“Water for bees is a concern, as well. We have canals in some areas but not in others, so water needs to be in place for bees, too.
“Next week, we will revisit possible fungicide applications and just plans as the weather might dictate. Half of my growers will spray at full bloom, while the others will not spray at all unless rain is in the forecast.
“Heavy rains in November saturated the soils, so winter shaking was mostly done in December and January after fields dried out. Growers finished shaking, sweeping and mowing primarily in January. Winter sanitation was successful overall.
“We’re currently aiming for our nutrient programs to begin in mid-March, and growers are fertility planning and ordering fertilizers.
“About 90% of our growers will apply nitrogen through fertigation, as well as adding potassium in April through June, with fertilizers primarily continuing weekly through the nut fill period. Smaller amounts of fertilizer will be needed during July and August until harvest.
Franz Niederholzer, UC Farm Advisor, Colusa, Sutter & Yuba Counties
“This week in the blocks I’ve seen, more bloom movement seems to be underway in Sutter County than to the west. Bloom has been progressing well along Highway 20 in Sutter County in Aldrich on Krymsk 86 rootstock, and it’s at 50-70% bloom. Krymsk 86 rootstock is showing an earlier bloom this year than Lovell rootstocks.
“Along the Interstate 5 corridor, bloom isn’t as far along. However, the movement has picked up over the last week. The Sonora variety at Nickels Soil Lab is at 25% to 30% bloom, whereas Nonpareil just passed pink bud is at 5% bloom. The later pollinators like Butte and Wood Colony are not showing any flowers, while Monterey and Fritz are showing some bloom.
“The daytime temperatures have warmed up this week, with highs in the 60s and 70s, and that’s great weather for blooms to progress steadily. The forecast includes a very slight chance of rain on Sunday. However, the National Weather Service says that little, if any, precipitation seems likely. This is certainly a different bloom season than last year. I’m crossing my fingers for a good nut set.
“Most growers have planned for or are in the process of planning bloom sprays. One bloom spray at 30% to 50% bloom is sufficient to protect flowers in a dry bloom year, according to UC Riverside Plant Pathology professor, Jim Adaskaveg.
“Brown rot infections can occur even without rainfall when dew delivers the moisture needed for infection. One spray with a local systemic fungicide is recommended from FRAC groups 3,9 and 11.
“Growers are still finishing up some late pruning in young almond blocks. Some growers are tying up trees in young, bearing orchards. Since the ground dried out in the last couple of weeks, orchard removal is underway in the Arbuckle district, and growers are prepping for site work for new plantings. People are removing older blocks, and crews are deep-ripping as part of orchard prep.
“Earlier this week very little rain fell, plus drying winds were coming out of the north this past week. With more of the same forecasted for early next week, the soil should be able to hold a quick irrigation to allow for the first shot of nitrogen fertilizer.
“When the bloom weather is ideal and there are signs of a decent crop set, it can be a good idea to make the first nitrogen application as early as bloom or petal fall. The first nitrogen should be applied by the time of full spur leaf out.”
John Moore PCA, Growers Crop Consulting, Bakersfield
“Aldrich is showing most bee activity, and it’s at 3% to 5% bloom. Sonora and Monterey buds follow with pink tip progress. Buds are pushing in Nonpareil and they also have the least amount of bloom, not even at pink bud. Where you see a couple of flowers open at every tree, the rest will be at pink bud.
“The bulk of the almond buds in our area are at green tip and starting to push pink tips. We are slow to bloom this year, it seems. The bees are steadily searching for blooms, and they are very active where they can find open flowers.