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Owen Taylor, Editor


Fungicide decisions are being made. Some applications have started. In other cases, PCAs are holding off until more blooming starts or buds have made a pronounced push. Rainy conditions also have held back some possible treatments.

Cold conditions persist. Along with slowing bud development and blooming, the lower temperatures could keep diseases from gaining an early foothold.

Most bee activity also has likely stalled during the cold, wet weather.

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Nick Groenenberg, Independent PCA, Hanford

“One field of Nonpareils is probably at 3% to 4% bloom, but it’s still a young orchard and maybe it’s just a little mixed up. None of our other Nonpareils are blooming.

“We will start some pink bud and bloom sprays next week because a pretty good rain event is in the forecast sometime in the middle of the week. We’ll probably start our first spray this year 10 to 14 days earlier than we did in 2018, as things look right now.

“We had some pretty cool nights lately, so I hope we’re in better shape for chill this year than we were last year. In 2018, chill did work out well but at one point it was kind of nip-and-tuck whether we would get the required number of chill portions. We had a great crop, so I guess it worked out well.

“My cotton acreage might be up a little this year. It looks like a pretty good water year, so maybe another field or two of cotton will be planted. Tomato acres will be about the same as last year or maybe down just a little for me. Some of the older alfalfa fields are coming out and growers will follow with corn in those cases.”

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

“I’m finding a little bit of bloom on the Sonoras but everything else is in pink bud. We did start today with pink bud sprays by air. Going by ground isn’t an option because everything here is soaking wet. We had about 2.5 inches of rain in the last 7 days or so.

“We started spraying the most advanced orchards and then we’ll continue spraying next week between the rains. Based on the forecast (as of 2/8), we’re supposed to have 4 days of rain.

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“It will be interesting to see how that affects bee hours. We did get the bees we wanted but I’m hearing rumors that a lot of weak colonies are out there this year. Some people have complained that they’re only seeing 6 out of the 8 frames they wanted. They’d like for frames to be filled but they say there are a lot of hives with only 6 frames and partials.

“The bees that are out there haven’t been too active. At 9:30 a.m. yesterday morning there were no bees flying around. We’ve had temperatures at night around 32 and in the low 50s during the day.

“Looking ahead, we’re trying to make some decisions about using puffers. We may try them in one orchard because the neighbor had puffers last year and he complained because my grower didn’t. We had less damage than he did. But unless everyone puts in puffers, the only guy who has them draws in everyone else’s male moths, and I think that was his complaint.

“I’m a little leery because it’s difficult to synchronize all the farmers around you to do what you want them to do.”

Tony Touma, PCA, Bio Ag Consulting, Bakersfield

“The last two nights (from 2/8) have probably been the coldest this winter. Roofs in my neighborhood were frosty and the grass was white. That was in Bakersfield but it might have even been a little colder out in the country.

“Bloom seems to be running at about the historic norm – not too early, not too delayed. In places, Nonpareils are maybe at 5% bloom and the Sonoras are around 15% in some areas. Other varieties are at early pink bud. For February 8, that’s about right.

“I still have orchards without blooms. As you move toward the Grapevine, things are a bit further along but still not enough to spray. I’m really not in a big hurry to begin applying fungicides.

“There aren’t enough pink buds present yet in our neighborhood, and those aren’t elongated enough yet to get protection into the bloom. And with these cold conditions, we haven’t had the kind of weather to promote diseases.

“If we did want to spray right now, I don’t see how we could fit it in. The forecast calls for rain tonight, then on Sunday and then again on Wednesday and Thursday next week. There’s really no immediate treatment window, so we’re playing it by ear.

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“By the end of next week, bud development and bloom will be further along and we will likely start then, so we’re 7 to 10 days out from starting treatments. At least some cold temperatures are in the forecast but nothing like last year when it was into the 20s. It looks like plenty of water is available, and that’s good news.”

Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor, Sutter/Yuba Counties

“It’s cold, with a little rain today (2/9). Things have been moving sluggishly as far as the crop goes. Sonora, one of the earliest varieties, has a few flowers out at the Nickels Soil Lab, but that’s about it.

“Temperatures will generally be below bee-flying weather at least until the middle of the week – and some rain is in the forecast into mid-week if not beyond. Overall, it’s cold enough that we wouldn’t expect a lot of risk for disease. We’re in kind of a wait-and-see pattern.”

Almond bloom is just around the corner. This “start” to the season is an important period for almond production as flowers require reasonable weather conditions for pollination, fertilization, and eventual fruit set to occur.
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