4/18/15 - An update on the statewide drought topped the agenda for the Agronomic Crops and Water Conservation Field Day held at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Desert Research and Extension Center here early Thursday morning.
The event, sponsored by Imperial County's UC Cooperative Extension and the California Department of Water Resources, played out in a six-stop tour, with specialists from across the agribusiness world providing attendees with an inside look at a variety of initiatives taking place within the Valley and all over California.
Despite being classified according to Palmer Drought Severity Index markers as an area afflicted with “severe drought” in July 2014, Imperial County has seen its eastern regions downgraded to “moderate drought” levels. Only Del Norte County, in the extreme northwest of the state, fits into the “normally dry” category, while regions of 32 other counties face “exceptional drought,” per a report by Daniele Zaccaria dated March 23 of this year.
Per Gov. Jerry Brown's 25 percent water cut mandate enacted two weeks ago, those numbers are projected to steadily decrease, though California residents should prepare themselves for a long, self-restrictive haul, experts say.
Also Thursday, visitors were given tours of homegrown alfalfa fields born of subsurface irrigation, an approach which cuts water usage by reducing evaporation from the soil surface. Research results from variety trials and deficit irrigation studies were also presented, with Dan Putnam, an agronomist and professor at UC Davis, taking the lead on numerous talking points.
In the case of deficit irrigation, one of Putnam's areas of interest, water is withheld at specific times during the crop's development so that yield loss is minimized despite the water cutbacks which have recently been enacted statewide.
In addition to alfalfa research, the field day included presentations on oil crops, bell peppers, sugar beets, sorghum and giant king grass — a non-genetically modified hybrid that is currently undergoing consideration for bioenergy production due to its high yield.
Author: Michael Dukes, Imperial Valley Press