West Coast Nut - April 2024

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Sierra Gold Nurseries • (530) 674-1145 • sgtrees.com BEST CLONAL HYBRID ROOTSTOCKS PISTACHIOS WALNUTS ALMONDS CONTACT YOUR LOCAL FIELD REPRESENTATIVE PAUL SMITH Butte, Glenn, Tehama & Shasta (530) 517-9338 paul@sgtrees.com BOB FURMIDGE Yuba, Sutter, Colusa, Yolo, Solano, Sacramento & Placer (530) 755-7139 • bob@sgtrees.com RANDY FASANI San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced & Madera | (209) 988-7333 randy@sgtrees.com JOSH BERGMAN Fresno, Kings, Tulare & Kern (559) 260-6551 josh@sgtrees.com MATTHEW “BUBBA” HADDON Fresno, Kings, Tulare & Kern (661) 747-3967 • matthew@sgtrees.com Almonds · Walnuts · Pistachios EXPERIENCED ONSITE FIELD SERVICE TO HELP YOU AT EVERY STEP

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Almond Board of California

Contributing Writer

Vicky Boyd

Contributing Writer

Lori Fairchild Contributing Writer

Louise Ferguson et al. CE Specialist, UC Davis

Roger A. Isom President/CEO, Western Agricultural Processors Association

Rich Kreps CCA, SSp., Contributing Writer

Mitch Lies

Contributing Writer

Catherine Merlo Contributing Writer

Franz Niederholzer UCCE Farm Advisor, Colusa and Sutter/Yuba Counties

Renee Pinel President/CEO, Western Plant Health

Kristin Platts Digital Content Writer

Jason Scott MA, Publisher and CEO, JCS Marketing Inc.

Steven Koike Tri-Cal Diagnostics


Tulare/Kings Counties

Elizabeth Fichtner UCCE Farm Advisor, Tulare County

Katherine Jarvis-Shean UCCE Area Orchard Systems Advisor, Yolo and Solano

Jhalendra Rijal UCCE Integrated Pest Management Advisor, Stanislaus County

Mohammad Yaghmour UCCE Area Orchard Systems Advisor, Kern County


Sacramento Valley pistachio acreage continues to grow, spurred by better prices compared to competing crops, a more positive water outlook and boron tolerance. But the movement isn’t without challenges (photo courtesy V. Boyd.)

4 Innovating Consumption: Driving Growth in the California Tree Nut Industry 6 Go North, Young Man. Water Availability, Prices Drive Increased Sacramento Valley Pistachio Acreage 10 Boron in Pistachio: Role and Recent Research Results 16 From the Orchard: James Gardiner and the Buzz on Honeybees and Nuts 22 With Exports, Tree Nut Executives Address Multiple Challenges 26 Dairy and Poultry Feeding Strategies Can Create Demand for Almond Byproducts 28 Coproduct Innovations Include Fiber, Food and a Replacement for Plastic Nursery Pots 30 View from the Top: Why Rabobank is Bullish on the Almond Market 34 Walnut Industry Leaders Share Challenges and Efforts to Bolster Sales and Prices 38 Disease Prevention from Cultural and Cost-Saving Angles 40 Pistachio Industry Focuses on Improving Soil Health 42 Get Calcium Right This Year for Cleaner Soils and Heavier Crops 44 Plant Bug Damage on the Rise: Tips for Combatting this Pest Management Challenge 48 Early Legislative Outlook for 2024 50 A View from the North: April Orchard Considerations 56 Economist Shares Where Cutting Costs in Almond and Walnut Hurt and Help the Most 58 Proposals Impacting Rodenticides Could Have Far-Reaching Impacts on Agriculture, Infrastructure and Human Health 62 Irrigation Research Shows Benefits for Walnut and Almond Contributing Writers & Industry Support UC Cooperative Extension Advisory Board
K. Dara Director, North Willamette Research and Extension Center
Day County Director/UCCE Pomology Farm 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.
Winning Editorial By the Industry, For
our ePublication on the web at
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April 2024 www.wcngg.com 3
Special Section: Processing and Handling


In the heart of California’s orchards, processors and governing associations are pioneering a new era of consumption innovation. As they navigate the marketing landscape, these key players are recognizing the importance of forging new paths for culinary creativity to unlock mass purchases and drive growth in the industry. In this article, we delve into how processors and associations are leveraging innovations such as liquifying and powdering expansions to create large volume opportunities for California tree nuts.

While growers diligently cultivate the bounty of tree nuts, processors and governing associations are leading the charge in adapting to evolving consumer preferences. Today’s consumers seek convenience, versatility and health benefits in their food choices, and processors are rising to the occasion by exploring innovative ways to meet these demands.

One promising avenue for innovation lies in liquifying tree nuts to create a diverse range of products, from creamy nut milks to indulgent nut-based beverages and savory sauces. By harnessing the natural richness and nutritional benefits of tree nuts, processors can cater to the growing demand for plant-based alternatives in the market. Moreover, liquifying tree nuts offers opportunities for product differentiation and premiumization, driving higher margins and increased market share.

Similarly, powdering expansions present a wealth of opportunities for processors to capitalize on. Tree nut powders can be incorporated into a myriad of products, including baked goods, smoothies and nutritional supplements, offering consumers a convenient and versatile way to enjoy the benefits of tree nuts. By diversifying their product offerings and tapping into the burgeoning health and wellness market, processors can unlock new revenue streams and reach a broader consumer base.

In addition to creating new products, culinary innovation can also enhance the versatility and appeal of existing tree nut products. From flavored nut butters to artisanal nutbased spreads, there is ample room for creativity and experimentation in the culinary realm. By collaborating with chefs, food manufacturers and culinary influencers, processors and associations can showcase the diverse applications of tree nuts and inspire consumers to incorporate them into their everyday diets.

For growers, closely monitoring and

aligning with the marketing strategies of processors can yield significant benefits. By understanding consumer preferences and market trends, growers can make informed decisions about which varieties to plant, when to harvest and how to position their products in the marketplace. Moreover, strong partnerships with processors can lead to increased visibility and access to premium markets, ultimately driving up prices and profitability for growers.

For growers, actively engaging with governing associations can yield numerous benefits. By participating in industry events and discussions, growers gain valuable insights into market dynamics, emerging trends and regulatory changes that may impact their operations. Moreover, by lending their voices to collective marketing efforts, growers can help shape industry-wide initiatives that align with their needs and priorities.

In conclusion, embracing culinary innovation is essential for driving growth and profitability in the California tree nut industry. By exploring new ways of consuming tree nuts such as liquifying and powdering expansions, processors and associations can unlock large volume opportunities and meet the evolving needs of today’s consumers. Through strategic partnerships, product innovation and a relentless commitment to quality, California’s tree nut industry can continue to thrive in a dynamic and competitive marketplace.

