Monday, April 21, 2014

After a Mild Winter, Pests Become Taxing Issue with Valley Almond Growers

 It wasn’t even April 15 and almonds growers were already being taxed.

Not by Uncle Sam. Rather by pests. And the bugs are returning to the orchards sooner rather than later, reports our almond field scout Jenna Horine.

Stink bugs are showing up early.
“Some trees have lots of stink bugs falling out of them,” Jenna says. “Usually I don’t see stink bugs before April 15.”

California’s mild, dry winter can take much of the blame. Normally, the cold winter months will put a damper on pests through the early spring. Compounding the problem has been the warm weather, including some days with unseasonably high 90-degree temperatures.
Ants swarm around a NOW trap.
As Jenna visits orchards throughout the San Joaquin Valley, she is discovering an uptick in almond damaging pests, including stink bugs, mites, peach twig borer and navel orangeworm (NOW). Stink bugs, for example, usually don’t show up in orchards until May during normal years. 

Even ants, which are usually worrisome at the outset of summer, are becoming real pests this spring. Ant mounds seem to be popping up everywhere, Jenna reports says, and the pests are marching up tree trunks and making their way onto limbs. In one instance, she found ants swarming around a NOW trap.

Ant mounds are surfacing in the orchards.
It’s a good bet that no one is surprised by Jenna’s report. With the state’s drought reaching emergency status this winter, almond experts were preparing growers for a challenging year with pests and disease issues to go along with water availability.

A peach twig borer trap.
Now, it seems these predictions are starting to come true to the chagrin of growers. These developments have prompted some growers to start treatments now.

Looking ahead this season, Jenna anticipates many orchards are likely to see a replay of last year’s pest issues. Simply put, it means growers can generally expect the same kind of pest pressures this year as in 2014.

As New York Yankees baseball hall of famer Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”


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