Additional Chinese Tariff on Ag is Disruptive

Growers Concerned Over Added Tariff into China

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Trade to China is so important to California, and for that reason, the 15 percent added Chinese tariff on ag products is devastating. It’s due to the retaliation of the Trump administration tariff, which he put on steel and aluminum exported by China.

Jeff Colombini with Lodi Farming Co.

It’s worrisome for growers such as Jeff Colombini, the president of Lodi Farming, with partners that grow cherries, apples, walnuts, and olives. He noted that apples and walnuts are an essential crop to China and he’s concerned.

“Trade is significant to the apple crop for California apples, but particularly for Washington state. Apples in Washington state is the largest producer of apples. They export greater than 25 percent of their crop,” Colombini said.

“Both China and Mexico take apple varieties that have fallen out of favor for U.S. consumers. So really, it’s a match made in heaven,” he said.

Colombini said growers have made decisions over the last 10 to 15 years on planting orchards based on these growing export markets.

“Then when the markets slam shut, what do we do with all this excess production/ This becomes disruptive to the markets … not to mention it significantly affects the farmer’s bottom line,” he explained.

Colombini said apples require a lot of labor—a big economic boost to many communities—and disruption in getting that crop to China is not good.

There’s a lot of people employed in the apple industry throughout the United States, and so a trade war can have a significant impact on many thousands of families.

Colombini said it took many years to get that China market open, and when it finally got opened in 2015, it has grown to be their sixth largest export market.

“Similarly, the export disruptions for walnuts is extremely concerning to that industry,” he said.

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Walnut Blight Protection is Important

Disease Prevention in Walnut Orchards

By Brianne Boyett, Associate Editor

California Ag Today recently spoke with Jim Adaskaveg, professor of plant pathology at UC Riverside. He’s a plant pathologist, microbiologist and epidemiologist. He discussed the importance of protecting walnut trees from walnut blight.

Adaskaveg explained how walnut blight is problematic due to the higher rainfall in the northern part of the state.

“We’ve been working on this for a number of years, and overall, the northern part of the state is always higher at risk because of the higher rainfall in Glenn County,” he said. “There is much higher risk for disease in Northern California, so a lot of the growers have planted later blooming varieties such as Chandler to avoid the blight infections.”

“Rick Buchner [at UC Cooperative Extension] Tehama County and his group called that the prayer stage, which is when the female flower becomes exposed as it emerges from the bud. Those two timings would be for high disease pressure. If you had a history of the disease and you know that the disease is in your orchard, then we would suggest that timing,” Adaskaveg said.

“If you don’t have disease, and you still want to protect yourself, we say just spray at the pistillate flower emergence or the prayer stage. That sets a good way to initiate the spray program,” Adaskaveg explained.

Growers must keep in mind canopy expansion when applying materials.

“Walnuts are big trees, and as they go through bloom, all the leaves started emerging almost weekly. The tree canopy in that first three weeks of the season is doubling in size. By the time you get three or four weeks after that, the catkin flowering trees in full canopy will require a reapplication of materials,” Adaskaveg said.

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Navel Orangeworm Control Critical

Orchard Sanitation is Critical This Season To Lower NOW Numbers

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Emily Symmes is the area Integrated Pest Management farm advisor for the Sacramento Valley in the statewide IPM program. She recently spoke to California Ag Today about the high level of Navel Orangeworm (NOW) damage in nut orchards throughout California this past season.

“We had a lot of unique circumstances. The amount of rainfall we got in late 2016 into 2017 was pretty unprecedented and really led us into a really bad navel orangeworm year because we couldn’t get out and sanitize our nut crops,” she said.

Emily Symmes

“NOW is ubiquitous, and there is an increased nut crop footprint in California, with more than one million acres of almonds, plus pistachios and walnuts,” Symmes explained. “All play host to NOW, as well as a host of natural plants. This thing isn’t going anywhere. And it was pretty bad in 2017 in terms of harvest damage.”

One of the key factors for higher navel orangeworm damage was not being able to get into the fields because of the standing water.

“There were a couple of other factors as well. Typically, rainfall and moist conditions can help NOW mortality in the winter. We tend to think that it can help rot the nuts and do us some favors, but we have to be able to get out and get the nuts shaken or get pulling crews in and get those things on the ground. And then them being on the ground is not always a sure thing. Sanitation was huge in terms of NOW problems this year,” Symmes said.

