Grower Spotlight: M&R Co.

Precision Irrigation isn’t just a buzz word at M&R Company, it’s a foundation that sets a tone for their sustainability efforts across the company’s operations in Northern California.

“We’re trying to follow our water closely as possible,” said Jeremy Hjelmstad, Farm Operations Manager at M&R Company. “Before it was just the old way of turning (irrigation) on when we need it, and now we can actually monitor how much water we’re using, pulling day-to-day water transparency.”

Efficient use of water and other resources is a major focus for M&R Company, which is headquartered in Lodi, Calif., and grows countless varieties of cherries, grapes and other crops. One of the state’s leading grower/packer/shippers, M&R also runs a state-of-the-art packing line that produces cherries in the same fashion the company grows them with precision.

“We’re just keeping up on the technology, from the field side to the packing shed side,” Hjelmstad said. “The technology has changed all around the industry for M&R.”

In the field, it starts with drip irrigation, weather monitoring and Hortau soil tension monitoring, which allows the grower the ability to better manage crop stress in real time. Keeping cherries and grapes at optimal tension thresholds not only optimizes the use of inputs (water, energy, nutrients) but helps maximize production and fend of pest and disease.

“It’s just been a great tool,” Hjelmstad said of Hortau’s irrigation management services.

“The way we used to do it, we used to turn it on just by look. But now we can actually monitor it.”

Along with helping the grower know when to dial back irrigations to dry out come harvest time, it also gives the staff insight into their soil profile when they’re overwatering.

On one block with the Hortau system, for example, Hjelmstad said they were able to cut back irrigation sets from 24 to 18 hours based on the real-time soil tension data: “Which cuts back on PG&E bill, leaching out, and excess water use. We’re just doing our part to save water.”

Learn more about M&R Company’s products and sustainability efforts at http://mandrcherries.com.