Horticulture in Imperial County, California
From: The History of Imperial County, California
Edited by: F. C. Farr
Published by: Elms and Franks
Berkeley, CA 1918


IN DISCUSSING the development of Imperial County's horticultural interests, we must take into consideration the fact that in 1900 the population was nothing, consequently there was nothing produced. In 1917 the population was fifty thousand, with a production of commodities valued at thirty three million dollars (about the same amount as the assessed valuation). This production consisted mostly of alfalfa, barley, corn, cotton and cattle, not forgetting that these four hundred thousand acres had to be reclaimed from a desert waste; all this having been done in seventeen years, there was very little time to devote to the planting of fruit trees. Since the year 1912 and including the year 1917, the following fruit and other trees have been brought into the county, according to the records of this office: 1528 almond, 4622 apple, 16,748 apricot, 130,998 berry, 68 cherry, 4702 fig, 2088 grape, 2190 lemon, 22,207 olive, 40,295 orange, 9983 peach, 8499 pear, 1485 plum, 270 prune, and 625,247 ornamental. A few imported date palms and many thousand date seeds have been planted. This gives an idea as to the principal kinds of fruit now growing in the country, at the same time many trees have been grown in the Valley which will increase the number considerably. During the past years nearly every kind of fruit and nuts grown have been planted here, and it is possible to raise at least enough of them for family use, with the exception of the cherry and walnut.

On account of the extremely long hot season, fruit ripens very early, going on the market the first of the season with no competition, the producers thereby receiving very attractive returns. Grapes are one of the best and leading fruits of the Valley, the early varieties - Persians - begin ripening the first of June, followed closely by the Thompson seedless, then the Malagas, which continue through the shipping season to about the last of July. Many other varieties do well here that have not been successfully grown in other sections of the State. Experiments are being made with many other varieties and there are some now very promising that may take the place of the present commercial varieties. There are one thousand and ten acres of old bearing vines and several hundred acres of new plantings. About one hundred and eighty cars of the fruit crop are shipped east each year and bring fancy prices. It is possible to raise three crops each season.

Grapefruit has proven to be the best of the citrus fruits, young trees three years old have the size of trees in other localities twice their age and yield considerable fruit. There have been more grapefruit trees planted in this county than any other variety, as will be noted by the above record. The largest orchard of grapefruit consists of sixty acres. The long hot summer does wonders for the quality of this fruit. To give an uninterested person's opinion, I will quote from an expert of the United States Department of Agriculture, who says, "The fruit which you sent me have fine quality, very juicy and sweet, the flesh is tender and there is little rag, the rind is thin, and as a whole I should say that the fruit is of a superior and pleasing quality." Very little sugar is needed in eating Imperial Valley grapefruit.

Lemons do very well, growing a very juicy fruit, with thin skin and full of acid.

Many varieties of oranges have been tried out, the seedlings produce the best quality of fruit; however, the Washington navels ripen the first of November and should be picked as soon as ripe for best results.

There are many olive trees planted in different sections of the Valley, the largest orchard consists of forty acres. Of the deciduous fruit the apricot is in the lead. The early varieties ripen by April the twentieth, and shipments continue until the last of May. Newcastle and Royal are the principal varieties. It is almost unbelievable how fast apricot trees grow in this Valley. With good care a year old tree is the size of a tree three years old in other districts.

Nearly all varieties of peaches have been tried and the Chinese and southern varieties have proven to be the most profitable, however peaches are not considered commercially.

Pears are being tried out on quite a large scale, one orchard consists of sixty acres and is reported as successful.

This is a natural country for the fig, which produces large, firm quality fruit.

Many people predict that the date industry in Imperial Valley will develop into one of great importance. Due to the fact that it is impossible to obtain imported date offshoots, as there is an embargo on account of the war, it is slow to establish the business by planting seeds, although many promising fruits have been obtained in that way. At the present time there are several promising gardens here, and the fruit is as fine as that raised in Algeria, Arabia or any of the Sahara countries. It is possible to utilize many thousand acres of land not suited for agricultural crops for the growing of dates.

Our commercial berry is the strawberry, and they do well, producing a fine fruit and netting the grower a handsome profit. Last season six cars were shipped and it is estimated for 1918 that there will be fourteen carloads. This county is noted for its rapid increase in developments along all lines of production.

Much could be said for the cantaloupe of this Valley, as this county produces more cantaloupes than any one State in the Union. All the markets of the country know of the Imperial Valley cantaloupe. In £917 there were thirteen thousand acres planted and over five thousand carloads shipped. The melons are marketed through a marketing bureau conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture bureau of markets. Planting season begins January 1, under cover, and the shipping season begins about the middle of May.

Asparagus is one of the products of this Valley that brings the greatest returns to the owners of any of the present crops. The season opens about the fifth of February and continues for a couple of months. Early in the season it is not uncommon to receive one dollar and twenty five cents a pound in the East.

Well selected, strong vigorous root stock, properly planted, irrigated and cared for, will reduce the possible infestation, with few exceptions, to a minimum. Insects in many instances do their work where there has been neglect on the part of the caretaker.

