Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Week in California...Nice Work If You Can Get It

 So last week I traveled out to Sacramento California to travel with Sales Account Manager Armando.  We would make some dealer calls and talk about research and product information.  Now I had not been out to California on the job for several years.  One place I wanted to see was the new plant in Stockton. So we stopped by one morning, and who should be there but Shaun from the St. Johns office.  Shaun is the Facilities Manager and he is also the author of AgroLiquid's second best blog.  It's about the various facilities projects or something. Check it out sometime. He explained that they will soon be doing some expansion here to enable manufacturing.  They just opened the place, and making changes already.  That's Armando and Shaun talking about the plans.
 That's the Plant Manager Richard in safety yellow showing us around.  It's a nice place and a large amount of land came with it.  Well Armando, you better get busy to keep this place running.  I guess I better get busy too.
So I though this was interesting.  Here is a road cut through a hill.  There sure isn't much topsoil here is there? Well actually this is an artificial road bank cover material to look like solid rock.  I have never seen anything like this before, but it was nice.  I admit I was fooled at first. This was on the way into Napa, and I guess they wanted it to look nice.  
Here is the edge of the Napa Valley.  You can tell it is by the sign they have.  I have never been here before and it was a nice place to visit.  We did not make time to stop anywhere.  We'll wait till we get some customers there.  There are some other wineries in CA using some Liquid, but not here yet.
Here is what the grapevines look like in the fall.
Here was a field of grapes being watered.  It was a pretty site.  This is the only one we saw being watered, so don't know what is going on.  I would guess it's because they are thirsty.
Here is a field where another big crop of Northern California was grown.  This was rice.  There are around a half million acres of rice here.  Now regular readers will recall the research plots we have in rice down in Louisiana. And we have had fertilizer on rice in Arkansas, the number one rice state, for years.  But the culture of growing rice here is very different.  For one thing, they use air seeders.  And I'm not talking about the planter type, but the rice is seeded by airplanes.  And they use a roller called a creaser that makes small furrows in the field and the rice falls into the furrows.  It actually looks like it was planted with a drill. Oh yes, and they pre-germinate the rice before seeding.  So that it has a little root coming out to enable faster establishment. That sounds complicated, but what do I know?  I wonder how regular drilled rice would do here?  And the fertilizers used, placement and timing is different too.  So research is needed, and we talked to several researchers about some fieldwork in 2014.  So I will learn more then, and next year I will probably wonder why they don't grow rice in Arkansas like they do in California.  By the way, that terrace in the picture is actually a levee to hold the water in the sections of the field.  That is another difference.  These fields are all sectioned off with straight levees, unlike the contoured curving levees like in the South.
You will see fields flooded for the purpose of making the straw soften up for easier decomposition.  These fields will likely have rice again next year.
Another rice straw management practice is burning.  But it had gotten so smoky in the past that now you can only burn 25% of your rice acreage.  The field below was recently burned and you can see how smoky it is in the distance where burning is still going on.  You could see and smell smoke for some time here, where ever we were.  But you can see how straight the rows are, and that is from aerial seeding.  Those pilots are sure accurate at dropping the seed!  (Please re-read an above paragraph before you call the straight jacket squad.)
We also visited a dealer in an area of intense walnut and plum tree production.  California sure is different.  Here are some walnut trees.  There were orchards all over this place.  Another way it was different is that it was in the 70's in the afternoon all week, much warmer than back in Michigan.
Well here we were heading back to Sacramento last Thursday evening. Pretty sunset on my last night in CA. That's the airport to the right of the sun where I caught a very early flight the next morning to return to Michigan.
So it was a good week, for me anyway.  One thing about California is that there is always something going on cropwise.  So there is always reason to return.  And this was just Northern California.