Rain Lingers, But Growers Move Forward

    Pink bud was spotted in the Bakersfield area this week. Photo Courtesy of Chris Cucuk

    Showers returned to some California growing areas early in the week, but nothing like the atmospheric rivers that roared through in January. Rain also is expected this weekend. For the most part, orchards dried up enough for growers to go in and do their mummy shaking and dormant spraying. Bees are showing up in orchards throughout the state, and at least some bloom is expected by Valentine’s Day.

    The California Almond Board shared some good news for those caught up in the trade nightmares of the past 18 months. “The logistics situation for exporting almonds is in a much better place than say, this time last year,” said Brock Densel, almond board senior analyst of governmental affairs. Let’s hope the trade situation continues to improve.


    Franz Niederholzer, UCCE Farm Adviser, Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties:

    Update: “Almond buds are beginning to move in the Sacramento Valley, but pink bud is a ways off. The National Weather Service is forecasting showers Sunday morning, but with less than a half-inch total accumulation for the Sacramento Valley. Highs in the upper 50s are supposed to follow early next week. Beehives are out in orchards or are being delivered. The north winds of the last week are drying out puddles from the earlier storms. Check with your beekeeper about clean water for bees.”

    Bloom date: “The ballpark full-bloom date for the Arbuckle district in Colusa County is Feb. 14. It would take a real change in the weather to be ahead of that this year. In the cool recent springs (2017 and 2019), Nonpareil full bloom was the last week of February, with full bloom in the Butte variety in early March. There has been plenty of chilling.”

    Spraying: “It’s way too early for bloom spraying, except maybe for occasional dormant sprays. With the current nut prices, many growers are sitting tight. There will be plenty of work before too long. If the weather stays clear and there is no rain, only one bloom spray — around 50% open flowers — will be needed.”

    Walnuts: “It’s mostly very quiet in the walnuts. They bloom a month or more after the almonds.”

    Brian Gogue, PCA, Helena Agri-Enterprises LLC, Hanford:

    Bee’s placed in an orchard near Firebaugh. Photo courtesy of Brian Gogue

    Yields: “All the rains we’ve had are definitely a huge positive. With two years of almost 100% well water applied to the crop combined with the heat we’ve had the past couple of summers, it’s been pretty devastating on yields. The rain will help leach out some of these salts from the wells and give us an allocation of fresh water to use this season. It might set us up for a pretty nice crop this year statewide, which is not going to be the best situation with prices being so suppressed right now. A lot of almond acres are getting pulled out this year.”

    Rain: “Some rain is forecast for Sunday. This week, very nice weather has allowed us to get quite a bit done and be prepared for the rains that do come. If we get rain during the early to full bloom stage, we will apply fungicides. The vast majority of fields are good to go. There are still a few areas that are too wet to get into.”

    Things to do: “The majority of my guys got herbicides and amendments done before all the big rains hit, but I’ve still got quite a few guys who are pressing hard to get things done, including preemergent herbicides and contact herbicides for existing weeds. We’ve still got a little bit of amendments to go as well. Quite a few orchards do have bees.”

    Bloom due: “Within two weeks, I think we’ll see some bloom, which is pretty normal for this time of year. We have some pretty cold temps rights now that are keeping things on the slower side, but we will warm up to the upper 60s later this week, pushing us into bloom quicker.”

    Pistachios/walnuts: “Nothing is going on with pistachios except applying preemergent herbicides and some amendment work. Walnuts are in the same boat. I have a lot of walnut trees that have been pulled out and are being pulled out this year due to the market situation. The prices have been so low the past two years.”

    Aaron Beene, PCA, Simplot Grower Solutions, Merced:

    Root rot: “Three weeks to a month ago, when we had the big atmospheric rivers coming, there was quite a bit of flooding and almond orchards were under water. There is some concern about what’s going to happen to some of those trees when they start pushing and hitting warm weather. We will be specifically monitoring for root rot and phytophthora fungal disease in the orchards that had standing water or flooding.”

    Weeds that have yet to be sprayed near Firebaugh. Photo courtesy of Brian Gogue

    Spraying: “Recently, we’ve gotten some cold weather. The low was about 27 degrees Tuesday morning. That slowed down the almond progression. I don’t see bloom getting close until about Feb. 10. Guys will be finishing up their late delayed dormant sprays for bacterial blast probably by the end of this week. Other guys are spraying weeds and getting into the orchards that are drying out to knock down some weeds. Bees have been delivered for the past couple of weeks.”

    Healthy crop: “Overall, my assumption this year for bloom with the rain we’ve had, the moisture in the ground and the temperatures is that it’s going to be a wait-and-see season, especially with the economics of almonds right now and the price being so low. We probably are going to hold off as long as we can to get closer to that full-bloom application where the trees are most susceptible to fungal diseases. I think there is a good bud set, the root zone is fully watered, so there’s a high likelihood of good, healthy crops this year.”

    Walnuts/pistachios: “The economics of walnuts have been terrible with the prices they’re getting, so we’ve been doing minimal farming of those for the past few years. Right now, we are keeping weeds down and finishing up pruning. On pistachios, we finished mummies and blowing berms, and we’re putting down preemergents. Pistachios and walnuts are probably still a month out from bloom.”

    Chris Cucuk, Cucuk Consulting, PCA, CCA, Bakersfield:

    Mummy shake: “We had a nice little rain on Monday – a quarter to a half inch, depending on where you were. The rain has been great. It pushes a lot of the soil salts out of the way, it helps leach out the soil and it keeps the roots damp. The trees have been flourishing. But with all this rain, a lot of people haven’t been able to do their mummy shaking because the ground is too wet. Anytime you leave more than two mummies on a tree, you run the risk of higher worm damage at harvest. With today’s high wages, you can’t afford to send a crew through to knock mummies off the trees. My clients have pretty much got most of their mummy-shaking done. But with the ground being too wet, they haven’t been able to blow off the berm mummies or be able to mow the middle of the fields.”

    Spraying: “Some growers didn’t do a dormant spray because they’re cutting costs, or the ground was too wet. We’re trying to get weed sprays on the berm, but the ground is too wet, and we can’t get our equipment in the field. People are getting things done in some areas, but a lot of people are just waiting.”

    Budswell is now underway in Lemoore. Photo courtesy of Brian Gogue

    Budswell: “Budswell is going on, and I just found my first pink bud variety today. Once you have pink buds, you have to start thinking about fungicide sprays. Some of the herbicide restrictions kick in Feb. 15. Bees are being dropped off everywhere now. Bees need to be in the field before bloom starts.”

    Pistachios: “Most people already shook the mummies out of the pistachio trees and herbicides sprays are next. Now they are doing their pruning. Pistachios don’t really start any movement until late March, when bud swell starts.”

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