Scott Stoddard, a farm advisor from Merced County who works with tomatoes and other crops, says he’s been impacted positively and negatively by the drought.

“I had to quit trying to do tomato research at the UC West Side Research and Education Center basically because of water restrictions,” Stoddard said. “I could see it coming last year and decided to not even try in 2014. This year in Merced I’m also reducing the size of my research area at Merced College by 30 percent or more to save water.”

On the flip side, Stoddard said he began work with sweet potatoes in 2010 in anticipation of future water restrictions and a need by the industry to know what the water requirements are for the crop.

Stoddard said his interest in sweet potatoes was not initially shared by others in the industry.

“They thought I was just playing around when I started,” he said. “I couldn’t get any interest in helping fund the project, but a good cooperator and my own interest in the project kept it going for four years. Now everybody wants to know just how little water they need to get a reasonable crop.” 

Research projects in northern California have also seen a mixed bag of impacts related to the drought. Chris Greer is the county extension director in Sutter, Yuba, Colusa and Glenn counties in the Sacramento Valley. He said some rangeland trials have been impacted by the lack of rain, as have some wheat trials. There are no known impacts yet on rice trials in northern California, Greer said.

Bruce Lampinen, a walnut and almond specialist with the University of California, has seen his pruned versus unpruned orchard trials at the Nickels Soil Lab in Arbuckle severely impacted by drought and the station’s zero-percent water allocation. Lampinen remains unsure as to the drought impacts or data collection on similar trials with commercial growers elsewhere in California.

“Overall our impacts from a research standpoint in northern California have not been across-the-board, but there definitely have been some impacts up here,” Greer said.


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