Agriculture in California

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California produces almonds worth $5.3 billion every year. That is 100% of commercial almonds in the United States, and 100% of all of North America, and 80% of commercial almonds around the world.

Agriculture is a significant sector in California's economy, producing nearly $50 billion in revenue in 2018. There are more than 400 commodity crops grown across California, including a significant portion of all fruits, vegetables, and nuts for the United States. [1] In 2017, there were 77,100 unique farms and ranches in the state, operating across 25.3 million acres (102,000 square kilometres) of land. The average farm size was 328 acres (133 ha), significantly less than the average farm size in the U.S. of 444 acres (180 ha). [1]

Because of its scale, and the naturally arid climate, the agricultural sector uses about 40% of California's water consumption. [2] The agricultural sector is also connected to other negative environmental and the health impacts, including being one of the principle sources of water pollution.


Rice paddies just north of Sacramento, California

The table below shows the top 21 commodities, by dollar value, produced in California in 2017. [1] Between 2016 and 2017, there were increases by more than 2% in total value for the following crops: almonds, dairy, grapes and cattle. The largest increase was seen in almond sales, which increased by 10.9% from 2016 to 2017, due to both increases in crop volume produced and the average market price for a pound of almonds. Dairy sales increased 8.2% from 2016 to 2017 due to an increase in the average price for milk, despite a slight decrease in total milk production. Grape sales increased by 3.1% from 2016 to 2017 due to an increase in price per ton of grape (from $832/ ton in 2016 to $847/ton in 2017). Cattle sales also increased by 2.7% from 2016 to 2017. [3] [4]

Crop Annual value (billions of USD)
Dairy (milk and cream) $6.56
Grapes $5.79
Almonds $5.60
Cannabis (legal sales) $3.1
Strawberries $3.1
Cattle and Calves $2.63
Lettuce $2.51
Walnuts $1.59
Tomatoes $1.05
Pistachios $1.01
Broilers (poultry) $0.94
Oranges $0.93
Broccoli $0.85
Hay $0.76
Rice $0.68
Carrots $0.62
Lemons $0.61
Tangerines $0.54
Cotton $0.48
Raspberries $0.45
Garlic $0.39

Specific crops


California produces most of the world's almonds and 100% of the United States commercial supply. [5] Although almonds are not native to California, a hot, dry Mediterranean climate and developed water infrastructure create favorable conditions for commercial cultivation of the crop. [6] In 2020, there were 1.25 million acres (5,100 km2) devoted to almond farming in California, producing 2.8 billion pounds (1.3 Mt). [7]

Almonds are the state's most valuable export crop. [5] Farmers exported $4.9 billion worth to foreign countries in 2019, about 22% of the state's total agricultural exports, with the European Union, China and India as leading destinations. [5]

California almond farms import the majority of US commercial bee colonies to the state of California during the almond pollination season. Almond production in California is the source of several major environmental problems, including high demand for water and abundant waste of almond shells. As of 2021, due to a historic long-term drought in California, production was forecast to decline, and many almond orchards were being abandoned. [8]

Shipping disruptions, reductions in consumer spending, and trade disputes during 2020-21 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic affected logistics and pricing of almonds. [7]


California farms produce 90% of all U.S.-grown avocados, with the great majority being of the Hass variety. [9] In 2021 [10] the state harvest was 135,500 short tons (122,900 t) on 46,700 acres (18,900 ha) for a yield of 2.9 short tons per acre (6.5 t/ha), and at $2,430 per short ton ($2,679/t) that brought $327,369,000. Drought and heat can significantly reduce the harvest in some years. [11] The Polyphagous Shothole Borer and the associated disease it carries have been a great concern here since their discovery on home avocado trees in LA County in 2012. [12] Immediately eradication and quaratine efforts were instituted, and are continuing. [12] (See § Polyphagous shot hole borer below.)


Barley stripe rust was first found near Tehachapi in May 1915 on Hordeum murinum by Johnson and reported by Humphrey et al., 1924. [13]: 9  Hungerford 1923 and Hungerford & Owens 1923 found the pathogen on cultivated barley in the central part of the state and also on H. murinum here. [13]: 9  See also § Stripe rust.


Cannabis is estimated to be the largest cash crop in California with a value of more than $11 billion. [14] The state provided most of the cannabis consumed in the United States prior to legalization which was intended to provide a transition to legal, licensed growing. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires a detailed analysis of the environmental impact of growers operations. Statewide, 208 growers had obtained regular, annual licenses by July 2019. At this point of some 18 months into legalization, 1,532 growers were still operating on provisional permits as they went through the CEQA process that requires extensive paperwork. [15] Smaller farms were given five years to become established under legalization before larger growers were allowed to enter the market. [16] Under the regulations set to expire in 2023, growers can have only one medium licence but there is no limit on the number of small licenses an individual grower can have. This loophole has allowed larger growers to operate. [17]

Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties have long been known as Northern California's Emerald Triangle, as this region produces more cannabis than anywhere else in the State. Registering and applying for permits has not been an easy decision for many long time growers in these three counties, so both the legal and black market cannabis industry continue in this region.[ citation needed]

Due to the historically illicit status of cannabis in California, cultivation of the crop often occurs on remote private lands. The Emerald Triangle became a favorable place to cultivate cannabis because it is remote, rural, densely forested, and undeveloped. Furthermore, private parcels in this region are difficult and dangerous to locate by law enforcement, making cultivation of the illicit crop even more practical.[ citation needed]

The extensive cultivation of illicit cannabis in the Emerald Triangle has led to negative environmental implications. Because many cannabis grows are located on remote, private lands, they often don't receive water from county municipal services. Therefore, grows tend to concentrate in small, upper watersheds in order to secure irrigation water. Research has found that unregulated groundwater wells and direct stream diversions used for cannabis irrigation in this region have the potential to significantly decrease streamflow or completely dewater streams. Decreased streamflow is positively associated with warmer water temperatures, and warmer water holds less dissolved oxygen. This can have detrimental effects on locally endangered salmonid and amphibian species that rely on cool, clean, water for various stages in their life cycles.[ citation needed]

