California Almonds: Moving Past Bloom With Big To-Do Lists

Almond trees blooming.©Sara Savary, AgFax Media

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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

After a stretch of warm winter weather, temperatures are supposed to shift into a cooler pattern with wet conditions in the forecast for much of our coverage area.

Where fungicides are going out, the applications are mainly as a preventive measure that take into account those storms in the forecast.

More insect traps are in place and wider monitoring has started.

Irrigation and nitrogen applicatons have cranked up on a wider basis, with growers pushing to apply the recommended 20% of their nitrogen budget by the end of March.

Pistachios are approaching budswell in places, and a possible early bloom may be taking shape.

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CROP REPORTS

Chris Morgner, PCA, Agri-Valley Consulting, Merced

“We have had warm, beautiful weather lately. On Wednesday, rain fell, measuring one-tenth to a third of an inch. There’s a good chance we could receive up to three-quarters of an inch or possibly more on Sunday and Monday. The forecast calls for thunderstorms, and they could bring a lot of rain – or we might miss it altogether.

“Cooler temperatures are projected in the weeks ahead. Hopefully, the weather pattern change won’t include frost.

“Most of our almond growers are feeling protected after they applied a fungicide at full bloom to early petal fall. The remaining growers are lining up fungicide applications for next week. There’s a degree of concern where orchards with historical scab presence or anthracnose.

“We found some black peach aphid on new shoot growth in a few blocks as well as obliquebanded leafroller in a few blocks. This leafroller overwinters as larvae that feed on developing bloom buds and nuts. We are including an insecticide with the fungicide in the few blocks that have a population.

“Bloom jackets are splitting, and we’re finding small nutlets the size of a little fingernail. The earlier varieties are more advanced. Buds that weren’t pollinated are starting to drop. That’s also the case where ovaries swelled but didn’t complete fertilization. Thirty percent is remaining on the trees, which is still plenty of nuts. Many orchards had great bloom, but it is too early to tell how the crop will set.

“Almond trees have pushed a good compliment of leaves and are looking very green. Weather has been favorable for growth.

“Irrigation in almonds is underway. Fertilizer and nutrient applications are starting to ramp up, too. The dry winter has encouraged growers to apply water once a week to ensure adequate soil moisture.

“Traps are out and we’re monitoring for navel orangeworm eggs and female and male moths. We’ve detected some navel orangeworm male flights, which you might expect with the dry weather.

“Pistachio bloom timing is running slightly ahead of normal. We are seeing a small amount of budswell with a bit of green pushing out

“In walnuts, some catkins are starting to push out in the Tulares.

“In alfalfa, applications are going out for Egyptian alfalfa weevil. Control has been good, but some weevil activity is still evident. We’re also irrigating winter wheat and alfalfa fields.”

 

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

“The weather for much of this week has been beautiful. It was 80 degrees yesterday (3/12) across the southern Sacramento Valley. However, we are seeing a change today, with the forecast calling for highs in the low 70s. This weekend the forecast calls for rain and highs in the 50s.

“The rainfall forecast depends on location. The National Weather Service calls for a half-inch to an inch of rain in the Sacramento Valley on Saturday through Monday. The forecast has been getting more definite about rain chances as we head into the weekend.

“We applied a fungicide 8 to 9 days ago at the Nickels Soil Lab. The application was ahead of the last storm that ended up with no rain on the west side and only traces in Yuba City. Growers who didn’t spray previously are working ahead of this storm to finish any fungicide applications.

“With all the warm weather this winter, it would be a good idea to monitor early and carefully for navel orangeworm and peach twig borer. Get your traps up soon and check them twice a week. The rolling weather patterns, with warm and then cold, can make it harder to pinpoint which date to set for a biofix since insect activity rises and falls with temperatures.

“In 2015, a year with winter temperatures similar to this year, Dr. Frank Zalom and his UC Davis lab tracked navel orangeworm egg laying in the Manteca area. They found eggs on March 23 and then not again until April 10.

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“It’s worth noting that Dr. Zalom’s navel orangeworm spring sprays timed using March 23 egg counts produced less mummy damage infestation compared to those based on later egg findings. Navel orangeworm activity can come early, so use the first navel orangeworm egg trap date to start tracking and planning control activities.

“The first round of nitrogen fertilizer – 20% of the annual nitrogen budget for an orchard — should be out by now. Most growers are irrigating almonds. Trees are leafed out, the days have been warm and the ET data shows that trees are using water.