Heat units also played a part in the development of more NOW pressure. There were a lot of moths flying around longer and laying eggs.

“It got hot in mid to late June, and it seemed to just not let up. What that meant was, in terms of our degree-day models or the heat unit that drive insect development, it ended up getting pretty far out ahead of what is typical, if there is anything such as typical. But certainly ahead of the last couple of years,” Symmes explained.

By September, we were about two weeks ahead in degree-days and that means that the moths were out earlier. They’re flying around. They’re laying eggs on the nuts when they’re still on the trees.

Symmes stressed that the importance of sanitation is to minimize the site where the NOWs mature.

“It’s really important to remember that sanitation efforts aren’t just directly killing any worms that are over-wintering in your orchard. Yes, it does that. But it also minimizes those sites where your first and second generations are going to develop next year,” she said.

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Walnut Farmer Talks Family’s Founding of Crows Landing

Walnut Farmer Norman Crow has Deep Roots in Stanislaus County

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California Ag Today recently had the chance to interview Norman Crow a walnut grower and owner of Orestimba Walnut nursery in the Crows Landing area of Stanislaus County.

We asked him about his walnut harvest. “I think everything is going to be late this year. But it looks like a good crop,” Crow said.

“It’s very interesting because the market for the first time in several years is good. There’s no carryover from last year, so, we’re going to see maybe a 25% increase in price,” Crow said.

Crow explained that walnut plantings are not out of control compared to almonds and pistachios. “So we are very optimistic. Plus the dollar is weaker, there is no carryover and there is strong demand for walnuts

Crow is a descendant of Walter, Crow who came out to California from Missouri in 1849 – obviously, for gold. And he had eight children.

“I’m the descendant of one of his eight children, which is John Bradford,” Crow said. “He was my great-great grandfather.”

“And soon after arriving, my family bought Orestimba Rancho, which was a Spanish land grant. It was about 5,000 acres along Orestimba Creek that goes from the San Joaquin River, up the canyon, to the west of I-5.

Orestimba is a Yokut indian word for “the meeting place”.

“My family began farming barley, and they needed to get it to the buyer,” Crow explained.

The Crow’s built two riverboats, which pulled barges, loaded with sacks of barley. The landing was a warehouse on the San Joaquin River. That’s how it was eventually named Crow’s Landing.

“And then, a good family friend of ours, Jack Grisez took care of the ranch for many years, but they actually had a bean warehouse here that’s called Grisez Warehouse,” Crows said. “ Jack Grisez supplied all the dry beans to the GIs during WWII. He was one of the primary packers of beans. So, WWII came along and people started growing – there was a need and a demand and there was money to be made growing row crops. So some of them grew beans, tomatoes and other crops. And others operated dairies in the area.

In 1865, the Crow family began planting walnuts using seeds that the family brought from Missouri. They were from black walnuts, and today there are still may black walnut trees in the area.

And while walnut plantings were expanding throughout California, Norman Crow established a commercial walnut nursery on his ranch and named it Orestimba Nursery, which lies on Orestimba Creek.

Besides farming walnuts and operating a nursery, Crow noted that his family operates two walnut hullers in the area.

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CDFA ACCEPTING CONCEPT PROPOSALS FOR 2015 FERTILIZER RESEARCH AND EDUCATION GRANTS

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) is currently accepting concept proposals for the 2015 grant cycle. FREP’s competitive grant program funds research that advances the environmentally safe and agronomically sound use of fertilizing materials.

The 2015 Request for Proposals (RFP) includes several initiatives put forth by the department to help effectively manage nitrogen fertilizers in agriculture. New this year is a call for integrating different aspects of nutrient management, including fertigation, irrigation, crop development and soil fertility into easy-to-use decision making tools and concepts that can help improve management practices. Additionally, the FREP seeks concepts and proposals to provide strong education and outreach opportunities on effectively and efficiently managing fertilizing materials.

Proposals for research projects are requested to fill gaps in nitrogen management information for specific crops, including corn, pima cotton, processing tomatoes, walnuts, citrus, and deep rooted vegetables such as carrots. Furthermore, the FREP is encouraging the development and submission of concepts that will demonstrate effective nutrient management practices that have been developed through experimental research trials (e.g., prior FREP research findings).

