Posts Tagged: Gary Bender
High-density planting of avocados boosts yield
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) study on high-density planting, reported Lesley McClurg on Capital Public Radio. One farmer featured in her report said, because of the drought, he is paying $1,600 per acre-foot for water, an all-time high.
Gary Bender, an advisor with UC ANR Cooperative Extension in San Diego County, believes that increasing per-acre yield will help farmers stay in business.
“We've been growing avocados wrong all these years and we're finally starting to figure it out," Bender said.
He planted trees 10 feet apart in a research trial, instead of the standard 20 feet spacing. Instead of letting the trees grow tall, the standard practice, he pruned them regularly to keep the trees short and fat.
The study was a huge success, yielding nearly 13,000 pounds of Haas avocados per acre, McClurg reported. Usually farms in the area yield between 6,000 to 7,000 pounds per acre.
Drought is forcing changes in California ag
Gary Bender. He was quoted in a story on Takepart.com about looming price increases for much-loved guacamole.
It takes 74 gallons of water to produce one pound of avocados — and drought-stricken California produces 95 percent of the avocados grown in the United States, wrote reporter Padma Nagappan.
Bender has been working with several farmers to experiment with high-density avocado planting, in which the trees are pruned to grow up rather than out. Growing more trees on less land will reduce water costs.
“The only way you can compete with cheaper imports and the high cost of water is if you go high-density and get more production per acre," said a San Diego area farmer.
An article in Growing Produce said the state has issued curtailments to some farmers who hold surface water rights. Because water rights law is so complex and because this is the first time many growers have had to navigate the finer details of water rights, Brenna Aegerter, University of California Cooperative Extension advisor in San Joaquin County, suggests that growers consult a professional for targeted advice.
Because of reduction in surface water availability, many growers are turning to groundwater to irrigate their crops. However, groundwater presents its own set of challenges, Aegerter says.
“There's a shallow water table but it's not good quality,” Aegerter says. “It's salty water. I think right now the main concern is what the water quality is going to be — whether it's going to be salty, and whether that will affect the crops.”
In the Westlands Water District, growers are using a combination of increased reliance on groundwater and fallowing for their water management plans, according to Tom Turini, UCCE advisor in Fresno County.
“The groundwater is lower quality than the district water — with levels of total dissolved salts and toxic ions varying from well to well — but generally higher than ideal, ” Turini says./span>
Southern California farmers harvesting uncommonly small avocados
National Public Radio. The radio news service sought an explanation from Gary Bender, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Diego County.
Bender said in his 29 years on the job he has not seen such tiny avocados as those being picked this year.
Typically, several months after pollination, high temperatures in July cause a significant amount of developing fruit to drop to the orchard floor. That didn't happen in the summer of 2012. The heavy crop on the tree, combined with low rainfall, cool temperatures and sluggish photosynthesizing, has likely caused the stunting, Bender said.
NPR reporter Alastair Bland found avocados being sold 6 or 10 to a bag for $1.
"That's just ridiculous," Bender said.
Macadamia nuts are also produced in the continental U.S.
Getting macadamia nuts fresh from the farm doesn't require trans-Pacific travel. The United State's second-largest macadamia industry is in San Diego County. UC Cooperative Extension will sponsor a field day for current and aspiring growers Nov. 6, according to an article on the website Ah-Ha Rancho Santa Fe.
Held in conjunction with the California Macadamia Society and the Gold Crown Macadamia Association, the event will be at the macadamia farm of Garry and Patricia Prather, 6686 Via de la Reina, Bonsall, Calif.
Macadamia nuts are native to Australia. In 1946, a large plantation was established in Hawaii, and the crop eventually became as closely associated with the archipelago's agriculture industry as sugar and pineapples. Macadamias have been grown in California continuously since 1879.
According to the San Diego County agricultural commissioner crop report, county growers produced 128 acres of macadamia nuts in 2006 accounting for 192 harvested tons worth $342,336.
Subtropical horticulture farm advisor Gary Bender, co-organizer and a presenter at the event, said macadamias also make beautiful back yard trees, planted in the landscape or in large pots or tubs. But macadamias require patience. Seed to tree takes 5 to 7 years; full production may take as long as 10 years.
At the field day, Bender will explain irrigation scheduling for macadamias. UC Integrated Pest Management advisor Cheryl Wilen will discuss chemical and organic weed control in macadamia production. Bender said the field day promises to be a day of fun, food and information.
More information is on the San Diego County UCCE calendar.
A 1954 UC article suggested macadamias could be a viable new crop for California.