California Almonds: Blooming Starts A Bit – 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.
  • Got questions or comments? Let us know.
Owen Taylor, Editor
Jenny Holtermann, Contributing Editor

OVERVIEW

Bloom varies through our coverage area. Mostly, it appears to be delayed compared to the average bloom progression, according to our contacts. While it has been slow-moving, but our contacts expect bloom ramp up, with a fast bloom once the buds start to pop.

People in the field are planning fungicide sprays and nutrient programs. Growers who need to get ahead on large acreages have already started applications, while others are waiting for the onset of any rain in the forecast.

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CROP REPORTS

Todd Fukuda PCA, Weinberger and Associates, Hanford

“It has been a relatively slow bloom so far. On every five or so trees along the borders, you might find a flower starting to pop open, and we are barely at 1% pink tip in our area. I do expect more pink tips next week. In places, early varieties in the Arbuckle and Williams areas appear to be at 15% bloom on borders, with 5% in field bloom.

“We don’t see any storms in the forecast, so we aren’t planning for fungicide applications yet. We are falling slightly behind but it is looking to be a quick pink tip to bloom transition. With not much time in between, that could catch us up to an average bloom period.

“Growers are planning for fungicide bloom sprays, nutrition applications and seaweed extract sprays, all of which are dependent on bloom. Growers tend to apply a fungicide at full bloom or petal fall, usually getting at least one spray. If there are no signs of rain in the forecast, we won’t spray at all.

“A drier season this winter enabled growers to complete winter sanitation. Polling was necessary when numbers were higher than the one average per tree. Blowing, sweeping into windrows and shredding were common practices for almonds.

“Shaking and blowing off berms were standard in pistachio orchards. Growers either then disked in the kernels, left them in the middles or mowed in a small percentage of orchards.

“In pistachios, growers are finishing shredding and also touching up with herbicide sprays. Everything is pretty routine in the pistachio orchards. Buds are developing well. Yield potential looks good, even in alternate bearing acres.”

 

Chris Morgner PCA, Agri-Valley Consulting, Merced

“We’re mostly seeing pink tips across the fields, with small traces of 1% to 2% bloom. Full bloom is projected at around February 24 for our area. North of Merced, bloom traditionally starts a few days before it does in the Merced area.  This year, everything looks to be more even across regions and slightly delayed.

“Fungicide plans aren’t a priority right now since we’re only finding small traces of bloom and no rain is in the 10-day forecast. Sprays are now taking a back seat to irrigation. Growers are putting down a half-inch to 1 inch of irrigation this week and possibly next week as well, in efforts to recharge the feeder roots. The goal is to put moisture in the top two feet.

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“Water for bees is a concern, as well. We have canals in some areas but not in others, so water needs to be in place for bees, too.

“Next week, we will revisit possible fungicide applications and just plans as the weather might dictate. Half of my growers will spray at full bloom, while the others will not spray at all unless rain is in the forecast.

“Heavy rains in November saturated the soils, so winter shaking was mostly done in December and January after fields dried out. Growers finished shaking, sweeping and mowing primarily in January. Winter sanitation was successful overall.

“We’re currently aiming for our nutrient programs to begin in mid-March, and growers are fertility planning and ordering fertilizers.

“About 90% of our growers will apply nitrogen through fertigation, as well as adding potassium in April through June, with fertilizers primarily continuing weekly through the nut fill period. Smaller amounts of fertilizer will be needed during July and August until harvest.

 

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

“This week in the blocks I’ve seen, more bloom movement seems to be underway in Sutter County than to the west. Bloom has been progressing well along Highway 20 in Sutter County in Aldrich on Krymsk 86 rootstock, and it’s at 50-70% bloom. Krymsk 86 rootstock is showing an earlier bloom this year than Lovell rootstocks.

“Along the Interstate 5 corridor, bloom isn’t as far along. However, the movement has picked up over the last week. The Sonora variety at Nickels Soil Lab is at 25% to 30% bloom, whereas Nonpareil just passed pink bud is at 5% bloom. The later pollinators like Butte and Wood Colony are not showing any flowers, while Monterey and Fritz are showing some bloom.

