Posts Tagged: Kevin Day
Record winter rainfall during the 2016-17 winter has enabled farms to emerge from survival mode in the short term, but scientists are still working hard to be ready for the next drought, reported Tim Hearden in Capital Press.
Hearden spent a day at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier to learn how researchers at the facility and the UC West Side Research and Extension Center near Five Points are combining technology with management practices to put every drop of irrigation water to work.
“This is one of the few places in the world where you can do drought research on a field level,” said Jeff Dahlberg, director of the 330-acre Kearney facility. “What I'm planning is a world-class drought nursery.”
At the West Side REC, researchers are working with farmers to perfect micro-irrigation efficiency and test drought stress on the area's most prevalent crops.
“We'll grow a tremendous number of cultivars of a crop” and identify “what seem to be the most promising cultivars when you grow them under drought conditions,” said Bob Hutmacher, a cotton specialist and the center's director.
Hearden spoke to Jeff Mitchell, UCCE cropping systems specialist and director of the Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation center (CASI). CASI is encouraging farmers to adopt farming practices that save water, reduce dust and help improve the condition of soil, such as subsurface drip irrigation, overhead irrigation, minimum tillage, cover crops and crop residues.
“This is not done right now in California,” Mitchell said. “In the future, there may be a strong likelihood of certain agricultural sectors adopting these practices.”
Other subsurface irrigation trials are showing dramatic increases in yields. Khaled Bali, an irrigation water management specialist at Kearney, said underground drip systems in alfalfa fields have achieved 20 to 30 percent more yields while in some cases using 20 percent less water.
Kevin Day, a UCCE pomology advisor in Tulare County, is trying subsurface drip in a peach and nectarine orchard after working with the USDA to use it for pomegranates. He's seen as much as a 90 percent reduction in weeds because there's no surface water to feed them.
“Fewer weeds, fewer pesticides,” he said. “We use high-frequency irrigation. We irrigate as the crop needs it. When you do that, you keep the roots deeper, which makes for better aeration.”
"That smaller peach this year very likely is sweeter than the moderate-sized peach of last year," said Kevin Day, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor and director in Tulare and Kings counties.
Most of the change in fruit size can be attributed to the drought. When irrigation is limited, water content of the fruit diminishes and sugars become a greater proportion of the fruit mass. However, Day says drought isn't the only reason for 2015's smaller fruit size. California also had unusually warm temperatures in January and February 2015, causing fruit to ripen faster.
"A variety that might ripen after 120 days of being on a tree in a year like this ripens in only 110," Day said. "And, so it's consequently shortchanged out of 10 days of growing."
Kevin Day, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Tulare County, has been comparing the quality of fruit on stone fruit trees pruned conventionally, in hedge rows and other configurations for 17 years. Now he and his colleague Ted DeJong, UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, are taking a new look at small-sized trees, reported KSEE Channel 24 news in Fresno.
The idea is keeping the fruit trees short so ladders won't be necessary for harvest and other orchard operations, while at the same time maintaining excellent yield and fruit quality.
Day talked to the KSEE news crew in a peach and nectarine orchard at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.
"This is good news for farmers and farmworkers," said reporter Theresa Sardina. "This means safer working conditions for workers and less money out of farmers' pockets."
Day said the researchers are trying to better understand the labor savings aspect of small fruit trees, but he believes they will be proven to be significantly more cost effective.
"You can save a minimum of 25 if not up to 50 percent on any particular labor operations," Day said.
The lead agricultural technician at Kearney, Rudolfo Cisneros, was also interviewed for the story.
See the video on the KSEE Channel 24 website./span>
The answer may be developing soon at a 4-acre test orchard south of Fresno, where University of California researchers are planting semi-dwarfing rootstocks as part of a large, integrated experiment on virtually every aspect of peach and nectarine production.
“We're designing ‘ladderless' orchards, which have the potential to cut labor costs by 50 percent or more and improve worker safety,” said UC Cooperative Extension specialist Ted DeJong, a plant physiology professor at UC Davis. DeJong and Kevin Day, a Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Tulare County, are leading the experiment.
Conventional peach and nectarine trees grow about 13 feet tall. Setting up, climbing and moving ladders to prune the trees and harvest fruit consumes about half the workday. Ladders are dangerous, too, which is why peach and nectarine growers pay about 40 percent more for workers' compensation insurance than growers who work with more low-lying commodities, like grapes.
Developed by breeders at UC Davis, the new rootstocks will produce trees that grow about 7 or 8 feet tall and can be pruned and harvested from the ground. With the right orchard management — which Day and DeJong will test at their plots at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, near Fresno — the shorter trees could produce just as much high-quality fruit as their lofty kin.
“Ladderless orchards would be huge for our industry,” said Bill Chandler, who grows several varieties of peaches and nectarines on his 250-acre Chandler Farms in Selma, California. “There are so many costs associated with ladders that many growers are switching over to almonds just to stay in business. It costs me $1,400 an acre to thin our trees.”
Rod Milton, a fourth-generation stone-fruit grower, said he would welcome a ladderless system for the peaches and nectarines he grows in Reedley, California.
“Even with conventional rootstocks, I prune my trees so workers can take two fewer steps on the ladder come harvest time,” he said. “And the savings are huge, even with that. It's important to keep farm work safe. And it's important to keep farming viable, or else we'll be getting all our produce from overseas.”
Shorter trees are just one of the elements of DeJong's and Day's experiment, which explores best practices for keeping peach and nectarine production economically and environmentally sustainable. Funded by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, their model orchard will integrate virtually every UC pomology advancement in the past 30 years.
The team will plant conventional, tall trees in one plot and cultivate them using standard irrigation, fertilization and pruning practices. On three other plots, they will grow shorter trees with new, “best-management” practices such as minimal pruning, using pressure chambers to measure a tree's water needs, and applying compost and nitrogen sprays to minimize nutrient leaching and groundwater contamination. They will compare fruit size and yields, canopy light interception, water and nitrate leaching, and more. Graduate students will have opportunities to get hands-on experience as the next generation of stone-fruit experts.
“We're excited to take our experiments to the next level, to provide growers what they need to make good management decisions,” Day said.
Growers are excited, too.
“If it wasn't for people like Ted DeJong and Kevin Day, I'm not sure there'd be any of us peach and nectarine growers left,” Chandler said. “They work so hard to make farming efficient.”
The team will begin planting in spring 2015 and should have preliminary data by 2016.
Six consecutive days of San Joaquin Valley temperatures topping out over the 100-degree mark are impacting agricultural production, reported Bob Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee.
Rodriguez talked to UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors to learn about the recent hot weather's effect on tree crops and grape vines.
"Trees and plants just seem to shut down when it gets this hot," said Kevin Day, University of California Cooperative Extension advisor in Tulare County. "And the fruit just doesn't ripen."
Grape growers face similar challenges when the mercury rises.
"Instead of producing sugar and enlarging the berries, the vines just maintain," said Stephen Vasquez, UCCE advisor in Fresno County, viticulture.
The high temperature around the Valley is expected to be about 101 today. More pleasant weather begins Saturday, when temperatures return to normal for this time of year, the mid- to upper 90s.