Posts Tagged: Maxwell Norton
The California Water Resources Control Board (CWRCB) was in Merced on Monday to hear testimony about a proposed Bay-Delta plan to stream water into natural waterways, rather than divert them for agricultural use in the San Joaquin Valley, reported Rich Rodriguez on KMPH Channel 26 10 O'Clock News.
The Bay-Delta Plan was designed to enhance flows in and out of the Sacramento River basin and within the Bay-Delta to protect wildlife and fish, particularly the salmon population.
"The report is a comprehensive synthesis of the best available science on the flow needs of fish and other aquatic species in the Sacramento River basin and the Bay-Delta, as well as an analysis of how flows have been modified in the system due to diversions of water," according to a CWRCB press release.
At the Merced hearing, UC Cooperative Extension advisor emeritus Maxwell Norton raised concerns about the plan.
"In a Valley that is not very affluent and so dependent on agriculture, these potential rule changes can be really devastating to communities here in the San Joaquin Valley," he said.
Several farmers drove their tractors, festooned with protest signs, to the hearing. One sign read, "We built it, you're stealing it."
Norton is “probably the kind of person everyone would like to know – a kind and gentle soul who exudes knowledge and wisdom,” said Bill Martin, executive director of Central Valley Farmland Trust.
For the past 10 years, Martin has worked on conserving farmland with Norton, who was a founding member of the Merced County Farmland and Open Space Trust, which merged with two other land trusts to become Central Valley Farmland Trust.
“He has an understanding of the landscape that is greatly appreciated,” Martin said of Norton. “He's very low-key, observant and provides timely input on provocative issues that come up at board meetings.”
Raised on a farm near Salida, north of Modesto, Norton studied pomology at Fresno State University, earning a B.S. and an M.S. in plant science before joining UC Cooperative Extension.
During his career, the UC Cooperative Extension advisor has helped Merced County growers solve problems in kiwifruit, Asian pears, prunes, peaches, strawberries, figs and pomegranates.
“When I started in 1979, there was rapid growth of two new industries – kiwifruit and Asian pears,” Norton said. “I conducted some early research trials on kiwifruit and authored a chapter of the new UC Cooperative Extension production manual for kiwifruit. I also spent a lot of time diagnosing Asian pear problems.”
Early in Norton's career, UC scientists introduced a device for measuring soil moisture called a neutron probe. The young advisor tested the device in peach orchards on clay-loam soils, attempting to correlate the probe, gypsum blocks, tensiometers and pressure chamber data.
“All of these tools were relatively new then,” said Norton. “Mid-day values had not been established yet so data collection entailed going out at 3 a.m. to pick leaves and measure the leaf water potential while crouching in the back seat of my government-issued Plymouth Fury.”
Collaborating with his UC Cooperative Extension colleague Roger Duncan in Stanislaus County, Norton conducted several research projects aimed at reducing labor costs in peaches. Projects included mechanical fruit thinning, chemical blossom thinning and various types of mechanical blossom thinning.
Research by Norton and his fellow Cooperative Extension advisors showed that mature prune trees could be pruned every other year and still produce desirable fruit size and maintain yields. Growers widely adopted the practice of alternate year pruning. Later, Cooperative Extension set out to demonstrate the new integrated prune farming practices where IPM tools were integral parts of the system.
In the early 1980s, when many grape growers were spraying pesticides three to four times a year, leafhoppers developed resistance to some insecticides. Norton and other UC experts saw the potential for biological control by the Anagris parasitic wasp. UC Cooperative Extension advisors persuaded growers to not spray the first or second generations of leafhoppers and let the beneficial insects control the pests. Now grape growers rarely have to spray for leafhoppers.
Over Norton's career, agriculture in Merced County has diversified. He began having strawberry meetings translated into Hmong or Lao for immigrant growers and studying pomegranates and figs.
Off the farm, Norton has been active in community development, organizing workshops for farmers on how to export their products, chairing the Merced County Economic Development Task Force twice and serving twice as president of the county's Chamber of Commerce.
“My favorite part of the job has always been doing farm calls, where I went out and visited growers and diagnosed problems, explaining the nature of the problem, and most importantly, suggest things to try,” Norton said.
In retirement, Norton plans on playing his tenor and bari sax in jazz bands, training UC Master Gardeners and volunteering with the local historical society and other organizations.
He has also been granted emeritus status by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
"We'll take any and all cold that we can at this time of year to fulfill the chilling requirements of the trees," Grant said.
Paul Verdegaal, UCCE advisor in San Joaquin County, a viticulture expert, agreed.
