Friday, December 20, 2013

Elvauating the island near Hana...too steep for almonds
Where have I been? Your Almondfarmer recruited the family to help evaluate Maui as a place to grow almonds. Unfortunately we found the island to be wholly unsuitable for almond farming. Steep terrain, sea breezes, lack of chilling and nearly continuous pleasant conditions are just some of the impediments. The trip was not a total loss however since we discovered it may be a nice place to vacation and we hope to return some day with less focus on work.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Drought Stress?
I mentioned in my most recent post that we are continuing to irrigate due to the lack of rain. But not all appearances of drought stress are necessarily due to lack of water. Although the trees in this orchard appear thirsty, they are really dropping leaves due to a late infestation of Rust disease (a fungus).

Rust disease has been a challenge during the last few years. This year, one application of fungicide kept the disease down before and through harvest. This late season infestation is a reminder that we will need to be on the lookout for it again in 2014.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Drip Irrigation with well water
It is almost mid November and we are still irrigating! We've had no rain and the trees continue to use water during the mild days (70's) we are having.

The drip tubing was secured at the top of the berms to be safely out of the way during harvest.  We leave the tubing there until spring. This keeps them secure while we sweep the mummies to where they can be destroyed by a mower.

Where we do not have access to well water, some of the trees are experiencing stress and beginning to drop leaves. This is the kind of leaf drop we might want from cold temperatures this time of year, not from lack of water. We definitely need rain!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Getting ready for a pre-plant fumigation with Telone. A lot of specialized equipment is involved. Fumigation reduces soil nematode populations and is important for reduction of Replant Disorder, an ill-defined soil condition that stunts new trees.

This is the GPS-guided tractor that will inject the fumigant into the soil. This rig is set up to "know" where each tree will be planted and apply fumigant in about a 10 ft. square at each tree site. This is a trial run and researchers will measure the concentration of fumigant surrounding each tree site to test the application accuracy.

Fumigants are tightly regulated and county biologists were on site to be sure all safety and regulatory requirements were being met. Pictured are Melanie Fisher (Stanislaus Co.), Kraig Williams (TriCal, Inc.), Anna Genasci (Stanislaus Co.), and Matt Gilis (researcher with TriCal, Inc.)
Almondfarmer with pilot Kevin Morgan Smith of Hawke Ag Aviation (aerial ag applications, Oakdale, 209-765-6762) next to the Cessna 150 that Kevin used to take me up for some aerial photographs. Kevin did a great job of flying, giving me lots of opportunities for pictures and made a smooth landing for a safe return

Aerial pictures allow us to clearly see weaker areas of an orchard. We can investigate what those areas will need to become more robust. In this picture a weak area is apparent where a hill top was removed. We can test what nutrients are deficient and supplement those areas.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

WOO HOO! Almond harvest 2013 is complete for us as of today! No more nuts in the field!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Wind-rowed Wood Colony variety almonds.

The sweepers have done their job and these nuts are ready to be picked up. We will do some hand raking ahead of the pickup machine to gather in any strays.

Nonpareil harvest is finished and we have been harvesting pollenators for a while. I think there are about three more weeks of harvest for us if the weather continues to cooperate. Unfortunately, rain is a possibility next week. Let's hope the forecast changes.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Here is a tree surrounded by healthy trees that appears to be drying up. The leaves wilting as though they have no water.

Pulling the soil from the base of the trees it does appear dry, but a clue to the problem is a tiny gumball exuding from the bark.              

Crown Rot
Cutting away the surface bark reveals gummy brown (dead) wood at the crown of the tree. This is classic Phytophthora Root and Crown rot caused by a fungus. The top of the tree appears drought stressed because the fungus has cut off flow of water from the roots to the leaves.  The rot is a result of excess water that has caused the roots to become stressed from oxygen deprivation and unable to ward off infection by this ubiquitous soil fungi.

