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   Hronis, Inc.:  Proud of our ‘sustainable’ progress

 

At Hronis, Inc., we are honored to be counted among the original environmentalists, farmers. In both our table grape and citrus production, we have a life-long commitment to working alongside the land and preserving environmental quality.

We work hard to ensure the availability of a safe food supply for future generations. Since 1945, we have merged existing knowledge with new information and technology to responsibly use resources, reduce environmental impact, meet society’s needs and encourage the longevity of the industry.

Hronis, Inc., employs sustainable agricultural practices that successfully balance current and future human needs, promote environmental health and effectively utilize natural resources in a manner that is economically profitable.

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Managing our resources for sustainability

Responsible management of natural resources, such as water and nutrient rich soil, is critical to the sustainability of our industry. Along with other growers, we have invested millions of dollars in upgrading equipment and improving growing practices to preserve the quality of these finite resources and eliminate the potential for waste.

Water supply is a chronic issue in California and we are proud that we, as growers, have been at the forefront of developing low-volume irrigation technology to more effectively utilize water resources to improve fruit size, quality and yield. Low volume irrigation systems such as fan jet and drip provide optimal water delivery to the root zone, ensuring maximum uptake by our vines and trees. Contrasted to furrow irrigation, these systems wet significantly less surface area and eliminate run-off potential, percolation below the root zone and evaporation so every ounce of water is put to good use.

Soil quality and erosion control are also top priorities for our industry. To address these issues, as well as sustain a healthy growing environment, for example, all citrus tree trimmings are turned into mulch and recycled on the orchard floor. This increases the organic matter in the soil for improved nutrient availability and water-holding capacity as well as promotion of microbial populations and a diverse soil ecosystem. Sustainable practices like mulching ensure the land is left in better condition than it was found so future generations may continue in the tradition of farming. As a family-owned enterprise, this is extremely important to Hronis, Inc.

Integrated Pest Management and Crop Protection

Invasive insect populations are increasing at an exponential rate. This poses a significant threat to the industry’s ability to produce quality fruit. While pesticides are an important tool used to combat many pests, when used exclusively or in excess, they do not provide a sustainable solution to pest management. Hronis, Inc., with other California citrus and table grape growers, employ a diverse set of cultural practices to treat for pests while maintaining environmental quality through Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

IPM emphasizes biologically-based control mechanisms and seeks to minimize environmental impact through cultural practices that encourage natural enemy populations. IPM has become a standard practice across the citrus and table grape industries and several common table grape and citrus pests are successfully controlled through biological control agents, or beneficial insects.

In fact, the citrus industry alone has self-funded a number of research projects starting in the 1980s, aimed toward discovering new and additional ways in which beneficial insects and other cultural practices can be utilized as part of an integrated pest management program. IPM is an evolving science and citrus growers have recognized the need to continue developing ways to improve pest management in order to be sustainable.

Of great interest to environmental concerns, California farmers have reduced pesticide use by 66% since 1998 and are leaning toward softer, more environmentally-friendly formulas. Of the chemicals used in production agriculture, 59% are reduced risk, environmentally-friendly compounds and 39% are bio-pesticides and approved for use in organic farming!

IPM is an industry-wide approach to environmentally friendly pest management. Beneficial insects are important tools and have helped to control a number of citrus pests.

Nurturing healthy crops

Fertilizers play an important role in maintaining the vitality and health of our crops. Just as humans require nutrients from their food, table grape vines and citrus trees derive their nutrients from the soil. When vital nutrients are not available naturally, fertilizers are applied to supplement those deficiencies.

There are several tools Hronis, Inc., uses to determine the proper amount of fertilizer needed and what conditions are conducive to optimal uptake by the vine or tree. Nutrient management plans and nitrate budgeting for fertilizer use is a widespread practice in the industry. Regular soil, water and leaf tissue tests are used to develop a soil profile analysis complete with data for nutrients in the soil to determine if, and how much, fertilizer is needed. The goal is to provide each vine or tree with the nutrients it needs in the most effective way without compromising the environment through excessive application.

