West Coast Nut - March 2020

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By the Industry, For the Industry Publisher: Jason Scott Email: jason@jcsmarketinginc.com Editor: Marni Katz Email: marni@jcsmarketinginc.com Associate Editor: Cecilia Parsons Email: cecilia@jcsmarketinginc.com Production: design@jcsmarketinginc.com Tel: 559.352.4456 Fax: 559.472.3113 Web: www.wcngg.com

Contributing Writers & Industry Support Almond Board of California Contributing Writer Alexander Ott Executive Director, American Pecan Council Danita Cahill Contributing Writer Phoebe Gordon UCCE Madera and Merced Counties

Roger Isom President/CEO, Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA), Contributing Writer Julie R. Johnson Contributing Writer Rich Kreps CCA, Contributing Writer Mitch Lies Contributing Writer

Seth Hansen Independent PCA/CCA, Reliant Crop Services

Steve Pastis Contributing Writer

Jenny Holtermann Contributing Writer

Amy Wolfe MPPA, CFRE, President and CEO, AgSafe

Hazelnut Marketing Board Contributing Writer

Mohammad Yaghmour UCCE Kern County

UC Cooperative Extension Advisory Board Elizabeth Fichtner UCCE Farm Advisor, Tulare County Franz Niederholzer UCCE Farm Advisor, Colusa/Sutter/Yuba Counties Emily J. Symmes, PhD Sacramento Valley Area IPM Advisor The articles, research, industry updates, company profiles, and advertisements in this publication are the professional opinions of writers and advertisers. West Coast Nut does not assume any responsibility for the opinions given in the publication.

IN THIS ISSUE 4 10 12 16 20 26 32 34 38 42 48 52 54 58 62 64 66 70 74 78 80

Let the Tree Dictate When to Start Irrigating Understanding Winter Chill in Pistachios Drone Technology Helps with Precise Input Management ‘Moonshot’ Effort Needed to Build Future Ag Water Supply NOW Becoming a Bigger Pest in Walnuts Preparing Your Orchard for Ag Tech Introducing the Superpowers of Pecans Protecting Pollinators Fertility Starts With a Spring Soil Sample Taking the Mystery Out of Rootstock Selection in Pistachios Managing Weeds Beyond Glyphosate Insurance for Hullers and Processors Skyrockets Grower Profile—Valk Ranch Know Your Critters: Identifying Rodents in Tree Nut Orchards Hazelnut Growers Society Annual Meeting AB5 Means Changes for Agricultural Businesses Successfully Navigating the Farm Guestworker Program Gains Being Made in SIT NOW Research Putting Almond Waste to Good Use Introducing Our New Editor Bacterial Canker and Blast in Almond Trees

View our ePublication on the web at www.wcngg.com

Let the Tree Dictate When to Start Irrigating “The typically stated objective of irrigation is to apply water to match ET. You think of the soil as a reservoir and we know that plants use water and the idea is that you need to give them back whatever they use but this system doesn’t tell you when to start irrigation.” - Ken Shackel, UC Davis

See full article on page 4

March 2020





By JULIE R. JOHNSON | Contributing Writer (Photos courtesy of K. Shackel)


here are many available techniques for scheduling irrigation in walnuts during the season, says Ken Shackel, Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. These schedules are based on weather, soil measurements, plant measurements and “WYND - What your neighbor does.” “But, how do you know when to start irrigating,” he asks. The most proposed method of late for scheduling irrigation is Evapo-Transpiration (ET). But newer research suggests there may be better alternatives for determining when to start. He explains that growers worry about two things--starting too late, and starting too early. “Growers worry that if they wait too long, trees will use up the deep soil moisture and run out of their bank account at harvest,” Shackel said.

Is There a Downside to Starting Too Early?

Citing UC Integrated Orchard Walnut and Almond Specialist Bruce Lampinen, Shackel said, “Trees that are consistently too wet (above baseline stem water potential) in the spring can develop numerous symptoms later in the year, often mistaken for other disorders.” Shackel said nobody should start irrigating if the soil is wet, but the question remains, “How does the tree feel?” 4

West Coast Nut

March 2020

Early Season Water Management Project

occur until around early to mid-June in different blocks. That year the grower’s A research team of Shackel, Allan irrigation was “by the book,” matching Fulton, Lampinen, Kari Arnold, Nick ET closely over the season. HowevMatsumoto, and Hal Crain and Jeff er, the orchards’ irrigation manager Phillips as cooperators, started a project noticed that the research team’s trees in 2014 on early season water manage- “looked healthier at harvest,” they ment. The experiment was conducted looked less stressed, even though the in five different treatments in five team started irrigating much later blocks (zones), totaling 25 independent than the grower and put on less water, treatments, in deep, well drained, sandy Shackel said. loam, silt loam soils in Tehama County “The next year, and for all the years at the Crain Walnut Ranch. after that, the grower started doing One objective of the project was to what the research team was doing and field test four levels of stem water postarted irrigating his orchards later tential (SWP) for the start of irrigation in the season,” he added. “The trees in the spring. That spring the team looked healthier, but what about the used a pressure chamber to measure yield?” SWP. Then they let the project site In 2014 the research team’s trees grower do whatever he wanted in terms looked healthier, but their crop yield of when to start irrigating, while the was down somewhat compared to the team waited to start irrigating until the grower’s. trees were stressed, hitting 1, 2, 3, or “In the second year we again got a bit 4 bars below baseline (fully irrigated) of a lower yield than that of the grower,” SWP value. Shackel said. “ But they started catch“The key grower concern was that ing up in the third and the fourth year they always saw a lot of water stress in was a big surprise when we actually got their trees at harvest, a time when they more yield in our trees. Then, after that had to stop watering so they could get the yields from the grower’s trees and in the orchards to harvest the crop,” our trees were pretty much the same. It Shackel said. “They were worried they was pretty much a wash economically, weren’t putting on enough water.” but the team’s trees looked healthier.” The grower started irrigating in midThe Tehama County experiment April that year. The researchers waited was designed to test whether delaying to start irrigating when the trees were two bars below baseline. That didn’t Continued on Page 6

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March 2020



A research team has learned to-date that a plant-based irrigation delay strategy appears to be working similarly in two contrasting soil types – the deep, well-drained sandy-loam/silt-loam in a Tehama County walnut orchard study, and a heavier clay-loam in a Patterson study.

Continued from Page 4

bad idea that would cause water stress problems around harvest. irrigation in the spring was a good idea “It is definitely not a bad idea on this to avoid over-irrigation problems, or a soil in this location, in fact, trees in all delay treatments were less stressed around harvest,” Shackel said. “There is WALNUT AND ALMOND PROCESSING EQUIPMENT evidence that mild to moderate stress is associated with higher nut load and quality in economic terms.”


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Based on the finding from the Tehama County project, the research team initiated a new trial in 2018 on a heavier soil in a commercial walnut orchard in Patterson, California. The four-yearold Chandler/ Vlach orchard with 15-by-24 foot spacing, 120 trees per acre, was in a clay loam soil.

“This new trial is a very interesting situation,” Shackel said. Historically, the grower was using soil water readings to guide irrigation, keeping the 18-inch-deep sensor from getting too dry and irrigating longer to wet the 36-inch-deep sensor if it showed progressive drying. “The usual idea is that the shallow soil is going to get dry and wet as you irrigate, but that deep soil, if it starts drying out, if the sensor starts reading more and more tension, then sometimes you need to bump up your irrigation and get that water down deep. And that is exactly what the grower had been doing for years at this site,” Shackel added. The grower’s soil moisture readings showed a lot of dryness in August to


We have not yet found the 'sweet spot' for optimal water management in walnuts, but all indications are that it will not be as simple as applying a give percentage of ET.

Walnut yields were measured from a trial looking at whether or not delaying irrigation at the start of the crop season is a practical and economical approach for walnut growers.

October, even though it appeared he was always at or above SWP baseline. The research team conducted their delayed irrigation, starting water in early June when SWP was two bars be-

low baseline. Both the grower and team delivered less irrigation that year than was normally applied following the ET calculations. In 2019 the team added another demonstration plot, this one in

Corning, Calif., again a grower versus delayed start. Comparing the crop yields at both

Continued on Page 8

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Continued from Page 8

Dr. Ken Shackel, professor with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, is part of a research team conducting trials on delayed irrigation. (Photo courtesy of J. Johnson.)

Knowing when to start irrigating in walnut orchards can be key to tree health and the economics of water management.

Continued from Page 7

much higher canopy shaded area, so possibly a local difference in tree size. sites, grower versus delay, Shackel However, there was a higher yield per reported that at the Patterson site, the canopy shaded area in the delay block. grower yield was higher, but also a In Corning, with an almost identical canopy shaded area in the grower and delay blocks, the higher yield went to the delay block. “There was no statistical differences at either site,” Shackel said, “which was consistent with the Tehama site.” Agriculture Test Hole



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March 2020

Delayed Irrigation Based on Stem Water Potential

Shackel said so far the research team has learned to date that a plant-based irrigation delay strategy appears to be working similarly in two contrasting soil types – the deep, well-drained sandy-loam/silt-loam in Tehama, and a heavier clay-loam in Patterson. The water savings is substantial, and even if the cost

of water is not a significant factor, monitoring SWP to delay the start of irrigation may pay for itself in lower costs for irrigation system operation, “not to mention the possibility for improved tree and root system health,” according to Shackel. He said mild water stress is associated with benefits to nut quality, small decreases in nut weight, and higher crop load. “We have not yet found the ‘sweet spot’ for optimal water management in walnuts, but all indications are that it will not be as simple as applying a given percentage of ET,” Shackel added. “This is a good argument that maybe the ET approach to irrigation scheduling is not the best approach – might cause you to start too soon, because if you don’t match ET you worry about it; and it may be that walnuts, because they have deep roots, have access to a lot of water that you may not know about.” However, he noted, irrigation practices may depend on the particulars of the orchard’s site, such as the Patterson test site where they applied only 35 percent of ET and still had the highest amounts of tree wetness (SWP) of all the sites in the project. Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

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urreet Brar hopes to determine not only what it will take to boost pistachio yields following warm winters, but the reason why trees fail to produce in the absence of winter

chill and whether and why treatments improve yield. The understanding, Brar said, will help researchers provide a science-based solution to what has


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March 2020

become a persistent problem in recent years: low chill accumulation in winter months. Brar, an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at California State University, Fresno, is in the midst of four-year study analyzing several issues surrounding chill requirements in pistachios. Among issues he is studying: How trees respond to changes in temperature, or the physiology of chill accumulation and dormancy break in pistachios; and how pistachio trees respond to horticultural oil, an input that growers use to offset low chill accumulation. Researchers in Brar’s lab are collecting flower buds from early January through March from sprayed and nonsprayed pistachio blocks and analyzing the buds for their sugars, starches and other enzymes and metabolites. “What that is going to give us are the complete changes that occur in the buds, so we can pick out what is going to be our best strategy to manipulate dormancy break,” said Brar, who holds the Rodger B. Jensen Professorship in Pistachio Physiology and Pomology at Fresno State. Brar proposed the project to the California pistachio industry in the wake of some severe yield declines in recent years that were precipitated by warm winters. Like cherries and walnuts, in order to bloom and leaf-out properly in the spring, pistachios have a high chill accumulation requirement during the winter months, Brar said. The average winter temperatures in the Central Valley, meanwhile, have been on the rise since the 1950s, leading to erratic bud breaks in commonly grown pistachio varieties. In the spring of 2015, for example, Brar said, high winter temperatures caused the male pollinator variety Peters to not bloom at all in some orchards and led to erratic bloom in Kerman, the most commonly produced

variety in California. Fahrenheit temperatures climbed into the 60s during much of the winter and even into the low 70s, Brar said. “In many areas of the Central Valley, the pistachio trees did not bloom out normally and did not leaf out normally,” he said. “There were very low yields industry-wide. And for many years, we have seen that pattern.” He added that researchers predict average winter temperatures in Central Valley “will be much warmer by the end of the 21st century.” To date, growers have largely turned to horticultural oils to help offset low chill accumulation during winter months, Brar said. The effects of horticultural oils, however, are not fully understood and their performance has been erratic. “Industry people do not really know what the oil is doing,” he said. “So, every year, hundreds of thousands of acres across the state are being sprayed with oil, and we are getting mixed results. Nobody really knows what makes the oil work. It is hit or miss.” In a separate research project, one of Brar’s graduate students had begun testing a handful of rest-breaking agents, or RBAs, including plant growth regulators and horticultural oils, to see if there are some promising compounds available that could be worth further study. But that research was discontinued. “We thought we should first try to answer basic physiological questions, such as what is the oil doing in the bud,” Brar said. “Once those questions are answered, then we can figure out what we need to do. “We need to focus on what we are looking at first,” he said, “with the eventual goal of determining where do we need intervention and at what time and with what compounds.” Ultimately, Brar said, new varieties bred for less chill-accumulation requirements could provide the solution to warm winters. But developing new varieties, he said, could take decades. “When we think about having a totally different climate in the Central Valley at the end of the century, we know that we need to do long-term breeding programs to come up with

varieties that can produce a decent crop in a low-chill scenario,” Brar said. “But right now, the goal is to do some kind of intervention, maybe by using growth regulators or find some other chemical inputs that can help trees wake up normally even in a low-chill year.” Brar compared the research approach to research of fertilizer inputs. “We all add nitrogen, potassium, sulfur and micronutrients to the trees,” he said. “And because of research, we know that when there is fruit on the tree, we need the most nitrogen. And we learned that at bloom we need boron, because boron is needed for flower development. And we learned that through research. “So that is what we are doing in trying to manage chill in pistachios,” he said. Brar has three researchers in his lab focused on the project, including two conducting lab work and one in the field collecting samples and monitoring oil sprays and harvest, as well as documenting when bloom occurs in relation to the different treatments. Researchers

are compiling nut growth, nut quality and yield data, as well as data on percentage of blanks. Temperature gauges enable researchers to follow chill accumulation at the different sites. Researchers expect to have first-year data compiled by this spring. Brar said it could be several years before the research yields results growers can take to the field. “By the end of four years, we will at least know what changes are occurring in the trees,” he said. “Then it will take another two to four years to test the potential rest-breaking agents, the chemical compounds that will break the rest of the tree.” Several compounds under consideration for use as rest-breaking agents currently are registered for use in pistachios, Brar said. Others aren’t, but researchers plan to pursue registration of those compounds if an interest is showing in doing so, Brar said. Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

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rowers have put ‘boots on the ground’ for generations to visually inspect their fields and orchards. With the advent of unmanned aerial vehicles that carry infrared cameras, growers now have the opportunity to view real time orchard and field conditions on their phones and make management decisions to improve crop health and production. Dr. Gregory Kriehn, California State University, Fresno, engineering professor and speaker at the Walnut Day in Visalia, said use of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones is becoming more


West Coast Nut

March 2020

common in agriculture as growers are seeking more precision in application of water, nutrients or pesticides. California farms, which produced 13 percent of U.S. farm dollars, rely on about 20,000 drones to assist with management decision and one in 10 California farmers use drones to help with management decisions, mostly in higher value permanent crops, Kriehn said.