While the Emerald Triangle produces the majority of cannabis in the state, the top cannabis-producing counties in California include Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Monterey, Nevada, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Trinity, and Yolo counties. Together, these counties comprised 98% of cannabis cultivation permits issued by the California Water Board in 2018 and 2019. In Santa Barbara County, cannabis growing has taken over greenhouses that formerly grew flowers. In the first four months of legalization, the county had almost 800 permits issued for legal cultivators, the most of any county in the state.[ citation needed]

Calaveras County registered more than seven hundred cultivators after county voters approved a tax in 2016. Calaveras County registered more than seven hundred cultivators after county voters approved a tax in 2016. [18]


The California Cherry Board [19] is a state marketing order representing growers and intermediaries here. [20] The USDA FAS's Market Access Program funds international advertising especially in Canada, South Korea, Japan, China, and Australia. [20] The state produces the earliest crop in the year [20] starting in mid-April. [21] Lasting until early or mid-June every year, this is the second heaviest harvest after Washington. [21]

Planting density is usually about 100 trees per acre (250/ha) and the first real crop will be about six years later. [21] Honey bees are essential to pollination for this crop. [21] Cultivars grown here [22] are harvested by hand with the stem ( pedicel). [21]

The center of the state produces almost all the entire crop [23] and San Joaquin County, near Lodi is the highest producing county. [21] Many of these are Bing. [21] As of 2022 newer Bing strains with better heat tolerance have recently been planted here as well as counties further south. [21]

Birds are common pests in cherry orchards. [24] [25] See § Birds in fruits and § Methyl anthranilate for a repellent.

Cherry cultivars

Besides Bing, Brooks, Chelan, Coral, Rainier, and Tulare are also common. [22]


For treatments see § Treatments in citrus.

The Mediterranean climate affords a lower rate of post-harvest disease[ disambiguation needed] than in some of the world's growing regions, similar to the Mediterranean itself, Australia, and most of South Africa. [26]: 6  Postharvest problems that do occur tend to be mostly blue and green Penicillium spp. [26]: 6  The Asian citrus psyllid was discovered in Southern California in 2008 and eradication and quaratine are now underway. [27] [28] (See § Asian citrus psyllid below.) DDT was formerly extensively used in this crop. [29] (See § DDT.)


From 1997–2000, [30] the state's acreage varied between 10,500–11,000 acres (4,200–4,500 ha) bringing in $57,969,000–$67,744,000. By 2021 [10] however the harvest was down to 1,038,500 short hundredweight (47,110 t) from 6,700 acres (2,700 ha) for a yield of 155 short hundredweight per acre (17.4 t/ha), and at $23.2 per short hundredweight ($510/t) that brought only $24,043,000.


Dairy is a significant part of the agricultural output of the state of California. California ranks first out of the fifty states in dairy production. The state has about 1,300 dairy farms and 1.727 million dairy cows. [31] The state produces nearly 20 percent of all U.S. milk. [32]


Over 90% of US production is grown here, and most of that in the Coachella Valley. [33] The distant second is Arizona. [33] The 2020 harvest was 49,300 short tons (44,700 t) from 12,500 acres (5,100 ha), for a yield of 3.94 short tons per acre (8.8 t/ha). [33] The year's crop sold for $114 million, an average of $2,320 per short ton ($2,557/t). [33] The harvest extends from the beginning of October to the middle of December. [34]

The detection of the red palm weevil ( Rhynchophorus ferrugineus) in 2010 was very concerning to this valuable industry. [35] A tremendous effort was made to trap and eradicate, and the last sighting was on January 18, 2012. Three years later on January 20, 2015 USDA's APHIS declared the eradication successful. [35] Its relative the South American palm weevil ( R. palmarum) has killed increasing numbers of Canary Island date palms ( Phoenix canariensis) and is expected to become a significant pest of dates in the future. [35]


Calimyrna is a common cultivar here. [36] [37]

Navel orangeworm (Amyelois transitella) is significant in commodity figs. [36] [37] (See § Navel orangeworm below).

Fish and shellfish

Relative to traditional farming, aquaculture is a small part of California's agricultural economy, generating only $175 million in 2014. [38] Oysters, abalone, mussels, channel catfish, rainbow trout, and salmon are farmed commercially. [39]


See § Barley and § Wheat.

Stripe rust is a continuous presence in the state. [13] It is believed to have arrived at or before the 1770s because newspapers reported it starting then, and because there is a greater presence today of stripe than leaf or stem. [13]: 3  See § Stripe rust.


The 2020 table grape harvest was worth $2.12 billion [40] while wine grapes brought in $1.7 billion, down 15.3% year-on-year. By weight this was 17% lower versus 2018. [41] The next year, 2021 [10] saw a much better yield. From 829,000 acres (335,000 ha) viniculturists got 6.94 short tons per acre (15.6 t/ha) for a total harvest of 5,755,000 short tons (5,221,000 t). [10] At an average of $909 per short ton ($1,002/t) they were paid $5,229,902,000 for the season. [10] Of that, 4,844,600 short tons (4,394,900 t) were for destined for processing industries (including wine, see § Wine below) and at $835 per short ton ($920/t) that was worth $4,046,382,000. [10] The fresh ( table grape) harvest was 910,400 short tons (825,900 t) and selling at a price of $1,300 per short ton ($1,433/t), this sector was worth $1,183,520,000 for the season. [10]

The table grape and wine grape sectors are represented by the Table Grape Commission [42] and the California Association of Winegrape Growers. [43]

Xylella fastidiosa was first discovered here in 1892 when Newton B. Pierce found Pierce's Disease in Los Angeles, see § Xylella fastidiosa and § Pierce's Disease. [44]

The seriousness of powdery mildew (Uncinula necator) has been recognized since at least 1859 in the northern grape district. [41] The same Pierce was working in the area a few decades before his discovery of PD, and over the 1860s he watched U. necator spread to the south. [41] Frederic Bioletti called it the only serious fungal disease the industry suffered from, and so it has remained ever since. [41] [45]


Aphids are a major problem for lettuce on the Central Coast. [46] See § Nasonovia ribisnigri for an important aphid, and § Toxomerus marginatus and § Platycheirus stegnus for biocontrol.


