Wednesday, December 24, 2014

 The rain, fog, and generally moist conditions have loosened the mummies and now is a great time to pole them out. Removal of mummies, referred to as orchard sanitation, is the most important activity we do for Navel Orangeworm suppression. The mummies are the overwintering site for the larvae of NOW

Monday, December 22, 2014

Now that the rain has stopped for a while, hopefully we will get lots of this stuff. The fog we used to complain about has made a return, and I've heard few complaints. The fog acts as a cold blanket over the area and it helps the dormant fruit and nut trees accumulate chilling hours. With enough chilling, the trees are able to produce a more vigorous and uniform bloom.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Oops! Found the soft spot. Luckily, there was another D-10 ripping this field and it was able to easily pull this one out.

December 18 and every sixth row (Aldrich variety) in this second-leaf orchard still has many of its' leaves. The other varieties are mostly defoliated and ready for winter. An interesting varietal difference I had not noticed before.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It rained all morning today! To date, locally, we have been blessed with about 2.5 inches so far this year, slightly above average. Everything seems wet and some field work is delayed. I was given a reality check yesterday when I saw a trench being back-filled. While wet and sticky (clay soil) on the surface the water has only wet about 3 inches down. Below that the soil is dusty-dry. We need many more days of rain before declaring the end of the drought.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The roses in our yard were beautiful with dew this morning.  This may seem unrelated to almond farming but it is not. The fact that roses are still blooming here indicates that our climate is very temperate and not too cold for almonds. In December and January it will be colder and provide the winter chilling that almonds need.
The dew is a welcome blessing after the recent rains we have enjoyed (another third of an inch yesterday). We even had a hint of fog this morning. Later, the fog will last all day and help the trees accumulate their chill hours. Hopefully the rain and more fog will continue all winter.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Now that we have finally enjoyed some rain, more than an inch locally, these fields planted to oats will soon be turning green. Praise God!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Taking a break from poling
We picked up the last of our almonds today marking the end of an extraordinary harvest with great yields, excellent quality, and strong pricing. A rare combination!
This year we have had a great group of women doing the hand labor such as poling and raking. They have worked through the heat and dust of harvest with a great attitude and beautiful smiles.

Friday, September 26, 2014

On Thursday morning (9/25) we had our first rainfall in many months. We only received about a tenth of an inch, but it was enough to wash the dust off the leaves and to slow harvest a bit. On Friday there were a few widely scattered clouds and showers. Next week will be warm again and we will complete almond harvest.

There was enough rain to moisten nuts on the ground. We were careful to pick up all the nuts that were wind-rowed prior to the rain. Any nuts on the ground, such as these Monterey almonds, are scattered and will dry again quickly with the coming sunshine. Note the shiny leaves, all that dust is gone!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Monterey - 8/28/2014
Not a yield record, but a record early harvest for Monterey variety in Stanislaus County. This may have happened in southern counties in the past, but, to my knowledge, never this early here. The shake is clean and the nuts are filled out, this is not due to stress.  (OK, full disclosure, this site is technically in Merced County, but it is right next to the county line with Stanislaus)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spinner Type Micro Sprinklers, Stressed Pollenators
    Drip Vs. Micros
During orchard establishment an important decision is choosing the type of irrigation system. Most new orchards use some sort of micro irrigation system because of energy and water efficiency and improved production. There are pros and cons to each type of system.
One difference is very evident this time of year. Micro sprinklers must be turned off after the first variety is shaken to the ground to avoid getting the nuts wet. This can result in stress to the other varieties that are still carrying a crop. Drip lines allow us to continue to irrigate the later varieties and avoid that stress.
Drip Irrigation, Pollenators Not Stressed

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nonpareil harvest is in full swing. Here is a nice windrow in some 5th leaf trees, and nuts being loaded for a trip to the huller.
Our huller is telling us that most growers are coming in lighter than last year. We are a fortunate exception to that so far with improvements over last year in the blocks we have harvested.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Harvest is in full swing in our area. The sound of shakers can be heard everywhere and a lot of nuts are on the ground. Here we are picking up wind-rowed Nonpareil. The yield of the first orchard we completed was improved from last year and in this one it looks like it will be about the same as last year. Interestingly, our hullerman is reporting that so far, most local growers are picking up fewer loads than last year. We will know much more about yields in a couple weeks.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

We started shaking Monday, 7/28/2014, about 2 weeks earlier than average. Nut removal is pretty good, a few too dry, and a few green, so we hit the timing about right. This orchard is our earliest to mature every year, and a good producer.
BLANKS! Sometimes a nut appears to be maturing normally, but inside, things are not going well. Usually these "nuts" are the first to split. When the shell in opened to inspect the nut, it is like getting a fortune cookie with a little note that says "no fortune here"!
My impression is that there are far fewer blanks this year than typical.

Monday, July 14, 2014

With a quick look at many almond trees it appears that we should be shaking in just a few days. An early start would be great to get the nuts out of harms way (especially with all the talk of El Nino possibly bringing rain in September).
A closer look at the interior of this same tree reveals that there are many unopened nuts and that harvest is further off than the first impression would lead us to believe.  This orchard may be ready toward the end of next week, about July 25. We just have to keep checking and wait until they are ready.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The almond crop is maturing earlier than usual, by close to two weeks. I took this picture on the third of July as we were applying the last of the hull split spray to this block. We finished the last of the Nonpareil blocks today. The hull split spray protects the opening nuts from Peach Twig Borer and Navel Orangeworm.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

 The slightest hint of separation along the suture line is an indication that hull split is not far off. I think we will be seeing hull split before the end of June. That would be earlier than average but not highly unusual.
It is great to see vigorous new growth on these eight year old trees in addition to carrying a good size crop. We are blessed to have had adequate water so far this year.