These demonstrations should implement practices at the field scale in organic and conventional fertilizers. Other priority research areas are developing Best Management Practices (BMPs), along with evaluating strategies and potential technologies to increase crop nitrogen fertilizer uptake; reduce nitrogen movement off irrigated agricultural lands, including nitrate leaching below the root zone; and minimize nitrous oxide emissions from nitrogen fertilizers.

Applicants are invited to submit two-page concept proposals to the FREP by Friday, January 16, 2015. Concepts submitted should be in line with at least one of the program’s identified priority research areas. Further information on the 2015 FREP request for concept proposals, including timelines, application criteria, priority research areas, and examples of successful proposals are available at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/is/ffldrs/frep/CompetitiveGrantProgram.html

In addition to the FREP’s regular RFP, CDFA is preparing a special RFP as part of its nitrogen initiatives. The priority areas for this special RFP are scheduled to be announced early January 2015. 

All concept proposals will be reviewed by the FREP’s Technical Advisory Subcommittee (TASC). Concept proposals that are selected by the TASC will be invited for development into full project proposals.

Applicants may also send e-mail inquiries to FREP@cdfa.ca.gov

Since 1990, the Fertilizer Research and Education Program has funded more than 160 research projects focusing on California’s important and environmentally sensitive cropping systems. A database of completed and ongoing research is publically available at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/is/ffldrs/frep.html

In collaboration with the University of California Davis, FREP is developing fertilization guidelines for major crops grown in California. The guidelines are uploaded on a flow basis and are available to growers and crop advisors through this web-based platform: http://apps.cdfa.ca.gov/frep/docs/guidelines.html

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Nut Yields May Be Reduced by Drought

Source: Christine Souza; Ag Alert

Enduring a drought that has lasted several years, growers of California’s primary nut crops—almonds, walnuts and pistachios—are finishing this year’s harvest and planning for what Mother Nature may or may not bring in the coming year.

“Location, location, location” proved critical to almond and pistachio crops in particular, and seemed to be the determining factor in whether trees had enough water and the required number of chilling hours.

Some farmers were luckier than others, including Larry Lowder of Madera. A grower of almonds and pistachios, Lowder said he was “very fortunate where we live and this year we were able to produce a crop, where others didn’t have that luxury.” He said his farm is located in a microclimate that received sufficient chilling hours during the winter, something that was lacking in other parts of the Central Valley.

Dealing with a surface water allocation of zero, Lowder said he had to rely on deep wells, and he saved as much water as possible by using drip irrigation, microsprinklers and upgraded wells.

Even with a relatively favorable situation, Lowder said his almond yields were down by about 10 percent, although pistachio yields were much better.

In some California pistachio and almond orchards, the drought resulted in a shorter crop and a higher incidence of “blanks,” when a shell lacks a viable nut or kernel.

“Some growers, who had the effect of poor pollinization as well as lack of water, their crops were significantly off and there will be crop insurance claims filed,” said Richard Matoian, executive director of Fresno-based American Pistachio Growers. “One grower said the orchard looked like it had 3,500 pounds per acre, but ended up with 800 pounds of nuts to the acre.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated this year’s California pistachio crop at between 485 million and 500 million pounds, Matoian said, which is smaller than expected because it was to be an “on year” for pistachios. New figures from the Administrative Committee for Pistachios have increased the estimate to 515 million pounds, which Matoian said was “larger than expected in midsummer but certainly lower than original expectations.”

Many pistachio growers purchased emergency supplies of water, Matoian said, paying as much as $3,000 per acre-foot. Reports from the almond sector showed some growers paid between $1,200 and $2,200 per acre-foot.

Reflecting on how almond growers negotiated the drought, Mel Machado, assistant director of member relations for Blue Diamond Growers, said some orchards were either removed or abandoned, and water was moved from older blocks of trees to younger blocks.

“Growers have learned a lot about how to manage the water they have, but even with good technology and good application, there are orchards that definitely had increased stress this year,” Machado said. “You can see it in the lack of growth of the trees.”

Farmer Stan Wilson of Shafter grows almonds and other crops, and said he made it through this season on well water, but had to reactivate old wells, add extensions to pumps and install an underground pipeline so that he could move water from one field to another.