Olives throughout the state suffer from the introduced Olive Fruit Fly here. [47] Neofusicoccum mediterraneum, Diplodia mutila, and D. seriata cause significant disease here. [48] More specific controls than currently available are needed for N. mediterraneum in highly susceptible cultivars, namely Sevillano and Gordal, and early harvest may be needed for D. seriata. [48] See § Olive Fruit Fly, § Neofusicoccum mediterraneum, § Diplodia mutila, and § Diplodia seriata.


Soil solarization is an alternative to soil treatment with methyl bromide. [49] Stapleton et al., 2005 eliminate almost 100% of annual weeds in this crop with solarization alone. [49] It completely fails against yellow nutsedge however. [49] (See § Soil solarization.)


California is the country's largest grower of peaches, about 70%. [50] The O'Henry was created here and has remained popular ever since. [51] [52] [53] [54] Peaches suffer from anthracnose here, see § Colletotrichum acutatum. [55]


Ferrisia gilli is an ecnomically significant pest of pistachio here. [56] F. gilli was formerly known as a California population of F. virgata, only being studied sufficiently to recognize that it is distinguishable from F. virgata due to its severe impact on pistachio and almond in this state. [56] Jackrabbits, cottontails, and brush rabbits mostly damage pistachio trees when other food sources run out in winter or early spring. [57] UC IPM recommends fencing, tree guards, baiting, shooting, repellents, and trapping. [57]

Alternaria and Botryosphaeria dothidea are significant fungal diseases of pistachios here which often receive strobilurin, iprodione, azoxystrobin, and tebuconazole treatments. [58] See § Alternaria and § Botryosphaeria dothidea.


96% of the country's prunes and >70% of plums are grown here. [59] Of that, >80% has come from the Sacramento Valley since the 1960s. [59]


Black heart (or "heart rot") is one of the most common diseases, as it is around the world. [26]: 192  Out of the group of causative Alternaria spp., here Luo et al., 2017 find it is caused by Alternaria alternata and A. arborescens. [26]: 192  [60] Michailides et al., 2008 finds the 'Wonderful' cultivar can suffer at a rate of 10% or more here. [26]: 192  [61]: S105 


By 2006, California produced the second-largest rice crop in the United States, [62] after Arkansas, with production concentrated in six counties north of Sacramento. [63]

California's production is dominated by short- and medium-grain japonica varieties, including cultivars developed for the local climate such as Calrose, which makes up as much as 85% of the state's crop. [64]


By far the largest stonefruit crop here is almonds. See § Almonds, § Peaches, and § Plums.

Monilinia fructicola and M. laxa are significant diseases of stonefruits here, and so benzimidazole is commonly used. [58] (See § Monilinia fructicola, § Monilinia laxa, and § Benzimidazole.)


For treatments see § Treatments in strawberry. For other uses, see Strawberry, California and Strawberry Valley, California.

Strawberries in the United States are almost entirely grown in California – 90% – with Florida a distant second. [65] [66]

The use of soil fumigation was highly praised and widely recommended by the California Strawberry Advisory Board in 1967. [67] Strawberry production here has been highly productive ever since but also highly dependent on fumigants. [68] So vital was the most common fumigant – methyl bromide – that the ongoing phase out of MB has sent growers and researchers scrambling for alternatives. [67] One alternative specifically for nematodes is 1,3-Dichloropropene, however some of the finely textured soils in some of the state's soil regions reduce its efficacy, and as of 2010 there are restrictions in some townships on maximum rates. [67] Soil solarization is another option. [49] Stapleton et al., 2005 eliminate almost 100% of annual weeds in this crop with solarization alone. [49] It completely fails against yellow nutsedge however. [49] (See § Soil solarization.)

Birds have mixed effects on strawberries here. [69] They eat both strawberries on farms but also the insect pests that trouble them. [69] Hedgerows attract birds, whether that is desirable or undesirable. [69] In the Central Valley, farm hedgerows, treelines, and woodlands will have 2x–3x the number of species and 3x–6x the population size of birds than an unvegetated edge of a field. [69]

Whatever the specific effect of birds upon strawberry fields, large hedgerows in this state do improve both the yield and quality of strawberries grown nearby versus those grown next to smaller hedges or grassy banks. [69]

The California Strawberry Commission (the Board's new name) is the Agriculture Department body which advocates for strawberry growers. The CSC provides information for both growers [70] and consumers. [65] Some towns have annual strawberry festivals, see Strawberry festival § United States. The Driscoll's company began with strawberries here and still grows and sells here, and they have since expanded to other states, countries, and types of berries.

Yellow sweetclover ( Melilotus officinalis L. Lam.), chickweed ( Stellaria spp.), annual bluegrass ( Poa annua Linnaeus), shepherd's purse ( Capsella bursa-pastoris Linnaeus Medikus), crabgrass (various Digitaria spp.), spotted spurge ( Euphorbia maculata Linnaeus Small), and yellow nutsedge are common annual weeds in strawberry. [49]

Various strains of Botrytis cinerea are a constant disease of this crop. [71] Botrytis leaf spot was first discovered here. [72] Conventional strawberry requires many fungicide sprays per season. [71] See § Botrytis cinerea and § Fungicides for strawberry for resistance and other information.

Cal Poly runs the Strawberry Center [73] for both research, and producer education.

Strawberry crown rot is a major disease here as it is in any productive growing region. [74] Genetic markers for CR resistance would make a significant difference in yield. [74] Shaw et al., 2008 is a starting point for such screening, using the markers they found. [74] See § Strawberry crown rot and § Phytophthora cactorum.

Natamycin is used for anthracnose, see § Strawberry anthracnose and § Natamycin. [55]

For Santa Barbara County specifically, Cooperative Extension SB provides detailed recommendations and practices. [75] For their cultivar recommendations see § Strawberry cultivars.

Strawberry breeding

The Davis campus is a major hub of strawberry breeding in the state, and indeed in the world. [76] The Knapp group [77] is a large part of strawberry biology study at the university, including the breeding program – of which Knapp himself is the director. [77] UCD's varieties may be licensed from ITC. [78]

CalPoly Strawberry Center [73] does not operate a breeding program of its own. Instead the SC screens the varieties that come out of all of the state's breeding programs for disease resistance. [79]

Driscoll's has its own private breeding program. [80]

Strawberry cultivars

For Santa Barbara County specifically, Cooperative Extension SB recommends overlapping with two cultivar groups: Short-day and day-neutral. [75] For short day they suggest Benicia, Camarosa, Camino Real, Chandler, Mojave, and/or Ventana. [75] For day-neutral, Albion, Monterrey, San Andrés, and/or Seascape. [75]


California walnuts account for nearly all the walnuts grown in the United States. In 2017, walnut production was the seventh most valuable agricultural commodity in California, valued at $1.59 billion in cash receipts. [81]


Wheat stripe rust is believed to have been present at or before the 1770s due to newspaper reports to that effect from the time, and due to the greater prevalence of stripe than leaf or stem. [13]: 3  Hungerford (1923) and Hungerford & Owens (1923) found stripe on wheat here and almost all other western states. [13]: 9  See § Stripe rust.


Vineyards in the Napa Valley AVA

California wine production has a rich viticulture history since 1680 when Spanish Jesuit missionaries planted Vitis vinifera vines native to the Mediterranean region in their established missions to produce wine for religious services. In the 1770s, Spanish missionaries continued the practice under the direction of the Father Junípero Serra who planted California's first vineyard at Mission San Juan Capistrano. [82] [83]

Its contemporary wine production grew steadily since the end of Prohibition, but mostly known for its sweet port-style and jug wine products. As the market favored French brands, California’s table wine business grew modestly, [84] but quickly gained international prominence at the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, when renown French oenophiles, in a blind tasting, ranked the California wines higher than the primer French labels in the Chardonnay (white) and Cabernet Sauvignon (red) categories. [85] The result caused a ‘shock’ in viticulture industry since France was regarded as foremost producer of the world's finest table wines. This revolutionary event attributed to expanding the recognition and prestige of vintners in the New World, specifically, the Golden State. [86]

The state produces about ninety percent of the American wine supply and is the fourth largest wine producer among the world's independent nations. [87] [88] California has more than 4,200 wineries ranging from home-grown and small boutiques to large corporations with international distribution, and even more vineyards and growers, at close to 6,000. [87] [89]



The domestic fowl industry suffers from avian malaria. [90] Chickens (Gallus gallus/G. domesticus) and ducks (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus) are commonly infected, as well as various wild birds. [90] Testing has been done since the Herman group made the first reports of P. relictum infection, in Herman 1951, Herman et al., 1954, and Reeves et al., 1954. [90] (See § Avian malaria and § Plasmodium relictum for the parasite and vectors.)


Honeybees in and around Riverside developed DDT resistance in the 1950s. [29] Extensive use of DDT in citrus may have been responsible. [29] (See also § DDT, § Treatments in citrus, and § Citrus.)


Central Valley

The Central Valley of California is one of the world's most productive agricultural regions. [91] More than 230 crops are grown there. [91] On less than one percent of the total farmland in the United States, the Central Valley produces eight percent of the nation's agricultural output by value: US$43.5 billion in 2013. [92] The top four counties in agricultural sales (2007 data) in the U.S. are in California's Central Valley: Fresno ($3.731 billion), Tulare ($3.335 billion), Kern ($3.204 billion), and Merced ($2.330 billion). [93] [94]

Its agricultural productivity relies on irrigation both from surface water diversions and from groundwater pumping (wells). About one-sixth of the irrigated land in the U.S. is in the Central Valley. [95] Central Valley groundwater pollution is an ongoing environmental issue in the area.

There are 6,000 almond growers who produced more than 1.8 million tonnes in 2013, about 60 percent of the world's supply. [96] [97]

Salinas Valley

The Salinas Valley, located within Monterey County, is one of the most productive agricultural regions in California. Monterey County grows over 50% of the national production for leaf lettuce, head lettuce, and celery. It also produces significant percentages of the country's broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, and strawberries. [98] The area is also a significant producer of organic produce, with 68,868 acres in cultivation and annual sales of $412,347,000.

Organic farming

Organic cultivation of mixed vegetables in Capay, California

California has more certified organic farms than any other state. In 2016, more than a million acres in the state were certified organic. [99] CA grows 90% or more of the U.S. production of Organic almonds, artichokes, avocados, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, dates, figs, grapes, strawberries, lemons, lettuce, plums, and walnuts. [100]

There are two primary laws that regulate organic production: at a federal level, the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and at a state level, the California Organic Food and Farming Act of 2016. Both laws lay out standards for production, processing, handling and retailing that must be followed in order to label a product as "organic". The USDA, California Organic Products Advisory Committee, and the California County Agricultural Commissioners monitor and ensure these standards are followed by administering enforcement actions for any violations. [101]

Any agricultural operation selling more than $5,000 in products per year is required to acquire organic certification, if they seek to sell their products under the organic label. Multiple organizations are accredited to certify operations organic. [102]

Environmental and natural resources

Water use

The largest overall water users in California are the environment, agriculture and urban/ municipal uses. [2] In an average year, about 40% of California's water consumption, or approximately 34.1 million acre-foot (4.21×1010 cubic metres), is used for agricultural purposes. However, the exact proportion of total water usage for agriculture can vary widely between 'wet' and 'dry' years, where in wet years, agriculture is responsible for closer to 30% of total water consumption and in dry years, agriculture is responsible for closer to 60% of total water consumption. [2] Water for agriculture is used to irrigate more than 9 million acres (36,000 square kilometres) of cropland annually. [103]

Water for agriculture comes from two primary sources: surface water and groundwater. Surface waters include natural lakes, rivers, and streams, as well as large network of human-built reservoirs and a complex distribution system of aqueducts and canals that carry water from the location of the source to the agricultural users. [103] Groundwater aquifers range in depth and accessibility across the state, and historically have been used to supplement surface water supplies in dry years. [104]

California is one of the top five states in water use for livestock. Water withdrawals for livestock use in California were 101–250 million US gallons (380,000,000–950,000,000 l)/day in 2010. [105]

Water quality

Agricultural impacts on water quality concentrate around concerns of the following contaminants: nutrients, pesticides, salts, pollutants, sediment, pathogens, and heavy metals. [106] These contaminants enter water bodies through above-ground surface runoff of rainwater or excess irrigation water, or percolating through the soil and leaching into groundwater.  Water quality concerns affect most regions of the state and tend to be exacerbated during periods of drought. [107]

At present, all irrigated agricultural operations in the State are required to participate in the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program. [108] The regulatory program began after the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 390 (SB390) in 1990, that eliminated a blanket waiver for agricultural operations to discharge wastewater without any specific environmental standards. [109]

Water supply

A major source for Southern California's water supply, both agricultural and urban, is the Colorado River from which an aqueduct has been built to transport the water from the river to Riverside. [110] Another aspect of the agricultural water supply in California is the transfer of water that takes place from northern to southern California. In northern California, the Shasta Dam contains the flow of the Sacramento River, preserving water for California's use, and pumping stations in the California Delta extract water transferring that water across the San Joaquin Valley and southward. [111] A key component to the distribution of the water supply are the irrigation districts and water agencies who are responsible for delegating water as to meet the demand of those within the area as well as clarify and legal arbitration as to water rights. [112]

The agency tasked with overseeing the state's water supply and any projects associated with the upkeep of the supply is the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR). [113] As part of the 2019-2020 California Spending Plan, the CDWR received $2.336 billion with $833 million going towards projects overseen by the California Natural Resources Agency and $1.503 billion going towards the control board supervised by the California Environmental Protection Agency. [114] One of the CDWR's major projects is the State Water Project (SWP) which distributes 34% of the water that flows through its various channels. [115] The SWP also is one of the largest suppliers of hydroelectric power in the state. [115]

The invasive quagga- and zebra-​mussels reached the state in about 2006 and threaten the already limited supply of farm water. [116] The mussels have continued to spread and present an ever-expanding threat to pipelines. [117]



Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Indigenous peoples of California, with diverse societies mainly reliant on hunter-gatherer methods, practiced seed collection and  forest gardening. Some California hunter-gatherer tribes, including the Owens Valley Paiute, developed irrigation. [118]

In the late 1700s, Franciscan missionaries established Spanish missions in California. Like earlier Spanish missions established in Baja California, these missions were surrounded by agricultural land, growing crops from Europe and the Americas, and raising animals originating from Europe. Indigenous workers from Baja California made up a large part of the initial labor force on California missions. [119] In the early 1800s, this flow of laborers from Baja California had largely stopped, and the missions relied on converts from local tribes. By 1806, over 20,000 Mission Indians were "attached" to the California missions. As missions were expected to become largely self-sufficient, farming was a critically important Mission industry. George Vancouver visited Mission San Buenaventura in 1793 and noted the wide variety of crops grown: apples, pears, plums, figs, oranges, grapes, peaches, pomegranates, plantain, banana, coconut, sugar cane, indigo, various herbs, and prickly pear. [120] Livestock was raised for meat, wool, leather, and tallow, and for cultivating the land. In 1832, at the height of their prosperity, the missions collectively owned over 150,000 cattle and over 120,000 sheep. They also raised horses, goats, and pigs. [121]

While the Spanish were the most successful farmers active in California in the early 1800s, they were not the only ones. In 1812, the Russians established Fort Ross in what is now Sonoma County, California, and intended the fort in part as an agricultural supply point for other Russian activity on the west coast. Despite Russian plans for the colony, agriculture at Fort Ross had low yields, significantly lower than the California missions. Inefficient farming methods, labour shortages, coastal fog, and rodents all contributed to limit agriculture at the fort. [122]

The Spanish (1784–1810) and Mexican (1819–1846) governments made a large number of land grants to private individuals from 1785 to 1846. These ranchos included land taken from the missions following government-imposed secularization in 1833, after which the missions' productivity declined significantly. The ranchos were focused on cattle, and hides and tallow were their main products. There was no market for large quantities of beef (before refrigeration and railroads) until the California Gold Rush.


In 1848, before the Gold Rush, the population of CA was approximately 15,000, not counting Native Americans. By 1852, there were over 250,000 people in the state. [123] and by 1870, 560,000 people. [124] This rapid population growth drove an increase in importation of agricultural products, and, within a few years, a massive growth in in-state agriculture. In the first years of the gold rush, the state relied on agricultural imports arriving by ship, from Australia, Chile, and Hawaii. During these years, there was rapid growth in vegetable farming for local markets. This was followed by an expansion of grain farming. [123] A shift in the economic dominance of grain farming over cattle raising was marked by the passage of the California "No-Fence Law" of 1874. This repealed the Trespass Act of 1850, which had required farmers to protect their planted fields from free-ranging cattle. The repeal of the Trespass Act required that ranchers fence stock in, rather than farmers fencing cattle out. The ranchers were faced with either the high expense of fencing large grazing tracts or selling their cattle at ruinous prices. [125] [126] By the 1890s, California was 2nd in US wheat production, producing over one million tons of wheat per year, [123] but monocrop wheat farming had depleted the soil in some areas resulting in reduced crops. [127]

Irrigation was almost nonexistent in California in 1850, but by 1899, 12 percent of the state's improved farmland was irrigated. [127]

Luther Burbank moved to Santa Rosa, California in 1875, and developed numerous commercially successful varieties of plants over the next 50 years.


The 1902 Newlands Reclamation Act funded irrigation projects on arid lands in 20 states including California.

In 1905, the California legislature passed the University Farm Bill, which called for the establishment of a farm school for the University of California (at the time, Berkeley was the sole campus of the university). [128] The commission took a year to select a site for the campus, a tiny town then known as Davisville. [128] UC Davis opened its doors as the "University Farm" to 40 degree students (all male) from UC Berkeley in January 1909.

In 1919, the California Department of Food and Agriculture was established. The department covers state food safety, state protection from invasive species, and promoting the state's agricultural industry.

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s drove many people from the American prairie, and a significant number of these economic migrants relocated to California. Poor migrants from Oklahoma and nearby states were sometimes referred to as Okies, generally a pejorative term. In 1933, the state saw a number of agricultural labor strikes, with the largest actions against cotton growers. Cherry, grape, peach, pear, sugar beet, and tomato workers were also involved.

In 1942, the United States began the Bracero program. Lasting until 1964, this agreement established decent living conditions and a minimum wage for Mexican workers in the United States.


In 1965, the Williamson Act became law, providing property tax relief to owners of California farmland and open-space land in exchange for agreement that the land will not be developed.

