#1. Remove mummy nuts from the trees by February 1. To minimize the overwintering population of navel orangeworm (NOW) and reduce food sources for the first NOW generation, sanitation should be completed in January and mummies destroyed by flail mowing or discing by March 1.
#2. Avoid pruning before heavy rainfall since wind driven rain can cause costly canker disease spread and infection of fresh pruning wounds. If you have to prune ahead of forecast rain, spraying trees with Topsin-M fungicide delivered the best protection of pruning wounds against fungal infection in recent research from UC Davis. Minimizing training and pruning can increase early almond yields.
#3. If needed, apply a dormant or delayed dormant spray for insects and/or disease control.
- In orchards with a history of high almond scab pressure, consider chlorothalonil plus oil application in January (before bud swell) to delay twig sporulation in the spring. Unless rain or heavy dew occurs in late spring, this may avoid April scab sprays and delay application until treatments are also effective on Alternaria.
- The high rate of oil (4gal/acre) recommended with chlorothalonil will control low to moderate scale populations without added insecticide. Delayed dormant applications for scale control are most effective and the risk of oil burn is lower compared to dormant timing. If the results of your dormant spur sampling show a need to control scale, consult with your PCA regarding materials and rates. Here are dormant spur sampling guidelines.
- Delayed dormant application of copper plus mancozeb can be part of a bacterial spot control program in orchards with high pressure and sensitive varieties (Fritz, in particular).
#4. Order honey bees for pollination during bloom – if you haven’t done this already. Strong hives (8+ frames) collect roughly 3x more pollen (and visit more flowers) than 4-5 frame hives in UC research [http://calag.ucanr.edu/archive/?issue=24_8]. Especially in the Sacramento Valley, bloom weather can be variable and good bee activity in the orchard is key to setting a good crop. You only get one chance a year to set a good crop.
#5. Plan your fertility program for the season. An initial estimate of nitrogen needs can be based on 1) an average crop year for your almond block, 2) almonds use 68 lbs N/1000 lbs kernel crop and 3) 70% nitrogen efficiency target.
#6. Don’t forget potassium (K). Almonds use slightly more K than N per 1000 lbs kernel crop; as much as 95 lbs K2O per 1,000 lbs kernel crop.