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Ag Tech in a Pandemic


2020 was the year that changed everything. Our typical focus on bloom conditions, crop set, and spring meetings was replaced with learning COVID-19 symptoms, tracking the virus’ spread and statewide lockdowns. The worst pandemic in a century hammered our country and economy and changed nearly every routine to which we were accustomed. School drop-offs were replaced with web logins. Morning coffee still happened, but only on the tailgate in the parking lot. And millions of people learned how to order their groceries and takeout from a smartphone. Interestingly, technology has been at the center of nearly every personal and business...

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Putting Local Weather Data to Work in your Orchards


Cold temperatures usher in the dormant season, giving trees and growers a much-needed respite from the intensity of the summer months. The transition to dormancy and lack of visible activity within the orchard can belie the important processes that occur during this time. Just as growers are preparing for the start of another season with winter sanitation, pruning, fumigation and planting, the trees are also setting up for their next crop even during their physiological rest. Weather during this phase of the tree’s life cycle plays a crucial role. In fact, weather plays an important role at every stage of...

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Supplemental Pollination


Large-scale almond trials are looking at different forms of mechanical application to supplement bee pollination in almond orchards. Given the excellent natural pollination season during the first year of trials using drones or electrostatic sprayer to apply supplemental pollen, those trials produced no yield differences among treatments, according to preliminary results. But researchers and participants say those practices warrant further study to see how they improve yields in an off year. Jim F. Cook of Colusa County Farm Supply Research said he’d like to continue the work to see whether mechanical supplementation might improve yields during poor pollination conditions. “I’m...

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Current and Future Applications of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Precision Agriculture


Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are increasingly being utilized in farming applications throughout California’s Central Valley. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) anticipates that the adoption of UAS technology will continue to dramatically increase over the next several years. In 2019, there were 900,000 registered UAS drones in the United States, with about 17% being utilized for agriculture, meaning there are more than 153,000 drones currently in use for farming applications. As California farms produce roughly 13% of US farm dollars in the United States, it can be estimated that there are about 20,000 agriculture drones in California today. Additionally, the 2017...

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Pressure Chamber Gauges Tree Water Stress, Helping Fine-tune Orchard Irrigation


UC Davis Plant Sciences Professor Ken Shackel, who has spent much of his career working with the pressure chamber, thinks of the device as measuring the “blood pressure” of plants. Unlike blood pressure, which is taken when a person is resting, pressure chamber readings are taken during midday when the tree is most active in pulling moisture through the xylem into its leaves. Although Shackel has been a staunch promoter of the device since the early 1990s, he said the industry has been slow to catch on. A recent survey by the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Fertilizer Research...

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