Sunday, July 3, 2016

Starting to Check Off the Start of Hull Split in Local Almonds

Monitor for peach twig borer. Check.
Monitor navel orangeworm traps. Check.
Monitor ant mounds. Check.
Assess weeds. Check.
Monitor for scab. Check.

The checklist goes on and on for almond growers. No one said getting into the almond business was an 8 to 5 job with lots of vacation time. It’s a year-round job, especially for smaller farms.
UC Integrated Pest Management offers an annual IPM checklist for growers to follow from the dormant season to harvest time. It contains 35 different boxes. That is just for taking care of the trees and crop. It doesn’t account for the business side – from dealing with shaking crews to almond processors to paying the bills.

Right now, growers are starting to check off identifying the start of hull split, reports almond field scout Jenna Mayfield. “We’re already at hull split in many orchards.” It’s an exciting time for growers because harvest is just around the corner – some six to nine weeks away. Ideally, growers want to get the nuts off trees as soon as possible to avoid exposure to pests.

Indeed, July going to be a hectic month and a critical time for pest management. There’s regulating irrigation during hull split to manage hull rot and allowing the orchards to be dry enough for shakers to come into the orchards.
Initial separation stage.
Unsplit stage of the almond.
Deep V of unsplit almond.
A 3/8-inch split of the almond hull.
Initial drying state of the almond.

The completely dry stage of the almond. (UC IPM photos)
Jenna reminds growers to take care of any pest problems now. For example, growers want to make sure that ant bait won’t be left over when the nuts are shaken to the ground.

In the trees, peach twig borer and hull rot fungi are threats at hull split, according to UC IPM.
“A lot of people are hull split spraying. The nuts become vulnerable at hull split,” Jenna says. 

 If navel orangeworm(NOW) is a major problem, the orchard can be harvested twice – once to take off the early ripening nuts and the second to remove the later ripening ones. Jenna notes growers are treating orchard blocks that have history of NOW problems.

Once growers determine hull split has started they should monitor trees until you can see at eye level that 95 to 100 percent of the nuts are split. Then growers should shake a few trees to see if they are satisfied with the nut removal. If not, shake again a few days later. It’s best to harvest first the orchard blocks with the poorest sanitation.

Overall, Jenna says pest pressures have been mild overall. “So far so good.” We’ll cover more as almonds get closer to harvest. 

Meanwhile in the fields, field scout Carlos Silva says alfalfa growers are starting to harvest their crop again. The timing of the harvest varies from area to area. Some parts of the Valley tend to harvest earlier than others.

Carlos says pest problems have been fairly mild in alfalfa so far this season. “Pests have been down this year.”

 But there remains lots of lygus bugs living in alfalfa and they are a constant threat to migrate to nearby cotton fields during harvest. Sounding like a broken record, Carlos again reminds growers to leave strips of uncut alfalfa to leave a habitat for lygus bugs and prevent a mass migration into cotton.
Cotton are starting to develop their flowers.

Cotton plants continue to grow quickly under the intense hot weather gripping the Valley. More blooms are showing up, creating a colorful backdrop for photo buffs. Carlos says plants have up to seven to eight fruiting nodes.

Lygus threat remains an issue. Carlos is still getting two to three counts per set of 50 sweeps. That number is worrisome for fields at the early squaring stage. At first flower around this time of year (mid-squaring stage), the counts can be higher – seven to 10 bugs per 50 sweeps.
“Lygus is the pest that growers need to be on top of,” Carlos says.

FIELD DAY ALERT: Come to the Mid-season Cotton Field Day at the McCurdy Farm at Highway 33 near West Shaw on Thursday, July 7 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. UC IPM advisor Dr. Pete Goodell, Fresno County UCCE cotton specialist Dan Munk, UCCE cropping systems specialist Jeff Mitchell and Bob Hutmacher, cooperative extension specialist with the Westside REC.The speakers will update farmers about the cottongrowing season at mid-year and cover issues such as crop-damaging pests, Race 4 Fusarium disease, early pima defoliation and fertilizer and irrigation management. Directions are available in the
events section of the Sustainable Cotton Project’s website – Various continuing education credits will be available. See you there.

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