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Friday, August 28, 2015

Farmers and Technology, they do go hand in hand

Farmers aren't always looked at as the ones with the newest ipad or the coolest tablet. You generally won't see farmers bragging about how they reached a new high score on their trendy cell phone game. Farmers aren't usually the ones you think of to have the newest technology. But farmers and technology do go hand in hand. Some may think that farmers aren't always up on the newest gadgets or tech trends, but now a days they have to be. Farmers are turning to technology to help them be more sustainable and efficient in their usages.


Farmers all around are turning to web based software to help them understand their farms needs more. Some farmers are using drones to get a more real time picture of their fields. The birds eye view a drone can capture will outline how the soil types vary across a field. Farmers use this to help with better utilization of  nutrients and fertilizers in trouble areas of their fields. Drone are helpful to see what isn't visible to us as we walk through a field.

On our farm we use probes to help us see beneath the soil. We have probes at three different levels through the root zone measuring moisture intake. Probes help us to know at what levels our roots are thirsty and at what levels they are saturated. The probe readings are registered to a data box in our field and taken via cell service to our account at the web based program. We are able to access these readings online or better yet, through an app on our phone.
Water data box in our field

Colored flags mark the different root zone meters

When a reading comes to our phone it looks like this graph. The red line is the deepest, green in the immediate and blue is shallow areas of the root zone being measured. When water runs through the root zones at the various levels, the lines fall. As we irrigate, the moisture levels rise as the pressure to remove water goes down. When the lines are at the top of the graph the roots are using the most effort to take in water, and as they fall the water becomes more readily available to that root zone. You can see as we irrigate (the purple box) how the water moves from zone to zone. When the line is in the aqua rectangle it is the optimal moisture content levels, the roots are neither thirsty or saturated. This occurs just after irrigation is complete. You can see when the blue line is saturated, the green and red and beginning to work less for their water. As the red moves in the blue rectangle zone, all levels are receiving water most efficiently.

We use this system to help us know when to turn on and off our irrigation systems. We are able to accurately know how much water is being used by each root zone. When our roots are working efficiently, then our trees are producing a crop at the most efficient rate. If our trees were stressed, they would be either working over time to get enough water.

We have all had to learn how to be the most efficient and effective with our resources, especially during drought times. As water becomes more and more scarce and farmers are looking for ways to best manage what they have, this tool is just another asset to add to our belt.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Drought slowing us down...again

We are in full swing of almond harvest on the farm. Shaking, sweeping, picking up and hauling the crop away to the huller. There is a lot going on out on the farm lately. But one thing is slowing all of us almond farmers down. It's this dang drought again, it seems to keep popping up in new ways. Our orchard rows have too much debris, the wood chips and dirt are slowing things down for the pick up machines and even at the huller.

So if you remember, when we have dead branches or prunings from our trees, we chip them up and add them back into the soil. This process helps keep those nutrients in the orchard and usually helps with rebuilding the soil. Well, because we have had very little rain in this drought, these wood chips haven't had enough time to breakdown into the soil. Our irrigation is even less than usual since we don't have any federal or state water on our farm, so we aren't able to irrigate as much as we'd like. All these factors lead to these wood chips and debris still in large forms on the orchard floors.

When our sweepers sweep the almonds into rows for the pick up machine, the debris is being gathered up with the almonds. This is causing the pick up equipment to move slower through the fields. We aren't able to separate the almonds from the chips in the field so we are hauling everything off the huller as is. When these loads arrive at the huller, it is an even slower process there trying to separate everything out. The huller is getting backed up, and accumulating their own garbage piles of these chips. 

We aren't the only growers experiencing this mess. With lack of rain and insufficient irrigation water, many growers are in the same situation. Harvesters and hullers alike are being slowed down, costing us all more money, trying to turn out a crop. That's the thing with droughts, they seem to always have side effects that you don't think of or realize until it's too late. This time of year is the most important for us, we wait all year for this. It's simple really, farmers need water. If we don't get it, we will continually have these set backs and side effects hurting us from being as efficient and effective as possible.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl