UC advisor helps growers increase yields

Tim Hearden/Capital Press University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor Janine Hasey discusses pruning methods for walnut trees during a field day in Arbuckle, Calif. earlier this year.

Capital Press

YUBA CITY, Calif. — Name a facet of California agriculture, and chances are that Janine Hasey has some expertise in dealing with it.

The University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor has worked with walnuts, almonds, kiwi, cling peaches, plant systems and soil and watershed management.

She’s dealt with insects, mites, pathogens and nematodes that affect plants, developed integrated pest management systems and helped growers practice conservation techniques and efficient uses of water.

But in her 30 years as a farm advisor here, one of her most significant contributions has been to help conduct a series of field trials on walnut pruning that is revolutionizing the way growers manage their orchards for higher yields.

“It’s a real paradigm shift,” said Hasey, 60, who works with farmers in Sutter, Yuba and Colusa counties.

Working with UC-Davis pomology specialist Bruce Lampinen and other researchers, Hasey has been conducting a multi-year test of pruning techniques on hedgerows of Chandlers and other walnut varieties commonly grown in the Sacramento Valley.

The researchers have consistently found that many trees that have been trimmed sparingly or not at all have produced a bigger yield of nuts than trees that were pruned more aggressively.

Hasey has said she was skeptical of minimal pruning when the project began five years ago, but the results have forced her and others to re-evaluate decades of practice. She’s shared the project’s results at numerous workshops with growers.

“We’ve had several growers adopt it,” Hasey said. “We always caution growers that whenever we have something new, to do it on smaller acreages first to see how it works. But there are several growers who are adopting it now because it’s working so well. We do have fairly long-term data.”

The new pruning method is a big deal for California’s burgeoning walnut industry in that it could save growers time and effort as crops get bigger, and higher yields would help meet the booming global demand for walnuts. This season, shorter-than-expected crops in California and China have pushed prices to record levels.

The pruning trial is one of several significant research projects that Hasey has been involved in over the years. In the 1990s, she helped lead an international research team that discovered that organic kiwi fruit was higher in antioxidants than fruit grown conventionally, prompting many growers to switch to organic.

“Kiwi fruit is a crop that lends itself well” to organic methods, Hasey said. “There aren’t that many pests. It worked well.”

She’s done research with walnut rootstocks and tested pheromone mating disruption as a means of controlling pests, and she’s working now on how to combat newer diseases such as thousand cankers disease, which has killed numerous walnut trees in the past decade.

A native of Bakersfield, Hasey was exposed to agriculture throughout her childhood and became interested in plant sciences. She studied viticulture and environmental horticulture at UC-Davis and earned her master’s degree in plant pathology at Colorado State University.

Hasey said what she enjoys most about being a farm advisor is interacting with growers and being able to travel internationally to work with other researchers. She said growers have been generous in letting the university use their farms for tests.

“It’s extremely important to the individual farm advisors in the counties to have that cooperation so we can move forward in learning,” she said.

While many of her fellow long-time farm advisors have retired in recent years, Hasey said she has no plans to stop working just yet. She wants to mentor new advisors, just as she was mentored years ago by former Yuba-Sutter advisor David Chaney.

“It’s important to have experienced farm advisors,” Hasey said. “I could retire if I wanted to, but I’ve chosen not to at this point. I want to keep working. I enjoy my job.”

Janine K. Hasey

Occupation: Farm advisor

Age: 60

Residence: Yuba City, Calif.

Family: Husband Ray Hasey; daughters Lauren Hasey Maher and Briana Hasey

Website: http://cesutter.ucanr.edu

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