By Brian Milne, Vice President, Director of Marketing & Communications, The Holloway Group
The World Ag Expo returned to Tulare, Calif., on Feb. 8-10, after going virtual in 2021 due to the pandemic, and the future of agriculture was a major theme of this year’s event.
“Just the sheer size and amount of technology, automation, innovation, it’s all on display here at the World Ag Expo,” California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross said while walking the grounds. “Whether it’s for livestock, or for crops, it’s here, and it gets me excited thinking about the future of agriculture and the workforce and the jobs and careers of the future.”
Along with the latest and greatest in ag technology, sustainable agriculture and water issues were two underlying themes discussed during the nearly 100 seminars that took place at the three-day event.
Kaylah Vasquez, a Graduate Student of Fresno State’s Viticulture and Enology Program, discussed some of those water challenges and what that might mean for the future of California agriculture during her session exploring the use of remotely sensed images (from UAV and satellite imagery) to monitor water stress in California vineyards.
“We’re going to go from abnormally dry to exceptionally dry,” Vasquez said, showing the latest California Drought Monitor map from January. “We see that we’re still having severe drought, and that’s pretty alarming in this time of year.”
With most of California painted orange with “severe drought,” Vasquez noted water issues aren’t going away and more and more growers will be forced to plant drought-tolerant crops.
“What does that translate to for the grower, and what does that look like in agriculture?” she asked. “Well, you’re going to start to see early irrigations to penetrate dry soils, lower reservoirs, we’re going to see policies change, which we have seen already, restrictions on supplemental groundwaters, mainly SGMA (Sustainable Groundwater Management Act), and agricultural unemployment. We’re going to see a change in crops from less tolerant to more drought-tolerant crops such as grapevines, trees and so on.”
During his seminar on “Best Practices for Orchard and Vineyard Removal and Redevelopment,” Holloway Vice President of Ag Services Jordan Burt said a recent survey conducted by the company showed that nearly half of their tree growers would be taking on an orchard removal project in the next two years.
Burt noted there are incentives available to growers for Whole Orchard Recycling projects, including the San Joaquin Valley Alternative to Ag Open Burning Incentive Program. He also stressed that it was important for growers to keep soil health and water availability top of mind when developing a new orchard or vineyard.
“We take a soils-first approach to orchard redevelopment,” Burt added. “We dig soil pits prior to a redevelopment, so we have a better idea of what you have to do to get your ground ready for the next crop.
“This is your one shot to get it right. So, think about what your soil needs. When can you ever put amendments under your tree? This is your one chance to get nutrients down there for another 20 years.”