Biofumigation at Kenneth Volk Vineyards
Visitors to the Santa Maria tasting room will see the dense cover crop planting where our estate vineyard previously resided. Ken wanted to perform the most environmentally friendly yet effective means to rid the property of grapevine Leafroll virus, plant parasitic nematodes and noxious weeds.
No rootstock is immune to Leafroll virus and any living infected grapevine can transfer the virus to other grapevines by root grafts. To eliminate the virus from future vineyard replanting at the estate, the old vines were bulldozed and the plant material piled up and burned onsite in January 2015. The former vineyard land was disc cultivated multiple times last spring and summer and rogue volunteer vines were pulled up.
One of the few benefits of the extreme drought last year was that low precipitation discouraged vine regrowth. Keeping the property cultivated also benefited nematode suppression by reducing alternative food sources.
Many Cellar Door Club members are familiar with Betteravia Road that leads to the winery from Highway 101 in Santa Maria. “Betteravia” translates in Spanish as “sweet root.” Apparently during World War I, the Santa Maria Valley became a significant growing area for sugar beet production since the tropical sugarcane supply line was cut off. Sugar beets are a preferred host crop of Root-knot nematodes. The intensive cultivation of sugar beets in the Santa Maria Valley led to the pest becoming established in areas of the Santa Maria Valley.
Nematodes are very difficult to control on perennial crops once populations have been established. Traditional grape growers would deal with nematodes by removing all infected plant material, keeping the land fallow for several years and treated with Methyl bromide soil fumigant prior to replanting on nematode-tolerant rootstock.
Methyl bromide has been outlawed because it was linked to ozone depletion and to be compliant to the Montreal Protocol, the United States banned the use of the material.
There are other soil fumigation materials that are available which can reduce nematode populations. Most of these materials are not particularly environmentally friendly either.
Our crop of Kodiak mustard at Kenneth Volk Vineyards|
Ken was aware that the “Brassica” family of plants can produce compounds that are toxic and capable of killing insect pests and nematodes. The Brassica family of plants is a large group of plants ranging from cole crops and mustard to hot Asian radishes, to name a few. The Brassica plant family naturally produces Glucosinolate compounds. Glucosinolate compounds provide the spicy character to culinary mustard and radishes. Mustards have some the highest concentration of Glucosinolate compounds that are toxic to nematodes, soil borne pathogenic fungus and noxious weed seeds.
Research has been conducted at the University of Idaho since the late 1980s to develop the best practices for biofumigation using mustard. Dr. Jack Brown, the professor of Plant Genetics and Breeding at Idaho State developed several non-GMO mustard strains. After years of research, Jack bred several non-GMO mustard strains that have high concentrations of Glucosinolates. This work culminated in the release of three patented mustard strains: Kodiak, Pacific Gold and IdaGold.
These mustards, when grown as a cover crop and chopped and tilled into soil, have high efficacy in reducing nematode populations. The decomposition of the mustard produces volatile gas that travels through the upper soil horizon pores, fumigating the soil.
In addition to reducing nematode, noxious weed and soil pathogen populations, these mustards have many other positive contributions to soil health.
In addition to reducing nematode, noxious weed and soil pathogen populations, these mustards have many other positive contributions to soil health. Mustard crops help prevent soil erosion as well as the recycling of soil nitrogen. The roots of mustard absorb soil nitrogen from deep in the soil horizon and bring it up into the upper soil horizon where it is more available. Mustard cover crops produce high volumes of biomass that when incorporated back into the soil, improve soil fertility and drainage. Mustard is extremely efficient at sequestering carbon from the atmosphere into the plant tissue of the mustard plant.
Mustard is not a replacement for all agrochemicals but it provides a safe alternative when properly utilized.
El Niño, where are you?
Many have wondered where the big rains predicted from the current El Niño conditions are. Much of the news and media made sensational claims as if the El Niño conditions of the winter of 2015/2016 would be of epic proportions and would bring much needed rainfall to California. This media hype is reminiscent of the comedian Chris Farley’s Saturday Night Live skit.
Although funny, the late Chris Farley skit did not accurately represent what is actually El Niño. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvmeUStFvz8
El Niño is not a tropical storm, but rather a condition when warm ocean temperatures can lead to higher than normal rainfall and snow pack totals in California.
Since 1950, the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has used Sea Surface Temperature (SST) of the equatorial Pacific Ocean as the means by which to classify the intensity of El Niño. El Niño is a warmer than normal SST cycle and a La Niña is a cooler than normal SST cycle.
A weak El Niño is classified as an SST variation between 0.15 and 0.9° Celsius. A moderate El Niño is a variation of 1.0 to 21.4° Celsius and a strong El Niño ranges from a 1.5 to 201.9° Celsius. A very strong El Niño will have SST variation of greater than 2° Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Based on data from November 2015, the current El Niño is the strongest ever recorded, with an SST averaging over 3.4° Celsius.