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

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Go North, Young Man Water Availability, Prices Drive Increased Sacramento Valley Pistachio Acreage

Sacramento Valley pistachio acreage continues to grow, spurred by better prices compared to competing crops, a more positive water outlook and boron tolerance. But the movement isn’t without challenges as north-state producers grapple with the cost and logistics of trucking their crop to San Joaquin Valley hullers.

Terra Bella-based Setton Farms has been one of those attracted to Northern California, having purchased more than 1,300 acres in Yolo County over the past four years. Only part of the acreage is currently planted to pistachios.

“We’ve been hesitant because of Botryosphaeria issues in the past, but we think we have a pretty good way to deal with the disease,” said Jeff Gibbons, Setton Farms grower relations manager. “With the drought conditions we’ve been experiencing, it makes more sense to be north of the Delta because there are so many restrictions about moving water south in the California Aqueduct.”

UCCE Farm Advisor Katherine Jarvis-Shean, who serves Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties, agreed, saying water availability is one of the big drivers in increased Sacramento Valley pistachio plantings.

SGMA Factors into Northward Migration

Various groups have predicted at least 500,000 to 1 million acres of farmland will have to be fallowed by 2040 to meet the Sustainable Groundwater

Management Act goals. Passed by the California Legislature in 2014, SGMA requires groundwater basins to develop and implement sustainability plans that balance groundwater withdrawal with recharge.

Much of that idled farmland, including pistachio and almond ground, will come from the south San Joaquin Valley. In that region, groundwater overdraft has been exacerbated by federally legislated reductions in Central Valley Project surface irrigation supplies.

“We see bigger-scale folks eyeing the water we have up here,” Jarvis-Shean said. “If you have ample clean water, the south San Joaquin is still a better place to grow pistachios in terms of yield. But if you don’t have clean water, clean soil or don’t have enough water and you already have ground up here, pistachios can look pretty attractive.”

That’s not to say Sacramento Valley groundwater basins don’t have to develop and implement their own sustainable groundwater plans. They do, but groundwater overdraft hasn’t been nearly the problem in the north part of the state because of more reliable surface supplies.

In pistachios, water plays a unique role beyond just tree health, Gibbons said. Particularly in the winter, ample water sets the stage for improved hull integrity during the growing season, which in turn reduces navel orangeworm damage. As a result, he said they’ve noticed generally less NOW damage to pistachios grown in the

north compared to those from the San Joaquin Valley.

Boron a Factor in Yolo County

In Yolo County specifically, boron found in soil and irrigation water also has contributed to increased pistachio acreage, Jarvis-Shean said.

The naturally occurring element can be problematic to walnuts and almonds, which are relatively susceptible and become less productive under high concentrations. Because pistachios are less sensitive and can still be productive under higher boron levels, she said many growers have shifted acreage.

“That’s why pistachios have been exploding so much in Yolo County,” Jarvis-Shean said.

When she was conducting her doctoral research on pistachios and almonds from 2009 to 2012, Jarvis-Shean said she struggled to find a pistachio orchard in the Sacramento Valley in which to conduct her studies. That’s not the case anymore.

Nick Edsall, orchard manager for Woodland-based Bullseye Farms, said they began planting pistachios about 10 years ago because of boron issues and to continue diversification.

“We were looking at just planting a lot more permanent crops thinking that once you get them established, it’s not so hard to manage them and also the margins are better,” he said. “But with all the downward trends in permanent crops the last few years, we’re very happy we’re still in the row crop business.”

6 West Coast Nut April 2024

Yolo County has historically been row crop country. As growers including Bullseye began planting almonds and walnuts, they noticed problems with boron.

“We can get away with almonds on a percentage of our ground,” Edsall said of the boron problem. “Walnuts we can only plant on a small percentage because the leaves just burn up. By August, the leaves turn brown and shrivel.”

To remain diversified, Edsall said they looked to pistachios.

“They actually do a little bit better when the boron levels are a little higher,” he said. “With the levels we have in our soils in Yolo County, you might consider that optimal for pistachios.”

Over the years, they planted 1,000 acres, with the first harvest in 2020. Although the crop remains profitable, Edsall said he’s worried looking down the road.

“Even now, the economics are good for pistachios, but we’re kind of scared that won’t be the case in the near future,” he said. “10 years ago, it looked really good.”

The go-go days of planting in Northern California may have slowed, said Yolo County Deputy Ag Commissioner Molly Mathews.

“We’ve generally noticed a slowdown in converting from annual crops to permanent crops,” she said. “I think the pistachio price is still stronger compared to walnuts or almonds, but I think we’re going to hit a pause in planting any orchard commodity.”

Labor Costs Play a Role

Although not specific to the Sacramento Valley, labor costs also have prompted a shift into more mechanized crops, including pistachios, Jarvis-Shean said.

“When you look at mechanized crops, walnut prices are not good,” she said. “Almond prices are not good. Processing tomato contract prices and acreage are down. Even though we’re at the very beginning, we’re starting to see pistachio prices go in the same direction. But it’s still the most appealing mechanized crop for most of the valley.”

Drawing from USDA data, UCCE Assistant Professor of Ag Economics Jay Sayre said the state’s pistachio growers saw

average returns of $2 per pound. in 2022. That compared to $4.50 per pound. in 2013 and 2014. He cited world production increasing by nearly 40% in 2023-24, due to an "on" year, for some of the drop in returns. The United States grows most of the world’s pistachios, followed by Iran and Turkey.

“Recently, demand hasn’t kept up with global supply,” he said during a virtual presentation at the recent UC Sacramento Valley Pistachio Meeting in Woodland. That, in turn,

Although new pistachio plantings continue to go in the Sacramento Valley, like these in Yolo County, the pace appears to have slowed (all photos by V. Boyd.)
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This pistachio orchard near Woodland is one of the older ones and has reached bearing age.


could lead to a nearly doubling of ending stocks, which could put additional pressure on grower prices.

Hulling Logistics Remain a Challenge

One of the challenges with northern pistachio production is the lack of hulling facilities. More than other tree nuts, pistachios need to be hulled within 24 to 48 hours of harvest to prevent shell staining. With most of the crop going in-shell, maintaining a nice blonde shell is critical.

Bullseye Farms spent about $1,000 per load to truck their crop to a facility near Firebaugh in 2023, and the cost would likely be more if they had to ship to facilities farther south.

But Edsall said logistics may be more of an issue. They have to schedule harvest so they have a full load by the end of the day, since they don’t want partial loads sitting overnight.

“You just have to stay on top of the harvesting crews,” he said.

North-State Growth by the Numbers

While the 13,065 bearing acres in 11 Sacramento Valley counties pales in comparison to the state’s 461,080 overall bearing acres reported by the Pistachio Administrative Committee, the rapid expansion has nonetheless

caught people’s attention.

In Yolo County, for example, farm gate value for pistachios has grown from just $2.5 million in 2019 to about $27.5 million in 2022, according to the county agricultural commissioner’s crop report. In both 2021 and 2022, pistachios were among the top 10 most valuable crops in the county based on farm gate value.

