Monday, March 19, 2018

Protecting Almond Orchards, Honey Bees at the Same Time

 As we welcome the arrival of spring on Tuesday, many Valley farmers are certainly ready to close the chapter on another weird winter.

Almond growers, for certain, can’t wait for more predictable weather. In recent weeks, the wet weather this month has forced them to scramble to protect their crop. It also has created a few headaches for beekeepers.

Almond growers applying herbicides to combat rainy weather.
“We really needed it to rain from November to February. We got it in March,” almond field scout Jenna Mayfield says. Obviously, she adds, “we have no control over it.”

Indeed, growers have been busy applying fungicides in the almond orchards to prevent post bloom and petal fall diseases, including brown rot.  “There have been a lot of applications,” Jenna says.

Fungicide applications provide 10 to 14 days of protection, depending on the weather, according to UC extension advisers.  If more rain arrives after that period, growers may have to spray again. Jenna notes growers need to notify the county agricultural commissioner’s office in advance of applications and alert beekeepers as well.

A few beekeepers have told Jenna that they didn’t get a chance to safeguard their bees. “There have been a number of bee losses,” she says. It’s unclear if these issues stem from a communications breakdown.

Some beekeepers are reporting a loss of honey bees..
Farm advisors point out communication is important during the pollination period. “All parties should be kept informed so that beekeepers are aware of impending applications and applicators are aware of the requirements related to notification, materials, timing, location and method of applications,” Emily J. Symmes, a UCCE Sacramento Valley IPM advisor, wrote in an Almond Doctor column last year.

Research by Texas A&M University’s Department of Entomology found that the fungicide iprodion reduces the survival rate of honeybees.  “Given that these fungicides may be applied when honey bees are present in almond orchards, our findings suggest that the bees may face significant danger from chemical applications even when responsibly applied,” wrote Juliana Rangel, Texas A&M assistant professor of apiculture and co-author of the study.

Almond industry officials note that growers have been adapting their practices to avoid using fungicides when bees and pollen are present in the orchards. They also point out UC IPM recommends against using iprodion during almond bloom.

If you want to learn more about protecting bees, check out the Almond Board of California’s website and video on Honey Bee Best Management Practices.

 FIELD DAY: Almond growers can get off to a good start this season by attending a field day that will focus on disease, fungicide, pest and nutrient management on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Rushing Ranch, 11599 W. Shaw, Fresno. Speakers are David Doll, a Merced County University of California Cooperative Extension pomologist, and Mae Culumber, UCCE nut crop specialist, in Fresno County. Doll will review bloomtime diseases and chemical choices, including reduced risk choices and proper selection of fungicides. He also will discuss irrigation management in a dry year. Culumber will offer tips about nutrient management to minimize disease and pest outbreaks. For more information, contact San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project Director Marcia Gibbs at (530) 370-5325 or at

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