There is cause for some optimism for the alfalfa and forage growers, dairy producers and industry professionals who will gather in Parlier and Visalia, Nov. 30-Dec. 2, for the 40th annual California Alfalfa and Forage Symposium, according to University of California, Davis alfalfa specialist Dan Putnam.

Despite lower-than normal yields, prices picked up and the weather supported a good quality crop, says Putnam. However, the industry is still challenged by low hay prices, water cost and availability, pest management and environmental issues.

Hay is grown on more acres than any other crop in California and is valued at more $1.5 billion per year. Alfalfa hay acreage has fallen in the past few years, but there is still nearly 1 million acres of alfalfa hay and more than 400,000 acres of corn silage, which are the principle feeds for California's $7 billion dairy industry. The state's large population of horses, sheep and beef as well as hay for export also bolsters the industry.

This year’s symposium takes place at two venues. On Nov. 30, UC experts will present a one-day intensive IPM workshop and field tour at the Kearney Research and Extension Center, 9240 S. Riverbend Ave., in Parlier. The event, titled "Managing Pests while Protecting the Environment," covers pest biology, specific pest management strategies and techniques, and diagnostic skills for insects, weeds and diseases. The session will emphasize protection of air and water quality. Separate registration is required.

The preponderance of symposium sessions and an industry trade show take place Dec. 1- 2 at the Visalia Convention Center in Visalia, Calif.

Forty-two speakers from UC, other agencies and the industry will present information on economic trends, environmental issues, water and pest management. The conference targets the alfalfa-forage industry, including farmers, dairy operators, pest control advisers, scientists, agencies and related businesses.

This year, the symposium includes a mini symposium focusing on corn and small grain silage, a major crop in the San Joaquin Valley. This will be held Dec. 1 with presentations from local and national experts about silage safety and quality, genetic innovations and environmental impacts of silages.

"This symposium has a long and proud history, beginning in Fresno in 1971 when it was organized by Dr. Vern Marble and UC Cooperative Extension's Alfalfa Workgroup," said Putnam, conference chair. "This year it returns to its roots in the San Joaquin Valley, which is the center of California dairy, hay and silage production."

Registration before Nov. 3 is $125. The IPM workshop registration is $65. Complete program and lodging information and online registration for the conference is at http://alfalfa.ucdavis.edu. PCA and CCA credits are offered.

Contacts: Sherry Cooper, registration, (530) 752-1581, slcooper@ucdavis.edu and Dan Putnam, symposium chair, (530) 752-8982, dhputnam@ucdavis.edu.