From the Fields® - January 27, 2010

By Tim Miramontes, Yolo County grain grower

We are finally getting some good rainstorms. Prior to the storms, I was getting ready to start spraying fallow beds in preparation for planting safflower and sunflower, and wheat at the end of the month. The rice was harvested in some wet conditions so we brought in rice stompers to take the ruts out and help the decomposition of the rice straw.

Before the most recent rain, some of the tree growers in the area were getting ready to start sprinklers to keep enough moisture in the ground. Everyone is still trying to figure out what is going to happen with water deliveries so planting predictions are still up in the air.

By Kathye Rietkerk, San Bernardino County nursery operator

The horticultural outlook for house-plants for the last quarter benefitted from lots of sunlight and fewer cloudy days. The poinsettia crop came in beautifully and sold with enthusiasm, which was a bright spot in overall lackluster sales for the year.

Sales for interior foliage plants are always lighter during the holidays, but the plant material looks good and sales after Christmas are picking up solidly. Demand has shifted to smaller product lines from the much more expensive items. So crop production has gradually shifted into serving the current needs of the consumer, to have a houseplant which has a real value for the dollars the consumer is willing to spend.

By Brad Goehring, San Joaquin County winegrape grower

The winter season started off with the normal timing of hard frosts beginning around Thanksgiving. The frost events led to the grapevines going into their current dormant state. This allowed our pruning crews to get started in mid-December. We should finish pruning most valley locations around the first of March. We will then head into the higher elevation counties to finish the pruning season around April.

The heavy rain events during harvest caused the cover crops and winter grasses to grow a bit taller than normal. This is causing us to start our dormant weed spraying somewhat earlier this winter. Normally we try to delay this a little later in order to get a little more carryover on weed prevention into the summer.

In the shop we are servicing tractors, repairing equipment and working on special projects, so we are sure to be ready for spring. It is during this "slower" time of year we are also preparing our tax returns, creating 2010 budgets and attending a plethora of meetings.

Winter is a great time of year to catch up on all those things we were too busy to do during summer and harvest. Here's to a bountiful 2010.

By Steve Bontadelli, Santa Cruz County vegetable grower

We finished packing our brussels sprouts crop on Jan. 20. I wish we could have finished a week earlier and avoided all the rain we've been getting. We finished in the rain and it was quite a mess, but we finished.

Right now, we just wait. We have more storms coming through. Then once the ground starts to dry up we will get back out there with the disks and get the ground ready for next year's crop. The early sprouts get planted in early April, and that's the crop we harvest in early July. The crop we just finished harvesting we planted in July last year.

This was one of the better years as far as crop quality. It was good growing weather, so we didn't have a lot of pest pressure. We were pretty much able to irrigate them in as we didn't get a lot of early rain. However, we did have that big storm in October. It was a controlled harvest and because of that the prices were much better. The volume seemed to go along with demand pretty well once we got into the season, so we were able to get a pretty good price back to the grower.

The rain in October wasn't a major problem. If it would have continued or if we would have gotten some warm weather after it we could have had some problems, but fortunately it didn't rain any more and it didn't get warm, so it actually saved us from having to irrigate them the last time.

From now until the fields dry it will be quiet, a welcome respite. The field crews take vacation now and will return to start working the fields and plant the crop in April.

There are still some California-grown brussels sprouts being harvested in Santa Maria-Arroyo Grande area. There are a few growers who raise sprouts as an in-between crop to keep their crews working. They'll have sprouts going to market for another month.

By Guy Rutter, Sacramento County beekeeper

The last few days were a little muddy, so we had to slow down a little. We are putting out pollen substitute and feeding the bees to build up the hives strong enough for almond pollination. We will move them into the almonds around the first of February and wrap them up around the 20th.

The hives are looking really good. There are good clusters of bees. Generally, going into the bloom season, we are looking pretty good. The colonies are healthy and assuming that the weather turns around on our side so the bees can get out and fly, it looks like everything is set for spring pollination.

We've had our share of colony collapse like everyone else. We really don't know what is causing it, but we try our best to work around it so we can keep strong colonies. Mites are a constant problem and we have to contend with them, but we keep the mite populations under control and as low as possible.