The huge jump in pistachio crop value is due to young acreage beginning to bear and trees that are a little bit older reaching peak production, Yolo County’s Mathews said.

In the 11 Northern California

counties combined, growers harvested about 41.6 million pounds of pistachios for open shell, closed shell and shelling stock in 2023, according to the administrative committee. To maintain grower privacy, the committee combines data from Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Placer, Sacramento, Shasta, Solano, Sutter, Tehama, Yolo and Yuba counties. Statewide, growers harvested more than 1.48 billion pounds.

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The farm-gate value of pistachios in Yolo County has jumped to more than $27.5 million in 2022 from just $2.5 million in 2019.
8 West Coast Nut April 2024
Accumulating adequate chill hours isn’t as much of a concern in parts of Yolo County anymore now that varieties like Golden Hills and Lost Hills are available that require fewer chill hours.


California Davis



MARTA I. SALUDES | Universidad de Salamanca

JOSEPH COEHLO | Valley Orchard LLC and ROBERT H. BEEDE | Farm Advisor, Emeritus

Like the macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the micronutrient boron (B) also plays an essential role as a plant nutrient crucial for growth and productivity. In California, B was first identified as a deficiency. If an August leaf analysis is below 90 ppm B, the inflorescences die or produce aborted nuts. If an August leaf analysis is below 60 ppm B, leaves will become thickened, distorted and the dull green shown in the photo of Figure 1.

Currently, excess B in soils and water are producing B toxicity. The symptom, shown in the bottom photo of Figure 1, is a mid-season leaf edge necrosis that increases in area through harvest. Depending upon the multiple factors of soil texture, pH, ECe, B concentration in soil and water, ETc and rootstock and scion, B can quickly transition from deficiency to toxicity in pistachio. However, unlike B deficiency, for which the cause has been determined and is easily corrected, the cause of B toxicity is unknown and less easily corrected.

Boron’s Function

B is considered the least understood plant nutrient. Pectin is a major component of plant cell walls. B crosslinks the pectin molecules within the cell walls, ensuring proper cell wall development of the plant meristems, the root and shoot tips. B is also essential for phloem development, the living tissue in vascular plants that transports the soluble sugars produced by photosynthesis to the growing shoot and root tips. Therefore, B is not only essential as a structural component of cell walls, it indirectly supports the delivery of sugars essential for the cell wall extension growth.

B is also essential for pollen receptivity of the stigma, the sticky flower structure where pollen lands, germinates and then transports sperm cells down the style to the female ovules, or eggs via the pollen tube. If B is insufficient, the pistachio inflorescence, the compound flower, will either die or fertilization will fail, resulting in less yield and a higher percentage of blank, empty nuts.

Figure 1. Boron leaf deficiency symptoms, top, and boron toxicity symptoms, bottom (photos courtesy L. Ferguson et al.)

B also affects nitrate reductase activity, precipitating N deficiencies. Nitrate reductase is the first step in converting nitrate absorbed from the soil to usable N within a plant. Both B deficiency and excess potentially decrease the efficiency of N fertilization by preventing this conversion.

Boron's Sources and Availability in Soils, and Transport in Pistachio

To understand why B moves so quickly from a deficiency to toxicity in pistachio, the soil sources and availability of B, and B transport in pistachio, need to be understood. The soils of the lower west side of the San Joaquin Valley are derived from the sediments of the Coastal Range, which have marine origins and are rich in B, sodium and chloride. The streams from the eastern slopes of this range have B levels up to 25 ppm (25 mg/L), adding additional B. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the B in the Southern and Central California groundwater basins at >1 ppm (1 mg/L). These groundwater basins have

no subsurface drainage to the sea; B not taken up by plants accumulates in the soil. Therefore, the soil and water B levels are typically so high on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley that B fertilization is unnecessary.

In soils up to pH 10, B exists as boric acid, B(OH)3, and is adsorbed on the surfaces of clay minerals, iron oxides, aluminum, lime and soil organic matter. Finer-textured dry soils with higher organic matter and lime (calcium oxide, CaO) can adsorb and retain more B on their exchange sites and within their soil lattice structure. Therefore, B availability decreases with higher soil pH and lower soil moisture (Figure 2). B availability is greater in coarser, wet, warm soils with low lime and organic matter contents. At pH>10, the easily assimilated B(OH)3 is converted to the anion form, B(OH)4, which cannot be absorbed by root membranes and therefore uptake is decreased even though adsorption is decreased.

The origin, forms and availability of B in Central Valley soils and water de-

scribed explain why boron can quickly transition from deficiency to toxicity in pistachio. When the soil B pool is sufficient or excessive, uptake into the pistachio roots is passive and follows the concentration gradient. The plant cannot regulate it in any way. Therefore, if a soil has high B content (2 to 4 ppm), a pH of 7 or less, high available water content and the soil is warm, B uptake increases. Even normal irrigation can increase the availability of the loosely held boron in the soil. However, as soil salinity rises, increasing osmotic pressure and decreasing water uptake, B uptake is also decreased. Surprisingly, recent research suggests pistachios transition from passive to active (spending metabolic energy) uptake when soil B levels and availability are low.

The final factor in understanding why B can move so quickly from deficiency to toxicity in pistachio is

April 2024 www.wcngg.com 11
‘Soil and ground water B levels are generally high in California’s best pistachioproducing regions. It exists primarily as boric acid and is adsorbed on clay surfaces and organic matter.’


related to how B is transported within a pistachio tree. After passive uptake, B is transported only in the xylem and accumulates at the point of transpiration: the leaves. B is physiologically ‘immobile’ in pistachio because it is incapable of distributing the B via the phloem to actively growing plant tissues, such as roots, shoots and blooming inflorescences. Phloem immobility is caused in plants that produce low levels of polyols. Polyols are sugar alcohols, such as mannitol, sorbitol and myo-inositol. B-mobile plants complex B with these polyol sugars to allow its transport in the phloem. Pistachio, walnut, pecan, tomato and strawberry are all phloem-immobile plants. Almond, peach, apricot, plum, cherry, apple, pear, grape, pomegranate and olive are phloem-mobile and can supply B and other nutrients to rapidly developing plant tissue for the critical periods of high demand. Dr. Patrick H. Brown’s early pistachio research on failed bloom and fruit set of pistachio revealed both inadequate soil boron and its phloem immobility


available water content. The squares are soil samples from the surface, the circles, are from the subsurface. Note that adsorption on the soil surface and subsurface increases up to pH 9-10, decreasing after. Therefore, the soil boron is less adsorbed and more available at low and high pH. The boron adsorption is also lower in the wetter subsurface soils and therefore more available, demonstrating the need to analyze soil in layers. However, at pH>10, the easily root-assimilated boric acid, B(OH)3, is converted to the anion form B(OH)4, which cannot pass the root membranes. Graph courtesy of Goldberg. S..1997. Plant and Soil 193: 35–48, 1997.

compounded the effects of this micronutrient deficiency. He demonstrated August leaf levels of 150 to 250 ppm were required for successful bloom and vegetative shoot growth. B’s effects on pistachio root growth have not yet been investigated.

