Kearney News Updates
Farmers' rugged independence and tendency toward experiential learning make them the ideal candidates for conducting their own on-farm research. UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors will provide the basic tenants for conducting such studies during the Alfalfa Field Day, Thursday, Sept. 8, at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.
Though farmers don't have to employ the rigorous scientific processes used by UC academics conducting agricultural research, following certain techniques in planning the study, gathering and evaluating data will help ensure valid results.
"We're encouraging farmers to take a scientific approach in a realistic way," said Carol Frate, the UC Cooperative Extension field crops farm advisor for Tulare County. Frate and Shannon Mueller, the Fresno County field crops farm advisor, developed the presentation. "We'll suggest that the farmer do some replication, take notes and follow through. We'll show them how to evaluate the economics of different treatments."
Frate and Mueller's presentation will be made in the classroom following a three-stop field tour with the following presentations:
- Alfalfa variety development and selection for high yields and pest management by Dan Putnam, Extension Agronomist and Forage Specialist, UC Davis
- "Forage sorghums: Not what your parents grew!" by Jeff Dahlberg, Director, Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center, Parlier
- Growing Roundup Ready and conventional alfalfa side by side without contamination - is it possible? by Dan Putnam, UC Cooperative Extension agronomist and forage specialist, UC Davis
In addition to the presentation on DIY on-farm research, the following topics will be covered during the classroom session:
- An IPM approach for controlling pocket gophers and voles in alfalfa by Roger Baldwin, IPM wildlife pest management advisor, Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center, Parlier
- What do you want to know and how do you want to know it? by Shannon Mueller
- "Got weeds? Let's talk." (Bring your weeds and questions) by Kurt Hembree, farm advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, Fresno County
- Sclerotinia crown and stem rot of alfalfa and date of planting – Carol Frate
- Optimizing small grain yields (herbicides, stripe rust) – Steve Wright, farm advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, Tulare County
Registration is at 7:30 p.m. The field tour will be from 8 to 9:45 a.m. and the classroom session from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.
The research aims to give vintners blending varieties that will make San Joaquin Valley wines with familiar names more interesting. Vintners may use up to a quarter of their grape volume to impart distinctive color, flavor and structure to a varietal wine without calling it a blend. Grapes being studied at Kearney may one day add a certain flavor note - such as cherry, tannin, black pepper or citrus - to fine San Joaquin Valley wine.
"High levels of color and tannin cannot compensate for a variety whose yield is far below the economic threshold," Wolpert said.
At another stop on the Grape Day tour, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture farm advisor Mark Battany demonstrated the "Paso Panel." Battany developed the tool - composed of an inexpensive, lightweight solar panel and digital meter mounted on an aluminum frame - to help farmers fine tune their irrigation scheduling.
The Paso Panel allows farmers and researchers to quickly and easily calculate the amount of canopy shade in a vineyard or a vineyard row. The data can be combined with climate data to calculate crop water needs.
Measuring soil moisture and using plant-based monitoring systems are other ways to determine plant water needs, but Battany said currently climate-based methods are underused.
"A lot of farmers guess when they need to irrigate," Battany said. "People tend to guess on the conservative side, and put on more water than necessary."
New York-based USDA-ARS plant breeder Peter Cousins was also at the field day to explain his grape root stock variety trials planted at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Cousins and his staff screen 3,000 to 4,000 seedlings a year. The best prospects are sent to California, where 140 experimental root stocks are growing.
"Here at Kearney, the vines grow so vigorously, we can get more than 100 cuttings per plant," said Cousins. "This is their last stop, where we determine whether you can grow them in a field and make wood that propagates vines."
Peter Cousins of the USDA-ARS in Geneva, N.Y., will be referring to these charts during his presentation at Kearney Grape Day. The title of Cousins' presentation is "The development of new grape rootstocks for the San Joaquin Valley."
Nematode poster (pdf)
Rootstock selections poster (pdf)
Some people say rabbiteye blueberries get their nickname from the circle on the blossom end the fruit. Others say the fruit's tendency to turn pink before going blue is reminiscent of a rabbit's eye. Whatever the reason, late ripening rabbiteye blueberries can provide San Joaquin Valley growers the ability to harvest fruit through the end of August, capturing a potentially lucrative market window, says UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Manuel Jimenez.
Porterville blueberry farmer Young Kwun attended the meeting with his farm manager Miguel Jaramillo Garcia. Kwun asked Jimenez how to replant blueberry bushes that had died.
"You can't do it," Jimenez replied. In the test plots, Jimenez and his staff replanted 60 blueberry bushes, and none of them survived. He tried a second time with the same result, and then inquired with blueberry growers around the country, finding that they also could not replant blueberries.
"Replanting is an issue with blueberries," Jimenez said. "We don't know what it is."
"You just saved me a bunch of money," said Kwun, whose 70-acre farm has a number of blank spots.
Kwun said he has missed the last few blueberry field days at Kearney, but that won't happen again.
"I'm thinking I should come every year," Kwun said. "I learned a lot."
The GEM avocado is the great-granddaughter of Hass avocado, which is currently the industry standard in California. GEM has all the excellent characteristics of Hass avocados - creamy, nutty flesh; dark, pebbly skin when ripe - and it has additional benefits for the grower, according to Mary Lu Arpaia, a UC Cooperative Extension subtropical horticulturist based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, Calif.
"Hass avocados are alternate bearing - they will produce a big crop one year, and a small crop the next. GEM is more consistent, so growers can make money every year," Arpaia said. "The trees are also more compact, which means growers have less costs for harvesting and tree maintenance."
GEM was part of an extensive avocado variety breeding program led since the 1950s by UC Riverside plant breeder Bob Bergh. Arpaia took over the program in 1996.
In the early 1980s, Bergh released a variety he called the Gwen. However, Gwen didn't turn black when it ripened, a disadvantage because consumers are accustomed to Hass. In the mid 80s, Bergh planted more than 60,000 avocado variety seedlings on farms across Southern California. GEM, a granddaughter of Gwen, was one.
There are GEM trees growing at the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine. Fruit samples are sent to the Kearney Sensory Laboratory, where volunteers judge the fruit's outward appearance and compare the flavor with Hass.
Recently, UC Riverside signed an exclusive license agreement with Westfalia Fruit Estates, a South African company, to market GEM around the world, the university announced. In the United States, the California–based Brokaw Nursery has non-exclusive rights to the GEM avocado.
For information on GEM avocado sensory testing, see the one-minute video below.