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From the Fields® - June 1, 2022

By David Barhydt, Nevada County rancher

We're irrigating and still trying to clean up damage from the windstorms. We had lots of trees fall. We're making sure fences are secure, cleaning ditches, fixing sprinklers, shipping calves and moving cows to other pastures. It's a pretty busy time for us.

We have hand-line sprinklers here at home. At our other ranch, we flood irrigate most of it with flood valves, and we do a little bit of sprinkling. Because it was so dry this spring, we're a little bit behind in grass growth. We've been irrigating since around April 10. The grass growth we have right now we should have had April 1.

In retrospect, we're way better off this year than last year up here in Nevada County. The moisture we did have was kind of last minute, but it really made a big difference because it came just before we started to irrigate, so we had a little bit of ground moisture.

I have a lot of recovery ditches that pick up water when we irrigate, so we can retribute (the water). Last year, I couldn't use those ditches until July because the ground was so dry; it just soaked (the water) up. With that part, we're in better shape this year than last year.

We're really fortunate here in Nevada County. Our irrigation district is one of the few in the state that has adequate water supplies to last us through the season. Hopefully, we're not going to get cutbacks, unless the state (water) board does curtailments.

I didn't keep any replacement heifers this year. We're cutting back a little bit because we have to feed hay in the winter, and hay prices are just outrageous. It's bad for me, but it's good for the hay growers.

By Greg France, Santa Barbara County strawberry grower

We're doing a lot of harvesting. We're not quite yet at our peak. It's been a cool fall for us here in the Santa Maria Valley, and things have been a little bit slow. But it looks like our peak should be in the next couple weeks. Also, we are planting our summer crop, which is Portola, which will give us a fall harvest.

The plants look great. Just pretty common issues. We're still fighting with two-spotted spider mites, trying to get them under control. It's been very, very difficult. The weather's been cool, but it's been good. Pricing has been good so far this season. We hope it holds, of course.

The yield is behind. Labor is very, very tight and very difficult. We do use quite a bit of H-2A labor, which is expensive, but that seems to be the only way we're able to harvest our crop.

We also have a fun new project. It's substrate production of strawberries. We've been working quite a bit on that. We're harvesting and planting there as well. We planted the substrate strawberries last year, and so far so good. We're pretty happy with it. Being in strawberries since 1986, these are for sure the best tasting strawberries I've ever eaten. They're common university varieties, but because of our ability to water and give it the proper nutrition, the flavor is incredible.

By Kulwant Johl, Yuba-Sutter County tree crop farmer

The (cling) peach crop is not very good this year. It got hit by the frost, first in February and then in April. Some trees are good, but most of them in this area got hit by the frost.

Most of my peaches look OK, so I will harvest some peaches. Almonds also got hit. My almonds got damaged back in February. Also, walnuts were hit by the April frost. With almonds, I probably have 50% of the crop, and I will harvest it. What are you going to do? It's farming. One year can set you back years.

A disaster was declared for almonds in Yuba, Sutter and Butte counties. For peaches, they are still checking, but they will declare it because there's lots of damage. Not everybody buys crop insurance, but some growers have it. We don't know yet if (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) is going to approve a disaster program.

Cling peach harvest starts the first week of July. Last week, we thinned peaches and sprayed for Oriental fruit moth. Then, we irrigated and put fertilizer on the peaches. The price was set with the canners back in March, thanks to the California Canning Peach Association. The price is good this year.

Finding labor is no problem because with the peach crop, the acreage is down and not everybody is thinning due to frost damage. There is lots of labor also because of the drought and with rice acreage down in this area.

By Erik Herman, Madera County tree crop farmer

Harvest of fresh figs will start about June 10, and the season will go until October or early November. We grow Brown Turkeys, Black Missions, Sierras and Tiger figs. The Black Mission always has an early crop, which is in June, and it sets fruit on last year's growth. It's the only variety that really does it, and the fruit is always larger but with limited quantities. There's no real rhyme or reason why some years there is a big first crop, and some years it's a small first crop. We're just getting everything ready for harvest, fighting the challenges, whether it be packaging materials, fertilizers or chemicals.

We're making sure we're on top of our water usage and making sure we're not overwatering because we don't want to get fined at the end of the year. But we don't want to underwater and have to put on 2 more inches. We're preparing for warmer days, but as far as the crops go, it is a win-win, because the crops that we grow—pistachios, almonds and figs—they all like the heat.

Pistachios should be on the verge of nut fill, if not already started. We're watering and adding fertilizer for those. For almonds, it's probably about a month away, but hull-split spray is the next big spray for almonds. That will be here before we know it.

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