The 1960s and 1970s saw major farm worker strikes including the 1965 Delano grape strike and the 1970 Salad Bowl strike. In 1975, the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 was enacted, [129] establishing the right to collective bargaining for farmworkers in California, a first in U.S. history. [130] Individuals with prominent roles in farm worker organizing in this period include Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Larry Itliong, and Philip Vera Cruz.


In the 2000s and 2010s, Califorians voted for propositions which established new protections for farm animals. 2008 California Proposition 2 and 2018 California Proposition 12 both established minimum requirements for farming egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and calves raised for veal. Few veal and pig factory farm operations exist in California, so these propositions mostly affect farmers who raise California's 15 million egg-laying hens. [131]

Agricultural crime

California nut crimes have involved the theft of millions of dollars of nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews and pecans) in multiple incidents since 2013. [132] [133]

Water theft for agriculture has been an issue in times of drought, with the State assessing fines up to $1.5 Million. [134] [135]


Despite its expansive geography some pests are so severe, so polyphagous, and/or so wide-ranging as to be economically significant to the entire state.

The Navel orangeworm (Amyelois transitella) first entered from Arizona in 1942 and quickly began attacking walnut, date palm, and fig. [136] (See § Walnuts, § Dates, and § Figs. Despite its common name, being only a minor pest of citrus.) [136] In the decades since it has become a notorious pest of almond, pistachio, [136] [36] and pomegranate and remains problematic for walnut [36] and fig [36] [37] as well. [36] (See § Almonds, § Pistachios, and § Pomegranates.) First flight of NOW begins around April 17 and ends around May 29, and third flight is about August 8 to September 12. [36] [37] Second flight is not as much of a concern. [36] [37]

The light brown apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana, often abbreviated to LBAM) is a leafroller moth belonging to the lepidopteran family Tortricidae. [137] Despite its common name it is a pest of a wide range of crops, not just apples. [137] The moth was confirmed to be present in California in 2007, and spraying programs in 2007-2008 lead to the Light brown apple moth controversy. [137] [138]: 233  Tavener et al., 2011 finds novaluron works well but only when carried by horticultural mineral oil. [139]: 56  [140]

Asian citrus psyllids (Diaphorina citri) are a major invasive threat to citrus. [27] [28] (See § Treatments in citrus and § Citrus.)

Sellers et al., 2018 finds rodents and lagomorphs ( jackrabbits, hares, other rabbits) don't seem to be a pest of walnut orchards here (see § Walnuts). [69] On the other hand jackrabbits, cottontails, and brush rabbits certainly are a problem for pistachios (see § Pistachios). [57]

Olives throughout the state suffer from the introduced Olive Fruit Fly here. [47] First detected outside its traditional Old World co-occurrence with the host tree in Los Angeles County in November 1998, it has since spread throughout California and into Baja and Sonora. [47]

Aphids are common crop pests here. Nasonovia ribisnigri is one of the most common, especially for lettuce. [46] See also § Lettuce, and § Toxomerus marginatus and § Platycheirus stegnus for the two most common biocontrols.

Birds are often pests in fruit cultivation here, especially in cherries. [24] [25] In cherry orchards the most common are crows ( Corvus brachyrhynchos), crowned sparrows: ( Zonotrichia spp.), European starlings ( Sturnus vulgaris), house finches ( Carpodacus mexicanus), house sparrows ( Passer domesticus), scrub-jays ( Aphelocoma californica), and Yellow-billed magpies (Pica nuttalli), but also in apple, blueberry, and grape, and the American Robin is a problem for some of these. [25] See also § Methyl anthranilate for a repellent.

The Glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca coagulata) is a vector of Pierce's Disease and other Xylella fastidiosa diseases here. [141] In 1997 the Blue-Green Sharpshooter (BGSS, Graphocephala atropunctata, the primary PD vector) arrived here and the two have combined badly ever since. [142] Besides vectoring PD they are also themselves a sucking pest and Hewitt et al., 1949 found they will often additionally go through reproduction on the vines. [143] See § Pierce's Disease and § Xf in stonefruit.


Yellow sweetclover ( Melilotus officinalis L. Lam.), chickweed ( Stellaria spp.), annual bluegrass ( Poa annua Linnaeus), shepherd's purse ( Capsella bursa-pastoris Linnaeus Medikus), crabgrass (various Digitaria spp.), spotted spurge ( Euphorbia maculata Linnaeus Small), and yellow nutsedge are common weeds here, including in strawberry and parsley. [49] (See § Strawberries, § Treatments in strawberry, and § Parsley.)

Marestail ( Conyza canadensis) is a common native weed here. [144] Glyphosate-resistant marestail first appeared in the state in the Central Valley in 2005 and this resistance spread unusually rapidly through the southern Valley thereafter. [144] Okada et al., 2013 finds that the resistance alleles involved may have been passed along so quickly because C. canadensis can reproduce by selfing. [144]

In the Central Valley the most common weeds are cool-season grass weeds (Poaceae), thistles (Asteraceae), mustards (Brassicaceae), fiddleneck (Boraginaceae), warm-season grass weeds, warm-season Cyperaceae, amaranths (Amaranthaceae), morning glory (Convolvulaceae), and caltrop ( Tribulus terrestris, Zygophyllaceae). [145] Achmon et al., 2018 dramatically lowered seed bank viability, biomass, and density of all these weeds, and improved tomato yield using biosolarization using tomato and grape crop waste. [145]

Cape-ivy ( Delairea odorata) is an invasive weed originally from the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa and Swaziland. [146] It was first observed here in 1892 and has since spread to every coast of the state, and into one coastal county of Oregon. [146] See also § Control of Cape-ivy.


Xylella fastidiosa

X. fastidiosa was first discovered here by Newton B. Pierce (1856–1916) in 1892. [44] It has ever since remained a constant pathogen of many crops here. [147]

Pierce's Disease

See also § Grapes.

