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Owen Taylor, Editor
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Bloom became more pronounced last week through the San Joaquin Valley, which has somewhat lagged behind the Sacramento Valley, especially in parts of the upper SJV. Warm weather significantly pushed things along. For more specifics on bloom progression, see our Links section to connect to last Thursday’s bloom report from Blue Diamond.
Petal fall is well underway in this season's first-blooming orchards, something apparent in several of the photos this week in our From The Field section.
Fungicide applications were going out in some blocks late in the week ahead of expected weekend rain. More rain was in the forecast for the new week.
Dale Deshane, PCA, Supervised Control, Bakersfield: “Bloom has come on this week, and a lot of the blocks of early varieties are probably as 75% to 80% bloom (as of 2/27). Bloom looks good. Buds swelled nicely.
“Some nutrient sprays are being made, and those are generally timed at 75% to 80% bloom. We started those last week, and they’re continuing this week. A couple of my growers did want to include a fungicide just in case, but most have been standing pat. Unless the weather changes, they’ll wait until petal fall.
“In the alfalfa, we will treat a small percentage of fields next week for weevils. I’ll check some more fields later this week and may add to that, but in most cases larvae are small and numbers are low. But that could change quickly. The forecast calls for 75 to 80 for highs this weekend (3/2-3), and that kind of weather gets them going pretty good.
“Transplant tomatoes have been going in the ground since last week. We started some preventive bacterial speck sprays last week where we have a history of problems. Downy mildew protection sprays also started in some onions last week.
“We’re putting on our last herbicides in wheat except in some wheat planted really late. Otherwise, we’re just watching for aphids and rust. We’re finding just small populations of aphids, but no treatments yet.”
Sheldon Childs, Valley Agronomy Service, Fresno: "Almonds are starting to bloom pretty strongly this week, finally. Bloom was delayed 10 to 14 days due to extra chilling hours. We’re having great weather, which should be excellent for pollination. We’ve got good moisture for leaf-out. Soil profiles have moisture at least a few feet down, and we’re not doing any irrigating right now, just waiting until we do have to start.”
Chris Morgner, PCA, Agri-Valley Consulting, Merced: “This has been a strange year. When you drive around, you don’t always know what varieties you’re seeing, but in some places the bloom is really booming. I was in the Livingston-Ballico area, and some orchards there were at or approaching 50% bloom. But in the last two days (from 2/27) some of my orchards haven’t moved more than 5%.
“I’m looking at my own trees right now, and a little more has gone on since Monday, but it’s still not what I would have expected for today’s date. The good news is that buds look great, with a nice pink appearance. We’re not seeing those cases where trees start greening up before they turn white.
“I’m noticing some Nonpareils in the area that are at 5% bloom at most, with some Montereys at 1% and Fritz at 15%. People are saying the Nonpareils are late, but I think it still depends on the area.
“Some growers are getting sprays out, although others haven’t started yet and don’t have a strong motivation since we don’t have much rain in the immediate forecast. People are figuring how many loads they need to spray and how long it will take, then maybe planning on 3 loads a day. They’re not going full bore like you’d expect if the forecast called for significant rain.
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“They’re putting out foliar nutrient applications and fungicides, with something for PTB. Maybe 10% of the treatments include an IGR for scale but just where we’ve found scale problems.
“Water is the bigger issue. It’s not that dry out there in terms of the trees, but they’re not pulling a lot of water yet. However, it’s been so dry and people are concerned about frost, so a lot of growers will push to get it wet so that if we do have to come back before a frost event, it will be easier to get more water out there. I’m monitoring down to 45 inches in places, and it’s pretty dry once you get past 35 inches. So, we’ve got to start moving water down there.
“Walnut growers are watering, probably to get deep moisture in the soil. Water is running everywhere on alfalfa and wheat. If people don’t have water running, it’s because they’re working on the well.
“Alfalfa weevils are really slow, and we’ve got to look for them. Those that we’re finding are pretty small, so we’re not immediately concerned. We follow a model based on degree days, and it’s kind of predicting peak emergence around March 8. I’m not sure that’s going to be exactly right and think it could be a little later. I don’t see us spraying any alfalfa weevils for about 2 weeks.
“We might spray a few acres a little earlier than that, but I’m not finding indications of populations building. Alfalfa looks pretty short but is starting to grow. Dormant varieties don’t have much growth, but we don’t have a lot of growth yet, overall. We’re getting into warmer weather, so a week from now it should start looking more like alfalfa fields again.
“Tomato planting starts next week in fresh-market fields, and some people may already have started in warmer areas. Growers are asking for recs for herbicides.”
