Posts Tagged: spinach
Considered among the most important agricultural innovations in the world, drip irrigation has been researched for decades. UC Cooperative Extension weed management advisor Aliasghar Montazar has taken a close look at its application in organic spinach cultivation, reported Matthew Grassi in Growing Produce.
Not only does drip irrigation use less water than irrigation with sprinklers, the slow emission of water near plant roots also diminishes the crops' susceptibility to disease. Growers believe that ongoing issues with downy mildew is at least partially caused by moisture that sprinklers leave in the plant canopy.
“Being certified organic, there is really nothing they can use as fungicide; so it is a big problem,” Montazar said. “So, we said ‘Let's try drip (irrigation) in spinach.'”
Early results are promising. Montazar has analyzed enough field data from the plots to directly correlate a four- to five-times reduction in downy mildew disease in plots grown with drip irrigation compared to sprinkler-irrigated plots.
“The other thing to note is there is a nice savings on energy as well,” Montazar said. “Another grower reported he saved $200 an acre on energy savings from getting off the sprinklers. Because with drip, there is less pressure needed, so it consumes less energy (to pump water).”
Sample costs to produce and harvest romaine hearts and organic spinach in the Central Coast Region – Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties – are presented in these studies.
The analysis is based upon a hypothetical farm operation of a well-managed farm, using practices common to the region. Input and reviews were provided by growers, UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors and other agricultural associates. Assumptions used to identify current costs for these crops, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead are described. A ranging analysis table shows profits over a range of prices and yields. Other tables show the monthly cash costs, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs, and the whole farm annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.
These two studies can be downloaded for free from the UC Davis Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics website at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Cost-of-production studies for many commodities are also available.
For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact Don Stewart at the UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651 or email@example.com.
Richard Smith and Michael Cahn, UCCE advisors for Monterey and other Central Coast counties, have been conducting field trials for several years to determine volume data on fertilizer application. Once growers know exactly how much nitrogen their crop is absorbing, they can more precisely apply an appropriate amount.
Smith explained that baby spinach will absorb roughly 80 percent of the nitrogen it is going to take up in the final two weeks before harvest, making timing critical, Taylor reported. Spinach harvested a few days later, called "teen spinach" uses about 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre; larger-leafed spinach can used up to 120 pounds.
“No (previous) studies had evaluated high-density planting of clipped or bunched spinach grown on 80-inch beds,” said UCCE research assistant Aaron Heinrich. “Our study was specifically designed to provide data on the nitrogen uptake characteristics of spinach and to evaluate ways to improve nitrogen fertilizer management.”
A new federal voucher that gives low-income women access to a range of fruits and vegetables could provide unique new marketing opportunities for California growers.
In 2009, the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) began distributing monthly cash vouchers to low-income women with children to buy fruits and vegetables. The program reaches almost half of the infants and one-quarter of children under 5 years old in the United States.
A team of UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) researchers and nutrition advisors has been exploring the possibility of developing a farm-to-WIC program that would link these low-income consumers with local growers. The purpose of such a program would be to increase the consumption of a wide variety of fresh produce, with a focus on locally grown produce when available.
UCCE conducted a survey of produce preferences and buying habits among WIC participants in Tulare, Alameda and Riverside counties in 2010. The full study is published in the January-March 2012 issue of California Agriculture journal.
Based on the results, the UCCE team developed a list of 19 produce items to promote in a possible new farm-to-WIC program. They are:
Although mustard greens and collards were not popular across all sites, the advisors gauged a potential market in Alameda County, so these were retained. Based on write-in responses, oranges were also added.
In California, which has the nation's largest WIC program, 82 local agencies serve about 1.43 million participants at 623 local centers, and WIC participants can redeem their monthly vouchers at 4,000 grocery stores statewide. About 40 percent shop at WIC-only stores, which stock and sell only WIC-authorized foods.
Stocking produce is relatively new to WIC-only stores; before rollout of new WIC food packages in October 2009, these stores were only required to stock limited amounts of fresh carrots. In the survey, most WIC participants (58 percent to 72.3 percent) responded that their preferred stores offered many choices, but fewer participants (18.5 percent to 41 percent) rated the produce quality as “excellent.” Key factors determining purchase decisions were produce quality and freshness, and nutrient value (vitamins and minerals). Cost was relatively less important, possibly because WIC participants procure the produce with the vouchers.
The list has served as a starting point for discussions with growers and WIC vendors.
“The survey showed that WIC participants were interested in purchasing fresh produce with better quality and more variety,” wrote lead author Lucia L. Kaiser, Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition, and co-authors, in California Agriculture. “Some WIC participants that we surveyed said they avoided shopping at WIC-only stores in part because these interests were not met.”
A dish made with nopales (cactus pads).
Sybil Lewis, The Daily Californian
UC Berkeley professor Barbara Allen-Diaz has been appointed University of California systemwide vice president for Agriculture and Natural Resources, reports the Daily Californian, the UC Berkeley student newspaper.