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OVERVIEW

Wet weather continues. In places, soggy soils are delaying fertilizer applications. Fungicides have gone out on a wider basis and more rain is in the forecast.

 

Cold conditions aren’t out of the picture, either. Temperatures into the upper 20s might be a reality over the weekend in parts of the Sacramento Valley.

 

Frost and freeze damage assessments continue. In certain areas, the effect may not be as bad as initially thought, but in other locations the crop might have taken a bigger hit than initially expected. Making any firm estimates now would be something akin to predicting an earthquake.

 

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CROP REPORTS 

Chris Morgner, PCA, Agri-Valley Consulting, Merced

“Some fungicide sprays are going out. In terms of fungicides, our clients this year have kind of fallen into two groups. It was so dry in February that we didn’t get too excited about spraying. Some growers went with that idea and waited.

 

“We were going to target full bloom for applications and forget about the pink-bud timing. But then we ran into that long week of cold weather about a month ago, which preoccupied everyone’s thinking, and some people did spray then. It was cold enough at times that I wondered if any of the spray was freezing on the leaves.

 

“Only a handful of growers treated on that round, which was between February 15 and February 25. But then it rained around March 1. After orchards dried up, guys who had not applied a fungicide did jump in with treatments. Some of those applications just wrapped up a few days ago (from 3/16), and they got fungicides on the trees ahead of stormy weather that’s in the forecast for next week.

 

“Anyone who did spray early is preparing to spray again. Overall, we now have one spray on everything. I’m not really seeing any disease. I’ve found leaf spots here and there but nothing I could identify and nothing significant.

 

“We’re past petal fall and nuts are starting to break jackets. Obviously, we don’t need to irrigate right now but people are thinking about fertilizer. It looks like we’ll have a crop and growers are looking for an opportunity to begin their fertility programs, either next week or the week after.

 

“I’m cautiously optimistic about the crop – more so than I was a couple of weeks ago when I was finding all those black ovaries due to frost. We didn’t lose everything on the tree, although we did have some poor pollination weather. That leaves us with a big unknown about what we will carry to harvest. We still have the so-called June drop to go.

 

“I have recommendations in place for scab and shot hole and I am making sure the treatments cover anthracnose, too.

 

“It’s been raining today and conditions are supposed to be unsettled tomorrow, plus the forecast calls for a big rain on Wednesday and Thursday.

 

“Walnuts and pistachios are just moving into bud swell. Pistachios started some swell a while back but then the cold weather developed. Until now, those buds have just been sitting there.

 

“Some of our fresh-market tomatoes are in the ground. In alfalfa, we set up some treatments for weevils where counts were picking up. I’m seeing a little uptick in blue aphids, so we will include a material for them, as well. We’re also spraying 15% to 20% of our forage wheat for oat bird cherry aphids.”

 

John Moore, PCA, Growers Crop Consulting, Bakersfield

“In places, we have BB-size nuts, and those may not make a finished nut. In certain orchards we are finding a lot of half-inch nuts, but most orchards don’t have that many of those at this point.

 

“In a few orchards, we’ve seen what appears to be a big number of flowers on the orchard floor. Again, that’s not the case everywhere. I’m not sure if losing those flowers was due to pollination issues or cold weather. I’m thinking that if it had been frost damage, the flowers would have hung on a little longer.

 

“Overall, there’s quite a range of what’s on the trees. Orchards that did well last year don’t seem to be holding that good a crop this year. I can think of one orchard in particular like that. This may be an alternate-bearing year for it, considering how those trees performed in 2017.

 

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“Overall, it’s still difficult to say what kind of crop we have. But even in a normal year it would be difficult in the middle of March to make any kind of estimate. By April 15 we might be able to make better assessments. Even with those BB-size nuts, it still may be too early to tell if they will or won’t make it to harvest.

 

“I can find a little mite activity on leaves, not anything that concerns me right now. It’s cold and humidity is high, and it’s been uncomfortable. I started work this morning (3/16) with a vest and a coat. It’s been about 50% overcast, and some of those clouds look dark, so we may see more rain before the day is over.

 

“I checked the rain gauge at my house a couple of days ago and it had a little more than a half-inch. I was in a field yesterday where rain was kind of spitting at me, but three-quarters of a mile away the roads were sopping wet. These storms aren’t generating a lot of inches but this drizzling rain does go into the ground with no runoff.

 

“Some growers are on their third fungicide now. Others haven’t made the first application yet.”

