LAND OF LIQUID: Name That Tree!

So to finish my reporting of being in California last week, it’s pretty amazing driving in the San Joaquin Valley and seeing how much food is being grown.  You can see all of the trees and grapes preparing for growth as spring begins.  And open fields show where vegetables will be.  We stopped at this orchard and there was a deck overlooking rows of different kinds of trees.  Beautiful view and I would certainly sit there often if I worked there.  Although there is so much work to do they probably don’t sit around too much.  Hey, let’s play a game:  Name That Tree!  A blog first.

This one is easy.  (I’ll put the answer below the pic each time.)

OK it’s some sort of orange.  Most of the oranges are already picked by now.  But what’s this next one?

A kumquat tree!  I can’t really recall eating a kumquat before….but had several right after I took this picture. Delicious, like tiny juicy oranges.  I should have put something in for scale, but the fruit is like meatball size.  Next???

Cherry trees.  Look how these big trees have been pruned back to keep them manageable.  Cherry blossoms below.

These next trees hadn’t started growing leaves yet, and were right across from the cherries.

Those would be walnut trees.  Almost all of the country’s walnuts are grown in California.  And these?

The green trees are the Page Mandarins I showed earlier.  And the trees across are pistachios.  I love pistachio nuts.  I get them in the shell so that I don’t eat them so fast.

Mmmmm.  Pistachios!

And next is the number one valued crop in California.  (Thanks to Dylan for the pic.)

That would be almonds, with a harvested value of over $5 Billion (yes that’s a “B”).  Although I think there is some debate between the wine grape and almond growers on who is really #1.  Well it’s all good to me.       So what about this last tree?  You can’t eat it!

No, but if there is a beach, it sure adds value to me.  So that was a fun and informative week.  I look forward to a return trip this summer to see good things growing with AgroLiquid.

LAND OF LIQUID: California Adventures

So last week I had the good fortune to head West to California.  It was pretty much for research planning and Retail Partner meeting.  It was warm, but it was still winter and not much crop growth at the time.  But of course there is still plenty of cool stuff to take pictures of.  Poor agronomist JW who was driving me around.  I made him stop so I could take pictures.  I mean I have a demanding blog audience after all.

California has been fortunate to have ample rain to make up for years of drought.  But water is always a source of debate.  There were a number of signs like this along the roads of the San Joaquin valley.  If asked, I would vote for growing food.

 The canals were full.  But mostly going to Los Angeles.

Here is a research place where we stopped.  I was told that there had not been snow pack in these Sierra Nevada mountains for some time.  Well that’s good.

So here’s something that I thought was very unusual.  It’s near Lost Hills, just off the 5 (hey that’s how they talk in CA, just off Interstate 5 that is) heading West.  Sorry, no known towns for reference. But it’s a big oil field.  There are hundreds of oil wells, some only a few feet apart.  I looked on Google Maps and it goes several miles North and South from here.  Yay for oil.  I like to drive after all.

 Here was something not seen for some time….wildflowers from all of the rainfall.  Beautiful.

There were patches all over the place as we drove West towards San Luis Obispo.  JW said in previous years all was brown.  I like this better.

My flight home took me to Seattle, and as some airports do to promote culture, they had some artsy board of sayings about flowers.  Guess which one made my hair, that that I have, stand up?  I think AA Milne let Winnie the Pooh bite him in the head once too often.  As a former Weed Scientist, I will never equate weeds with flowers.  And I don’t care to know them at all!  I agree with those that say All Weeds Must Die!

This being California, there were vineyards everywhere. They were all pruned and ready for new growth.  I wish them success, and much AgroLiquid as well.

Drove past this vineyard where they had sheep grazing the grass in between the grape rows.  Beats mowing I guess.

One nice thing about California is that the Pacific Ocean is near by.  Well if you drive to it that is. Here is sunset as seen from Pismo Beach, just South of San Luis Obispo where we had research meetings.

Well that was fun.  But wait, there’s more.  You can’t cram a whole week in California into a single blog post.  Y’all come back now.  Ya hear.  (OK everyone should know what famous Californians said that.)

Calcium on Apples

Why is calcium important?