In summary, soil and ground water B levels are generally high in California’s best pistachio-producing regions. It exists primarily as boric acid and is adsorbed on clay surfaces and organic matter. Increases in soil pH>7 and ECe as well as lower soil moisture decrease B availability. Increasing soil temperature and soil moisture increase boron availability. In soils with high available B, uptake is a function of its concentration and cannot be controlled by the plant. Once in the plant, the B moves in the xylem transportation stream only and accumulates at the point of maximum transpiration, producing visible B toxicity.

If sufficient B has not accumulated in the flower buds the previous year, B deficiency results in inflorescence

abscission and poor fruit set. This is due to the short, rapid and critical need for B at this critical stage of pollination and fruit set. The phloem immobility of B, minimal canopy development for transpiration during bloom and low soil temperature all decrease early season B transport and availability. This is why a pre-bloom budswell spray of 5 lbs Solubor/ac in 100 gal/ac is recommended to meet this high and critical B demand period.

Boron Deficiency

B deficiency was first identified early in California pistachio production by Dr. Kay Uriu and Madera County UCCE Farm Advisor Rocky Teranishi, and was easily corrected and not a major problem. They determined an August critical leaf level threshold of 90 ppm. It became a major problem when the Pistacia integerrima rootstock, Pioneer Gold I, PGI and its hybrid, Pistacia atlantica x Pistacia integerrima,

Figure 2. Figure 3a (left), 3b (right) and 3c (bottom)
Figure 2. Boron adsorption on soil particles of an arid soil as a function of pH and soil depth, the latter having higher
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University of California I, UCBI, were widely planted. The reproductive symptoms were inflorescence death, failure to set nuts and aborted nuts. Brown’s research determined a 150- to 250ppm sufficiency range was required for successful pollination, fruit set and vegetative shoot growth.

Correcting B deficiency is easy. B fertilization practices depend upon the soil B content, texture, pH and ECe and B content of the water. A typical B fertilization program would be Solubor (21.7% B) at 15 lbs/ac applied through the drip system through the first year. In the following years, B is applied as a spray at 3 lbs Solubor/ac at 50% leaf expansion mid to late April in combination with Copper EDTA at 0.5 lb/ ac and Zinc 36% product. To improve fruit set under marginal B levels, spray 5 lbs Solubor/ac in 100 gal/acre at the delayed dormant budswell period. In many areas of the southern San Joaquin Valley where soils are naturally high in B, fertilization is not necessary.

Boron Toxicity

Managing B toxicity is more difficult than correcting deficiency because it is poorly understood. B toxicity symptoms in pistachio are confined to necrosis at the leaf edge. In the past two decades, visible boron toxicity in pistachio has greatly increased. Reasons for this increase are more pistachio plantings in saline sodic soils also high in B, limited good-quality surface water for leaching, increased use of groundwater high in B, drought and greater sensitivity of the ‘Golden Hills’ cultivar.

The mechanism of B toxicity is unknown. B toxicity in pistachio does reduce leaf area and, logically, leaf photosynthetic capacity, and by extension should reduce yield. However, significant correlations among soil B levels, August leaf levels, the degree of B toxicity symptoms and yield have not been experimentally established.

In our current research trial examining combinations of irrigation hose configuration and leaching methods to decrease soil salinity, we have also begun to examine the effect of B soil

levels on leaf B levels, toxicity symptoms and yield.

Recent Research Results

Does soil B level correlate with leaf B levels, leaf damage and edible yield?

We found a strong, statistically significant negative correlation (r = 0.70)

between soil B levels and the total edible yield of pistachio (Figure 3a). When soil B levels were below 5 ppm, eighthleaf Golden Hills on a UCBI clonal rootstock produced an average ~4000 lbs/acre yield. When soil B levels rose to 5 to 10 ppm, average yields dropped by 30% to ~3000 lbs/acre. These yields

Figure 4a (left), 4b (right) and 4c (bottom) Figure 4. (a) Total edible yield as a function of leaf boron (B; ppm); (b) average leaf damage as a function of leaf B; and (c) total edible yield as a function of average leaf damage. The red arrow indicates the trend between two variables. Figure 2.
Figure 3a (left), 3b (right) and 3c (bottom)
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Figure 3. (a) Total edible yield as a function of soil boron (B; ppm); (b) leaf boron (B; ppm) as a function of soil B; and (c) average leaf damage as a function of soil B. The red arrow indicates the trend between two variables.

were produced with average leaf levels of 1000 ppm B (Figure 3b) and an average of 15% necrotic leaf area. However, we found poor and statistically insignificant correlations of leaf ppm B and % necrotic leaf area as a function of soil B levels (Figures 3b and 3c). Collectively, these results confirm the current recommendation to maintain soil B levels below 5 ppm B. However, the results also suggest a leaf level up to 750 ppm does not decrease yield and the % necrotic leaf area is a poor indicator of soil B levels.

Does leaf B level correlate with edible yield, leaf damage and leaf damage with yield?

Analysis of edible yield as a function of ppm leaf B demonstrated a negative (but weak) and statistically insignificant correlation with yield; as leaf levels rose to >800 ppm, B yields dropped below 4000 lbs/acre and varied greatly (Figure 4a). However, we found a statistically significant positive correlation (r = 0.50) of % necrotic leaf area as a function of leaf B level but a poor, statistically insignificant correlation of yield as a function of percentage of % necrotic leaf area (Figure 4b). Below 1000 ppm leaf B, the average % necrotic leaf area remained below 10% (Figure 4b) but varied widely above 1000 ppm B.

Collectively, these results demonstrated a moderately positive correlation but statistically significant relationship between leaf B levels and % of necrotic leaf area. However, we found no correlations between % necrotic leaf area as a function of soil B and yield as a function % necrotic leaf area. This suggests the visible B toxicity produced late in the pistachio production season is not the direct cause of the yield declines produced by increasing soil boron levels. The data also demonstrates young pistachios can successfully produce economic yields at these soil and leaf B levels.

This Golden Hills on clonal UCBI rootstock orchard is producing normal yields for a ninth-leaf orchard entering full bearing. In 2022, eighth-leaf in <5 ppm B soils with ~955 ppm B leaf levels averaged 1073 lb/ac edible inshell splits. In 2023, ninth-leaf in <5 ppm B soils and 750 to 800 ppm leaf B averaged ~4,000 lb/ac. edible in-shell

split yield. In 2023, above these soil and leaf B levels, yields varied greatly but averaged ~3,000- lb/ac edible in-shell split yield. This research is preliminary and ongoing. And, as noted, B’s effects from deficiency to toxicity depend upon availability which is a function of multiple factors, including soil texture, pH, ECe, boron concentration, ETc, rootstock and scion.

