Almonds – Hull Split Sprays Start – A Busy Week Ahead – AgFax Tree Crops

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Owen Taylor, Editor


Hull splitting has started on a wide basis and treatments are going out, with more on tap after the weekend.

Moths are laying eggs to varying degrees through much of our coverage area.

Spider mite numbers increased in places just ahead of hull split.

USDA’s objective survey projects a mostly unexpected drop in the size of the 2019 almond crop. Connect to a report in our Also Of Note section.

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Chris Morgner, PCA, Agri-Valley Consulting, Merced:

“I’m finding blanks and early splits on the ends. That’s in most areas, especially on the west side of Merced County. In that area, we’re definitely into hull splitting. The University of California predictive model had us pegged for July 5 in our warmer areas.

“Splitting will pick up next week. How much splitting you might see today (7/5) still varies, depending on management decisions and other factors. I was in a client’s orchard where I was hard pressed to find anything splitting in his Nonpareils. But I walked across the road into his neighbor’s block and had no trouble finding splits in those Nonpareils. The neighbor’s crop looked pretty good but I suspect that those trees weren’t watered quite as much as my client watered his.

“Also, I found NOW eggs in the neighbor’s orchard where both blanks and sound nuts had split, plus on mummies. So, the moths are flying. Again, with the degree day model for NOW, we had this summer flight pegged for June 30 to July 8, so egg laying is right in that slot. That really underscores the fact that the models give you a general idea but you’ve still got to narrow down scouting and decisions to the individual ranch and block.

“But we now know that the moths are flying. If anything is splitting, they’ll lay eggs on it.

“We started hull split sprays early this week on the west side around Los Banos and that will continue into next week. Splitting is starting in a few orchards now on the east side, but most spraying in that area will start on Monday (7/8).

“Where appropriate, we’ve included fungicides, which were mainly aimed at rust. We included a miticide with most sprays, although we’re still not finding many mites. Mites did need attention in a few blocks, but no widespread outbreak has developed.

“Trees look amazingly beautiful for July 5 – bright leaves with a strong color. I imagine that all the rain helped wash off the dust, but conditions also have been good. June was wonderful. It wasn’t extremely hot for any extended period and we were able to keep up with the water. When we did move through little stretches of heat, the trees could handle it.

“In walnuts, plenty of predators are present, so aphids have never had a chance to build. Most of my walnuts are young, but 250 acres are bearing and we have never found codling moths on that ranch. We’re not seeing mites, either, and we have never done a preventive miticide application there.

“In pistachios, nut fill has started. I’ve been encouraging our clients to step up their water management through July and into August to ensure nut fill remains on track. We sprayed for botryosphaeria in April and then in May when it was raining.

“We’re not going with the degree-day-based spray timing at 1,700 for NOW but will wait for splitting before making an application in pistachios. In a couple of blocks, citrus flat mites developed earlier and we treated those when we went through for something else.

“All of our cotton is blooming and retention is good. No aphid, mite or worm problems in cotton. Lygus have been the main player and we’ve probably made 2 sprays on most of the cotton. Lygus counts are now under control. A few fields here and there have lygus numbers and retention that is questionable, so we are rechecking.

“In alfalfa, we’ve been spraying armyworms in a number of fields the last 2 weeks. In tomatoes, armyworm activity picked up a couple of weeks ago and lingered into last week in places. Numbers are now a bit low and tapering off. The weather hasn’t been excessively hot and the older tomatoes have a really nice fruit set so far.”

Brian Gogue, PCA, Helena Agri-Enterprises, LLC, Hanford:

“We’re into hull split and our first sprays started at the beginning of this week. Spraying will crank up tonight (7/5) in more blocks. That will probably continue for the next 7 nights, which should cover all of our Nonpareils.

“I have not sprayed a single block this year for spider mites. In 90% of the hull split sprays we will include a miticide. But in a few blocks, we’ll watch them for a couple of weeks and probably include a miticide with the second spray. Mite pressure did come up this week in places. I started noticing a bit of that last week but have noted a big change in several orchards over the past week. It’s to the point that treatments are warranted.

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“Where we’ll apply a miticide with the second spray, those are blocks where Nonpareils were planted in the same row with other varieties. Only a few growers have that pattern. In one case, it’s an older block but the rest are relatively new where Nonpareils and Independence were interplanted.

“In pistachios, we’re moving to the 1,700 degree-day spray timing for NOW and will start those applications early next week in orchards where we’ve had significant pressure based on trap counts and history. Bugs have been quite minimal in pistachios this year and I don’t think I’ve sprayed any pistachios for bugs in the last month. I haven’t seen any citrus flat mites, either.

“Oddly enough, we did have to treat chinch bugs in some older trees – the first time for me to deal with them in mature trees. They built in weeds in the middles and moved to trunks and into lower branches after the weeds were killed. So, we sprayed the lower portions of the tree, the trunks and the floor.

“In walnuts, we sprayed about 2 weeks ago. We went with a worm material in most fields, a fungicide in some fields and a miticide in all fields.

“Cotton looks pretty good, finally. It took a while to recover from that earlier hail damage, but it’s setting fruit well. We just completed our third lygus spray in Pima out west and are finally to the point that retention is good. Plants are growing well and we’re keeping fertility going.

“Armyworms and loopers have been minimal in cotton. With the last lygus spray, we went with a material that would handle lygus and worms. But worms, by themselves, hadn’t built to a point that we would have sprayed for them separately. I saw the first bloom about 2 weeks ago.

