Monday, August 17, 2015

There’s No Discounting the Value of Taking Almond Samples at Harvest Time

You might remember the State Farm TV commercial featuring pitchman and NFL quarterback Aaron Rogers urging consumers to do the discount double check to save big bucks by comparing insurance policies. 

You might say field scout Jenna Mayfield is making the same pitch to almond growers, urging them to double check harvested nuts before they’re swept up and hauled to the huller.

Yes, it’s a big commitment. But almond expert David Doll of UC Cooperative Extension in Merced County says it’s worth the investment in time and effort. Sampling nuts can show damage during the harvest process as well as damage from pests. These results can be compared with the damage report from a processor.

Collect almond samples before they go to the processor.
Doll has found discrepancies in the damage/reject rate between a processor’s report and information collected from the almond samples taken off the orchard floor. The difference could be costly. At the same time, the information about bug damage this season can improve pest management practices and help improve quality next season (translation: better financial returns).

Results from samples can be compared to the huller's grade.
“Knowing the damage that occurs provides the ability to develop the most cost-effective way to manage orchard pests,” Doll wrote in a past Almond Doctor blog post. “If practices are changed within the orchard for a season, the harvest sample can provide the information to see if the changed practices provided an increase in marketable yields. If not, it may be best to modify or return to the previous year’s program.”

While extension advisors and almond industry experts urge growers to take harvest samples, Jenna says the practice isn’t as widely followed as she would like it to be. She collects samples for growers who participate in the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming project. These growers can use her information and compare it with the grade coming from the huller. Call it a good double check.

Samples should be collected from different orchard blocks.
In recent weeks, Jenna has been busy collecting nut samples from various orchards. She collects about 70 nuts from three different orchard locations, areas where pest traps have been placed. This also allows her to compare the damage with the pest information gathered from the traps during the season. Later, she’ll crack each nut to inspect them for evidence of pests and pest damage.

The bottom line: Growers shouldn’t discount the importance of taking harvest samples.

Meanwhile, Jenna reports Butte and Padre trees are now being harvested. Growers that finished collecting their first crop are irrigating again before going back into the orchard for a second shaking. “Harvest is in full swing,” she says.

(Note: Jenna Mayfield (aka Jenna Horine) is still our same expert field scout with a new name. Look for her as Mayfield from now on)