Monday, August 29, 2016

Shake, Shake, Shake, Shake … Shake Your Buttes, Padres and Nonpareils Off the Trees

The almond harvest is in full swing. Perhaps, we should call it the almond harvest season.

Some might think, harvesting an almond orchard amounts to knocking down the nuts, letting them dry on the ground for a week or two and then hauling them off to the processor.

No so. In fact, the harvest stretches from summer to early fall for growers.

Shaking takes place more than once during the harvest.
“You harvest one almond variety at a time. Some growers have three to four varieties in their orchard,” says field scout Jenna Mayfield. That’s a whole lot of shaking going on.

In California, growers produce 30 difference almond varieties – although 10 varieties make up 70 percent of the state’s production.  Overall, all varieties fall under three general classifications – Nonpareil, California and Mission.

One interesting fact about almonds is you need at least two different varieties in an orchard for the trees to produce. Growers will plant one variety in one row and another in the next row.
The soft shell nonpareil varieties are the first to be harvested. Hard shell varieties such as Padre are harvested later.

That’s why you see dust clouds produced by tree shaking machines more than that once during the season. Jenna points out harvesting can be a chess game with multiple growers vying to schedule tree shakers and sweepers to work in their orchards. Smaller farms sometimes will work together to line up shakers for multiple orchards to avoid delays.

Jenna adds that each grower usually has a different opinion about harvesting. Some, for example, will come back and re-shake the same rows again to catch all the nuts on the trees. Others, she adds, will send out pole crews to knock off every nut to prevent over wintering of the dreaded navel orangeworm and pest damage the next season. “Shaking isn’t going to get every nut off the tree.”

Drive slowly on dusty roads to avoid stirring up mites.
Right now, a number of growers are irrigating between harvests. A few are treating orchard blocks prone to mites. You need four to six weeks between the application and next harvest.

Jenna reminds growers to slow down when driving on dirt roads to avoid stirring up mites in the ground. “There are a lot of mites out there.”

Right now, ants have been a problem for those nuts still drying on the ground. Doing a quick check of samples, Jenna is finding nuts with ant damage.

Meanwhile, field scout Carlos Silva says aphids and worms are still present in alfalfa but there hasn’t been a push for growers to treat. The plants generally are 14 to 15 inches tall and a few weeks away from the next cutting. 
Cotton plants are getting their last irrigation of the season.

In cotton, growers are irrigating for the last time before the fall harvest. He reports more fields with bolls opening up and lint visible. Aphids and whitefly are lurking, posing a threat for sticky cotton to show up later on. “It’s important for growers to stay on top of these pests,” Carlos says.

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