“We made it through the year. We had no surface water at all, so the only water supply we had was from wells. It is the first year we had zero deliveries,” said Wilson, who fallowed about 160 acres of row crops as a result of the drought.

With harvest drawing to a close, Machado reported that this year’s almond crop is hovering at around 1.85 billion pounds, down from the earlier government estimate of 2.1 billion pounds. Machado said he has seen higher levels of rejects in the almonds produced, but there were problems in addition to drought that played a part, such as varying degrees of stress and salinity issues.

“Quite frankly, we needed the 2.1 billion pounds. A lot of people look at orchards planted over the past few years and say, ‘What are you going to do with those when they come into production?’ Well, we’re going to market them. There is demand out there for the product. We’re still in a demand-exceeds-supply situation,” Machado said.

With just a few more weeks left of harvest, California walnut growers expect a crop that is 545,000 tons, which would be a record, said Dennis Balint, CEO of the California Walnut Commission. No official production figure will be known until harvest is complete, but Balint attributed the expected increase to newly planted orchards and young orchards that are coming into production with higher yields.

He, too, reported continued strong demand.

“Traditionally, we’ve been the ingredient nut, but demand for walnuts is strong and health benefits are starting to drive demand for walnuts. We are seeing more snacking, which we are pleased with,” Balint said.

Marketers said the increasing demand for California nut crops in domestic and global markets is good news for growers. There are 200,000 bearing acres of pistachios in California, and 100,000 acres are non-bearing, Matoian said. For almonds, USDA reported there are 860,000 bearing acres, with 80,000 non-bearing acres. There are an estimated 280,000 bearing acres of walnuts in California, and 45,000 acres that are non-bearing.

For the almond business, Machado said, “the limitation on the crop is going to be water. Water is going to be the competing factor for the almond crop, just as it is for just about every other crop in the Central Valley.”

As winter approaches, nut growers said they are hopeful that the state’s water situation changes for the better, although, Matoian said, “Even if we have a good rain year, we are going to have a lack of water available to growers; that is inevitable. That is what we’re being told by water regulators.”

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Glenn County Farmer on Water Cutbacks for Rice, Nuts

John Garner farms rice and walnuts in Glenn County. Though he is busy harvesting both crops now, Garner says rice acreage was down due to water cutbacks and there was a problem getting the longer season rice varieties in the ground early enough.

“There were cutbacks due to the 75 percent water allocation. That amount of water sounds really good, but we were also unable to plant before May 1st. So, in essence, we were prevented from planting some of the longer-season rice because you have to get those varieties in by April 15th-20th,” said Garner.

Still, Garner said his rice harvest this week is going very well. “My walnut crop had an excellent spring for pollination and a good summer, supposedly a warmer summer. We didn’t have the high temperatures or real strong north winds, so the crop just flourished,” said Garner.

And while the 2013-2014 walnut crop is predicted to be a record, Garner questions how that can be true this year. “I have a good normal crop. There are areas in the state where walnut and almond production are off upwards of 30 percent, and I think that’s due to this drought, the water cutbacks and the lowering of the groundwater tables,” said Garner.

“We were fortunate in our areas because we didn’t have nearly their shortage in water . You win some years, and then you’re on the other end some years,” he said.

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Record Walnut Crop Harvest

By Colby Tibbet, California Ag Today Reporter

With a predicted record 545,000 tons to be harvested, the walnut industry is getting very busy this time of year.

Janine Hasey is a UC Cooperative Extension Tree Crops Farm Advisor and County Director for Sutter-Yuba Counties. She also assists growers in Colusa County.

“We started early up here, but the hot weather we’ve had has slowed things down again. So we’re working on early varieties, a lot of Serrs are in; Vinas are in, and Tulares are being harvested, and we are trying to get the Howards harvested.”

“Right now it sounds like we’re on track for that record production prediction to come true,” said Hasey. “Growers are now harvesting early varieties; I have just talked to a grower who doubled Serr production from last year, and her Ashley production has tripled or more,” Hasey commented.

Growers have used a lot of Ethrel, a common late-season spray, to help speed up harvest and trigger a more even harvest period. “Some growers are saying it has worked, while others say maybe not so well,” said Hasey.

In addition to the hot temperatures and dryness, Hasey said, “we’ve had a little bit of dew last week. We are expecting some possible rain showers on Thursday…which would be really good to get the walnut hulls splitting, and get things moving again.”

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