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Everything to know about alfalfa

We occasionally get calls from alfalfa growers looking for advice on production and marketing. We supply as much information as possible and tell growers not to hesitate to call a grower board member for help.

The other source of information we recommend is the Alfalfa Workgroup’s Web site, and we encourage growers to attend the UC’s annual Alfalfa & Forage Symposium which offers a wealth of information and a chance to visit with university and industry specialists and other growers.

We’re pleased to have another source to recommend thanks to the efforts of UC Extension and Research personnel who crafted a 372-page four-color book, “Irrigated Alfalfa Management” for Mediterranean and Desert Zones.

CAFA doesn’t sell products, and the Association doesn’t have a stake in book sales. But CAFA did contribute $2,500 to help fund the book which was sorely needed for our industry. The in-depth publication is a complete package that discusses alfalfa production from site selection to diagnosing a wide range of problems.

All bases are covered, including production systems, livestock utilization, forage quality and testing, pest control, and marketing and economics. The “diagnostic” chapter contains more than 60 photos of problems that plague alfalfa, including insects, diseases, vertebrate pests, herbicide injury and mineral deficiencies. Given the recent stem nematode outbreak in Northern California, the book would come in handy for diagnosing fields where poor growth is a problem.

The wide ranging number of topics encompasses 24 chapters that involved 34 authors. The book was edited by Charles Summers, UC entomologist, and Dan Putnam, Extension forage specialist. The Irrigated Alfalfa Management book (Publication 3512) can be purchased online or at UC Cooperative Extension offices.

With a price tag of only $65, the book can pay big dividends. For more details, visit California Alfalfa Workgroup.

• Good news

We always view it as good news when people in agriculture stand up to regulatory agencies or environmental groups and take their grievances to court.

In March we were glad to learn that lawsuits have been filed by customers of the Central Valley Project and by agencies that buy water from the State Water Project. They’re challenging the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service’s biological opinion regarding the Delta smelt.

While water is the No. 1 issue, it’s not the only factor saddling growers with costly new regulations that seem to be introduced at least once a week. In the April issue of the Yolo County’s Farm Bureau Agri-News, Ag Commissioner Rick Landon’s article should be required reading for legislators and regulators. His “Global Food Crisis” article outlines problems locally and in other countries.

While there is a global food crisis, Landon notes that the government isn’t helping. That’s evident from the list of new or proposed regulations in California. In summing up irrigation water, he points out that the pumps that supply the San Joaquin Valley “have been effectively turned off, eliminating millions of acres of agricultural production.”

Hopefully, the stranglehold on irrigation water will get resolved in the courts sooner rather than later. In the meantime what’s being done to develop more water? As Landon sums it up, “developing new water, whether storage from such projects as the Sites Reservoir, desalination or other sources is nonexistent.”

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