"The drought is impacting everybody," said Kevin Zollinger, a Livermore vintner. "Everybody's cutting back. Are our vines more stressed this year? Yeah, probably, because you don't have the charge in the soil that you normally have."
The winegrape grower said he and other farmers are holding back water as much as possible without stressing the vines.
Janet Capriele, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Contra Costa County, said winemakers typically withhold water to limit vine growth and intensify berry flavor and color. However, excessive underwatering could be harmful.
"We're already cutting back, so the plants are already a bit stressed," Caprile said. "With these additional cutbacks, we may be stressing the grapes beyond the quality you'd want. We'd expect to have smaller crops and smaller berries."
The mother of millions of navel orange trees around the world, a 143-year-old Washington navel orange tree in Riverside, is carefully protected by UC scientists and the Riverside parks department, reported Suzanne Hurt in the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
Scientists protect the tree using special tools, insecticides and disease monitoring.
According to legend, the seedless and sweet Washington navel was an accidental mutant that appeared on the grounds of a Brazil monastery in the early 1800s. Tree clones were sent to USDA in Washington, D.C., and from there acquired by Eliza Tibbets, who tended the trees at her home in Riverside.
"Producing budding stock to make other saplings, Tibbets' trees birthed a citrus industry dubbed California's second gold rush," the Press-Enterprise story said.
John Bash, a UC Riverside staff researcher who worked with the Washington navel for 32 years, called the mother tree "one of the world's agricultural icons."
"There are literally millions and millions of trees that can trace their ancestry back to that single tree," Bash said.
Great collaboration yesterday with staff from UCCE, Farm Fuels, Inc., Dole, and the California Strawberry Commission to establish the research plot for Macrophomina this year. Really great group of people, it was an honor to work with you all.
Great group of people to get the job done.
California suffered severe droughts in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s, but the current drought is the worst in history, according to Daniel Summer, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center. He outlined the reasons in a story published on Food, Nutrition and Science.
For one thing, the state's population is larger than ever before, requiring more water resources. Increased planting of trees and vines in the state has given farmers less flexibility. In addition, recent increases in crop and livestock prices increase losses from lower production, Sumner said. He suggests the drought can be a lesson for the future.
"This current drought has highlighted some weaknesses in drought preparation that could be improved for future drought scenarios," the story said.
In dry years, California relies heavily on groundwater. Sumner said the aggregate measures of groundwater depth over time and space are good, but their estimates of regional groundwater use are poor and need improvement. Improved management of groundwater basins will be key to securing California's agriculture in the future, Sumner said.
The story also quoted Leslie Roche, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. Roche said the drought will have lasting impacts on how ranchers plan and prepare for future droughts.
"There is a deep undercurrent of concern within the ranching community that this drought will persist, and that practical options to maintain productivity in that event are very limited. This is true throughout all quarters of California's agricultural community,” Roche said.
A recent article referred to one of the reasons that growers need access to new strawberry varieties is that there is an inherent loss in vigor through the propagation process. That growers need access to new varieties to remain competitive is absolutely true, but that they need access to new varieties because the existing ones decline in vigor is not.
Plants do not invariably “lose their pep after years of cloning”. Indeed, reputable nurseries avoid a loss of vigor in a variety by periodically going back to meristem culture in order to keep their plant stock strong and productive. It does happen (especially in some formerly popular caneberry varieties - compare Ollalieberry in the field today to what was around in the early nineties) that older varieties of less demand don't have the meristem work done as frequently and subsequently become less vital over time.
What is meristem culture? Meristem culture is the excision of a cluster of actively dividing cells from the meristem (tip) of a newly formed strawberry runner, followed by surface sterilization, placement on a special medium, subsequent rooting, gradual acclimation of the new plant and transfer to a secure greenhouse. While some cases of genetic instability from repeatedly doing meristem culture have been noted in the literature, this cannot be described as a drift towards a loss in vigor of a variety. At any rate, programs for production of true to type (identical) plant stock using meristem culture have been used for a long time at any of the strawberry nurseries in business today.
A good example of how well and long a popular variety can be maintained through meristem culture would be the strawberry variety ‘Chandler'. Chandler continues to be widely planted by direct marketers because consumers just love its flavor and quality. Consider though that this variety was patented in 1984 by the University of California, and has had no apparent loss in vigor in all this time because the nurseries continue to go back to meristem culture to maintain it.
Growers have rumored that the variety ‘Albion' has been losing its vigor, but work at the Pomology Field Station in Watsonville over several years shows that this was not at all true. The Albion grown at this field station has experienced NO loss in yield since it was first released. Rather the rumored "loss in vigor" of the very widely planted Albion is almost certainly because of the industry wide steady drift away from methyl bromide fumigation to less effective alternatives like 1,3-D and chloropicrin.
Strawberry meristem culture. Photo courtesy USDA-ARS