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Kings County News : Tomato Yield / More

Tomato Yield Jump – You Can Thank Drip Irrigation & Genetics

wilt in cherry tomotoes

wilt in cherry tomotoes

It’s no secret that the westside of Kings County is water short.Yet this is one of the most productive processing tomato growing regions in the state or world with some of the highest yields per acre. You are probably not surprised to learn that most of the region’s growers use buried drip irrigation to deliver what water we have. But UC Vegetable Advisor Tom Turini, based at the Five Points station, says using this technology not only saves water but contributes to the high yields seen here. “It is not only more efficient way to deliver water but useful to provide a measured amount of fertilizer or pesticides just when it needs it” he says. That is a key reason why yields are higher in the drier Fresno/Kings/Kern areas vs wetter Northern California tomato fields.

Turini says local tomato farmers are only now experiencing a new pest problem that has moved south recently – fusarium wilt,a soil borne pathogen that can do major economic damage to a to field of processing tomatoes.But through the UC system and working with private firms and farmers new varieties resistant to the pest have been developed and planted experimentally around the area this year.”The plots look good but we are awaiting results on yield and quality of the fruit.” Besides drip irrigation the other secret weapon to increase yields has been genetics – using traditional plant breeding methods rather than GMOs says Turini. In the past decades tomato yields per acre have nearly tripled in California using these new management tools. Turini says” there is still room to grow, going forward.” Industry figures show yields of well under 20 tons per acre in the late 1960s compared to an average of 55 tons per acre in Kings County last year. California accounts for over 90 percent of U.S. production and approximately 35 percent of world production.

Heat Is On – Protect What You Got

Hot enough for you? Those 106 degree days are affecting all of us including our plants, our animals and our kids. Local tomato grower Brad Johns says he doesn’t use sunscreen when he heads to beach but his fields got a good dose of sun protection recently applied with a spray-rig, a whitewash of clay material that protects the tomatoes from the sear of the sun. Kings dairyman Joaquin Contente says all area livestock owners “pretty much have 100% shade for their animals.And they need it. So do children. This month two new structures will provide much needed shade for two playgrounds at Avenal Rice Park, the town’s busiest park. Through a partnership between the City of Avenal and Self-Help Enterprises, the organization secured a $25,000 Wonderful Community Grant for the shade structures. Many of the town’s farmworkers are employed by the company‘s pistachio operations. During the hottest months of the year playground equipment has been too hot for use previously.

USDA May Help Local Farmers

Last month USDA announced it would provide $300 million in cost-share assistance payments to cotton producers through the new Cotton Ginning Cost-Share program, in order to expand and maintain the domestic marketing of cotton. Through the Cotton Ginning Cost-Share program, eligible producers can receive a one-time cost share payment, which is based on a producer’s 2015 cotton acres reported to FSA. Sign-up for the program began in June and runs through Aug. 5, 2016 at the producer’s local FSA office. Payments will started this month. USDA says “Since 2011, cotton fiber markets have experienced dramatic changes. As a result of low cotton prices and global oversupply, cotton producers are facing economic uncertainty that has led to many producers having lost equity and having been forced to liquidate equipment and land to satisfy loans.” The program has a $40,000 per producer payment limit.

Now some dairy farmers are asking USDA for a similar program. A July 14 letter sent to USDA secretary Vilsack and backed by local congressman Jim Costa says ”Our dairy farmers have been hit extremely hard by low farm milk prices that have resulted in sharply reduced incomes, which is placing our nation’s dairy industry in an extremely vulnerable position.” The letter says “We have seen farm milk prices drop forty percent since 2014…” Comparing today’s tough times with 2009 the letter adds” During the 2009 dairy collapse, we saw far too many families have to sell off their cows and close the doors for good. Through the support of USDA, we can hopefully prevent many farms from needing to make that same difficult decision today and we hope your work to support our dairy farmers will be regionally balanced.” California Dairy Campaign farmer Joaquin Contente says he backs the one-time payment idea adding that the drought has been an extra burden for local dairy farmers who are having to dig deeper wells to survive and stay in business. Contente acknowledges that not all his neighbors agree – some not wanting to take government money.

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