Southern California Edison (SCE) has launched a pilot program aimed at improving the effectiveness of the utility's ongoing walnut tree pruning efforts in the Central Valley.

If successful the pilot program would reduce the number of “toppings” completed by SCE of the region's walnut trees, a major cash crop, near the utility's transmission lines in or near the valley's many orchards.

“We're required to maintain a clearance between all of our high-voltage power lines and the trees,” said Jiggs Travis, a manager in SCE's transmission and distribution business unit. “The 220,000-volt transmission lines are particularly critical since they provide so much power for the San Joaquin Valley and the rest of California. We want to do that as effectively as possible and at the same time, we want to do what's best for these rapidly growing trees and the growers.”

SCE wants to ascertain if different prune cycles and other practices can control rapid regrowth. If the trials are successful, SCE will advise the growers of the benefits and institute changes in 2006.