For perspective, last year there were 9,000 registered unmanned aircraft systems in the United States. Of that total,

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Continued from Page 12 nearly half were used in real estate and aerial photography. Industrial inspections were the second highest use at 28 percent. Agriculture accounted for 17 percent of unmanned aircraft use. Multispectral images of an orchard do not relieve a grower or farm manager from ‘boots on the ground’ responsibilities but can show trends as they develop for further investigation. For instance, Kriehn said, multispectral imaging identifies plant stress, but gives no indication of the cause. That is why visual inspection is still important, as well as multiple sets of good data. Extracting useful information from the multispectral images involves Machine Learning Algorithms, or MLA. Given the proper criteria, MLA can interpret the images to produce patterns of plant behavior. Multiple runs of data can increase the accuracy of the information.


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March 2020


With more data, the algorithms can offer increased probability and create a model that can be compared with visual inspection.

Using the Data

Transforming raw data from the images into actionable information is at the heart of the value of this technology. The information can allow growers

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“MULTISPECTRAL to make management decisions for pest control, irrigation, and nutrition. Benefits include more efficient use of spray applications, fertilizers and water. Over large areas, the images can determine tree populations or spacing, canopy variation, and harvest timing. Integrated unmanned aerial vehicles are both rotor and fixed wing. While the public is primarily familiar with the rotor type, Kriehn said that the slower moving, large wingspan drones are more often used to capture images due to their stability. In addition to carrying camera systems, the drones are directed with flight control software to fly desired routes. Images from a camera-equipped drone can provide a big picture of what is happening on a piece of land. Multiple images taken over time can show emerging trends in an orchard. Going deeper than aerial photography, camera use in agriculture involves multispectral imaging. Multispectral imaging technology uses green, red, red edge and near infrared wavebands to capture images of crops and vegetation. These spectral bands show the reflectance of light by vegetation. Every surface reflects back some of the light that it receives. Different surface features of plants reflect or absorb the sun’s radiation in different ways. The ratio of reflected light to incidental light is known as reflectance and is expressed as a percentage. In his presentation, Kriehn said that reflectance depends on the time of day the images were taken. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index Imaging shows the difference between near infrared and red band spectra. This provides a plant ‘greenness’ index and measures photosynthetic activity. Potential uses are evaluation of canopy coverage, long term growth trending, frost damage detection, large-

scale pest outbreaks, biomass production and soil moisture. Normalized Difference Red Edge Index Imaging is the difference between near infrared and red edge band. This measures canopy reflectance and potential uses include optimizing harvest time, hull split in almonds, sugar content in grapes, crop stress and pest infestations. Using multispectral imaging as a complement to field scouting to pinpoint specific trouble areas, a nut grower, for instance, has the opportunity to determine, based on early trends supplied by the images, changes in orchard health that would have gone undetected for a longer period. Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com


March 2020





Successful groundwater recharge will require unprecedented collaboration to capture, move and store water from excess rainfall, according to experts. (Photos courtesy of Almond Board of California)


fter decades of over-pumping groundwater, California faces declining aquifers and stark choices – a future so challenging that a collective “moonshot” effort is needed to preserve irrigation supplies and viable agriculture in many parts of the state. That message was the theme among experts participating in a panel at The Almond Conference 2019 focused on the state’s landmark 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA. SGMA requires many areas to balance supply and demand for groundwater, leaving local regions scrambling to develop plans to ration pumping while figuring out how to return more water to aquifers during times of plentiful rain. Jesse Roseman, principal analyst for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs at the Almond Board of California (ABC), led the panel. Roseman said ABC conducts research, education and outreach to help almond growers understand their opportunities for shoring up water supplies through efforts like groundwater recharge. “We’re looking very closely at how we can do recharge in a way that 16

West Coast Nut

March 2020

doesn’t harm our trees,” he said. “We’ve got an optimistic goal. The Public Policy Institute of California said that in the San Joaquin Valley we can recharge up to 500,000 acre-feet of water per year, addressing about a quarter of the overdraft. Let’s work together to make that happen.” Making it happen requires unprecedented collaboration to capture, move and store water during infrequent periods of excess rainfall, according to Kamyar Guivetchi of the California Department of Water Resources. DWR’s Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge program, or Flood-MAR, is looking at strategies ranging from re-operating reservoirs, increasing storage and creative efforts to increase water transfers and banking and innovative methods of cultivating crops. All this will require cooperation at the local, regional and state level, including the public and private sectors, Guivetchi said. Perhaps most important is building conveyance infrastructure to carry water during the rare times it is in oversupply, and identifying ahead of time the best places to send it in hopes of storing it underground.

“Everyone has a part to play in advancing Flood-MAR,” Guivetchi said. “This is a moonshot for California. Getting all these water sectors and agencies to work together is going to take work, but it really is something we need to do.” The panel included several almond growers with experience in groundwater recharge. They pointed to the need to thoroughly assess the needs and capabilities of individual farms, and their local irrigation district programs, as part of developing a recharge strategy. A key thing to remember is that when surplus water becomes available, it often arrives in huge amounts over very short periods, sometimes with little warning. But getting ready for those sporadic events can take years of diligent planning, effort and investment. “The flood flows come fast and they come hard, and you need to capture them quickly and spread them around,” said Don Cameron, vice president and general manager of Terra Nova Ranch, located southwest of Fresno. Responding to declines in the local water table of about two feet per year since the early 1980s, Cameron said

Terra Nova has made tremendous progress preparing for and implementing groundwater recharge. But those advances haven’t been easy, cheap or risk-free. For example, the farm experimented with over-applying irrigation water during especially rainy seasons, such as 2011 and 2017, to walnuts, olives, pistachios and almonds. “We tried a lot of different scenarios,” he said. “We kind of took a leap, because no one had done the research on this and we wanted to find out what we could and couldn’t do, and where we would start having problems.” Since then, more university research has been done, including groundwater recharge in almond orchards, led by Dr. Helen Dahlke of the University of California, Davis. This work, supported by a grant from the Almond Board of California, focuses on how recharge can be conducted with minimal impacts to almond orchards. Cameron said Terra Nova got a boost to its efforts to pursue recharge upon receiving a $5 million grant from

the Department of Water Resources. allows him to deliver water to his The grant helped fund a project to pull trees through flood, microsprinklers excess floodwaters from the North Fork or dual drip lines, depending on the of the Kings River and carry it through circumstances. He recently decided to a new canal to a dedicated recharge work with the non-profit organization area on the ranch. The project was Sustainable Conservation to measure supposed to cost $7 million, but costs the efficiency of his recharge efforts. soared and will be about $12 million “We found out that when we’re when the project is finished this year, bringing this surface water in, we are after more than eight years of work. briefly recharging over an acre-foot per “This takes a lot of patience,” Camer- acre in less than four weeks,” Efird said. on said. “You’ve got the CEQA [Califor- “So, for a 1,000-acre operation, we’re nia Environmental Quality Act], you’ve looking at 1,000-acre-feet of water in a got cultural studies, you’ve got agreemonth.” ments, permitting, you name it. It’s a He advised growers to cooperate long process and frustrating. But in the with their irrigation districts and make long run, we’ll cover 18,000 acres and capital investments in their operations be able to take 500 cubic feet per secso they can take extra water when it is ond, which is 1,000 acre-feet per day.” available. He also suggested growers Other growers said the efforts, learn which of their soils are right for though difficult, are not only worth it, on-farm recharge and be prepared to but essential to the future survival of adjust their other orchard management many farms. practices, as needed, to accommodate Matt Efird, a fifth-generation grower recharge events. These include potential from the Fresno-area, said his family adjustments to post-harvest fertility has been practicing recharge for years, using a flexible irrigation system that Continued on Page 18


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Almond grower Don Cameron talks about groundwater recharge at a session on SGMA during The Almond Conference 2019 on “How to Make Lemonade Out of Groundwater Regulation".

Continued from Page 17 programs and weed control, as these activities can be hampered or negated by recharge if not coordinated properly. Though it takes planning, investment and adjustment, Efird said recharge is one of the most direct avenues for growers to find benefits. “One of the easiest and most awesome things we have is the ground to put the water out on,” he said. “Anything’s better than allowing it to go out to the ocean. We’ve got to do what we can to capture that.” Madera grower Tony Savant, after watching his water table drop about four feet annually over the past 26 years, was eager to figure out how to turn the tide. He’s been working with Madera Irrigation District, which offers several incentive programs, and because he operates several orchards in different locations, he’s assessed the soils and crops at each site so he always knows the best direction to direct extra water when it is available. He’s also installed solar panels to help reduce his energy costs for moving


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March 2020

water. excess water when it’s available and to “It’s going to cost you a little money, let it recharge aquifers. but in the end, you’re going to get a betChoperena told growers, “If you’re ter product and it’s good for your crop,” interested in doing recharge on your Savant said. “I’d recommend recharge property, I really encourage you to start to anybody.” communicating with your districts Joe Choperena, director of Susand your Groundwater Sustainability tainable Conservation’s program for Agencies, and even state agencies, and encouraging recharge in the Central let them know you want to be part of Valley, works with growers to identhe solution.” tify, pursue and measure success of To learn more about the role of recharge, in hopes of sharing success Groundwater Sustainability Agencies stories and information that helps other and to determine which agency, or growers. He said he’s optimistic. agencies, represent your area, visit “There are about a dozen different Water.ca.gov/Programs/Groundwairrigation districts in the San Joater-Management/SGMA-Groundwaquin Valley that are already providing ter-Management/Groundwater-Susincentives to participate in recharge tainable-Agencies. See also “Multiyear programs,” Choperena said, adding UC Davis study shows little impact that the incentives can include direct from winter flooding, with best payments, discounted water prices, outcomes in sandy soils,” at https:// and pumping credits. “Those incennewsroom.almonds.com/content/ tives have helped spur more elaborate where-might-almonds-fit-into-groundand costly recharge projects, not just water-recharge. over-irrigation on cropland.” Those more complex projects include dedicated recharge basins, or Comments about this article? We want using existing borrow pits or unlined to hear from you. Feel free to email us at irrigation reservoirs as a place to store article@jcsmarketinginc.com

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One of the best current guidelines of insecticide use in walnut navel orangeworm management is to focus protection from husk-split through harvest, according to research. (Photos courtesy of E. Symmes)




ontiguous acreage of nut crops in California is making navel orangeworm (NOW) a more pressing pest concern for walnut growers, according to Emily Symmes, Sacramento Valley area IPM advisor with the UC Statewide IPM Program and Cooperative Extension. “Navel orangeworm has a broad host range and availability in the state, with tree nuts among the preferred hosts,” Symmes said. “And we are seeing expanded, contiguous acreage in tree nuts of almond, walnut and pistachio, up nearly 50 percent in bearing acreage over the last decade.” The contiguous acreage makes NOW movement and spread a significant threat to nut crops. “What we (researchers) did is we mapped the walnut, almond and pistachio acreage in the state,” Symmes said. “In the Central Valley we see this 20

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expanding continuous acreage of nut crops prime for NOW.” She explained this pattern creates a staggered crop phenology, “which means we have this continuing available host and susceptibility period.”

Importance of Sanitation

Enhancing the NOW cycle in orchards are mummy nuts—those left over from last year that remain in trees—or any of the in-season damaged nuts. NOW have a high dispersal capacity, with the ability to fly up to six miles a night. This is a real challenge when it comes to management of the pest, Symmes said. They also have a high reproductive capacity with each female capable of laying 80 to 100 or more eggs. “We have seen a single female lay as many as 200 eggs,” Symmes added. Multiple larvae can develop in a single nut so one leftover mummy nut,

or one in-season damaged nut can bear multiple larvae. “We have seen as many as 10 larvae developing on a single nut,” she said. NOW life cycle depends on mummy nuts for overwintering, whether its walnut, almond or pistachio. Mummies provide an overwintering bridge to get NOW from one season to the next, and can allow early generations to infest orchards before the in-season crop becomes vulnerable. In-season crop susceptibility occurs in damaged nuts and at husk or hull split. The nut industry has an extremely low tolerance for crop damage, less than 2 percent, out of food safety concerns with aflatoxin. “Effective management depends on sanitation, minimizing damage from other sources, harvest timing, insecticides and mating disruptions,” Symmes said. Management challenges related to

economics and logistics (control over harvest timing and insecticide timing, for example) must be addressed through an integrated approach. “It really goes back to the map of the continuous-host smorgasbord,” Symmes said. “We really have to take an area-wide IPM approach to this pest based on its biology, ecology, and ability to readily move between hosts over significant distances.”

Four Generations a Year

Navel orangeworm produce four generations per year now, and this is the norm statewide, according to Symmes. “It used to be that it would sometimes happen in the Sacramento Valley, but we can pretty well count on four generations most years now, partly due to earlier springs and summer heat,” she added. The first and second flight on walnut are going to cycle through last season’s mummies and in-season damaged nuts. “However, the impact of the third and fourth flights on the harvestable walnut crop depends on what variety you have, husk split and harvesting timing, how abundant the navel orangeworm population is, and how much migration into the orchard is occurring,” Symmes said.

damage. They are also conducting research on what factors influence NOW populations and damage in walnut orchards by focusing on the movement of NOW between crops and landscape and relating traps counts to harvest damage and figuring out what other factors should be included in a damage “risk model.”