“The daytime temperatures have warmed up this week, with highs in the 60s and 70s, and that’s great weather for blooms to progress steadily. The forecast includes a very slight chance of rain on Sunday. However, the National Weather Service says that little, if any, precipitation seems likely. This is certainly a different bloom season than last year. I’m crossing my fingers for a good nut set. 

“Most growers have planned for or are in the process of planning bloom sprays. One bloom spray at 30% to 50% bloom is sufficient to protect flowers in a dry bloom year, according to UC Riverside Plant Pathology professor, Jim Adaskaveg.

“Brown rot infections can occur even without rainfall when dew delivers the moisture needed for infection. One spray with a local systemic fungicide is recommended from FRAC groups 3,9 and 11.

“Growers are still finishing up some late pruning in young almond blocks. Some growers are tying up trees in young, bearing orchards. Since the ground dried out in the last couple of weeks, orchard removal is underway in the Arbuckle district, and growers are prepping for site work for new plantings. People are removing older blocks, and crews are deep-ripping as part of orchard prep.

“Earlier this week very little rain fell, plus drying winds were coming out of the north this past week. With more of the same forecasted for early next week, the soil should be able to hold a quick irrigation to allow for the first shot of nitrogen fertilizer.

“When the bloom weather is ideal and there are signs of a decent crop set, it can be a good idea to make the first nitrogen application as early as bloom or petal fall. The first nitrogen should be applied by the time of full spur leaf out.”

 

John Moore PCA, Growers Crop Consulting, Bakersfield

“Aldrich is showing most bee activity, and it’s at 3% to 5% bloom. Sonora and Monterey buds follow with pink tip progress. Buds are pushing in Nonpareil and they also have the least amount of bloom, not even at pink bud. Where you see a couple of flowers open at every tree, the rest will be at pink bud.

“The bulk of the almond buds in our area are at green tip and starting to push pink tips. We are slow to bloom this year, it seems. The bees are steadily searching for blooms, and they are very active where they can find open flowers.

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“Our nights the last few weeks have been cold, down in the 40s, and that’s has kept things moving slowly. If we move into more days like yesterday (2/13) where it is was in the 70s, we might get a flash bloom. Flowers might start to just pop if the warmer temperatures end up staying with us. However, highs of 60s are in the forecast, so that’s likely to slow bloom progression.

“Growers are talking about fungicide bloom sprays, and about a third of growers have recommendations in progress. They already have material, and they plant to spray soon and won’t wait for the forecast.

“Another third of the growers have the recommendations on hand but won’t do anything until rain is in the forecast.  The remaining third aren’t planning to apply fungicides unless the weather changes.

“Where my growers are spraying, they’re including boron. When applying an economical fungicide, boron has merit at least before pink bud.”

 

Phoebe Gordon, UC Orchard Systems Advisor, Madera & Merced Counties

“Almond bloom is in the beginning stages and looks like it’s in about the same time frame as last year, at least at my almond variety trial site in Chowchilla. While we’re unfortunately very short on rain, it does lower the disease risk.

“However, temperatures are warm, so growers and PCAs should still be alert for diseases like brown rot, which can cause issues in high humidity and warm weather.  If you spray, follow bee safety practices like leaving an insecticide out of the tank mix, only using adjuvants when the label specifies it, and spray when bees are not active. 

“I’ve only gotten one bacterial canker call this year, probably because the weather has been so dry, despite the freezing temperatures we had earlier this month.  In general, that’s best avoided with preplant preventative measures like fumigation if the soil has ring nematodes, and avoiding peach-almond hybrids and plum parentage rootstocks.”

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

TWO DAYS APART

These two photos show what a huge difference in bloom progress that just a couple of days can make. These were shot by Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor in Colusa, Sutter and Yuba Counties.

Niederholzer reported, “Here are the same rows of fifth-leaf trees (Aldrich on the left and Nonpareil on the right) taken on February 12 (top) and February 14 at about the same time of day in the area around the community of Sutter just north of Highway 20 in Sutter County. The trees are on Krymsk 86 rootstock. Bloom has moved pretty fast in this area. Aldrich bloom is always strong.”

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