Calcium is the third most important element in a plant. And, calcium is the fifth most abundant element on the planet. It makes sense that traditionally, growers don’t apply much calcium, because they assume the plant will get what they need from the soil. But, calcium is usually found in a form that is not easily taken up by plants.

In an apple tree, the leaves, new shoots, and fruit all take calcium and the nutrient will be found in the tissues and the root, but, the fruit cannot compete with the other parts of the plant hence why the fruit often doesn’t get enough calcium. That is why calcium deficiencies are evidenced on the fruit, rather than the rest of the tree. In apples, a calcium deficiency causes a disorder known as bitter pit. Bitter pit is a physiological breakdown of the cell walls in the fruit that occur below the skin of the fruit. For that reason, when scouting for calcium deficiencies, it is important to test the fruit, rather than relying solely on leaf or soil tests.BMSB.-Bitter-Pit-1h84hub

In this particular trial, Horticulturists were testing for fruit firmness, how many apples produced on each tree, and how much the fruit weighs. At the North Central Research Station High-Density Apple Orchard, researchers test approximately 10 apples per experimental plot for firmness. They use a pentameter, which measures the pressure needed to break the cell part inside the apple. They test four spots on each apple, as research has shown there is a difference in firmness between the side of the apple exposed to sun, versus the shade-side. The average fruit firmness is reported.

A trial of the effects of LiberateCa™ in 2015 at the NCRS High-density Apple Orchard in Michigan showed that the apples treated with LiberateCa™ fall close to the preferred range of 14.5 lb – 17.5 lb for fruit firmness, while the untreated trees’ fruit firmness was significantly higher than desired. In addition, the treated trees had more apples per tree, and overall yield per tree increased as well. These trees were planted at 3 ½ feet between trees, 11 feet between rows, with a planting density of 1,100 trees per acre.Ca on apples

“If you can hang two more apples per tree, with 1,100 trees, you have 2,200 more apples – and that means more money in your pocket.” Horticulturist Jacob Emling

Increasing Grape Yield: Switch to AgroLiquid

In grapes, a combination of variety, management, and training system dictates how much quality fruit the plant can produce. One of the best options is using fertilizer applied in the spring that can be easily taken up by the vine. Over the last four years, we have been looking at what AgroLiquid products can do on grapes. All fertilizer is soil applied in the spring underneath the vines.

  • Conventional Program: 12 gallons of 28%UAN + 12.9 gallons of 10-34-0 + 100 lbs. of sulfate of potash.
  • Agroliquid Program: 11 gallons of High NRG-N + 4.2 gallons of Pro-Germinator + 4.2 gallons of Sure-K + 1 gallon of Micro 500 + 0.125 gallons of Manganese.

Details about this project can be found in the 2015 Research Report.

2015 grape research

LIVE FROM THE NCRS: AgroLiquid Western Summit

So this past week was the first AgroLiquid Western Summit in Monterey, California.  This was a conference of AgroLiquid and our California Retail Partners.  Due to distance, timing and crop focus, many of these folks aren’t able to attend the summer Corporate Growth Conferences.  Plus February is a great time for us to visit CA.  There were over a hundred attendees, so it was a good event.  There were a variety of presentations on history, shared vision, product information, chemistry and of course research.  Below Albert gets things rolling Wednesday morning.

 There were also some speakers from outside AgroLiquid, such as a discussion on California nutrient reporting and water issues.  Water, or the lack of it, is the controlling factor now with the persistent drought.  Our luncheon keynote speaker was Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF).  Paul is also an almond grower who had used eNhance before he even knew who AgroLiquid was.  After meeting with Lonny and Troy over the years, AgroLiquid has become a strong supporter of the CFBF’s efforts to support CA farmers.  That is a tough job in this state.  Paul did praise AgroLiquid’s commitment to CA agriculture, because unlike other companies who talk strong, AgroLiquid actually built a manufacturing plant in probably the most regulated state in the country.  He likes our approach to nutrient rate reduction for the environment and our our commitment to our dealers and growers. 

