From the Fields® - August 21, 2019

By Jon Munger, Sutter County rice grower

A couple weeks ago we started seeing our first heads on our rice, and since then we have seen the continued growth on all of our rice—short-grain and medium-grain. Overall from what we can see so far, everything looks good.

We started draining our first fields last weekend and we will continue to start draining our fields throughout the next couple weeks. We anticipate starting our harvest around the 15th of September and once we get going with harvest, we will be going for 30 to 40 days to get all the rice harvested.

As far as it looks right now, we are pretty much on track from where we were last year as far as getting the crop harvested. So far, everything we are seeing looks like a good crop. As in past years we have had some battles with weeds, but overall we have won those battles.

Compared to last year, our planting date was a couple days ahead of 2018. We started planting on April 27. Normally, we like to be closer to the mid part of April, but based on last year we are about the same and the crop seems to be maturing well. We have had a decent summer even though we are going through a hot spell right now. From what I can see, we have had some good rice-growing weather.

There haven't been any disease issues so far. We had to treat for some armyworms a few weeks ago, but we resolved that issue.

We do experience problems finding enough people for our drying facilities. We are fortunate enough that our harvest crews come back year after year. We don't have as many labor issues as people who use a lot of hand labor, because we are more mechanized. But to find people who are qualified and willing to work, it becomes an issue at times because we have to compete with other industries such as construction and other trades.

Once the crop is harvested, we immediately start preparing our fields to get water on them to start decomposing the rice straw and start preparing for duck season later in the fall.

By Peter Bauer, Mendocino County livestock producer

Summer is in full swing here on the North Coast. The hay is done and stacked. We have cleaned and parked most of the hay machines. We have a couple we are waiting on parts for. I like to put them back in the barn fixed. There are a couple that I am perfectly content to shove in there and forget they exist. They are going to cost a lot to fix.

The calves are all marked and the cattle are all turned out on the summer pasture. There is plenty of feed and plenty of water. We shipped a few cull cows and the remaining yearling steers that we missed last fall. The prices were decent. It's probably not the greatest market to sell them in, but otherwise we keep them on the place and feed them.

We have worked to stockpile forage for the weaned calves that will start coming in around September. Some of it we laid down with a swather so the cattle will use a higher percentage of it. It also gets it on the ground in the event of a wildfire.

I am really grateful that so far we aren't gagging on smoke from wildfires yet. Last year, the smoke made working really challenging. The cattle don't like to move, the dogs don't like to work, the horses don't like to work, the humans don't like to work. It makes life challenging. So far, so good, knock on wood.

We are working on repairing a long stretch of fence on the summer range. We are working on a brush mastication project that is nearing completion. Once that is done, the excavator has a couple other gigs it needs to do and a couple new fences to build. August is the closest to a slow month that I get in the summertime. After August, things ramp up and we start thinking about fall gather.

By James Durst, Yolo County organic grower

One thing we all know about farming and working with nature: No two years are alike, especially with weather.

I have always been of the mind that spring always sets the table for summer.

If the spring is drier and warmish, crops get planted on time, mature on time, and consequently are harvested as planned.

On years when the spring weather is unsettled, too cool or too wet, it is almost a roll of the dice when harvest rolls around as to yield and harvest dates.

This has also been the year of powdery mildew and armyworms. We have been treating both now for weeks. We usually start treatments in early August, but weather patterns and nature have blessed us with an abundance of these two pests this year.

Armyworms can be destructive if left untreated. Fortunately for organic growers, we have two products that are quite effective: Bacillus thuringiensis and Spinosad, both bacteria.

BT is quite effective on Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), upsetting the digestive tract and resulting in death of the worm/larvae.

Spinosad is effective against a number of pests, including caterpillars, true bugs and small, flying insects that feed upon the plant. It simply attacks the insect's nervous system and causes death by hyper-excitation.

We have seen armyworms in asparagus, winter squash, watermelons, tomatoes, peppers and various flowers this season in large numbers.

We have also seen early infestations of powdery mildew this year. We can control PM with repeated applications of wettable sulfur (a natural fungicide) and in some cases Kaligreen.

All these tools are benign to beneficial insects, mammals and birds, allowing them to continue their life cycle in our fields. Application coverage and timing are critical to their effectiveness.

By Dan Errotabere, Fresno County diversified grower

Right now here in Fresno County, we are shaking the almonds. We are occasionally hitting some green areas, which causes some delays.

Processing tomato harvest is now in full swing. We were hit by hail on May 19 and that resulted in some damage to yield. Compounding the problem was the cool May weather.

Our processing garlic is also in full gear at the present time, but this crop also suffered some damage with late May rains and cool weather.

Garbanzo harvest is two-thirds completed and yields are mixed or lower.

By Mike Jani, Mendocino County forester

Logging season is in full swing right now after a very slow start due to the late spring we had. Mills are stockpiling in advance of what a number of people I talk to believe: that we are in for an early fall. It sure feels that way.

Demand for all building material has slowed despite construction starts on rebuilding homes destroyed by all the fires. It appears that there's just not enough people to fill the jobs open in the building sector.