From the Fields®

Issue Date: August 9, 2017
By Brad Goehring, San Joaquin County winegrape grower

It has been a very interesting year. Since pruning has ended, we have not caught up with one activity out in the vineyard. We have been behind all year because of the long, extended winter that we had. It delayed weed spraying, it delayed breaking ground, it delayed planting jobs. Our ability to do work in the vineyard has been shortened by at least a month.

Normally, we would be done and we would already be prepared for harvest that starts in a few days. We are still planting vineyards and catching up from the long, wet winter that extended into the spring. With all the excess water that we are very thankful for, all the vines grew more than they have grown in memorable times. This also created more work for us, but we are grateful that we got the water and we have just been rolling with the punches as summer has gone.

Even though our harvest is a little later than last year, it is still on the early side. The grapes look to be average or just below average. It isn't a big crop, but it is a nice crop.

Labor is a bad, five-letter word. We have been short on labor all year, as short as we have ever been. We are paying the highest wages we've ever paid and we are still short. So, in our operation, we are looking at every possible way to mechanize and eliminate as much labor as we can.

Issue Date: August 9, 2017
By Jeff Frey, Santa Barbara winegrape grower

The big news down here is all the fires going on, and some of them have been close to vineyards. So, with the smoke, we are kind of worried about that.

We are going through veraison in pinot noir and starting to see color. It looks like everyone has all their fruit sold. I am still getting calls and I don't have any available. So that is a good thing on our end.

Labor continues to be short. We are getting by, but it is tight. I could definitely use some more people. All the crops are competing—the strawberries, the hoop-house berries—everybody is just competing for labor right now and it is really tight.

Water has been good. After the rains, the vines look so much healthier. Most of our wells are doing better, but there are some outlying areas that are still suffering from five years of drought.

Issue Date: August 9, 2017
By Peter Bauer, Mendocino County cattle rancher

We have finished marking all our calves. We were a month to six weeks behind where I expected to be, but talking to some of the other guys around here, that sounds like that is normal for this year.

I am retaining heifers. I tried a couple different approaches. I bought some heifers in a poor market, and that didn't work out well. I bought some different ones and they worked out a lot better, but still I think there is something to be said for the cattle that grew up here. So, we are retaining a bunch of heifers trying to build our herd numbers up and recover from the drought.

Four of my favorite words are, "The hay is done." We had a 40 percent increase in yield over last year. I don't know where I am going to put it all, but it is in round bales so I guess I will just stack it up and throw a tarp over it. The hay is of good quality. It is pretty clean and we had a bumper crop of the Harding grass. Harding grass likes water, so it was a happy camper this year.

There is plenty of leftover feed on the winter ranches. We probably could have grazed another 30 to 40 percent more cows. But we didn't know that in the fall, so we have what we have. But we will have plenty of feed to come back to. I turned out all my Forest Service grazing permits. I was three weeks late, but that goes along with everything else being behind. We attribute that to the water, so none of us are complaining. Now, we are just gearing up for managing the livestock permits this summer, keeping the animals where they need to be and marking the stray calf here and there.

This month, we will provide time for some projects. I have a big fence project planned and some road work and some other projects around the home place to keep things up to snuff.

Issue Date: August 9, 2017
By Brian Fedora, Colusa County orchardist

Things look very positive. Looking at the walnuts, it appears that it is an above-average crop as far as volume. We are seeing great growth in the trees because we had a great winter and we now have sub-moisture. That being said, I think we are seeing higher than average insect populations, a lot of codling moth and spider mites, which it seems also benefited from such a wet winter.

We haven't seen a lot of sunburn on the walnuts. That can change, obviously, but the trees seem to be holding up very well. Maybe it is because they have so much sub-moisture to tap into that is helping them with that.

Right now, our cultural practices are keeping up on the mowing. We are keeping up on the sprays and fertilizer and cutting out any limbs that have broken because of the high yields. We are checking out all the harvest equipment and making sure that we are ready once harvest begins.

As far as marketing the walnut crop, last year's sales went so well that there doesn't seem to be much carryover. So it looks like there could be a bump in the prices for 2017 walnuts, and that is a good thing for everybody involved. It means that the world is consuming the product that we are producing, and that is very positive.

Issue Date: August 9, 2017
By Daniel Bays, Stanislaus County almond grower

Like the rest of California, this summer has been a hot one on the west side of Stanislaus County. Almond harvest has begun around the area, with many growers starting to shake their Nonpareils this past week, which is about the same or a few days later than last year. The walnut crop looks good on most orchards.