This tree happens to be in a low swale and water has accumulated in the soil around it. This is especially a challenge in the foothills where irrigating enough for the hilltops can cause problems for trees in the low spots.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Nonpareil harvest continues. Up the elevator the nuts go and into the trailer for a trip to the huller. So far yields are in line with expectations (good) and quality looks excellent. I have not seen a worm or ant damaged nut yet from our farms. The kernels are averaging smaller in size than last year and this is what I am hearing is the norm from the hullermen I have spoken with. Nonpareil harvest will continue for about another week for us.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On Tuesday (8/13) we started sweeping nuts into windrows at our earliest maturing orchard.
Yikes! Our baby trees are getting a load of dust from our neighbors cultivation activity. Mites seem to thrive in a dusty environment. Fortunately we just finished treating these trees for mites so I think they will be OK. We need to continue to monitor for mites in all the orchards well into September.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

To my growers: This is NOT your orchard!!

This is an orchard next to one we farm. Ownership changed hands two years ago and that is how long it took to create an unmitigated disaster. Because of inadequate irrigation, these nuts stopped developing and should have been harvested weeks ago.  A random sample of Nonpareil nuts reveal a Navel Orangeworm infestation of 40%!!!  At a high point in the almond industry when there is money to be made, these owners apparently decided to "save" money on cultural costs and their result will be a huge economic loss.

Some of the obvious bad decisions in this situation are:

No winter sanitation program; We spend a lot of money every year destroying unharvested nuts, or "mummies", this is where Navel Orangeworm larvae overwinter. By destroying the mummies we begin each season with a smaller resident population.

Inadequate Irrigation;  The result is smaller, shriveled nuts that weigh less and will be hard to market.

Untimely harvest; The worm damage would be less if they had been harvested when ready two or more weeks ago.

Pre Harvest "Wind Falls" from lack of water

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Start of Shaking - 7 Aug 2013
We started shaking this years crop yesterday, Wednesday Aug 7.  Nut removal is very good and we may not need to follow with a poling crew here.  Due to variations in soil type, age, and location all the orchards do not mature at the same time.  Now that we have started, we will be shaking Nonpareil, the first variety to mature, for about the next two weeks.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nonpareil just starting to split
When looking at the high percentage of hull split in trees on the edges of orchards it is easy to get excited and think that harvest is just a few days away.  However, you do not have to venture far from the edge to find that there are plenty of Nonpareil that have barely begun to split. We have to wait until nearly all of the nuts are ready to shake or we will leave too many behind. At the same time, early harvest will take the nuts out of potential harm from worms or weather. When to begin shaking is a judgement call that needs to be evaluated often as the nuts mature.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Mowing can be a very dusty operation, especially in a drip irrigated orchard where sprinklers do not moisten the soil. The result is a clean surface to harvest from and the weeds will not grow again since the hoses have been moved to the tops of the berms. These are 3rd leaf trees.

Monday, July 8, 2013

One of our irrigation systems developed an infestation of slime bacteria. I collected this amber colored debris (bacterial masses) in a water bottle by flushing several drip tubing lines.
We injected chlorine into the system to kill the bacteria.  Here Eduardo is checking the chlorine levels at the far end of the irrigation system.
This is one of three fox pups who, along with their mother (such a vixen!), have made themselves at home living under a storage shed.  Look out rats and mice!
Hull split is progressing very rapidly. These nuts are further along than most because they are on an outside tree with sun exposure, but the rest of the nuts will be at this stage soon. The extreme heat last week accelerated split. We are applying sprays to protect the opening nuts from Navel Orangeworm and Peach Twig Borer.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hull split is coming soon. Pictured is the most advanced nut I could find and it was on an outside tree.
After light rain and cool temperatures on Monday and Tuesday of this week, we are now heading towards a real scorcher of a heat wave until the 4th of July with temperatures well above 100 degrees. The heat may accelerate the onset of hull split.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

 You can't help but smile now that CandyCot season has arrived.
 The pickers are important since they must determine ripeness and make the first cut of un-marketable fruit. The fruit is fragile and bruises easily so special care is taken to treat it gently.  Here the guys are reviewing quality criteria.

