FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Farmers, environmental experts, and scientists came together for Thursday’s ‘Future of Ag’ summit at Fresno State.
They talked about everything from sustainable farming practices to new technology, and of course water. It came at an especially difficult time for farmers, with flooded fields and wet conditions, that have halted production and ruined crops.
The excess water and moisture have been something on the minds of almost everyone in the Central Valley. The impacts from it have been felt across the board, especially in the ag world.
Some of the impacts have been positive, and many have been disastrous. It has been most visible in Tulare and Kings counties. Water can be seen drowning crops and farmland.
“There is not a lot that can be done once a row crop has been submerged like that. And those farmers are gonna take a big hit,” said Jennifer Pett-Ridge, a senior staff scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
“In the area where they are, a lot of crops are underwater and it’ll take 12 to 24 months for the water to dry, for the land to dry, which means they’ve lost their crops,” added Aaron Hegde, chair of economics at CSU Bakersfield.
The areas underwater, like in the Tulare Lake bed region by Corcoran, are the most extreme examples of crops and land ruined by recent floods.
The more fortunate growers have still fallen behind as they’ve been left with soggy fields and less-than-ideal conditions.
“We’re basically trying to get in the field whenever we can. So, when we get a lot of rain, we’re knocked out for two or three days when it tries to dry out. So, you try to work for those days where it’s dry, and you know watch the forecast, and try to see what’s coming up,” said Daniel Hartwig, director of sustainability at Woolf Farming.
Hartwig said, he has talked to colleagues in the Tulare Lake bed, and others with standing water in fields, who have expressed uncertainty.
“Folks are kind of scrambling because you know, it’s really really challenging to, you know, you’ve made plans for your crops. And now with all the rainfall we’ve gotten you can’t always get that harvest in and you can’t get them planted as you’re planning,” said Hartwig.
And with so much water, the question growers and experts continue to ask is, “How can we save it for future uncertainty?”
Some have asked for additional reservoirs, but many in the scientific community say recharged groundwater is the real key.
“If you look at the valley in California, the way things evolved here there were regular floods. The floods also killed people. So, we invested a lot in flood control, and that saved a lot of lives, but it also prevented a lot of this flood water from going into the aquifer. So, if we can find ways to restore that kind of balance that’s gonna go a long way to help us make water use sustainable in the valley,” said Charles Hillyer, interim associate vice president of the California Water Institute at Fresno State.
There’s a consensus that the storms have absolutely helped with the water supply, now it’s just to continue discussions on how to plan and adapt to future ones, so the state and region can save as much as possible.