Dean Striebich, ASI Consulting, Fresno: “Almond bloom is a little late this year, but it should be really progressing now (2/27) and into the weekend with this 70-plus degree forecast. It looks like excellent conditions coming up. We’re seeing some variability, of course, depending on the location and variety. Some orchards haven’t bloomed, while others are at full bloom.
“The bloom overlap isn’t good on early varieties like Avalon and Fritz, based on what I’m seeing, so those yields could be off this year. If one of those varieties is in a Nonpareil block at 25%, every 4 rows will be white and close to full bloom while other trees are at less than 10%.
“Overall, the water situation will be critical this year.
“Onion and garlic growth have been slow due to cold weather and very little fog, which meant a lot of frost. Tomato transplants start going into the ground on Friday (3/1), which is at least 7 to 10 days earlier than normal. That’s always kind of the signal that the year has started.”
David A. Doll, Pomology Farm Advisor, Merced County: “We’re still seeing variability. On one side of the road the Nonpareils are at 50%, but on the other side of the road nothing is blooming. You always see that kind of variability, but it’s weird to see this much of it this late. By now you would expect more uniformity.
“We should be at full bloom in most orchards sometime next week. In a few early varieties we’re at 70% to 80% now (2/27).
“Good weather is mostly in the forecast through Wednesday (3/6), which is a positive thing in terms of pollination. But on the negative side, warmer weather increases demand for moisture, which hasn’t been exactly abundant. We’ve had 4 to 5 inches of rain this year in Merced, which is about 60% of normal, plus the snowpack is at least that much below normal, too, maybe more. It’s still early, plus rains have been coming somewhat later.
“As far as fungicides go, I don’t think it’s as important right now to cover some of the more resistant varieties for brown rot. That would include the Nonpareils, Aldrich and Montereys. But with continued dew, there could be enough moisture for fungal growth, so you have to take that into account with Carmels, Sonoras and other somewhat susceptible varieties. And I still advise putting protection in place for the most susceptible varieties like the Butte-Padre plantings, Wood Colony and some others that are prone to brown rot.”
Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor, Sutter/Yuba Counties: “We’re pretty close to full bloom in Nonpareils, which seem to be way ahead of everybody else, based on what I’m hearing and reading. The weather today (2/27) is gorgeous, 65, no wind. I don’t know how many bee hours we’re accumulating, but it’s bound to be a bunch. It’s sure a great day to be in the almond business, and things look positive.
“When we’ve had wind over the last several days, it’s been from the north, which is a dry wind, so there’s little or no dew. We have a chance of rain on Saturday night and maybe into Sunday, then a chance for a more significant amount of rain on Tuesday or Wednesday. Most guys, I think, are either spraying now or are considering their options.
Follow our California updates and observations at @agfaxwest.
“Even though we’ve had very little rain during bloom and generally dry air, it only takes one wet, dewy night to cause trouble with varieties susceptible to brown rot, and that can be hard to predict. Normally here, we put on 2 sprays for bloom. With these conditions, some people may be thinking they can maybe skip bloom sprays altogether. But Jim Adaskaveg (UC Riverside Plant Pathologist) says that even during a dry year it’s a good idea to put on one application.
“It still can depend on the variety, and we’ve all heard stories of significant brown rot infections without measured rainfall, simply because of dew. With something like Butte or Carmel, that could happen.”
Gary Gliddon, PCA, Treevine Consulting, Modesto: “Bloom is doing very nicely, the weather is good (as of 2/27) and the bees are really working. Rain is at least in the forecast for next week. We haven’t sprayed any fungicides yet but may be doing our first one before then.”
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The Stanislaus Tree and Vine IPM Update Breakfast schedule has been set for the 2013 season. The meetings will be conducted by UCCE Farm Advisors Roger Duncan and Kathy Kelley Anderson. The sessions will be held at the Old Mill Cafe at 600 Ninth Street in Modest on the first and third Wednesday of each month from March through June. The meetings run from 7 to 8 a.m.
FROM THE FIELD
Click photos to enlarge.
Left Column (From Top) from Matt Visser, Milkhouse Studios, Ripon:
Right Column, Photos by Vern Crawford, Wilbur Ellis Co., Shafter.
Got photos you'd like to share? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Almond Bloom Report From Blue Diamond 2-28
AgFax Almond Review: Mason Bees Can Help with Bee Problem; Almond Bloom Festivals 3-1
California Almonds: Dry Forecast Raises Questions 2-27
California: Crop Advisers to be Trained in Nitrogen Management 2-26
AgFax Almonds is published weekly during the crop production season.
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