What is in this article?:
- West Side Research and Extension Center takes big hit because of zero-percent water allocation
- Almond Board of California scrambles to find new site for large variety-trial project
Nutrient management trials wrecked by lack of irrigation water
Robert Hutmacher runs the University of California's West Side Research and Extension Center. The UC cotton specialist says water allocation cuts to the center will force an overall 25 percent reduction in water availability, along with the ability to conduct timely and important research for California growers.
For Hutmacher, that means he will not do work on a nutrient management trial under drip irrigation because the impacts of severe deficit irrigation would be detrimental to his research. Cutting plot sizes too small to match water availability can also have a negative impact on achieving reliable yield data, he added.
The center has been careful in its use of water in previous years because of the inconsistent supply of surface water from the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. This is the first year that both agencies have told growers to expect no surface water supplies for irrigation because of the drought.
Hutmacher said the center will make use of some carry-over surface water it did not use last season, but that won’t go very far, he said.
“That will give us a little bit of flexibility but it doesn’t solve all of our problems,” he said.
An almond variety trial was in the planning stages for the center, but Hutmacher had to pull the trial from consideration because not enough water could be guaranteed for the permanent crop.
That was part of a larger three-site trial funded by the Almond Board of California.
According to Bob Curtis, associate director of agricultural affairs with the Almond Board of California, the loss of available land at the WSREC did not prevent the variety trial from continuing though it did create a bit of a scramble late last year as a replacement site had to be secured.
Curtis was complimentary of Hutmacher’s willingness to do the trial and his diplomacy in sharing that the facility could not ensure an ample supply of quality irrigation water for the 15-year project.
While trial locations at California State University, Chico and the northern Stanislaus County community of Salida had been secured and were ready to go, the south-valley trial was moved to land owned by Creekside Farming Company in Madera County with the cooperation of grower Jay Mahil. The Salida project is being done with the cooperation of Lane Parker and PSI Farming.
“This is a major undertaking for our cooperators,” Curtis said. “You’re really asking them to go above and beyond with 15-year commitments to the crop.”
Participating UC farm advisors for the Almond Board project are Joe Connell at the Chico State trial, Roger Duncan in the Salida trial and Gurreet Brar in the Madera County trial.