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Here is this week's issue of AgFax Tree Crops, sponsored by the California field staff of BASF.



Blooming has started on a scant and scattered basis. After last week’s issue went out, a couple of our readers reported seeing blooms on wild trees. This week, a few blooms are turning up in commercial orchards.


Early bloom? Most of our contacts continue to suspect that this year’s bloom will be somewhat on the early side and that it will progress quickly. Several people this week said that the season is shaping up a good deal like 2015, which produced a so-called flash bloom throughout a wide area.


Dry weather continues, which will influence bloom spray programs unless more rain develops. On a somewhat related note, see David Doll’s comments about fungicide availability.



The 2018 North San Joaquin Valley Almond Day in Modesto on February 7 at the Modesto Centre Plaza.


The Winter Almond Meeting for Colusa, Sutter and Yuba Counties is set for February 7 in Colusa. Connect to more information in our Links section.


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

“Some blooms have kind of popped but nothing on the Nonpareils. Last year our bloom started somewhat later than average. This year it probably will be earlier than average, anywhere from a week or more sooner than what we consider normal.


“Guys are getting ready for bloom sprays, although it doesn’t seem like we will see much activity right away. Absolutely no rain is in the forecast, and I doubt if people will be overly excited about going in at pink bud, although they definitely will be starting soon after that. We might see a few sprays beginning a week from today (2/2).


“The main question now is whether to irrigate. With as little rain as we’ve had, soils aren’t charged. Some growers are irrigating, others aren’t. As far as almonds go, things aren’t starting out well. This seems to be running somewhat like 2015 when early conditions were warmer.


“Our blueberries and stone fruit have been blooming for a while. We’re on our second sprays on some stone fruit, but we’re also more cautious with those crops.”


Aaron Beene, PCA, Simplot, Merced:

“We’re kind of in the calm before the bloom. Normally, you might say ‘the calm before the storm,’ but the forecast shows absolutely no chance for rain. We’re probably 7 to 10 days away from things starting to pop, and a dry high-pressure system is moving in. So, it looks like – at least right now – that these conditions could continue for the next 2 to 3 weeks.


“We typically can expect a storm when trees are preparing to bloom, but that’s not in the cards. This is looking somewhat like a couple of years ago – 2015, I think – when similar conditions set us up for a flash bloom. It was over and done with pretty quickly. Things might change, but the weather models aren’t showing any indications of that right now (2/2).


“I’ve finished any last-minute delayed dormant sprays and put in IGR products for peach twig borers. That was last week. We’re making some herbicide applications in strips. I’ve held off on preemerge applications due to lack of moisture to incorporate the materials, so at this point we’re only making a knock-down treatment.”


David A. Doll, Pomology Farm Advisor, Merced County:

“I think we’re a couple of weeks from bloom. We might see some early stuff popping toward the end of next week. Parts of the county have been a little cooler, so some areas may lag a little behind the rest.


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“A lot of people are asking if they should irrigate, considering how dry it’s been lately. But it’s important to realize that irrigation decisions should be based on tree demand and soil moisture status. Until we’re past bloom and enter leaf-out, the demand for water is relatively low. At this point, trees are only using 40% to maybe 50% of their normal evapotranspiration capacity.


“A couple of inches of rain fell not too long ago, and we’re maybe using 0.3 of an inch of water per week right now (2/2). On heavy ground I think we have sufficient moisture. On some of the sandier soils there’s probably enough to get us through.


“A lot of people say they want to get moisture in the ground right now for various reasons. But applying too much now means you lose the ability to capture any moisture that comes along as rain. Saturating the soil also could promote compaction once you do start spraying.


“If anything, I’m not an advocate of irrigation at this point unless the soil is dry – something determined through digging or hand probing, neutron probes or soil moisture monitoring. The worst thing to do is irrigate just because your neighbor is irrigating. Among other things, over-watering could induce phytophthora.


“I’m still hoping that a little more rain will fall before bloom, Admittedly, if we don’t get any more rain we will have to start irrigating earlier to match the tree’s demand. But I doubt if many places have reached that point yet.


