John Warmerdam, Manager at Kings Orchards, Hanford, CA was interviewed by
Thomas Skernivitz for a story about the water conservation challenge that growers have been dealing in California. John who manages stone fruits, almonds and walnuts shared his experience with Phytech and how it helps him make the most out of every drop
Photo curtsey of Mountain View Fruit
Rising to the challenge
"Water is always a precious resource. Even when we have a "wet" year, and have plenty of surface water available, we need to use it wisely, says John, "Recent 'dry' years, and the threat of water limitations due to SGMA (Sustainable Ground Water Management), have made the need to use our irrigation water efficiently our number one priority. This isn't a problem that is going away, so we have sought out and tried a number of different tools to help with water management. While SGMA will be a legislated restriction on water use, anyone who has ever had a well go dry knows that just digging deeper can't go on forever.
Q: How did you hear about Phytech?
John: I had heard about Phytech, read a bit about them online, and knew that similar technology ha
d been worked on by the UC folks. It made sense that the tree would be able to show signs of water stress, and the sensors they use (dendrometers) measure the miniscule changes in the trunk's diameter, which is a function of how much water the tree has taken in and how much it has lost. I finally decided to give it a try on some of our orchards two years ago.
Q: How Phytech changed you practices?
John: Previously we used sensors to monitor the water content of the soil. While that was helpful, it didn't always translate to what we were seeing in the trees. With Phytech we were able to see the water stress of the tree itself, rather than just the amount of water in the root zone. That brought us closer to the actual job we have, which is giving the trees what they want, when they need it. That not only saves us water, but the expense to put it out there and save it for when we really need it, which is invaluable.
Q: What other benefits are you getting from using Phytech?
John: Having an app-based platform that works in real time makes seeing what is going on a breeze. Our representative has been quick to answer any questions along the way, especially the first year when we began navigating the product. It has also been helpful to have a year-end review and see blocks or timings where we haven't been irrigating as well as we might like. It's all there to see, the seasonal temperature changes, the fruit sizing, and the stress events. Putting them all together gives us a great insight into not only what we are doing with our irrigation but also what trees are actually doing with those inputs.
Q: What would you say to a fellow grower who is trying to overcome the same problem?
Phytech is a tool that can help you take care of your crops better, but in the end a tool is only good if you know how to use it. If a farmer is in tune with their operation, and willing to learn more about how their trees use water, I'd say using Phytech is an easy decision.