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More rain is in the forecast, and that's changed the game in terms of what to do and when to do it. Wet weather may prompt some growers to hold off on planned mid-March nitrogen applications to avoid leaching. On the other hand, more fungicide applications have cranked up. Some orchards are now on their third spray and more trees will be to that point ahead of the next round of storms.


Petal fall has wrapped up on a wide scale in Nonpareils and early varieties. Hard shells linger. As our contacts continue to observe, this has been a stretched-out bloom due to cooler-than-normal conditions.


Damage from earlier frosts and freezing temperatures is becoming a bit more apparent in places. It’s still too early to make any firm estimates about how much the crop was dinged. Also, bees have had fewer hours to pollinate blooms, and that continues to be an underlying concern.


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Mark W.F. Carter, PCA, Agri-Consultants, Los Banos

“Petal fall has wrapped up on pretty much everything we have. We’re applying the third fungicide. The forecast says we’ll move into 3 days of rain next week, so we’re making that treatment before or after the rain.


“Our almonds at Los Banos are on the slope next to Interstate 5 and the lowest temperature there was 31, so we’re not seeing damage in that part of our crop. We’re still assessing things at Chowchilla. Almonds there range from full bloom to petal fall. They’ve been running behind in the cold weather and it’s still too early to tell how they might have been affected.”


Tony Touma, PCA, Bio Ag Consulting, Bakersfield

“We started noticing freeze damage and most of it happened very close to the Grapevine on the east side of Highway 99. That area moved into bloom early and was probably hit the most.


“In the last 48 hours (from 3/9) we’ve started seeing a lot of blooms on the ground, both next to the Grapevine and also in the Shafter-Wasco area. Most people in the Shafter-Wasco area are in pretty good shape, I think. Where we’re finding damage, it’s probably 10%, so growers in that part of the county might be lucky this year.


“But it will take time before we know for sure how any of this goes. In 3 or 4 weeks we should have a clearer picture. Overall, it’s not a total disaster in that Shafter-Wasco area or south of Bakersfield.


“Our soft shells are in the petal-fall mode and our hard shells are in full bloom, and they are having a really good bloom, too.


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“In alfalfa, weevils have been very light and we haven’t treated anything just for weevils. However, we’re still fighting aphids. Every week we’re spraying additional alfalfa fields for blue aphids.”


Nick Groenenberg, Independent PCA, Hanford

“The Nonpareils are almost finished blooming, but due to the cold weather this bloom has stretched out forever. Later varieties like the Butte-Padres are just past full bloom. That goes for some of the Independence, too.


“Before we went through this last weather change, bees were active. But then we hit a point when you’d hardly see anything buzzing around. On the west side last week, we got less than a quarter-inch of rain through a series of storms, but it was cool enough that bees didn’t really venture out.


“This week, though, bees did have had at least 3 good days to work.


“Most of our almonds have had 2 fungicide sprays and some have had a third. We’re now making a third application on a few more blocks.


“Most growers moved into a frost-protection mode ahead of the cold weather. I’m seeing very little damage except for one block where a valve didn’t come on when it was supposed to one night. Otherwise, what I’m cutting into looks good. What we don’t know, of course, is how many blossoms we’ll lose because they weren’t pollinated due to cold conditions and lack of bee activity.


“We’re just starting to find a few weevils in alfalfa. Nothing has been treated yet.”


Dwaine Heinrich, PCA, Stanislaus Farm Supply, Modesto

“It looks like we could have a wet week coming up, and we’re putting on the second shot of fungicide. I’m hearing all kinds of reports of damage, but the effect of the frost seems to depend mainly on the area.


“Statewide, I’ve got to believe we’ll see some degree of loss, although it’s really too early to estimate what to expect in a given orchard.


“So far, I haven’t really seen anything in the almonds I work. Some people were running sprinklers for frost prevention during the coldest period. About 28 was as cold as it got in any of my trees, although I heard that it dropped to 22 in outlying areas up in the foothills.


“People are applying some fertilizer now. We had about an inch of rain last week, and some growers held off on irrigation, even though water is available now through the district.”


David A. Doll, Pomology Farm Advisor, Merced County

“Everyone is still trying to determine losses from the cold weather, I think. We’re getting a little better idea about potential damage in places where almonds started blooming early.


“This has been a protracted bloom, but most Nonpareils are in petal fall, if not through with it. The Butte-Padres are approaching petal fall or into it across the county.


“In orchards that were early, we’re starting to see nutlets drop from the trees. That last storm had quite a bit of wind, which shook those trees. But until last week, a lot of orchards weren’t really done with bloom.


“Some of those late blooms may set nuts, although we can’t expect miracles. Those late-blooming flowers generally are the weakest on the tree and that later blooming effect can be brought on by low carbohydrate levels and maybe malformed flower parts. All that works against the flower and contributes to low set rates on late blooms. I covered that in a blog post this week. (Connect to it in the Links section).


“The first part of next week looks clear, with no risk of frost in our area, but a good chance of rain has been predicted for this weekend (3/10-11) and in the latter part of next week.


“With most varieties through or at least into petal fall, this is an important period to manage a variety of diseases. Since we have multi-day rain predictions, that’s even more important than usual.


“The first storm could be a little on the warm side, and a lot of people have already made sprays to get ahead of it. The second storm looks to be a little colder. If people made sprays in the second half of this week, they should have enough protection to get through the next 10 days.


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“Rainy springs like this are exactly why we advise against applying nitrogen too early. Potential for leaching increases the more it rains. Also, trees in these conditions demand less water and would take in less nitrogen. This is why we recommend holding back on nitrogen until leaf-out.”


Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor, Sutter/Yuba County

“This crazy weather – warm early, followed by cold conditions – really spread out bloom on some varieties. Butte was particularly late, for example.


“We just started shifting into decent weather this week after a bunch of rain over the last week. More is in the forecast again – some over this weekend (3/10-11) and then chances for more rain on Wednesday through Friday (3/14-16). If you haven’t put a fungicide in place, you should think about it.


“The middle of March is coming up, which is normally time to put NOW traps in place. With all the cold weather, moths probably haven’t done much, but it’s better to set the traps in place a little early than too late.


“March 15 is when we should have 20% of our nitrogen budgets in the orchards. But with this coming rain, at least consider backing off that.


“We’ve scheduled the 2018 Nickels Soil Lab Field Day for May 8. We’re still working on the program, but it’s not too early to put that on your calendar.”



California Walnuts: What To Remember Over The Next 4 Months In The Sac Valley 3-10


California Almonds: Frost Damage Effects – Points to Consider for 2018 3-9


Almond Markets: Freeze Slows Sales, Commitments 3-10


California Almonds: Spring Nutrient, Water Management Field Day, Chowchilla, March 20 3-9


California Almonds: March 21 Fresno Field Day Will Focus On Upcoming Decisions 3-7


California Walnuts: Walnut Blight – New Tool And What You Need To Know 3-10 



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