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Posts Tagged: Joe Connell

Lacking water, farmers consider bulldozing valuable orchards

North of the Sutter Buttes, the Tuscan Aquifer contains enough water to sustain farming and urban uses for another 10 years of drought.
The California drought has become a significant player in farmer decisions about their cropland, reported Dan Reidel in the Chico Enterprise Recorder.

Reidel spoke to a farmer who pulled out 75 acres of almond trees because of limited well capacity. He is replacing old trees that have high water needs with saplings the use much less water.

Almond orchards typically need 40 to 43 inches of water per acre per year, said Joe Connell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Butte County. That's about 27,000 gallons of water per acre.

Connell estimated orchards get about 12 acre-inches from rainfall in normal years with either surface water or groundwater supplying the rest. Farms that used surface water in the past have been scrambling to drill for groundwater and farmers who have pumped water for years have to face the rising costs of pumping water from deeper down, the article said.

"We're hitting historic low levels for groundwater this year," Connell said.

Even though the water level of the Tuscan Aquifer - a vast underground lake in the Tehama, Butte, Sutter and Yuma county area - has dropped 2 to 10 feet in places, Connell said it is far from depleted.

"The groundwater now could sustain another 10 years of drought," Connell said. "It's a deep, deep aquifer."

Posted on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 11:03 AM
Tags: drought (171), Joe Connell (11)

Agriculture research not immune to drought

Ag research at the West Side Research and Extension Center and other sites has been impacted by the California drought.
Even as farmers across California struggle with the third year of drought, so do University of California agriculture researchers, reported Todd Fitchette in Western Farm Press.

Fitchette opened his story with the plight of ag research at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center near Five Points. Many of the farmers in the area will receive no surface water allocation this year; neither will the research center.

The facility can pull water from a deep well, but it is not enough nor is the water quality adequate for all the farming operations, said Bob Hutmacher, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and center director. He said scientists at the station must cut back their water use this year by 25 percent.

“I can speak for myself: I have about a half dozen cotton projects and a sorghum project, along with a sesame project and a couple of other things I'm working on,” he said. “I'm downsizing most of them to the greatest degree I can and I'm going to cancel one of them.”

One trial that will not go forward at West Side is an almond variety trial. However, UC Cooperative Extension advisors in other areas are working with the Almond Board to keep the research underway. UCCE advisors Joe Connell will oversee the Chico State almond variety trial, Roger Duncan the Salida trial, and Gurreet Brar the Madera County trial.

The Western Farm Press Story included drought-related ag research news from myriad UCCE academics:

  • Duncan said his work with fruit and nut crops has not been negatively impacted by the drought.

  • David Doll, UCCE advisor in Merced County, said the increased reliance on groundwater has ruined several orchard nitrogen trials because the groundwater in northern Merced has high rates of nitrate nitrogen, which acts as a nitrogen fertilizer.

  • Dan Munk, UCCE advisor in Fresno County, said he will continue putting off alfalfa trials at the WSREC “indefinitely until a more secure water supply is available.”

  • Scott Stoddard, UCCE advisor in Merced County, reports positive and negative impacts from the drought. He won't do tomato research at West Side REC, but will continue work in sweet potatoes to determine how little water they need to produce a reasonable crop.

  • Chris Greer, UCCE advisor in Sutter, Yuba, Colusa and Glenn counties, said some rangeland trials were impacted by the lack of rain.

  • Bruce Lampinen, UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, has seen his orchard trials in Arbuckle severely impacted by the drought.
Posted on Friday, April 18, 2014 at 10:51 AM

Northern California nut farmers' drought outlook not too shabby

Almond farmers accustomed to irrigating with groundwater are in pretty good shape for 2014.
If anyone can be lucky during a drought, that would be Butte County nut growers, reported Heather Hacking in the Chico Enterprise Record.

Many of these farmers use groundwater to irrigate their orchards, and groundwater in the Sacramento Valley is in pretty good shape, said Joe Connell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor and county director in Butte County.

If groundwater levels drop, growers will be pumping from farther down. So far, things look like they will be OK for orchard crops, Connell said. The supply of bees was adequate and before the rains, there was time for bees to pollinate.

The outlook isn't quite as rosy for rice farmers in the area, Randall "Cass" Mutters, UCCE advisor in Butte County, told the reporter.

"The buzz is that everyone is waiting on what the allotment will be," Mutters said. "No one will know until April 1."

However, recent rains were just a dribble compared to normal for this time of year. The Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation have said surface water deliveries will be very low or nonexistent for growers.

The article concluded with a link to the UC California Institute for Water Resources drought page and a list of the resources available there to farmers, homeowners and the media.


Posted on Friday, March 7, 2014 at 10:48 AM
Tags: Cass Mutters (7), drought (171), Joe Connell (11)

Walnuts are trending upward

Walnuts, unlike almonds, don't need bees for pollination.
Proven health benefits is increasing demand for walnuts, and farmers are reacting by planting more trees, according to an article in the Chico Enterprise-Record. The trend has created a backlog for new trees.

"All the nut crops are doing very well," said Joe Connell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Butte County. Markets for almonds, pistachios and walnuts have expanded, and prices are firm, he said.

In 2011, walnuts became the No. 1 crop in Butte County. If growers want to plant new walnut orchards, they must get on a waiting list to buy them in 2015.

Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 9:43 AM
Tags: Joe Connell (11), walnuts (14)

It's a good year for grasshoppers

Young grasshopper on grass stalk. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
A wet spring in 2011 set the stage for a grasshopper invasion in 2012, according to a story on KNVN News, the NBC affiliate in Northern California.

"Last year was a nice wet year, lots of feed. We had a chance for the population to build up. They lay eggs in the fall, those hatch in the spring so we got a lot more hoppers this year," said Joe Connell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor and county director in Butte County.

Grasshoppers can strip vegetable crops and vegetable gardens, Connell said. One of the best ways to protect the garden is to have a lush, green grassy area separate from the garden.

"You can either spray with a carbaryl insecticide or bait it with grasshopper bait, which can control their population," Connell said.

Gardeners who don't want to use insecticides can try buying chickens or guinea hens to keep grasshoppers under control.

Posted on Monday, June 11, 2012 at 8:56 AM
Tags: grasshoppers (6), Joe Connell (11)

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