Sunday, August 2, 2015

You Might Call It Summer Cleaning for Almond Growers

It’s hard to believe almond orchards across the Valley have gone from buds, to bloom to hullsplit.

For most growers, the time for the final payoff is approaching after enduring another dry winter, an early spring and an unusual summer marked by thunderstorms that brought nearly a half-inch of rain and slightly cooler than normal average high temperatures in July. (OK – a daily average of 95 degrees in July this year vs. the historical average of 98 is still hot.)
Growers are mowing weeds in the orchard margins.
While some growers on the warmer Westside of the Valley already started shaking nuts off their trees, most farmers elsewhere have been busy the past week doing final preparations for harvest, reports field scout Jenna Horine.

“Everyone is getting their orchards ready before harvest,” she says. The prep work varies from farm to farm.

Some orchards get final pre-harvest water.
Some growers are giving their trees one final drink of water – which means shaking will come one to four weeks later. As we mentioned earlier, growers need to let the ground firm up to prevent tree damage during mechanical shaking.

Other growers are cleaning up the orchard floor, getting rid of weeds, leaves and other orchard trash to make it easier to sweep up the fallen nuts from the ground. Jenna points out it’s too late to treat for ants. In general, you need treat for ants several weeks before harvest, she says.
Prepping the floor is important before harvest.

UC IPM says prepping the orchard floor before harvest “is important in an almond IPM program. Rapid and efficient nut pick-up after tree shaking reduces the time the nuts are exposed to pests such as ants”

 “Rapid pick-up and hulling or on-farm fumigations, prevents damage by navel orangeworm and peach twig borer. The ground should be smooth, dry, and free of weeds, ants, trash and other debris. Orchards that are regularly cultivated should be disked to break up clods and then rolled to make the surface smooth and firm,” UC IPM says.

In addition, UC says growers should take these steps before harvest:
  • Flail-mow weeds growing in between the trees close to the ground so that they will sufficiently decompose before harvest.
  • Make sure your last preharvest irrigation takes place 1 to 4 weeks before harvest, depending on the soil texture and depth.
  • Collect shaken nuts immediately after ground drying.
On the pest front, mites have been under control so far, Jenna says. Some orchards continue to have stink bugs around. Jenna talked to some growers about the problem. They’ll have to deal with these pests after harvest to avoid problems next season.

Meanwhile, Jenna can validate predictions of a smaller harvest due to the drought.

Kernels expect to be smaller because of the drougt.
The Almond Board of California forecasts production at 1.8 billion meat pounds, down 3.3 percent from 1.867 billion pounds in 2014. The yield comes even though nuts will be harvested from 890,000 bearing acres across the state, up from the record high of 880,000 predicted by the National Agricultural Statistics Service last year.

Jenna is seeing this first-hand. “The kernels are smaller across the board,” says Jenna, who routinely snatches a nut and cuts it open for a closer inspection during her scouting rounds. “You can’t have a record breaking harvest in a drought.”
We’ll second that.

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