Monitoring with Traps

monitoring tools for NOW that have been included in current research for adult NOW – kairomone for gravid (mated/egg-carrying) females, phenyl propionate (PPO) for males and females, and pheromone for males. “For treatment thresholds it remains unclear for all three monitoring traps. This is one of those things that is a puzzle. You use different types of traps

Continued on Page 22

There are three main trap-based

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“So often I hear the question, ‘I’m trapping, and these are the numbers I’m seeing in my traps, do I need to treat my walnuts now, or when, and with what, to avoid certain crop damage,’” Symmes said. “So, we have been looking into what monitoring tools are available and what information they are telling us. That really is the million-dollar question that I wish I could answer. Our research is working towards being able to answer that question.” That is why Symmes and her team – Houston Wilson, IPM specialist, Kearney/UCR; Chuck Burks, USDA entomologist; and Jhalendra Rijal, Northern San Joaquin Valley Area IPM advisor – are working on current projects evaluating a number of monitoring tools to learn how to best predict damage and when intervention is needed to avoid

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Continued from Page 21

are looking for someplace to and other measures of risk in the enlay their eggs. In vironment and that is how you decide August, almond whether or not to treat,” Symmes said. orchards are Current research shows that fewer being shaken and pheromone traps are needed per block the females are compared to kairomone and PPO traps. losing that host, In addition, Symmes said, “Pheromone so they move traps may be telling you more of a over to an adjalandscape scale, more of what is going cent or nearby on in general amongst the flight. The host, in this case kairomone and PPO traps may be more a walnut orchard. tied to local population pressure and At the same time the damage potential in that orchard or the males aren’t block.” worried about the orchard, they Movement Between Orchards are just looking In a 2018 study to determine moth for the females. Emily Symmes, Sacramento Valley Area IPM advisor, presents infororigin, researchers trapped NOW in “It is also immation on navel orangeworm management to a group of growers. adjacent almond and walnut orchards portant to note (Photo courtesy of J. Johnson) in the center of the orchards using difin this study that ferent trap types to see what was being we learned that it caught and where. Analyzing the fatty is often a misacids in the captured moths, researchconception that ers learned the male moths moved ‘all of NOW entering into my walnut observed in almonds. (Rosenheim et al., between orchards during the duration are flying in from the almond orchard December 2017, Journal of Economic of trapping. next door.’ And certainly we see that Entomology). “With the females, using the Peterwhile this is significant, growers need In a practical sense, Symmes son traps, we found a similar thing, to understand they still have their own asked, what do results of this research while there was some movement in-house population of NOW in walmean for monitoring NOW in walnut between orchards, what we learned is nuts,” Symmes added. orchards as a decision-support tool for that most of the females trapped in an She reported that results from the deciding whether to apply husk split orchard had developed from larvae study are consistent with the hypothtreatments? Utilizing a combination of in that orchard. That said, later in the eses that NOW pheromone traps (for adult trap types may provide the best season we saw an apparent influx of males) have a greater trapping raditwo-pronged information: (1) pherofemales into the walnut orchard from us than ovipositional bait traps (for mone traps for male NOW to inform the almond orchard, much more than females), and that female-based trap season-long activity (e.g., population movement from the walnut into the counts may provide more block-specifdetection, flight patterns, relative abunalmond orchard,” Symmes said. ic data and a greater association with dance), and (2) ovipositional bait bag The possible reason, she explained, ultimate crop damage. Evidence of the traps for female NOW or PPO traps is that later in the season the females second phenomenon has also been Continued on Page 24


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March 2020


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March 2020



Continued from Page 22 for males and females to inform site-specific pressure and damage potential.

2019 NOW Research

“We are looking at what these different NOW traps are telling us throughout the season and really trying to analyze the relationship between moth counts, harvest damage and these different trap types and determine where the moths are coming from over the course of the season,” Symmes said. “We also want to compare seasonal changes in NOW source and abundance in walnut orchards in the context of landscape-scale factors such as comparing almond dominant versus walnut dominant landscapes.” Selected 2019 research regions included the Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley-North and San Joaquin Valley-South. Within each region there were three walnut dominant sites and

Sanitation in walnut orchards susceptible to navel orangeworm is critical as the pests life cycle depends on mummies for overwintering, says Emily Symmes, Sacramento Valley Area IPM advisor.

three almond dominant sites, totaling 18 sites of research altogether. Within each site three trap types have been established – one pheromone, one PPO and six kairomone, each monitored weekly. Damage evaluation at harvest was conducted on 1,000 nuts per site, pro-

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▶ Moths move between orchards – resident walnut populations are not negligible.

Symmes also summarized the ongoing Sterile Insect Technique program for NOW. Houston Wilson and Chuck Burks are actively involved with research evaluating the fitness of sterile moths and optimal release strategies. She said the concept of the program is to introduce sterile insects into wild populations to overwhelm mating success among the native (non-sterile) populations, with the goal of reducing viable offspring, thereby decreasing NOW populations and crop damage (See related story on Gains Being Made in SIT NOW on Page 70.)

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viding the following general conclusions: Certain traps/lures may better predict damage – (more robust data set needed, which will be collected over the next two additional seasons).

Jeannine Lowrimore

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Christeen Abbott-Hearn

Central and Coastal California 559.334.7664

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Preparing Your Orchard for Ag Tech: DON’T LET THE CHOICES OVERWHELM YOU. MAKE A PLAN INSTEAD. By SETH HANSEN | Independent PCA/CCA, Reliant Crop Services


Determine the capability of your soil moisture monitoring station to accept and send weather data to maximize the value of your investment. (Photos courtesy of S. Hansen)


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March 2020

he technology floodgates have burst wide-open in the agriculture industry. It is nearly impossible to read a trade magazine, attend a convention or scroll through social media without encountering agricultural technology in one form or another. That should be no surprise. The rapid pace of technological advancement is transforming many industries, as well as our daily personal lives. But the continual procession of new ag technology products and services can be overwhelming, and the associated time and cost of evaluating each is proving to be a barrier to adoption. Most growers and consultants recognize a need to become more efficient in their business. Rising labor costs, suppressed commodity prices and ever-expanding regulatory requirements are putting intense financial pressure on many agricultural operations in California. Compliance programs alone, for food safety, worker protection, pesticides and nutrient management, are inundating operators with documentation and reporting requirements. In light of the significant challenges facing the industry, it makes perfect sense that researchers, vendors and their investors see a tremendous opportunity in bringing their technology solution to your farm. But how do you know if any one of these “solutions” you encounter will actually

Ag Tech solve one of your pressing problems? Independent crop consultants like myself face some of these same challenges, albeit at a smaller scale. How can I cover more acres without overlooking a developing problem in the field? What more can I do for my client to deliver value and stay ahead of my competition? How do I maintain all the necessary documentation required for compliance, without sacrificing time in the field? New ag technologies may be able to address these questions, but the simple reality is that they will demand investments of time and money. As these resources are in limited supply to most of us in the industry, wisdom dictates that a careful and deliberate approach is needed in the pursuit of technology solutions.

system to manage irrigation scheduling more effectively. In a half-second search of the web, it is possible to find multiple suppliers in their area. But before scheduling any vendor meetings or comparing pricing, he should take a few minutes to address some of the following questions: • Who will be doing the monitoring, and therefore who needs access to the data?

• What desktop or mobile devices/operating systems are compatible? Can I or my employees access the system from the field? • Is monitoring the only need, or are irrigation controls desired also? •

Can reports be produced for regulatory agencies or sustainability

Continued on Page 28

Assessing and Planning Your Tech Needs

What follows are three simple, yet important steps you can take as a grower, consultant or other agricultural operator, to get the most out of your ag technology investments. They are the outcome of many efforts to find, evaluate, and even promote various technologies in the field, along with the resulting successes, and not a few failures or disappointments. The first, and perhaps most critical step, is to develop a comprehensive technology plan for your operation. This plan does not need to be complex or overly technical, but should be thorough and specific to your company’s needs. Consider the planning necessary to develop a highly productive orchard. Site selection, as well as rootstock and variety selection, soil analysis and remediation, irrigation system design and evaluation of water sources, are just a few critical components for success. A wrong decision regarding any one of these components could have longterm effects on the productivity and profitability of the orchard. The same is true when making decisions about ag technology. Each ag technology investment you make should contribute to the larger technology and business objectives of the operation. Take, for example, a grower searching for a soil moisture monitoring March 2020



Ag Tech Continued from Page 27 audits, without manually transferring the data to another spreadsheet or binder? • If salinity and weather data is important, can the system capture these? • Does the vendor’s platform integrate with other software currently used by the operation? Without adequate planning, this grower could invest thousands of dollars in a specific system on multiple fields and ranches, only to find it unable to meet their current or future operational requirements. Perhaps the user interface is too complex for the irrigators who are supposed to interact with it, and the grower is left to do all the monitoring and scheduling. The agronomist may be creating irrigation schedules in their existing agronomy software, and is unwilling to manage


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March 2020

another software platform. Or, the grower may find the moisture monitoring hardware has limited inputs and additional costs are incurred to set up telemetry for a weather station. There is a very real risk of investing resources in software, hardware or services, only to abandon or replace them before the promised value has been realized. Before the next technology vendor calls, take some time to identify and prioritize the broader technology needs in your operation, the staff or consultants to be involved, and specific requirements for each technology that will be pursued. This periodic exercise of planning for your company’s longterm technology needs will prepare you to evaluate and invest in ag technology better.

Lay the Groundwork for Managing Data

The second step is to expand your capacity for managing data. As many new ag technologies consume and generate tremendous amounts of data,

your operation must have the tools and talent to manage all of that data efficiently. Crop imagery providers, for example, have continued to increase the resolution, frequency and coverage available to growers. Improved sensor capabilities and computing power are transforming imagery from a basic indicator of vigor on field crops, to a sophisticated predictive tool with applications in water stress, nutrient status and harvest timing on many specialty crops. However, will you or your team have the time to review and react to imagery generated on all of your fields, multiple times every week during the season? Do you or your agronomist have the expertise to interpret the data displayed in the imagery? If the answer is “no,” then you may not be ready for this technology, or at least not on all your acres. Perhaps some of your data management needs are less complex, such as soil and tissue analytical results from

Continued on Page 30

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Ag Tech Continued from Page 28 your local agricultural laboratory. If you have farmed for many years, and regularly test soils and plant tissues, you may have accumulated hundreds of analytical results, even from multiple labs. From an agronomist’s perspective, there is substantial value in observing trends over time from these reports, or comparing the current season’s results to a previous season’s results. Is

this information readily available to you or your agronomist when making important decisions about your crops’ nutritional requirements? If not, you may want to find a way to continue extracting the value from this data you have already invested in. Even a small step such as building a spreadsheet or buying a software license to manage your important field information can be a meaningful step toward efficiently managing your data.

How do you decide what tool is the best fit? Reference your company’s technology plan. Determine what you need to track, who needs to use it, how it will be accessed, and what other data you may want to incorporate in the future. If you do not have the time or talent to set up your data management system, schedule some online training for a technology-savvy employee, or hire a freelance data analyst to build it for you. Expanding your company’s capacity to manage data will improve your business processes now, and prepare you to engage with more advanced ag technology in the future.

Choosing the Right Vendor and Product

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After you have developed your technology plan and are working on expanding your capacity to manage data, you may be ready to talk with an ag technology vendor. The final step before you invest in any ag technology is to thoroughly vet the vendor and product. The ag technology market is filled with many exciting, innovative companies. I genuinely believe some of the technologies they are developing will revolutionize our industry and equip growers to be more productive and profitable in the future. However, there are also many new startup companies with technologies yet to be proven in the field. When you have the opportunity to evaluate any new product or service, ask about the history of the company. How long have they been in business, how many employees do they have, and do they have sufficient experience in the field to understand your needs? Ask them to explain what they do now, and what are they hoping to accomplish in the future with their technology. As to the product or service they provide, try as much as possible to get a hands-on demonstration of the technology. Find out where you can see it in the field. If it is software or a mobile application, do not just look at screenshots or a presentation, but ask for a trial account and actually use it. After you test it, communicate what did not work or you did not like, and determine the vendor’s willingness and capacity to make

Ag Tech

Mobile software can provide convenient access to important production records, activity schedules, and sensor readings, even in the field.

improvements or customizations for you. Find someone you know who is using the technology, and ask them how it works and if they will continue to use it. Use the same level of thoroughness in your technology vetting that you would for any other major business purchase, thereby increasing your potential for a return on your technology investment. It is a new season, as well as a new decade. Ag technology is advancing rapidly, and will continue to transform the way growers produce their crops and compete in a global market. However, there is no need to feel overwhelmed by these changes. Plan for your specific needs, build some capacity for data management, and prepare to vet each technology you pursue. Invest some time today in planning for your company’s technology needs so you can enjoy the benefits of adopting the right technologies in the future. Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

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Revitalizing New Year’s Resolutions


e’re now a couple months into 2020, and like many people, you may have made plans for a healthier year. Resolutions have long been a part of ringing in a new year – pledges to make this year better than the last with improved habits and lifestyle changes. Living a healthier life is often first on the list. In a recent INC. com survey, 71 percent of respondents stated that dieting, or eating healthier, was their number one resolution for the New Year. 32

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March 2020

However, as many of us know, resolutions of change are easier to make than keep. In fact, the same survey indicated that more than 80 percent of Americans failed at keeping their New Year’s resolutions – with a separate Strava study suggesting the majority fail by Jan. 12, often because goals feel unattainable and too many lifestyle changes become overwhelming. How does this apply to pecans? Well, as we’ve shared before, we ground our marketing campaigns in consumer behaviors and research. We know

that there is a genuine desire by many Americans to eat more nutritiously, but that many struggle to maintain significant eating and lifestyle changes. With this in mind, we are showing Americans how they can make the nutritious, delicious – and simple – change of adding pecans to their regular eating and snacking routines. Not only are they tasty and versatile, but pecans put their “superpowers” to work effortlessly, keeping consumers satisfied with nutrients while they go about their busy days.

Introducing the Superpowers of Pecans

It’s no surprise that there are many other brands working to promote health and nutrition benefits. In order to stand out in a crowded market, we are taking a unique approach to our next big marketing campaign. The Superpowers of Pecans highlights the nutritional power of pecans in a fun and approachable way by introducing a quirky, nostalgic, and engaging series of animated, comic strip-styled content. Superheroes are wildly popular with today’s consumers – in fact, more than a quarter of the 100 highest-grossing movies of all time are superhero flicks. There is a very good chance you or someone you know saw a superhero movie last year, as three of the top five grossing movies of 2019 were superhero themed, including Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing movie of all time. Today’s cultural fascination with superpowers inspired this latest content collection. The graphics, curated in partnership with a professional graphic illustrator, spotlight different characteristics that make pecans a stand-out snack or ingredient. From heart health*, to vitamins and minerals, the nutritious superpowers of pecans are the stars of the series. Pecans are superheroes in their own right, but also the ultimate sidekick to busy consumers everywhere. The content shows pecans working their superpowers in easy-to-incorporate ways – a handful tossed into a smoothie, topping a salad, or chopped into energy bars, equally perfect for a snack in the carpool or at the office.

Superpowering Moms and Families

Another dimension of The Superpowers of Pecans campaign is its potential to influence a broad group of potential pecan purchasers. You may recall that our primary target audience is Gen X and Y moms – these are women with families and children still living at home, and who hold primary purchasing power for their household when it comes to food and groceries. From fitness-focused moms, to those that follow particular diets or lifestyle plans, The Superpowers of Pecans campaign is universally appeal-

ing. With tailored comic strip captions and targeting via paid social media, the program will not only appeal to moms and kids, but to all those pursuing a healthier lifestyle.


Getting Involved

The Superpowers of Pecans is built for industry use, and we are committed to making resources accessible and ready to use. The new creative campaign launched in early February. Follow @AmericanPecan on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest) to check out the latest comic content as it is released. See something you really like? Head to the Industry Toolkit on AmericanPecan.com, and you can unlock an entire library of resources ready for your use. Whether you’re interested in social media posts of your own, or something to print out and share in your store or package with your online orders, American Pecans has you covered.


