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Stories from the valley

Adopting Ag Tech for my Summer Vegetables

Contributed by Tim Johnson

It’s the time of year when the counter in the kitchen is swimming with tomatoes, peppers and zucchini from the garden. The bounty finds itself into every meal and goes home with everyone who stops by the house! 

While most home gardeners don’t think of it, I can point to Ag tech for the productivity and all of the water savings in my vegetable plot. Here’s how we use technology developed for large fields right here in our own home garden: 

Drip – drip systems were developed in production Ag more than 60 years ago! This year I stepped it up and used drip tape for the whole garden. I put it below the row mulch this year to save even more water how tomato growers bury the drip tape in their fields. drip tape Is now used on 40 percent of the farms in the state. 

Row mulch – taking a page from strawberry growers who use plastic row mulch, I planted into a woven weed cloth this year to prevent weeds between the plants. This also keeps my irrigation water from evaporating during the hot summer days. 

Fertilizer injectors – one of the benefits of a drip system is that you can feed your plants while you water. I picked up a great system from an on-line garden supply site and use it to lightly fertilize every two-three weeks, avoiding over fertilization and loss of nutrients. Most farmers on drip – almond, tomato, vegetables – adopted the practice years ago for exactly the same reason – to put just the right amount of nutrients right where they are needed. 

Robust varieties – whether we know it or not almost all of the vegetable varieties we plant in our garden are a result of decades of plant breeding in Ag. Tomatoes that resist plant viruses, potatoes that don’t succumb to blight and watermelons with no seeds are all products of hybridization and cross pollination. Syngenta, with a plant breeding facility right in West Sacramento, is at the forefront of developing new, better producing cucumbers and melons for farmers and gardeners. They are just one of many companies that constantly work to improve the vegetables and fruits that are the staple of both farms and gardens. 

Biologicals – this year, I tried a new product from Bayer a biological fungicide derived from a natural soil microbe that combats diseases before they erupt! Developed for farmers, this product is applied when the plants start growing and colonizes the roots, protecting the whole plant from hard to control fungal diseases. I got mine from a garden center and applied it through my drip system. So far no additional control needed!

So, I can thank production Ag for the great performance in my garden. From drip technology to new ways to control pests, there is an abundance of technology that farmers have pioneered that make my garden flourish.