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.
County Extension work impacted
Duncan is a pomology expert from the UCCE office in Stanislaus County, his work with fruit and nut crops has not been negatively impacted. Duncan works exclusively with commercial growers. He said very few growers in his region are removing orchards in response to the drought, though there have been reports elsewhere of older orchards being removed and replaced with new trees because the smaller trees require less water.
Duncan does expect soil salinity problems in tree crops this year because of the lack of winter rainfall to leech salts further into the soil, but that may work to his favor as some of his research includes salt tolerance with various root stocks.
Duncan sees the challenges of the drought and other climatic conditions as a positive and an ability to further help the commercial growers he works with.
“Every year is different (wet, dry, hot, cold) and it just gives us new opportunities to look at more things,” he said.
Other university farm advisors indicate the drought will have a mixed bag of results for them.
David Doll, an almond farm advisor in Merced County says his research plots are “mostly OK.” His only exception is that the increased reliance on groundwater has ruined several orchard nitrogen trials because the groundwater in northern Merced has high rates of nitrate nitrogen, which acts as a nitrogen fertilizer.
Fresno County Farm Advisor Dan Munk said he will continue putting off alfalfa trials at the WSREC “indefinitely until a more secure water supply is available.”
Munk said the alfalfa trials are quite critical in Central California because of the high use of alfalfa for dairies in the state.
“Our team is trying to develop highly efficient irrigation practices for forages in the region in trying to address the dairy feed shortage issue caused by the drought,” Munk said. “The WSREC trials involve the evaluation of corn, sorghum and small grains for silage and alfalfa forage with the objective to identify individual crops as well as cropping systems that have improved economics during drought conditions.”