Farming with less water focus for drought management meeting

Mark your calendar for March 31 — that’s when Central Valley pomology farm advisors will host a drought management meeting at Panoche Creek Packing at Kerman, Calif., according to Farm Advisor Brent Holtz.

Mike Kelley, president of the Central California Almond Growers Association, says the looming 2009 drought year has growers moving into uncharted waters, and that Holtz can expect a packed house for the meeting. (A full agenda will be in an upcoming Tree Nut Farm Press issue.)

Most of the water delivery woes have focused on Westlands Water District, the huge district on the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley where the federal government is saying there will be no surface water deliveries.

However, Kelley says it is becoming apparent in the third year of the California natural and judicial drought that almost all water districts will experience some cutbacks in water delivery.

This is prompting growers to devise a variety of plans to keep trees alive by reducing fruit load.

Strategies to deal with the water crisis are all over the board:

• Shaking trees to remove blooms.

• Applying ethaphon to drop blooms.

• Not putting bees in orchard to reduce the crop.

• Watering only half an orchard with available water and taking a chance of the other half not dying.

• Chainsaw pruning 25 percent or more of the tree canopy to reduce leaf surface area and reduce water use.

“There are a lot of measures being talked about right now,” says Kelley. It is definitely uncharted territory.”

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