There was also a panel of agriculturalists from the Young Farmers and Ranchers of California.  They go around and have discussion and debates on a variety of agricultural issues.  Today’s topic was Proper Fertilization in Drought.  They raised a number of pertinent issues and it was gratifying to see these well-spoken young people.  They should put them in front of the non-farming public to show this refreshing side of agriculture and provide education on where food comes from.  Incidentally, all of them are current or former students at Fresno State University.  I didn’t even know they had an ag program there.  But it must be a good one.  There are at least four universities with ag programs in the state.  This is unusual, but needed in this agriculturally diverse state. 

Well since my time was short in Monterey, and I had never been there before, I took a walk down to the wharf on a break.  This is looking back at the hotel in the middle of the pic.  There are lots of restaurants and shops on what used to be the site of the biggest fish packing industry in the world. (More on that in the next post.)

Here are some seals resting on the dock.  One is ready to go boating.  You may have seen on the news that the seals are having a tough time these days with many of the young ones showing signs of starvation.  They guess that the water has become warmer and reduced the normal types of fish that seals eat.  It is thought that this is not exactly a climate change issue, but a temporary current change. But hopefully it is a short temporary effect.  These seals here look ok to me.

In addition to the support of the CFBF, AgroLiquid has also been supportive of the California Future Farmers of America.  In addition to direct support, there have been programs where a portion of the money from gallons sold was donated to the CA FFA.  At our meeting were were joined by the members of the California FFA Foundation.  These are post high school members who spend a year going around to visit the FFA chapters in the state, promote FFA where ever possible, and represent the FFA in different events….like the Western Summit.  Here we see the Foundation members posing with Troy in the Kelp Forest (read the next post for more on that.)  So it was nice to have them here. 

In visiting with some of them, I was surprised to learn that one smart individual in the group is going to have the opportunity to attend probably the leading agricultural university in the country.  Well one of the top two anyway.  So the future of agriculture in America is very bright indeed.  I’m sure the others will learn and lead too where ever they go.  (Which university you ask?  Well look at the colors of the fish in the first picture in the next blog post for a clue.)

NOAA: Warmer Winter in 2014-15

off03_tempOn the heels of a cool, wet spring and summer in the midwest the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a warmer, drier winter for the region, with the driest area sitting over the Great Lakes and extending south through Kentucky and Tennessee. While the deep south, southwest and at least the southern half of the west coast are expected to experience above average precipitation January through March, it’s unlikely to relieve the historical drought griping California’s agricultural bread basket. Meanwhile, the entire west coast is also expected to continue experiencing above average temperatures.

The warmer winter temperatures will no doubt be welcomed by midwesterners and could help avoid a repeat of the propane shortages and railway backups seen last year, but if the predictions come true they could also catch producers who continue to grapple with input purchasing decisions in a tight spot as planting time approaches quicker than expected and the market is flooded with last minute seed, fertilizer and chemical shoppers. “There is a lot of trepidation in the market right now,” said Galynn Beer, Senior Sales Manager for AgroLiquid, “Growers are waiting for inputs to sync with outputs. The risk is if that waiting game goes on too long and a rush on the market later has the exact opposite effect they’re looking for.”

Most ag companies run promotions through autumn and early winter to reward producers who plan ahead and help alleviate the inevitable glut of last minute orders. This year, Beer says, is a perfect example of why those promotions are so important for both agribusinesses and their grower-customers. “Input purchases are not unlike futures contracts,” Beer added. “Pre-buying inputs during or directly following harvest for next year is one way to lock in a fair price when there is a lot of uncertainty still ahead.”

Ag Design Contest Winner Pays it Forward

(L-R) Brian Levene, Emma Patterson, and Jim Mills
(L-R) Brian Levene, Emma Patterson, and Jim Mills

For many college students summer is synonymous with laid-back fun and relaxation, but Emma Patterson isn’t like many college students.

“Emma is a delightful individual and a great example of the next generation of community leaders,” said Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers Sales Account Manager, Jim Mills.

Mills and AgroLiquid Specialty Crop Research Manager, Brian Levene, first learned of Patterson’s plan to spend the summer traversing the country on her bicycle during an award ceremony at the Brock Center for Agricultural Communications at Cal Poly State University.

Patterson was the winner of a $500 award offered by AgroLiquid for a design contest at the college. She’ll stop along her journey to help build homes with Habitat for Humanity, an international non-profit organization that provides affordable housing for the poor, and had to raise $4500 to participate in the project. Patterson says the award money she earned through the contest will go towards her goal.

