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Owen Taylor, Editor


Bloom has progressed to varying degrees through California’s almond counties.

Cold weather and rain have been the main factors since our last report. The forecast calls for warmer conditions but rain isn’t out of the picture.

Fungicides have gone out on a wide basis in some areas. But it’s hard to make sweeping estimates about how much of the crop has been covered so far.

Bees continue to have a tough time with wet and/or cold conditions, so concerns linger about how much pollination has already taken place.

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Aaron Heinrich, Independent Crop Advisor, AgriWest, Inc., Escalon

“We’re just kind of heading into full bloom (as of 2/22) with some of the earlier varieties. Our Butte-Padres are a little behind that. We’ve sprayed just about everything.

“Temperatures have been really cold but the weather has now changed. Conditions were really wet, and the forecast indicates that the rain will continue to some extent for maybe another 7 to 10 days. Temperatures, though, have warmed up.

“We’ll see highs around 65 and possibly above that, so we definitely want to make sure all the blooms are protected. The weather has been kind of wicked in my area and we saw quite a bit of hail in places last week.

“We’re looking ahead to bloom sprays and are starting fertilizer applications. Where we have sprayed, we tried to time it around pink bud to early bloom, between 10% and 20% bloom. For the next spray, we’re reviewing product selection and timing. Those applications should start over the next 14 days.”

Sara Savary, PCA, Crop Care Associates, Fresno

“Bloom in my almonds is well underway on pretty much all of the varieties. By now (2/22), we’ve made one spray on most if not all of them. This was more of a popcorn spray by the time we could make the applications. It rained so much that we couldn’t do anything when we wanted.

“My stone fruit also is getting sprayed where needed and nectarines are being treated for flower thrips.”

Dale Deshane, PCA, Supervised Control, Bakersfield

“We’re fighting the weather but hanging in there. We’ve had off-and-on rain for the last 8 to 10 days (from 2/22). At least once, some pretty good amounts fell in places, maybe three-quarters of inch. That was last Wednesday night and into Thursday.

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“Up until then, totals were around a tenth to a quarter of an inch almost every day, but enough winds followed to dry things out pretty quickly. Today is actually the first decent day in a while. It’s sunny and the temperature is 56 degrees.

“Highs in the last 8 to 10 days remained in the upper 40s and lower 50s. Those conditions have sure not been good for pollination. We had one pretty good rain last Sunday (2/17). Even though the sun came out for a little while on Monday, I saw virtually no bee activity where I checked.

“It’s been like that for 8 to 10 days. Unfortunately, a lot of these orchards are in peak bloom or on the backside of that, so pollination potential doesn’t look that good this year.

“We sprayed some fungicides, mainly where people wanted to apply nutrients, but a lot of growers are holding back because of concerns about pollination. They want to see how the nut set goes before they spend much right now.

“I think a lot of foliar sprays will be on hold until after petal fall. If March is wet, maybe we’ll spray more then.

“Another factor is that it was cold in the first part of bloom, so we haven’t been concerned about disease. I’m checking closely but have seen no signs of brown rot.

“At the Grapevine yesterday, it snowed pretty good down to 1,900 to 2,000 feet and we were scared last night about potential for temperatures dropping too low. But this morning it only got down to 33 or 34 degrees, and that wouldn’t hurt the nuts.

“Temperatures are supposed to be cold again tonight and tomorrow morning but then warm up. One forecast says we could move close to 70 for a high by mid-week. At least right now, they are predicting wetter-than-normal conditions in at least part of March.

“In alfalfa, we’ll spray our first fields for weevils on Sunday and also have lined up a couple of fields for early next week. With all this wet weather, people held back planting tomatoes but should start next week. I’m looking at potatoes that are more yellow than green. Over the last 10 days the conditions haven’t been good for any crop. In onions, we’re starting fungicides for mildew.”

Jhalendra Rijal, Area IPM Advisor, Northern San Joaquin Valley

“We’re well into the middle of bloom, based on what I’m seeing. Hopefully, growers were able to make good progress with sanitation. Where trees already have been shaken and mummies are on the ground, it’s time to mow if that hasn’t already been done. It’s best to finish that by March 1.

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“Pheromone traps need to be in place either now or very soon. In the south and central San Joaquin Valley, the recommendation is to have those traps in place by February 15. In the northern SJV and into the Sacramento Valley, the goal is to have them in place around March 1. The recommendation for egg traps is March 15 and that pretty much applies everywhere.”

Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor, Sutter/Yuba Counties

“This is a challenging bloom in the Sacramento Valley. Up until now (2/23), it’s been cool and wet. Now it looks like we’re moving into a wet and warmer trend beginning early next week.

“With cold conditions, this has been a really long bloom. Things vary, of course, but the Nonpareils at the Nickels Soil Lab are just past pink bud. The early varieties are at 50%-plus bloom, while our later hard-shell varieties are just barely moving.

“A lot of fungicides were applied ahead of this ‘atmospheric river’ event that’s supposed to develop early next week. Some frost was reported in the area but at this point it’s difficult to know how much damage that might have caused.

“With all these conditions, it’s really one of those years when good bees and close management are critical.”


Sutter-Yuba-Colusa Walnut Day

Veterans Memorial Hall, 1425 Veteran’s Memorial Circle, Yuba City. Thursday, February 28, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Walnut Canopy Management

Nickels Soil Laboratory (NSL), Arbuckle, Walnut Training Systems (no pruning/no heading). Tuesday, March 5 (Backup date if rain occurs: March 7). Morning: Nickels; afternoon, Wheatland.

The Almond Board of California today released election results for the Board of Directors positions whose terms of office are March 1, 2019, through Feb. 29, 2020.

Agralytica of Alexandria, Virginia, is conducting an evaluation of the pistachio insurance plan on behalf of the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA).  As part of the review, Agralytica staff will hold listening sessions with growers, insurance staff and other interested parties in several California cities.

Many researchers have been looking at the effect of different vegetative covers on parameters such as soil health, weed suppression, nematode suppression, NOW management, pollination, and orchard water dynamics in almond orchards.
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