Monday, March 24, 2014

Leftover Mummies Will Come Back to Haunt Lax Almond Growers in the Valley

“You can pay me now, or pay me later.”

Some might recall that as the Frame oil filter’s old marketing slogan, advising you to do regular maintenance now or risk running into costly repairs down the road.

That was the refrain by field scout Jenna Horine last week after placing pest traps around almond orchards in the western San Joaquin Valley. 

A number of mummy nuts are left on a single branch.
The reason: In one orchard, she found a tree with 10 mummy nuts – on a single branch! There were sure to be more hidden in other parts of the green leaves. In another orchard, she found about six mummy nuts per branch in four different trees – in a single row!

Jenna envisions these orchards facing some pesky problems with navel orangeworm later this season because of lax orchard sanitation over the winter. These growers face the prospects of shelling out lots of money to treat for NOW to protect their crop. Jenna points out her find of an inch-long navel orangeworm in an orchard.

“It’s way cheaper to follow preventative practices,” Jenna says. Indeed, our long-time friend, retired UC IPM entomologist Walt Bentley has tirelessly and repeatedly stressed to almond growers over the years the value of knocking off mummy nuts from the trees during the slow winter months.

The lesson here: It’s better to invest a little early to save a lot later.

Jenna reports almonds are quite large for this time of year.
Meanwhile, Jenna is finishing up placing pest traps in orchards, strategically setting up three traps? to snag NOW and a trio to trap peach twig borer in every orchard she will be scouting during the year. She usually places trap in the same area as in the past or known pest hot spots. This allows her to compare current findings with past results.

Jenna has been splitting some of the nuts to check on the development of the meat. So far, things are looking good. The only unusual thing is the size of the hulls, which are larger than normal for this time of the year. You often won’t see them this big until June.

In the fields, field scout Carlos Silva has been scouting alfalfa. Aphid populations are relatively low again this past week.

However, Carlos is concerned about weevils.  In some fields, he has snagged 14-15 weevils per sweep in his net. UC IPM recommends growers consider an early harvest or treatment at 20 lavae per sweep. Carlos anticipates seeing the first harvest starting this week. 

With water supplies tight due to the drought, some growers are looking at doing just two harvests before calling it a season and diverting water to other crops such as almonds.
Alfalfa weevil larvae found in a sweep net.
Typical damage weevils can cause in the field.
On the water front, area rallies are continuing with local political leaders and water district officials raising awareness about the importance of water to the farm economy. Events at the Firebaugh rodeo grounds and in Fresno drew big crowds.

For well drilling and irrigation pipe companies, the drought has created a financial boom. Some companies report three- to six-week backlogs for filling orders for well pumps.

Carlos also notes many growers are looking at drilling wells. But that route is costly and usually out of the price range for small farmers. Drilling a new well easily tops $100,000. Even if you can afford the price tag, it can still take up to six months to hire a drilling company. Companies are that busy.

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