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From the Fields® - April 17, 2013

By Nick Short, Stanislaus County almond and walnut grower

Here in our area things are really starting to pick up. The tree farmers are in full swing with mowing, weed spraying and general orchard tasks.

The weather this year has been a challenge, related to fungicide applications and timing. Lost a few almond trees the last few days with the upwards of 40 mile-an-hour winds we had here. Seeing a lot of small almonds on the ground along with some bigger ones is not what we like to see this time of year, but we are hopeful we can keep the rest of the nuts on the trees.

The walnuts are just starting to push really hard. Our Payne variety is showing nutlets. The Hartley’s as well as the Chandlers we have are pushing the catkins.

Our almonds and walnuts are looking healthy and we are looking forward to another good year. The markets are holding strong in both commodities, so all of us are keeping our fingers crossed.

We are starting to see winter forage crops being harvested in the area.

By Greg Wegis, Kern County diversified grower

Cherries look much more uniform this year than last year. We are spraying Success for spotted-wing drosophila and gibbing right now. The size of the cherries are 5/8-inch and they are in the translucent stage.

We are fertilizing almonds right now and starting potassium injections, spraying for mites and applying some foliar nutrients.

We lost a small amount of nuts on the ground after some gusty winds, but the crop looks good overall. In pistachios, the 7-year-old trees up to 9-year-old trees have the potential to produce a big crop. There are lots of clusters on the trees. Let’s hope for good pollination.

With the tomato crop, we have the best growth we have seen countywide in years. All looks healthy and there are no real insect issues. Our vegetable seed crops are very clean and good looking, but it is still too early to tell if the crop will reflect how good the plants look now.

Our triticale wheat crop looks very strong, although we have had to spray for aphids this year a few times in some fields. Regarding our alfalfa crop, we are having major issues controlling aphids. Lorsban is not as effective as it has been in the past, so we are working with our PCA to figure out what to do, but there are no other options at this point.

By Ken Mitchell, Sacramento County poultry producer

Definitely all eyes are on the Midwest on their early planting of the corn crop and soy crop. About 70 percent of a poultry diet is corn and we don’t have a lot of options other than corn, so that is pretty important with the cost of production. Efficiency and productivity is of utmost importance.

A big story is the change in ownership of Zacky Farms, a producer of turkeys and chickens. How it will affect the remainder of the industry is yet to be determined. It may be a good thing for other people in the turkey markets, by giving them room to expand and pick up the slack.

On the hay side, the lack of early spring rains has affected some of the hay crop, but no rain as of late has definitely helped the situation. We are about three or four weeks ahead of schedule in cutting hay for oats and forage mixes. I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to get the hay into bales eventually.

With sheep, prices from 2012 were so extraordinarily high that retailers backed off and they haven’t really come back. Australian lamb and New Zealand lamb are now coming here and freezers are getting full of lamb racks. The federal government purchased 12 million pounds of legs and shanks, but that didn’t do anything to help the market situation because volume is not moving. The sheep business as I foresee is going to be a tough deal.

By Brad Goehring, San Joaquin County winegrape grower

There’s a heck of lot going on in the vineyards right now. We’re finishing pruning and tying vines, making second passes with the disker.

Because the ground didn’t get enough water during the winter, it was hard. But, here in Clements, we’ve gotton more than an inch and a half of rain in the past week that went straight into the ground. That made second passes easier.

The other thing keeping us busy is vineyard development. We’re starting several new projects every week. Demand for new vineyards is through the roof because of the need for more winegrape supply.

We serve about an 11-county area and there also is a lot of replanting of tired vineyards. In most cases, we’re installing irrigation and trellising systems.

As the weather gets warmer, the vines are going to really take off and start growing. Then we’ll be applying our first sulfuring and get fully ramped up for spring.

The big picture look is that we’ve gotten the earliest jump on winter/spring work in years and perhaps that will lead to finishing the season earlier in the fall. Of course, it’s too soon to tell.

By Russel Efird, Fresno County diversified grower

We are in the Kings River watershed area of the Sierra-Nevada, just east of Fresno, so we receive our water from the Kings River, through Consolidated Irrigation District. With virtually no rain since the first part of January, Consolidated Irrigation District has decided not to deliver any water through their system this year. Last year and/or during normal water years, we usually run water during the months of late May, June and July, but since we are in a limited surface-water area and must rely on pumped water, all growers are able to irrigate 100 percent with underground water.

This year with no water being delivered, growers in my area, which is about 20 miles south of Fresno in the Caruthers-Riverdale area, will be watching the water table and our pumping levels.

None of Consolidated’s surface water comes through the delta, so the water we use does not affect deliveries on the west side of Fresno County. But zero surface water means higher pumping costs and less recharge to the underground water aquifer.

Grapes—raisin or wine varieties—are being protected for the initial stages of mildew using two or three sulfur or sulfur-copper sprays until bloom, which is about four weeks from now, when our first fungicide spray will be applied.

With almonds, it looks like there’s a very good set. We have had almost perfect weather all through bloom. Our protective sprays are finished, and with no rain in the forecast, we do not anticipate any additional fungicide sprays to be applied.

We are in the process of determining what our fertilization needs will be, so our first petioles have been pulled and we are waiting for the results from the lab. Having our trees and vines 100 percent under drip irrigation or micro-sprinklers, we will apply only what is absolutely needed for the health and crop load of the trees and vines.

By Peter Bauer, Mendocino County beef producer

I am watching the grass dry out on the road every time I go home. I am watching my grass and it is starting to head out, so I am worried about running short of grass unless we get some more rain. We are already into marketing calves.

When the snow melts enough, we can get up in the hills and get some work done. We are getting the machinery ready to go for hay season. But if we don’t get some more rain, there may not be much hay to cut, so I am worried about that.

Beef prices are still fairly good. I just took some cull cows over to the sale yard last week. I have some good, fat steers from the fall calf crop.

We are retaining some good looking heifers to build the numbers up. We are trying a new mineral supplement this year to see if we can get the feeder cows to look better and the calves to look better. I am excited to see how that will turn out.

We need more rain and we need it now…we needed it yesterday.

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