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.

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