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Serving: West

Drought-busting rain, snow precede 'Year of Fire' in California

Wildland fire in California
A California-based public utility was linked to several wildfires that destroyed agricultural operations and homes.
Record rain and snow ended several years of drought for California in 2017 - then came the conflagrations

What a ride 2017 has been for California farmers. After five consecutive years of extreme drought and related back-to-back seasons with no allocated surface irrigation supplies for federal water, users this year saw too much of a good thing.

Rain which fell a year ago led to full reservoirs and the near-catastrophic failure of the Oroville Dam in Northern California. Though it’s early, it would appear we’re sliding back into what became known two years ago as “the ridiculously resilient ridge.”

As if too much water wasn’t enough, conflagrations that razed urban neighborhoods on the North Coast and the Santa Barbara region claimed wineries and commercial crops. As I wrote this in late December, the Thomas Fire in Ventura County was not fully contained after burning more than 280,000 acres.

One citrus industry representative says much of the damage to the Ventura area’s citrus crop will not be known for some time. While some buildings on farms burned, some trees look more affected by ash deposits that could impact fruit quality. It’s unknown at this time the seriousness of the matter.

Huanglongbing (HLB), the catastrophic citrus disease that continues to decimate Florida’s citrus production, is picking up steam in several Southern California cities. Nearly 300 residential trees from San Gabriel to Santa Ana, including three near the University of California, Riverside campus and its citrus research grove, have tested positive for the deadly disease. While no commercial trees have been reported HLB positive, one citrus grower suggests 'the disease is out there (in commercial citrus) – they just haven’t found it yet.'

Spearheaded by California Citrus Mutual, a research facility able to work on citrus material under quarantine containment, is nearing completion in Riverside and should soon begin research targeted at finding a HLB cure.

Earlier this summer, the numbers related to 2016 agricultural production across the state were released leading to a new leader among farming counties in the Golden State. For the first time, Kern County had California's No. 1 highest gross value of agricultural products, led by the region’s large almond and pistachio crops. The move pushed Tulare County into the second spot, leaving former farm powerhouse Fresno County in the No. 3 spot.

We talked about that too during the year as the move can be partially traced to the proliferation of tree nuts in Kern County. It was announced earlier in 2017 that California now has over one million acres of almonds growing between Red Bluff to the north and Arvin to the south. The loss of irrigated farmland in Fresno County due to surface irrigation curtailments idled vast tracts of farmland on the county’s West Side.

What stories would you like to see us run or issues addressed in 2018? Drop me a note at

Western Farm Press wishes  you a prosperous 2018!

TAGS: Water
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