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Here's legacy of California farm advisor

EDITOR'S NOTE: Keith Mayberry will retire in early January after 35 years as the University of California Cooperative Extension vegetable farm advisor in Imperial County, Calif. Keith was honored at the recent Desert Crops Workshop in Holtville, Calif. In the wake of budget cuts affecting UC Cooperative Extension, he wrote the following article on behalf of his peers.)

I may not have been the one who met you at your field to diagnose the reason why your carrot stand did not germinate as expected, but I may have been the person who worked with your seed representative to solve the problem.

You may not use the Vegetable Guidelines to Production Costs and Practices data that I prepared in spreadsheet format, but your banker, CPA, or joint venture partner may have used it to compare values against your own figures for growing crops.

You may not have called me for advice when your crop is dying, but I may have provided training or answers for your pest control advisor who met with you to solve the problem.

You many not have read my article on proper placement of fertilizer before applying your ammonical fertilizer, but your fertilizer sales rep probably did when he/she advised you on how to apply it.

It could be that your field of watermelons is wilting and dying. I determine that the problem is a soil-borne disease. The watermelons are lost, but I provide a crucial warning: Do not, as planned, grow cantaloupes as a rotation crop — they're susceptible. You switch to broccoli and save an estimated $30,000.

You may not know that CALTRANS appraisers came to me to find a fair value for taking farmland (with existing crops) out of production in order to widen some Imperial Valley highways. The appraisers were enlightened to the fact that some crops have value not just at the present time, but also for potential production in future years. They were also shown a fair market value for the crops.

You are probably not aware that the California Highway Patrol contacted me to educated their farm road safety officers on what kinds of equipment may be moved on the Valley's back roads and highways. Or that I showed the officers that there were peak seasons of use for various types of equipment.

You probably don't remember that I was the first to identify the needle nematode as a plant pest on a wide array of Imperial County crops. Numerous professors and graduate students from the University of California studied the problem. Today we have good knowledge of how to find and control the needle nematode.

Nearly every farmer was affected by whiteflies in early ‘90's. I was an important member of the team that found that the insecticide, Admire, was far more effective when injected under the seed line than sprayed on the plants.

You may not have read my Desert Gardener column on how to fertilize a lawn, but maybe the lush green grass growing in you neighbor's yard that your wife likes to see out her kitchen window happened because the neighbor saw the article.

These are but a few examples of how an advisor provides crucial information that enhances the lives and pocketbooks of the residents of Imperial Valley. Now that the state has made massive cuts in our operating budget and staffing, it is time to support the advisors that you still have on board. They help you far more than you know.

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