Our data demonstrate above 5 ppm, increasing soil B content decreases edible yield, but we could not demonstrate the decrease in yield was a function of increasing leaf B levels or % leaf area

damage manifesting as B toxicity. This suggests the mechanism of increased soil B in decreasing yield is not produced by decreasing the photosynthetically active leaf area. This is new information and merits further investigation because, as noted, the mechanism of B toxicity damage is unknown. And it also suggests toxicity is not an accurate term for the visible leaf damage.

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27920 McCombs Road, Wasco, California 93280 © 2024 Wonderful Nurseries LLC. All rights reserved. WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL NURSERIES and the accompanying logos are trademarks of Wonderful Nurseries LLC or its affiliates. WonderfulNurseries.com 661.758.4777 SERVING YOUR VINE, ALMOND AND PISTACHIO TREE NEEDS PUT THE INDUSTRY LEADER TO THE TEST! Wonderful Nurseries Offers The Most Trusted Products In The Industry It’s no secret that Wonderful Nurseries is the most trusted nursery in the industry. Our wide selection, esteemed support team, high standards, and proven track record, make us your go to supplier for all your almond, pistachio, and grapevine needs. We put you, the grower first by offering the cleanest, most tested products in the industry backed by our commitment to excellence. Vines Almonds Pistachios April 2024 www.wcngg.com 15

From the Orchard

James Gardiner and the Buzz on Honeybees and Nuts

James Gardiner leans back in his chair and talks about bees. It’s a topic he’s plenty familiar with. He spent the last 10 years running his family’s honeybee operation, which gave him a different perspective on the almond-growing business.

Seeking a new perspective has been a driving force in Gardiner’s life since he graduated from college. After playing baseball in college (where he got two hits off of future two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum) and graduating with a degree in business marketing, Gardiner told his dad he wanted to take five years to experience the world outside of farming and to see the farming business in a different light. He wanted to understand the financial side, delve into marketing and experience the creation of an end product.

After stints with a wealth management company and doing marketing for a regional Nissan office, he landed at Pereira O’Dell just at the beginning of the social media boom.

“I was on the business development side, and I got to see that whole social media space blow up back when a million views on YouTube was something amazing,” he said. “It gave me a very unique look into something completely different.”

To experience the creation of an end product, Gardiner then found an opportunity at Chez Panisse, a renowned farm-to-table restaurant.

“It was my second-hardest job other than pulling pipe in the fields,” he said.

The job was fulfilling and ticked off the last item on his list. When he

was ready to return to the farm, honeybees were a hot topic in the news, even appearing on the cover of Time Magazine. His family made the decision to purchase a honeybee operation, and Gardiner spent the next 10 years making a circuit with their honeybees.

“It’s a 20,000-hive operation based out of North Dakota where we primarily focus on almond pollination,” he said. “We’ll hit cherries. Grab some pollen from pomegranates and then run out to North Dakota, where we make a honey crop, and we do the loop all over again.”

In the past year, Gardiner has returned to his almond-growing roots, adding more growing-related responsibilities to his honeybee responsibilities in his role as vice president of Pacific Ag Management.

We asked him to share his thoughts on family farming and the nut industry with West Coast Nut.

Q. Start by telling me just a little bit about the history of your farming operations.

My grandfather was leasing some ground he had developed from Sagebrush. He lost the main lease in the summer of ’69 and had to go back to 100 acres. That’s kind of where he sat for a while. When my dad graduated from Cal Poly in ’78, he actually was given a job offer because it really wasn’t much acreage for him to come back to. But my grandfather really wanted him back, so they ended up making a deal. My dad’s one caveat was he didn’t want to lease any more ground. He wanted to figure out how to buy it. So, they started their partnership. They planted their first almond orchard in ’82, which was the year I was born.

So, we’ve been growing almonds since 1982, along with some row crops that have kind of gone by the wayside. And now that farm has grown to just

16 West Coast Nut April 2024
Pacific Ag Management’s James Gardiner says to continue to succeed, the agriculture industry needs to focus on attracting talent from outside the agriculture industry, whether that be young professionals straight out of school or mid-career people looking for a change.

over 22,000 acres under management of almonds and pistachios. We have a honeybee company that’s based in North Dakota. We also run a cow-calf operation up in the hills just inside the Kern County boundary, about 1,200 cows.

Q. How has farming changed just in the 10 years that you weren’t hands-on involved with it?

Well, I think I’ll start with the honeybees because that’s a little bit easier. There’s a bigger change there. One, the price has gotten to a fairly reasonable price at $200 a hive, or to $220, $225, where beekeepers can get a little excited and make an opportunity for themselves if they can provide quality bees year after year.

It hasn’t gotten easier. Montana and South Dakota have restrictions on how you set bees, nobody can go within a few miles of you. [In] North Dakota, it’s the wild, wild west, where in those last 10 years we’ve seen severe drought, and in that time period, the guys from Montana and South Dakota that were

droughted out just started sending their bees to North Dakota. They’re not necessarily paying property taxes, but now they’re placing their bees on North Dakota, and they’re taking away from our honey crop, from our bees that are going to need that extra pollen where everything’s just crowded. But that’s where I’ve kind of seen the last 10 years is basically just drought-related.

Because that also relates to the farm side, which we’re all just trying to deal with SGMA, and really what that’s going to do to us, and how fast that has come. But then on the flip side now, the last couple of years of the amount of rainfall we are seeing, and I sit here just knowing, just from being in farming, that these peaks and drops come, and we still haven’t fulfilled on our amount of reservoirs that we needed for the State of California.

That plan was put in 70 years ago. We still haven’t fulfilled on that. And that was based on a population of 30 million people. And I think we’re still three reservoirs shy from what that original deal was. And back then, 70

years ago, they knew we had peaks and troughs, and we had atmospheric rivers, and when it dumps water, you’d better save it. More legislative restrictions placed on [growers] has forced us as a family farm to get bigger or die.

You have to start playing in a bigger world, and you’re against a lot of tough forces. As you get bigger, you have to get more professional, and what I’m seeing right now is a lot of the family farms aren’t willing to keep putting up with the bureaucratic mess, simply raising their hands up in the air and going away. And it’s very sad to see in the State of California.

It really is because there are so many family farms up and down the state, and I just see the state wanting to reduce the number of family farms and push them more toward corporate farming, corporate goals, and if we want to survive, we have to try to keep getting bigger.

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Q. Talk a little bit about that process, that change from starting with 100 acres to now 22,000 acres. How does that change the way you farm or the way you deal with all of the things around farming?

Actually, my dad has been the growth driver of the business, putting the ideas and deals together. I view my brothers and I and our whole executive team as the executors. Day in and out we implement the in-field practices that support the deal.

What it turns into a lot now is trying to build out a company with better procedures and policies and figuring out how to treat our people correctly. How can we develop them into leaders? Because as you grow and grow and grow, you bring on more employees.

