Overview of Delta Agriculture
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is an area of highly productive farmland in California. It contains over half million acres of rich fertile soils that are made up of a mixture of organic materials (decomposed plants) and mineral materials that make a perfect soil for growing a wide range of vegetables, grains, fruit crops and some permanent crops.
The Delta climate is also uniquely beneficial to agriculture having a costal influence that allows warm daytime temperatures for rapid growth and cooling night temperatures that produce high quality crops, such as wine grapes from the Lodi appellation. To go along with the Delta’s wonderful local wines, food lovers can find heavenly asparagus, pears, potatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes, and blueberries grown in the Delta. The 1100 miles of waterways that extend through the Delta furnish critically important irrigation water supplying a wide range of crops from alfalfa to zucchini.
Delta agriculture is a dynamic system always changing and improving through new technologies that are providing solutions that sustain delta soils, enhance wildlife and improve air and water quality. Driving delta roads, one can see crops being planted and harvested at all times of the year and only possible having organic soils and a moderate climate.
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta agriculture generates over a $500 million dollars in director economic benefits to the region, and when using a multiplier of four to measure secondary benefits to the local economy, the agricultural economic output is $2 billion annually.
The Delta may well be considered the perfect storm of agriculture compared to other places in the state, the nation, and the world. Its combination of rich organic soils, a balanced climate, and flows of fresh water for irrigation make it hard to compare any other location that has the all the that are contained in the Delta.
What will be the effects on Delta agriculture if water is diverted away from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta via a peripheral canal?
- A reduction in fresh water flows would allow salt water to migrate from the San Francisco Bay into the Delta raising salinity (salt concentrations) levels. Even slight changes in water salinity over time accumulates in soil by transpiration and slowly begins affecting plant growth until a level is reached in which they cease to grow and burn up.
- Many Delta crops we now grow are at the threshold of salinity tolerance for normal production due to excessive water exports. (Vegetable crops, beans and the newest emerging crop, blueberries.) Increased salinity levels would severely impact these crops and impact dozens more beyond economic survival.
- Adequate flows of fresh water act as a hydrological barrier preventing salt-water from entering Delta waterways. Once soils become saline, it is very difficult if not economically impossible to restore to a productive state. Salts can only be removed by flushing the soil with clean water.
- Low flows and poor water quality from the San Joaquin River moving north is contaminating the South Delta lands. This area is reaching a critical stage. Further diversions via a peripheral canal would damage South Delta agriculture beyond repair.
- The Delta now list over 300 birds and mammals as home. Agriculture provides that habitat and food source for many animals, and farmers are stewards of that habitat. Farming also helps to prevent new invasive pest and weeds species from taking hold
- Salt water entering the Delta can penetrate into groundwater aquifers that supply drinking water to local communities adjacent to the Delta. Once these aquifers are contaminated, restoring groundwater quality may not be possible.
Delta Agriculture is just not about raising crops. It’s about families and communities, sustaining economies, protecting wildlife and enjoying open space. Delta communities are dependent on agriculture’s viability for employment, retail business, transportation, manufacturing and food. The five counties, 8 cities, 14 towns that make up the Delta will shoulder the burden of unemployment, loss of revenues and be left with an aftermath of problems for years to come if Delta agriculture is left to perish.
To Learn More About Some Delta Growers Visit the Following Sites
- Click here to learn about Victoria Island Farms, growers of Delta asparagus and blueberries
- Click here to learn about Clarksburg Wineries
- Click here to learn about Sacramento-San Joaquin Pears
- New York Times Article: The Gold Rush: As Other Pears Sleep, Bartletts Head to Market
- Click here about buying local produce around the Delta
- Click here to learn about Select San Joaquin