AM Live Ag Report

FRESNO, Calif.

Wet weather has put this year's walnut crop in good shape.

The above average rainfall was good for the trees. It not only replenished groundwater supplies, but helped the trees build more vigorous root systems. The rain also lowered pollen levels, which can affect nut growth.

Observations suggest we could have an average-sized walnut crop in the Southern San Joaquin Valley. The 2010 California walnut crop could total 350-400 million tons.

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Farmers are finding new opportunities by growing ethnic crops.

Agriculture experts at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and other research institutions are teaching farmers to grow non-native vegetables that appeal to a growing market of African, Asian and Latin American immigrants.

Experts say immigrants and their children already account for more than one-third of produce sales in supermarkets.

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As the weather warms up in the Valley, dairy operators are making sure their herds are safe.

Not only does intense heat decrease milk production, it can also threaten the cows' health.

The cows on Dino Giacomazzi's Hanford dairy hustle to the barn because they know what awaits them - a cool drenching.

As part of the evaporative cooling system, sprinklers automatically kick on when the temperature reaches 78-degrees. The fans start blowing once it warms up to 70-degrees. The full body soaking makes it look as if the cows are standing around in a car wash.

Dino Giacomazzi explained, "We wet the cows and then the water stops and then the air blows on the cows and as the fans evaporate the water it pulls the heat away from the cow."

Giacomazzi lost several cows in 2006 because of a heat wave.He says an upgraded cooling system will keep that from happening again. He added, "A cow will start to exhibit signs of heat stress at around 78 degrees, which means she's just breathing a little heavier to order to keep herself cooled, kind of like how a dog pants."

Misters invite the cows to come over to have a cool meal. Keeping cows comfortable is key. Otherwise, they won't eat so they won't produce as much milk.

Giacomazzi said, "One way we know that the cows are being affected by this is watching them chewing their cud because when a cow is chewing her cud she's happy."

With so many fans in place, the barn no doubt is the coolest place on the dairy.

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