply drive by farms and send cease and desist notices to farmers for very little cause, and then refuse to give any information as to what their cause for the cease-and-desist notice was.”

Duarte believes the lawsuit filed by the Army Corp of Engineers is a somewhat arbitrary enforcement of wetland destruction laws, “Lately, under the new WOTUS Rule, federal administrations [designate that] everything we farm as a wetland. We’ve had experts on both sides out in the field. Everyone agrees that wetlands are still there; the wetlands are still the same size; the wetlands have the same hydrology; the wetlands still have the same pocket water when it rains; the wetlands still have wetland vegetation; the wetlands are all still there by all the parameters one would measure a wetland’s presence by.”

Duarte noted where they are in the process, and why they chose to standup for their rights, “We filed motions for summary judgement, had a motion for summary judgement hearing back in, I think it was early December, we are waiting for the judges rulings on those, so we can proceed to trial on any unsettled matters in the case. We see these types of things happening to our customers all over the state, and that is one reason we wanted to bring this suit. We’re willing to bring this suit and defend our customers, our growers’ ability to take our products and farm their land. Duarte Nursery cannot exist without our growers being able to farm.”

This situation has come at a heavy price for the Duarte family. “This has cost our company over $1 million just to stand up for everyone’s right to farm their property. In a number of important ways, there is a noose tightening around the neck of agriculture everyday, and unless we stand up and fight back, in the courts, where it is appropriate, we are going to lose our ability to farm without federal government permission to do so,” Duarte said.

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Links:

Duarte Nursery

Pacific Legal Foundation

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers

Northern CA Walnut Trees Confused

Some Walnut Trees in Northern California Suffering from Lack of Sleep!

By Laurie Greene, Editor

We all know what the day after a night of insomnia is like; befuddled, confused and tiring. Sometimes we cannot even get our act together. The walnut trees of Northern California are experiencing just that.

Richard Buchner, a UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Tehama County, explained, “Tehama has a lot of Chandler varieties and the trees are sort of behaving like they did not get too much sleep, in the case of the tree it is more like chilling, and we think that the lack of chilling is confusing them. We have trees with full leaves out, and trees that might have some flowers out, or maybe the right-hand part of the tree, is flowering and the left side is not or it’s flowering. They are really confused.”

Commenting on the potential crop, Buchner said, “We had a lack of chilling last last year, but had a pretty good crop, so we are not wholly sure what this means. It looks funny, but it is getting a little better as the trees grow older.”

“Walnuts need a pollinator to set the crop, but that cannot happen if the blooms have not opened,” noted Buchner. “The problem is if the bloom straggles way out, and we don’t get flowers pollinated, we can’t set a nut and sometimes we get lots of mixed nut sizes,” he said.

Growing Figs for 33 Years at Maywood Farms

Farming Niche Organic Figs with Passion

By: Kyle Buchoff; CalAgToday reporter

Growing up in the Bay Area, Bob Steinacher learned how to harvest and dry apricots on his family’s one-acre plot in the Santa Clara Valley. His family maintained the plot as a hobby, but when houses began replacing orchards there, he decided he didn’t want to leave farming. After graduating from UC Davis, he began farming figs and walnuts full-time in Corning, in Tehama County.

tehama-figs“I’ve had Maywood Farms now for 33 years. My family helped me get started, and we’ve been very successful at what we do.” In addition to growing and harvesting 172 acres of organic figs, Steinacher fresh markets his fruit all over the country. “We have 50 acres of conventional walnuts as well,” he added.

Steinacher’s fig farming operation is unique: “We farm the most northern commercially grown figs in the country as Corning has the same weather as the Fresno area.  We also have to worry about late spring frost and early fall rains, but we can weather that. We have wind machines installed for frost protection.”

Waxing nostalgic about his career, Steinacher reflected, “I have learned a lot over the last 33 years of doing this. I had no background in farming other than a desire to do this. I worked for other orchardists and down at a high school farm when I got out of college. I’ve learned a lot by the seat of my pants.”

“We’ve been very successful,” he continued, “because we’ve found a niche with the organic fresh figs. The fig market has been growing ever since we have been in it, and the organic market—on top of that—is growing very quickly as well.”

For more information, please visit the Maywood Farms’ website.

 

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