Rain continues to be the main factor driving decisions. Rainfall amounts and duration have varied widely, as have decisions about fungicide application timing and assessments of bee activity.
Fungicides continue to go out. It’s safe to say that much of the crop has received at least one application. A second application has been made in places or will be over the next several days. A small number of fields have now had a third treatment.
Warmer weather has spurred bee movement, although rain will suppress activity in places.
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Gary Gliddon, PCA, Treevine Consulting, Modesto
“We were supposed to get a lot of rain and it has rained some, in fact. But compared to the amounts I’m hearing about north of Interstate 80, it’s been light in our area. Some big totals are being reported in the Sacramento area, for example.
“It’s been cold and windy here, so bees haven’t been working as well as anyone would like, and we’ve had concerns about pollination. It’s been kind of a borderline situation for us, I think. But bees are flying today (2/27). We’re at full bloom right now and really need them to be busy.
“We’ve made one to two fungicide applications and are debating about whether we need another one near term. More rain is in next week’s forecast. Normally, I would hold off and then come back with an application five weeks after petal fall for summer diseases.
“I’m not saying we’ll make another application right away but we might. I’m telling everyone to watch the weather. If a warm storm is coming in, then we might have to do something, depending on the forecast. If it’s going to be a lightweight system, maybe we won’t, but this still will be an orchard-by-orchard and variety-by-variety decision.”
Todd Fukuda, Weinberger and Associates, Hanford
“We’ve been in a series of storms and were supposed to get more rain today (2/27) but so far it’s barely sprinkled. We know we’ll get some precipitation with the way the weather has been trending but we don’t know how much rain will fall on any given day.
“We’re certainly prepping like there will be a storm. Mostly, it’s been a series of small storms, then a break and then another small storm – enough to worry about. Spraying this year seems to be lining up on a 7- to 10-day cycle. About the time you think a fungicide has worn off, it rains again.
“We’ve made one to two fungicide applications so far, depending on the location and variety, and a very small number of orchards have had a third spray. We moved into our first spray on the Butte-Padres. It was still a little early last week to do anything in those blocks. But by the end of the week or early next week we’ll finish that first application.
“The Nonpareils are almost at full bloom and a small amount of petal fall is starting. With the majority of our Nonpareils, we’re on our second round.
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“A little earlier, the storms were cold, which worried us about bee movement. But it’s warmed up in the last couple of days and bee movement seems to have increased.
“We’re coming off a higher year for NOW pressure in almonds and we wanted to start 2019 with a cleaner slate as far as mummy sanitation goes. Sanitation was somewhat held back by the weather. Some guys were able to both shake and then come back with poling on bad trees. It seems like the Nonpareils stuck more, so it was harder to get them off. With certain fields we are a bit nervous. Growers could shake but weren’t able to do anything past that.”
“Rain today (2/27) has been kind of hit and miss. It’s been cloudy and windy but we haven’t had much precipitation today – although last night it rained a lot.
“I think that it’s warmer right now than it’s been all month. The truck thermometer says 66, even though conditions are cloudy and dim. That’s still a big change from two weeks ago when highs were in the upper 40s and low 50s.
“Bees have been catching breaks in the weather. It really warmed up this week, which brought on the bloom. Most everything is in full bloom or will be in the next day or so. The bees are obviously working. I’m seeing several spatter marks on my windshield, so I know they’re flying around.
“The forecast calls for on-and-off rain over the next 10 days, with highs in the low to mid 60s, which is a recipe for disease development. With my growers, we sent out fungicides in the first or second week of February but we held off on applications because of the cold temperatures.
“Spraying did start in the early to middle part of last week. My first spray for the full bloom and petal fall period will probably begin in the first to middle part of next week. More than likely we’ll use a broad-spectrum fungicide. With the way the weather might go, we’ll need it.
“If we’ve had any saving grace lately, it’s been the fact that good winds developed between rains, and it looks like things dried out fairly quickly.”
Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor, Sutter/Yuba Counties
“Temperatures are up, relatively speaking. It’s 60 degrees at the Nickels Soil Lab (afternoon, 2/27) and the high reached 62. That’s not necessarily warm but it’s within the range where brown rot would be a concern.
“A lot of rain fell in the last couple of days but temperatures were at least cooler than what we have right now. I think it rained all last night, and these extended wet periods need to be taken into account. When it stays wet for dozens of hours at a stretch, that’s problematic in terms of disease.
“Bee activity has varied, but in some years I’ve seen almonds produce a good crop with just a short stretch of favorable pollination conditions. We can find petals on the ground in a lot of orchards, some more so than others. It appears that nicer weather is coming but it’s an open question whether it’s arriving in time or too late.
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“Bloom is somewhat extended, so maybe this will be better for the late pollinators. Of course, it’s difficult to say how all this will finally work out with pollination. We’re in a period when about all you can do is shrug your shoulders and say, ‘We’ll see how things turn out at harvest.’”
Dan Prentice, Prentice Ag Consulting, Bakersfield
“The weather has finally warmed up a little here and it’s certainly not as cold as it was late last week when lows dropped into the 20s for a couple of days. I haven’t seen any evidence of damage but that was just last Friday and Saturday (2/22-23), so it still may be too soon to tell. So far, though, things look okay.
“It’s been rainy over the last several weeks. It’s not like we’ve had a ton of rain but we’ve certainly been through a number of days with sprinkling conditions. Today (2/27) was one of those days and it’s been sprinkling off and on since last night. More rain is in the forecast for the weekend and part of next week.
“A lot of our almonds are probably near full bloom and petals have already started falling from the flowers that opened earliest. At the same time, some blooms haven’t opened yet.
“Given the forecast, we’re going out with a fungicide. For some orchards, this will be the first round but for others it’s the second application. I haven’t seen any evidence of disease but, again, it was pretty cold up to the last 3 or 4 days. We’re really just easing into conditions that could be conducive for disease development.
“Until the last few days, we had very little bee activity. On some days I could be near hives at 1 p.m. and hardly see that any bees had left the hives. But in the last 3 or 4 days the activity is better.
“Everyone hopes that bees have enough time to get around to everything. In years like this with rain or cold temperature – or both – the bees still managed to get things done. A lot of flowers are open and bees are working. In terms of pollination, we should be alright.”
WALNUT MEETING REMINDERS
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.
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.