Stay Connected

To receive the latest campaign announcements and updates on resources made with you in mind, make sure you are subscribed to our email list. You will not only receive our monthly newsletter and Monthly Marketing Highlights report, but also stay updated on all other news from the American Pecan Council. To register, visit AmericanPecan. com and navigate to the “For Industry” tab across the top bar. There, you can select “Industry Registration” and submit your information. If you’d like assistance in this process, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the American Pecan Council at 817-916-0020, and a staff member will help. *According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pecans, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. One serving of pecans (28g) has 18g unsaturated fat and only 2g saturated fat. Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com



March 2020




Adding flowering habitat in the orchard can feed and protect pollinators. (Photo courtesy of Cal DPR)


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March 2020


ollinator protection starts with education and communication, according to panelists at a recent California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) brown bag lunch emceed by DPR Director Val Dolcini. There are literally thousands of different kinds of pollinators, including many varieties of bees, flies, butterflies, moths, birds, and even mammals such as the Mexican fruit bat, but honeybees are the keystone pollinator, and their numbers are dwindling. Several factors contribute to honeybee decline, including habitat loss, pesticides and mites but it is a problem recognized as far back as the mid-1970s. To make up for habitat loss, growers can plant new habitat in, around or near their production fields. At least 3 percent of land should be provided for bee and pollinator forage. Native plants are best whenever possible, but even if they aren’t native, planting a variety of flowering plants can also be beneficial. Aim for plants with varying bloom times so bees have pollen available to them for an extended period. Varroa mites have caused considerable damage to the health of honeybee hives. The mites are an external parasite. They are dark brown to reddish brown in color and flat and oval in shape. Varroa mites are transferred to new colonies on adult bees and then crawl into a brood cell before it is sealed. They then live out their life cycle in the trachea of the bee, shortening a bee’s lifespan. Infested bees don’t fly well, so in a contaminated hive there may be many crawling bees on the ground around the hive. There are currently no controls for varroa.

growers not to use any kind of tank spray during pollination, unless it’s at night. Especially when the temperatures are sixty degrees and above, when pollinators are more active,” said Tim Pelican, Agricultural Commissioner of San Joaquin County. “Even fungicides and fertilizers can harm bees’ respiratory system.”

Education and Communication

ship, suggested people educate themselves on all the things they can do to protect pollinators. It’s also important to educate others, she said. Talk with people you know at social or agricultural events about pollinators, their need for protection, and what can be done to help them thrive. “Communication between parties is also vital,” Byerly said. Growers

Kelly Rourke, director of programs and operations with Pollinator Partner-

Continued on Page 36

Avoid Pesticide Problems

“Bee protection starts before bees arrive on a site. Clean water and good food keep bees local and healthy,” said DPR Senior Environmental Scientist Peggy Byerly. “Pay attention to the ‘Bee Box’ on pesticide labels.” Follow the recommendations and restrictions. Don’t allow pesticide to drift outside the target area. Beware of residual toxicity from pesticides. Adult bees may encounter the residual or carry it back to the nest. “We’ve been trying to stress to our March 2020



Almond growers understand there is a mutually beneficial relationship with pollinators and are working to protect them in the orchard. (Photo courtesy of Cal DPR.)

Continued from Page 35

Tim Pelican, Agricultural Commissioner of San Joaquin County advises growers to avoid tank mixes during the day when pollinators are active. (Photo courtesy of Cal DPR.)

everyone into compliance, because in 2021 there will be fees or penalties,” to or applicators need to let beekeepers Patricia Bohls, environmental scientist know when and where they are sprayat CDFA’s Bee Safe Program. ing pesticides, as well as what they are This type of communication helps spraying. growers be aware of where the bees are Beekeepers must register in each so they can plan their spray program county where they keep bees. They accordingly, while beekeepers can need to notify the county agricultural also see where spray applications are commissioner when bees are moved happening. Applicators must provide within a county, and when they remove their pesticide and location informathe bees from the county. They can tion 48-hours before spraying. It’s up also register hive locations online at to beekeepers whether they want to be BeeWhere and mark the locations with notified or not from applicators, which simple pin drops. In 2019, more than will be noted on the site. Beekeepers 2,000 beekeepers with 904,486 bee also note how they want to be notified. colonies registered in the program, or “Growers used to call the county and roughly half the California colonies. say when they were spraying,” Bohls The registration system will become said. “The county would look within a mandatory in 2021. one-mile radius to see where the bees “In 2020 the goal is to try to get were. Now it’s all computerized.” Hives must be marked with the name of the beeCOMPLETE PLANTS Built to Fit Your Needs keeper, the beekeeper’s phone number, city and state. The information must be posted on a sign at the site of the hives, or stenciled onto the hives. If several hives are placed on a pallet, at least one of the hives on the pallet must be stenciled. WizardManufacturing.com info@wizardmanufacturing.com “It’s really the 530.342.1861 • Ca Lic. # 1036445


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beekeepers’ duty to make sure these bees are registered. If beekeepers don’t register, they don’t get warned before an application,” Pelican said. Growers face up to $1,000 in fines if improper spray notification leads to a bee kill in registered hives. Bees are treated as livestock. In the case of a bee kill, an inspection is done. Bees are gathered and sent to a lab to make sure it was pesticide that killed them and that the application was made within a one-mile radius of the hive. Registering may help deter bee theft, too. “One-million dollars’ worth of bees in Fresno were stolen out of fields,” Pelican said, so the county ag commission is working with law enforcement. Efforts to protect pollinators are paying off, Bohls added. She noted improvement in apiary theft prevention and a decrease in apiary pest pressure, and in apiary stress due to pesticide exposure. The current focus of Bee Safe is to train county and apiary health inspectors, and to promote the program. For more on the Apiary Protection Act, go online to Division 13 Bee Management and Honey Production (Sections 290000-29736) of the California Food and Agricultural Code.

Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

MAXIMIZE YOUR YIELD POTENTIAL Key first steps to increase nut set, size and yield. Add Top Set, Vigor SeaCal and Agro-Best 9-24-3 to your pink bud/early bloom sprays. Right nutrients Right time Right form Right mix Maximizing profitability in your almond orchard starts with maximizing nut set every year. Achieving consistent set is key to higher yields and profitability. The secret is ensuring your trees have the right nutrients, at the right time, in the right form and right mix. Nut set is influenced by boron which stimulates pollination. Boron is synergistic with calcium and enhances its affect. Molybdenum plays a direct role in nut set and retention by increasing pollen production. Moly also synergizes boron. Agro-K’s Top Set DL is the right tool to apply from pink bud through bloom. Top Set DL supplies a balanced nutrient mix that significantly improves nut set. It is soft on blooms, bees and other beneficial insects. It penetrates tissues rapidly and thoroughly to drive increased nut set. Once set, nut size and weight is the next step to maximizing yield. Size is driven by cell division and phosphate is a key energy source that drives this process. Calcium is a critical factor in nut weight. Getting it into the nut during cell division is the key to heavier nut meats. Getting calcium where it is needed at this peak demand timing is therefore very important. Applying Vigor SeaCal provides

plant available calcium along with an effective seaweed nutrient to help reduce biotic stress that the tree goes through during bloom. Vigor SeaCal also supports uptake of phosphate for increased cell division which leads to increased nut size. Tank mixing AgroBest 9-24-3 a high phosphate/low potassium blend, with Vigor SeaCal delivers the energy inputs the tree needs to maximize nut cell division, nut size and nut retention. AgroBest 9-24-3 is the most cost effective liquid phosphate available and specifically designed with minimal potassium content for early season foliar applications to give you more P per dollar and less K at a time when the tree requires very little K. Foliar applications of potassium applied during cell division will antagonize calcium uptake and negatively impact cell wall integrity and nut weight. This spring make the most of your pink bud/early bloom sprays and set the stage for increased yield on your farm. Talk to an authorized Agro-K dealer today about how Top Set DL, Vigor SeaCal and AgroBest 9-24-3 can help maximize your profitability. Products Available At: ®

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March 2020





By RICH KREPS | CCA, Contributing Writer


old saying, “the best thing a farmer can put on his field is his own footsteps,” rings especially true in the spring. Last year we had a few incredible deluges late in the spring here in the Central Valley of California that upset the apple cart. This year, we are praying for that again as the drought pattern has set in early. Until then, we need to see what has changed over winter, under our trees, with a good soil sample. Starting the year off with a spring soil sample allows you to create a road map for your nutrition Looking for 2-3 Crop Advisors to plans. You can get join our team. a better feel for the nutrient movement over the winter IMMEDIATE OPENINGS IN with rainwater and MERCED, STANISLAUS AND what was pulled SAN JOAQUIN COUNTIES up into the trees. Knowing whether Contact Craig Fourchy for more you’re sufficient or out of balance with info: cfourchy@ultragro.net your nutrient load will help you start the season off on the right foot.

shovel. A farmer’s best friend and sometimes worst enemy. You can hear it, calling your name, beckoning you to help it shake off that winter coat of rust and get into that soil. Of course, it can’t do it alone, but the

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Soluble Calcium

If your calcium is below 60 percent, you need to make a correction. Roots need soluble calcium for the early flushes as cells divide and build structure. You’ll also need a constant supply throughout the season as the leaves and nuts develop. Once calcium finds its place in a plant, it stays there and is no longer mobile in a plant, even if new growth is deficient. Unfortunately, many times a soil sample will show ample calcium but a deeper dive into the saturation paste extract will let you know it isn’t soluble. That goes back to my old analogy of being hungry, wanting a steak, but all you have access to is a frozen side of beef.


In the spring, plants need phosphorus to create energy from the sun. Soil reports indicating P below 20 ppm is troublesome, even more so if phosphorous is tied up. A plant can only drink orthophosphate. Many of our less expensive fertilizers are mostly poly-phosphate. Studies show it can take as long as 100 days to break down poly into ortho in cooler and wet conditions. If we dump excess amounts of unavailable polyphosphate on a soil heavy with unincorporated, insol-

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uble calcium, we just created very hard, small rocks in our soil—rocks that resemble the same rock we mined and altered to render those two nutrients in the first place?! Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Use smaller shots more often, both upstairs and down. As calcium is needed more heavily in root flushes, put it there, and you can go upstairs that week with your phosphorus. As temps warm and you bump phosphorus shots in your fertigation, go upstairs with a foliar spray of calcium.


Looking at your soil report, one often overlooked nutrient is magnesium. On the east side of the valley, we are very often limited by our magnesium levels and may need foliar shots to supplement what is pulled from the soil. Remember, Mag is the central element in chlorophyll. That’s kind of important. But Mag is going to be a strong contender in upsetting our Calcium and Potassium levels. High Calcium and low Magnesium is a problem. On the flip side, high Magnesium soils are the most difficult to make adjustments to. It’s a smaller element with the same double charge as Calcium. It pulls pretty hard as a soil magnet. Liming high mag soils to increase Calcium can bring levels in check quicker but have detrimental effects on your pH. You’ll now need to try to increase organic matter and use acids to treat your water and bring that pH down.


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With Calcium and Magnesium levels in check, Potassium becomes critical to offset Sodium absorption. Soils with Sodium over 3 percent and Potassium at or below that number will have issues keeping that element at bay. When my growers are discussing salts with me, they are usually referring specifically to Sodium. Almost every fertilizer is a salt, but sodium is top of mind. Its nearly

the same size as Potassium and has the same charge. Unfortunately, it fits neatly into the same electrolyte space as Potassium in a plant and therein lies the issue. Overloading the soil saturation with high sodium levels as late spring potassium demand increases will give you burn issues. Treat the water, treat the soil. It’s easy to make potassium soluble, but plant ready and salinity index can be another issue. Murriate of potash adds Chloride to the soil. Sulfate of potash adds SO4 which may already be high from past gypsum applications. Potassium hydroxide by itself is caustic potash. Potassium thiosulfate in heavy doses can burn roots. Know your nutrients, their effects and their derivatives. The type of nutrient is often more important than the amount.

Make a Nutrition Plan

So, the shovel is gleaming, you added a bit of iron to your soil with all your effort, you have a report, now what? Turning on the water and doing the exact same thing you have done for the last 10 years will probably get you the same results. If you want higher yields, formulate a plan. Sit down with your crop advisor, calculate how much of each nutrient you’ll need compared to the budget, and how much the soil can actually take (without causing a detrimental effect somewhere else!) Now plan those applications to match nutrient demand curves. Putting out too much nutrition at a time when a plant can’t drink it can cause ripple effects elsewhere. Use these spring soil reports to sharpen your focus on matching a plant’s needs. Digging deeper into your soil will keep you from digging deeper into your pockets to make a profit.

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nterest in planting pistachio trees continues to grow in California, but many growers, even those with experience in pistachio production, may not be aware of all the basics of rootstock selection for their orchards. UCCE Tulare County farm advisor Elizabeth Fichtner said she receives many questions from new growers about pistachio rootstocks, including differences between seedlings and clones and how they are produced. Fichtner’s presentation at the annual Statewide Pistachio Day was directed at answering many of the questions and “demystifying rootstocks.” In the past 10 years, Fichtner said, there has been an overlap in tree nut production, with walnut and almond growers moving into planting pistachios. The terminology used in rootstock production is not uniform across all nut crops and can be confusing to new growers. 42

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Rootstocks comprise the roots and crown of trees and are selected for certain horticultural characteristics as is the scion that is grafted to the rootstock. Fichtner said primary reasons certain pistachio rootstocks are chosen include freeze tolerance, disease or pest tolerance, adaptability to soil or water quality or horticultural qualities such as vigor. The scion variety is chosen for its horticultural qualities as well as disease resistance. A disease that may affect the scion may not affect a resistant rootstock. Kern County pistachio growers realized the importance of rootstock disease resistance when many orchards were planted on former cotton ground that harbored the fungal pathogen Verticillium. Those early trees planted between 1969 and 1975 were on Pistacia atlantica and Pistacia terebinthus rootstocks, both sensitive to the

Variability in seedling pistachio rootstocks can be seen in this nursery selection. (Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Fichtner)

Verticillium pathogen, which infects the roots and leads to flagging in the canopy where individual scaffolds collapse and tree death occurs. The threat of this disease stopped all new planting until 1980 with the development of Pistacia integerrima or PG1 rootstock, which was resistant to Verticillium. That development provided new hope and momentum for pistachio growers, Fichtner said, but the challenge with P. integerrima was its sensitivity to frost. Recent evidence of rootstock resistance to fungal infection was found in a 2018 farm call Fichtner made to a mature Golden Hills orchard. In that instance, she said, the scion was found to be infected with Phytophthora while the rootstock PG-1 was healthy. The infection was caused by irrigation water hitting the tree trunks above the graft

