Posts Tagged: Roger Duncan
With the Central Valley locked in a heat wave, farmers are taking measures to keep farmworkers, farm animals and crops safe, reported the Modesto Bee.
Cows are being kept in the shade and cooled with fans, misters and plenty of drinking water. Chickens are kept in air-conditioned barns. California Division of Occupational Safety and Health requires farmers to provide workers water, shaded rest areas and emergency response plans.
UC Cooperative Extension offers extensive information on heat illness prevention online.
For the Modesto Bee story, reporter John Holland spoke to Roger Duncan, UCCE advisor in Stanislaus County, about the fate of tree crops in high heat.
The area's canning peach crop hasn't developed to the stage where hot weather causes a problem, Duncan said. Damage can occur when the fruit starts to ripen, which is still about 10 days away for early varieties.
The cling peach harvest is still a few weeks away.
Reporters sought UC Cooperative Extension expertise for recent articles about unusual farming efforts in two parts of California.
Fresno Bee reporter Robert Rodriguez covered the story of sisters in their early 20s who have settled on their dad's Laton alfalfa farm after he suffered complications from a black widow bite. The young women purchased chickens on a whim and began producing specialty eggs under the brand name "Just Got Laid."
Rodriguez spoke to Shermain Hardesty, UCCE specialist in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at UC Davis, about trends in cottage farming.
"The timing is right for operators who can make a connection with consumers," Hardesty said. "People will support that."
Sacramento Bee reporter Edward Ortiz wrote about a return to dry-land farming in the Central Valley, with examples of farmers opting out of irrigation in producing particularly tasty apricots, wine grapes and tomatoes.
UC experts, however, commented on the difficulties associated with dry-land production in the valley.
"Dry farming would be a hard life because you're at the whim of the rains," said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. "It would have to be a fairly small-scale farm, and in some cases, it would be a good road to poverty."
Duncan said wine grape growers might withhold irrigation early in the growing season to control leaf growth and improve fruit quality, but water is still needed later on. He noted that the valley in the 19th century was widely planted with wheat that relied on rainfall. The boom ended when irrigation allowed diverse fruits, vegetables and other crops to be grown.
"We'll take any and all cold that we can at this time of year to fulfill the chilling requirements of the trees," Grant said.
Paul Verdegaal, UCCE advisor in San Joaquin County, a viticulture expert, agreed.
"The good side of the story is we're catching up on the chilling hours, which will produce a good strong bud bread and bloom for all the perennial crops," Verdegaal said. "(Subfreezing temperatures, however,) may be hurting some younger trees and vines, but generally, things are in dormancy, so it's not too much of a problem."
"For us out here, the cold nights are good," Norton said. "We fare quite well because we don't grow subtropical crops like citrus and avocados."
Scott Stoddard, UCCE advisor in Merced County, said crop storage facilities need to pay attention to temperature control when the weather gets very cold.
"We have a lot of sweet potatoes in storage," he said. "They guys need to make sure their storage rooms are working properly and don't get too cold."
"Actually, this is beautiful," Duncan said. "Tree crops need cold in order to break their rest."
Among the first farming operations to be affected by lack of rain is livestock grazing, which is largely dependent on rainfall to grow forage for cattle and sheep, and to fill stock ponds the animals need for drinking water.
Josh Davy, livestock and range farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension in Tehama, Colusa and Glenn counties, said many livestock owners are in a waiting game. They're hoping for rain but are also making plans to buy supplemental feed in case it doesn't.
Another option for some, he said, is to begin selling off animals early to reduce herd size, thereby ensuring grazing lands can sustain the animals they keep.
"People are right on the teetering edge," Davy said. "We're going to have a lot of grass start dying here if we don't start getting some kind rains."
Some stone fruit and nut crops are also at risk. With these crops, such as almonds and peaches, root growth precedes bud growth. Without soil moisture, the roots don't grow, and then the trees don't bud out. That means less fruit production, said Roger Duncan, a fruit tree advisor at the Cooperative Extension office in Stanislaus County.
"They're starting to get concerned," said Duncan. "There is no such thing as normal. But I don't remember it being quite like this. We really could use the rain."
Farmers in the northern San Joaquin Valley saw a demonstration of new stonefruit thinning technology at a UC Cooperative Extension field day in Stanislaus County last week. Reporter John Holland and photographer Bart Ah You filed a story, photos and video about the event for publication in today's Modesto Bee.
The German-made "string thinner" has been researched for two years by farm advisors Roger Duncan and Maxwell Norton and pomology specialist Scott Johnson. It involves running a column of spinning plastic strings around and above the trees during bloom to knock off some of the blossoms.
The result is less fruit set and therefore reduced thinning expenses later in the season. In addition, the fruit that remain have less competition on the tree during their early development, which boosts fruit size at harvest.
"For one variety that was tested, the grower's gross income rose $997 per acre and the thinning cost dropped $386, resulting in a $1,383 (per acre) gain," Duncan explained at the field day.
The machine costs about $16,000, but it quickly pays for itself, said Modesto farmer Paul Van Konynenburg, Holland reported.
Farm advisors introduce peach producers to new thinning technology.