What will affect the irrigation industry in the future? California Ag Today asks Brent Mecham, the industry development director with the Irrigation Association located in Fairfax, Virginia. Promoting effective irrigation is important.
“I work on the things that are going to affect our industry or the future and trying to position ourselves so we can continue to promote efficient irrigation,” Mecham said.
His occupation includes working on codes and standards, new technologies, technical programs, and educational programs. This is becoming popular among policymakers.
Everyone in the world is benefiting from irrigation. Everybody in the world is benefiting from water whether they know it or not.
“It’s something that affects everybody’s life, and they will not notice it until there’s no lettuce for your salad or no tomatoes. So irrigation affects people all around the world,” Mecham said.
There is more demand on water resources in property. Irrigation is very important for a state like California.
“There is more demand on water resources than ever before, and a lot of places where it is very sensitive, like in California, and the water shortages are becoming prevalent,” Mecham explained.
Farmers have been doing their part to be more profitable in their operations. Cities, too, need to do their part to prevent water running down gutters, which is not efficient.
“The impetus of our program,” said Christine McMorrow, director of development for Land-Based Learning, “is the need for more farmers as the current ones age out. According to the USDA, over 700,000 new farmers will be needed in the next 20 years to replace those who retire.
CFA teachers, farmers, academic faculty and staff, and agricultural, natural resource and business professionals, teach CFA students basic production agricultural practices; crop planning; soil science; pest management; organic agriculture; irrigation and water management; marketing; ecology and conservation; obtaining loans, insurance and permits; farm financials; human resource management; risk management; farm safety; regulatory compliance and problem-solving.
McMorrow stated, “These folks have been with us since February, following a rigorous application process. A lot of these folks either have land they have dreamed of farming but did not know how to put it into production. Some of them come from farming families, but they wanted to get involved in the family business on their own. They may have been in a different career and now want to do something new or different. Perhaps they haven’t studied agriculture or they have not seen much agriculture other than what their family does, so this is an opportunity for them to learn and to explore a new business idea.
“We only take people who are serious about production agriculture. This is not a program for somebody who thinks, ‘I’ve got an acre in my backyard and I really want to grow something.’ While that’s a cool thing to do, the academy is not for those people.”
“Our graduating farmers, who range in age from their late 20s to early 50s, each wrote a business plan and presented it to folks within the agriculture industry,” said McMorrow. “They also planted some of their own crops on a farm in Winters.
McMorrow elaborated, “These new farmers have been able to create their own networks, having made contact with more than 40 different folks within the agricultural industry throughout the time they spent with us. These networks include local farmers around Yolo County, Solano County, Sacramento County, and other regions, and will help our graduates realize their dreams.”
“This is the fifth class that has graduated,” explained McMorrow, “and mind you, these folks are doing lots of different things. Some of them already have their own land, some are going to work for someone who has land, some will work other farmers, and some will go into a food-related business.”
“Still others will stay and lease small plots of land from us,” McMorrow commented, “to start their own farming business. Beginning farmers face huge barriers to getting started, the biggest of which is access to land, capital and infrastructure. So, to get their farming businesses started, California Farm Academy alumni are eligible to lease land at sites in West Sacramento, Davis and Winters at a very low cost.”
Annual Almond Conference Announces AIM Strategy and Improved Leadership
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor
Leadership was the recurring theme for the 3,000+ attendees over the three-day 43rd Annual Almond Conference, hosted by the Almond Board of California last week in Sacramento. “We are focused on the fact that the almond industry is accepting its responsibility to provide leadership for California agriculture and to use our treasure and talent to work on solutions for a lot of the problems that are very daunting,” said Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board. “We have talked a lot about what is expected by consumers and by consumer product goods companies, which is our customer base,” Waycott noted.
At the conference, the Almond Board launched Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM), a major strategic effort designed to further increase the almond industry’s efficiency and sustainability, that features four major initiatives described by Waycott:
Water Management and Efficiency – A focus on accelerating almond farmer transition to more efficient irrigation scheduling and management practices to maximize the most crop per drop of water. This initiative, which builds on the 33 percent reduction in water used per pound of almonds achieved by the industry over the last 20 years, includes working with farmers to fine tune irrigation techniques and adopting more advanced water management technologies.
Sustainable Water Resources – First, an exploration of how to best leverage a unique strength of the California Almond industry—its acreage—to accelerate natural flood-year groundwater recharge of aquifers. Collectively, California’s aquifers are the state’s largest water storage system; water recharged through this program would benefit all Californians, not just farmers. Second, an investigation of opportunities to recycle water from multiple sources, such as municipal wastewater, as a way of increasing overall water availability for farmers and all Californians.
Air Quality– Investigation of various methods the almond industry can help meet the Central Valley’s exacting air quality standards. This initiative will scrutinize all components of almond farming that impact air quality and evaluate opportunities to decrease emissions. This initiative will identify alternatives, such as decreased fossil fuel use, that will result in cleaner air for all those who live in California’s Central Valley—farmers, their families, and surrounding communities.
