California Almonds: Seemingly On Track For “Normal” Bloom Timing – AgFax

    Budswell in Independence almond variety. Photo: ©2020 Sara Savary

    • Here is this week’s issue of AgFax Tree Crops.
    • Our thanks to BASF and its California team for sponsoring this coverage.
    • Got questions or comments? Let us know.
    Owen Taylor, Editor
    Jenny Holtermann, Contributing Editor


    This marks the beginning of our 30th year covering crops in California’s Central Valley. Our first newsletter – focusing on San Joaquin Valley cotton – debuted in 1991, and this is our 12th season covering almonds and related crops.

    Let us start the season with notes of gratitude.

    Our thanks to our contacts – the PCAs and Extension workers who provide the reports we run every week. A handful of these professionals were on our first call list in 1991 and have continued providing the updates and insights that make each issue possible. We greatly value their help and the relationships that have formed.

    Our thanks to out sponsor – the California field staff of BASF for once again sponsoring our coverage. This marks BASF’s fifth year as the exclusive sponsor of AgFax Tree Crops.



    Starting with this issue, Jenny Holtermann joins our editorial process as a contributing editor. Her name may already be familiar to you. She blogs about ag and is active on social media. You might have seen her byline in California ag publications. Her family raises almonds and walnuts and she and her husband now farm almonds with his family. Plus, she has held a number of county and state positions with California Farm Bureau.

    Check out Holtermann’s bio (below our Crop Reports section).

    Owen Taylor, this newsletter’s publisher and founding editor, will remain involved with the publication but Holtermann will produce the main content going forward.

    “We are extremely pleased to welcome Jenny to our team,” Taylor said. “Her qualifications went above and beyond what we set as a minimum. The fact that she grew up on a tree-crop farm and is involved in almond farming now is a real bonus. Bringing her into the process helps ensure this newsletter’s continuity as a new decade begins.”



    Buds are barely starting to swell. With slightly warmer temperatures and drier conditions in the forecast, we can expect more swelling as the crop moves toward February.

    Dormant sprays vary across the state. Mummy shaking seems to be mostly done. Growers are prepping for bees and the onset of bloom.

    Bee deliveries have started. Bloom seems to be on target for mid-February across a wide part of our coverage area. With more bees needed as acreage increases, beekeepers seem to be making an earlier start in moving hives into almond orchards.



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    Sara Savary PCA, Crop Care Associates, Fresno:

    “Most of my growers are still working on dormant spraying. That’s mostly just in older trees if they have scale or blocks with a history of bacterial problems. Dormant spraying should wrap up in a week or so.

    “Guys who have their own equipment are finishing up faster, while others are struggling. Growers don’t have canal water so if they have slower pumping capacity to fill up, they are taking longer to finish spraying. In a couple more weeks everyone should be done with dormant sprays.

    “It looks like Independence, Nonpareil and some Supareil are into bud swell. I cover almonds from Firebaugh to Fowler and down to Visalia. Through that area, Independence is at 30% or so now, with less than 20% for the Nonpareil and Supareil. We should see more pink bud on Independence toward the first week of February.

    “It is 60 degrees right now (afternoon, 1/23), so things can move quickly if it starts to warm up. The fog has been burning off pretty early. Fog should slow things down if it stays cool. However, the fog has been burning off by mid-morning and temperatures have been moving into the 60s by late morning. The warmer temperatures will probably speed things up.

    “We won’t see any bloom until closer to Valentine’s Day. Bloom may start in some Independence a tad earlier.

    “Green stink bugs are prevalent this time of year. I have seen them more in organic fields, especially where row crops and alfalfa are nearby. I can find them in conventional fields, as well, but they are heavier in organic fields. We will plan to hit them the same time we hit leaffooted plant bugs in mid-April. We are only monitoring for them right now, since they won’t cause any damage this time of year.”


