Monday, May 23, 2016

Was Almond “Flash Bloom” a Flash in the Pan This Year?

You’re probably familiar with the phrases “flash in the pan,” “in a flash” and “flash flood.”
Well, here’s farm-related idiom: “flash bloom.”

No, it’s not the latest foodie trend like the blooming onion. Rather it’s something coined by Merced County’s UC Cooperative Extension pomologist and almond expert David Doll.

“We had this massive bloom period where everything bloomed at once,” David says. The result, he says, was developing pea-sized nuts that started to fall off the trees due to poor pollination. “What gave that away was when we saw a greater percentage of nut set around the beehives.” The farther away from the hives, the poorer the nut set. He surmises the cause was “because of this big flash bloom that occurred.”

As you know, the welcomed rains in the late fall and in January gave way to a dry February, which set off this sudden burst in colorful almond blossoms. The trees were blooming faster than bees could do a good job in pollinating.

Still, David says the crop has come out better than expected and he anticipates a solid year – barring unforeseen circumstances that can still emerge. “I wouldn’t say it will be a knock it out of the park year, but it’s not a bad year.” Here we go with the idioms again.

This season, David had to remind almond growers about applying fungicides to prevent diseases. It was easy to forget after we went through four straight dry winters and springs.

At the same time, David – nicknamed the Almond Doctor – had to remind growers against over applying fungicides. If there weretwo to three days of rain or a huge downpour over a 24-hour period, then growers need to treat for diseases. “If it’s a passing storm, don’t worry about it.”

Field scout Jenna Mayfield says growers have been heeding David’s advice during the sporadic rain and wind storms hitting the Valley this spring. “Growers have been proactive. They don’t want to run the risk of diseases affecting the nut set the following year.”

Signs of shot hole damage.
Jenna is seeing signs of shot hole diseases in trees. The fungus survives on infected twigs and as spores in healthy buds, according to UC IPM. Spores are moved around by water – either rain or irrigation. The diseasedevelops during prolonged periods of wetness. The signs are spots on leaves, twigs and fruit. Ultimately, “shot hole can cause losses in yield, defoliation, and weakened trees,” UC IPM says.

Meanwhile in the fields, field scout Carlos Silva says the last of the alfalfa fields have been harvested in the Valley. Growers are now headed toward their third cutting of the year. Pests are under control but lygus bug counts are on the rise. That means growers that have cotton fields nearby will need to practice the good neighbor policy next month and leave strips of uncut alfalfa as a habitat for lygus. You don’t want these pests fleeing to the cotton fields.

Carlos has been taking a census of the cotton crop. He estimates plant stand establishment at 35,000 to 45,000 plants per acre. UC IPM says the optimal stand establishment is 40,000 to 60,000 plants per acre. Anything under 30,000 is weak and over 60,000 is excessive, which can lead to insect and disease problems down the road. Overall, he says, “everything is growing nicely.” 

Workshop Alert: Growers can learn about how to better conduct surface irrigation activities, including furrow, border and irrigation systems in a free workshop from 9 a.m. to noon on June 3 at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, 9240 S. Riverbend Ave., Parlier. Speakers include our friend Dan Munk, UCCE advisor in Fresno County; Daniele Zaccaria, UCCE specialist at the UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources; Eduardo Bautisa, of the USDA ARS Water Management and Conservation Research unit in Arizona, and Khaled Balie, UCCE director in Imperial County. For more information, contact Dan at (559) 241-7515 or email him at

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