Monday, August 14, 2017

Almond Growers Poised to Get Crackin’ on the Harvest and Taking Harvest Samples

The orchard is some 50 miles west of Fresno, 37 miles west of Raisin City and 20 miles southwest of Mendota. It borders the Westside Freeway, better known to most travelers as Interstate 5.

The locale also is the first almond orchard that field scout Jenna Mayfield spotted this season shaking nuts off the trees. “They usually are the first area to start harvesting almonds,” Jenna said, citing the combination of hot weather and a dry climate as reasons for the earlierharvest start than other areas in the Valley.

Westside almond orchards are the first to be harvested.
So we can officially say the almond harvest has begun. From now until early fall, growers will be busy shaking and sweeping in their orchards. More specifically, that’s shaking trees to knock off the nuts, letting them dry on the ground for about a week and then sweeping up the nuts to haul to the huller.

“It’s going to get busier for growers,” Jenna says.

You might liken the almond harvest as a marathon rather than a sprint. Because more than one variety of almonds is planted in orchards, growers will go in more than once to shake the trees. Of course, that means crews have to pick up the almonds more than once as well.

The soft shell varieties, especially nonpareils, ripen early and are the first to harvest. The hard shells such as Monterey ripen later and usually are harvested some40 to 60 days later. In fact, Jenna points out hulls of hard shell almonds aren’t even close to showing a sign of splitting.

Almonds drying on the ground are waiting to be gathered.
Right now, a number of growers are still wrapping up pre-harvest spraying, especially for mites. “The mite pressure is increasing,” Jenna notes.

Yes the to-do list is long for growers this time of year. “There are so many things to do,” Jenna says.

Foremost, according to UC Integrated Pest Management advisers, is moving to harvest as early as possible. As we mentioned earlier, almonds should be harvested when at least 95 percent of the hulls have split. The longer the nuts stay in the orchard the greater chance pests will move in and damage the crop.

While drying the nuts on the orchard floor is
important, it also is vital to pick them up as quickly as possible. “Ants are major pest threat

for nuts on the ground,” Jenna says.

Jenna also reminds growers to do one more task before gathering the nuts off the ground: Take nut samples. No, we’re not talking about Costco-like samples being handed out to snack on.

Almond kernels with NOW damage.
In this case, sampling involves collecting nuts from the ground and cracking them open to check for pest damage. A harvest sample lets growers assess the pest management program this season and lets them plan for next year. The results offer insights about damage from navel orangeworm, peach twig border, fruit moths or ants during the harvest process. The information also can be compared with numbers from the processor. Discrepancies could be costly for growers.

To collect samples, Jenna snatches up about 70 nuts from three different orchard locations, areas where pest traps have been placed. This lets her compare the damage with the pest information collected from the traps during the season. Later, she’ll crack each nut to inspect them for evidence of pests and pest damage and report the results to growers,

While Jenna and UC advisors regularly urge growers take samples, the practice isn’t widely practiced. Sampling, Jenna says, makes sense and will pay financial dividends in the long run
So let’s get cracking on those harvest samples.

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