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Owen Taylor, Editor

OVERVIEW

Rain started falling on Thursday and Friday, as predicted, and a couple of inches had already accumulated in places as we wrapped up our calls on Saturday morning.

Colder conditions are expected during the week after the rain moves through. How much the temperature drop matters remains to be seen. A few flowers are out but the actual bloom hasn’t cranked up yet.

Fungicides went out on a scattered basis ahead of the rain, either on young trees to prevent pruning diseases or on early varieties to put protection in place.

Voted yet? The Almond Board of California’s board of directors balloting is underway. You’ll find more details in an article posted in our Also Of Note section.

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CROP REPORTS

Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor, Sutter/Yuba Counties

“I haven’t seen pink buds yet. It’s just started raining (afternoon, 2/1) and the forecast says we could receive maybe a couple of inches over the next few days.

“I doubt if anyone is spraying quite yet in producing orchards. If any treatments are being made it’s in young trees that have just been pruned. People are aiming to prevent pruning infections, and at the Nickels Soil Lab we called in a chopper today to make an application in that situation.

“There’s talk of pretty cold temperatures next week in the mornings after this system passes through. Hopefully, though, the rain will cool things off and the buds won’t push hard before temperatures drop. If bloom was further along, the cold weather might be a concern.

“The forecast says it could dip as low as 25. While that’s cold, it may not be an issue up here yet.

“A lot of bees are being delivered and those hungry bees are flying and searching. No flowers are around to speak of, and in parts of our area bees won’t find a lot of forage because so much of that ground is now in trees. If you’re wearing something with a lot of color, they’ll fly around and check you out.”

 

Aaron Beene, PCA, Simplot Grower Solutions, Merced

“The main thing right now (late afternoon, 2/1) is the weather. It’s just starting to rain and the forecast says we could have 4 straight days of rain and 2 inches for a total.

“That couldn’t happen at a better time since the trees aren’t blooming yet. The buds are swelling and it looks like a good bud set. My concern is that after this warm storm the temperatures could drop into the high 20s to low 30s in outlying areas.

“Bacterial blast hit us pretty badly last year. Cold weather coming after rain is a recipe for disaster during bud swell. We’ll be closely watching, especially with all the inoculum around from last year.

“This weather front has been in the forecast for 4 or 5 days, so guys were getting on preemergent sprays before bloom and ahead of this rain, plus blowing strips for mummy nuts. Over the last couple of weeks some last-minute copper sprays went out, too.

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“I think that the weather has helped get a lot of mummies out of our trees, at least in places. About 3 weeks ago we had winds at 45 mph, which knocked down plenty of mummies. The forecast for this current system says we might see winds at up to 50 mph. I also have seen a lot of growers shaking, so there’s an emphasis on taking out mummies, at least in my area.

“Growers have commented about bee prices going up. If that’s any indication, there’s definitely not a glut of bees right now.”

 

Rick Foell, Field Manager, Capay Farms, Hamilton City

“We’re probably at 1% to 2% bloom. We have sprayed some of our early blocks, just wrapping one variety, Sonora.

“We’re not sure how long this current storm will last or when we could get in the orchards again, so we felt like we needed to do something with the early trees. With Sonora, brown rot would be the primary concern this time of the year. This happens to be a warm storm, so heat and moisture would promote brown rot.

“The rain has definitely started. From yesterday afternoon to right now (late morning, 2/2) it’s already rained 2 inches. Over a 4-day stretch, they predicted 2.5 inches, so in one day we’ve already received most of the forecast’s total.

“We were able to shake the majority of the orchards where mummies needed attention. With trees progressing toward bloom, we started poling but intended to pull back on that at about the time the rain began falling. The trees are far enough along that any poling now could knock off some blooms.

“How we approach the full spray will depend on how orchards progress through this storm. We’ll evaluate things on Monday and review the weather models.

“It’s supposed to drop into the mid-20s for lows during one period next week, with highs in the 50s. You’d hope that the trees would stop progressing during that period. But my experience indicates that the weather will slow them down but not completely stop buds.

“Things are tight enough in the buds now that we might see a flash bloom once the weather warms up. It certainly could be a condensed bloom. I hope that doesn’t happen but I’ve seen it in the past.

“Once the rain stops, it still could take 4 days before we can get equipment in the orchard without doing too much damage. That will put us on a tight schedule to make applications, but I do think we can finish that round of spraying sometime in the next 7 to 10 days.

“Our beekeeper estimated that we’d have 75% of our bees. We’re hearing about some issues where hives were in cold storage and maybe some aren’t in the best of shape.

“Our beekeeper anticipates an increase in bee theft this year. There’s already been a report of hives being stolen in an adjoining county. We’ve put extra security on some orchards that have more than one entrance.”

 

Dan Prentice, Prentice Ag Consulting, Bakersfield

“We’ve already had a little rain and it’s in the forecast over the next 4 to 5 days. So far, I haven’t seen any blooms. But buds are swelling pretty good, so it won’t be long until we do find them opening. It won’t surprise me to see some in the next few days (from 2/2).

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“How we approach fungicide applications will depend on the weather, but we might start some spraying real soon.

“Almond yields were down a bit last year pretty much across the board. It wasn’t disastrous but everyone detected some decline. We’re mostly attributing that to frost because nothing else seems evident. As far as insect damage goes, it was about a normal year, I think.”

 

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

“Buds are definitely swollen and we’re starting to see some pink tips. Things are at a standstill while we wait for this weather to move through, then see what it does.

“Based on the forecast, it’s a nice little system that should bring an inch of rain or maybe two inches if we’re lucky. We’ve certainly had adequate rain so far this year, with enough soil moisture that I don’t think we’ll need any winter irrigation.

“I don’t expect bloom to begin any earlier than it does in most year. We’re on track with chill or it’s at least in a similar trend as last year.

“My growers and I are talking about the game plan for bloom sprays. If it’s dry when the time comes, we’ll look at a DMI or strobilurin just to cover bloom. If it’s wet, we’ll go with a multi-spectrum material.

“I’m seeing a little more mummies than I would like. At least right now, I’m finding a lot of NOW in mummies and it’s getting past the point that we can do anything about it. So, we may include an insecticide with that bloom timing. It’s rare that I’d even consider it, but the pressure is evident.

“In places, 90% of the mummies have worms in them, which isn’t good. We’ll have to roll with the punches on this.

“In walnuts and pistachios, we’re still trying to wrap up winter pruning.”

ALSO OF NOTE
Voting began on January 31 to select members for  the Almond Board of California’s (ABC) board of directors. The open seats include two independent grower members and alternate positions and one independent handler member and an alternate.
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Almond bloom is quickly approaching. Diseases require specific conditions for infection – susceptible tissue, moisture, conducive temperatures – and these are often all present during bloom. 
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Integrated Pest Management centers around economic concepts – treating pest populations only when doing nothing will cost you more money than doing something and treating at the most effective time using the best methods and materials available.
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Because of the warm winters in the SJV, pistachio trees do not always appear to be getting a clear signal of when winter begins and ends, which results in non-uniform vegetative and flower bud push in the spring, and inadequate flower development, resulting in reduced yield.
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The Almond Board of California recently published an update to its popular “Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds,” otherwise known as the “Honey Bee BMPs.”
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