 

Brian Gogue, PCA, Helena Chemical Co., Hanford

“We’re about to the end of the road on bloom, with just a few stragglers. The earliest nuts are already larger than jelly beans and are moving along quite well. We finally had some warm temperatures this week.

 

“Most of my blocks have had 2 to 3 fungicide applications. We got a decent amount of rain in Hanford today (3/16) and expect more tomorrow, with a good chance for additional rain over two or three days next week.

 

“I’ve found some degree of frost damage everywhere, and it happened at different times, depending on the area. The orchards I work on the west side either weren’t affected or just in a minor way when we had the first round of frost on that Monday night and Tuesday morning. But then the west side was hit harder that Friday night and Saturday morning, and those orchards sustained severe levels of damage at that point.

 

“In my worst blocks, I’m probably seeing 40% to 50% average damage, with some spots in the 60% range. I’ve seen what looks like a red carpet of blooms on some orchard floors when I look down certain rows and varieties.

 

“That first round of frost hit the valley floor hard in areas around Hanford, LeMoore, Laton and Riverdale. But the cold weather that Friday – which hurt the west side – wasn’t much of a factor on the valley floor.

 

“The crop on the west side was mostly through blooming, so it was further along and kind of got hammered. On the other hand, I thought the trees on the valley floor were at 80% to 100% bloom during that period, but an amazing amount of bloom has come on since then.

 

“I really noticed that post-frost bloom in some of the third-leaf blocks that took the biggest hit. I figured they sustained 60% to 80% damage, but that crazy amount of bloom continued afterwards, and today what’s on those trees looks pretty impressive. We still took a hit but not nearly as much as I first thought. That’s probably true for most of the valley-floor orchards in the areas where I work.

 

“Our first fertility shots are going on. Some guys weren’t able to put water on because it’s been too wet, and those applications will start next week, we hope.

 

“In pistachios, I’m seeing root stock pushing on young blocks. We’re getting some pretty good bud swell on a couple of varieties but aren’t seeing a lot of activity in pistachios otherwise.

 

“A little aphid and a little weevil are turning up in alfalfa but nothing has been treated. They started transplanting my first tomatoes this week. I haven’t seen any darkling ground beetles (DGB) in those fields, but we treated a ton of DGB in fallow and weedy ground last week so we could knock down those populations ahead of tomatoes.”

 

David A. Doll, Pomology Farm Advisor, Merced County

“We’ve moved through petal fall and are now into leaf-out, so the season is off and running. We’ve had 5 days of hit-or-miss showers (as of 3/16), and rains were more consistent in certain areas than others. And now we’re getting ready for another week of rain, so we’ve definitely been in disease-type weather.

 

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“The next storm will be colder, which won’t be as conducive to disease development, but we’re having prolonged periods of leaf wetness, which favors disease development, nonetheless. Protection usually lasts for 10 days, although with cooler weather it might stretch out to 2 weeks. Spraying after the rain might be sufficient, depending on when the last application went on.

 

“No need to apply water right now.”

 

Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor, Sutter/Yuba Counties

“This has been a pretty goofy week, weather-wise, with multiple rain events and colder temperatures tonight (3/16).

 

“On Tuesday at the Nickels Soil Lab the petals were off most of the hard shells. In the Arbuckle district you can pick out the Buttes because they’re the only trees that still have petals. More blocks today are all green.

 

“Temperatures have been up and down, with some highs into the low 70s last Sunday and Monday (3/11-12), but now we’re moving into a cooler pattern. One forecast indicates we could see lows down to 28 in isolated spots on Sunday morning.

 

“One concern being voiced is that we haven’t had enough good weather so far to grow nuts. A lot of guys put on water to prevent frost and now those soils are cold and wet. Those soil conditions are complicating things where people want to apply fertilizer. This sure isn’t what we expected for mid-March when it was so dry in the first week of February.

 

“Despite cold conditions, we need to get PTB and NOW traps in place.

 

“Everyone is still assessing possible frost damage. In some blocks you can find plenty of nutlets on the ground. Since you only need 20% to 30% of the flowers to make a decent crop, it’s hard to say how much that matters. I’ve been talking with several experienced PCAs about how they think this will affect the crop. They kind of shrug their shoulders and say it will be a while before we know much for sure.”

     

LINKS 

Almond Alliance of California Names Elaine Trevino as President/CEO 3-12

 

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

  

    

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