Continued on Page 44

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Most new pistachio orchards are planted in the spring. The most comunion, Fichtner said. Had the water hit mon routine in pistachio is to plant the the rootstock, infection by this disease rootstocks in the spring and bud them would have been less likely. to the desired scion variety in August. Fichtner said budding done later in the year tends to have a lower success rate. This routine is different in walnuts. Young walnut trees are typically budded onto rootstocks in the nursery and then planted. She noted, however, that budded pistachio trees are sometimes sold and some walnut T5 trees are budded in 100-PTO-horsepower the field. With pistachios, the T-bud is the most common method used to bud a pistachio scion onto the rootstock. The shield is cut from the budstick and inserted into a t-shaped cut on the rootstock. Two different www.gartontractor.com genotypes make up the genetics of a 44

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March 2020

pistachio orchard. The scion Pistacia vera is one genotype and the rootstock is another. Pistachio growers in California use multiple rootstocks in their orchards. P. atlantica and P. terebinthus are no longer used due to the susceptibility to Verticillium. The pistachio industry is using two interspecies hybrids that have the same parentage. P. atlantica (male) crossed with P. integerrima (female) produces UCB-1 which is Verticillium resistant, frost tolerant and has salinity tolerance. The second interspecies hybrid is trademarked Platinum which is P. integerrima (male) crossed with P. atlantica (female) and is Verticillium resistant. Fichtner said both are vigorous rootstocks with excellent productivity. The UCB 1 hybrid rootstock can be a clone or a seedling. Platinum is an interspecies cross that is clonally propagated. It was a selection from a seedling population chosen for Verticillium resistance and vigor. PG1 is from a single species and is a seedling rootstock. Fichtner said the USDA pistachio rootstock breeding program is working on new selections that might benefit the industry in the future. Pistachio rootstocks are propagated sexually from seeds or asexually cloned using micropropagation. Seedling rootstocks, even if they were propagat-

Continued on Page 46

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ed from the same tree, will have genetic variability. Cloned rootstocks are genetically identical. Each clonal line should have no variability. Fichtner explained that Platinum is not available as a seedling rootstock because it was a specific selection generated from a seedling population that was chosen for its resistance to Verticillium and vigor. To maintain the desired characteristics of this selection, the Platinum rootstock is clonally propagated in tissue culture. Pistachio trees are dioecious, meaning both male and female trees are required to produce a crop. The male flowers are born on one tree and the female flowers on another. The pollen from the male flowers is spread by wind. It is important that the male and female trees produce pollen and bloom in roughly the same time frame. To produce UCB-1 seed for producing rootstocks, pollen is collected from P. integerrima and stored. The pollen is applied to an Atlantica female tree at bloom several weeks later. Because pollen is spread by wind, nurseries producing rootstock will have their female trees enclosed to ensure controlled pollination. Choice rootstocks from seedling populations may be selected for asexual (cloning) propagation. Selections are made for vigor, disease resistance, compatibility with scion and tolerance to soil and water conditions. Clones are produced from seedling populations, selected for desired characteristics. This method can achieve a rapid multiplication of plants in a short time, allowing

Budded pistachio trees in nursery.

nurseries to meet the demand for new trees. Pistachio rootstock tissue culture is used for rapid multiplication of plants. Axillary bud proliferation is one method of micropropagation with high reliability of genetic stability. Nurseries are using pre-formed buds from stems to generate new trees. This meristematic-based proliferation system ensures quality and a reproductive rate five times faster than seedling generation. Clones are all derived from UCB seedling parents, Fichtner explained, but different nurseries made different specific selections from the genetically variable seedlings to produce rootstocks with the desired characteristics. There could be variability between clonal lines of UCB1, but there should be uniformity within clonal lines, Fichtner said. Data on the various rootstocks used in the pistachio industry was derived from field trials from 1989 to 2002 at multiple sites in the San Joaquin Valley. The freeze episode of 1990 showed the rootstock Integerrima’s vulnerability to cold. Atlantica parentage associated with UCB1 and Platinum showed tolerance for cold temperatures. 2019 field trial being conducted by Bruce Lampinen and Mae Culumber at the West Side Research Station is looking at the influence of the last irrigation date on cold tolerance.

Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

March 2020




ORCHARD WEED EXPERT STRESSES THE SCREWDRIVER RATHER THAN HAMMER APPROACH TO MANAGING WEEDS By STEVE PASTIS | Contributing Writer Automated vehicles such as this GUSS autonomous orchard sprayer are expected to play an increasing role in weed management. (Photo courtesy of GUSS Automation)


ometimes a bigger hammer isn’t the best solution for our orchard weed management challenges,” said UC Cooperative Extension Weed Specialist Brad Hanson. “A bigger hammer doesn’t put a screw in any better than a small hammer. A screwdriver is the best tool for that job.” Hanson uses that philosophy as the principal investigator on several research projects to find new ways beyond the use of broad-spectrum post-emergent herbicides to address weed problems in the orchard. Glyphosate is very commonly used in California orchard production systems for its broad weed control spectrum. In most tree nut crops, glyphosate is applied to about twice as many acres as the next most important herbicide active ingredient. “Glyphosate is widely used because it is effective and is relatively inexpensive,” Hanson noted. 48

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Glyphosate, however, has become controversial in recent years and growers and handlers are under increasing pressure to significantly reduce glyphosate in the products they produce and sell, according to Hanson. “A cotton grower or other commodity crop may have little pressure, but a wine grower or a walnut grower could have more market-driven pressure,” he said. In addition, some weeds have developed a tolerance for glyphosate, Hanson said, describing the process as “evolved resistance.”

New Strategies to Counter Tolerance

To limit the potential for glyphosate resistance, research at UC Davis is examining the effectiveness of different herbicide combinations in the winter and summer. The current focus is on using more pre-emergent herbicides

in the winter to reduce post-emergent use in the summer, by as much as 50 percent. This seems to provide better weed control “and save growers some money,” according to Hanson, who conceded, “This is not an across-theboard solution in all cases.” One of the eventual solutions to weed management may be found in the Cover Crop Project. Hanson and his collaborators at UC Davis and UC Agriculture & Natural Resources are looking into adding new plant systems to nut orchards as a way to maintain sustainability and soil and crop health. “While the cover crop project has many potential benefits to the orchard production system, from a weed control standpoint, the simple idea here is to put in a plant system that is predictable and controllable to displace weeds that are more difficult to predict

Continued on Page 50

MAXIMIZE YOUR YIELD POTENTIAL Key next step to increasing nut size and yield. Add Vigor SeaCal, SysstemLeaf Max, Micro SeaMix and Agro-Best 9-24-3 to your fungicide & insecticide sprays. Right nutrients Right form Right timing Right mix Once nut set is complete and petal fall and rapid leaf expansion is occurring growers need to focus on two key components affecting yield – 1) maximizing leaf size and chlorophyll development during rapid leaf-out and 2) continuing to push nut cell division and calcium into nut cell walls before the division window closes. These two steps are critical to achieving top yields at harvest. Demands for zinc, magnesium, and other micronutrients reach peak demand timing during rapid leaf and root development. Soils are often cold and wet during this time which limits nutrient availability and uptake hindering root and leaf growth and chlorophyll development. Satisfying peak nutrient demands are critical to maximizing yield potential. Zinc is the cornerstone for leaf, root and vascular system development. Manganese and molybdenum play a key roles in nitrogen metabolism. Iron, magnesium, copper and manganese are backbones of chlorophyll development and structure. Shortages of one or more of these nutrients will limit yield potential. Applying Micro SeaMix and Sysstem Leaf Max with fungicide or insecticide sprays at rapid leaf-out is an ideal way to meet early season almond nutrient needs while simultaneously reducing plant stress. Maximizing

leaf surface area ensures the photosynthetic factory is capable of supporting and sizing a large nut crop. At petal fall, nut cell division is not yet finished and it is important to support the final stages of this process with foliar phosphorus and calcium. Foliar applications are important as cold and/or wet soils combined with limited root activity at this time limit uptake of these important nutrients. Vigor SeaCal supports uptake of phosphate for increased cell division leading to increased nut size. Tank mixing 100% ortho-phosphate based AgroBest 9-24-3 and Vigor SeaCal with fungicide sprays delivers the nutrients needed, in the right form and at the right time to maximize nut cell division and ultimately increase nut size. Nut size and weight directly impact yield. Proper nutrient management at rapid leaf-out also reduces May/June nut drop another major factor to increased yields. This spring make the most of your fungicide and insecticide sprays. Talk to an authorized Agro-K dealer today about how Micro SeaMix, Sysstem Leaf Max, Vigor SeaCal and AgroBest 9-24-3 can help maximize your profitability. Products Available At: ®

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Some growers have developed a peaceful coexistence with the weeds in their orchards. (Photo courtesy of S. Pastis.)

Research on glyphosate-resistant junglerice (Echinochloa colona) continues to be a focus of research at UC Davis. (Photo courtesy of B. Hanson)

Continued from Page 48 or manage,” Hanson explained. “In our current projects, we’re looking almost exclusively at winter growing crops. They have less of a chance of competing (with nut crops) by not using water at the same time, and utilizing sunlight and other resources when the orchard crop is dormant.” Various plant combinations have been studied for use in orchards. A mustard pollinator mix has recently produced positive results.

Autonomous Orchard Sprayers for Managing Weeds

Hanson is intrigued by the possibility of using autonomous vehicles in weed management. “There’s a real incentive with some crops to use more robotics,” he said. “Right now, that kind of technology 50

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March 2020

Glyphosate-resistant hairy fleabane in almonds will flourish without integrated herbicide programs. (Photo courtesy of B. Hanson)

for weed control is already having an The Kingsburg, CA-based company impact in vegetables and other crops plans to add a spray boom to the back highly dependent on hand weeding of its current machine, as well as a due to the cost and availability of hand lower volume chemical pump, which labor.” will enable growers to continue using Hanson believes the widespread use products like paraquat. of robotics for orchard weed control “With conventional tractors, it is may be “a ways off, but I think there’s impractical, if not impossible, to get all interest. I think automated vehicles will your tractor drivers to become certified have some opportunities in orchards.” applicators,” Thompson said. “With Hanson discussed four robotic deGUSS, a single employee could obtain vices at a field day in January, includthe certification and operate a fleet of ing the GUSS Autonomous Orchard GUSS herbicide sprayers.” Sprayer. Regulations may limit a grower’s “GUSS sprayers do not need to take options to use autonomous spray rigs. breaks, they simply need to be filled Automated vehicles are prohibited in with diesel and spray material and they areas that do not allow driverless cars, will continue working day and night,” including in some counties known for said Gary Thompson of GUSS Automa- their ag production. tion. “Currently, GUSS is being used for foliar applications in orchards, however, Comments about this article? We want we do plan to begin doing herbicide to hear from you. Feel free to email us at applications as well.” article@jcsmarketinginc.com

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State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara met with insurance brokers and industry leaders at a tree nut industry meeting hosted by WAPA. (Photo courtesy of WAPA)


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alifornia’s catastrophic wildfires have claimed yet more victims, and these victims didn’t see it coming either. While not directly related, many agricultural processing facilities, including tree nut hullers and processors, have seen exorbitant increases in property and stock insurance as a result of devastating losses absorbed by insurance companies over the past two years due to horrific wildfires. Insurance companies have paid out more than $26 billion in wildfire claims in the past few years, resulting in cancelled policies, huge rate increases or, in some cases, insurance companies leaving California. Several agricultural processing facilities have seen double- or even triple-digit increases in the past year. And it doesn’t stop there. It is also important to note companies aren’t just facing huge rate increases. In some instances, they are seeing an unwillingness of insurance companies to cover the entire liability. To compensate, some companies are buying multiple policies, so called “surplus lines,” from multiple companies in order to try and cover as much as possible—all at tremendous cost. This is not affordable, or sustainable. In seeking answers, the industry has reached

out and help meetings with California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who has been overwhelmed by the same problem on the residential side, especially those homes located in fire prone areas. Commissioner Lara is stating he is doing all he can in his power, including looking at changes to the California Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Program, which is the “insurance of last resort” available to all California property owners. Unfortunately, the FAIR Program has many limiting requirements including a $3 million cap and requirements for sprinklers to be installed. And in response to one directive by Commissioner Lara, the FAIR Program has sued the Commissioner opposing a demand that FAIR offer “comprehensive insurance.” On the industry side, a recent meeting was held in Fresno and hosted by the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA), where several in-

surance brokers shared their stories of huge increases and impacts to businesses throughout California. Attendees urged the Commissioner to convene a special agricultural roundtable to seek potential solutions to the problem. It’s a problem that most likely isn’t going away soon given the poor condition of the state’s forests and the potential for more devastating fires. That effort will take place this spring. At the meeting, industry officials asked what “mitigation efforts” could be employed to help “protect against” fires or other damages to help control costs. The Commissioner urged the industry to put their proposals on the table at the upcoming meeting and try to get ahead of the situation to the extent possible. The state legislature may also consider some potential solutions, though none have been introduced at the time of this article. Forcing companies to come back to California is likely impossible, but having agricultural facilities

Several agricultural processing facilities have seen double- or even triple-digit increases in the past year.


pay huge rate increases or go without coverage makes no sense, especially considering these facilities aren’t located in fire prone areas and face no risk whatsoever from fire. This is one more brick on the backs of businesses trying to operate financially viable companies in California, and quite frankly struggling to do so. Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

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By JENNY HOLTERMANN | Contributing Writer


n 1933, Valk Ranch was established in Oakdale, California at a time well before Instagram or YouTube and definitely before smartphones. Generations later, Ryan Valk is using social media daily to not only improve his farming practices, but in his new role as an agriculture advocate. Like many of today’s new age farmers, Ryan is using social media and his phone not only to help him farm and operate his busi-


West Coast Nut

March 2020

ness more effectively and efficiently, but to help share his farming story. You might know Ryan better as @CaliforniaFarmer, his handle on Instagram and YouTube. You might even be a YouTube subscriber to his channel or viewer of his daily Instagram stories. Maybe you even attended a recent Blue Diamond grower meeting or Stanislaus

County Farm Bureau meeting where he was sharing his success in telling his farming story. Ryan developed his Instagram and YouTube platforms as a way for him to interact with farmers and consumers alike. He has grown his platforms to now more than 6,000 Instagram followers and 4,000 YouTube subscribers in less than two years. When asked how he was able to be so successful, Ryan credits other farmers. “I started following other Instagram farmers. I saw the funny, light-hearted, and goofy side of farming they brought to social media. I started tagging other farmers and tried to start conversations with them using Instagram stories. They helped me grow my following,” he says. Just by having daily conversations on Instagram stories with other farmers, Ryan was soon creating bonds and brother-like relationships with farmers across the nation and the globe. “I started a daily conversation with an Oregon farmer and an Australia farmer, and now we in the transition e talk back and forth via Instaad t m en s an ha h rm Valk Ranc s from livestock to pe gram stories and tag each other recent year as almonds. ) daily. It really helped to gain crops such tesy of @californiafarmer (Photos cour Continued on Page 56

Under the Instagram handle aliforniaFarmer, Ryan Valk uses social media to@C strike up conversations and share advice with oth er growers on an international scale.

