Changing times at Tulare’s World Ag Expo – from the Hanford Sentinel

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By Seth Nidever

Sure, you can still see the huge tractors and the weird-looking equipment. You can still test-drive a four-wheel-drive truck. You can still eat sandwiches stuffed with fresh barbecue.

As has been the case for several years, there will be tens of thousands of visitors, roughly 1,500 exhibitors and 2.6 million square feet of exhibition space at the world’s largest agricultural trade show scheduled for Tuesday-Thursday (this week) at the International Agri-Center in Tulare.

But if you look a little deeper, you’ll see the changing face of California agriculture.

Case in point: Drip-irrigation pioneer Netafim. The Israeli company has been attending the expo for years, tucked away into a booth in the irrigation pavilion.

This year, on Wednesday, the company is holding a press conference at the show to discuss a worldwide shift toward smart irrigation solutions to fight a scarcity of food, water and land.

The days of gravity-driven flood or row irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley are fading fast as a multi-year drought continues with no end in sight.

One company — Lindsay Corp. — is trying to persuade square-block farmers to shift to central pivot irrigation. That would mean a radical transition from squared-off fields to huge crop circles, with slices of uncultivated land in between.

Some Westside farmers have experimented with the method, but it hasn’t caught on in Kings County.

Another company, Livestock Water Recycling, will be on hand to discuss ways dairies can recycle manure water and concentrate organic nutrients into ultra-rich fertilizer.

Some of the most proactive Kings County dairies reuse water several times over before it’s finally sent to the lagoon.

Another business, AGCO, is focused on finding ways for California producers to comply with stringent air quality regulations in the San Joaquin Valley. Engine requirements are often tricky and difficult to navigate, especially with used equipment.

The Propane Education & Research Council will be promoting the concept of switching to pumps powered by propane instead of diesel or electricity.

To give attendees even more opportunity to deepen their knowledge, there are dozens of seminars.

Still, the show has a lighter side.

There’s an “after-hours party” on Wednesday featuring the band Leaving Austin. There a separate arena dedicated to product testing and live demonstrations. There’s a “Farmers Lunch” scheduled for noon on Thursday.

And yes, you can still get behind the wheel of a tractor and take it for a test drive.

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