"The good side of the story is we're catching up on the chilling hours, which will produce a good strong bud bread and bloom for all the perennial crops," Verdegaal said. "(Subfreezing temperatures, however,) may be hurting some younger trees and vines, but generally, things are in dormancy, so it's not too much of a problem."
"For us out here, the cold nights are good," Norton said. "We fare quite well because we don't grow subtropical crops like citrus and avocados."
Scott Stoddard, UCCE advisor in Merced County, said crop storage facilities need to pay attention to temperature control when the weather gets very cold.
"We have a lot of sweet potatoes in storage," he said. "They guys need to make sure their storage rooms are working properly and don't get too cold."
"Actually, this is beautiful," Duncan said. "Tree crops need cold in order to break their rest."
Many environmental factors can significantly compromise a peach harvest, said Maxwell Norton, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County.
"For tree fruit you need to have a greater net profit than you do raising tree nuts because growing tree fruit is so much more risky," he said. "The biggest risk of all is not being able to find enough labor during harvest. Peaches, when they're ripe, you have very few days to harvest."
In the Northern San Joaquin Valley, including Merced and Stanislaus counties, about 8.2 percent of bearing acres for clingstone peaches, or 667 acres, have been pulled out of production this fall, the article said.
Because trees are being pulled out, processors are beginning to increase the price they are offering.
Delhi farmer Glenn Arnold said he's clinging to peaches for now.
"I was happy when I heard the price because it's a fair price," he said. "A hail storm can take your whole crop in two minutes. If you don't get compensated adequately for the risk, you might switch to an alternative."
While many offices are closed between Christmas and New Year's Day, the media don't stop distributing news. Following is a sampling of recent news stories with an ANR connection.
In battle to save Bonny Doon vineyards, scientists try tricking bacteria
Beth Mole, Santa Cruz Sentinel
But to stop these microscopic killers, scientists had to do some criminal profiling.
When Xylella get into a grape vine, they're released in the vascular tissue -- the plumbing of the plant that pumps water up from the roots. From there, the bacteria use the tissue as "hallways" to invade the whole vine. They then start exploring and munching on the plant.
"We think that the exploratory phase involves rather promiscuous movement of bacteria," Lindow said. But as they spread from place to place, there are only a few bacteria in each area, he said.
Each bacterium constantly sends out a molecular beacon that allows them to collect. Lindow and his team of researchers realized that this beacon is the bacteria's glaring weakness -- without it, they wouldn't make it into their next sharpshooter or kill the vine. So, the researchers engineered transgenic grapevines to make the same beacon.
Pesticide use rises throughout Merced County
Joshua Emerson Smith, Merced Sun-Star
Pesticide use in Merced County is on the rise, according to the annual report from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. The bump followed a statewide trend that saw an increase in pesticide use after four years of decline.
The reporter talked to Paul Towers, a spokesperson for the Pesticide Action Network, who said, "California is stuck on a pesticide treadmill."
UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Maxwell Norton said the idea that alternatives to pesticides aren't being pursued is false.
"Pest management has more resources dedicated to it than any other field of agriculture research," he said. "Agricultural researchers are putting a lot of resources into alternative systems. The research reports are there in the hundreds for people to read. We will eventually come up with alternatives."
Leaf curl dilemma
Debbie Arrington, The Sacramento Bee
Folks with backyard peach or nectarine trees face a major problem this winter. Used to control leaf curl, Micro-cop copper fungicide spray and lime sulfur no longer are available to California home gardeners due to environmental concerns. The fungicide sprays that are available have much lower concentrations of copper.
"It's a pretty big deal right now," said Chuck Ingels, Sacramento County UC Cooperative Extension's horticulture advisor. "Those products worked. We don't really have an alternative yet."
This month, Ingels and master gardeners are conducting tests on possible alternatives, such as Liqui-Cop and Concern copper soap, at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center's orchard. Because the fungus needs water to multiply, they're also testing another approach: Covering whole trees with breathable fabric to prevent moisture from accumulating on the branches.
"Until we know what works, the best option is to plant varieties that are resistant to leaf curl," Ingels said.
Olive oil's secret: Not enough real virgins
Ronald Holden, Crosscut.com
In a report a year ago, UC Davis researchers found that 69 percent of imported "extra virgin" olive oil (and 10 percent of domestic oil) wasn't what it pretended to be. Even the best-known brands showed signs of adulteration —blended with inferior grades of olive oil or cheaper oils from soybeans, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds.
The lone import to receive top ratings on all points was Costco's Organic Extra Virgin Oil, which sells for one-fifth the price of competing brands.