Thursday, March 24, 2016

Coachella Valley. Where's That?

So a few weeks ago I went out to the Coachella Valley.  Where's that, you ask? Well I was there last June.  In fact I showed this overlook as we came over the mountains to the valley and the cities of Coachella and Indio...California.  It is Northeast of San Diego.  And I was accompanied by Field Agronomist JW and Sales Account Manager Carlos.  Ready for work, so off we go down the mountain into the valley.
The Coachella Valley is one of those places that seems to grow everything good.  Bell Peppers (below), carrots, citrus, grapes (featured last June), okra, onions and lots more fruits and vegetables.  Well we are new to the valley, and now have a top notch Retail Partner, Foster Gardner.  But being new it is necessary to get some trial work.  Like on this Bell Pepper field where Kalibrate will have a test vs KTS (potassium thio sulfate).  Hardly fair, but necessary.  It will run through the drip tape under the plastic.

Of course there is the customary discussion by the pick ups of all committed parties.  The grower, retail partners, SAM and Agronomist.  And the research guy too.  Convinced that it is a good option for using AgroLiquid, the layout is mapped and applications determined.  Hey test layout is what I'm good at, so of course it will work.
 But during this conversation, an old Hagie sprayer came to the edge of the field to fill up with water for some spray operation.  Recalling all the hours I spent in a similar machine at the NCRS, back when I used to do real research work, I became nostalgic.  I was pretty close to going over and asking if I could take it for a spin.  
 Well after that we were off to another place when we happened by Shields Date Garden in Indio.  
 So of course we had to stop once I saw this sign on the side of the building.  I was certainly anxious to see what was going on in this movie about someone's date.
Oh.  It was about the dates that grow on trees.  Well that was still a pretty exciting movie.  Did you know that over 90% of the nation's dates are grown in the Coachella Valley?  Well now you do.  But how many of you have actually eaten a date?  They are quite tasty.  Very sweet.  There are lots of different kinds.  But the most famous is the Royal Medjool.  And look.  They have a big table where you can sample all you want.   
You didn't have to drag JW to the sampling.  You did have to drag him away though.  But he did do the right thing and bought quite a few to take home.  Well if they made it home, that is.
This was a cool place with a Date Garden behind the store.  All of these are date trees.  A lot of the cultivated date trees are shorter with the dates closer to the ground and easier to harvest.  (See last June post for date orchards.)  There were also Orange trees there, and they were in bloom.  It smelled so good.  I don't know if you have ever smelled orange blossoms, but it is definitely a top five scent.  It was a very beautiful walk along the garden trail.
One feature of the Date Garden was depictions of the life of Jesus with various statues of different events.  Here is one where he is gathering Apostles.  Well look under the palm trees across the pond and you will see what is being recognized tomorrow, Good Friday.  So it was pretty cool seeing this in a realistic desert setting among the palms.  Last Sunday was Palm Sunday and all.
So the area is a great place to develop AgroLiquid sales, and a nice place to visit besides.  Enjoy your Easter celebration.  More CA adventures to come.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tree Time

 If you're looking for Research Horticulturalist Jacob these days, head out to the orchard.  There are over a thousand trees in the high density orchard  that need pruning before spring growth begins.  It is not a job for amateurs as the cuts need to be done correctly to get proper growth.  

He is first taking care of the crabapples that are the pollinators.  The crabapples also serve as markers of the plots with ten apple trees in between that receive the different nutrient applications of the research plots.  First he cuts the larger lower branches.  Any branch that is over 50% of the diameter of the trunk gets snipped.  But it is a Dutch cut, that is at an angle preserving the bud at the base that will grow into a new branch.  You just want to keep the main stem as the main stem and not get big limbs taking over.  Next he makes header cuts that trim back the upper branches.  Notice his pruning equipment.  Imagine pruning branches on over a thousand trees, well your hand would get pretty tired.  But these are electronic that mechanically make the cut.  A nice tool to have indeed.  If I were doing it, I'd be afraid of daydreaming and get a new nickname of "Lefty" or maybe "Stumpy".  Better leave this to the expert. 
Here is the finished tree.  He will then move on to the Gala and Honeycrisp apples that make up the orchard plus the extra varieties that are in the border rows for some variation.
We are accepting donations for a second bionic pruner.  I mean the other hand is just along for the ride.  May as well put them both to work.  There is a lot to do.

