In my last newsletter, I talked about how the introduction (inoculation) of new microbes can benefit poor soils and struggling crops. On the other side of the coin, devastating fungi, bacteria and other microbial parasites can contribute to a host of crop diseases. In the 1960s, millions of elm trees in Britain, France and the
Most of us have heard of mycorrhizae fungi and their association with the roots of a plant in a symbiotic or mildly pathogenic relationship. In fact, approximately 80 to 90 percent of all plants form symbiotic mycorrhizae fungi relationships by forming hyphae networks. The hyphae are about 1/60 the diameter of most plant root hairs
Drought conditions, heat stress, heavy frost and freezes all dramatically impact our crops. In California, over the Labor Day weekend, we witnessed a heat wave with temperatures soaring as high as 117 degrees in wine growing regions like the Santa Cruz Mountains. Many winemakers experienced a gut reaction of fear, especially with sensitive varieties like
Most perennial crops will do a final leaf flush after harvest or in the fall, to expand new root growth and store sugar produced through photosynthesis as starch to be used for next year’s spring growth flush. The tree also reduces its total moisture content and begins to synthesize the proteins it will need in
I was visiting an organic lemon grower recently. His lemon trees were full of fruit, rich in color and uniform in size. After I toured the property, we stopped and he dug a bit to show me the thick dark brown soil. He invited me over to smell it and it was musty, damp and
The best weed control is more about out-competing the weeds than killing them. The use of cover crops and rotations that leave more crop residue on the ground surface provide greater weed suppression, up to 80% more compared to bare soil. Cover crops can be used in rotation to out-compete weeds and reduce herbicide use.
Let’s talk about micronutrients – copper, magnesium, iron and zinc – that are among the essential elements for building phytochemicals, enzymes, and proteins in plants. They’re also important for our own bodies. Researchers have connected a wide range of human health problems with deficiencies in these minerals. Copper, for example, is essential for hemoglobin to
I read an interesting article from the Washington Post of few days ago talking about how agricultural practices will have to change given the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050. With global population skyrocketing, plus climate change and shifting diets, the article posed the problem as a challenge akin to a “moonshot.” The
Last week, our newsletter focused on building soil carbon and its incredible impact on soil and crop health. Interestingly enough, I saw an article dated May 31 in California Today titled “To Fight Climate Change, Heal the Ground.” The article goes on to say, “The climate change fight has focused largely on cutting emissions. But
Imagine if someone invented machines that could pull carbon out of the atmosphere — machines that were incredibly inexpensive, autonomous, and solar powered, too. Wouldn’t that be great? Well, we already have these devices — they’re called plants. Unfortunately, plants die, leaving us with the dilemma of how to lock away the carbon in dead plants so
Can improved profitability and soil health be connected in an obvious way? Well, the answer is likely no, but it’s still worth real consideration. There are so many factors that go into farming that it’s challenging to place each grower in a single bucket. Each farm has distinctive soil types, topography, weather, production and management
When I first starting advocating for the use of foliar fertilizers around 2005, many growers did not share my perspective that building better soils coupled with the use of foliar fertilizers was the most expeditious way to get crop production moving in the right direction. I remember having a meeting with a number of managers
It’s challenging to pick up any agricultural publication today and not see at least one article addressing soil biology. There’s clearly a soil movement taking place. As a matter of fact, I was just sent an email for a webinar about soil health improvement where I could earn 1 CCA Soil and Water Management CEU.
I’ve been traveling around California looking at the various stages of crops emerging from dormancy. There have been some areas that have experienced a considerable amount of rain and the soils remain very damp if not boggy. I hear many growers rejoicing about soil moisture profiles this season relative to what they endured over the
Last week I was walking vineyards above the Alexander Valley near Geyserville, where they’ve received an overabundance of rain this winter, with a customer. As much of the vineyard remained saturated, our conversation turned to what happens to nutrients that have been exposed to long periods of wet conditions and how we might approach getting