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As a farming advocate, Ryan plans to use social media more to reach out to consumers to help them understand life on a California farming operation.


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March 2020

followers through their interactions and making farming more fun and light-hearted. Soon their followers started following me, and I was able to grow my followers with an international audience as well as a non-farming audience.” There has been quite a learning curve he adds, including “what hashtags to use, don’t use, what words or terms are hot buttons right now. It has taken research and a lot of searching through other accounts to see what they use and what works for them.” Ryan says the use of hashtags has helped him bridge the gap in conversations he may not otherwise have been a part of. “Using the word sustainable with a hashtag when talking about prunings and grinding them up, is not what others would imagine when searching #sustainable.” He says it has been a mostly welcoming experience diving into social media advocacy. “There are a lot of negative comments on YouTube when I posted a video on deep ripping. But, sadly, 75 percent of those negative comments are from other farmers. Sometimes we can be our own worst critics when it comes to farmers on social media.” For the most part, he said, on Instagram, he finds more farmers are intrigued and wanting to learn how and why he does certain farming practices the way he does. And as a new grower to almonds, he values the opinions of other farmers who genuinely offer advice. Ryan and his father consider themselves both first-generation almond farmers. The family has been farming in Oakdale since 1933, but back then, the farm looked much different, and not just from a social media perspective. Ryan’s great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather were sheep and cattle ranchers with occasional feed crops in rotation. In 1989, Valk Ranch diversified the cattle business and added turkey production to the family farm. In 2005, it sold off the turkeys and has had chickens ever since. Ryan says the birds provided an easy transition, but he wanted to find the fit that matched his passions for California and farming.

It wasn’t until one of his Soil Science professors at Modesto Junior College started talking about California’s ideal and unique conditions for almonds that he even thought about permanent crops. While on a church mission trip in Idaho, Ryan and his father decided that they would give almonds a try. Seven years later, he sees more almonds, and perhaps fewer chickens, in his future. Ryan manages the family’s almond orchards now, and he values the help other social media farmers have provided to him. He has learned new and innovative farming practices to incorporate into their farm from the friendly conversations of others on social media. In fact, he credits social media in part to the farm’s success. “I have met so many other farmers that have offered advice and even people who do custom labor and whatnot.” Ryan As for the future of @ mediaatnd his family CaliforniaFarmer, he and fun o show the also use so cia lig side of says, “my name alone farminghthearted l . has me thinking. My handle has almost given me an expectation that I need to help share more simple: about California agriculture and not “Get more involved just our farm.” Ryan has plans to share in social media, peother farms and commodities on his riod. Get your story YouTube channel to show the diversity out there. As long of California agriculture. He explained as we speak up and how he wanted to show more about the share our story, we hundreds of different commodities that aren’t going to get are farmed in California and how the steamrolled by other uniqueness of California agriculture. policies, or whatevRyan enjoys advocating for agrier it may be that is culture and his new role as a social impacting our farm. media advocate. He wants to get better We are the minority at sharing with consumers, noting as farmers, so we farmers often find themselves talking need to speak up so to their own tribes, and it can be hard others can see the to break open that barrier to speak out- good we are doing.” side of the agriculture community. “One of my goals is to really focus Comments about on consumer outreach and beyond,” this article? We he says. “Social media is helping to want to hear from tell our story, and we need to get more you. Feel free to farmers doing it. If we get more voices email us at article@ out there, there will be more farmers jcsmarketinginc. for consumers to see.” com Ryan’s advice to other farmers is



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ertebrate pests chew the bark on young trees, create extensive burrow systems that pose problems with equipment movement and worker safety, damage irrigation lines and in extreme situations, affect crop yields. Roger Baldwin, UCCE wildlife specialist, said that correct identification of the problem species is the first step in controlling populations. What may work for ground squirrel control won’t be as effective against a vole invasion. Understanding biology and habitat of the target species will help with choosing the most effective control strategies. 58

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March 2020

Identify the Pest

California ground squirrels are a common pest in many tree nut orchards. They are a social, diurnal species that can girdle young trees, chew irrigation lines and cause crop losses. Baldwin, in a presentation at Pistachio Day 2020, said these mottled greybrown rodents live in burrows that are normally two-three feet below ground. Ground squirrels are active during the day and have two periods of dormancy during the year. They hibernate during the winter months, but some young can be active when winters are not severe. During summer when temperatures are

high, they have a period of inactivity called estivation that can last a few days to a week or more. California ground squirrel mating period can start as early as January in warmer locations and continue through June. One litter per year is produced. Ground squirrels usually forage close to their burrows. Their home range typically is within a 75-yard radius of their burrow. After hibernation, ground squirrels feed on green grasses and plants. When annual plants begin to dry and produce seed, squirrels

Continued on Page 60


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Squirrels feed on grasses and annuals until the food source runs out and then switch to feeding on nuts (Photos courtesy of UC ANR.)


West Coast Nut

March 2020

switch to seeds, grains, and nuts, and begin to store food. Pocket gophers are another burrowing rodent and their presence in an orchard can be determined by the presence of fan-shaped mounds of dirt on orchard floors. Adults are 6 to 10 inches long, including their short tail. Pocket gophers live in a burrow system that is usually 6 to 12 inches below ground. They are active year-round, and can be active any time of the day or night. They feed on plant roots as they dig burrows, including the roots of young trees, girdling roots below the soil line. Gophers also damage irrigation systems by gnawing on the plastic tubing. Their tunnels can divert water from the root zone. Pocket gophers are more common in alfalfa fields and vineyards, but can also invade nut orchards. Meadow mice or voles are smaller rodents and their populations tend to be cyclical, but can explode in a short

time. Like pocket gophers, they also gnaw and girdle young trees, but their damage is generally above ground.

during the winter months. Burrow fumigation is most effective in spring, when moist soil helps seal gasses in the burrow sysIntegrated Management Strategies tem. Fumigating at this time is also Once identified, management stratmore effective in reducing ground egies can be implemented. Understand- squirrel numbers since squirrels ing the biology of the rodent pest and die before they can reproduce. the ecology of the infested site are the If squirrel numbers are low to first steps in managing the pest. moderate, trapping is a practical Vole burrow. “Using multiple tools will give better approach. Live catch traps require results,” Baldwin said. An integrateuthanasia by methods considered ed approach to rodent pests requires humane by the American Veteriseveral tools, including habit modifinary Medical Association. Drowncation, baits, fumigation, trapping and ing is not an approved method of source, but before they eliminate the repellents. euthanasia and is illegal in California. pest, they generally move on to where Modify habitat for control of rodent Box traps and tunnel traps that kill prey is more available. pests in an orchard by removing brush can be placed near burrows or runways More detailed information about piles and destroying burrows. Vegeand baited. Baldwin recommends not identification, management, and other tation that provides cover for rodents setting the traps for the first few days resources is available at the UC Ground should be removed. If ground squirrels so squirrels become accustomed to Squirrel Best Management Practicare the problem, the plan should also them. Once the squirrels are taking es website, www.groundsquirrelbmp. include burrow destruction so squirrels the bait, the traps can be set. Monicom. don’t re-invade the site. toring populations for reinfestation is Voles seek vegetation cover when necessary since squirrels will reinvade Comments about this article? We want above ground. Mowing an orchard over time. Be on the lookout for new to hear from you. Feel free to email us at cover crop close to the ground can help burrows. It is easier and less expensive article@jcsmarketinginc.com along with burrow destruction. Excluto manage a small sion can be an effective tactic for pocket population rather gophers, removing young trees as a than to allow it to food source by using tree wraps. To be build up to larger effective tree wraps have to protect tree numbers. Trapping trunks six inches below the soil line. is a time consuming, Baits work best if set out during but effective method License No. 251698 the time of year they will be sought by for gopher conrodent pests. Baiting ground squirrels trol. Two-pronged with treated grain is effective in sumpincer traps, such mer and fall because they feed primari- as Macabee, Cinch ly on seeds that time of year. or Gophinater work Baldwin said bait placement is key. well. Traps should Bait application for gophers is only be set in all tunnels allowed directly within burrow systems. present and wired With pocket gophers, bait should to stakes to retrieve be placed in the main tunnel. After them from the burlocating a tunnel and making sure it rows. Baldwin said is an active tunnel, bait can be carethere is no advanfully deposited in the tunnel. Strychtage to covering trap nine-treated grain is the most effective sets other than to bait for pocket gopher control. Zinc eliminate non-target phosphide baits are also available and species trapping. like strychnine, both are lethal after a Promoting single dose. These treated baits are only biological control legal if placed inside burrows. Anticois another option. agulant baits can be used, but need to Predators including Manufacturing Commercial Grade be in larger amounts since they require owls, snakes and Products and Solutions to Growers and P. 209-599-2148 Investors of Almonds Around the World sales@riponmfgco.com multiple feedings to be lethal. coyotes will seek Since 1963. www.riponmfgco.com Bait stations for rats and mice are out squirrels and effective, but they can only be used gophers as a food March 2020






2019 Hazelnut Grower of the Year Tim Newkirk, left, is recognized by Oregon Hazelnut Commissioner Sean Denfeld. (Photos courtesy of Hazelnut Marketing Board)


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March 2020


bout 800 hazelnut growers recently converged at Oregon State University in Corvallis for the 105th Annual Winter Meeting, hosted by the Nut Growers Society (NGS). NGS represents hazelnut growers from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, and is responsible for keeping growers up to date on the latest industry news and trends. The Winter Meeting is one of two paramount events—along with the Summer Tour—that are held annually to bring hundreds of growers together to share ideas, learn about research results and find out about the newest technologies that could benefit them in the orchard. The 105th edition of the meeting featured a robust trade show, complete with 59 exhibitors; ranging from hazelnut processors to equipment manufacturers to financial institutions, these vendors had ample opportunity to speak one-on-one with hazelnut farmers from the Willamette Valley to British Columbia. A hallmark of the Winter Meeting is the seminars. Each year, the Nut Growers Society Board of Directors select a group of speakers to present on topics deemed most relevant to growers. Every speaker is an expert in their field and each topic molds the hazelnut industry for the upcoming year. The keynote speech was delivered by Allan Fulton, UC-Davis extension specialist, who addressed results from his research on agricultural water management. In addition, Nik Wiman, extension agent and orchard specialist with Oregon State University, informed growers on his findings regarding orchard pests, most notably brown marmorated stink bug. Kelly Vining, assistant professor at Oregon State University, detailed the role genomics play in the hazelnut industry. Industry representatives updated attendees on international marketing and trade efforts, the 2019 crop price as set by the Hazelnut Growers Bargaining

Association, the importance of the USDA Objective Yield Survey and legislation being discussed at the Oregon state capitol that could impact hazelnut growers. Industry representatives and growers formed a panel for a discussion on the importance of the Hazelnut Stewardship Program—a massive undertaking that is set to launch in 2020 and more clearly illustrate the stewardship practices being done by growers. Perhaps the most illustrious moment of the Winter Meeting is the annual announcement of the Grower of the Year. This is the most prestigious honor the Nut Growers Society can bestow and is reserved for those individuals that dedicate countless hours and serve in leadership roles that strengthen the hazelnut industry. The award was first presented in 1970, and its lineage boasts many luminaries of the industry. The 2020 recipient is Tim Newkirk. He is one of—if not the youngest—recipient in the history of the award. He has served on nearly every commit-

tee and in every leadership position possible, including principal roles with the Nut Growers Society, Oregon Hazelnut Commission and Hazelnut Marketing Board. He also manages his own orchard, helps operate a nursery business and provides planting services for fellow growers looking to expand or break into the hazelnut industry. Furthermore, he is a former CEO of Willamette Hazelnut Growers. He is a paragon of the hazelnut world and a goto resource for the entire industry. Attendance to the Winter Meeting is included with every Nut Growers Society annual membership; any hazelnut grower that is not currently a member can contact the Hazelnut Industry Office to sign up and learn about the additional benefits that come with membership. The office can be reached at 503-678- 6823 or juli@oregonhazelnuts.org. Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

March 2020



AB5 Changes How Agricultural Businesses Can Contract for


By JENNY HOLTERMANN | Contributing Writer


alifornia Governor Gavin Newsom in September signed Assembly Bill 5, or AB5, into law, which could have significant impacts on hiring, manning and staffing in California by changing the classification of certain workers from independent contractors to employees. Also referred to as the Opportunity to Work Act, according to the California State Legislature, the bill aimed to protect workers that were not otherwise eligible for minimum wage, sick leave, employment benefits, workers’ compensation and other employee protections. The bill did outline exemptions for doctors, dentists, insurance agents, lawyers, accountants and real estate agents. The initial intent of AB5 was for unions to ensure employees had the option to unionize. The original targets of the legislation were Uber, Lyft and similar rideshare services who rely on independent contractors. The authors of AB 5 wanted to eliminate the option of being independent contractors, which essentially forced companies to hire people who were formerly treated as independent contractors. The ramifications of AB5 are astronomical. Almost immediately, the California Trucking Association set out to sue the state of California for now forcing them to hire truck drivers. Many of these truck drivers operate their businesses and own their trucks themselves. The law would essentially force truck drivers to become a business entity, whether a corporation or limited liability company, to continue to operate for hire. If truck drivers were not willing to become a business entity, they would have to be hired on as employees to continue to earn a 64

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March 2020

living. This would limit their flexibility in driving for multiple companies and being able to set their own hours. Many companies that use truck drivers seasonally were also going to face increased costs down the line by bringing on drivers as employees. A federal judge ruled in favor of the California Trucking Association and granted a preliminary injunction against AB5 for truck drivers. The judge ruled that AB5 conflicts with the Federal Aviation and Administration Authorization Act. The ruling allowed truck drivers to maintain their independent contractor status. Another round of lawsuits came from the American Society of Journalists and the National Press Photographers Associations. Freelance journalists would be limited by AB5 in the amount of work they can have from a single publisher. Uber and Postmates also filed a lawsuit based on limiting their work. These lawsuits are still pending. From freelance writers, musicians, and actors, AB5 aims to limit contractors to less than 35 jobs from a single company to maintain independent contractor status. The California Farm Bureau developed a fact sheet of frequently asked questions to ensure farmers are operating within the law. A farmer may have business relationships that fall under AB5, such as farm labor contractors, agronomists, pest control advisors, human relations consultants, or irrigation contractors. The bill lays out an ABC test to enforce the employee status on formally independent contractors that fail to meet all the conditions. AB5 imposed an ABC test for a worker to be classified as an employee if they do

not match all requirements. A service provider that is an individual would be subject to the ABC test as outlined in AB5. a. Under the contract for the performance of the work and in performing work, the worker is free from an entity’s control and direction


b. The work performed by the worker for the entity is outside its usual course of business c. The worker is customarily engaged in an established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.


