California Almonds: Full Bloom And Beyond, Dry Conditions Influencing Decisions – AgFax

    California almond trees in bloom. Photo: Sara Savary for AgFax Media

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    Owen Taylor, Editor
    Jenny Holtermann, Contributing Editor


    Almonds are mostly in full bloom and are beginning to advance into petal fall.

    Due to drier conditions and warmer temperatures, fungicide sprays have not been very common this year. Foliar sprays are starting in certain areas and growers included fungicide in some cases.

    Warmer temperatures the last few weeks across the state will slightly cool down next week, only to go up again if the forecast holds. Only small traces of rain fell last weekend on the east side of Fresno and Tulare Counties. No measurable rain in the valley since January.

    Growers have been irrigating on a wide basis to ensure soil is carrying adequate moisture. Fertilizer applications are going out in certain regions.

    People in the field are beginning to place insect traps and monitoring will start as March progresses.

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    Kris E. Tollerup, IPM Cooperative Extension Advisor, Kearney AREC, Parlier

    “We are deep into bloom right now in our area. Bloom this year had a rapid start but then seemed to slow down.

    “We’ve had above-average temperatures in the last few weeks. The forecast is predicting a cooldown and then back to seasonal temperatures next week.

    “Leaffooted bug is showing up in very low populations. Currently, we are scouting in areas where they have an historical presence, but we haven’t found any this year. However, be diligent and begin monitoring for new damage in the middle to end of March. 

    “Ants are already active due to lack of rain and warmer temperatures. May is a good time to start monitoring for pest and non-pest ant species.  If pest ants are present, research has shown that a bait with an insect growth regulator applied in late May, followed by a stomach poison bait, provides excellent control.”

    Dan Prentice, Prentice Ag Consulting, Bakersfield

    “The softshell almond varieties are on the backside of bloom and into petal fall. Meanwhile, hard shells are at full bloom. Bloom advanced very quickly this year, over the course of a week. It started with normal timing and finished early.

    “Spraying on hard shells is underway. The growers who wanted to spray soft shells have finished those applications. More than half of our growers elected not to spray this year, which is more growers than usual. Most were going to apply foliar nutrients, so they just added a fungicide. Growers did not use a fungicide alone. Usually, we get rain during bloom, prompting a spray. But dry conditions and the speed of this bloom made a fungicide application less necessary.

    “Last weekend, the rain forecast ended up being barely a sprinkler to 15 hundredths of an inch, depending on locations across the southern valley. We do not anticipate more than that again this weekend, most likely less than last weekend. It is, however, projected to cool down into next week and back to average temperatures for this time of year.

    “We already are finding mites pretty easily, but nothing to worry about right now. They are on what few leaves are out already. Minimal rain is in the forecast this season, so we can’t expect much wash-off on the leaves, and mite pressure could increase.

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    “Scale traps are going out in place and peach twig borer and navel orangeworm traps will be out soon, too.

    “A few of our growers are fertilizing, and more will begin soon. More irrigation is starting up.

    “Cherries are beginning to bloom. Pistachios aren’t progressing yet.”

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

    “We’ve had beautiful weather lately and not a cloud in the sky – unseasonably warm this week with maximum temperatures in the mid-70s. The forecast calls for a small storm over the weekend, which is supposed to bring temperatures down slightly, but they will ramp up again, based on the forecast. Chances of weekend rain range from 10% to 50%, depending on locations across the northern part of the state.

    “I heard this could be the driest February on record if we do not have rainfall before Sunday, March 1. The last measurable rain was the middle of January.

    “With the dry weather and low humidity over the last week, only limited fungicide spraying has started in our area.

     “Nitrogen is being applied mostly through fertigation.  The orchards are dry enough they will take in partial irrigation.

    “Bloom is primarily at petal fall. Surprisingly, we’re still seeing white flowers on the trees, although more green leaves are obvious now. Aldrich still has robust flowers showing on trees. Winters variety showed leaves simultaneously with bloom.

    “There have been 50% allocation rations for the western side of the north state. We will see if that changes, depending on March rainfall. Timely water and fertilizers will be the primary goals this year for growers. But wet weather is in the forecast for March 6 to March 12, which is good news.

    “Insect traps might be going up early this year from lack of rain and a possible increase in insect pressure. Navel orangeworm monitoring traps should be up no later than March 15 in our region.”

