"And the hits just keep on comin’” those old Top 20s disc jockeys used to say. In a way it is true of California’s world-renowned agricultural empire as new ways of doing old chores just keep  on appearing.

And none of it is by accident; on the contrary. Diligent and dedicated research and application remains underway at colleges and universities, in federally and state supported laboratories, in experiment stations and field research centers and in on-farm shops and garages

Just a few weeks ago we learned about those pint-sized unmanned helicopters that are about to be widely used for spraying agricultural nutrients and other chemicals in vineyard and orchards. In smaller settings the drones can do a better job than manned aircraft or manned tractors towing heavy duty sprayer equipment, and probably do it at lower cost and with less drift and waste of costly and agricultural chemicals.

More recently word has arrived from the University of California, Riverside (UCR), of a compound that can be sprayed on plants to inhibit their loss of moisture.  Instead of shriveling or wilting like their untreated cousins, the sprayed plants stand erect and strong, producing a crop as they maximize the use of available moisture.

Discovered by UCR plant biologist Sean Cutler, the compound is called quinabactin.  It mimics the function of the plant hormone absisic acid that makes plants conserve water.  It might never rival the proposed twin tunnels for outright water volume, but it has interesting potential for conserving water used in agriculture.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just announced new attractants for the widespread pest codling moth.  By adding the compounds pear ester and acetic acid to the already useful scent of a sex attractant researchers now can attract significantly larger female numbers of the pest to their deaths in traps. 

The number attracted has been used for some time to tell orchard managers when they must spray to control the troublesome pest.  However, the enhanced attractants lure so many more moths that it becomes a control mechanism of its own.  The old method of wholesale spraying becomes a touch-up application, saving significant dollars in chemical costs.