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Warmer conditions are settling over much of California’s almond country, which should spur growth and prompt more irrigation. It also could push disease development and insect activity, among other things.


May sprays have started on a wider basis. More biofixes have been made but trap counts have varied quite a bit due to see-saw weather conditions.


Leaffooted plant bug treatments are going out on a site-specific basis. As our contacts continue to report, they are finding gumming or evidence of bug damage but aren’t always seeing bugs, leaffooted or otherwise.


More irrigation has cranked up. With exceptions, much of the pumping to date has been for nitrogen applications. But with trees fully leafed out now, demand for water has increased.


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Sara Savary, PCA, Crop Care Associates, Fresno:

“The crop looks a little better than I thought it would after the frost and bad pollination weather. Even some blocks that had really bad frost damage have set more nuts than I thought they would. A small drop is underway.


“I’ve had a little leaffooted bug activity in three spots. They’ve just been dinging along the edges. I’ll see them and then don’t see them, and the nut strikes have not been going up. I’ve been waiting and waiting to see if I can hold off spraying until the nuts harden. But petal fall has started in citrus, so all my applicators will shift to that crop, and I’m going to go ahead and line up applications in hot spots.


“We’re supposed to get into warmer conditions and we appear to be turning a corner with the weather if the forecast holds. Irrigation has started. Everybody put on some water to apply fertilizer but we do have spots now (4/20) where irrigation has started.


“In walnuts, the earlier varieties are just past bloom. Everything had a walnut blight spray and the early variety Ivanhoe just received a second blight spray because it’s more susceptible and there was a chance of rain. But unless something else develops, I think we’re through with blight sprays.


“We’re finally making biofixes on PTB and codling moths. Numbers are kind of light, and I think we’ll have a true May spray this year instead of an April-May spray.


“My oldest tomatoes have been in the ground two to three weeks and we’ve put materials down for thrips control. Cotton is in the ground and corn is almost up. My growers are just starting their first cutting in alfalfa. A lot of blue aphids started coming in and we had to clean up those because we were late with that first cutting.”


Dale Deshane, PCA, Supervised Control, Bakersfield:

“Everybody has been worried about the effect frost had on that crop. Down here, all and all, it doesn’t look that bad. Some places are worse than others and the Nonpareils are definitely off, although it’s hard to say how much.


“The pollinators seem to have a pretty good crop and the other varieties could make up some of the difference where Nonpareils are lighter. Yields will be down, but I sure don’t feel as bad about the crop as I did a month ago. Maybe it will settle out to be an average crop for us.


“People have been spraying for spider mites and plant bugs in the area. But with mites, we can hardly find them and we’ve done very little mite spraying so far. To date (4/20), we’ve sprayed about 400 acres solid for plant bugs and stripped some edges for bugs. These were mostly leaffooted plant bugs but stink bugs were in a couple of blocks, I think.


“I started watching leaffooted plant bug activity on three blocks a couple of weeks ago, trying to decide whether to treat. I never saw a bug but kept finding gumming, although it wasn’t increasing. When the grower lined up nutrient sprays, I decided to include some abamectin. It gives you a little activity or protection on bugs, and I decided that was all we needed at this point.


“We’re into our second alternaria spray on the blocks that are bad every year and we’re about to start our second round in places. As of today (4/20), I haven’t seen any alternaria, rust or scab. If we do get into 10 to 12 days of hotter weather, that might fire up alternaria and maybe some rust, too. By this time last year, we had found alternaria in several blocks.


“This week we started our May sprays in almonds. Basically, we’re treating where we don’t think the sanitation went as well and we came through the winter with higher mummy counts.


“So far in pistachios, we have not treated any for botrytis. The last three or four rains didn’t amount to more than a tenth of an inch and then things dried up fast. A little frosted scale crawler activity started over the last couple of weeks and we’re finding a few female mealy bugs, too. But it probably will be mid-May before we do anything.


“The overlapping of blooms between male and female has been good and pistachios are leafing out well, so we could have a pretty decent crop. That bloom came in about 10 days late. Once it did start, it progressed quickly.


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“Alfalfa is really quiet. Ladybugs finally built populations and cleaned up fields where blue aphids were coming back. Our earliest planted cotton started showing first true leaves this week. It came up in 7 to 8 days. Some cotton hasn’t emerged yet, but the forecast says we can expect highs in the 90s over the next four to five days, which should move things along. My first corn is 18 inches tall.


