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
Hull split sprays have started on a limited basis in parts of our coverage area. The pace should pick up next week in the San Joaquin Valley, especially after the Fourth of July.
Spider mites remain fairly light, based on this week’s reports. It remains to be seen whether the previous week’s heat wave will push populations.
Tony Touma, PCA, Bio Ag Consulting, Bakersfield
“Last week’s heat was really nasty, and it finally broke on Monday (6/26). The highest I saw was 111. Since Monday, highs have mostly been around 102. Right now (late afternoon 6/30) it’s 93, which feels really good. None of my trees have really looked stressed. We have plenty of water and people irrigated day and night.
“In almonds, we’re getting ready to make our first hull split sprays in the next 2 to 3 days. The majority of the applications will begin next week, maybe after the Fourth of July. It’s pretty normal to see spraying start around the holiday. The crop seems to be maturing very slowly, and some growers may wait a little later, starting in a July 8-10 window.
“Mites have not been an issue this year. They have increased very little in the last 2 weeks, and I don’t have even one field with what I would call a mite problem. That’s amazing, although the season isn’t over.
“In pistachios, a lot of stink bugs have been around this year and we’ve generally had plenty of plant bugs. By far, though, we’ve had more stink bugs. For the first time ever I actually saw swarms of stink bugs flying around from the desert. We treated bugs earlier and pistachios are getting hard enough now that bugs shouldn’t be an issue.
“I treated just one ranch at the 1,700 DD point for NOW. Other than that, I’m not doing anything in pistachios.
“Cotton did stress in the heat. People had finished their water and then the heat took off, and several fields showed high levels of stress during that period. In cotton, we’re in the process of treating the fourth time for lygus – and it’s not over yet.
“They’re worse in some areas than others. The Main Drain area, in particular, has had heavy pressure. Looking back, 1995 and 1998 were terrible years with lygus. In 1995 yields were cut by half. We had to spray one time after another, which flared mites. We mostly had upland varieties, which the mites destroyed. Our average yield was around a bale an acre.
“This year we only have Pima, which mites don’t like. Also, better chemistry is available than in the 1990s. On the front end of lygus treatments, counts were in the 20s in the early-planted cotton. They’re mostly down to 12 to 15 or so now, but we’re also finding immatures. We’ll keep spraying. Our fourth treatment will go out on Saturday (7/1), so we’ve now been treating every 7 days.
“We do have some nice looking cotton at Buttonwillow where the pressure hasn’t been quite as intense, and that cotton has potential to average 2.75 to 3 bales an acre. At the Main Drain we’ll be happy if we can pick 2 bales an acre.
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“In alfalfa, yellowstriped armyworms exploded when temperatures hit 110, and we treated quite a few fields. Since then, they’ve mostly disappeared and activity has really slowed down.”
Mark W.F. Carter, PCA, Agri-Consultants, Los Banos
“During all the heat, the high reached 110 at one point. Now (late afternoon, 6/30) it’s 99.
“A couple of farmers have already concluded their hull split sprays in almonds. Everyone kept saying that it would be the Fourth of July before we saw splits, but last Friday (7/23) I found some blanks splitting and ordered the material. We irrigated early in the week and then started our first applications on Wednesday (6/28).
“I included a miticide with the application. As it happens, I’ve just started finding a few adult mites, so I’m glad I included a mite material. Last year we also had a miticide in the tank at hull split, which some people questioned because they couldn’t find mites at that time.
“There’s nothing worse than being right up to harvest and seeing mites blow up on you, and that’s what happened in places in 2016 where guys skipped the miticide at hull split. In comparison, we put a miticide in the tank and only had to border one field for mites after hull split sprays. Everyone else was going crazy, trying to get miticides out.
“It stood to reason this year that mites would blow up after 9 days of highs over 105. I doubt if anyone will leave out a miticide this year when they make a hull split spray.
“In cotton, lygus have been really tough in the last 10 days. Some hay fields near cotton were cut and the lygus came out of that alfalfa pretty heavily, looking for something green. In a couple of fields we have had to spray again. They just kept coming.
