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Posts Tagged: Roger Duncan

California peaches are in good shape

The warmest winter since 1907 in south-central Texas has left its peach crop with inadequate chill hours this year, reported Lynn Brezosky in the San Antonio Express-News.

Without sufficient chill hours over the winter, the buds didn't get the re-boot they need to bloom in proper synchrony, which is important for blossoms to set fruit. The leaves have also been slow to emerge. "The trees look like it's still winter," said Jim Kamas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extenson horticulturalist.

“The lack of chill hours is a big deal,” said Larry Stein, extension horticulturalist with AgriLife Research & Extension Center.

The Texas trouble combined with a cold blast that destroyed half the crop in Georgia and North Carolina this spring mean peaches are likely to be in short supply this year.

The sweet spot, Brezosky wrote, may be California, the No. 1 peach producer in the nation. Roger Duncan, UC Cooperative Extension pomology adviser, could think of no major problems affecting the southern part of the state's fresh market peach crop.

“I think in general it's probably going to be just fine,” he said.

The Elegant Lady peach is one of many excellent varieties that are produced in abundance by California peach growers.
Posted on Friday, April 21, 2017 at 1:10 PM
Tags: peaches (2), Roger Duncan (15)

Researchers study farm field flooding for aquifer recharge

From left, UC Davis plant sciences professor Ken Shackel speaks with research project partners UC Davis professor Helen Dahlke (in the purple jacket) and Roger Duncan, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor, at the flooding site.
A drought recovery demonstration Jan. 19 at an almond orchard in Modesto generated significant news coverage. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) researchers based at UC Davis and UC Cooperative Extension advisors are collaborating on a study aimed at recharging the aquifer by flooding farm fields during the winter. In many areas if the state, the aquifer has been depleted by farmers trying to cope with years of drought.

UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist Toby O'Geen was the lead author of research published in California Agriculture journal that identified agricultural lands in California suitable for flooding in order to bank groundwater. He has created an app that allows landowners across the state to assess the suitability of their property for groundwater banking.

The Modesto project will determine what impact winter flooding will have on the health of almond trees and almond yield. UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor Roger Duncan was quoted in the Los Angeles Times about the potential advantages and disadvantages of flooding crops in the winter. He said water could spur more fungal diseases, but could also drown out worms and mites that damage crops.

The Almond Board of California is funding the project, anticipating that certain almond orchards will be good candidates for groundwater recharge.

"Almond orchards have good soil characteristics, and water delivery systems are already in place,” said Bob Curtis, director of agriculture affairs for the almond board. “Winter flooding should actually benefit the trees while replenishing groundwater to benefit us all."

Following are recent articles about the project:

Researchers test a possible drought solution by flooding an almond farm
Geoffrey Mohan, The Los Angeles Times, Jan. 20, 2016
(Reprinted in Daily News 24/7)

Scientists flood almond orchards to restore groundwater in California
Capital Public Radio, Jan. 20, 2016

Stormwater floods Modesto almond orchard in experiment to restore aquifer
San Jose Mercury News, Jan. 19, 2016
(Reprinted in the Contra Costa Times)

Researchers show off groundwater recharge near Modesto
Modesto Bee, Jan. 20, 2016
(Reprinted in the Fresno Bee and Bloomberg Business)

UC Davis scientists flood Modesto orchards in hopes of finding way to restore groundwater
CBS13, Sacramento and Modesto affiliates, Jan. 20, 2016

Researchers test a possible drought solution by flooding an almond farm
KTLA News 5, Jan. 20, 2016
(Rebroadcast on KRQE News 13)

Orchard tries experiment to restore aquifer
Morning Ag Clips, Jan. 20, 2016

Almond orchard key to water banking experiment
AgraNet, Jan. 20, 2016


The flooded orchard.
Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2016 at 11:43 AM

Flood irrigation may help recharge aquifers

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources experts are studying the effectiveness of flood irrigation to help recharge underground aquifers that have been depleted due to the drought, reported Ken Carlson in the Modesto Bee.

The pilot research project will involve flood irrigating almond orchards during the winter months, according to Roger Duncan, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor in Stanislaus County.

"If it works well, we can expand and potentially look at other locations, other soil types and other cropping systems," Duncan said.

The Modesto trial will take place on one orchard with 10 to 15 acres of fairly sandy soil with groundwater from another area.

According to the article, commercial almond orchards are not usually irrigated in winter because there's enough rainfall to keep the ground moist. Flood irrigation in almonds has of late been regarded as a wasteful practice from the era of cheap and plentiful water; many farmers have turned to micro sprinklers and drip irrigation for water conservation. But orchard flooding could bounce back as a strategic tool as local jurisdictions try to manage their groundwater levels.

Many almond orchards are irrigated with water-conserving drip irrigation. A new study will look at flood irrigation in winter to recharge the underground aquifer. (Photo: Maxwell Norton)
Posted on Friday, July 10, 2015 at 10:39 AM
Tags: drip (1), flood irrigation (1), irrigation (1), Roger Duncan (15)

Maxwell Norton, director of UCCE in Merced County, to retire after 36 years

Maxwell Norton
Maxwell Norton, UC Cooperative Extension director and advisor in Merced and Mariposa counties, plans to retire on July 1. Norton, who specializes in tree fruit, grapes and farmland preservation, has served Merced County growers for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources for 36 years.

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.”

Over his 36-year career, Norton has worked with kiwifruit, Asian pears, prunes, peaches, strawberries, figs and pomegranates.
Over the years, he has collaborated on many UC Cooperative Extension research projects for processing peaches, including mating disruption for oriental fruit moth. “Growers who farmed near towns were especially desperate for pest management tools that were more acceptable to urban neighbors,” he said.  

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.


Capital Press: Advisor helps SJ Valley growers meet challenges, opportunities



Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 8:47 AM

Almond growers suffer the drought

Roger Duncan, center, with almond farmers.
Many California farmers fear for the health of their almond trees and expect their nut harvest will suffer because of salt damage, reported J.N. Sbranti in the Modesto Bee.

The story was based on a survey released Sept. 4 by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. CDFA sent questionnaires to 688 almond growers; in all 458 responded.

Among the growers who farm 600 or more acres of almonds, 87 percent said they used groundwater for crop irrigation. Groundwater has higher salinity than surface water.

"Almonds are not salt tolerant,” said Roger Duncan, UC Cooperative Extension  advisor in Stanislaus County. Since many almond growers have substituted groundwater for surface water during this third year of drought, “we're seeing more salt damage in trees.”

Sbranti spoke to Merced County almond farmer Bob Weimer. He said farms dependent solely on groundwater are suffering the most. Nevertheless, the farmer said he drilled two new wells this year and plans to drill another one in the fall. One of his older wells went dry because the water table dropped.

"We can't continue this process," Weimer said. "It's not sustainable."

The CDFA survey also reported that 9 percent of almond growers have removed trees due to insufficient water availability. Ten percent of growers have decided to delay replanting of trees and 21 percent decided to delay orchard expansion, statistics that surprised Duncan because of the continuing high demand for new trees from nurseries.

"The nurseries are going full bore," Duncan said. "They can't grow enough trees."

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2014/09/04/3521009_almond-growers-struggle-to-cope.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy
Posted on Friday, September 5, 2014 at 10:14 AM
Tags: almonds (2), drought (5), Roger Duncan (15)

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