“This week we’ve been treating some tomatoes for powdery mildew. Leafhoppers are exceptionally light. We’ll start pulling water in 10 to 14 days on our first potatoes. The frost delayed them about three weeks. Our garlic is surprisingly clean. We’ve treated it a time or two but no rust has developed. As of today, I haven’t found any mildew in the onions.”


Gary Gliddon, PCA, Treevine Consulting, Modesto:

“A lot of the trees have plenty of nuts. Even some of the Nonpareils don’t look that bad.


“One grower plans to pull out a block after this season, so he decided to go without fungicides just to economize a little. Even with all this year’s rain, I can’t find a single disease strike in those trees. I checked this week and they were clean. That block has Nonpareil and Price, which don’t tend to get a lot of disease here, so it might have been a different story with Carmel or Wood Colony.


“One guy has some really bad history with rust, so we might do something with those trees toward the end of the month, but we’re waiting to see if anything shows up first. We’re pretty much covered in terms of fungicides. As long as it stays dry, we should be okay.


“Again, I don’t know why disease has been so light. With all the rain you naturally could assume that issues would have developed by now.


“I’m looking for leaffooted plant bugs but haven’t found any so far. The same goes for mites.


“We’re seeing an odd situation with Avalon, which is an early almond variety that we have on limited acreage. They have a huge crop but aren’t putting on many leaves. They’re pushing but are still noticeably short on leafing. Three of my growers have Avalon and those blocks all look like that.”


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

“The past week was unseasonably mild and max temperatures were 10 to 15 degrees cooler during the day, and our morning lows were in the upper 30s to 40. However, it’s starting to feel like spring. Highs were into the 80s yesterday (4/20) and the forecast says to expect highs into the mid to upper 80s this weekend and into next week.


“In almonds, the endosperm is just beginning to show in Nonpareil nuts. A light nut shed is visible in many varieties.


“NOW have become more active in the last week in the area and this coming stretch of warm weather should trigger a big jump in trap counts. The NOW biofix at Nickels Soil Lab was April 14. PTB is just starting to stir, with low trap counts until the end of this week. That biofix was April 19.


“Of all the insect traps we’re monitoring, the biggest numbers right now are where we’re using the pheromone for the obliquebanded leafrollers (OBLR). That’s at the Nickels Soil Lab. Small nut damage is apparent in some places. But at this point we're not sure if we are dealing with the fruittree leafroller or OBLR.


“Even though we are using OBLR lures, the moths we are catching look more like fruittree leafrollers than OBLR. At least in that orchard, we are not facing economic damage from leafrollers this year. Disease symptoms are minimal in orchards I have visited.


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“In walnuts, bloom development varies across the Sacramento Valley. Codling moth traps should be up. No rain on the horizon means less concern for blight at the moment.”


Todd Fukuda, Weinberger and Associates, Hanford:

“We’re into our May sprays. Besides putting in something for PTB, we have some fields with a history of brown almond mite. We’re starting to see them and are including a material for them, too.


“Not many people have problems with brown almond mites but they tend to pop up early every year when it’s still somewhat cool. These fields are more in Kern County. Once it heats up, they disappear, but these mites do enough damage in those locations that I have to worry about them.


“The talk is that people are starting to see leaffooted plant bugs. So far, I haven’t found any live leaffooted bugs and haven’t sprayed any yet. I’ve only seen some bug damage, but I’m not sure whether it’s from leaffooted plant bugs or something else. The damage didn’t seem to be as aggressive as what I expect from leaffooted bugs.


“Pistachio bloom is all over the board. We have locations where they’re barely starting to pollinate and other fields where trees are pretty close to finishing it. Some of this is varietal, of course, but it’s still a fairly wide spread on the timing. Some of the early varieties are fully leafed out and we’re just starting nutrient sprays.


“The bloom in pistachios this year looks average to good but not great. We have had a good male-female overlap. This year everyone was worried about the overlap because we had low chill. But the overlap has turned out to be okay after all, so hopefully we’ll have sufficient pollination.”


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

“People are in the throes of nitrogen applications. Weather has been variable and some fungicide sprays went on last week. But now we appear to be moving into better weather in the first part of next week – into the 80s for highs – so growing conditions should improve before we slip into the 70s later next week.


“Leaffooted plant bugs are filtering into their normal hot spots. Moth trap counts continue to fluctuate, which you expect with the weird weather we’ve had.


“Now is the time when irrigation should be starting in almonds. Based on monitoring and other factors, this past week has been the first time this year when almonds in Merced County needed water. All the trees are in full leaf expansion.


“In walnuts, some people made blight sprays last week ahead of the rain. The same goes for botrytis sprays in pistachios. Both crops are in bloom, so people wanted protection in place.”


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