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.

Armyworms Invade Rice

Luis Espino: Armyworms Invade Rice

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

Armyworm Larvae
Larva of the armyworm, Mythimna unipuncta.
Photo by Jack Kelly Clark, UC IPM.

Farmers face many threats to their crops on a daily basis. Luis Espino, rice farm advisor UC ANR Cooperative Extension, Colusa County, said rice farmers are on the lookout for two caterpillar infestations during the year when armyworms invade rice fields. “The first one occurs sometime in June,” Espino said. “At that time all they do is just eat the foliage, and you can usually see it when you walk into a field. Nevertheless, the rice has a very good capacity to recover from that type of injury.” Espino’s UC Rice Blog explains it is difficult to accurately estimate yield losses due to early armyworm damage because it can reduce tillering, delay the crop, and cause uneven maturity.

“Heading” occurs when the rice plant prepares to enter its reproductive phase. The first sign, called the ‘booting’ stage, is when the leaf stem that conceals the developing panicle bulges. Then the tip of the developing panicle emerges from the stem and continues to grow. Rice is said to be at the ‘heading’ stage when the panicle is fully visible. Flowering begins a day after heading has completed. As the flowers open they shed their pollen on each other so that pollination can occur. Flowering can continue for about 7 days.  (Source: Rice Development, Ricepedia.) 

“The second infestation usually occurs in mid- to late-August when the rice is heading out,” Espino said. “At that time, armyworms can feed on the panicles, [causing the kernels to dry before filling], resulting in blanks [without kernels to harvest] on the panicles and broken panicle branches. That’s when armyworms are more important.”

Espino said that the first infestation this year was relatively large, making it harder for the treatments to control the armyworms as they devastated the rice fields. “There were some areas in fields where the rice was down to the waters,” Espino said. “so all the foliage was consumed, and sometimes only a little stem was left standing.”

During the second armyworm infestation, however, Espino said the rice fields were not as badly affected as they had been in the first attack. “We did see some fields with armyworm injury,” Espino said,“ and some farmers had to treat their fields. The numbers were just so big that the treatments were not controlling them.”

 

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