Monday, March 17, 2014

Almond, Alfalfa Field Scouting Springs in Action for 2014

Spring arrives Thursday with warm temperatures and blue skies.

We’re gearing up for another, albeit unusual, growing season in the San Joaquin Valley.
Alfalfa growers trying to get as many harvests as possible.

Field scouts Jenna Horine and Carlos Silva are ready. This week, Jenna starts setting and monitoring traps in almond orchards, providing growers a second set of eyes for pests prowling around the trees. Carlos is starting to check for pests in the enrolled alfalfa fields.

While water remains topic No. 1 in farm country, growers are pressing ahead as best as they can during the drought. 

The first cutting is expected to occur at the end of the month.
Alfalfa growers, for example, are continuing to irrigate their fields as long as they have water available. The goal, Carlos says, is to get as many harvests, or cuttings, before their water supplies run dry. Studies indicate growers can achieve as much as 10 harvests a year. Tight water supplies certainly will undercut the harvest this season.

California’s dairy and cattle ranchers rely on the state’s high quality alfalfa. Alfalfa growers will be doing their best to keep supplying hay for those important industries.

Almond trees are showing their green leaves.
One bit of good news for alfalfa: The early winter aphid problem appears to have moderated, Carlos reports. As you may recall, there was an early emergence of blue alfalfa and cow pea aphids on the plant stems in the region, threatening the crop and forcing growers to think about early treatments. Right now, he’s finding low aphid populations in the enrolled fields. 

Carlos says alfalfa is 13 to 14 inches tall in some fields. If the 80-degree temperatures hold up, these fields should be ready to harvest by the end of this month. Usually, growers will harvest their crop at 24 to 25 inches.

In the almonds orchards, the colorful blossoms are giving way to young, green leaves. Jenna will be visiting orchards and we’ll start letting everyone what she finds in her scouting reports.

The nuts already are a good size for this time of year.
On the westside of the Valley, some trees are already loaded with young fruit. Jenna says the emerging nuts already are sizable for this time of year.
Could that be a sign that the 2014 season may turn out OK despite the drought? We’ll see.

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