And the largest task is figuring out how to manage large blocks of employees and get the type of productivity that you would expect out of a smaller farm and keep the quality that you do on a smaller farm, where you can have more attention to detail. But with more people, it is definitely harder to manage, especially coming up from a family farming mentality. That mentality is more of a, “Just get in there and do it yourself” vs learning to develop employees with you that can tackle those tasks the way you would like to see them tackled.

Q. What is it like working with family and growing the family operation?

Going back to the conversation of we’re kind of being forced to get bigger. This has been ingrained in our heads since we were young, but my dad, when he came back to 100 acres and was trying to build everything out, he had three sons. All he hoped for was that he could provide an opportunity for his sons or family members to be involved in the operation, but the only way you can do that is through growth.

Thankfully, we are of a size now that has supported three brothers, three sons, coming into an operation but also an operation of some scale to where we can get involved in different aspects. The first 10 years of any of us being back, we were in different locations, working on different pieces of the farm. John on the equipment. Me on the honeybees. My brother out in the sales and marketing. We didn’t rub elbows. We learned to work with people and on our own. We weren’t fighting amongst each other. We were able to develop our own style. And now, 10 years later, we’re at an age with our own families that now we see a common alignment among each other of keeping this thing going. And how can we keep this going is a common question we ask ourselves.

Q. What are the three things to keep you up at night related to the farm?

The No. 1 concern is overwintering of the bees because there’s a natural die off during that period. So, what are we going to be able to have in place for pollination in February?

Two is water and legislation that can be enacted in the living and working environment of California.

Three, right now, has been almond prices and honey prices.

Q. Talk a little bit about the water situation, how you’re approaching that and how that has affected decisions you’re making.

We’re just starting to see some of those restrictions come down through the different water districts, and the No. 1 way they’re coming down is through cost increases of that water.

We’re having to step back and assess the long-term viability of these ranches that are planted and that need water and having to take a realistic look at whether in 20 years, will we realistically be able to farm, and at what price? It’s not as simple as taking things out of production because you’re still going to have to carry the property taxes on that land that is fallowed. You’re still going to have the burden of those costs. So now you’re burdening your operating farm with increased costs from fallowing. You’re having to look at some diversification, maybe opportunities... in solar.

The solar guys are waiting to see if there’s funding from the government. We’ve seen the waves in solar, and it’s all dictated by funding from the government. It’s not really a self-sustaining diversification, I would say, because without that government support, the solar panels really don’t get put on the farms the way they have.

We’ve had to look at solar just around our ranches because of the increase in electricity costs, and those are big factors when you start to put orchards together that are going to have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years.

ContinuedfromPage17 18 West Coast Nut April 2024

Q. What makes you hopeful for the future when it comes to the tree nut industry?

I’m hopeful with the industry because we’re growing a great product, a healthy product.

Q. Talking about the problem of not a lot of young people wanting to come into farming, do you have any thoughts on how to make that more appealing for young people? Agriculture has always kind of been behind on the curve of technology.

Having experience in San Francisco, or living in L.A., the amenities that attract that young, talented group, they go there first. They’re chasing technology.
chasing the amenities of the big ContinuedonPage20
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Family farms are having to grow to survive. One of the challenges of that growth is maintaining the quality family farms are known for while creating the scale to survive in the current economic environment.

city. And as far as large farming areas, they haven’t been the first choice of areas to live in. But it is those small cities, whether it be Bakersfield or somewhere else stepping up to the plate, I think people from L.A are starting to realize Bakersfield isn’t a bad place to live.

It’s not a bad place to start a career. It’s just over the hill, and you have the access to the Sierras. We have the beautiful Kern River. You’re just two hours from the beach. So, some of those things, when it comes down to attracting talent or attracting people into the industry, is bringing a little bit higher level of a job that might be a little bit more technology-based, which is slowly coming into ag, and it will probably continue to come quicker.

And then it’s those mid-career people, I guess, that would be afraid to switch to ag. But there has to be a realization that that outside experience they’ve had in tech or accounting at a big accounting firm comes right back down to these larger agriculture companies that need younger people with that extended knowledge to bring that back and enhance the farms we have today. Because, like I said, they’re forced to get bigger. And you have to get better and smarter with that outside experience. I would encourage anyone to look into the agriculture community.

Q. What kind of advice would you give to a young person looking to get into farming today?

It’s not going to happen. Sadly, just the capital cost to get into farming is an obstacle.

One way I would look at it is not necessarily farming, but you want to be in the agriculture industry. You’re probably not going to come in and be a [grower].

College-educated kids that are wanting to be a farm supervisor and kind of come up through the ranks are needed. But it is a tough job market. There’s not a lot of positions available.

If you want to come into the agriculture industry, whether it be the finance/ accounting side, maybe in the marketing world, I would say it’s more attractive. I would push any young person to go try it.

But to come out and try to be a young farmer, buy a piece of land, buy the equipment, in the environment today, it’s a tough road ahead, sadly.

Q. With your marketing background in mind, talk a little bit about how tree nut marketing is evolving.

Let me start that off with just a little bit more of an overview of how we’re set up. I’ve been over the honeybees for the last 10 years. My brother John has

been over the equipment side, and now he’s stepped into the overall management as president of Pacific Ag Management and our Gardiner family of companies. Joe Gardiner, our youngest brother, works out at our processing facility, TreeHouse California Almonds, and he’s in the day-to-day sales and marketing.

On the marketing side, everything we do goes through TreeHouse California Almonds, which has a great name within the industry. High quality, great food safety background, and that all starts in the field.

What we really like to do with TreeHouse is be able to tell the story from the ground all the way through the processing side. A lot of people do not have that story to tell. It’s not as easy if you go to some of the other processors where they’re getting almonds from many different ranches. That story just doesn’t connect as well.

Being able to utilize that with the brands we interact with is important. We have something in place right now called The Almond Project. That has been a program that has been set up specifically on the farm, working with a small group of brands that wanted to dive into regenerative agriculture.

So, us being the [growers], we are the ones that are able to help facilitate

20 West Coast Nut April 2024
Pacific Ag Management’s presence in the tree nut industry began when Keith Gardiner (from right) and James Gardiner planted their first almond trees in 1982. Now, Keith and his three sons (from left) Joe, John and James manage 22,000 acres of almond and pistachio (all photos courtesy J. Gardiner.)

by taking their ideas and pushing back on them when they don’t make sense. I think in the almond industry, one of the ones we kind of pushed back on was just cover crops. Everyone wanted cover crops. It was being pushed by everyone, and I’ll just give you an example.

It does make some sense. But from my perspective on the beekeeping side, with almonds you normally have two to three different varieties of almond trees. That’s three different sources of pollen already, three different sources of protein, fats and carbohydrates, and each of those pollens in those different trees have a different set of amino acid profiles. We’re able to push back in this regenerative program about what is that really doing for us?

