Monday, April 22, 2013

Summer-like Weather a Mixed Bag for Central Valley Farmers

 It’s not your imagination. It’s been a hotter than usual around the Valley. You can throw in windy, as well.

Checking Weather Service statistics, we discovered these 80-degree days (and 90 degrees today) are far from normal. Usually, we get temperatures in the 70s.

For farmers, this warm spring is a mixed blessing. We are seeing almond growth take off. Our almond field scout Jenna Horine has seen some nuts doubling in size in the past week.

Newly planted cotton fields are seeing young plants emerge quickly from the ground. This hot weather should accelerate growth and stand development. Alfalfa re-growth could take off, too.

Here’s the flip side. The high temperatures could produce ideal breeding conditions for pest populations to explode. Jenna worries that mite problems could flare up in almond orchards.

A fallen tree in the orchard interior.
Strong winds uprooted almond trees in local orchards.
With strong winds – reaching up to 37 mph  - continuing last week, we saw more spare nuts being batted around and dropping to the ground. Trees also fell to the wind. Jenna says the windy weather could have impacted the pest traps placed around in the orchards. Bugs could have hunkered down and become less active, making it difficult to get a gauge on pest counts.

One grower contacted Jenna about some of his almonds shriveling up and then falling off the trees.  It’s normal to see some nuts fail to develop and eventually drop. Despite the winds the past two weeks, there’s nothing to be alarmed about right now, according to UC IPM Emeritus Walt Bentley. Trees have been loaded with almonds.

On the alfalfa front, some growers are reporting a high level of blue alfalfa aphids in some fields. These pests inject a toxin that hampers growth, reduce yield and even threatens to kill the plant. Learn more about the blue alfalfa aphid from the UC IPM website.

Some fields are finding a high number of blue alfalfa aphids.
- Photo by Kansas State University
A grower plants cotton seeds in his field. Cotton planting is wrapping  up. 
Field scout Carlos Silva has seen beneficial insects such as the lady bugs and parasitic wasps doing their work on aphids.  You see plenty of dead aphids on the ground or alfalfa stems.

This week, we’ll be checking out cotton fields for stand establishment. So far, everything looks good.

Could this unseasonable warm weather translate into an early season?  It’s too early to predict right now. The season is still young. And Mother Nature is always fickle.  Too often, we’ve seen hot weather turn cool and rainy seemingly overnight. Remember there’s still 1 ½ months of spring left.

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