Growers at the annual Colusa Farm Show had water on their minds Tuesday.
Almond growers heard several presentations by University of California experts on watering options during the drought emergency.
Larry Rominger grows almonds, as well as alfalfa and wheat, on 2,500 acres near the Yolo-Colusa County line. He says he’s getting uncertain answers from the Bureau of Reclamation as to how much surface water he’ll get for the coming season.
“Hopefully we’ll get something from the bureau and if not we might have to take out some alfalfa we have or not irrigate our wheat,” Rominger said.
The dry winter means growers have had to irrigate their orchards. Many are using well water which can be expensive and the water quality is not as good as surface water.
UC Davis plant science Professor Ken Schackel told almond growers who are short of water to use what they have to reduce watering evenly throughout the year to avoid stressing trees. He said the university has done drought watering studies on orchard trees.
“We were unable to kill trees,” Shackel said.
But survival watering comes at a cost in future productivity.
“There was almost no crop that first year and there was basically zero crop that second year,” said Shackel.
California had a good crop in 2013 and is the largest producer of almonds in the world. But trees stressed by drought during the spring growing season can produce smaller, lighter nuts. Much depends on water allocations and timely rain.
“That remains to be seen how much water we will receive and if our wells get stretched too thin,” said Rominger.