From the Fields® - September 18, 2019

By Theresa Jeffreys Bright, Colusa County pecan grower

This has been a good year in our orchard. The adequate spring rains enabled us to put off irrigation until late May. The delay of hot temperatures kept aphid numbers from being at a level that required treatment until August. Usually we have to treat for aphids three times, and this year we will only treat once. Our pollinator variety, Shoshoni, was overloaded, so we shook them the first of August to reduce the number of nuts and allow each nut to reach greater size.

We are looking ahead to harvest. We are doing a last round of skirt pruning and getting our orchard floor in shape by treating weeds and mowing. The three varieties we have in our orchard—Pawnee, Wichita and Shoshoni—all have a good crop load and good size.

The Pawnee have filled and are solidified, with hardened shells. Harvest for this variety will begin in late October. The Wichita are still in the water stage, so we won't be harvesting them until November. The Shoshoni are in the gel stage and will be harvested just ahead of the Wichita. Weather will determine how smoothly harvest will go. We rely on dry periods between the fall rains to allow us to move in the harvest equipment and complete the harvest.

We hope that the tariff issues get resolved soon, as the effect of the tariff on price is limiting our options for selling. The Market Facilitation Program has helped. California has limited choices of shellers that process pecans, and we are grateful that we will still have access to a local sheller this year and will be able to continue providing California-grown and -shelled pecans.

By Shaun Crook, Tuolumne County forester

It is beginning to feel like fall in the foothills. Last week, there was a noticeable change in the air and with that, thoughts of winter operations are nearly upon us. Most loggers are still going strong. We would welcome a couple of inches of rain to settle the dust. It would be nice to park the water truck for a while. With fall approaching, we start watching the forecast a lot more closely.

Forest practice rules change when we enter the "winter operations." There are certain areas where you can't operate and erosion control has to be in place and ready for a forecasted storm. There is still a large amount of tree mortality and fire salvage to be harvested, and we will work as long as Mother Nature will let us.

It is also time for grazing permittees to start gathering cattle on allotments on the national forest. Operating plans for the allotment dictate when cattle have to be off. Weather will help as well. Cows are much smarter than given credit for. A little rain or snow, and they are ready to move to the lowlands for the winter.

By Norm Yenni, Sonoma County grain grower

This year, my hay crop was one of the smallest I can remember. Last year was the largest in my records.

February rains caused some minor flooding, and my normal springtime planting was delayed until late March and April. Then the same May rains that damaged much of the state's grain hay was the push mine needed to make a great-quality crop, but there isn't a huge volume.

Prices for the good hay are up considerably, probably because there isn't much to be found. A couple fields planned for grain were instead cut for hay. That helps the hay situation, but now I'm short on grain also. I had a little early planted crop, which was ready to bale when the rains hit. It was pretty much ruined by rain.

Right now, we're filling barns for winter storage, cleaning seed for next year's crop and doing some early tillage work. The small crop will allow me the time to do some ditch cleaning and land leveling I've been putting off for years.

Elsewhere in Sonoma County, grape growers have started their harvest. That's the big crop in this county. I've heard some concern about an oversupply of grapes with the carryover from last year, but it's a little early to get worried just yet.

I sure wish our dairies would start making some money. It's difficult seeing customers selling out.

By Tom Ikeda, San Luis Obispo County vegetable grower

The summer along the Central Coast of California has been fairly mild, with most days starting out foggy and often just a few hours of clearing. So far, we've avoided the damaging spikes in temperature, which has led to favorable growing conditions.

The wet, long winter did not seem to affect the spring markets like we thought it might, but early summer markets saw some increases in price due to some production issues in fields that had to be worked up wet due to the persistent rains as well as fields maturing later, thus impacting the second crop-planting schedule. It seems like there will be opportunities for us to hit markets for the remainder of the year.

Hemp and marijuana production in the area have created some new challenges. Liabilities from crop-protection application drift or dust drift from normal ag operations have caused some spray companies to refuse to spray within a quarter mile or more of a marijuana or hemp grow. Until this gets resolved, it could have a huge impact on existing agriculture in the area.

The problem of odor creates a different problem. Issues with odor are much more subjective and to establish ordinances to deal with the issues is a slippery slope for crop production. In San Luis Obispo County, they are considering regulating hemp, now a legal crop, based on odor. The concern is that the odor issue could be subjectively applied to other crops, such as cilantro or Brussels sprouts, both of which have pungent odors.

Ahh, the joys of the simple farming life.

By Ken Mitchell, Sacramento County diversified grower

It hasn't been too rough of a summer as far as the temperatures go. The turkeys are all doing well, and they have nice weight. The market remains pretty tight with a lot of competition for proteins. A lot of companies are cutting back. Consumer habits have changed, with smaller birds and smaller portion size. A lot of millennials don't want leftovers.

With the walnuts, we expect a small harvest for this 3-year-old orchard. We will have to take the nuts off this year, and it looks like nut prices are strong. I hear people talking a buck or a buck-ten for Chandlers, so that's a welcome sign from 75 cents. We are giving the walnut trees a last watering so we can attempt to put them to sleep. Last year we suffered some frost damage and we want to alleviate that this year.

We did a pregnancy check on our ewes. It is questionable how well they are bred up. We've taken out the bucks because any lambs born after the first of February, I just don't have a market for except the sale barn. It's a lot cheaper price.

But there are other concerns. There is still a trade dispute that we need to resolve at some time. We have the winter hay in the barn and feed prices are good, so we are just waiting to wrap up the season.