“We’ve had issues with spider mites in upland cotton around Hanford and put on a layby miticide right after first irrigation. I haven’t seen mites like this in cotton in many, many years. The upland cotton does look nice and it’s setting a good deal of fruit.

“A few worms are around in the alfalfa. We haven’t treated anything yet but armyworms were approaching threshold in a couple of places. But then the growers decided to cut instead.

“Tomatoes are doing okay, but the condition of any give field depends on whether or how bad the hail hit it. Damage was significant enough in places that a couple of my growers disked up 3 quarter-sections between them. Several fields still look really bad but weren’t disked.

“On the other end of the spectrum, we have tomatoes that missed the hail and now look really nice. The first harvest will probably start in a week. Worms are minimal in tomatoes. We treated one field in more of a preventive mode where we already were making an application for mildew. Mildew pressure has been with us this year and we’ve been pretty steadily making those treatments.”

Jack Gonzales, PCA/CCA, Supervised Control Service, LLC, Bakersfield:

“Hull split sprays started this week on a limited basis, depending on the ranch and the progression of splitting. The majority of my growers will begin sprays today (7/5) and into next week.

“Compared to last year, splitting started a good week later this year. In places, it’s still hard to find splitting in some Nonpareil-Monterey blocks. Of the splits I’ve seen, I’m not picking up much NOW activity yet, which is good.

“Compared to 2018 at this time, the moth trap numbers are running lower. I suspect that NOW are ramping up the second-generation flight but moth numbers are too inconsistent to confirm any trend.

“With all the hull split sprays, I’m including a fungicide, mainly for rust protection. In certain blocks, rust really blew up. We watched it for several weeks, hoping to make it to hull split, but in places it took off.

“Mites have also built and this is the most pressure I’ve seen at hull split in several years. If anything, these would be considered normal levels for Kern County. Most hull split sprays will carry a miticide, and it’s justified.

“Where we didn’t include a miticide with the first spray, we will put one in the tank with the second application if needed. Mites started building a few weeks ago. On some ranches, we didn’t spray and that was the right call, although with a few blocks I now wish we had sprayed earlier.

“In pistachios, we wrapped up the second alternaria spray in the last week of June. On certain ranches with a history of it, alternaria is definitely increasing and we’ll talk with those growers about doing a third spray.

“I’ll start checking pistachios next week for nut fill. Based on the way bloom went, the Peters and Kermans synced well, so I don’t expect to find many blanks.

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“In cotton, we’re still battling lygus. Thankfully, the last spray (on 6/30) took counts down to zeroes with a few ones, so we’ll see how long that lasts. On average, that was my third lygus spray this season. I’m being told, though, about fields where 4 or 5 treatments have already gone out.

“In alfalfa, yellowstriped armyworms started increasing 7 to 10 days ago. About when they hit threshold, the growers cut, so we got by without treating. We’re now seeing quite a few alfalfa caterpillar butterflies and low levels of aphids, so we’ll see how that plays out before the next cutting.”

John Moore, PCA, Growers Crop Consulting, Bakersfield:

“We finished all of our first hull split sprays (as of 7/5) for certain growers and recommendations have been written for their second sprays, which will begin next week.

“I don’t start this early with everyone. But this is how I approach things with clients who’ve had high percentages of rejects in the past, and it tends to work. I’m selecting materials that have very good control on adults. Along with taking out adults, I’m laying down an insecticide and an ovicide. If the moth isn’t laying eggs on good nuts yet, it will lay them on a mummy, so I have a chance take that egg out, too.

“Also, I suspect that moths are laying eggs on some sound nuts before we actually see a visible split. Once that nut begins changing color ahead of splitting, you have an underlying chemical process that might already be drawing moths to the sound nut.

“One unknown is to what extent nuts in the tops of trees are already into early splitting. They’re out of our reach, so we can’t determine when that splitting starts. We first see nuts splitting on young trees and on ends because those nuts are more exposed to the elements. If you follow that reasoning, the tops of trees also are more exposed to the elements. So, a larger portion of the crop could be into that first wave of splitting than might be expected.

“By going this early, we may need a third spray, but growers who’ve had 15% reject rates in the past don’t question it if I recommend a third application. Of the almonds I work, probably 50% will receive a third spray this year.

“Almond harvest will probably start a week later than it did in 2018. A little shaking begins in July in some years but I don’t think we’ll see that this year. It will be more in the first week of August, which is about the normal starting point here.

“In pistachios, we did the NOW application at 1,700 degree days. In certain blocks, we included a fungicide for botryosphaeria.”

Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor, Colusa, Sutter and Yuba Counties:

“Gerry Hernandez, (ag technician with Colusa County) found NOW eggs at the Nickels Soil Lab on Tuesday, July 2. We’re not quite at hull split (as of 7/5) but blanks began splitting late last week. We’re making a border spray today or tomorrow and then will see how the rest of the block looks.

Depending on if or how much splitting we find early next week, we will start the first full spray ASAP or wait a day or two. Dr. Joel Siegel, USDA researcher, says better early than late on hull split sprays, especially with materials like Intrepid and Altacor.

“I’m hearing that many growers are targeting early next week for spraying. Timing varies from block to block, as will decisions about whether to include a fungicide or miticide. Once hull splitting is under way, begin pulling leaf samples for nutrient analysis. Mark the calendar to take hull samples for boron analysis during harvest.”

Estimates in the Objective Report slipped 12% from the May 2019 California Almond Subjective Forecast of 2.5 billion pounds. The Objective Report collects data later in the season, closer to harvest, and is based on an actual count of nuts on trees versus phone interviews with farmers.
Slightly higher almond yields were obtained in the mature orchards after one year of cover cropping: in Merced County.
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