22nd Century Agronomics – A recognition that we need to better understand and then adopt the technologies that will lead California farming into the 22nd century. The Almond Board of California will lead a comprehensive exploration of almond farming techniques, bringing an exploratory mindset to consider all options as to what innovations and technical “leap frogs” will be needed to sustainably farm in the future. Each component of almond farming will be considered, from land preparation and varietal development, to equipment and processing.
Irrigation E3 Leader Awards Go to Two California Faculty
The Irrigation Foundation has named 15 outstanding students and faculty as winners of the 2015 Irrigation E3 Program. The Foundation selected two faculty 2015 Irrigation E3 Leaders, both in California, Florence Cassel, Fresno State andTim Ellsworth, West Hills College Coalinga.
This year’s class of faculty and students will receive an all-expenses-paid trip next week to the Irrigation Show & Education Conference, Nov. 9 – 13, in Long Beach, Calif.
Founded in 2012, the E3 program provides students and faculty with exposure, experience and education in the irrigation industry. Academics nominate outstanding students for consideration as E3 Learners and/or apply to become E3 Leaders themselves.
To qualify to apply for Irrigation E3 Leader status, an instructor must be teaching, or will be teaching within the next six months, irrigation-related coursework at a North American community college, university or similar institution of higher learning. Prior winners may not reapply.
Chosen faculty will have the opportunity to participate in education classes, industry sessions and networking events. Working with academics is essential to the Foundation’s mission of attracting people to careers in irrigation by supplying the irrigation industry with educated professionals. Faculty members help shape the future career paths of their students and keeping instructors up-to-date on the latest and greatest in the irrigation industry is a must.
“This is the fourth year of the program, and the Foundation is sending a record number of students to the show,” said senior foundation manager Janine Sparrowgrove. “We are excited to give the students and faculty the opportunity to attend classes and gain exposure to industry companies and technologies.”
Florence Cassel Sharma, Assistant Professor Irrigation/Water Management, Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Department of Plant Science, California State University, Fresno researches optimizing water use efficiency through low and deficit irrigation practices, improving irrigation scheduling, and utilizing remote sensing techniques for water resources management, crop water use, and soil salinity assessment. Assistant director of research of the Center for Irrigation Technology, Sharma is a recipient of the 2009 Outstanding Research and Scholarly Activity Award for the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.
Tim Ellsworth, agriculture technology instructor at West Hills College Coalinga, researches primarily soil science with a focus on precision agriculture and nutrient management. He currently serves on the advisory board for the Canadian Biochar Consortium.
Prior to West Hills, Ellsworth was a professor and faculty director of the online master’s program for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, a soil scientist with the USDA U.S. Salinity Laboratory, a visiting faculty member at the Centre for Water Research, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Western Australia in Perth and a senior scientist performing hazard assessments and hazard evaluations for the U.S. Army with regard to management of the U.S. Army Chemical Weapon Stockpile.
This year’s Irrigation E3 Learners are:
Samia Amiri, Oklahoma State University
Garrett Banks, Colorado State University
Colton Craig, Oklahoma State University
Spencer Davies, Brigham Young University
Daniel Greenwell, Auburn University
John Hawkins, Alamance Community College
Tsz Him Lo, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Michelle Mbia, Prairie View A&M University
Ryan McBride, Brigham Young University, Idaho
Alan Rourke, Kansas State University
Daniel Selman, Brigham Young University
Amandeep Vashisht, Colorado State University
Christopher Weathers, Mira Costa College
Toro Company is the lead sponsor and the Carolina’s Irrigation Association is a supporting sponsor for this year’s program.
“We’re monitoring water and nitrogen use based on best management practices,” Biscaro said. “We evaluate ‘best management’ practices using the soil nitrate quick test. That gives us a really good estimate of how much nitrogen is in the soil, and we can accomplish the test in just about an hour.” The trial also incorporates data from weather stations to calculate the amount of applied water.
“This trial and research actually monitors the amount of water and nitrogen we’re using and how much yield we’re getting under various best management scenarios,” Biscaro said, “and compares our practices to what the grower usually does.” Ultimately, the trial will help determine the yield of a celery field using best management practices, and how much water and nitrogen are required to achieve that yield.
Biscaro said the grower he has been working with to conduct the trial was already highly successful with soil and water management in the specific celery field under study. “He really knew what he was doing, and the nitrogen management was quite decent as well. So I believe there are opportunities for improvement in the industry, but the grower was actually doing quite well in this particular field I monitored.”
This plan will help shape the desired future for IRWM and identify measures needed for that future to be achieved.
The IRWM strategic plan will describe DWR’s future role and guide its actions for improving its support of IRWM. In addition, the plan will identify options, tools, and recommendations for others to support the practice of IRWM.
The Strategic Plan for water management is needed to:
build on the current and past successes of IRWM
further enable, empower, and support regional water management groups
better align state and federal programs to support IRWM
develop a shared vision for funding priorities and financing mechanisms
inform and influence future water management policies and investments for California
“The Strategic Plan for the Future of IRWM in California is critical for ensuring the continued advancement of sustainable water resources management.” – Mark Cowin; Director, DWR
Today, DWR protects, conserves, develops, and manages much of California’s water supply including the State Water Project which provides water for 25 million residents, farms, and businesses.