Many kinds of insects are listed by entomologists, preying on each kind of fruit trees, all the way from a few up to seventy seven different insects which attack certain kinds of fruit trees. One might hesitate about going into the fruit business on account of the vast number of insects that are seemingly waiting to destroy the trees, but when understood and applied, perhaps one treatment will control the situation against all corners.

So far the damage done by insects and other pests on the apricots is limited. The most serious, some seasons, are the linnets and sparrows eating the buds as they begin to swell early in the spring; these pests are rather difficult to control. Thrips do some damage, but are not of so very much importance to the early varieties. One serious condition exists which does a lot of damage, and that is when there are quantities enough of alkali and lack of drainage, this causes the leaves and twigs to die back and finally the tree succumbs. This condition would be serious for all trees.

Crown gall has made its appearance as it always does when trees of this kind are planted. The remedy is to plant trees known to be free from infestation.

There is a small spider which does some damage to the date which can be controlled by the use of sulphur.

Figs are quite free from destructive insects, birds and bees excepted. Soil conditions and humidity play considerable part in getting large quantities of first quality fruit as in date culture, but not to great extent.

The insect that does the most damage, and not of very great importance to grapes in the Valley, is the grape leaf hopper. To prevent the introduction of Phylloxera, a quarantine is placed against all sections north of the Tehachapi Mountains, not allowing grape vines or cuttings to enter this county from infested districts.

The insects that prey upon the grapefruit will be the same that attack the entire citrus family. The scale insects that are costing many thousands of dollars annually to control in the citrus belts are not yet established in this Valley, yet we take the stand that where the host plant lives the insects are likely to live also.

While I will admit that some of the scale insects that are very serious in the coast region do not exist in our Valley, due to the long seasons of hot weather, there are other scale insects that will thrive in this climate as is already the condition in San Joaquin Valley, to the extent that crops of oranges have been lost on account of this scale insect, there are also other valleys in the State. I refer to the Coccus citricola scale, which was first given the name of gray scale. It is absolutely necessary that strict inspection of all citrus nursery stock as well as citrus fruit be maintained. To much care can not be taken to keep out these scale insects. To reduce the risk as much as possible all citrus nursery stock must be defoliated and rosin washed; where the mealy bugs are known to exist the trees should not only have the above treatment, but should be shipped with bare roots, or not allowed to enter the county.

The State of California has enacted laws for the protection of horticultural and agricultural interests, providing for the establishing of horticultural commissioners to enforce the laws. Sec. 2322A: "It shall be the duty of the county horticultural commissioner in each county, whenever he shall deem it necessary to cause an inspection to be made of any premises, orchards or nurseries or trees, plants, vegetables, vines or fruits, or any fruit packing house, storeroom, salesroom or any other place or article in his jurisdiction, and if found infected or infested with infectious diseases, scale insects or coddling moth or other insects or animal pests injurious to fruits, plants, vegetables, trees or vines or with their eggs or larva, or if there is found growing thereon the Russian thistle or saltwort, Johnson grass or other noxious weeds, or red rice, water grasses or other weeds or grasses detrimental to rice culture, he shall in writing notify the owner or owners, or person or persons in charge, or in possession of the said places, or orchards or nurseries, or trees or plants, vegetables, vines or rice fields or fields adjacent to rice fields, or canals or ditches used for the purpose of conveying water to rice fields for the irrigation thereof, or fruit, or article as aforesaid, that the same are infected or infested with said diseases, insects, animals, or other pests or any of them, or their eggs or larvae, or that the Russian thistle or saltwort, Johnson grass or other noxious weeds, or red rice, water grasses or other weeds or grasses detrimental to rice culture is growing thereon, and requires such person or persons to eradicate or destroy or to control to the satisfaction of the county horticultural commissioner."

Sec. 2322F: "Any person, persons, firm or corporation who shall receive, bring or cause to be brought into any county or locality of the State of California from another county or locality within said State any nursery stock, trees, shrubs, plants, vines, cuttings, grass, scions, buds, or fruit pits, or fruit or vegetables, or seed for the purpose of planting or propagating the same, or any or all such shipments of nursery stock, shrubs, trees, plants, vines, cuttings, grafts, scions, buds or fruit pits, or fruit or vegetables, or seed or containers thereof or other orchard appliances which the county horticultural commissioner or the State commissioner of horticulture may consider liable to be infested or infected with dangerous insect pests or plant diseases or noxious weed seeds, and which if so infested or infected would constitute a dangerous menace to the orchards, farms and gardens of the county or State, shall immediately after the arrival thereof notify the county commissioner of horticulture, his deputy or nearest inspector of the county in which such nursery stock, or fruit or vegetable or seed are received of their arrival, and hold the same without unnecessarily moving or placing such articles where they may be harmful for immediate inspection by such county commissioner of horticulture, his deputy, inspector, or deputy quarantine officer or guardian."

Sec. 2322J: "Any person, persons, firm or corporation violating any of the provisions of this act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or by both fine and imprisonment."

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