What is in this article?:
- Sacramento Valley farming partnership built on paddies and orchards
- Split responsibility
- Tree nuts
- Almonds, rice and walnuts have formed the basis of an enduring partnership between Gary Anderson and Charles Demmer, Willows, Calif. Their Glenn County farm is located in part of the area of natural flatlands, which straddle the Sacramento River in northern California, and has proven to be a productive and profitable environment for a three-crop combination.
- Together, these partners grow some 1,500 acres of rice, 600 acres of walnuts and 500 acres of almonds. They also rotate another 700 acres of ground between alfalfa, and row crops, like sunflowers, corn and dry beans, such as lima or kidney beans.
Anderson looks after the orchards and the hulling and drying operations, while Demmer is responsible for the rice and row crop production. They grow medium-grain rice. This type of rice accounts for more than 90 percent of California’s annual rice production. When the final figures for this past year are in, the state’s rice growers are expected to have harvested 45.8 million cwt. of short-, medium- and long-grain rice from 566,000 acres. That would be a 4 percent smaller crop than in 2009 when California farmers harvested their second largest rice crop ever. (Their biggest was the 50.8-million cwt. crop in 2004.)
Demmer’s rice fields are seeded by air on mostly loamy clay soils. Water for the paddies comes from the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District. The largest district in the Sacramento Valley, its water rights on the Sacramento River date back to 1883.
“The rest of our ground is all on well water,” Demmer says. “It’s difficult to pump enough water, at least in this area, to keep a rice field flooded. So, we’re slowly converting our non-rice ground to tree nut orchards.”
Unlike growers west of I-5, Demmer’s and Anderson’s wells have been providing adequate amounts of water for their walnut and almond trees, even during the recent three-year drought, he notes. All the trees are on sprinkler systems except for one flood-irrigated block and one that is drip irrigated.
Water hasn’t been a problem for their rice fields, either. “Because so much of our district’s water is on water rights, usually we have no trouble getting our full allotment of water for our rice,” Demmer says. “Even in some droughts, we have a good chance of getting at least 75 percent of our water.”
The partners grow the M-206 variety, which matures seven to eight days earlier than some of the other Calrose quality medium-grain rice. This past season their rice yields were down a little from 2009, averaging about 81 sacks (100 pounds each) per acre. That’s right at the statewide average yield forecast issued by the California Field Office of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics on Nov. 9.
A number of growers in the area fared better, reporting yields in the 90-sack-per-acre range, Demmer says. Still, he achieved higher yields than those who planted late maturing varieties. “Those growers had trouble producing a good crop, because of the cool, wet weather last year.”