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Owen Taylor, Editor

OVERVIEW

Fungicide applications continue to varying degrees, depending on how much it’s rained and where trees are with bloom. More orchards have now received a third application.

Petal fall is well underway in the earlier varieties and nutlets are evident in more blocks.

This has been an extended bloom. That perhaps gave bees more opportunities to move around when they did catch a break in the weather. The longer bloom also may have led to more overlapping among different varieties, which should be a plus for pollination.

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CROP REPORTS

Tony Touma, PCA, Bio Ag Consulting, Bakersfield

“It rained yesterday and a little this morning (3/8), plus the temperature dropped about 15 degrees over the last couple of days. It’s really cold today and the wind may pick up this afternoon, too.

“Most of my growers have applied one fungicide and some have made a second application. With the rest, we’re going to start on the second round. On average, it seems like most growers will do 2 bloom sprays. Going with 2 treatments is quite normal for a wet year. It’s been raining to some degree every 3 or 4 days.

“This has been a really prolonged bloom, certainly the exact opposite of a flash bloom. It took a month to go from early bloom to 100% bloom in some fields. An extended bloom like that may complicate harvest. We’ll see.

“We’ve had long blooms in the past but I don’t recall any quite like this. When we were around 20% bloom, temperatures dropped into the low 30s for lows and trees hardly did anything.

“Overall, I don’t think the cold weather hurt crop potential. The wet, cold conditions did slow bee activity. But then at about 100% bloom we had 3 or 4 days of better bee conditions. Bees will work fast when it’s sunny, and I’ve seen a lot of years with rainy conditions but we still ended up with a good crop.

“Right now, I do feel like we have a chance for a good crop. This is running opposite to last year when we were hurt by cold weather. We’ll know more in 6 weeks.

“In alfalfa, we’ve just started spraying for Egyptian alfalfa weevils.”

 

Nick Groenenberg, Independent PCA, Hanford

“More rain is expected on Saturday (3/9), just light amounts, and then another round of light rain is in the forecast by Tuesday. After that, it might clear up.

“We’ll see what the rain does on Tuesday in terms of applying the next fungicide. We have 3 fungicides on most of the almond acres or are lining up a third spray in places. Where we made a third treatment, we have another week or so of protection. If the weather clears up after Tuesday, we should be in good shape.

“This was a long, drawn out bloom with a lot of rain, and nobody kicked about having to spray 3 times.

“With most varieties now (3/8), bloom is 95% over. The Butte-Padres are still blooming, and some of the Wood Colony trees have blooms on them. But the Independence are finished.

“Some tomatoes are going in the ground. On the west side, they’re planting today. It rained a day or two around Hanford, and tomato planting has been on hold in those fields. I’m picking up a few Egyptian weevils in alfalfa but nothing I would treat yet.”

 

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

“It’s rained 2 to 3 days a week for the last couple of weeks (from 3/8) and we’ve had to apply a lot of fungicides by air. We finished the second spray at the end of last week.

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“The forecast calls for a slight chance of rain on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday, but that’s it for the next 10 days. Whether we apply another fungicide depends on how much it rains on Tuesday. If it only amounts to light showers, we probably won’t make another application. If it’s a heavy rain, we might spray again.

“Pretty much everything is in petal fall now.”

 

Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor, Sutter/Yuba Counties

“Conditions have been cold and gloomy, although we haven’t had a lot of rain this week, less than an inch. Something under a half-inch is predicted tomorrow (3/9), with the high running 15 degrees below normal.

“A little sun came out yesterday (3/7) but temperatures have been 10 degrees below normal. The highest it’s been lately was last Sunday (3/3) when it hit 62, which is still 4 degrees below normal for this time of the year. The forecast calls for somewhat warmer conditions – but still just a little below normal.

“By next Friday, temperatures are supposed to reach 66, which is flirting with seasonal averages. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll move into better conditions.

“Where growers have strong hives, bees seem to be working, even though it’s been cold. I’m hoping to get some feedback from the bee guys about how much pollen they’re finding in hives. That perhaps helps indicate how well pollination went. Some are saying that their hives in the southern San Joaquin Valley have been packed with pollen. Of course, several steps have to be completed for a nut to set – but step number one is pollen movement.”

 

Rick Foell, Field Manager, Capay Farms, Hamilton City

“Today (3/8) ended up being a beautiful day. A little rain passed through but not enough to register in the gauge.

“It’s rained enough recently that we’re not in the fields yet with tractors. Rain is in tonight’s forecast and into Saturday. We do hope to get in by ground on Monday or Tuesday and do our second fungicide spray where we haven’t already made it by air. Whether we can go by ground will depend on how much it rains over the next couple of days.

“The Carmels are probably at full bloom and the Aldrich trees still have a pretty good bloom. But the Nonpareils and other varieties are generally at petal fall. So, we’ll be transitioning from protecting bloom to protecting leaves.

“We started talking today about moving hives out of orchards. We’re checking for pollen on the bees’ rear legs and are hardly finding any, which tells us that all they’re doing now is collecting nectar. Hypothetically, if all they’re doing is collecting nectar, they’re maybe taking away energy that the nutlets need.

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“This was nothing like a flash bloom. With the cool weather, it ended up being a long bloom with overlapping of varieties, which is good. The only headache has been bee activity. When it wasn’t cold, it was windy, with 20 to 35 mph winds at times. In walking in orchards this afternoon, I’m seeing some nutlets.”

  

Dwaine Heinrich, PCA, Stanislaus Farm Supply, Modesto

“We’ve had quite a bit of rain, with off-and-on showers this week, and we aren’t quite out of it yet. Some more rain is in the forecast.

“Most growers already have a couple of fungicides on their trees. They made an early spray at 10% bloom and then most went with a spray at full bloom. We’re into petal fall now. Some growers have either made a petal fall spray or have lined up an application.

“It hasn’t been warm – highs in the 60s and some in the 50s. People are anxious to see what kind of set we’ll finally have. Bees have had some good days to work but not as many as we would like.  

 “A couple of guys have put on walnut scale sprays. In alfalfa, we’re lining up weevil sprays.”

ALSO OF NOTE
In terms of disease, the main variable on a year-to-year basis is the weather. Favorable conditions for diseases tend to be periods of leaf wetness. In other words, this spring's weather.
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