And we’re looking at the water penetration from the cover cropping. Does it really make sense on a large scale because you have so many more issues? When I think of cover cropping and the marketing of this, yes, it sounds good, but it also has to work on a farm for it to be marketed for a long period of time. No. 1, when I think of cover cropping, it’s just another pass. It means we’re using more diesel, there’s more wear and tear on another tractor and more labor hours. Because at some point you’re going to have to come back and kill that cover crop. So, ultimately, what are you trying to do for the environment? Do you need that other pass along all these orchards?

But back to the marketing aspect, we’re trying to dive in deeply with brands about how they can connect with their consumer. Whether it be our family message about how my brothers and I are still on this family farm, working on it every day alongside our dad and our grandfather, who just passed away at 101. Or we connect with brands by working toward in-field solutions that help them tell the story of sustainability directly to their customers.

Q. What role will technology play in the future of tree nut farming?

Where I focus our technology right now is on the backend systems, the back-end reporting. As the companies get larger, you have to get more efficient, and the way you do that is to get information from the field and into your accounting department where we utilize it.

I get pretty excited about this. It’s as simple as building our apps in-house for guys out in the field to use on a daily basis. We can have our shakers go out, and we can track how many trees they’ve shook vs barked. And the guys that are barking less and shaking more, it’s, “Hey, we got some good guys. Let’s take care of them. How do we encourage more of that?”

So, it’s getting that information down from the field all the way up the chain. It’s utilizing the technologies, such as apps, or the reporting methods of how we visualize that data for managers to make better decisions in the field.

I mean, we’re going through such a fast pace right now with the amount of information we’re getting and being able to compile it. Looking at timing of different sprays or insect damage, breaking that down by the block is getting very

exciting. And we have all that information.

Automated shakers or sweepers. They’ll come when they come, and we’ll be ready for them.

Q. How do you and your farm give back to the community?

My dad started this thinking, an understanding that if you can enrich the lives around you with a good-quality place to work, producing a quality product, it just goes very deep into the local communities, the smaller communities that sit right outside of Bakersfield. That’s where our employees are coming from.

We are all providing for our own families. We don’t want to see these jobs go away. We don’t want to see our little towns go away, so as giving back the No. 1 thing I would point to is making sure we’re maintaining and caring for the ground that we own or manage so those resources of that land can continue on for a long time, continuing to provide jobs for smaller communities. As a family, we support CASA within Kern County.

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April 2024 www.wcngg.com 21

Handling and Processing

With Exports, Tree Nut Executives Address Multiple Challenges

With world tree nut production now at 12.5 billion pounds, up 5 billion pounds from 10 years ago, and with many supply channels full, finding export markets for California tree nuts has never been more important.

Against that backdrop, the industry is facing multiple challenges, including retaliatory tariffs in China and Turkey, regulatory constraints on tree nut exports in the EU and a strong U.S. dollar that is putting the price of tree nuts out of reach for some consumers.

On the bright side, the lifting of retaliatory tariffs on almonds and walnuts in India last year was a significant development; one dampened, however, by the fact that U.S. almonds still face a significant disadvantage when compared to Australian almonds. Australia, which has a free-trade agreement with India, pays half of the duty U.S. almonds pay, or 17.5 rupees/kg., compared to 35 rupees/kg. for U.S. almonds.

California walnuts, meanwhile, face the same tariff as other countries when exporting to India, but at 100%, the added cost can still put a dent in sales in part because of the already high cost of U.S. tree nuts,

a cost inflated by the strong U.S. dollar, which is proving a detriment in many foreign markets.

“The strong U.S. dollar is affecting consumers’ purchasing power no matter what country you live in,” said Pam Graviet, vice president of integrated marketing for the California Walnut Board and Commission.

Aubrey Bettencourt, president and CEO of the Almond Alliance, agreed. “A couple years ago, with the supply chain totally dysfunctional, we joked we could sell the almonds, but we couldn’t ship them,” she said.

“This last year, the defining issue was, ‘Well we could ship the almonds, but we couldn’t sell them globally.’ And economics played a huge part in that. A strong dollar makes it difficult to export to any country.”

Still, Bettencourt pointed out almond exports grew considerably as 2023 progressed with more than 30 million pounds shipped in December, a near record level for the month. “We are optimistic because of that, and we are hoping that uptick is going to continue into 2024,” Bettencourt said.

Similarly, Graviet said 2023 walnut exports were up 17% over 2022 through the end of January. Some of that increase can be attributed to

the lifting of the retaliatory tariff in India, she said, and a larger part to crop quality.

“The 2022 crop had some damage due to an extreme heat wave just before harvest,” Graviet said. The 2023 crop, meanwhile, was “one of the best quality crops we’ve seen in a number of years, not only in color but in taste and size and texture. Mother Nature was not nice in 2022, but she made up for it in 2023, and the market has responded.”

Fits and Starts

Tree nut industry executives said while the industry has made some gains in addressing trade barriers in recent years, it has not done as well as it would have liked. During the Almond Board of California Conference in early December, for example, both Julie Adams, vice president of global technical and regulatory affairs for ABC, and Jonathan Hoff, chairman of ABC’s Global Technical Regulatory Affairs Committee, said it often felt like the industry was taking one step forward and two steps back in addressing global trade barriers. One example: While the industry made progress in India last year, it lost ground in Turkey.

Bettencourt agreed: “We saw

California Walnut Board and Commission CEO Robert Verloop serves as moderator for a walnut panel discussion at MEWA 2024, a nuts and dry fruit exposition held in New Delhi, India on February 17-18.
22 West Coast Nut April 2024

great progress last year with India,” she said, “but we then turn around and saw Turkey increase their duty and tariff on almonds up to 25%. And so, we’ve been working very diligently to address that.”

The development included a 15% increase in tariffs on U.S.-grown almonds above the previously imposed retaliatory tariff of 10%.

The same is true for the California walnut industry, which saw Turkey increase its tariff on walnuts from 4% to 15% with the 10% retaliatory tariff still in place.

Addressing the tariff on almonds in an October 31 press release, Bettencourt said, “The move is a significant setback for American farmers, workers and the domestic almond industry. We urge the White House and congressional leaders to prioritize this issue in ongoing trade discussions with Turkey.”

In an interview with West Coast Nut, Bettencourt later added: “We’ve been trying to really push on the USDA, the

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The California Walnut Commission’s booth at Gulfood, part of the commission’s international marketing campaign. The exposition is advertised as the world’s biggest annual food and beverage event.

Handling and Processing

U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the Biden administration around negotiating and renegotiating tariffs and duty rates for agricultural products into large markets like India, China and the Middle East. Those are three of our largest markets, and they all have tariffs for almonds. So, this is having an effect on our economy whether we like it or not.”

Graviet, too, said the walnut industry has been working with government officials to address trade barriers. “We are in communication with the USDA, U.S. Embassy staff, the Foreign Agricultural Service and the Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the USTR as well as federal and state officials on a regular basis, keeping the issue of tariff and non-tariff barriers for our walnuts not only top of mind, but how this

is affecting market development and, more importantly, the viability of our family farms.”

