On the day before this year’s annual conference, FREP hosted a field tour to emphasize challenges and innovations in Central Coast agricultural irrigation and nutrient management. Over 70 people attended the tour of two ranches, where growers presented their personal nutrient and irrigation management experiences.
The tour began with a bus ride from Seaside to Salinas, where University of California Cooperative Extension advisors Richard Smith and Michael Cahn gave a broad overview of Central Coast agriculture. As the bus travelled past agricultural fields transitioning out of their busy season, attendees learned about the types of leafy greens and other vegetables grown across the Salinas Valley.
The first stop of the tour was a Huntington Farms strawberry field with grower Mark Mason. He described many aspects of his operation, from the crops they grow, production challenges, and their most recent innovations. More specifically, Mark, like many growers on the Central Coast, has embraced single-use drip tape. This is largely due to the labor and time that single-use drip tape saves. Instead of having worker’s install and maintain the irrigation system year after year, this job is now contracted to companies that design, install, uninstall and dispose of the drip tape each season. Attendees also viewed a demonstration of the tractor equipment used to collect single-use drip.
The second stop of the tour was with Anthony Duttle of Tanimura and Antle. Anthony highlighted the constant nutrient management challenges in Central Coast vegetables. Specifically, he touched on how difficult it can be to match the nutrient availability of fertilizers to the nutrient demand of leafy greens. Anthony also talked about the microclimates across the Salinas Valley, an essential consideration for irrigation scheduling in this region. Like Mark, Anthony talked about increasing labor constraints and how they drive technology and innovation on farms. One clear example of Tanimura and Antle’s response to labor concerns is their newly built residency hall nearby to accommodate laborers and their families.
On the way back to Seaside, the bus passed by artichoke and berry fields, where passengers learned about how growers use hoop houses to moderate the temperature for raspberries. The field day was a great success that generated interest from many participants. FREP will offer another tour before the conference next year in Fresno on October 29-30, 2019.