California Almonds: Bloom Nears With Valentine’s Day Timing, Plus Or Minus – AgFax

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  • Here is this week’s issue of AgFax Tree Crops.
  • Our thanks to BASF and its California team for sponsoring this coverage.
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Owen Taylor, Editor
Jenny Holtermann, Contributing Editor

OVERVIEW

The probable start of bloom looks to be 7 to 10 days off, depending on location. The consensus among our contacts puts bloom on February 14, plus or minus a few days. Opinions vary about whether a bloom spray will be necessary, but growers and PCAs are at least considering timing and strategies.

With the steady increase in almond acres, beekeepers have pushed hard to put hives in place early.

Early December rains and foggy mornings across much of our coverage area made for ideal winter sanitation conditions for growers, with many growers wrapping up mummy shaking well before

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CROP REPORTS

Nick Groenenberg, Independent PCA, Hanford

“We don’t see any pink bud yet. However, we might find about 5% bloom by the middle to the latter part of next week. The timing is close to the same bloom period we had last year.

“We always have concern for the threat of blossom blight and are getting geared up for bloom sprays when the time comes. Growers will start spraying when the bloom is at 5% and will do two different sprays, 7 to 10 days apart, depending on how bloom progresses.

“Growers finished mummy shaking in January and half the growers in our area also poll the trees to get any straggler mummies off. Leaving behind less than two nuts per tree is the goal. However, occasionally, we found a tree with more.

“The fields were too wet earlier this winter, delaying the effectiveness of sanitation until the moisture levels increased with fog.

“In alfalfa, we are finding Egyptian alfalfa weevils with 3 to 5 per sweep, which are normal amounts this time of year. We are also continuing with weed control on fallow beds that will be planted in spring.”

Tony Touma PCA, Bio Ag Consulting, Bakersfield

“We have seen scattered bloom in the Sonora variety south of Bakersfield, estimated at less than 1%. Pink buds are starting to show in the Nonpareil variety, with bloom expected within 7 days and the majority of varieties to follow within a few days after that.

“We are on track for bloom timing with February 14, about a week off.

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“Beekeepers have been hurrying to get bees out. More almond orchards are in production now than in the last several years. Since beekeepers can’t deliver all the bees right before bloom, they’ve started earlier.

“We have received a lot of sunshine in the previous few days. Even though temperatures are still colder, the bees are becoming more active.

“Growers are beginning to line up bloom sprays, but we will hold off on spraying unless there is a threat of rain in the forecast. If it doesn’t rain, we delay applications until the trees are in full bloom.

“If we don’t end up getting rain, then we can eliminate an application. We really don’t get amped up for bloom sprays unless the predicted weather favor bloom disease.

“Growers finished mummy shaking by January 20 and completed dormant sprays where they were needed. Mummy counts have been lower than they were in the last two years.

“That rain in early December, combined with fog this last month, created better conditions for growers to complete mummy shaking. Drier conditions last year, late rain and less fog delayed the winter sanitation effectiveness last season.”

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

“We’ve seen little change in the bloom progress over the last week. The Sonora variety is just starting to show signs of bloom. Buds are finally starting to stretch, but little to no white is showing and you have to hunt for a few beginning blossoms.

“The colder weather this last week seems to be keeping buds at a steady pace and not pushing too fast. The weather has not been consistent with warm or cold temperatures. The air will dry out and then it will warm back up, with neither condition staying in place for a long stretch.

“We have had night lows in the 30s to mid-40s and highs in the mid-50s to mid-60s during the days.

“The forecast appears to continue in the same pattern. With this roller coaster weather, there hasn’t been anything to light the fuse and push fast bloom.

“I think we still have about a week until we see more blooms and we will likely be after the February 14 for Nonpareil bloom. It is shaping up to be an earlier bloom than last year. Growers are lining up bloom sprays and waiting for the timing to fall into place.

“Beekeepers are continuing to deliver bees. They have to feed their bees due to a lack of significant cover crops or blooms. Many cover crops were planted late last fall and aren’t maturing fast enough to sustain the bees right now.”

Aaron Beene PCA, Simplot Grower Solutions, Merced

“Buds have been swelling in the last couple of weeks and are bulking up. A few early varieties or stressed trees have a small number of flowers.

“In the middle to end of next week, we will start seeing more bloom, which is right on track. In the last few years, bacterial blast around bloom reduced the crop load. This bloom looks to be more uniform than in previous years.

“Most growers have preemergent herbicides down. Bacterial blast was devastating in the last few years, especially in the Independence variety.

“We applied an early copper-oil dormant spray and came back with a delayed light copper dormant spray before pink bud, hoping to suppress those early blooms that are more susceptible to infection.

“Next week, we will prepare for bloom sprays, if necessary. If the weather remains sunny and in the mid-60s for highs, we’ll delay treatments. Ideally, we apply the bloom spray at 30% to40% bloom or 50% to 70% if rain isn’t in the forecast. We won’t trigger an application unless the forecast calls for a high chance of rain or an extended rainy period.

“We received an early rain around the end of December, followed by a period of foggy days, which helping moisture levels so we could complete winter shaking. We lined up for excellent winter sanitation conditions, with 80% to 90% of growers in better circumstances than in recent years.

“Early cold snaps helped to lessen leaffooted plant bug signs and we have been fortunate not to see early sightings.

“Walnuts and pistachios growers have completed pruning and are applying preemergent herbicides. With the lack of moisture and an increase in sunny days, a minority of growers are starting to irrigate. If no rain persists, growers will need to ensure deep soil moisture levels before trees begin pushing push buds.

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“If it continues to be a dry February, irrigation will be important to consider. Growers will want to ensure active roots before any nitrogen applications in a few weeks.”

Jhalendra Rijal, Area IPM Advisor, Northern San Joaquin Valley

“In the northern San Joaquin Valley, I’m still seeing mummies on trees in places. While growers are still exercising due diligence, we might need to put more effort into this. Nothing replaces mummy sanitation as far as effective navel orangeworm control.

“Hopefully, growers are achieving the threshold of fewer than two mummies per tree after shaking, plus grinding mummies before mid-March. Keep in mind that mummies not only host larvae in the winter but also serve as the only place for egg laying and survival of the first generation in the spring and early summer.

“Ten years ago, when winter rain was more prevalent, you would be okay without winter sanitation, but times have changed. Now there is more almond, walnut and pistachio acreage and our winters are milder, coupled with limited insecticides options.

“Also, almond bearing acreage has increased by 50% or more in just the past 10 years, and that’s 50% more food for navel orangeworms. It is more important now than ever to winter sanitize and limit populations later.

“The navel orangeworm is a very unpredictable pest, but mummy sanitation is the most predictable practice to reduce crop damage. We also recommend it for pistachios and walnuts.

“Bloom appears to be on track. Don’t use any insecticide at all during bloom time. Growers can control peach twig borer if it is a problem, with insecticides later in spring with no urgency during bloom.

“If needed, a fungicide should only be applied in the afternoon or evenings to avoid contact with bees. It is critical to be conscious of bees in the area. The best practice is to create a communication loop with the grower, PCA, ag commissioners, applicators and beekeeper and make decisions in advance about the use for the season.

“Of course, things can change, but it’s still best to have a plan. Good practices also include taking care of seemingly small things that contribute to good pollination. For example, provide a clean water source for bees so they spend more time pollinating the crop and less searching for water.”

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