Monday, July 28, 2014

Growers Keeping a Close Eye on Almond Orchard Activity

Almond growers go through some sleepless nights this time of year. Some even get a few extra gray hairs, as well.

A navel orangeworm trap.
These signs must mean harvest time is here or just around the corner. Right now, growers on the far west side of the San Joaquin Valley are beginning to harvest their almonds. 

For those not yet ready to start shaking the nuts off the trees, this is a time to closely monitor irrigation and watch out for pests.

Field scout Jenna Horine has been supplying weekly pest and orchard monitoring reports to growers, providing them and their pest control advisors a second set of eyes. She reminds everyone to look over the pest numbers and check them with information available online from the University of California’s guide for the Almond Year-round Integrated Pest Management Program.

Almond growers are monitoring orchard irrigation closely.
Growers can be good environmental stewards and control pest threats – especially navel orangeworm and mites – before harvest time. That why’s it’s important to closely watch the pest activity taking place in the orchards. In doing so, growers can avoid unnecessary costs while protecting their crop and yields.

Jenna puts it this way: You don’t want to spend $1,000 to treat pests that may cause only $400 in economic losses. Some growers do get antsy and opt for blanket treatment whether it’s needed or not.
Target spraying the orchard will pay off in many ways.
Then there are growers who will target treatments, spraying around the orchard borders, where mites are stirred up from dusty, dirt roads. Others will focus on hot spots.

“Watch carefully,” Jenna advises.

Meanwhile in the fields, alfalfa growers have wrapped up their fourth cutting of the season. They already are irrigating to get ready for at least one more harvest. As a result, pest pressures are low in the fields, according to field scout Carlos Silva.

Cotton growth is doing well.
Carlos says this year’s cotton crop continues to do well with no real pest problems to report. Lygus is under control for the most part. He found counts up in one field (four bugs per 50 passes of his sweep net), which is still below the seven to 10 threshold for treatment under UC IPM guidelines.

Carlos says the retention rate remains high with plants averaging about 11 to 14 fruiting branches and 16 to 18 mainstem nodes. He estimates bolls will start to open near the end of August.
In the meantime, some growers a finding a mystery bug in the fields – a black beetle-like bug with a red strip on its back. No one has identified it yet as a pest or a beneficial insect. We’ll let you know if we identify the bug.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Let the Shaking Begin: Early Almond Harvest Arrives

 It was Wednesday, July 16 and almond field scout Jenna Horine drove out to the much hotter west side of the San Joaquin Valley – where thousands of  cars, trucks and big rigs travel daily on a bustling Interstate 5.

A tree loaded with almonds in the Valley.
As Jenna reached an almond orchard, her eyes opened wide and her mouth dropped slightly as she witnessed nuts already being shaken off the trees. Harvest had begun.

While growers and almond experts had predicted an earlier than normal harvest because of the dry winter, it’s still surprising to witness it first-hand. Jenna had inkling this orchard would be one of the first to start harvesting in the Valley. During her visits in recent weeks, the grower would plunk an almond off the tree, peel off the hull, crack the shell and pop the fresh kernel in his mouth for a little snack.

 “He’d eat the almonds off the trees.” 

Here's a nice size kernel.
Maybe we can call this event the “Shakin’ Heard Round the Valley.” We can safely say harvest time has officially begun. In the coming weeks, we should start seeing more growers start shaking off the almonds. Things should really start to pick up in August.

Some growers are keeping a close eye on orchard irrigation.
By the fall, California growers anticipate harvesting 1.95 billion pounds of almonds. That’s 2.5 percent less than last year’s 2 billion pounds, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The yield expects to average 2,270 pounds per acre, down 4.6 percent from 2,380 pounds per acre in 2013.

While the west side grower got an early jump on harvesting, other farmers continue to prepare for shaking.  Some are carefully monitoring their irrigation schedule. Others are keeping an eye on mites.
On the pest front, Jenna points out some growers are treating for mites around the borders of their orchards, where heavily traveled dirt roads routinely stir up mites. Overall, Jenna finds mite pressure tapering off with worrisome numbers only in isolated areas.

Alfalfa growers are ready for another cutting this season.
Speaking of harvest, some growers are already are cutting their alfalfa for the fourth time this season. Field scout Carlos Silva says we’ll see more growers harvesting their alfalfa in the coming week. Of course, we continue to remind growers to leave strips of uncut alfalfa to help keep lygus from migrating to nearby cotton fields. So far, most growers say they have enough water for one more cutting this year. That’s good news.

Cotton plants are developing nicely.
In cotton, Carlos is snagging more lygus in his sweep net, picking up six pests per 50 sweeps. That’s approaching UC Integrated Pest Management’s treatment threshold of seven to 10 lygus, including 1 nymph. We’ll continue to keep a close watch on this pest.