CA on Nitrates & Water Quality

Take-Home Lessons from California on Nitrates and Water Quality
California water coalitions are leading the way in addressing nitrate contamination. What can growers learn about nitrogen management from their progress?

Nitrate contamination is one of the biggest threats to water quality in our nation, particularly in California, where it affects vast areas of irrigated farmland. As farmers in California go through the regulation process, what are they learning and how can other growers benefit from their experience.

The Proof is in the Data
One thing California growers will have to do in the near future is track and report their nitrogen use. Parry Klassen, fruit grower and executive director of the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition, was part of the Department of Food and Agriculture committee tasked with developing an approach for farmers to track nitrogen use and report information to aggregators.

“I believe that nitrogen tracking and reporting will help us better define what we in agriculture already do with nitrate fertilizers,” says Klassen. “Ultimately, what growers will have to do is prove to the regulators that we are taking steps to manage nitrogen properly. I say this because I believe many growers are following best management practices. We just don’t have the data to prove it.”

Know Your Water
As part of the tracking process, farmers in California are testing their irrigation and well water for nitrates and accounting for those levels in their annual fertilizer budgets, a good practice for any grower looking to reduce nitrate leaching.

“The amount of nitrates in well water is site specific and varies according to region,” says Klassen. “In the East San Joaquin area, we have a lot of nitrates in our well water, some areas have the equivalent of 50 nitrogen units per season. If you need 300 pounds of nitrogen for your crop, you would plan on putting out 250 to account for the 50 in your groundwater.”

In addition to testing water supplies, California growers have implemented basic agronomic practices that are long-proven methods to help reduce nitrogen leaching.

Back to the Basics
“We often focus too much on sustainability at the expense of going back to basic agronomic practices for nitrogen management,” says Klassen. “For example, proper timing of nitrogen application based on crop demands and matching fertilizer rates to individual crops.”

Other examples — split applications to spread nitrogen use out over the consumptive period for better efficiency and uptake, soil and tissue analysis, the use of drip and micro systems for spoon feeding the crop and nitrogen budgets based on known crop consumption levels.

While there are several best practices for nitrogen management, nothing is a one-size-fits-all solution. It often takes a combination of several practices, tailor-made to site-specific conditions, to effectively reduce nitrogen leaching.

Responsible Nutrient Management
Much of effective nitrogen management boils down to managing nutrients responsibly by using less fertilizer applied, taking advantage of precision placement, utilizing prescription programs and applying balanced formulations that include micronutrients. Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers is an advocate of Responsible Nutrient Management®, which incorporates these principles.

In California and elsewhere, AgroLiquid recognizes the challenges growers face in trying to manage nitrogen for maximum uptake by the crop. Their N-Suite of products, High NRG-N, NResponse and eNhance, offer a wide variety of application options to support nitrogen management practices and effectively meet the cropping needs of the grower.

Cold Snap Threatens CA Citrus Crop

FreezingCitrusA stream of arctic air that brought sub-zero temperatures, snow and ice to regions across much of the country this month also brought threateningly low temperatures to California’s citrus groves. The USDA reports temperatures well below freezing throughout major and minor citrus growing regions from Madera to Bakersfield, along the coast, and only slightly warmer temperatures around Imperial to the south. The cold snap had growers working overtime during the long, cold nights; using everything from sprinklers to fans to mitigate the cold’s damaging effects on their crops.

After a full week in the danger zone temperatures began their upward climb last week, but the relief may be too little too late. CNBC reports 85% of the state’s navel orange crop remains on the trees, awaiting harvest. While 75-80% of mandarin oranges, which includes tangerines and clementines, remained and were at even greater risk.  The smaller, thinner skinned fruits can rarely withstand temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit without sustaining damage.

Loss estimates are preliminary at this point, but aren’t expected to take as steep a toll on the $2 billion dollar industry as previous freezes in 1990 and 1998. Still, California produces 85% of the nation’s fresh citrus crop each year, and both growers and consumers will likely feel the effects of the arctic air in their pocket books – one with the loss of income generated by a smaller crop, and the other with higher citrus prices at the supermarket.

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