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  • Author or Editor: Jose Aguiar x
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Approximately 90% of total date production in the U.S. is localized in the Coachella Valley, southwest California. The remainder is in the bordering Imperial Valley, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz. The date trees (Phoenix dactylifera L.) occupy 2282 ha, have an annual yield of 24,000 tons, and a product value of $62 million. Major varieties include `Deglet Noor', `Khadrawl', `Zahide', and `Majhool'. Although climatic requirements for date production prevail in the Valley, major problems related to soil and water have adverse effects on yield and fruit quality. These include water and soil salinity, high water table, high soil compaction and stratification, and low fertility. Slip plowing has been a recommended practice for decompacting the soil. However, soils get recompacted by machinery used in cultural operations. We recently introduced planting cover crops in a no-till system to improve soil fertility, reduce compaction, and improve drainage.

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To test the usefulness of methanol treatments in enhancing yield and drought tolerance, we applied methanol with and without nutrients to a wide range of crops across California: lemon (Citrus limon L.), creeping bentgrass (Agrotis palustris Huds.), romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), carrot (Daucus carota L.), corn (Zea mays L.), wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), pea (Pisum sativum L.), and radish (Raphanus sativus L.). Environments included greenhouse and field tests in coastal, inland-valley, and desert locations. Methanol did not increase the yield or growth of any crop. In some cases, methanol caused significant injury and decreased yield.

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A 1992 article by Nonomura and Benson (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 89:9794-979X) reported increased yield and drought tolerance in a wide range of C3 species following foliar applications of methanol. The article was widely reported in the trade and popular press, which created a huge grower demand for information on the use and efficacy of methanol. To test the validity of the reports, we applied methanol with and without nutrients to a wide range of crops across California following Nonomura and Benson's (1992) protocol. Crops included watermelon, creeping bentgrass, lemons, savoy cabbage, carrots, romaine lettuce, radish, wheat, corn and peas. Environments included the greenhouse and field tests in coastal, inland valley, and desert locations. To test whether methanol improved drought tolerance, the savoy cabbage and watermelon experiments included both reduced and full irrigation. In no case was yield increased or drought tolerance attributable to methanol treatment. In some cases, methanol caused significant injury and decreased yield.

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