Merced farmers gather for irrigation talk

While most growers in Merced County were trying to wrap up harvest before a forecast of rain on Friday, a small group of growers gathered at the Branding Iron Restaurant in Merced to hear about the best way to use water.

A seminar put on by PureSense, an agronomic service based in Oakland, showed ways that growers could use their irrigation water to the best advantage.

"A greater mass of roots means higher yields," said David Clay, a regional sales manager for PureSense.

The company markets a water sensor that can be used on row crops, vines and trees, Clay said. The sensor goes five feet underground, data are sent to a cell tower and then can be accessed by the grower online.

Making sure water gets deep enough for the roots is the difference between a shallow-rooted crop and a deep-rooted crop. "Deep roots are what you want -- they go where the water is," Clay said.

Along with increasing yields, prudent use of irrigation water also decreases growers' operating costs, along with keeping pests and disease to a minimum.

"Different soil types need different water, and salt can also affect how water is taken up by the soil," said Clay.

Tony Vaccarezza, regional sales manager for PureSense, told the growers that being able to access their water information at any time will help them be better farmers.

"From low blueberries, to the highest trees, water is the most important part of growing," Vaccarezza said.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or