An unidentified problem known only as the California Vine Disease had devastated 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres) of vineyard around Los Angeles and he was sent by the USDA to investigate. [44] For his contributions to its study it was renamed Pierce's Disease in 1939 by the state Department of Agriculture, but it was assumed to be viral until the 1970s. [44] [148] The first isolation and identification of the bacterium is variously credited either to two groups simultaneously in 1973, Goheen et al., 1973 and Hopkins & Mollenhauer 1973, [44] or only to Davis, Purcell, and Thomson 1978. [148] In 1997 the Blue-Green Sharpshooter (the primary PD vector) arrived here and the two have combined badly ever since. [142] (See § Blue-Green Sharpshooter.) Only two years later, in 1999 together they inflicted over US$6 million in Southern California alone, [142] and costing over annually costing the state $104m due to PD by 2014. [142]

The Glassy-winged sharpshooter is an invasive agricultural pest which arrived in Southern California in the 1990s and has since invaded the central part of the state as well. [141] (See § Glassy-winged sharpshooter.) It is an unusually effective vector of PD. [141] As such it is a severe drag on the entire continent's wine grape and table grape pricing and supply. [141] In the Napa- and Sonoma- Valleys and other such costal AVAs PD mostly occurs in hotspots adjascent to small water flows. [143] These areas are defined by small streams and ornamental irrigation. [143] These are favorable habitat for the BGSS. [143] Lin et al., 2005 provides SSRs for differentiating between the state's various from grape-, almond-, citrus-, and oleander-infecting strains and Lin et al., 2013 for grape-infecting strains here and in Texas. [44]

Xf in stonefruit

Xf is also significant in stonefruit here, causing Almond leaf scorch disease and other diseases. [147] [44] (See also § Almonds.) Xf isolates CFBP8071 and M23 are common on almond here. [147] Moralejo et al., 2019 shed some light on the European invasion of this pathogen. [147] Their analysis shows these isolates have a 99.4% nucleotide identity with those on grape in the introduced range – and more generally, these isolates, a European cherry infection, and PD isolates from both areas have a high degree of relatedness. [147] Chen et al., 2005 provides PCR primers, Lin et al., 2015 Simple Sequence Repeats (SSRs), and Chen et al., 2010 the first genome sequence for common almond-infecting strains here. [44] Lin et al., 2005 provides SSRs for differentiating strains from grape, almond, citrus, and oleander [44] While almond and plum develop leaf scorch (see also § Plums), Ledbetter & Rogers 2009 find that peach does not. [44]

Besides Pierce's Disease, the glassy-winged sharpshooter also vectors Xf among stonefruit and so its arrival threatens the world's almond supply (see § Glassy-winged sharpshooter and § Stonefruit). [141]

Other Xf infections

Xf has many other hosts. Chitalpa tashkentensis is a common landscaping plant here and elsewhere in the southwest that is also a host. [44] Randall et al., 2009 propose the subspecies tashke for these strains but it remains unclear whether this is a distinct subspecies and whether it endures in the overall evolutionary course of Xf strains. [44] Hernandez-Martinez et al., 2007 find the subspecies sandyi causes disease of oleander, Jacaranda spp., daylily, and magnolia. [44] Grebus et al., 1996 discovered the Oleander bacterial leaf scorch syndrome. [44]

Raju 1983 finds Xf without symptoms on wild Carneocephala fulgida, Draeculacephala minerva, the Blue-Green Sharpshooter (BGSS, Graphocephala atropunctata, a vector), Helochara delta, Pagaronia tredecimpunctata, and Philaenus spumarius. [44] Purcell & Saunders 1999 find infections in plants common to riparian zones here often are not motile in the host and spontaneously improve. [44]

Strawberry diseases

See also § Strawberries and § Treatments in strawberry.

Various strains of gray mold ( Botrytis cinerea) are a constant presence in the state's horticulture, including in strawberry. [71] (See § Strawberries and § Treatments in strawberry.) Cosseboom et al., 2019 find that continuous sprays many times per season in this crop has produced extensive resistance including to (in descending order) pyraclostrobin, thiophanate-methyl, fenhexamid, cyprodinil, boscalid, pethiopyrad, iprodione, fluopyram, fludioxonil, and isofetamid. [71] Cosseboom also surprisingly found that this is such a problem that within-season evolution is significant, especially in the north and especially in fenhexamid, pyraclostrobin, and thiophanate-methyl. [71] In fact, if there was any resistance at all it was most commonly triple resistance to these three. [71] Alleles responsible include the erg27 alleles F196C, F412I, and F412S; bos1 alleles I356N, I365N, and I365S; the β-tubulin allele E198A; the cytb allele G143A; the mrr1 allele R351C and the mrr1 deletion event ΔL497 (also known as MDR1h and found only in Botrytis group S); and sdhB alleles H272R, H272Y, N230I, and P225F (the only one conferring resistance to isofetamid, also confers resistance to penthiopyrad, fluopyram, and boscalid). [71] Ma & Michailides 2005 developed a microsatellite primed PCR (MP-PCR) for genetic diversity in this fungus, especially for populations in this state. [149]

Leaf spot was first discovered in 2018 in Santa Maria and reported by Mansouripour & Holmes 2020. [72] No leaf spot phenotype had been known previously. [72]

Phytophthora cactorum causes Strawberry crown rot, a common disease here. [74]

Strawberry anthracnose is commonly due to Colletotrichum acutatum for which natamycin is used. [55] See § Colletotrichum acutatum and § Natamycin.

Other diseases

Anthracnose occurs on peach, almond, and strawberry here. [55] (See § Strawberry anthracnose.) Colletotrichum acutatum is a common cause. [55] Adaskaveg & Hartin 1997 identify the C. acutatum strains most frequently responsible in peach and almond. [55] (See § Almonds and § Peaches.)

Monilinia fructicola and M. laxa are significant diseases of stonefruits here and benzimidazole is often used. [58] The Ma & Michaelides group has done extensive work on fungicide resistance in these microorganisms. [58] (See § Stonefruit and § Benzimidazole.)

