By Brian Hanson
Hortau Grower Support
As the dust begins to settle, and the last remaining varieties of almonds and pistachios make their way to the huller, nut harvest throughout the Southern San Joaquin Valley is fast coming to an end. Cherry harvest has been done for months now, though the final varieties of table grapes will continue to be picked through November.
Even though the scratchy eyes, sneezing, and dust allergies may still be taking a toll on some of us, the end of the permanent crop season is near.
With fall and winter fast approaching, the finish line is in sight and now is a great time to reflect on the growing season to determine how we did and what we can do better next year. Reflecting back on times this season may bring back good and bad memories, but it’s time to revisit our trials and tribulations, and plan for next year by changing our management decisions now for next year.
With the copious amount of rainfall this past winter and a new abundance of surface water available, growers in the Valley were able to irrigate much differently than in the past few years. As a grower support representative for Hortau, I noticed a trend throughout the valley on this abnormally wet year. Because of the large amount rainfall, early March and April irrigations didn’t occur as frequently as they had in the past. The mentality seemed to be “we had so much rain last year, we don’t need to irrigate as much yet.”
With this thinking some may have gotten into a “catch up” state, where they waited too long to start longer, deeper irrigations and lost their deep moisture and began to stress early in the season solely due to timing being off. This caused a panic that led to attempts to rehydrate the soil to make it available to the plant again, since they depleted what was already supplied by mother nature, rather than using it to its full advantage.
On the other side of things, some irrigations came too early when soil tension was telling us plant or root activity hadn’t begun using the available water already present.
In this almond field, the grower began irrigating too early and essentially wasted irrigations. The soil tension was below the “Comfort Zone” and showing a very saturated state where the tree hadn’t yet begun to use the water already available. Here the orchard was too wet in early April but when the run times were reduced in mid-April, too much time passed before water was once again applied, leading to drought stress going into May — a crucial time in almond development. Without Hortau’s soil tension measurement we wouldn’t know when to begin our irrigation, and how long to run that irrigation.
With so many variables occurring, it is very difficult to manage a crop effectively just by looking at the plant or assuming its needs or requirements at critical times.
Soil tension monitoring lets you know exactly the amount of stress your plant is in at the root level, and what it takes to alleviate that stress. With our grower support teams in each region, we work closely with each grower individually to help them accomplish ideal plant health and nutrient management by knowing how plants stress through each irrigation.
It’s ideal to know exactly where soil tension is at, how the soil is reacting to water, and how hard the crop has to work to get that available water. With Hortau’s soil tension sensors, paired with our knowledgeable grower support team, it’s that much easier to prepare for next season today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Grower Support specialist Brian Hanson was born and raised in Bakersfield and currently resides in Shafter. He followed a passion for ag to Bakersfield College, and then CSU Chico, where he studied Animal Science. Throughout college he worked with a PCA, and completed an internship focused on hay and cattle production.
After college, he began working as a Field Technician for Hortau installing and maintaining equipment in the field throughout Kern County. As a Grower Support specialist, Brian is committed to ensuring that all aspects of the Hortau platform are supported and he is always available to resolve any needs.