Here is this week's issue of AgFax Tree Crops.
Our thanks to BASF’s California team for once again sponsoring our coverage of tree crops in the Central Valley.
Owen Taylor, Editor
Bacterial blast has become more apparent in parts of the San Joaquin Valley. We heard an initial report about it last week, but it’s turning up now with surprisingly heavy pressure in places. See comments by David Doll.
Bloom actually continues in places in later varieties, but much of it has wound down. Petal fall has wrapped up in Nonpareils on a wider basis.
Warmer conditions are in the immediate weather forecast.
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Nick Groenenberg, Independent PCA, Hanford:
“This almond bloom is really dragging out. Some later varieties this week still had pink buds. Most Nonpareils are pretty well finished, but later varieties have another 10 days of bloom in certain cases. Last year people termed it a flash bloom, but that’s not the case this year.
“The rain has stopped for now, but they’re calling for a chance of more rain in about a week (from 3/10). Right now we’re not spraying anything. I have 2 bloom sprays on, although one grower wanted to go a third time, and we’ll do that. If we still have a lot of blooms when the next rain is imminent, we might have to spray some fields a third time.
“It’s hard to say what this extended bloom will mean in terms of maturity. It may complicate timing for NOW hull-split sprays.
“Pistachios are pretty quiet. Nothing is moving. One report says we finally accumulated enough chill portions for pistachios, so the crop has had adequate dormancy and should bloom okay.
“I’m writing cotton planting recommendations now. Today is the first day to legally plant Pima, although I haven’t heard of anybody starting. The forecast looks a bit like a roller coaster – a period of warm conditions and then a stretch of cold weather and then warm weather again. Tomatoes are going in the ground right now and transplanting has been moving along really fast.”
Tony Touma, PCA, Bio Ag Consulting, Bakersfield:
“It looks like soft shell almonds are done with blooming. We’re at about half-bloom in the hard shells, so by the middle of next week those trees will be finished with bloom, too.
“Bloom wasn’t bad, and some varieties will be better than others, I think. The Nonpareils appear to be a little weak. The pollinizers look better than the Nonpareils, but that’s been the case for the last 3 or 4 years. The hard shells actually look good.
“If anything, this has been a very normal bloom compared to what we came to expect before the drought. This definitely wasn’t like the flash bloom last year. This extended bloom should help, overall, since it’s given bees more time to work and pollinate, and I don’t think we were hurt that much by the rain.
“It’s 72 right now (afternoon, 3/10) and the forecast says we’ll be in the mid 70s and maybe into the 80s by the end of next week, plus we’ll have a good 7 to 10 days of dry weather.
“We are starting to find some spider mites in almonds. No bloom diseases have turned up.
“In pistachios the buds are swelling, but nothing else is happening.
“We might see some cotton planting start late next week. In alfalfa we’re almost done with weevil sprays. It’s been a light weevil year, with no aphids for a change. History tends to show that wet years promote more worm development and lygus, plus we’ll probably see a lot of stink bugs and leaffooted bugs. Worms, in particular, can get bad in hay in this kind of year. We’re due for bad worm pressure in hay, I suspect. They’ve been particularly light in the last 3 or 4 years.”
Mark W.F. Carter, PCA, Agri-Consultants, Los Banos:
“We’re in full petal fall in the almonds and almost nothing is left to set. We’re not supposed to have rain for at least 10 days, so we’re not spraying anything right now (3/10).
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“Overall, the set doesn’t look as bad to me as everyone was worried about. Last year we had that flash bloom – something like 6 days – but this one has extended over 2.5 to 3 weeks. I think that’s more normal than the bloom periods we've had in the last several years.
“Orchards weren’t all starting into bloom at the same time, either. I saw variations of 3 to 4 days when first blooms appeared. Some started earlier, others later, and it helped spread the workload out for our bees.”
Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor, Sutter/Yuba Counties:
“The later almond varieties are still carrying a lot of petals, but the Nonpareils are pretty much green now, with hardly any flowers left. You can still find petals on some of the Buttes and later varieties.
“It’s amazing how long bloom drug out this year. We hit full bloom in Nonpareils about 2.5 weeks ago. Those flowers are gone now, at least in the orchards where I’ve been looking. Most of the bloom weather wasn’t even in the 60s – mostly in the mid 50s. Last year we didn’t accumulate much chilling at all in February, and that month was dry and at least warm if not hot at times. So the bloom went fast.
“This year has certainly been the flip side of that. A veteran almond grower told me he thinks this will be a good crop. In fact, he said he was tired of people belly aching that the crop would be short.
“I can’t speak for the San Joaquin Valley, but in this part of the Sacramento Valley last year the crop was mostly short compared to 2015. People have been talking about their yields being off in 2016 by 10% to even 25%. Of course, almonds don’t alternately bear all that dramatically. But if we had a light crop in places in 2016 that might contribute a bit more to yield in 2017. We’ll know more about how the crop looks a month from now. The Carmels, Montereys and Butte-Padres could be fine.
“It’s supposed to rain next Wednesday, and some guys are spraying in anticipation of that. With this stretch of nice weather, soils have gotten dry enough to take in water, so we’re able to get that initial shot of nitrogen out. That’s the first 20% of the budget.”
David A. Doll, Pomology Farm Advisor, Merced County:
“This has been a really prolonged almond bloom that just kept going, but we’re now starting to see petal fall in the Butte-Padres and our late varieties. So, bloom is wrapping up.
“People are asking if nuts from these late blooms will stick. I can’t say for certain, but the thinking is that the percentage of set from the later blooms is lower. So, we still may get a few here and there.
“Some people point to similarities between this year and a couple of other years in this decade. Some cite 2011, others make comparisons to 2015. In 2011 we had rain and cooler temperatures early, and that year’s bloom was drawn out. In 2015 the chill prolonged bloom. It’s certainly an odd bloom this year.
“Bacterial blast has turned into an issue. I’ve never seen as much of it, and veteran growers – people who’ve been producing almonds for decades – say that they’ve never encountered this much of it, either. It’s widespread in Merced County in areas with sandy soils, and I’m hearing reports about it from a couple of other counties in this part of the valley.
“This disease is characterized by flowers wilting over. In some cases it can actually move into the wood, often leaving you with those ‘shepherd crooks’ where the one-year-old wood bends over in a U-shape like a crook.
“By far, this has generated more phone calls and sent me on more farm calls than anything else over the last week. Every farm call I’ve been on this week has mostly involved bacterial blast. In those cases any orchards that are 3 years or older have been hammered.
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“I’m not seeing it in areas with heavier soils like Le Grand or Los Banos, but it’s quite prevalent in the north-central part of the county where we have sandier soils – Atwater and Livingston, among others. Dormant copper sprays seem to reduce it, but there’s nothing that we can do about it now. We think this is weather related because it’s just so widespread. It’s turning up regardless of varieties, the farmer or the county.
“The weather does look good this next week, with sun and temperatures into the mid 70s. Nutlets will start swelling in those conditions, and people should feel a little better as that happens.”
Dwaine Heinrich, PCA, Stanislaus Farm Supply, Modesto:
“In our almonds we’re into the petal fall stage. Protective fungicides are still going out, although it looks like fair weather is in the forecast for the next few days. It’s sunny today (3/11), and highs are supposed to move into the mid 70s during the period. It’s a little foggy this morning, though, so we still have some concerns about fungus developing.
“We’re also starting to put on a little more fertilizer.
“Walnut buds are beginning to push a little. I’ve been scouting walnuts and have started recommending delayed dormant applications for walnut scale. We’re still spraying a little alfalfa weevil in alfalfa.”
California: Imperial County Designated Natural Disaster Area from Drought 3-7
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