Field bindweed is continuing to inconvenience farmers and ranchers. However, Scott Stoddard of the UCANR Cooperative Extension in Merced County has some tips on how to control it.
Stoddard explained that the solution isn’t as simple as applying one herbicide, but using a combination might provide some results.
“You have to combine the Roundup with something like a Treflan, and then combine that maybe with some applications of herbicides,” he said.
Stoddard further added that although more successful than applying Roundup alone, even stacking the herbicides will only provide marginal to good control.
The best approach to getting rid of this stubborn weed? Stoddard recommends rotating your field with Roundup Ready varieties so that the herbicide can be more effective on non-Roundup Ready crops.
“For example, a Roundup Ready cotton or corn will clean up a field for the following year for things like tomatoes or melons. In that particular case, Roundup can be very useful,” he said. “Otherwise get it in when you can. If you can apply it before you transplant, or if the bindweed does come out before your transplant that’s when Roundup should be used.”
Harvest for sweet potatoes is in full swing, which means long hours and high labor expenses for producers. Scott Stoddard, of the UC Cooperative Extension in Merced County, knows the difficult task at hand in managing time and money.
With new overtime laws in place, the extended work days during harvest can be costly to farmers. With insight into several operations, Stoddard explained, “Everybody is crunched and trying to get as much as they possibly can get done in a day.”
However, this isn’t the only issue farmers are facing, because although hourly pay is on the rise, labor is becoming more difficult to find.
Stoddard said, “I had a guy tell me last week when I was harvesting sweet potatoes that it is getting a little bit harder to find labor.”
All of these factors, he concluded, are driving forces for mechanical innovation.
Innovation and new pieces of equipment are continuing to “shake up” the industry, Stoddard noted. In a typical operation, it takes two passes in sweet potato fields to eliminate excess vines leading up to harvest. Stoddard said that the new machine is capable of removing vines pre-harvest in just one pass.
“It helps get rid of the extra little vines that are still left over after you flail mow the crop,” he explained.
Although this machine is costly, according to Stoddard, it is estimated to save about one person per harvester, which in the big picture can add up.
“It’s a little tweaking of the system, which will make sweet potato harvest more labor efficient.”
California Sweet Potatoes Grow in Well-Drained Soil
By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
California sweet potatoes are in full harvest, and our potatoes are one of a kind, said Scott Stoddard a UCANR Cooperative Extension farm advisor for vegetable crops in Merced County. The difference is the sheen.
“Sometimes they come up clean out of the ground because we’ve grown them in a very loose sand, so the sand just falls off of them, and it almost leaves some shine,” he said.
You can get what is called the California Sheen.
In a lot of other areas of the country, there is a little bit of mud and a little bit of silt. The crop they’re digging up is growing in the ground and kind of looks like it needs to be washed.
“A lot of times with California sweet potatoes, they don’t even look like they need to be washed when they come up out of the ground. It looks like they can just go straight from the field to fork,” Stoddard said.
Well-drained soil is important. Well-drained soil is what they grow best in.
“Not like a cactus where they can survive on no water, but we can get by in about two and a half acre feet. That’ll give you a good 100 percent potential yield,” Stoddard explained.
Westands Water District Awards Agricultural Scholarships
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
As part of their educational outreach to the community to raise awareness about agricultural issues and to reward exceptional academic achievement and leadership, the Westlands Water District awarded six scholarships to local high school graduates who are on their way to college. Gayle Holman, public affairs representative for the district, offered some insight about the scholarship application process.
“We go out to each of the six area high schools each year,” said Holman. “We provide them with information, the application, and instructions, and they provide us with an essay on an agricultural-related topic, letters of reference and their transcripts by our deadline. We work with the guidance counselors at each of the schools to make sure those materials are received,” she added.
“A scholarship review committee goes through the applications and selects one person per school based on their academic performance, school activities and community leadership,” Holman said. “Each award recipient is an incredibly highly motivated student, who, we are hopeful, will take that education, bring it back, and apply it to their community in the future,” she said.
Tom Birmingham, general manager of the Westlands Water District noted, “Westlands is honored to provide this assistance for these outstanding student leaders. These scholarships represent a small gesture of thanks and support to the communities on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that make our region such a productive and vibrant place.”
Holman continued, “Each scholarship recipient will receive $1,000 to be used for community college or university expenses. In addition, many local elected offices will send them congratulatory letters, or certificates. This really emphasizes to the students how important their academic endeavors are.”
The 2016 scholarship recipients are:
Kristina Raulino, a Lemoore High School graduating honors student who plans to attend West Hills Community College to pursue a degree in Psychology, has been actively involved in tennis and the Future Farmers of America and has served as the Club Secretary for the California Scholarship Federation.
Jonathan Sanchez, a Riverdale High School graduate who will attend California Polytechnic State University to pursue a degree in Agricultural Engineering, has received awards for honor roll and student of the month, and is heavily involved in soccer, cross country, baseball and football. Additionally, he is a member of the California Scholarship Federation and AVID.
Delaney Walker, a graduating senior from Coalinga High School, will attend University of California, Los Angeles to pursue a degree in Education/English. She has been actively involved in basketball and tennis and received awards for honor roll and mock trial. She is also a member of the California Scholarship Federation.
Jonathan Guzman, a graduate of Tranquillity High School, plans to attend the University of California, Irvine to pursue a degree in Business and Finance. He is an honors student actively involved in football and basketball and has received awards for bi-literacy and the Principal’s Honor Roll for all four high school years.
Savannah Rodriguez, a graduating honors student at Mendota High School, plans to attend University of California, Santa Cruz to pursue a degree in Feminist Studies. She has been involved in softball and badminton and received awards for perfect attendance, leadership and MESA.
Fatima Gamino, a Firebaugh High School graduate, will attend University of California, Merced to pursue a degree in Chemical Sciences. She has received several awards including Senior of the Month, Top Academic Athlete and Superintendent’s List. Additionally, she has been involved in the Spanish Club, cross country and Academic Decathlon.
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.”