The last strongest El Niños were in the rain seasons of 1982/1983 and in 1997/1998. The rainfall at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant weather station recorded 47 inches in 1982/1983 and 44 inches in 1997/1998. The weather station at Diablo Canyon has historically averaged 23 inches of precipitation.
Water flowing under the Sisquoc River Bridge|
Historically, 85% of the rainfall in California occurs from November 15th through February of the following year. Fortunately, the rainfall of 2015/2016 has been better than recent years. The rain year or “Hydrological year” is considered precipitation that falls from July 1st to the following year’s June 30th. During the past 50 years, the rain year totals have averaged 14.06 inches at the Santa Maria Airport and 12.53 inches at the Paso Robles Municipal Airport. The combined rainfall total of 2013, 2014 and 2015 barely equals the running historical average for a single year at both airports.
Through the first week in February 2016, the rainfall was comparable to the average rainfall to the date on a historical basis. The highly unusual two inches of rain in July 2015 contributed to the precipitation being on par with the past historical averages.
Strong El Niño conditions do not necessarily guarantee above average rainfall but the probability of greater amounts of precipitation on the Central Coast is certainly likely.
We were very fortunate to have had the polar jet stream shift south over San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties in January. This allowed for low-pressure storms from the Gulf of Alaska to pull tropical moisture from the western Pacific onshore to California. These conditions allowed for significant rainfall in California.
As quickly as these conducive conditions for rainfall formed, things changed in early February with a strong and persistent high pressure system establishing itself over the Four Corners. This high pressure system is exactly the kind of condition that prevented significant rainfall in 2012 through 2015 rain seasons. Strong Santa Ana offshore winds will likely be keeping weak rainstorms from coming onshore in the Central Coast. It is still early, and weather models for February and March predict above normal rainfall in most of California.
The “March Miracle” of 1991 saw more than 15 inches of rain in Paso Robles, which helped end another multi-year drought. Just like the psychedelic gospel jam of the Grateful Dead song “I Need a Miracle.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiLMjKXTKqU
California needs a rain miracle to end the current drought.
Santa Barbara History Factoids
Santa Barbara County is a unique area both geographically and culturally with a vast history that quite often is unknown, even to the local residents.
Oldest Human Remains
The oldest human remains to be dated in North America and South America were discovered on Santa Rosa Island off the coast of Santa Barbara.
Philip Orr, who has been Curator of Anthropology and Paleontology at the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum for over three decades, discovered human bones on a canyon sidewall above Arlington Springs on Santa Rosa Island in 1959. Philip extracted the remains in a large piece of earth and encased the materials in plaster to prevent deterioration of the bones.
Philip named his discovery the “Arlington Springs Man.” Four decades after the discovery, in 1999, a portion of a femur bone was removed from the plaster encasement and tested by a group of scientists with radioactive carbon dating techniques. After successive testing by different laboratories the bone consistently tested to be at least to be 13,000 years of age.
This discovery supports the theory that the first humans came to the New World after crossing the land bridge from Siberia to the New World. Later, these first humans continued down the West Coast of North America by boat.
When Arlington Man came to Santa Rosa Island it was a very different world. The climate was considerably colder and the sea level was over 200 feet lower than today. The plants and fauna of the island were different than today.
The Columbian mammoth, which crossed the Siberian land bridge or swam from Siberia to North America some 20,000-50,000 years ago adapted to the limited resources of the island and evolved from its original height of 10-16 feet to a pigmy mammoth that was 4-8 feet tall.
World War II Shelling
The only place in the United States to be shelled by enemy forces since the War of 1812 was in Santa Barbara in 1942.
On February 23, 1942, Captain Kozo Nishino of the Imperial Japanese Navy piloted a 1-17 class submarine which surfaced off the coast of Winchester Canyon and instructed his crew to shell the Richfield Oil Field, east of where the Bacara Resort is today. Of the six cannon shells fired, none did any significant damage.
Perhaps more of a fear tactic, the bombing occurred at the midway point of a Fireside Chat of President Franklin Roosevelt. The West Coast saw blackouts from Seattle to San Diego.
Captain Nishino may have held a personal grudge against the residents of Santa Barbara for in the 1930s while piloting a freighter, he had anchored in the Santa Barbara Harbor. On shore visiting the city of Santa Barbara, Captain Nishino tripped and fell backwards into a stand of cactus. He felt humiliated for he could not comprehend why all the locals laughed at him in a situation where he was suffering in great pain.
Who’s next? 2016 Starts off as a Rough Time for Musicians
2015 saw the passing of many great musicians, punctuated by the death of the talented Natalie Cole on New Year’s Eve 2015. Born to a musical family, Natalie was the daughter of singer, pianist and entertainer Nat King Cole and Maria Hawkins, who also was an orchestra singer.
Natalie won a number of Grammy awards in her 40-year career. In recent times we have been bombarded by a rendition of her hit “This Will Be” on eHarmony commercials.