“Walnut growers are putting on some water, given the warm weather. But be careful not to over-irrigate and saturate the soil. Checking soil moisture sensors is a good practice this time of year.

“It will be a good year for growers to pay attention to potassium. If it turns out to be a big crop year, let’s avoid potassium deficiency, which could result in a yield hit the following year. It will be too late by the time summer leaf samples come out to correct a deficiency and avoid crop reduction in 2020.

“It’s also a good time to begin monitoring for leaffooted plant bugs. Populations can vary widely across fields, but their other hosts may not be as attractive as the orchards right now, given the lack of rain since mid-January.

“In places, growers and PCAs are seeing delayed leafout in some Montereys. That’s similar to what people observed in 2018, which also had a mild winter.

“There are nuts on the branches, but not very many leaves yet. Most likely, that’s not permanent, just delayed leaf growth from too much heat in the winter months.”

 

John Moore, PCA, Growers Crop Consulting, Bakersfield

“It’s a busy time of year, getting ready to set out traps. We always see small amounts of mite activity about now. Also, younger orchard plantings are showing necrosis on some leaves.

“Inconsistent nut development has been evident across the area. Nonpareils in some regions are showing very light nuts on the lower portion of the tree but have a better crop on the top half of the tree. At this point, it’s too early to estimate crop yield. It is best to wait until the nuts get three-quarters of an inch to start estimating.

“Weed pressure is showing up in orchards in our area, and we will need another round of contact herbicides where there are already two-inch weeds growing. A few growers who are on preemergent programs have done well with their weed control. Growers who don’t have those programs will need to go back with another application.

“Mature trees could take Roundup and Venue applications right now. In younger orchards, we might be looking at Treevix, Venue or Rely applications.

“Thirty percent of our growers have completed second fungicide applications, while 70% are starting their first spray or are planning it. Growers are also busy with fertilizer applications. Many tasks are overlapping in the orchards right now.”

 

Todd Fukuda, Weinberger and Associates, Hanford

“A decent storm came through last weekend (3/7-8), and we received a tenth to four-tenths of an inch of rain in areas throughout Kings and Tulare Counties. The beginning of next week could bring a two- to three-day storm. With another storm coming, growers are rushing to make another fungicide application ahead of it.

“Growers are adding foliar nutrients to fungicide applications where they can and also are fertilizing and irrigating at full speed.

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“Pistachio growers are starting to gear up. Our oiled Kermans have terminal buds pushing a quarter-inch or more. Golden Hills are barely pushing. Standard Kermans are furthest behind, just barely starting to wake up. In a couple of Kerman blocks on the west side, applying oil when there are not enough chill hours will enhance bud break, and the oil can help bring on harvest 5 days earlier.

“There were pistachios growers in Kings and Tulare last year with high disease botryosphaeria pressure, and everyone should be bud sampling to gauge botryosphaeria potential.

“In the next ten days, we will see green between bud scales and pistachios will enter the budswell phase. Last year, growers found low boron levels in the August leaf tissue analysis, so they are planning boron sprays during that timeframe.

“Last year, mealybug issues were a concern in places, and they already are moving up to terminal buds this year.”

 

Phoebe Gordon, Orchard Farm Advisor Madera and Merced Counties

“Last weekend, we received some rain and this weekend we expect more. Plan to spray fungicides post-bloom for scab and shot hole. Protection applications are useful when made 2 to 5 weeks post-petal fall.

“Navel orangeworm and peach twig borer traps are up in almonds now. Natural predators control San Jose scale, but you still need to monitor for scale because broad-spectrum insecticides can cause secondary outbreaks.

“A few growers are experiencing poor return bloom with minimal flowers. Delayed leafout is occurring in some orchards due to our warm winter temperatures and insufficient chill hours. Closely monitor delayed leafout in coming weeks. Our areas had great bloom weather followed by rains during leafout, which could be a concern.

“In almonds, the first 20% of the nitrogen budget should be applied by the end of the month. Potassium fertigation also should be underway. Keep an eye on soil moisture meters to avoid over-irrigating, which can promote root-rot diseases like phytophthora.

“Prune bloom is happening now. Running sprinklers while your orchards are warm can aid in lowering temperatures in the orchard. Unsuccessful pollination can occur when temperatures are too warm, more than 80 degrees.

“Pistachios are approaching bloom. Prepare your traps and put mating disruption materials up by April 1.”

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