Monday, December 1, 2014

Almond Orchard Sanitation Now Can Minimize NOW Damage Later Next Year

Back in the early 1970s, a TV commercial popularized the slogan “You can pay me now or pay me later.”

With December now here, we can adapt that slogan into a post-harvest mantra for almond growers this winter: “You can pay workers to sanitize your orchards now or pay operators for pricey pest control treatments later.” Or worse yet, pay the price later because of lower yields or poor quality nuts.

Following best practices can reduce chemical treatments.
Almond field scout Jenna Horine sees first-hand how a little investment now will yield a nice payoff later – she has the small mountain of cracked almond shells to prove it. With almond crack-out continuing, Jenna says the results from inspecting the almond meat indicate most growers are following good IPM practices.  She encountered few problems in their orchards. Now, she’s finding little damage in the almonds collected in their orchards during the harvest.

A worker knocks off mummies. - UC IPM photo
For the most part, she says, growers are taking the right steps to safeguard their orchards against potential pest problems next year.

Growers who grappled with problems with stink bugs or navel orangeworm (NOW) during the growing season are finding damage in their nuts during crack out.

Jenna joins our friend, retired University of California IPM almond expert Walt Bentley, in stressing the importance of orchard sanitation during the off season. That means knocking off mummy nuts from the trees as well as preventing weeds from growing on the ground.

Here’s what UC IPM says about getting rid of winter homes for NOW:

  • ·          Count the mummy nuts in the trees by examining 20 trees per block.
  • ·          If an average of two or more mummies per tree are found before February 1, remove the  mummies by shaking or hand poling the entire block.
  • ·         Destroy mummies on the ground by either disking or mowing by March 15.

Jenna points out the February 1 in an important cut-off date because growers don’t want to be hitting branches with a pole just before bloom. That will affect the upcoming crop.

Orchard sanitation also involves improvements on the ground. Jenna says treating for pre-emergent weeds is important. You want to get those weeds before the seeds take root. Later, growers need to deal with those weeds that do pop up with post-emergent applications.

Removing mummy nuts from trees is a top priority.
 Meanwhile, Jenna reports the recent rains in the Valley are welcomed by growers. While every bit helps, many growers continue with their post-harvest irrigation.

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