Monday, February 19, 2018

In a Flash – Almond Trees Suddenly in Bloom

 The calendar says it is winter, but the weather around the Valley makes it seem more like spring.

Certainly spring colors are full force in the almond orchards. “The bloom is super early. We’re at around 70 percent bloom,” says almond field scout Jenna Mayfield.

Almond bloom has come early this season.
Yes, a rainless February with daily temperatures averaging 70 degrees this month has accelerated the almond bloom. For landscape photo buffs, the almond bloom is a spectacular opportunity to capture the breathtaking colors of the almond blossoms. 

In the orchards, millions of bees are pollinating the almonds. Experts estimate more than half of the nation’s bees are brought into the Golden State to do their work in the almond orchards.

“The weather is perfect for the bees,” Jenna says.

Of course, the rain-starved winter once again is creating another buzz among growers. The question circulating is ‘how much water will they have this season?’  It’s a familiar question farmers had been asking during the historic drought a few years ago.

Jenna notes growers already are turning on the spigots to irrigate their almond trees. Of course, last year’s drought-busting rains gave growers a break from irrigating until spring.

“We haven’t had a winter yet. Some trees still have their leaves from last season,” Jenna says.
A dry winter is prompting growers to irrigate their orchards.

Two years ago, bloom came and went very quickly as well. That’s called flash bloom. The concern among growers is whether bees can reach every bloom in time before the trees start greening – meaning pollination could come up short.

Weather forecasters still point out we have one more month of the traditional rainy season. We’ll have to see what Mother Nature has in store for us and how things play out as the season progresses.

For now, Jenna says growers are checking for San Jose scale. The pest will suck plant juices from tree twigs and limbs and inject a toxin that eventually reduces tree growth and can kill limbs. To spot scale, growers should check for a red halo around the feeding area. 

UC IPM says natural enemies such as beetles can keep scale under control. But broad spectrum insecticides used in orchards can impact beetles. 

Here is scale shown on an almond branch. (UC IPM photo)
“These natural enemies are helpful in reducing scale numbers, but insecticides used during the growing season for other pests disrupt this natural control, and scale numbers can increase as a result,” UC IPM says. “Many orchards that have not used broad-spectrum sprays for two or three years do not have San Jose scale problems. Low to moderate numbers of scale can be managed with oil sprays during the dormant season. The best time to spray is during the dormant season, and low to moderate numbers can be managed with oil sprays alone at this time. The scale is monitored as part of the spur sample during the dormant season and with pheromone traps in the spring.”

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