People involved in agriculture rarely complain about rain, but the latest series of winter storms has folks talking.
The San Joaquin Valley Viticulture Facebook page, maintained by UC Davis viticulture specialist Matt Fidelibus and Fresno County UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Stephen Vasquez, reported on the drenching in the center of California.
"We've received more than two inches of rain at Parlier in the last 48 hours, and rain is likely for 7 of the next 10 days," read a post made at 4 p.m. on Monday.
Sacramento Bee reporter Loretta Kalb got commentary about the wet weather from the director of UC Cooperative Extension for Sutter, Yuba and Colusa counties, Chris Greer. He said the effects of this year's late-season soaking raised concerns for some row crops and tree crops. The wet ground will make it difficult to plant some crops such as rice during the traditional late April or early May schedule.
"If we don't get the ground dried out completely, it warms up, the weeds start growing, and they get a head start on the crop," Greer said./span>
The rainy season of 2009-10 was good news for San Joaquin Valley wheat farmers, according to an article in Western Farm Press.It was the wettest growing season in the past five years, wrote reporter Harry Cline. Central Valley dryland producers are happy; coastal and Delta farmers, however, got too much rain, which cut early production.
Cline gathered the information at a UC Cooperative Extension cereal field day in Tulare County. At the field day, UCCE farm advisor Steve Wright said the rain saved growers two 4-inch irrigations.
“That is huge — saving 8 inches of water,” Wright was quoted.
One concern that arises in wet weather is stripe rust, but it caused more damage in triticale than wheat this year.
“All PCAs and growers were watching for stripe rust this year since it was projected to be a bad rust year. There were hits, but it never took off and blew up like it did in 2003,” Wright was quoted in the article. “Newer varieties still have pretty good resistance and some fungicides went on, but overall it was not that bad. Even in the Sacramento Valley, stripe rust did not take off as expected this year.”
California's cool, wet spring is putting a damper on the state's agricultural industry, the Sacramento Bee reported today. Watermelon may not be ready for the Fourth of July, and tomato harvests likely will be delayed.
The problem for tomato growers has been persistently wet fields, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Gene Miyao told the newspaper.
"Under wet conditions, (planting) causes soil compactions. That affects root growth. Irrigation (water) doesn't infiltrate as well," Miyao was quoted. "I think it certainly is a concern."
Waiting for soil to dry means risking that rain will fall again before planting. Greenhouse growers can't move young-plant inventory to fields on schedule. And at harvest time, some growers must wait for processor capacity. Tomatoes may rot in the field or face exposure to insects while waiting, Miyao said.
Weekend temperatures were among the coldest in more than a half-century from Redding to Stockton, the Bee reported.
In addition, Bakersfield set a record Sunday when the mercury reached just 67 degrees, and wind advisories were in place over the weekend in the coastal areas of Los Angeles County and in the Antelope Valley, according to the National Weather Service. (As reported by the Bakersfield Californian and Los Angeles Times.)
Farmers can expect no relief in the next few days. The National Weather Service has issued winter storm watches for the Sierra Nevada and predicts rain throughout California tomorrow.
Last week's rain storms are pushing up prices of vegetables typically grown this time of year in California and Arizona's southern deserts, according to a story in Western Farm Press. Writer Cary Blake's article blames El Niño.
Last Friday through Sunday, “We exceeded our annual rainfall in about 12 hours,” the story quoted Kurt Nolte, director of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in Yuma County. “We had a massive rainstorm between noon and 6 p.m. Thursday.”
Over the weekend iceberg lettuce prices increased to about $12 per 40-pound carton, up from about $8 last Wednesday. Iceberg prices Monday were about $15, almost double since before the storm, Blake reported.
Besides harming crops, the storm created a thick layer of mud in agricultural fields that trapped vegetable harvesting equipment.Khaled Bali, irrigation-water management advisor and acting director of University of California Cooperative Extension in Imperial County, told Blake that about 60 percent to 70 percent of the county’s heavy clay soils have a slow water infiltration rate.
And, according to the article, Bali said rain water has a slower infiltration rate than irrigation water.
Farmers reeling from three years of drought and an unseasonably warm January are now worried about rainfall at the wrong time of year, according to a story in today's Redding Record Searchlight.
Almond trees that bloomed early because of warm January weather suffered some frost damage. Now, rain during spring bloom is inhibiting pollination. (Who can blame bees for curling up with a good book on rainy days?) Wet weather also raises concerns about fungal diseases. But despite these abnormal weather patterns, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Bill Krueger assured writer Debra Moore that almond farmers will still have nuts to harvest next fall.
"If there is good weather between storms, it will give the bees a chance to pollinate," Krueger was quoted. "The diseases won't be as bad as they would have been had these been warm storms."
The article also covered problems experienced by cattle ranchers when precipitation doesn't arrive on schedule.
UCCE livestock program representative Josh Davy told the reporter that February rain storms are filling up stock water ponds, but won't help farmers concerned about this season's rangeland vegetation, on which they rely for animal rations.
"The annual grasses are germinated with fall rains," Davy was quoted. "And this rain has come too late."