Natalie was comfortable performing in a broad range of musical styles from R&B and jazz to beautiful ballads. Reluctant to cover much of her father’s songs early in her career, one of her most successful songs was a rendition of “Unforgettable” where her vocal track was re-mastered with her deceased father’s vocals. Like Her father, Natalie is truly unforgettable.
Unforgettable - Natalie Cole - YouTube
David Bowie, songwriter, musician, artist, husband and father went into orbit from this earth January 10, 2016. Truly a unique musician and person, David died from cancer two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his last album “Blackstar.”
Ken says, “Growing up I enjoyed much of David’s music. I had a poster of David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust phase and a poster of Jimmy Hendrix burning his guitar at the Monterey International Pop Music Festival on opposite walls of my bedroom. My very conservative father was frightened of Jimmy Hendrix but he was literally terrified of David Bowie’s rather androgynous persona and lyrics. A true rebel, rest in peace, David.”
Rebel Rebel - David Bowie - YouTube
On January 18th, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Glen Frey passed away. An influential musician, Glen’s sound is what was referred to as the “LA Modern Country” sound. Glen is best known for his work with the iconic band The Eagles. Glen also had a successful solo musical and acting career.
Take it Easy 1977 - Eagles - YouTube
“My high school years were an incredible time for music of all genres. Our garage band was “Mammoth” that later would become known as the highly successful band, Van Halen. Often after having our ears blown out at parties by the incredible guitar licks of Eddie Van Halen, my friends and I would retreat to a home with no parental supervision where we would queue up some Eagles and make out with our girlfriends. Good times.” - Ken Volk
Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson
In a cosmic coincidence Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson, founding members of the San Francisco based folk, psychedelic, rock band Jefferson Airplane both passed away on January 31, 2016.
Signe Anderson was the first female vocalist of Jefferson Airplane and retired from the band in 1969 to concentrate on her new family. Paul Kantner was a major influence on what became known as the “San Francisco Sound” and played in Jefferson Airplane through the life of the band. Paul also led the reincarnation of the Jefferson Airplane as “Jefferson Starship.”
Below is a commentary and interviews from the Jefferson Airplane members, a silent film clip with the original record recording dubbed in. Marty Balin on lead male vocals, Signe Anderson on female vocals, Paul Kantner playing rhythm guitar and backing vocals and the rest of the original Jefferson Airplane performing at the legendary Fillmore West Auditorium in San Francisco.
It's No Secret - Jefferson Airplane - YouTube
The founder of Earth Wind & Fire, Maurice White passed away on February 4, 2016. A multi-talented musician, Maurice was an accomplished drummer, singer/song writer and arranger, bandleader, manager, musician and recording studio producer. Comfortable performing in pyramid of musical genres like jazz and R&B, he may be best known for his soul and funk performances with Earth Wind & Fire. In addition to his work with EWF, he collaborated and contributed to the music of Ramsey Lewis, The Emotions and Denice Williams.
With dozens of number one Billboard hits, Earth Wind & Fire has sold over 100 million records putting them in the top echelon of successful recording artists. In addition, EWF inspired the success of many soul, funk, R&B, jazz and electronic musicians.
Do not fret, for the love will never truly be gone.
After the Love Has Gone - Earth, Wind & Fire - YouTube
A fifty-year resident to Mill Valley, California, musician, songwriter, bandleader and artist Dan Hicks died from cancer February 8, 2016 at the age of 74. Dan was best known for being the front man of his namesake band Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks.
Impossible to categorize, Dan did not know musical boundaries combining acoustic renderings of folk, swing, country, honkytonk, rock and jazz influences into his performances that were punctuated by his dry sense of humor.
His musical prowess led to his mug appearing twice on the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine. Dan did things his way and despite great critical success he ended the Hot Licks at their height in 1974. When asked why, he commented that “Touring and band leadership were starting to feel too much like work.”
Dan continued to play with locals in Marin County and teach music. In addition, Dan worked on movie scores and provided his talents to numerous other musical recordings.
In 1991 the Hot Licks had a reunion and were featured on Austin City Limits television show. Dan also was a leading force of the Acoustic Warriors band in the 1990s.
In recent years, Dan Hicks and a revised lineup of the Hot Licks and extensively toured, even playing in San Luis Obispo this past summer. Dan and His Hot Licks produced 17 records over a 50 year period spanning 1964-2016.
One of Dan’s recordings is “How Can I Miss You When Won’t Go Away”, which combines his gift of sarcastic humor and country swing.
How Can I Miss You If You Don't Go Away? - Dan Hicks - YouTube
For many, Dan Hicks will be greatly missed since he has gone away.
Considering it is only February, 2016 is starting off as grim year for musicians from the greatest era of Rock and Roll. It’s a sad reminder of Jim Morrison’s lyrics from the Door’s song “Five to One.” Nobody Gets out of here alive.
Five to One - The Doors - YouTube
Unfortunately, we all have expiration dates, we just don’t know when. Love your family and friends and live each day as if it were your last.