    Nathan Stewart, PCA, AgVantage Consulting, Inc., Visalia

    “Most orchards in our area are at petal fall. We are currently running 7 to 10 days behind on bloom, but we are projecting to catch up. This last week, temperatures were warmer than average, which helps pick up the pace.

    “Our growers did no spraying during bloom time. We are seeing a small amount of leaf out now, so we started foliar sprays. Because of the dry weather, we can do the foliar and fungicide sprays together. The east side was the first area to get completed.

    “A small amount of rain fell last weekend – mainly on the eastside, near Ivanhoe to Porterville measuring 2 to 3 tenths of an inch. Meanwhile, Hanford and Tipton only received one-tenth, if anything. We are anticipating higher chances of rain in the next few weeks.

    “Growers started their first round of fertilizer and nitrogen going in through irrigation systems. Most have drip or micro sprinklers. We are behind on precipitation, prompting growers to irrigate. 

    “Growers are experiencing difficulties with preemergent herbicides due to lack of rain, and a few had to retreat in places. The soil needs a quarter-inch of moisture for the preemergent to work well, and weeds are a bit of a challenge this go around.

    “Pistachios are progressing, with early varieties starting into budswell. Growers will begin budswell applications in the next couple of weeks with mixtures of urea, zinc and boron.

    “Walnuts are pretty quiet and buds are just starting to swell. Growers are starting partial irrigation to ensure moisture in the soil profile before bloom.”

    Jhalendra Rijal, Area IPM Advisor, Northern San Joaquin Valley

    “It has been a good season for bloom, with no rain affecting the progress and none in the forecast.

    “We’ve started setting out navel orangeworm pheromone traps. We should put egg traps out by mid-March. Egg traps help us set the spring biofix and calculate degree days.

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    “Oriental fruit moth tracking started last week, and we’ve already caught 15 moths in one trap, but we will wait until next week’s counts to pinpoint the biofix date. Last year, we didn’t capture any adults in traps until mid-March, but we suspected early insect activity this year. Three orchards have traps and we will continue to monitor more for any increases in the weeks ahead. Warmer conditions this winter may be a factor to earlier population increases.

    “The first week of March is time to put traps out for all pests including peach twig borer, codling moth, and San Jose scale.

    “In walnuts, if dormant sampling warrants control measures, delayed-dormant timing after February in the San Joaquin Valley is the time to apply insect growth regular (IGR)-based insecticide. This is to manage walnut scale or wait until crawler emergence that typically happens after May. PCAs should weigh in the decision to make applications not just based on the scale presence, but also based on the parasitic activity on those scale insects.

    “If growers have not finished mummy sanitation, make sure you shred mummies by the middle of March or earlier down south.

    “Brown marmorated stink bug was prevalent in our area last year.  Given that risk, peach and almond growers should begin scouting early if they suspect any damage or have fields near urban, residential areas or alternate host sights.

    “Place traps by early March and monitor for brown marmorated stink bug infestation. Populations moving early from the overwintering shelters can cause substantial nutlet drop in almonds and fruit damage in peaches.”

    Chris Cucuk, Cucuk Consulting Inc., Bakersfield

    “Full bloom has started in the earlier varieties, and we even see petal fall in a few varieties. The heat this week will bring full bloom in most varieties by the beginning of next week.

    “Most of our growers decided to wait and see if there was a need for bloom spray. Growers who are applying a foliar spray will also add a fungicide. My growers will only use it if necessary.

    “Growers already started irrigating before bloom this year. They will be adding fertilizers over the next week or two through their drip irrigation systems.

    “We just started putting traps out for navel orangeworm initially. San Jose scale traps will be going out soon, too. Opinions vary on whether insect pressure increases in drier years versus wet years. Warm temperatures do advance early tree growth.

    “Grapes are at budswell with some in budbreak. Vines on early varieties are starting to show a few leaves. Grape growers will begin copper sprays in the next 7 to 10 days south of Bakersfield for mildew and phomopsis prevention.”


    UCCE Southern Sac Valley Prune meeting, March 3, Yuba City

    UCCE Yolo-Solano-Sacramento Walnut Meeting, March 4 Woodland

    Tree and Vine IPM Update, March 4 Modesto




    Sara Savary, PCA with Crop Care Associates in Fresno, shot this “fly in” and “fly over” video in an orchard in full bloom in late February.

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