    Dale Deshane PCA, Supervised Control Services, Bakersfield:

    “Almond growers are trying to finish dormant sprays and are aiming to wrap it up by Wednesday or Thursday. We are still working on herbicide applications. We’re trying to get ahead of weeds when they are smaller and also before bees arrive.

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    “They are calling for warmer temperatures next week. Beekeepers started putting hives out this week in orchards. As soon as temperatures go up next week, the bees will be arriving even faster.

    “I’m only seeing a little bit of green in the buds. Things are still pretty dormant, and we are on the early side to see any bloom. The majority of bloom is expected to be on schedule, probably around February 10-12.

    “Several hullers called this last season concerning brown spot. They’re thinking that the brown spot was associated with stink bug damage. The treatments we are applying now seem to be knocking down stink bugs pretty good, and you can find plenty of dead bugs under the trees after treatment.

    “Many growers got away from dormant spraying in the last few years. But with this stink bug damage, it’s better to kill them during dormant season than into the growing season and risk flaring mites. Most growers would rather get on top of it now than wait until later in the spring.”


    Gary Gliddon PCA, Treevine Consulting, Modesto:

    “Mummy shaking has wrapped up. Some growers had a fair amount of crop still on the tree before that shaking. We do have some really clean orchards but in places have had a hard time getting mummies off. Growers are waiting for rain or fog to help with moisture now.

    “Some growers are making copper sprays, but I am unsure if it will be effective at this point. The copper runs out, breaks down and goes away. I recommend waiting for dormant spraying until the end of the month and closer to when the buds are swelling.

    “I don’t see scale as a problem right now, and most blocks are very clean. I don’t worry about peach twig borers, either. A lot of predators are out there that can take care of them.”

    “Bud swell is starting in some Sonoras, with just a little white. Bloom will start at about the normal time this year. Some bloom probably will begin in early February, with more of it likely underway in the middle of the month.”


    Franz Neiderholzer, UC Farm Advisor Colusa, Sutter & Yuba Counties:

    “I haven’t seen much dormant spraying underway. A few growers have asked lately about dormant or delayed dormant copper and oil sprays. Prebloom copper can help manage some diseases, particularly bacterial spot and almond scab. Oil helps the copper stay on the tree and also helps suppress low to moderate scale population.

    “Growers should weigh the possible benefits of copper and oil now against the value of using that money in a later spray or fertilizer.

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    “Fields are beginning to dry out a little. We are probably at 60% to 70% average annual rainfall to date.

    “Growers are pruning walnut and stone fruit trees in places.

    “Buds are swelling. A little green is showing but no pink is visible. We are probably looking for bloom to start on Valentine’s Day, plus or minus a couple days, according to some experienced growers I talked to today (1/23).

    “Bloom is not looking as late as last year but on track to be more average timing. The 2018 bloom was very early in some blocks, but last year the cold weather delayed our bloom.

    “Hives are starting to arrive, but many hives do have feeding jars on top and the bees are still being fed. Any available foliage is limited this week.”


    Our New Contributing Editor

    Jenny Holtermann is a fourth-generation California farmer. She grew up in Chico where her family farms almonds and walnuts. She graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, in Agribusiness Marketing and Fruit Science.

    She blogs at Almond Girl Jenny, is a freelance writer and social media advocate.

    Jenny and her husband farm almonds with his parents, brother and sister-in-law in the Wasco and Shafter area. Jenny and her husband have two small kids and live on their homestead in Shafter.

    She currently serves as second vice president of Kern County Farm Bureau and is on the California Farm Bureau Board of Directors representing Kern and Kings Counties. She is a past chair of California Young Farmers & Ranchers and is currently in the American Farm Bureau Partners in Advocacy Leadership Class 10.

    Jenny also serves on the Global Communications Committee of the Almond Board of California.

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    AgFax Tree Crops is published by:

    AgFax Media LLC, 142 Westlake Drive, Brandon, MS 39047-9020.   

    601-992-9488, Owen Taylor, Editor and Publisher.

    For subscription or advertising inquiries, please contact Owen Taylor.

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