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(originally published September 2017)

Subsurface drip irrigation in almonds may not be the way to go for all growers in the state, but for two almond operations, Terranova Ranch in Fresno County and 4R Farming in Arbuckle, the practice has proven to be very successful.

The use of subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) is nothing new on a worldwide level. In Israel the practice has been around since the 1960s.  SDI has had many diverse uses around the world for a multitude of crops on multiple soil types in various climates.

Here in the United States, studies and research into SDI, its advantages and disadvantages, continues, as is education on the system and commercial activities.

SDI is a system that provides a low-pressure water source to almonds, and other crops, through buried drip tape or hard tubing with built-in emitters.

Terranova is a diversified farm that grows more than 20 crops per season on roughly 7,500 acres, of which nearly 1,000 is in almonds in the varieties of Nonpareil, Monterey, Butte, Carmel, Wood Colony, Aldrich and Independence.

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(originally published August 2017)

Nut crop commodity growth has been explosive in California’s San Joaquin Valley in recent years, requiring new and expanding operations to develop on increasingly marginal soils. Much of the available acreage has been in long-term grape or cotton production, crops that are generally tolerant of these soil conditions. Perennial tree crops by contrast can have the greatest yield and quality potential when established on deep uniform productive soils. The probable tradeoffs of orchard establishment in areas characterized by poor uniformity, fertility, drainage, high salinity, and structural problems requires careful consideration. A thorough evaluation before planting can help identify the appropriate pre-plant modifications and help guide long term management actions that may improve substandard growing conditions and increase long-term profitable production and return on investment. Proper site evaluation can be a daunting task, especially for growers for which tree crops are a new venture. There are several online tools and phone applications that can facilitate the process of site evaluation and planning for a new orchard.

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(originally published May 2017)

Precise irrigation management is a matter of achieving the right balance of water in the soil to the amount of water needed to efficiently create the best crop.  It’s much easier to define than to achieve, however.  Too much water is almost as bad as not enough.  So how much is the ideal amount of water?

It’s a burning question, one that 2nd-generation farmer Ryan Kaplan from Chico, Ca., wanted to answer during the recent drought.  Ryan and his father, Ken Kaplan, farm 600 acres of walnuts, pistachios and prunes.  While finding the answer to his question, Ryan developed a software program that greatly simplifies using a pressure bomb system to monitor moisture in his trees.  He tested it out and fine-tuned it on his own farm then found ways to use it to improve their crop.  His finished software—“Pressure Bomb Express”—makes it possible for any commercial grower to incorporate pressure bomb testing into their irrigation management system.

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(originally published April 2017)

Recycling Ag pesticide containers is easy, cost effective and good for the environment, according to Ron Perkins, executive director of Ag Container Recycling Council (ACRC).

 ACRC was founded in 1992, and they are celebrating their Twenty-fifth anniversary this year.  ACRC has 40 members from the industry that includes all of the larger chemical manufacturers.

Members pay annual dues based on the pounds of plastic pesticide containers they produce, and Perkins estimates about 90 percent of the industry participates in ACRC program. 

Green Plastic Planet

Recycling just makes sense for growers from a financial standpoint, according to Bill Graves, CEO of Green Planet Plastics and an environmental professor at Butte College in Chico, California.  Graves is also a small almond grower in Butte County, and he began accumulating empty pesticide containers.

     Even on a small farm the pesticide containers begin to add up, Graves said.  “Pretty soon you’ve got 20, then you’ve got 30 or 40, and then you go what the heck should you do with these things?”