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Precision Agriculture in the Central Valley of California

by Feb 17, 2012Ag Leader

Being raised in the Central Valley of California has given me the privilege of growing up in one of the world’s most productive agriculture regions.  Because there are more than 250 crops grown here, it is sometimes referred to as “the nation’s salad bowl”.   California’s Central Valley makes up less than 1 percent of the United States’ total farmland and produces, by value, over 8% of the nation’s agricultural output.

California is among the highest regulated states in the nation.  Diesel motor emissions, chemical and fertilizer application and water usage are highly regulated. Agriculture in the Central Valley relies heavily on irrigation water from both surface and well water sources.   For these reasons California is the perfect environment for precision agriculture to thrive.  Precision agriculture is most frequently used and relied upon as a guidance tool for listing, precision row spacing and installation of sub-surface drip irrigation systems.  Variable rate applications, as well as precision planting, remote sensing and yield monitoring, are used on a limited basis.  The main point to be made about precision agriculture, as it relates specifically to farming in the central valley of California, is that there is a lot of room for growth.  California grows a vast number of crops; field crops, row crops and permanent crops included.  Precision agriculture is currently only being used in a select few, primarily row crops, including:  tomatoes, cotton, garlic, wheat, rice, lettuce and related crops.

With three growing seasons, California is always engulfed by the hustle and bustle of working the ground; planting and harvesting year round.  This leaves virtually no time for mistakes.  Precision guidance is relied upon to get in and out of the fields in as little time as possible.  Farmers know that time is money: the less time spent in the field the more money there is to be made.  The move to an all-inclusive use of precision agriculture applications is on the horizon.  It doesn’t matter if you are driving through the Salinas, Santa Maria, Coachella or Central San Joaquin Valley, California is always farming.  As the new Pacific Coast Field Support Technician, I am honored to be part of the growth of precision farming in California.