To properly balance these objectives, Hronis, Inc., is turning toward more precise application systems such as “fertigation,” applying fertilizer in a liquid form directly to the root zone through a low volume irrigation system. Such precise application allows for maximum root distribution and nutrient uptake by the vine or tree, eliminating the potential for excess fertilizer to travel outside of the root zone. Fertilizers are a costly resource used to nurture the crop; precise applications reduce waste through run-off or leaching.

Growing for clean air

As a San Joaquin Valley grower, Hronis, Inc., is proactive in the effort to improve air quality in the area. With other growers, we have embarked on a number of growing practices that reduce emissions and control air pollution, such as upgrading diesel equipment to more efficient models and controlling dust pollution by paving or watering roadways and limiting traffic in the groves. More precise methods of crop protection materials and fertilizer have reduced, and in some cases eliminated, spray drift.

In 2011, San Joaquin Valley citrus growers embarked on an effort with the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District to showcase their contributions to good air quality in a video entitled “Growing for Clean Air.” Air quality is a huge concern for all San Joaquin Valley residents, table grape and citrus growers included.

Public outreach and partnerships with environmental agencies such as the Air District are top priorities of the area growers. In fact, area citrus growers are actively engaging in these efforts to find new ways to support a healthy environment and give back to the local communities.

Hronis, Inc., and other area citrus growers, play a vital role in improving air quality in the San Joaquin Valley. In 2012, a study conducted by Cal State University, Bakersfield, concluded that citrus groves have a very low emissions rate and actually absorb ozone year-round!

As an aside, the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District produced a video highlighting the many ways the citrus industry has been proactive in improving air quality.

Regarding air quality improvement in our area, Hronis, Inc., recently installed a 90-ton Fairbanks tractor/trailer scale at their Delano facility to not only help with driver turnaround time, but save approximately 200,000 delivery-related miles per year, decreasing the air pollution from delivery trucks that, previously, had to travel 40 miles, round trip, to weigh and adjust loads, accordingly.

Commitment to our community

Fresh fruits and vegetables are staple products in a healthy diet. Aside from producing a healthy product, area growers, such as Hronis, Inc., have contributed to the health and well-being of many rural towns and residents in Central California for over 120 years. In total, the California citrus industry alone employs 22,000 people. Without these jobs, the economies of many rural communities would collapse. But, this is not a one-way street. Both the table grape and citrus industries rely heavily on agricultural labor, as fresh citrus and table grapes are time-sensitive commodities.

Growing more with less

Currently, growers are faced with the challenge of producing more with fewer available resources. A growing world population has resulted in increased demands for fresh table grapes and citrus, but available land for new vineyards and groves to supply this demand is minimal. The industry has a strong history of improving efficiencies in order to provide a quality product. Today, growers are using fewer input resources and increasing production yields by planting more trees per acre and encouraging more production from existing vineyards. New technologies in irrigation, crop protection material applications -- and more effective pest management programs -- are just a few of the ways growers have successfully sustained the industry for well more than 120 years.

Investing in the future

Sustainability is a revolutionary, not evolutionary process. As stewards of the land, Hronis, Inc., seeks to reduce their environmental impact to preserve the quality of the land, air and water. The goal is to supply the world with qualtiy fresh fruit without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.

California citrus and table grape growers have dramatically increased productivity and efficiency over the years. Hronis, Inc., and other growers in the state are heavily vested in contuining on this track.

While there is no silver bullet answer or specific definition of what sustainable agriculture is, there are countless uncontrollable variables which influence production agriculture. Overcoming these variables, meeting the needs of a growing world population and enhancing resources for the future create a sustainable industry. Citrus and table grape growers like Hronis, Inc., have done just that for more than 120 years and will continue along the continuum of sustainability into the foreseeable future.

   
 


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