Monday, May 21, 2018

Valley Winds Can Really Bug Almond Growers

A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache.”
-          Catherine the Great 

For some farmers, this quote from the 16th Century Russian ruler was so appropriate this past week as sustained winds reaching gusts up to 24 mph buffeted the Valley. It caused some headaches for almond growers trying to figure out the pest populations in their orchards.

“We’re having very super high winds. The wind will affect how far pests can really go,” says almond field scout Jenna Mayfield. “That means you aren’t able to monitor your pest traps effectively.The winds throw off pest counts.”
A peach twig borer trap snarls bugs.

If someone like Jenna has a hard time keeping upright during high winds, how do you think a tiny moth will fare in gusty weather conditions and find its way into a pheromone trap, which is a key monitoring tool in almond orchards. Jenna points out an adult peach twig borer  -- a major pest in almonds – is smaller than a finger nail.

As the weather heated up earlier this month, Jenna starting finding high counts of PTB. The numbers dropped last week – probably because of the winds as well as some cooler temperatures.

On the flip side, the winds could assist growers that use puffers to dispense mating disruption chemicals to combat crop damage by the navel orangeworm. Jenna says some growers believe the winds will extend the reach of the pheromone puffers and improve disruption of NOW mating.

An adult peach twig borer.
Jenna says the winds also increased the number of nuts falling to the ground. “Right now we’re in that drop period.” However, many of those fallen nuts were already damaged by the freeze earlier this winter. Those nuts remaining on the tree are looking good.

“Almonds are huge in size,” Jenna says. One huller told Jenna he anticipates the nuts “are going to have a lot of weight.” That’s bullish news for growers. “Everyone is optimistic about an increase in tonnage this season.”

Growers are hoping for good size almonds at harvest.
Indeed, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service earlier this month forecast California almond production for 2018 will be 2.3 billion pounds, up 1.3 percent from last year’s 2.27 billion pounds.

Let’s hope the winds calm down and growers can get a good read on pest populations so they can achieve the production numbers predicted by Uncle Sam.


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