“This is as bad as I’ve seen lygus in cotton in a long time. The highest counts were 8, which to people in the lower valley don’t sound like high pressure compared to some of those 20 counts down there. But if you have an 8-count for 5 days you could suffer 40% to 50% square loss.
“We’ve had to spray tomatoes at least once for worms. Worm treatments also have been necessary in some of our alfalfa. We’ve treated all of our alfalfa at Merced but not much yet around Los Banos. At Los Banos we were cutting just as worms were hatching, so that took care of them.”
Dwaine Heinrich, PCA, Stanislaus Farm Supply, Modesto
“In almonds, we’re lining up things to start hull split sprays next week in almonds and will begin working around irrigation schedules. We’re seeing very few mites in almonds.
“In walnuts, we’re wrapping up our 2A codling moth sprays on all of our blocks. At this point we’re watching for husk fly in walnuts. I’ve heard reports of a couple of flies being caught but our traps are clean right now (6/30). Of course, we could see them any time after this heat spell.”
Nick Groenenberg, Independent PCA, Hanford
“Almonds look pretty good. We are finding some mites again and are treating a few edges. When the hull split spray goes out we’ll include a miticide on whole fields. The first hull split applications probably will start later next week. Trees look fairly heavy.
“Pistachios look pretty good, too. In places, we’re spraying for NOW at the 1,700 DD point. Some growers who have puffers did elect to hold off until the 2,200 DD timing.
“Cotton is growing well. We have had a lot of lygus pressure, but that’s starting to ease up, and some cotton was just sprayed for lygus the first time last night (6/29). Overall, retention isn’t great but it’s at least good. I am finding a lot of aphids and a small number of beet armyworms, and we’ve treated a few fields for worms.
“Tomatoes are doing well. A little sunburn developed during the heat spell. The first harvest will start on July 6, and this looks like a decent crop. We’re cutting alfalfa right now. In 3 fields a late hatch of worms developed, but we were close enough to cutting that it wasn’t necessary to treat. So far, we haven’t had to spray any worms in our alfalfa.”
David A. Doll, Pomology Farm Advisor, Merced County
“Almonds are approaching hull split, although I don’t think any are quite there yet. I am seeing a little suture differentiation. In the orchards I’ve been in this week it might be a little early to spray. But when splitting really starts, it will come quickly, probably within the next week (from 6/30).
“We’re in a normal temperature range again, with highs in the upper 90s to low 100s. Even though we’re through last week’s extreme heat, water demand will remain high over the next couple of weeks unless temperatures cool down dramatically.
“I’m getting scattered reports of inconsistent NOW egg laying, based on trap monitoring. That may be due to the nuts splitting, which makes them more attractive than the traps. Or, more mummies are in the trees, so moths are laying some eggs on mummies.
“As you start into hull split sprays, remember to take it slow with air blast sprayers. Your absolute best results are with spraying speeds of 2 mph. It’s hard to hold people back from easing up on the speed, so good coverage really gets back to enforcing the speed limit.
“With this early split, most people are looking at products that target egg laying. They usually anticipate a second spray with an adult-type material. Keep in mind that with these sprays we’re protecting the crop, not managing populations like we do earlier with things like sanitation or the May spray. It’s a different strategy, which underscores why coverage is so important. We have plenty of canopy that we need to penetrate and a lot of nuts to reach.
“There’s this thinking that you don’t need to treat those 3-year trees. But moths can fly a long distance from older orchards and target young trees. If the trees have crop you want to harvest, protect them.
“Pistachios in our area should be at the start of nut fill or into it, so make sure they have adequate nutrients. It appears that a lot of trees are off this year due to the big crop last year. Also, this weird winter may have led to more blanking than usual. In about 2 weeks spend time assessing crop potential, especially the effect that blanks will have on average yields. That could lead to adjustments in how much of a nutrient investment you really need to make for this crop.”
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