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From the Fields® - April 1, 2020

By Helen Sullivan, Kings County farmer

Too little rain, too much rain at one time, the coronavirus: Amid all the uncertainties facing us today, one thing remains a necessary constant—the business of growing food. Our farm continues to operate at full capacity. While we do continue to keep up with the needed work, our employees are being careful, diligent and responsible.

The almond bloom is done. The bees have moved on to new employment. Our first bloom spray was applied by ground application and then a bit later a second application of fungicide was applied by air. The floors have been mowed and the berms sprayed. While it is a bit early to fully evaluate the set, it appears that the crop will be slightly bigger than last year.

My Serr and Tulare walnut trees have started to green-up. The Chandlers are all still pretty much dormant. We have completed about 65% of the needed pruning, working primarily on the Chandlers.

As for the farm's newest enterprise, raising registered Angus cattle, it has been a great learning experience. We have five beautiful little calves on the ground and a sixth one coming. Next year, we will be using A.I. (artificial insemination) to ensure that we have a few more to add to the herd.

By Nicholas Miller, San Luis Obispo County winegrape grower

Winter wasn't as big in the way of rainfall as we wanted, but it looks like spring will be more generous with rainfall amounts. Due to the lack of rain, we have started supplemental irrigation. This ensures the vines have adequate moisture to help with uniform budbreak in spring.

Spring also has brought budbreak, as we've started to see trace amounts in the chardonnay, which means the other varieties will be soon to follow. At this point in the season, frost protection takes the front seat for vineyard activities.

Our team is excited for the 2020 growing season and we're ready to meet whatever challenges Mother Nature decides to throw at us.

By Jennifer Beretta, Sonoma County dairy farmer

Things have been crazy with this new shelter-in-place rule, but at the dairy we are still functioning as usual. We have our cows out on pasture and we are so happy there has been rain.

We were able to get fields mowed before the rain, so hopefully grass will be growing back and we won't have to start irrigating just yet.

We got AMP funding (a California methane-reduction grant), so we have been working with permits and equipment to get the project started, as well as applying for the Healthy Soils Program to improve pastures and forage for our animals.

By Grant Chaffin, Riverside County farmer

Everything is in a constant state of change. As a member of California's classified "critical industries," we are vigorously adopting best management practices to abide by the state's guidelines for COVID-19. California agriculture has successfully provided food and fiber to millions of Americans through the Great Depression, World Wars I and II and numerous other conflicts. We will perform through this, too. We will continue to provide the very essentials needed to provide food, shelter and clothing—essentials we sometimes forget amid the busy lifestyles we all have.

During the month of March, we received approximately 75% of our annual rainfall. It has delayed our first cutting of alfalfa and planting of cotton. Our alfalfa continues to be decimated by aphid and weevil. We now have multiple insecticide applications that aren't helping much. Alfalfa growers across the Colorado River in Arizona have access to some insecticide that is proving to be both cost-effective and provide exceptional control. Hopefully, that material will be available to California growers next year.

Our potato crop started out exceptionally well. We had the best stand I have seen in over 10 years. We had an unexpected and early freeze on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. It put the brakes on the crop and thus yields were substantially down.

Difficult times are what can make or break individuals and industries. This period will help us define and refine the importance of California agriculture.

By Mike Vereschagin, Glenn County farmer

We just completed our bloom in both the almonds recently and prunes the last couple of days. In the almonds, the bloom conditions were the best that we have seen in years: no frost during bloom, mild temperatures so the bees were able to work long hours every day during bloom, no rain so minimal sprays needed to control diseases and great overlap of different varieties' bloom for the cross-pollination needed to set a crop. Right now, the trees are loaded with nutlets and waiting to see how much will drop off as occurs every year.

Prunes just completed their bloom and we escaped the critical temperature of 80 degrees or more. High temperatures during bloom result in poor crops. In mid-March, frost was forecast, which could have damaged both crops. Luckily, most areas were right on the edge of sustaining damage, but looks like we escaped damage. There was some water turned on and helicopter flying going on to protect the crops from frost damage.

The long-term concern on everyone's mind is the virus situation right now and how it is impacting exports, with the cutbacks of shipping to international ports resulting in downward pressure on pricing for most commodities. Time will tell on how we will survive during these difficult times.

Be safe, everyone.

By Nick Short, Stanislaus County orchardist

What a crazy last month or so. We had an amazing bloom period for us in the almond industry. We really couldn't have asked for better weather as far as bloom goes. However, Mother Nature always has her own plan, as we received almost 3 inches of rain in a week.

So, we are focusing on continuing to apply crop protection materials on our conventional orchards as well as organically certified materials on our transitional acreage to help mitigate any fungus from growing. It has made for many late nights and early mornings, as we try and apply our material with the least amount of pressure to the bees. Luckily, the bees are starting to leave the fields and make their journeys back to their home states.

With everything going on in the world, we are taking the necessary precautions on our farms. Luckily, most of what we do doesn't require too many guys being in one area, and we have provided our employees with extra soap and water and asked them to separate when it comes to breaks and lunch times.

Most of our vendors have continued to keep us running and we haven't seen any disruptions as of yet in our area. Hopefully, everyone is safe.

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