From the Fields® - July 10, 2019

By Brad Goehring, San Joaquin County winegrape grower

It is that time of year when we are paying a lot of attention to irrigation and irrigation monitoring while we wait for the crop to mature and ripen. We started irrigating significantly later than normal this year, just due to the record rains we received. And we are still seeing the vines with a lot of growth on them from those rains, despite holding back on our irrigation.

As far as summer activities right now, we are trimming some vines, doing some weed spraying and just basically maintenance activities.

We just wrapped up our leaf pulling last week, and it is 100% mechanized. I would say that four years ago in our area, leaf pulling was 90 to 95% hand labor. Now it is just the opposite, with 90 to 95% mechanized. It was about a break-even as far as cost, but now that the minimum wage has gone up, it is a savings. It is saving us money and we warned the state Legislature what their votes would mean as far as minimum wage, and this one activity alone has put a lot of people out of work.

As far as vineyard development for others, this is our second slow year in a row. A lot of wineries are not offering pre-planting contracts right now. We are in a down cycle, but we are still planting, just not as much as before.

Right now, I would say we are running a little bit behind as far as crop development. All of the rains that we had also brought cooler temperatures. It has been a relatively cool year up to now. But things could change as the season progresses.

By Julie Walker, San Diego County nursery operator

"When it rains, it pours!" Our weather is finally warming up and drying out after an unusually wet, cooler winter. In fact, the rain was consistent enough over a longer period of time that flower field harvesting was frequently impossible, as field bunches harvested in wet weather were vulnerable to mold formation.

One bright spot was that field bunch pricing remained high, thereby bringing in more income than expected. In addition, we welcomed the rain after such a notable period without. The resultant increase in storage meant an increase in the 2019 State Water Project allocations to contractors.

The cooler weather also delayed outdoor nursery liner growth, thus prolonging ready dates in some cases. Warmer weather is now spiking growth, meaning brisk sales to make up for delays. Notices have been sent out to be prepared for heat stress risks during the hot temperatures to come. Greenhouse production was not as affected because of controlled environments.

San Diego County-wide avocado production is down. As a result, the yearly complaint about labor shortages may not be as frequent, but certainly, labor shortages continue to be a serious problem here. In addition, there is quite a bit of interest in industrial hemp production, with 25 certificates having been issued by the county to date.

Farmers markets continue to be popular, with 36 locations available throughout the week. However, this number is down from a total of almost 50 markets, as commercial stores continue to grow their "locally grown" inventories.

Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau for almost 25 years, has announced his retirement as of the end of September this year. Eric continues to receive well-deserved accolades and gratitude for outstanding service to our farmers and local agriculture. Plans are underway for a retirement celebration in early October.

We are pleased that Hannah Gbeh, a local Farm Bureau member, will begin to move into position in July as our new executive director. We welcome her and are excited that such a deserving and highly experienced professional will be taking on the job.

By Ritta Martin, Glenn County livestock producer

Things are continuing to dry out in the Glenn County foothills. The majority of the cattle from this area are gone for the hot season, summering in far Northern California or southern Oregon. The buck goats are turned in the nannies, preparing for the next round of babies to be born in October-November.

The past season's kids are all weaned and what hasn't already been sold will go to market at 65-70 pounds. We have a dryland hay field that the nannies will graze on the next few months, then come closer to the house for observation and supplemental hay and grain prior to kidding.

It's a bad rattlesnake year around here. We got two of these snakes right by the house and have a goat that was bitten in the face while grazing down in the creek next to our house. With some meds, we hope for a full recovery. Rattlesnakes are a constant worry, especially with small kids running around the ranch. We carry a shovel or a shotgun wherever we go and the kids learn from an early age how to differentiate a "good" guy from a "bad" guy.

The abundance of rain the west side foothills received this year, roughly twice as much as the "normal," has left an abundance of dry forage, increasing our wildfire risk. Many neighbors are putting in firebreaks with dozers and graders, to protect themselves from roadside fire starts. Our water truck will have a load of water on all summer, just in case something starts on the ranch or neighbors nearby.

The foxtails are drying out and starting to cause problems with the dogs that have longer hair. Two of our livestock guardian dogs need to have their feet clipped out through the summer in an attempt to prevent sticker infections. We've also been seeing a few of the big calves that are summering here, getting stickers.

By Mike Vereschagin, Glenn County orchardist

Right now, we are doing a lot of strip spraying as we get ready for harvest. We are also applying a lot of water with the heat wave that we’ve had. Hull-split spray will occur very soon. I’ve already seen a little bit of hull split on stressed trees. We are anticipating heavy pressure on navel orangeworm again this year, so we are planning on using some full sprays to keep the situation under control and keep our reject levels down low.

We have a very heavy prune crop this year. I thinned about a third of my acreage this year, and even the fields I did thin could have been thinned even more. Right now, I have crews out here tipping up branches, trying to prevent limb breakage on the trees. Usually, it is in the first week of July that the prunes make a big push on sizing before harvest. So this is a critical time of the year; we have to keep moisture on the trees, otherwise we could have some splitting. The best way to prevent that is by keeping the trees well hydrated.

We are going through all of the farm equipment, doing a preharvest check to make sure it is all ready to go.

We anticipate harvest will be a little later than normal because of the cool, wet spring. There is some concern about the labor situation. With the later harvest, if people are looking for work and find a job somewhere else, they will go there. This has been a concern for the past several years, but it might be even tighter this year. We will just have to wait and see.