From the Fields® - February 28, 2018

By Mike Vereschagin, Glenn County diversified grower

The last few days we have been watching the frost and running water every night. Temperatures have dipped down to 25 or 28 degrees, depending on the location. We have seen some damage to the almonds, but we still have a few nights yet to go and we don't know the extent that the damage will be. We won't see the full effect until a week or so after the frost events are done.

Right now, we are hoping it warms up and that we get a little more moisture. Now, we are a little concerned about water availability this year. The Bureau of Reclamation just announced a small allocation for south of the delta, but didn't make any announcement about Northern California. Technically, as of March 1, we will have a zero allocation until they update their announcement. So, everyone is irrigating now to get some water into the ground before the start of the new water year.

The prunes are still holding tight, and it will probably be a couple more weeks before we see some bud break. So, it is way too early to make any kind of prediction.

We see a lot of maintenance in orchards around here. There is still a little pruning going on, but not a lot. There is also brush cleanup. Everyone is planning for the coming season.

The almond bloom on the early varieties was about a week ago and the later varieties are in full bloom. So, we are on the downhill side. During the early part of the season the bees were very busy, but once temperatures fall below 55 degrees, the bees don't want to fly.

The bloom was good and tight with a lot of varieties blooming at the same time, so there was good cross-pollination, which we need in the almonds.

By Celeste Alonzo, Riverside County vegetable grower

It's been an interesting time in the desert, weatherwise. Temperatures have been in the 80s with a 5- to 10-degree swing, which is very rare for this time of the year. This warmer weather will bring our crops to harvest sooner.

Our peppers and eggplant were planted in mid-December, corn was planted at the end of January and green beans were planted on first week of January. Our crops will be harvested eight to 10 days earlier, but it could possibly affect the market in a positive way. Potatoes and green beans will be harvested at the end of March, bell peppers and eggplant during the first week of April and corn in mid-April.

Fellow Riverside County YF&R member Henry Johnson from Sunworld International also states that table grapes in the desert see an early season on the horizon. Early bud break can lead to an early harvest.

This warmer weather is definitely going to make for an interesting spring harvest in the Coachella Valley.

Last week, we went from high 80s to low 70s within three days. There was a freeze last week but we just had one yesterday and today (Feb. 25-26), and these definitely did more damage. This freeze will definitely affect the quality of our crops.

By Ken Mitchell, Sacramento County diversified grower

The good news and bad news is that the lack of rain that we so badly need has created a lot of opportunities to do some things this winter that we frequently don't get to do, including spraying strips in the walnut orchard. We still have some pruning to do, but a lot of things have been done that can't be done when it is wet. The frost hasn't hurt anything here, as everything is still dormant. Almonds may have a little damage. The grapes around me are still tight, so I don't anticipate any problem for them.

On the turkey side, we enjoyed the good winter and mild temperatures. I have a flock going to market next week. The birds have very good weights and quality because of the good weather and the feed. We are getting ready for our poults to come in this week or next, so we are hoping for some continued good weather so they can start growing. On the poultry side, there is growth and activity at the national level where it seems like whatever we produce, the markets are there to consume it. So, things look good on that aspect. We continue to enjoy low grain prices. I know they won't stay down forever, and when they do go up, it will put some stress on the market.

We also have lambs, but the hot summer last year kind of put a dent in conception rates, and we have ended up with very few lambs being strung out over three or four months rather than two months. That means we will have some late lambs that we will have to figure out how to sell.

With farming, it is either weather or something that always creates challenges.

By Brian Fedora, Colusa County diversified grower

After such a wet winter last year, who would have thought this year would be the exact opposite? Once again, we are looking in the face of water cutbacks. At some point, this state has got to approve some new water storage projects.

However, with such a dry winter we have gotten through the winter pruning and strip sprays without any problems. We are ahead of schedule and that is a positive. We are finishing the winter work and starting to look ahead to mowing and turning on the irrigation earlier than expected due to lack of rain. We need a good moisture profile when the trees start to push in a few weeks.

This current cold spell does have us worried. The almond and peach blossoms may have been hit really hard. Anyone that could turn on the water to try and help fend off the cold did, but I am concerned damage still may have happened. Time will tell. Hopefully, any damage will be minimal. The other concern with the bloom is if the bees had enough time to work on the bloom.

As always in farming, Mother Nature has something to throw our way and make it interesting.

By Jeff Frey, Santa Barbara County winegrape grower

In the Santa Maria/Santa Ynez area, we have bud break on early-prune, early varieties and are just finishing pruning others.

No rain this winter has led to considerable winter irrigation, and our wells are still at very low levels because of our meager rainfall last winter and years of drought.

Labor is tight with competition among grapes, strawberries, cane berries and vegetables. There's not much attention from wineries looking for fruit this season. We are not anticipating increased demand unless something changes.

By Peter Bauer, Mendocino County beef producer

It has been snowing in Covelo, which is a little bit colder than normal. And it has been dry everywhere else. We are continuing with our winter activities, fixing machinery and that sort of thing as we get ready for spring. We started calving out and they are doing well. The bulls will go out with the cows in about five weeks and then we will turn out on the forest grazing permit after that.

We are turning out at 50 percent of our herd numbers because of the current water situation. And I don't see any recovery at this point in time. It isn't that big a deal for us because our herd numbers are still down quite a bit from the last couple of droughts. So, it's not like I have to turn around and sell half the cows in order to accommodate this. We are trying to bring our herd numbers back up, but Mother Nature isn't cooperating.

The feed is short and luckily we only have about half the cows that we would like to have. I have quite a bit of hay left over from last year and, depending on how short the hay is this year, I may not cut any of it and I may just have it grazed. The hay could recover if we get some rain in March and April, but I don't think that is going to happen.