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Midwest Experience (Literally)

So the blog hasn't been on vacation again, but has been very busy travelling.  And that means new action-filled blogs just waiting to be told.  Like this one of a trip to Omaha a few weeks ago to a soils conference put on by my favorite lab: Midwest Labs.  The agronomy staff, a couple SAM's, myself and Nick attended.  It was well attended as you can see here.  They had a number of speakers addressing such topics as potassium chemistry in the soil, different soil effects on yield, soil sampling, in season variability, soil test interpretation and recommendations.  They also had a speaker on GMO crops and the public.  Did you know that by having fewer in-season herbicide and pesticide applications in these crops has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by an amount equal to removing 10 million cars from the road.  PER YEAR!  Ag is going green for sure.  And there was a speaker addressing the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategies for the Mississippi River.  We could sure make his job easy if everyone switched to AgroLiquid.  But then what would the poor guy do? 
 Most of the talks were in break-out sessions.  I thought this picture was interesting, about the effect of low pH on plant roots.  Seeing is believing.
The conference included a visit to Midwest Labs itself.  The blog featured a story on November 12, 2010 about an AgroLiquid visit.  (Good grief, was that over five years ago?  Time passes too darn fast.)  I will say that we got a better tour then, but this was still good.  Here is where the samples that you take are ground up after spending time in the dryer.  A bar code is attached to the tray that identifies the soil through its journey of nutrient analysis.
Here is where the trays of soil are further sub-sampled for the multitude of nutrient extractions.  I sure don't know how they keep them all straight.  I can't remember where I set my cell phone half the time...and these samples are way more important.  During the busy season in the fall and spring they can run analysis on 20,000 samples a day.  (Can you spot any of the AgroLiquid-ites below?)
Here is the device for measuring phosphorus content in the Bray test.  It is a colorimetric test meaning that the extracted P reacts with a reagent resulting in a blue color.  The blueness is measured to determine soil P content.
Most nutrient contents, after extracted from the soil itself, are measured with this ICAP machine. That stands for Inductively Coupled Argon Plasma.  OK, I've told you but I still don't exactly know what it means.  But you can see that term on the soil test.  It is mainly for Sulfur and micronutrients.  And secondary too I think.  But anyway, see that light inside?  That is the flame that the solution is shot through giving energy peaks for each element that are somehow measured and interpreted.  And don't think you can re-heat your coffee there.  That flame is the temperature of the sun, around 10,000 degrees F.  Well I guess it is relatively cool compared to the inside of the sun which is 27 Million degrees F, give or take a few degrees.  (OK I looked that up.)  But I wonder how they keep that thing from melting?  I'll ask on my next visit.
Out back in the alley we saw a row of bins that collect the soil after it is all done being analyzed. Being finely ground, it is used by the Omaha landfill to cover the surface of the buried garbage.  They said it packs like cement.  So the soil from your farm is helping keep Omaha fly free.  We also learned that Midwest does more than soil analysis.  They are also a leading lab in testing for food safety.  So if that sandwich you took out with you while soil sampling looks a little iffy, send it in as an extra sample to find out
So the convention center where the conference was held was across the street from the local Cabela's store.  So of course a visit was necessary.  I like their gigantic aquariums.  Here is some kind of vicious fish swimming over a log.  But look inside the log at the mouth of that giant catfish.  There is nothing for scale, I should have thrown a quarter in for reference.  But it is huge.  I can't believe those guys that go noodling for catfish in rivers by sticking their arms in logs and "catching" the catfish inside as it bites your arm.  I'm sure some sort of liquid courage is a prerequisite.
So the whole thing was very informative and I'm glad I had the opportunity to attend.  And to share it here in The Land of Liquid.