- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
The Nickels Soil Laboratory was created when local farmer Leslie J. Nickels donated his estate to UC for agricultural research in the 1970s. The primary crop on the ranch is almonds. Researchers use the facility to study irrigation systems, root stocks and pruning methods. However this year, a lack of water is jeopardizing research aimed at water conservation.
Franz Niederholzer, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for Sutter and Yuba counties, said a UC Davis professor has spent three years studying a new irrigation method at the site. However, a lack of irrigation water this year could have caused trees, and the research, to suffer. After this summer, the professor should have enough data to start drawing conclusions, as long as there is water, Niederholzer said.
CBS News in Sacramento ran a story about the situation at Nickels. Almond farmer Pat Gallagher shared his appreciation for the work done by UC Cooperative Extension scientists at the facility.
“One of the nice things is you can see what's worked for them, and what hasn't," Gallagher said, “and if something's worked for them you can try and implement that.”
CBS News also used its weather report to cover the threat posed by drought to Nickels' research. Weatherman Ian Schwartz presented the forecast from a Nickels almond orchard.
"This is a giant science experiment," Schwartz said. "They try to find out how much farmers should irrigate, what they should change. The problem is, just like the rest of the farmers here, they have had their water cut by the state and federal government and had to buy water on the open market. They think they're going to be able to get by."