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From the Fields® - June 5, 2013

By Mike Sangiacomo, Sonoma County winegrape grower

Right now, labor is adequate. It is tight, but we are getting the work done. This is one of our higher use times for labor. We are doing a lot of suckering, shoot positioning, and soon we will be doing leaf pulling, so this is a peak time for us. We were a little behind with the suckering, but we are finishing that up. There is also some shoot positioning going on, we are lifting wire. We will be starting leaf pulling pretty quick. So those are the hand tasks that are going on.

We are finishing up a little bit of cultivation and mowing for the late growth of grasses. We are also starting to prep the fields for replanting.

Things look good. The crop looks good, the set looks good. We are optimistic. We are ahead of where we normally are at this time of year. The vines look healthy and with the nice weather, things are growing well.

We don’t have any water issues this year and hopefully we won’t. It depends on how hot it gets in the summer. Because December was so wet, many people got their reservoirs filled. We will be starting our irrigation earlier. It will depend on the soil types in the various locations. It will depend on the site.

By Ron Macedo, Stanislaus County diversified grower

I am in the middle of ground preparation, pre-irrigation and planting corn. The water situation here is quite dire. We really don’t know what is going to happen. We have a 30-inch allotment for the Turlock Irrigation District, so we are supplementing with groundwater and trying to get by the best we can for this year and hoping that next year some normal rainfall will happen. But this year it will be a tough go and we will see how we can get by.

We are starting to plot our varieties for pumpkins and order seeds. We are starting to plant them now. The pumpkin patch is getting more and more fun every year, with more varieties and doing a few more things. Going through the permit process is always interesting, especially being right on the edge of the city limits and county line, so I am dealing with both agencies and going through the process. It is fun in a way and good in a way because I can bring some ag tourism to the community. It has been a perfect venue for me to do those kind of things.

I am managing about 1,700 acres of corn that is being grown for silage. We are looking forward to a good year. The weather is turning nicer now and it looks like a warm spring, so it should make for a good corn crop.

By Joe Colace Jr., Imperial County diversified farmer

The Imperial Valley is now hitting temperatures of 110 degrees. We are coming to the end of the sweet corn deal for the lower desert. The crop was about average. The quality was good and yields were slightly down because of the non-uniform weather. April was probably one of the warmest Aprils on record, but on April 8 a very severe front come through that hit all of California with severe winds, and it had an impact on our sweet corn. We are actually finishing up with pretty nice quality.

We have an average crop of melons, overall. We grow all of the melons except watermelons. Markets are not very strong, in fact demand is poor at this point, but we have had good quality and thus we have had good reception at the marketplace.

We are working hard on our citrus. We have grapefruit that we are harvesting and packing right now. We have the orange types, including the minneolas and the smaller ones like the mandarin types. We have an average crop at this time and are on schedule to start on the lemons at the end of August or first of September.

Water, like in all of the western United States, is probably the most critical of the issues. The Imperial Valley is in the midst of dialogue concerning the water allotment. Because in the previous two years the water district has gone above its allotted amount, we are required to pay back the excess amount. So that is causing some evaluation of the process and there is a lot of dialogue going on between the Imperial Irrigation District and the water users.

We are fortunate that our labor appears to be in a steady supply. Most of the shippers of produce that I talk with are fine with labor as well.

By Richard Collins, Solano County diversified grower

We have had to do a lot of early irrigations because the soil profile is so void of water. Part of that is coming from these strong, dry north winds that buffered us. It really wreaked havoc with pollination of our fruit and seed crops and generally made life on the farm dusty and miserable. I don’t know whether it was abnormally windy or not, but there were some bad days. The bees couldn’t fly.

We have blackberries and despite all of these problems, we are picking blackberries three weeks ahead of schedule. I think it was because we had such a warm April. The early variety that we have is generally pretty light because it is so early. We sell to jam makers and wholesalers and we also go to farmers markets.

We also have hops on our property now. This is a return of hops to the Sacramento Valley. This isn’t the first hops in the valley, but it is being done to make more localized beer. They just went into the ground this spring. Hops are a perrennial crop. There won’t be much yield this year because this is an establishment year, but next year, hopefully, there will be some decent production.

We have a lot of tomatoes on our ground this year that are being grown by a tenant. They are both organic and conventional. They are irrigating like crazy because the soil is just so dry. So the wells are really cranking right now to fill the soil profile with water that wasn’t filled up with rain this year. It didn’t happen this year and that is a little scary.

By Davin Norene, Yuba/Sutter counties orchardist

The orchards look very healthy, and the walnuts have sized up considerably due to the warm growing conditions that we have experienced this spring. I am hopeful this will result in large nut size and above-average meat yields.

I have found blight-infected walnuts in our close-planted Chandlers, our Ashleys and Vinas. The numbers are not terrible, just enough to really annoy me. I have seen some significant walnut aphid numbers in the early varieties. They appear to be outpacing the natural predators, so we will probably apply a selective insecticide in the coming days to keep them in check. We are catching close to nothing in our codling moth traps. Since the beginning of our pheromone program, it is quite rare that we have to treat for this pest.

It is a little early to have a real good idea of the crop size; the early varieties appear to have an average to above average crop. The Howards seem to be about average and the Chandlers could be average to above average, depending on how many of the late bloomers stick.

The wild turkey chicks have hatched and there are broods throughout the orchards. I have also seen a couple of bunches of wood duck ducklings making their way to water.

By Orin Johnson, Stanislaus County beekeeper

Weather for the almond bloom was excellent, even with a tight bee supply. April sage and orange honey flows were minimal to nonexistent for most beekeepers. Now hives have been moved into mountain areas in search of forage to keep bees alive and healthy while awaiting pollination contracts in irrigated crops (melons, alfalfa seed and so on).

Many beekeepers are still feeding to supplement natural forage, which suffered due to lack of spring moisture. Hot summer temperatures (with the exception of the Imperial Valley) should not affect the bees. They just need water and a good floral source. Beekeepers should be checking for mites and treating, if they haven’t already.

Honey prices remain strong for anyone with honey to sell, as most supplies are small or gone.




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