Tomato harvest has also begun around us for processing tomatoes; quality and yields look good so far. Lima bean growers have not fared so well with the excessive heat this past month. When temperatures go up, the plants drop their flowers. Most bean fields have large, healthy plants, but bean pods are difficult to find. At this point, I think yields for lima beans this year will be low.

With low milk prices and low feed prices, there is very little alfalfa or silage corn growing on the Westside this year. What fields there are look like they are growing well.

Having good quality surface water this year has had a positive impact on all crops in the area and is a testament to the importance of having a reliable supply of good quality surface water for irrigation.

Issue Date: August 9, 2017
By Dan Errotabere, Fresno County diversified grower

This is a very busy time for us here in Fresno County. Right now, we are in the middle of processing tomato harvest. From what we are seeing, the yields have been varied. Garlic harvest is also underway at the current time.

Our cotton crop continues to make progress. Insect pressure has been unusually high in the cotton and, as a result, boll retention has been lowered.

In the almonds, hull splits now require careful monitoring for navel orangeworm.

We are seeing improvements to all the crops' health due to receiving a good allocation of water, although announced very late. Our intensive drip irrigation program allows us to manage the crops effectively with so many days over 100 degrees.

Issue Date: July 12, 2017
By Joe Colace, Imperial County diversified grower

We all know how hot we got. We actually finished up the melon harvest on July 3, and for the last 10 days there was a lot of stress because of the high-pressure system that had built up in the western United States. In the Imperial Valley, we had experienced two days that were pushing 120 degrees. For the most part, the crop was successful. The mild May did promote good crops for both the sweet corn and all the melons.

We are glad we are done here in the valley and now we have moved up into the San Joaquin Valley, where we are shipping both sweet corn and melons.

We have the citrus packing facility in Calipatria and we are targeting to begin our lemon harvest in mid-August. The lemons were progressing very nicely until that heat spell, which caused the trees to shut down for a while. But we are back on target for a mid-August start, which is on the early side for us. Typically, the lemon harvest in District 3, which is the low desert, starts in early September.

The water recovery through the winter has been a beneficial aspect for all of the agricultural sectors here in California and Arizona. So that really puts a positive light on things at this time for the agricultural community.

Issue Date: July 12, 2017
By Nicholas Miller, Santa Barbara County winegrape grower

So far this year, we've had great growing conditions at our Paso Robles Highland District Vineyard, French Camp Vineyards. The vines have responded well from the winter rains (although we would have liked more) and now they are experiencing even bud break with full, healthy canopies.

The overall disease pressure has been low this year across all varietals grown at the vineyard as well. The beginning of the growing season brought cool weather and now summer is in full swing with warm temperatures.

This means veraison is right around the corner for us, so we should expect to see fruit coming off the vine by the second week of August.

Issue Date: July 12, 2017
By Jake Samuel, San Joaquin County diversified grower

I grow cherries and walnuts in San Joaquin County. Prior to July 4, most of the husk fly flights began and applications were applied on the early-variety walnuts. Since the 4th, we have worked towards the second flight of codling moth applications for Chandlers beginning on the second and third week of July.

Due to the immense cycles of heat waves last month and this month, some growers are applying Surround for sun block on the walnuts. Crop set seems to be good, and the trees have finished their June drop. Harvest field prep is beginning too, with dead wood removal and ground prep taking place if needed.

Cherry trees are recuperating after a hefty cherry harvest. Some of our fields have already had the first postharvest application for leaf hopper and preventive mite application. Other orchards are already showing signs of mite pressure and agricultural chemicals have been applied.

We have also started our summer pruning, mainly topping and hedging. I see that other growers have been working on minor summer pruning. We are also being cognizant of bacteria blast and other cankers, and looking at removal of infected wood. Fertilizing is also being incorporated into our summer irrigation schedules. Small, micro-amounts seem to be the best recipe for next year's crop.

Our custom shakers are being prepped and our almond customers are beginning hull split sprays and looking at the middle August for first shaking.

Issue Date: July 12, 2017
By Johnnie White, Napa County winegrape grower

We are starting to see veraison, which is when the grapes turn color, in all of the different varieties. I am starting to see it happen, and it is because of the location and what kind of soil the grapes are in. Everything is starting to get color except for the later-ripening mountain fruit. We won't harvest until the end of August or beginning of September. The yield looks average, about the same as last year.

We are finishing up with canopy work and a last round of fungicide applications. We are either just starting the last round or we have one more round to go. Because we're so spread out from mountain to valley floor, this will be the last application and the other fruit that is further behind will have one more application.

We still have a shortage of labor. Our starting wage continues to increase, but it doesn't seem to attract any new people.

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