“People are asking about gumming. We see some gumming at this time of the year. It’s not always due to diseases. Plum borers can trigger gumming or it could simply be a response to pruning. If you’re worried about gumming, call your local farm advisor and ask him or her to take a look.


“Bee hives are either being moved into orchards or it’s time to do so. With these dry conditions, remember that bees need water. This doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Put out a 5-gallon bucket of water with a piece of burlap draped over the side and into the water. The burlap gives bees a way to get out of the bucket if they go into the water and can’t climb onto the slick sides. The bucket also helps wick up some of the water.


“A couple of quick notes on fungicides. First, people report that chlorothalonil may be in limited supply, so you might want to have some in your shop pretty soon if it’s part of your program. Also, the fungicide Rovral – commonly used during bloom – is having some MRL issues in Europe. It seems unlikely that those issues will be resolved before bloom, so finding an alternative would be a point to consider.


“A quick reminder: our north San Joaquin Valley winter almond meeting is coming up on Wednesday (connect to more details in the Link section below).”


Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor, Sutter/Yuba Counties:

“Just a little pink was showing on Senoras early in the week, but that’s an early variety. To say the least, it’s been mild and the weather is supposed to be warm through this weekend (2/3-4). We’re having a lot of north wind, which is our dry wind. It’s been dry enough that there wasn’t even any dew on my car this morning (2/2). That’s unusual.


“With these conditions, things will move fast in the almonds. The latest on AccuWeather says we’ll be dry at least through February 20 before conditions slip into a more normal rain pattern. So, we’re set up for a dry bloom. I think the last bloom along those lines was in 2015, and bloom went fast.


“This one will be fast, too, based on temperatures so far. We still had a decent crop that year but not a great one. Still, though, none of the highs have pushed to 80 degrees. In 2015 we hit a day or two when it did reach that point. It hasn’t been so hot that a train wreck is in the cards but temperatures have been warm enough to take the edge off all the smiles.


“If we stay at 70 to 75 and the wind quits – so everything isn’t completely dehydrated – then I’m not quite as worried.


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“Jim Adaskaveg (UC Plant Pathologist) always says that when it rains at bloom you put on 2 bloom sprays – one at pink tip and the other at full bloom. If it’s dry, you should put on at least one. As things look now, I think a lot of growers will go with that approach. They’ll skip a spray at pink tip and make an application between 30% to 50% bloom, with some timing considerations based on how sensitive certain varieties are to brown rot.


“They’ll hold onto the unused portion of the bloom spray budget because it probably will be needed for something else later. The last thing we want is a dry bloom followed by a wet spring – kind of that Murphy’s Law deal where whatever can go wrong does go wrong.


“A quick reminder: our winter almond meeting is coming up for Colusa, Sutter and Yuba Counties on Wednesday (connect to more details in the Link section below).”


Dan Prentice, Prentice Ag Consulting, Bakersfield:

“I left town on Friday (2/2) and hadn’t seen any open blooms, but a guy called when I was on the road to say he saw an open bloom.


“Buds have been swelling well for a few weeks, so we’re getting close. It looks to me like bloom might be on the early side of normal – not too much, just by a hair. It’s been pretty warm. We had a couple of cold spells earlier that really helped with chill requirements, but this winter has mostly been warm and sunny. It’s been dry and no rain is in the forecast.


“With those conditions, we shouldn’t have to put out as many fungicides. That’s the good news. But we do live in a desert and always welcome rain. Most of the growers I’ve talked with lately are taking a wait-and-see approach with fungicides. Some will spray with their standard timing, regardless of whether or not rain falls anytime soon. Others will sit back and see what the weather brings us.”




California Almonds: To-Do List For The Sacramento Valley 2-2


California Pistachios: Low Chill – Potential Effect In 2018? 1-29


Pistachios: Research Uncovers Health Benefits for Women With Gestational Diabetes 1-29


California Almonds: Winter Meeting For Colusa, Sutter And Yuba Counties, Feb. 7   1-27


California Almonds: 2018 N. SJV Almond Day Approaches 1-26


California Almonds: How Late Can You Shake Trees for Winter Sanitation? 1-24


 Sustainable Farming Project Seeking New Farmer Participants In SJ Valley Watershed 1-24


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