Farming in California’s Central Valley has many advantages. Controlling the timing of applied water to thirsty crops is one benefit which growers in other areas of the world would like to have, versus relying on unreliable rainfall.

There are disadvantages too.

“When the snowpack in the Sierra is good, we usually get most of what we need without having to turn on any pumps,” says Paul Newton, owner, Newton Farms, Stratford, Calif.

“This year we are trying to optimize our crop production given a decrease in our allocation of water from several different sources. This is a real challenge for us,” Newton said.

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Newton Farms produces alfalfa, cantaloupe, corn, cotton, garbanzo beans, onions, tomatoes, triticale, wheat, and pistachios on about 7,000 acres in southern San Joaquin County.

The fourth-generation business is owned and operated by the Newton family which includes managers John, Paul, Michael, and Pat. These seasoned growers have lived through times of too much water and, like this year, those that are considerably short based on available land and water requirements.

 The company has access to multiple sources of water, including six different irrigation districts and 10 groundwater wells.

While the ditch water is high quality or “sweet,” as they say, the water pumped from aquifers is high in dreaded salt. Blending these two produces a more desirable product for the crops but also adds another wrinkle to the challenge of water management.

“We used a spreadsheet and handwritten records years ago,” John Newton said. “Then we had a program designed for use in the field on one of the first pen-based computers ever sold.”

The field units did not function effectively so the program was run on the office computer which worked well. This lasted almost 20 years.

A few years ago, the Newton family looked for a product which could use a smart phone or tablet computer. Tom Horsley, who developed the first computer software application for the Newton’s, demonstrated his new software LandView.

“After some input from us and code writing on Tom’s part, we came up with a solution that works much better than anything we’ve ever had,” John said.