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India's retaliatory tariffs may not hurt U.S. nut growers

Roundup: U.S., Chile exporters will benefit from a falling domestic supply of nuts and apples traditionally grown in the Kashmir region

When President Donald Trump invited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House in late September U.S. farm groups were hopeful the two leaders would have talked about a way to ease new trade tensions between the two nations before the holidays arrived.

In the end most U.S. producers, including tree nut growers, quickly discovered the hope of avoiding 100% tariffs penalties from India would not, could not be avoided at the time.

However, as Christmas approaches it looks like Old Saint Nick may have played a hand in the negotiations in the end with a surprising development that may at least benefit walnut, almond and apple producers in the U.S. after all.

Apparently both U.S. and Chile exporters will benefit from what is being termed a falling domestic supply of nuts and apples traditionally grown in the Kashmir region. Traders said imports would rise because domestic supply of walnuts has fallen by a third while local demand is running high.

“This year, walnut crop in the country is 30% to 35% less than last year’s 23,000 tons,” said Gunjan Jain, managing director of VKC Nuts told the Indian Times last week. “The harvest from Kashmir valley was delayed and crop was even left to rot by farmers due to supply disruptions caused by curfew-like restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Speaking of U.S. walnut trees

Janine Hasey, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor Sutter/Yuba/Colusa Counties; Bruce Lampinen, Extension Specialist, UC, Davis; and Katherine Pope, UCCE Orchard Advisor Sacramento/ Solano/ Yolo Counties are reporting the training of young walnut trees occurs in the first 1 to 6 years in the life of an orchard. Traditionally it has been done using a modified central leader with a minimum pruning style; the basics behind this pruning style are similar for standard spaced or hedgerow orchards.

“We believed for decades that if lateral bearing walnuts (most of our varieties) were not pruned, their growth would stall out from early cropping,” their report noted.

Research conducted since 2004 investigating pruning versus non-pruning on young walnut tree growth and productivity has challenged that paradigm. Results from trials on Howard and Chandler have shown that young walnuts do not need to be pruned in order to keep them growing or to produce adequate yields.

“In general, unpruned trees have produced higher early yields and equivalent yields in year four and on compared to minimally pruned trees. We also compared unpruned and minimally pruned trees to heavily pruned trees. Heavily pruned walnut trees were smaller, had lower early yields, and is a pruning method we do not recommend.”

UCCE deploys team of ten to help farmers practice climate-smart

In other news from across the Golden State, scientists are developing climate-smart farming practices and are offering financial incentives to implement them, and now a group of 10 UC Cooperative Extension climate-smart educators are taking the program to the next level.

To help farmers apply for grants to improve soil quality and enhance irrigation systems, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources partnered with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to put climate smart educators in 10 California communities. The educators are working closely with UCCE advisors to help farmers and ranchers improve soil health, irrigation practices and manure management.

The climate smart programs offered by CDFA and promoted by UC ANR educators are:

The educators provide hands-on assistance to farmers and ranchers through the complex application process, conduct field days with climate-smart farmers, establish demonstration plots to share the practices, and work with farmers who are voluntarily implementing climate-smart farming.

Most of the educators were hired in early 2019, just weeks before the application deadline. They are now gearing up for a second cycle of applications. The state funded 194 projects in 2018, and 217 projects in 2019.

Each of the educators has a passion for agriculture and the environment, shaped by their upbringing, experiences and education.

“I am interested in carrying out research that focuses on the adoption and economics of climate change best management practices. The practices should help farmers continue their business,” said Esther Mosase, climate-smart educator in San Diego County. “I'm interested in seeing policymakers making policies that have a farmer as a focal point. They have been here long, they have been tilling the land, they can also contribute in coming up with better solutions that reduce climate change.”

The state is providing incentives for farmers to improve soil health in order to moderate the conditions that are driving global climate change. Improving soil health increases its ability to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Side benefits include improved water infiltration, nutrient cycling and dust control.

Farmers can apply for three-year grants to implement new practices on their farm, such as reducing tillage, growing cover crops and applying compost. Conventional farm practices turn the earth, releasing the stored carbon back into the atmosphere.

UC ANR updates cost estimates for growing almonds

UC Agricultural Issues Center has released new studies estimating the cost and returns of establishing an almond orchard and producing almonds for three growing regions of California.

"These cost studies are valuable for agricultural producers all along the continuum – growers considering entering into a new crop production business, less experienced growers, and those with decades of experience," said Emily Symmes, UCCE integrated pest management advisor for the Sacramento Valley. "The information in these cost studies allows growers to evaluate their production practices and associated costs relative to an exemplary hypothetical orchard specific to their geographic region, and can help with development of business models, crop insurance and lending."

In 2018, almonds ranked third among California commodities, with almond growers receiving nearly $5.5 billion in cash receipts.

The cost analyses are based on hypothetical farming operations of well-managed almond orchards, using cultural practices common to the region. Local growers, UCCE farm advisors and supporting agricultural representatives provided input and reviewed the methods and findings of the studies.

"The recent almond updates for the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys reflect costs associated with the continually evolving conditions facing agriculture," said Symmes, who co-authored the almond cost studies. "Some of the notable updates include labor, irrigation and pest management costs – all integral to producing and delivering a high-quality crop."

The researchers based one study in the Sacramento Valley, one in the northern San Joaquin Valley and the other in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

For more news on tree nuts as reported by growers and farm advisors, subscribe to the Tree Nut Farm Press e-newsletter.

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