Monday, October 8, 2012

As Almond Acreage Increases, So Does the Education Need

 More and more, almonds are big business in the Central Valley. Just look at the statistics from local agricultural commissioners.

In 2003, growers harvested 236,000 acres of almonds in Madera, Merced and Fresno counties. By 2011, that total climbed 43 percent to 337,512 acres. Over that same period, Fresno alone saw harvested acreage skyrocket 131 percent to 150,000 acres.

We’ve seen this trend first hand. Our almond field days are attracting a lot of new faces. Needless to say these new almond growers can benefit from the many educational and technical resources out there. We help almond growers farm more sustainably while implementing environmentally responsible practices.

Field scout Jenna Horine checks almonds earlier this spring.
Our almond field scout Jenna Horine is wrapping up her field work as the harvest winds down. The word around the orchards is we’re headed toward another banner year.  Indeed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the harvest will exceed 2 billion pounds and top last season’s record-breaking year. Almonds fetch $3 billion a year and continue to be the state’s No. 1 export crop.
To keep up this record pace, we can never stress enough to growers that they need to maintain vital pest management activities during and after harvest. I’m sure our next almond field day will offer valuable postharvest tips.

It's time to start cracking on samples.
At this time, almond sampling and crack out are major tasks. Jenna will be cracking open more than 5,000 almonds collected in the orchards of growers who participate in our program. These nuts were gathered before growers picked them up from the ground and shipped them out to the hullers.
While collecting samples and cracking the nuts are tedious tasks, this process pays off in the long run. It’s worth the investment.

Jenna will examine the nut meat and record any damage from disease or pests such as navel orangeworm and ants. This information is an important aid to help growers modify their pest management program next season. We’ll keep you posted on Jenna’s findings.
Peach twig borer damage to the meat.

Ant damage found in these nuts.
Nuts damaged by navel orangeworm.
Meanwhile, cotton defoliation continues with the pima varieties receiving their second shot of defoliants.  Some of the acala growers could start harvesting this week. That’s exciting.

Broadview Gin emphasizes safety at meeting.
The cotton gins are starting to gear up as well. Broadview Gin, for example, conducted a safety and teamwork meeting for employees last week as the facility prepared for incoming fiber. I expect the gins will start processing the cotton by the end of the month.

In the alfalfa fields, growers are finished with their seventh cutting. Because of the hot weather last week, some growers were thinking about squeezing in an eighth harvest. But temperatures suddenly headed south and may force growers to scrap the idea.

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