Crop management begins with healthy soil and proper irrigation management. A properly managed crop should produce high yields and be economically advantageous all while keeping in mind the overall health of the ecosystem. It is possible to manage crops for high yields and simultaneously protect water quality and provide suitable wildlife habitat.
Identifying the soil type(s) on your property can help tremendously when it comes to determining what, if any, nutrient additions are needed for your crop. Utilizing best management practices (BMPs) for nutrients can save time and money and can also reduce the excess nutrients from entering the ecosystem. Integrated pest management (IPM) can help you manage pest problems within your crop and limit herbicide and pesticide use. The District offers well and pond water analysis that provide basic nutrient content of the irrigation water used for crop production. High levels of sodium can be found in some soils and well water in the area; however salinity management practices can be implemented if, through a basic test, this issue is detected. Leaf analysis is yet another valuable tool to determining potential nutrient deficiencies.
The California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) program helps growers irrigate crops based on weather patterns and location by providing real time evapotranspiration data. This free, statewide tool is one of the first steps to saving money and irrigating based on a crop’s needs, as opposed to irrigating on a set schedule. The District provides free irrigation system evaluations for agricultural properties using imported municipal water. These evaluations focus on irrigation system performance and uniformity. Agricultural producers using well water sources can receive a pumping plant efficiency test. Well water BMPs and irrigation system BMPs can help you utilize water resources efficiently.
Whether you plan to manage the crop yourself or hire a farm manager, free technical assistance is offered through the District, as well as several other agencies and the University of California Cooperative Extension. Technical assistance provides valuable resources to help growers manage all aspects of their property. Financial assistance may also be available to help agricultural properties implement conservation measures such as irrigation system upgrades, cover crops or mulching.
Agricultural laws and regulations are mandated on the federal, state, and local levels. Before beginning any project or management plan, determine which laws and regulations pertain to your property. Organic agriculture has its own set of standards that differ from conventional agricultural practices. Additionally, water runoff from agricultural operations is regulated under the Conditional Waiver for Discharges from Agricultural and Nursery Operations and affects agricultural properties in California.