Here is this week's issue of AgFax Tree Crops.
Our thanks to BASF’s California team for once again sponsoring our coverage of tree crops in the Central Valley.
Owen Taylor, Editor
Bloom continues to wind down on early varieties across a wide portion of our coverage area, and petal fall is well underway. On later varieties, blooms are still apparent to varying degrees.
Cool weather has extended the bloom period this year in a significant area. The hope is that the longer flowering period has or will give bees time to compensate for rainy, windy and cold conditions earlier when they remained in their hives.
Rain was in the forecast for the weekend (3/4-5), which prompted fungicide sprays in areas where it’s been a while since the last treatment.
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David A. Doll, Pomology Farm Advisor, Merced County:
“The beginning of this week started off pretty cold, although the end of the week has definitely finished much nicer. Today (3/3) is the first 70-degree day this week, I think.
“Over the weekend (3/4-5) we do have a chance of rain, maybe a half-inch, and a lot of people were making fungicide sprays in front of the rain. That’s especially the case where growers’ last spray went out a couple of weeks ago. I’m guessing that the Butte-Padres came out a little later, so they maybe had a pink bud spray 1.5 weeks ago. Not all of them were treated then, so at least a portion of those trees are outside the window of protection, and growers would be spraying in those orchards. If a fungicide went out more recently, they’ll probably let it ride until after this next rain, then decide what to do.
“We’re into petal fall on earlier varieties, so some petal-fall sprays are being applied.
“Overall, it hasn’t been a great pollination year, and everyone is holding their breath, waiting to see what the bees accomplished. We simply didn’t have many days when bees could be really active, and that’s a concern.
“It looks like unsettled weather will be with us for a while. Conditions are supposed to be more open after this next rain, but as you look farther out on the weather models there’s at least some chance of rain across the board.”
Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor, Sutter/Yuba Counties:
“We’ve had cooler weather over the last week, and that is likely having a continued effect on bloom. Last year’s bloom came hard and fast, but this year has been cooler, overall, especially in this part of the state, which accounts for the prolonged bloom.
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“That cool weather has made people nervous about bee hours, but these conditions also have spread out the bloom, so maybe bees have had more opportunities to distribute pollen when conditions turned favorable.
“Blooms are still out there. The Butte and Wood Colony trees are still pretty showy. Ruby, an old hard shell variety, is at about 50% bloom. Of course, we won’t know until later how pollination finally played out. This cooler weather and lingering bloom may help, maybe not.
“Rain is in the forecast over the weekend, starting Saturday night and into Monday, but nobody can strictly say how much to expect at any given location. Many of our growers applied a fungicide a week ago, so I doubt if many are spraying now ahead of the rain.
“We’re into that period to apply the first shot of nitrogen – 20% of the budget should be out by mid March. Nobody needs to irrigate at the moment, so there’s no immediate opportunity to put out nitrogen with the water.
“People who have equipment to apply nitrogen by ground may see this rain as an opportunity to put fertilizer on now, provided they can get into the orchard. In wet years some guys will fly it on, although that’s probably not a widespread practice. It’s a tough call.
“If you put the fertilizer on and it doesn’t rain to incorporate it into the soil, you could lose some nitrogen to volatilization with urea or ammonium-based materials. But if it rains too much, a portion of the nitrogen could push below the prime portion of the root zone, so you’d lose some efficiency. These also are situations to consider using a treatment that inhibits nitrogen volatilization.”
Dan Prentice, Prentice Ag Consulting, Bakersfield:
“Bloom is mostly winding down on the soft shells. Some blooms are still out there, but those trees are well into petal fall. With the hard shells, some of our blocks are in petal fall but others are in full bloom.
“As of today (3/3) I haven’t seen any bloom diseases. I can find a few mites around. As soon as we have leaves we can find at least a few mites. Some of our almonds have had one bloom spray, while others have had a second application.
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“We don’t have any further treatments planned for the immediate future. The next treatment will be the one 5 weeks after petal fall. We pretty much always do that, mostly targeting rust. Where we have a history of severe alternaria, we count that as the first alternaria spray.”
Aaron Beene, PCA, Simplot, Merced:
“This probably is the most drawn out bloom I’ve ever seen. Some Nonpareils still have blooms and started blooming 14 days ago. Part of our later varieties are at full bloom.
“We’ve had really favorable bee weather over the last 7 to 10 days, so we’re hoping for good results from that. Leaves really aren’t pushing to any extent, which indicates to me that any stored carbohydrates and nutrients are still forming flowers, so pollination is still underway.
“In the last couple of weeks I’ve found a lot of bacterial blast in certain pockets and areas. Those are historic spots for it in almonds. This is associated with the rain and cooler weather before and during bloom.
“It’s been chilly at night, which is dragging out the bloom. Highs have been in the low to mid 60s, and we really haven’t hit that 70-degree mark that triggers a flash bloom.
“At the end of this week I started another fungicide round and will probably continue that early next week. Rain is in the forecast – a quarter to half an inch is expected on Saturday and Sunday. So we’re getting full bloom and petal fall sprays on as needed. I’m into my second application right now. Some guys have already started applying it, while others will start next week following this rain event.
“Since leaves are just starting to emerge, I want to get protection on for leaf diseases. It’s supposed to be a dry week but then more rain is coming after that, based on the current forecast.”
Nathan Stewart, PCA, AgVantage Consulting, Inc., Visalia:
“We’re at petal fall in a lot of varieties and almost in the jacket-break period on the far west side on sandier soils.
“Unfortunately, rain is headed our way, maybe tomorrow (3/5). We’re on our third to fourth fungicide application in some areas. It's been complicated to figure out what to apply. Certain fungicides were in short supply, so that made it harder to maintain a rotation.
“Bloom this year has been abnormally long. I’m maybe being optimistic, but I think we had pretty decent bee hours up to this point. Overall, we’ll probably be okay in terms of pollination – maybe not so much with some of the early varieties that began blooming when the weather was less conducive to bee movement.
“Hopefully we won’t have to do too many more fungicide applications before jacket break, but that depends on the weather.
“In pistachios, the buds are starting to swell quite a bit on females, and we’re moving toward nutrient bud sprays just prior to them pushing out. In walnuts, we’re starting to see some buds pushing a little. In our later stone fruit varieties we’re just getting into 100% bloom and are mapping out fungicide sprays before they get to petal fall. I haven’t seen any thrips in stone fruit so far.
“We had some frost earlier last week, with temperatures in the area down to 32 to 33. It was frightening, considering where we were with bloom. It’s supposed to get chilly next week, although not that cold, maybe down to 33 to 34. But other than keeping irrigation systems on, there’s nothing we can do with the almond trees.”
California Cotton: 2017 Sticky Cotton Summit, Freson, March 21 3-1
California: Drought Conditions at Lowest Point Since Autumn 2010 – USDA 2-28
California Rice: Tadpole Shrimp Worsen, Probably Tied To Other Factors 2-27
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