Friday, June 13, 2014

 CandyCots are getting ripe so it is time for harvest!

Each fruit is selected for ripeness and hand picked. Over a two or three week time period, about 5 picking passes will be made across the orchard. It is a lot of walking and looking and is tiring work.
The fruit is placed into "totes" which are lined with plastic film to nest each individual fruit. Each harvester has to make important decisions about ripeness and quality. Bird damaged, insect damaged, and cracked fruit is discarded in the field. As the totes are filled they are placed into a refrigerated truck for transport to the packing shed.
A tote full of fruit (and a camera) brings out the smiles!
Here the entire crew of 10 meets with their boss, the farm labor contractor. I am very pleased with this crews sustained efforts at doing a quality job.
After all the ripe fruit is picked, a day or two are spent waiting for the remaining fruit to mature. These days are spent productively with pruning. The pruning will help expose the interior wood to sunlight to promote fruitfulness next year. It also allows sunlight to penetrate the interior of the trees to hasten the ripening of the remaining fruit.
The CandyCot packing shed is busy this time of year!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What beautiful days we have had this week! Highs in the 70's and puffy white clouds. Not to worry though, we will be in the 90's by this weekend. Nice to have a break though.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

             Bob CurtisDanielle Veenstra, Robbie Commens
Today, Bob Curtis and Danielle Veenstra of the Almond Board of California hosted several farm visits for Robbie Commens, Productivity Development Officer of the Australian Macadamia Society. His intent is to find practices used in almond production that might apply to macadamias. I found it very interesting to hear of their production challenges. He stated that the California Almond industry is admired worldwide for our nutrition and production research and our information transfer to the farm level. He is right, we're the best!
No Easy Task

Recently a heavy disk loosened the soil. Here, Ernesto is doing some skilled tractor driving to scrape the soil flat behind the disk. He had to deal with sideways drift of the scraper due to side-fall on the hillsides.

Eduardo is following the scraper with our heavy roller to push the cobbles down into the soil and create a flat surface. The roller will be used repeatedly because cobbles tend to "float" to the surface as the clay in the soil expands and contracts with moisture.
The end product is a flat surface that is satisfactory for nut farming. Rock removal will be an enduring project on this land. In this picture you can clearly see that we are dealing with different soil types. Unfortunately, cobbles are characteristic of both soils.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

This is Alex McCloud of Band It Spreading Service. He is a local entrepreneur who designed a machine to place precise amounts of dry fertilizers around the base of young trees. The steady growth of the tree fruit and nut industries has kept his small fleet of machines busy for many years.

We used to scatter fertilizer in young trees by hand, but the scarcity and cost of labor created an opportunity for Alex. Here he is scattering fertilizer at the base of each tree. He also has machines that will place the fertilizer in bands at the tree base. Our next irrigation will dissolve the fertilizer and carry it into the root zone.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Almond orchards provide habitat for many species of wildlife. Here is a dove nest in the crotch of a tree. Did you know that doves mate for life and have a life span of up to 10 years?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Just 2 days ago I mentioned hail as a potential threat. At 5 PM yesterday (3/26) hail came down heavily in the Ballico area. This morning I went to evaluate an orchard we tend in that area and found that the storm missed us by 1/4 mile. This is hail still present on the ground 15 hours after the storm. Neighbors say the hail was peanut sized and covered the ground like snow. A peach orchard was badly damaged, but the almonds I saw looked like they were probably OK.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Monterey varitey

8th leaf trees
It is early in the season. Drought, frost, hail, insects, mites, diseases, and surprises nature may throw at us, have yet to take their toll, but at this point, I have to say the crop looks very good!
4th leaf trees

With the weather forecasters giving us good hope for some badly needed rainfall, we are applying fungicide (in many cases for the first time this year) to protect the trees, and nuts, from an array of diseases that can afflict them. Serious threats in the early season come from Shot Hole, Jacket Rot and Scab.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Here is a young block of Tulare walnuts ready to be pruned. While we are already guessing at the production of almonds, which are well past bloom, the walnuts (and most other plants) are just beginning to stir from their winter sleep.  This explains why almonds, very susceptible to frost during and immediately after bloom, can be grown here and not many other places. Our early warm springs (most years) make almond growing possible.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Anderson Nascimento of Spensa Technologies was on hand today to help install their "Z-Trap" which is designed to provide real-time insect trapping data. When insects attracted by a pheromone enter the trap they are electrically "zapped" and a count is recorded. The data is accessed via the internet. My hope is we will have more timely information for setting biofix dates which will enable better spray application timing. We will continure trapping by traditional methods (sticky traps) to compare to this new technology.
At this time, Nonpareil nuts that have not yet split the jackets are likely going to fall off.  With the number of nuts that are sizing up my guess is the crop in our area will be a good one. Frost is the biggest threat which could change that outlook.  No cold nights are in the immediate forecast.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Every year I am amazed at how quickly the nuts begin to grow after bloom. Bees are still active with blossoms to forage on, yet there are also nuts that have split and shed their jacket (the calex).
This is their most frost-sensitive period. Fortunately, cold nights are not in the forecast...for now.