Carlos says plants are doing well. Some growers already have applied growth regulators to slow vegetative growth and boost boll development. Before we know it, the cotton harvest will be upon us.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Growers Deal with Heat, Fast-Developing Almonds

Mother Nature certainly is putting the heat on almond growers.

First, growers are facing another week of oppressive triple-digit temperatures while trying to protect against heat illness.

Second: Growers are dealing with a crop that is developing faster than normal because of the dry and unprecedented warm winter weather.

As a result, growers are moving quickly to prepare for the upcoming harvest: clearing the orchard floor of debris and wrapping up hull split treatments.

Growers are finishing up their hull split treatments right now.
“Growers are getting the orchard floods clean for shaking. They are making sure any ants are treated,” field scout Jenna Horine reports.

The drought conditions and super hot weather is triggering some worries about mite problems. Jenna says mite problems are usually concentrated in certain parts of the orchard – often near dusty roads where workers are driving fast and kicking up dust or in water-stressed blocks.

Growers need to find a balance in irrigation schedules.
Right now, growers working to find a good balance with their irrigation schedules. This can be tricky because watering too much can trigger tree diseases, increase the chances of shaker damage and even push back shaking. On the other hand, under irrigating increases mites and decreases kernel weight.

Almond expert David Doll of UC Cooperative Extension in Merced County advises growers to maintain the irrigation frequency, but make adjustments on the amount of watering time. He offers a helpful irrigation strategy covering the period from hull split to after the harvest in a 2012 Almond Doctor blog.

In the fields, field scout Carlos Silva says some growers will start their fourth alfalfa cutting this week. A number are telling us that they should have enough water for a fifth harvest. That’s good news considering many thought earlier this spring they would have only enough water for two or maybe three cuttings this entire season.

With lots of lygus in the alfalfa, it’s important growers to strip cut their fields to keep the pests from traveling into nearby cotton fields.

Currently lygus counts are low in the cotton fields, with the plants averaging 15 mainstem nodes. Square retention remains good.

Field Day Alert: Check out this Wednesday’s Cotton Field Day from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Crivelli Farm, 13985 S. Palm, Dos Palos. UC Integrated Pest Management advisor Dr. Pete Goodell, Fresno County UC Cooperative Extension cotton specialist Dan Munk and Bob Hutmacher, cooperative extension specialist with the Westside Research and Extension Center, will offer valuable tips and insights about this year’s crop. They will cover issues such as crop-damaging pests, deficit irrigation, Race 4 Fusarium disease, early pima defoliation and fertilizer and irrigation management in a drought year. Directions are available in the events section of the Sustainable Cotton Project’s website –  Continuing education credits, including hours for nutrient, IPM and water management, will be available.  See everyone there.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sweeping Fields Tracks Pest Populations and Protects Crops

More worms are showing up in alfalfa fields. Lygus bugs are turning up more often in cotton fields.

Keeping track of the number of bad bugs and good bugs that are making a home in your cotton and alfalfa fields is quite important as summer heats up. Pest populations can suddenly explode and gobble away at your harvest time profits.

“Pest populations are growing. They can grow pretty fast,” says field scout Carlos Silva.

Carlos uses his sweep net to check on pests in an alfalfa field.
Each week, Carlos heads into the blistering heat to survey pest populations in cotton and alfalfa fields across the San Joaquin Valley. His scouting provides a second set of eyes for growers, supplementing information gathered by their pest control advisors and the farmers themselves.

A close-up of alfalfa weevils in his sweep net.
His tool of the trade is a sweep net – a kind of oversized butterfly net. Carlos will pick three locations in a field and use tennis-like forehand and backhand moves and counting the number of passes as the net snags collect bugs hiding in the fields. “Take time to look at the net,” he says about carefully inspecting the pest haul.

 There’s a certain art and science about using a sweep net. The effectiveness of this sampling practice hinges on how the net is used. Following standard practices ensures results from different people are comparable.

Here’s a refresher course covering alfalfa and cotton:

Alfalfa: Sweep the field when the plants are at least 6- to 10-inches tall. Swing the net in a 180-degree arc so the net’s rim hits the top 6 to 8 inches. Hold the net less than vertical to ensure the bottom edge hits the alfalfa first. Many people will sweep from right to left, and then take a step and sweep again left to right. After 5 sweeps, pull the net through the air to push the bugs into the bottom of the net bag. UC IPM recommends taking a sample in four different spots in the field.

If it’s difficult to count the bugs in the field, place the insects in a bag and cool the contents to slow done pest movement.  UC IPM provides information about treatment thresholds for various pests.

For Cotton: Start to sweep for lygus at first cotton plant square, taking samples twice a week in the field. UC IPM recommends sampling each quarter of a field and taking even more samples in fields larger than 8 acres. Do 50 sweeps across one row of cotton to sample for lygus, making sure the sweeps don’t overlap. Lygus monitoring can end when acala plants have 5 nodes above white flower and Pima has 3.5.
You can record your pest information on a form for alfalfa and a form for cotton that can be downloaded online from UC IPM.