Alternaria and Botryosphaeria dothidea are significant fungal diseases here which often receive strobilurin, iprodione, azoxystrobin, and tebuconazole treatments. [58] The Ma & Michaelides group has done extensive work on fungicide resistance, including in these pathogens. [58] They have characterized resistance alleles (and in some cases produced molecular diagnostics methologies) for strobilurin-resistant-, iprodione-resistant-, and azoxystrobin-resistant- Alternaria, and tebuconazole-resistant- B. dothidea. [58]

Olives here suffer from a wide range of fungal diseases of the Botryosphaeriaceae family, as elsewhere in the world. [48] Úrbez-Torres et al., 2013 finds Neofusicoccum mediterraneum and Diplodia mutila are the most virulent of them on Manzanillo and Sevillano. [48] Moral et al., 2010 finds N. mediterraneum commonly causes a branch blight on several cultivars and D. seriata causes a branch canker. [48] More specific controls than currently available are needed for N. mediterraneum in highly susceptible cultivars, and early harvest may be the only successful treatment for D. seriata. [48] See § Olives.

In early 2012 a previously unknown plant disease (a Fusarium) and vector (a Euwallacea, preliminarily termed the polyphagous shot hole borer, PSHB) were detected in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. [12] This is especially a disease affecting avocado growers, but also other crops in this state and in its other invasive range, in Israel. [12] In fact although PSHB was noticed on a black locust here in 2003, the associated Fusarium was only detected in 2012 on home avocado trees in LA County. [12] (See § Avocados above.) As all Euwallacea in both their native and invasive ranges, this insect prefers to infest hosts in this area in locations which are stressful due to their unnaturalness, such as urban ornamental plantings and orchards. [12]

Avian malaria is present in the state. [90] Plasmodium relictum and its vectors Culex quinquefasciatus, Culex stigmatosoma, and Culex tarsalis are commonly involved. [90] The Herman group made the first reports of infection and vector competence in various hosts, in Herman 1951, Herman et al., 1954, and Reeves et al., 1954-II. [90] See § Fowl for agricultural hosts.

Stripe rust is believed to have been a continuous presence in the state since at least the 1770s because newspapers reported it at the time on wheat and wild grasses, and because stripe is more common today than leaf or stem. [13]: 3  Barley, wheat, and various grasses are hosts here. [13]: 9  (See § Barley and § Wheat.)

Stromatinia cepivora (garlic white rot) was identified in the San Francisco area in the 1930s and Gilroy in the 1940s. [150] It continues to be a problem for garlic growers in the state. [151]

Phytophthora ramorum was first discovered in the 1990s on the Central Coast [152] and was quickly found in Oregon as well. [153] P. ramorum is of economic concern due to its infestation of Rubus and Vaccinium spp. [153] All isolates here and throughout North America have been of the A2 mating type and genetic analysis suggests that although it was discovered here, the pathogen originated elsewhere. [153] Although P. r. has also been found in England and Poland, [152] Europe was not the source of the introduction here and analysis shows that it too was introduced from an unknown third region. [153]


Lindane was heavily used as a seed treatment here, applying almost 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) in 2000 but voluntarily reducing that to only 775 pounds (352 kg) by 2004, before the federal EPA banned it for agricultural use 2006. [154]

Treatments in strawberry

For more information see § Strawberries.

Methyl bromide was formerly an indispensable part of cultivation here but increasing legal restrictions have made alternatives financially more attractive, otherwise more attractive, or even just necessary. [49] Soil solarization is one such other option. [49] Stapleton et al., 2005 kill almost 100% of yellow sweetclover ( Melilotus officinalis L. Lam.), chickweed ( Stellaria spp.), annual bluegrass ( Poa annua Linnaeus), shepherd's purse ( Capsella bursa-pastoris Linnaeus Medikus), crabgrass (various Digitaria spp.), and spotted spurge ( Euphorbia maculata Linnaeus Small) with this method in strawberry and parsley. [49] Solarization completely fails against yellow nutsedge (infesting the same crops) however. [49] (See also § Parsley.)

UC IPM provides recommendations for integrated pest management, including specifically for strawberry. [155]

Fungicides are often necessary in fruit production and this crop is one of the most needy. Botrytis cinerea requires many sprays per season of one or more of pyraclostrobin, thiophanate-methyl, fenhexamid, cyprodinil, boscalid, pethiopyrad, iprodione, fluopyram, fludioxonil, and isofetamid. [71] (See also § Botrytis cinerea.)

For Crown Rot, genetic resistance would be most helpful. [74] Shaw et al., 2008 provides some markers to screen germplasm for such resistance. [74] (See also § Strawberry crown rot.)

Natamycin is used as a prophylactic dip treatment to prevent Colletotrichum acutatum anthracnose. [55] (See also § Colletotrichum acutatum.)

Treatments in citrus

For more information see § Citrus.

The Diaphorina citri-associated C virus (DcACV) is a virus of the Asian citrus psyllid. [156] It was first identified by Nouri et al., 2016 in isolates from this state. [156] It is hoped that this can be weaponized as a bioinsecticide of ACP, a virus to be intentionally spread outside of the state to help control this insect. [156] (See also § Asian citrus psyllid above.)

DDT was formerly extensively used in citrus here. [29] Honeybees developed DDT resistance in the 1950s, possibly for that reason. [29] (See also § Honeybees.)

Treatments of other crops

Benzimidazole is commonly used against Monilinia fructicola and M. laxa. [58] The Ma & Michaelides group has done extensive work on benzimidazole-resistant- biotypes of both species. [58] (See § Monilinia fructicola and § Monilinia laxa.)

Toxomerus marginatus and Platycheirus stegnus are the two most common parasitoids of N. ribisnigri aphids on the Central Coast. [46] These serve as natural biocontrols for organic lettuce growers here. [46] See also § Lettuce and § Nasonovia ribisnigri.

Methyl anthranilate is registered as a bird repellent for edible fruits such as cherry, apple, blueberry, and grape. [25] (See also § Birds in fruits.)

Control of Cape-ivy

See also § Cape-ivy.

Two organisms have been found in its native range which could be introduced here as controls.

The moth Digitivalva delaireae predates on this weed. [157] In food preference tests, Mehelis et al. 2015 find that the moth is so selective about prefering Cape-ivy that it would serve well as a safe biocontrol here and in Oregon. [157]

Cercospora delaireae is a fungus which has been found on this weed in its native range. [158] It can be used as a biocontrol as well. [158]


As with the entire country there is USDA subsidized crop insurance for the state. The Risk Management Agency provides various insurance schemes and deadlines by County and by crop. [159]


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