Businesses are not eligible under the ABC test because they are considered an entity, not an individual. Only individuals could be classified as an employee or an independent contractor. AB5 outlines a business to business exemption. To be eligible for a business to business exemption workers must meet the Borello Test 12 criteria to be classified as a business and not an individual. The following criteria are outlined to ensure service providers are operating as a business and not an individual:


Be free from the control and direction of the service recipient business in connection with the performance of the work.

2. Provide services directly to the

service recipient business rather than to its customers.



3. Have a written contract with the

equipment to perform the services.

service recipient business.

4. Have any required business license or business tax registration.

5. Maintain a business location that is separate from the business or work location of the service recipient business.

6. Be customarily engaged in an

independently established business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.


Contract with other businesses to provide the same or similar services and maintain a clientele without restrictions from the hiring entity.

8. Advertise and hold itself out to the public as available to provide the same or similar services.

9. Provide its own tools, vehicles and

10. Be able to negotiate its own rates. 11. Be consistent with the nature of the

work, set its own hours and location of work.

12. Not perform the type of work for

which a license from the contractors’ state license board is required.

It is essential to ensure that a business meets all these qualifications. Purely being a sole proprietor doesn’t guarantee classification as a business. The flexibility of being an independent contractor has now changed. The state of California wants to ensure service providers are operating as an actual business and paying appropriate taxes. Many companies and even attorneys are unsure how and what businesses should do to adjust their dealings to comply. It is always best to consult a lawyer to understand how new laws

impact a business. Within the California Farm Bureau fact sheet, there is a description to help make sense of the service recipient business exemption criteria. “As a practical matter, a farmer or rancher receiving services under a properly written contract from a law-abiding, separately established business that has and advertises for other customers/ clients, that exclusively controls how its services are provided, and that performs its services using its own tools, vehicles, and equipment should be able to show the 12 business to business exemption criteria apply and the service providing business is an independent contractor under the Borello test. This is especially true for the service business organized as an entity such as a corporation or limited liability company, as opposed to a sole proprietorship.” Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com


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s labor shortages continue across agriculture, many growers are wrestling with the option of using the nation’s farm guestworker program. It has been the subject of spirited debate in recent years, playing a critical role in how Congress addresses immigration reform. For many in California, though, the program appears untenable and that assessment is often made on soundbites of information as

opposed to a thorough analysis of the program’s requirements, as well as its strengths and weaknesses. The reality is, unless meaningful change happens in short order, many growers need to take the time learn the program’s specifics and make an educated decision about whether or not it’s the right fit.

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program creates a mechanism for US growers to hire foreign workers, on a temporary basis, to address the domestic labor shortages impacting that operation. There are a variety of guestworker visa programs overseen by a network of government agencies, but the H-2A and H-2B programs address the needs of production agriculture. The H-2A program is specifically for laborers that will work on-farm and with the crop in its original state, as opposed to the H-2B program, which is used for temporary jobs beyond the farm but still involving commodities, including packing, shipping and processing. The H-2A program is overseen by the US Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (USDOL), with additional involvement by the US Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As can be expected when multiple agencies are involved, the process to secure temporary workers is laborious and includes a number of steps that must be executed in a specific order. The first is validating that, in fact, your operation does not have sufficient domestic labor to fill your needs. This includes proving that you have actively recruited for available positions in line with the program’s domestic hiring requirements. When those efforts have been exhausted, you will submit your temporary labor certification application to USDOL, validating your exhaustive efforts to provide a job to domestic workers. Keep in mind that ultimately, the government wants to ensure that any willing, able and qualified US worker is given the job. As such, throughout this process, there will be steps that require you to prove you are ensuring US workers are not being adversely impacted by foreign workers. This in-

The Adverse Effect Wage Rate is determined by the US Department of Labor specifically for the H-2A program using a complicated formula. This map provides perspective relative to the 2019 and current rates by state.

cludes how your existing US workers the specific length and these temporary foreign workers of time was deterare compensated in total, including mined based on the wages, benefits, housing and transporproduction need you tation made available. More on this identified in your shortly. application. Once you adequately demonstrate There are a numthat there are not enough workers, the ber of other responprocess of applying to bring in foreign sibilities you take on workers begins. The process presumes as the agricultural that you have identified viable foreign employer using candidates and when you submit the the H-2A program, second set of paperwork to USCIS, including: (Form I-129: Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) you are doing so on be- • Wages: Whether half of individuals known to you. From paying an hourly a practical perspective, this means you wage or piece rate have already invested the time, energy calculated to the and resources to recruit for the posihourly equivalent, tions needed. You, or those you engage foreign workers to assist you with this process, will now need to receive, assist the foreign workers you have at minimum, the identified with their meetings at the Adverse Effect US consulate or embassy you designate Wage Rate (an for them to have their visa applications hourly wage reviewed. If that process is successful, determined those foreign workers will be allowed into the country for a maximum of ten Continued on months in a twelve-month period, but Page 68

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Continued from Page 67 annually by the USDOL specific to the H-2A program), the contracted rate you guaranteed or minimum wage, whichever is highest. • Transportation: The employer assumes the responsibility for all foreign worker transportation at no cost to them, starting with their trip to the consulate or embassy to secure their visa, then to get to your farming operation from their home country, the day-to-day travel while working for you (including access to transportation options during their time off), and then travel back home once the contract is complete. • Housing and Meals: Foreign workers must be provided housing, at no cost to them, that meets standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with

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specific details relative to personal space, bathroom facilities and other elements. In addition, laundry facilities must be provided at no cost and you can either offer free and convenient cooking facilities or provide three nutritious meals each day. If you opt for the latter, you may deduct $12.07 each day from workers’ pay, but doing so must be disclosed at the time of hire, allowing the employee the option to decline the position based on those terms.

Avoid These Common Citations

While agricultural employers are cited by USDOL for a wide variety of employment violations relative to using H-2A, the two most common and costly citations focus on the relationship between US and foreign workers. The agency finds that most often, US workers who are willing, able and qualified are not offered the available jobs. As previously noted, it is essential that if a domestic worker applies for an open position and is capable of doing the work, that the individual is given the opportunity. This is such an important issue, the H-2A program requires you to continue actively advertising your available positions for half the length of the foreign workers’ contract. Meaning, if you are using the program for six months, you must prove that you are still recruiting domestic workers for the first three months of their time in the US. The other area of issue is that domestic workers doing similar work are adversely impacted

by the foreign workers, namely relative to compensation. If you have two harvest crews, one made up of domestic workers and one of H-2A workers, the program expects that the domestic workers will receive higher total compensation. Note that this is total compensation, which means you need to calculate the total cost associated with wages, benefits, housing and transportation for the foreign workers and determine the rate your domestic workers need to be paid that is greater. The alternative is to provide the same benefits to your domestic workers relative to housing and transportation, which is a costly proposition. In reality, the H-2A guestworker visa program is cumbersome and includes a litany of steps mired in bureaucracy. However, it is still the only viable, legal option currently available to the agricultural industry to fill our meaningful labor shortages. This recap of the program is by no means exhaustive. Each element has a series of additional specific details that must be reviewed to more fully understand the impact to your operation. In addition, it is critical to consider cost. AgSafe recently developed the H-2A Cost Estimator, a tool created with the support of current H-2A program users, designed to provide a more detailed analysis of the true costs of using the program. To learn more about the tool, visit https://www.agsafe.org/ h2a-cost-estimator/ For more information about worker safety, human resources, labor relations, pesticide safety or food safety issues, please visit www.agsafe.org, call (209) 526-4400 or email safeinfo@agsafe.org. AgSafe is a 501c3 nonprofit providing training, education, outreach and tools in the areas of safety, labor relations, food safety and human resources for the food and farming industries. Since 1991, AgSafe has educated over 85,000 employers, supervisors, and workers about these critical issues. Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

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opes that sterile insect technol- percent in 2019.” ogy (SIT) can offer a viable Wilson added that researchers alternative for controlling navel working on sterile moth programs in orangeworm (NOW) in tree nut crops other parts of the world have said they appear to have undergone a reversal of are happy with recovery rates as low as fortune as researchers were able to drathree percent. “They said, ‘We’d be over matically improve trial results between the moon with five percent,’” he said. 2018 and 2019. “Granted, that is for a different species “After the initial field trials in 2018, of moth than NOW, and we expect we realized we were facing a lot of each moth’s recovery rate to be differchallenges with these sterile NOW,” ent. So, is three-percent or five-percent said Houston Wilson, a Cooperative recovery good enough for NOW? We’ll Extension Specialist with the Departneed more research to have better conment of Entomology at University of fidence in the numbers we’re currently California Riverside, who is leading seeing.” the research along with Chuck Burks, a Sterile insect technology, which has research entomologist at USDA-ARS in been around for decades, was first used Parlier, California. “As we go into 2020, as a pest control technique in the 1950s it now feels like we have a lot clearer to control the New World screwworm, idea of what specific issues need to be a pest of livestock in the southeastern addressed.” United States. At its most basic level, In 2019, the second year of releasthe technology sterilizes moths that are ing irradiated moths into pistachio mass-produced and then releases them orchards, Wilson said researchers into commercial orchards, where they documented significantly improved hopefully mate with wild moths. Wild sterile moth recovery rates – a key indi- moths that mate with a sterile moth cator of moth performance in the field become infertile, which can lead to an – and eliminated several concerns they overall reduction, or even eradication, initially thought contributed to the low of the target pest population. Mating recovery rates of 2018. with sterile moths can reduce popula“I’d say we are about half-way there,” tions by either directly blocking reproWilson said. “At present, our best duction or through inherited sterility. estimate of the expected recovery rate The sterile NOW program in California (for healthy, nonirradiated NOW) is leads to direct infertility of wild moths. somewhere around 5 percent (of the Discussions about the use of SIT total number of moths released into an for NOW began about five years ago, orchard). We weren’t seeing that all the when the California pistachio industry time with the sterile NOW, but we went partnered with the USDA’s Animal from essentially zero recovery in 2018 and Plant Health Inspection Service to something in the range of 0.5 to 5 (USDA-APHIS) to explore the idea 70

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of utilizing a moth mass-rearing and irradiation facility operated by the USDA near Phoenix, Arizona, which was originally designed for the production of sterile pink bollworms. With the eradication of pink bollworm in 2018, the USDA-APHIS facility had become available for production of another insect, and the California pistachio industry jumped at the opportunity to see if SIT could work for NOW. The almond industry is now also getting involved and investing in the research project. Since 2018, Wilson and Burks have conducted a series of experiments to investigate several suspected causes of poor performance of the sterile NOW, including the effects of irradiation, the mass-production process, the shipping and handling and release methods. They found that by tweaking the release mechanism, or how the moths were released into orchards, recovery rates jumped noticeably. Researchers used wing traps baited with pheromone to recover male moths and baited with pistachio/almond meal to recover females. Further, other experiments showed that the methods of collecting and storing the irradiated moths appeared to have a significant effect on their competitiveness and flight ability. “Going into 2020, we are hyper-focused on how they are collecting and transporting the moths from the USDA-APHIS mass-rearing and

Continued on Page 72




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Continued from Page 70 irradiation facility, specifically how they are cooling them, how the moths recover from that chill period, as well as further aspects of the release mechanism,” Wilson said. “Of course, we will also continue to explore improved release mechanisms and generate data on the expected recovery rate using healthy, locally produced, non-irradiated moths.”


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March 2020

He added that the temperatures they used to cool and transport the sterile NOW were originally developed for the pink bollworm program. “And there are a lot of issues when you simply swap out one insect and put another in its place,” he said. “We now realize there is something about the current collection and/or cold storage process that is having a significant negative impact on the sterile NOW.” Wilson cautioned growers from

getting overly excited about using the technology in the immediate future. Typically, he said, developing successful SIT programs for individual pests takes many years, if not decades. The pink bollworm SIT program, part of a larger areawide IPM program to eradicate the cotton pest, took four decades to fine-tune, he said. Canadian researchers worked several decades to develop and implement a sterile codling moth program in use in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, which is home to about 6,000 acres of apples. Wilson said that even in an optimistic scenario, pistachio growers probably won’t be able to commercially utilize sterile NOW for five to ten years, at the earliest. “In a best-case scenario, where, say this coming year we got everything to work: we got a totally competitive moth; we know how to rear it; we know how to ship it; we know how to release it; it is right there with the wild moth; it is mating; it is flying as far. Even if we were able to get there this year, we still would have to do additional field work to understand the timing and the densities of sterile moths that need to be released into orchards to actually drive down crop damage, and that would take at minimum of two to three years – and again, that is a time estimate where everything goes perfectly well, which it rarely does,” Wilson said. There are also questions about what size of orchard block is needed for sterile insect technology to be effective, he said. In British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, where growers operate under more government control, participation in the SIT program is mandatory. “That obviously won’t happen in California,” Wilson said, “since this is not a quarantine pest.” Instead, growers may need to come together to develop regionwide programs that improve the effectiveness of a SIT program, or like mating disruption, it could be led by private industry. And there are questions about how the technology will work with existing integrated pest management programs, such as mating disruption. “If mating disruption is trying to confuse moths from finding each other

to mate and SIT is hoping the sterile moths will find and mate with wild moths, how do those two approaches coexist? This is an important question, but there are examples where SIT and mating disruption work together,” Wilson said. When perfected, researchers envision that the sterile moth technology will be part of a suite of methods for controlling navel orangeworm in pistachios that includes sanitation, mating disruption, monitoring, timely sprays of pesticides and early/timely harvest, Wilson said. “Optimistically, we’ve made some progress towards getting a more competitive sterile moth,” Wilson said. “Is this going to be the thing that just wipes out navel orangeworm entirely? No. For us, this is one more IPM tool that we are trying to develop and understand how to use in conjunction with the other tools. Another issue that awaits the team of researchers working on the technology is where to release the moths. “We

have 1.5 million acres of tree nuts, so how do you decide where these moths go?” Wilson asked. He added, “The USDA-APHIS facility is currently able to produce about 1 million sterile moths per day, but it may be possible to increase moth production in the future.” And commercializing the technology to handle large acreages is another hurdle California research has yet to confront. Wilson pointed out that in Washington state, which has begun utilizing the SIT to help control codling moth in apples, growers are paying a commercial provider to release the sterile moths with drones. “The drones fly over the top of an orchard and drop the moths from a small container,” Wilson said. Wilson and Burks had mixed results in experimenting with drones last year, and plan to do more experiments with drones this year. “We are making progress, and we are optimistic about our ability to make some additional gains,” Wilson said. “But whether or not SIT actually plays

into a viable strategy is yet to be determined. At present, we are simply trying to develop a process to mass-produce, irradiate, ship and release NOW in a way that allows it to effectively behave similarly to and compete with wild NOW. “It is still a long road ahead of us,” he said. “These sterile moth programs typically take multiple years to even get to the point where you have a competitive moth, much less be able to use it in a way that actually reduces crop damage, and much less take it to a phase after that in terms of implementation on a statewide basis. “But it is nice to see that after making some tweaks (in 2019), we were able to get improved performance of the moths,” he said, “and we’re optimistic about our ability to make additional gains in 2020.” Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

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Conference Panelists explore alternative uses for wood, shells and hulls

By CECILIA PARSONS | Associate Editor


ake electricity from almonds trees? Convert almond wood waste into a biopesticide? Those are intriguing business plans put forth by two new companies that aim to remove wood, shells and hulls from the waste stream and put them to beneficial use.