A full trailer of beautiful and sweet fruit! Awesome!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Applying Ant Bait:
The commercial ant baits available are designed to attract ants that feed on fats, oils and proteins and thus are effective for ant control in nut crops.  The baits will not attract sugar feeding ants, such as the Argentine Ant, which can be a problem when they feed on fresh fruit. We have observed these ants in the Candycot orchard so we are attempting to protect the fruit. We coated the ant bait with powdered sugar before spreading on the orchard floor so it will be attractive to the sugar-loving ants. The baits are slow acting so it will take a few weeks to know if this technique works.

Friday, May 10, 2013

 Walnuts grow is spurts, or "flushes".  These are young Tulares beginning their second growth flush of 2013. Long skinny shoots grow out rapidly for a while, then they stop lengthening and the leaves begin to expand. Tulare tends to be a very vigorous growing variety.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

 Glossy green leafs are an indication of a healthy tree. These are fifth leaf trees and they are beginning to fill in the space.  They are also producing the best weed control product available.... shade.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

On young trees (these are third leaf trees) it is sometimes necessary to lighten the load of nuts and growth by cutting back the tips of the limbs. This helps prevent limb breakage.  It also removes limbs that hang so low they would be hit by herbicides when weeds are sprayed.                                              

It hurts to see nuts put on the ground, but the quantity is small. Also, it is important to preserve the long term structure of the tree so big crops can be held in the future.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Recently I posted a picture of nuts on the ground as a result of the wind we were suffering through.  I just received this article from Western Farm Press which estimates losses which resulted from the wind.  Click below to read the article.

Winds cause 70 million plus loss california almonds

The picture here has nothing to do with the wind losses.  Just a nice crop on a 4th leaf Nonpareil.
On April 9, this meter box exploded seconds after starting the pump.  We train our men to stand to the side of panels and electrical boxes when starting and stopping for just this reason.  The explosion startled the xxxx out of Javier but he was unhurt.
Note the hole that was blown through the panel next to the meter.  The inside was completely incinerated.  We could not determine the cause of the fire.  Our vendor, Central Valley Pump, with cooperation from Turlock Irrigation District (our power company), got us pumping again in only 28 hours.

Monday, April 15, 2013

 Candycots Puzzle

Here are two pictures of the same Candycot tree.  The first limb has lots of fruit and will need to be thinned.  The remainder of the tree barely has a fruit to be found.  We are trying to unravel the mystery of getting them to consistently produce.  Older plantings are doing better so it may just be a matter of maturity.
The fruit is so remarkably good it is worth the effort to figure out the puzzle of production.  I will be trying different irrigation and fertility regimes to see what works best.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

In this photograph North is to the right and South is to the left.  We are back to windy again today and, as usual, the wind is from the North pushing the growth on this new tree to the South. The sun travels its' arc in the southern half of our sky.  You can see the bright light reflecting off the leaves on the left (South), and the North facing leaves are shaded.  Naturally, the tree grows toward the sun. If not staked and supported soon, this tree will grow up leaning hard to the South.
Monday and Tuesday (4/8 & 4/9) were unpleasantly windy!  The result of all those limbs being whipped around and rubbing together can be seen on the ground.  Some of the lost nuts were loosely attached and would have been lost during the "June Drop" (which usually occurs in May!), but there are good nuts lost as well. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Looking out my (mobile) office window was beautiful today. Quintessential bucolic! 

thunder storms

We have had a few days over the past week with showers, maybe 3/4 of an inch accumulation in some places, less in most.  Last weekend we had a spectacular light show as thunderstorms moved through.  Thunder showers bring free Nitrogen as the lightning fixes atmospheric N into plant useable forms, but it also brings the risk of hail. (No hail damage yet this year)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Crop sizing

The almonds are getting big enough to be clearly visible from a distance. We have had mostly sunny days which will help the trees hold more nuts. This is a fifth leaf Nonpareil tree.