Eric McAfee of Aemetis Inc., a renewable fuels and biochemical company, and Mike Woelk of Corigin Solutions LLC, an organic ag solutions company, laid out the science and the business plans for their technology endeavors at an Almond Industry Conference session in December. Their

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common goal is to divert wood waste and end open burning of orchard waste. Aemetis is using new technologies to produce advanced fuels as replacements for traditional petroleum-based products. They are converting first-generation ethanol and biodiesel plants into advanced bio refineries to produce zero emission fuels which also reduce carbon impacts of transportation. Energy from solar, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear all reduce emissions of greenhouse gases compared to coal and petroleum, McAfee said, but these energy sources do not consume carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Plants used as feedstock for biofuels and biogas consume CO2 as they grow, allowing greenhouse gases to be reduced by use of biofuels McAfee said he is a big fan of electric vehicles, but “are we making electricity from coal or almonds?” The renewable fuel production proposed by Aemetis will come from waste plant material that has consumed carbon dioxide during its life span and can achieve true progress in reversing climate change. According to the California Air Resources Board’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, biofuels lead in carbon reduction in California. Ethanol, McAfee said, is cleaner burning than gasoline and its use in vehicles reduces air pollution. Ethanol, which is 34 percent oxygen by weight, burns cleaner than gasoline by adding oxygen to engine combus-

tion. Ethanol fuel cells can be used as generators to power electric motors for pickups, vans and trucks. Aemetis will source the more than 2 million tons of ag waste produced annually in the Central Valley when unproductive orchards are removed as well as other woody waste to produce cellulosic ethanol, The amount of wood waste from orchard removals has been increasing as many biomass-to-electricity plants close due to competition from lower cost solar and wind generated power. Burning waste wood has increased since 2012, a UC Feedstock study has concluded, due to the closing of those plants. The UC study confirmed that air emissions assumptions for carbon intensity score under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. It also confirmed biomass growth and availability tonnage, identified feedstock pricing and feedstock projected cost for 20 years as supply increases due to foreign demand for almonds. There are approximately 1.5 million

acres of almond and walnut orchards in California. With an average production life of 20 years for almond trees, there are about 40,000 acres of trees removed annually providing about 1.6 million tons of orchard wood waste per year. Adding in pistachio shells and hulls, California orchards can support the production of 160 million cellulosic ethanol gallons per year at a conversion rate of 100 gallons per ton of wood waste. Cellulosic ethanol production would also create 30,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Central Valley, attract capital investment and eliminate open burning of wood waste. Aemetis, McAfee said, is building the first biomass to ethanol plant using a Lanzatech process that involves a proprietary microbe in the fermentation process. The integrated demonstration unit has already been completed and operated for 120 days. Aemetis has a signed 55-year lease on a 140-acre former U.S. Army ammunition production plant near Modesto. The site has additional space for expansion

and waste wood feedstock storage area adjacent to plant. The plant will be 100 percent powered by hydroelectric energy. The business has USDA loan approval for $125 million. In addition, the environmental assessment of the plant is complete and Aemetis has signed a 20year feedstock contract and completed Ethanol Off-Take contracts and process engineering. Detailed engineering work is ongoing. Plans for the future include expansion to four plants in California with capability of 160 million gallons. Corigin’s figures show that in 2020, the almond industry in California will produce 857,000 tons of shells, 924,000 tons of hulls, 2 million tons of trees, and 3.8 million tons of orchard waste. “There is value locked in the waste stream that could be more valuable than the kernels,” Woelk said at The Almond Conference. That waste, Woelk said, could be converted into $3.8 billion worth of

Continued on Page 76

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Continued from Page 75 biochemicals, biocarbons and biooils. In the process, 3.8 million tons of carbon dioxide could potentially be sequestered because the manufacturing process is carbon-negative. Such carbon offsets could be sold at $20 to $30 per ton or whatever the market supports. Corigin’s process converts 2,000 pounds of almond shells into 1,600

pounds of product. That includes 600 pounds (75 gallons) of biodistillate, a plant growth stimulant, 600 pounds of the soil amendment biochar, 400 pounds of bio-oils (55 gallons) and volatiles, as well as biogas as an energy source to sustain the process. The biodistillate process, Woelk explained, produces phenolics which are a natural defense mechanism for plants. The Corigin product Coriphol, made






Shell fragments





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March 2020




Glass fragments



from almond shells, has been approved as an organic plant growth enhancer by OMRI and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. There is potential for such biodistillates to eventually be used as a natural pesticide. A recent USDA Agricultural Research Service study found Coriphol repels navel orangeworm at hull split and Asian citrus psyllids from citrus trees. A Corigin biochar product made from almond shells, Corichar, is an approved organic soil amendment. Woelk reported it was tested in an almond orchard where it improved yields and reduced water use. Woelk also commented on the potential of biochar as a livestock feed additive to reduce methane emissions, and improve animal health and growth rates. From a carbon sequestration standpoint, Woelk explained that one ton of biochar is equivalent to three tons of carbon dioxide. But unlike other forms of CO2-equivalents, Corichar is a tangible product that is shipped in sacks adding a level of credibility to buyers of carbon offsets. Woelk said that Corigin aims to build a highly scalable business with initial capacity of 3,200 tons of biomass with a maximum capacity of 20,000 tons. The plan is to prove the economic model at the Merced plant and then build additional plants in California and North America. Production is scheduled to begin May 2020 at the site in Merced. Corigin has already been granted OMRI and CDFA regulatory approval for their flagship products and permits have been filed with the San Joaquin Valley

Alm nd Day

“Through the Almond Board’s biomass research program, we’re bringing groups together – groups that haven’t worked together before – to think differently, innovate and generate value. It’s not just about being responsible with everything the orchard produces. It’s about looking for new and innovative uses for food products that may solve potential issues or provide benefits elsewhere.” Karen Lapsley, Almond Board of California

industry is committed to finding higher value, optimal uses of almond co-products, noting that doing so is integral to the orchard of the future. “Through the Almond Board’s biomass research program, we’re bringing groups together – groups that haven’t worked together before – to think differently, innovate and generate value,” Lapsley said. “It’s not just about being responsible with every-

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thing the orchard produces. It’s about looking for new and innovative uses for food products that may solve potential issues or provide benefits elsewhere.”

Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com



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e. Many of you I est Coast Nut magazeinnut industr y in the W of r ito ed w ne e th th ce myself as my 30 years covering I’m pleased to introdu rwise known duringrward to meeting and getting to know. he ot d an d, we vie ter ll look fo have met, in s. The rest of you I wi ce I first began folWestern United State ys stayed the same sindemands, and new wa y an m in t ye d an ce changed a lot pests, resour The nut industr y haslations, trade issues, new and emergingn and hazelnut growers on their ca gu pe Re . io, 94 ch 19 at keep them , pista lowing it in keep almond, wa lnutd a way to adapt and adopt solutions thin bringing to ue in nt co s gie olo fin ce ers techn an important resour ey always have, grow toes. And yet, as thfo t Nut works hard to be as Co est W d. ar rw moving profitably u. the leading those solutions to yo its way to becoming mmitment on de ca de t las e th co in a own tremendously ited States. Publisher Jason Scott has arch, products West Coast Nut has gr ring nuts in the Un ve e cutting edge of rese co n industr y publicatio editoria l content that brings growers tosttheffectively. I am excited to join Associ-s to quality, origina l anage their orchards efficient ly and co JCS Marketing, in bringing those storie and programs to m rsons and the rest of the team here at ate Editor Cecilia Pa to you. say hello and reintro please come up andsto to e y, da fre l ld fee fie s or ea id ow ry sh ting, trade ns, comments or If you see me at a mee if you have any questio e, im nt ea m e th In lf. . duce yourse jcsmarketinginc.com contact me at marni@

Marni Katz Marni Katz


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acterial blast and bacterial canker are caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae (Pss). Both diseases are a tough problem to deal with in almond and stone fruit orchards. Bacterial diseases are more common in cold and humid regions causing significant damage to orchard trees. However, we can still see both diseases causing significant losses under certain conditions here in California. As detailed below, it doesn’t require existing wounds for infection (but they certainly can increase a tree’s vulnerability), it is exacerbated by but doesn’t need plant stress to infect, and it currently has no effective chemical control options. P. syringae pv. syringae is an epiphytic bacterium which resides on plant surfaces. It’s safe to assume it’s in many orchards in California, however it will not invade the plant until conditions are conducive to infection: wet weather accompanied by freezing temperatures which can damage plant tissue. Even the mild frosts we typically experience in California can facilitate the movement of the bacteria through the bark. This invasion can cause bacterial canker infections as well as bacterial blast, which can move into twigs in fruit trees progressing sometimes to canker development (Kennelly et al., 2007). Late season pruning wounds can be entry points for infection, and while leaf scars have been implicated in the past, later work has not shown any connection (Sayler and Kirkpatrick, 2003). P. syringae can also invade leaves through stomata (Kahlon, 2016).

Symptoms and Causes of Blast and Canker

Symptoms of bacterial blast are shriveled up, ‘fried’ looking blossoms, often on twigs that have died back. In more extreme cases in California, Pss can invade buds through the bud scale scar, killing buds before they have the chance to open. Some UC personnel regard the two as different diseases, though they are caused by the same pathogen. Conditions leading to bacterial blast are less understood than bacterial canker. Cool, rainy conditions can predispose trees to blast, it tends to be more severe in the lower canopy and in cold spots in the orchard. Bacterial canker infections show up as Cankers caused by P. syringae have spotting. (Photo courtesy of P. Gordon).


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Continued on Page 82

March 2020



amber-colored gumballs on the trunk or scaffolds of trees that end at the graft union. If you cut away at the bark and smell the canker, it gives off a sour and fermented scent. The margin of the canker is not solid or continuous, such as on phytophthora for instance, but shows as streaks and flecks. P. syringae pv. syrnigae causes damage to plant tissue by producing a toxin called syringomycin. This phytotoxin kills plant cells by disrupting cellular membranes and leads to the presence of the cankers we observe in the field.

Cherry tree in Kern Co. showing streaks and flecks of bacterial canker. (Photo courtesy of M. Yaghmour).


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March 2020

degree of copper resistance or tolerance in many Pss populations, and other work has shown that treatments that improve the condition of the tree is more effective at reducing canker disease severity. Sayler and Kirkpatrick (2003) examined copper sprays, NPK and copper+NPK in young French prune trees and found that copper sprays did not reduce damage severity compared to the control, while NPK and copper+NPK did. Copper sprays reduced disease incidence, however. There has been other research showing that Pss populations found in California are mostly resistant to


Bacterial canker infections are more common in stressed orchards. We have seen them most commonly in young Prunus species orchards (5th leaf or younger) on peach x almond hybrid rootstocks in sandy soils, with no fumigation prior to replanting. These sites often have high ring nematode populations. Plant nutritional status may play a role as well, as detailed later. These conditions are all stressful to replanted Prunus species, which makes them more susceptible to infection. It’s important to note that while ring nematode feeding increases the susceptibility of Prunus species to bacterial canker, the feeding damage itself does not lead to infection, as Pss only affects aboveground portions of the plant. Bacterial canker doesn’t need these conditions to attack trees: one recent farm call revealed bacterial canker in a heavier textured orchard planted into former rangeland. There has been some work done looking at the efficacy of copper as a bactericide against both bacterial blast and bacterial canker, however studies have shown that it often doesn’t work, likely due to the fact that there is some

Continued from Page 80

copper bactericides, so we do not recommend relying on sprays to control either disease.

Nutrient Status and Disease

Research on the connection between plant nutrient status and bacterial canker has also been mixed. The previous study mentioned showed some positive effect due to added nutrients. In other work, Roger Duncan and Bruce Kirkpatrick sprayed third-leaf peach trees with 100 pounds of low-biuret urea in 100 gallons of water per acre. The peach trees were growing either in fumigated or unfumigated ground and were artificially infected with Pss. They found that trees that were grown in fumigated ground had smaller cankers than those grown in unfumigated ground. Urea sprays had no effect on trees in treated soil. In addition, of the trees grown in untreated soil, urea sprays significantly reduced canker sizes compared to the control, and the cankers in these trees were no larger than trees grown in fumigated soil. However, it should be noted in a paired trial performed at Kearney REC, there was no effect due to urea sprays. (Cao et al., 2005). It seems that urea sprays

Cankers caused by P. syringae have spotting. (Photo courtesy of P. Gordon).

work by increasing the nitrogen content in the trees, which suppresses Pss’ production of syringomycin, which is what kills plant cells and causes cankers. In the absence of the major predisposing factors described earlier, Cao et al. (2011) examined inducing nutrient deficiencies in potted peach seedlings before purposefully infecting them with Pss, as well as re-examining the role of freeze-thaw cycles in Pss infections. They confirmed the importance of freeze-thaw cycles in lesion size development, but the nutrition study connected only phosphorus to lesion size: phosphorus deficiency reduced bacterial canker lesion size. The researchers were so surprised they performed another study where they induced nitrogen deficiency and tried infecting leaf scars: they found that more leaf scars were infected in plants with nitrogen deficiency, but the lesions developed were very small and there was no difference in lesion size.

Management Strategies

Rootstock selection is also important when trying to manage bacterial canker. Peach almond hybrids and Mariana 2624 are the most vulnerable, especially when put in sandy ground, which has been backed up by farm advisor observations on field calls. Viking, Lovell, and Guardian are the most tolerant. So, what’s the bottom line? Remember that stress plays a major role in predisposing Prunus trees to this disease. If you’re planting an orchard in sandy soils with a history of bacterial canker

or ring nematode, set your orchard up for success by fumigating (which also reduces the chances of getting Prunus Replant Disease) and selecting tolerant rootstocks. This is the most important thing you can do. Keep your trees vigorous and in good health, and only think of post-plant treatments as a last resort. Work is underway to evaluate the efficacy of Velum and Movento as post plant nematicides, however whether they reduce tree stress enough to reduce bacterial canker would need to be evaluated separately. In the spring of 2019 there were localized areas, including Madera county, where there were a large number of orchards that were hit with flower blast. Isolations done by Florent Trouillas’s lab pulled both Pss and Botrytis cinerea from blasted blossoms, and he concluded that the spring’s cool, extremely wet conditions led to a disease complex. While fungicides are absolutely not a control option for Pss, it’s important

in unusually cool, wet springs to select bloom sprays that will target B. cinerea as well as the more typical bloom-time pathogens. Please consult the fungicide efficacy tables published on the UC IPM website for the appropriate fungicides to target B. cinerea. Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

March 2020



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