As for China, although there have been reports of discussions between USTR and Chinese officials regarding

tariff relief, Bettencourt said she hasn’t seen much progress on that front, noting that is not particularly surprising. “I hear all the time, ‘Hey, we’ve got to work on China.’ But it is a difficult prospect at this point because China

ContinuedfromPage23 400 S 200 E, EMERY, UT 84522 | (435) 286-2222 | (800) 846-2817 CALL ERNIE AT (661) 304-2676
From left, California Walnut Board and Commission CEO Robert Verloop, Group Director of the Al Maya Group Kamal Vachani and U.S. Consul General Meghan Gregonis at a logo licensing signing agreement during Gulfood, held February 19-23 in Dubai (all photos courtesy California Walnut Commission.)
24 West Coast Nut April 2024

is going through its own changes right now and its own challenges,” she said.

“I would say there is always going to be an opportunity there, and there are some things that we are absolutely working on,” Bettencourt said. “We still have permits that are acceptable to China under Decree 248 that are literally waiting on our own FDA for final approval. And so, we’ve been diligently working to try to get things moving, get FDA to finish the approval of the permits so that our folks can ship into China where they are preapproved to do so.”

Coalition for Free Trade

Among its approaches to addressing trade barriers, Bettencourt said the Almond Alliance has joined a coalition called Farmers for Free Trade. To date, she said, the coalition has been frustrated by a lack of commitment on free trade negotiations from the Biden administration, but “we are starting to see some efforts pick back up, and whether that goes through the admin-

istration or on our own, I think our industry is going to continue to drive toward expanding existing markets that have great potential like India and driving toward new markets that have incredible potential.”

Among recent positive developments, Bettencourt said almonds were the only commodity invited on a recent trade mission to Morocco by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. “That was a huge opportunity for us as an industry,” she said.

North Africa also has been a target of the California walnut industry, which is working on opening new markets there as well as in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. As part of the industry’s efforts, Graviet said the California Walnut Commission has applied for a new USDA grant, called the Regional Agricultural Promotion Program, announced in November of last year. The program is designed to help agricultural producers enter new markets or expand growing markets.

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“Building new markets is a top priority for USDA, and this new program could not have come at a better time as it aligns with our industry’s strategic plan,” Graviet said.

Looking to Europe, Bettencourt said the almond industry has been pushing for a standardization of phytosanitary testing across Europe to address hold ups and rejections at ports. But, she said, “as of right now, each individual country is still allowed to set their own.”

On a positive note, at the Almond Conference, Adams noted ABC is starting to see some progress in those areas. “We are starting to make some progress even on pesticides, where EU legislation has started changing to reflect the fact that some of these standards are just too restrictive even for them.”

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Handling and Processing

Dairy and Poultry Feeding Can Create Demand for Almond Byproducts


New feeding strategies for poultry diets may include using more fiber-rich almond hulls, helping boost demand for this almond byproduct.

A panel at the December Almond Conference also presented new research done with fermented hulls showing this dairy cow feeding strategy has the potential to reduce methane emissions from dairies.

Almond hulls have long been solely used as a supplement feed for dairy cows, providing fiber and energy in their total mixed ration. A look at feeding laying hens presents another market. Hulls are rich in carbohydrates, mainly non-starch polysaccharides, including cellulose, hemicellulose and pectin as well as soluble sugars. Analysis shows a range of fiber content from 15% to 16%.

A long-term ABC-funded study with laying hens found a diet consisting of 10% almond hulls had

positive effects on production and egg quality. Pratima Adhikari of Mississippi State University conducted the feeding study, noting the hulls were shipped whole and then coarsely ground to a consistency between soybean meal and ground corn. There were seven rations fed over the length of the study, including standard corn and soybean meal, 5% almond hulls, 10% almond hulls and 15% almond hulls. Two other rations included almond hulls with enzyme inclusion at 136 grams per ton.

Throughout the peak lay age of 22 to 41 weeks, the study showed feeding a diet with 10% to 15% almond hulls can increase production, egg weigh and albumen height, an indicator of quality. Throughout the post-peaking age of 42 to 70 weeks, the use of 5% hulls in combination with the enzyme had a positive effect on egg production. Adhikari noted hens fed the diet with 15% almond hulls ate less feed compared to the

other groups. The 10% hull with enzyme diet improved only egg weight. The 5% hull diet was the cheapest when calculated at different prices of hulls.

Conclusions of the study recommended to feed up to 15% hulls without any negative effects on the production in peaking age layers. Feeding hulls up to 5% can be done without any negative effect on the production in late-laying age layers. Adhikari noted as hull percentage in the diet increased, the yolk color score was lowered, suggesting corn was replaced by more hulls. When the energy was balanced with fat, unsaleable eggs were reduced in all hull-fed hens. It is not recommended, she noted, to feed hens without meeting their energy requirements and to not depend solely on hulls for energy.

In the next phase of the study, Adhikari said she would seek ways to increase the digestibility of amino acids and energy of the hulls and use

different combinations of alfalfa and almond hulls in cube form utilizes the strengths of each product.
26 West Coast Nut April 2024

better-quality hulls to see if there are changes with similar diet levels.

Hulls Added to Cubes in Cattle Feed

Focusing on almond hulls for the export market, UC Davis researcher Katie Swanson reported using different combinations of alfalfa and almond hulls in cube form would utilize the strengths of each product, with the potential of producing a synergy in combination and development of new products that could open new markets for almond hulls.

“They are exporting hay, why not add hulls to cubes?” Swanson asked.

This study was meant to evaluate the apparent digestibility, palatability and effect on production in dairy cows of alfalfa-almond hull cube mixes compared with plain alfalfa cubes and to develop new products with alfalfa and almond hulls. Swanson said previous work with cattle showed mixing low amounts of almond hulls with low to medium quality alfalfa hay could increase the overall dry matter and crude protein digestibility with only slight decreases in fiber digestibility.

For the study, the medium-quality alfalfa was cubed with 0%, 20% or 30% hulls. The cows in the study were fed a total mixed ration with the cubes added. Swanson reported the cows in the study consumed the crudest protein, neutral detergent fiber and acid detergent fiber, the least digestible, while on the 20% cube diet, but had the lowest digestibility for those components, spent the most time ruminating and had the highest milk fat percentage. The research suggests, Swanson said, that mixing low amounts of hulls could be beneficial for milk fat and yields compared with cows consuming no almond hulls.

Fermented almond hulls are also studied to determine if this form of hulls can be effective in reducing enteric methane emissions from cattle. It is well known lactating dairy cows can be fed a total mixed ration of up to 20% almond hulls.

Hulls are not difficult to ferment because they are high in sugars, said panelist Hamad El Mashad, associate professor of Animal Nutrition at UC Davis.

Fermented feed studies have been aimed at poultry and swine production where it has been noted for improved performance and nutrient digestion. It also has proved to decrease mortality rates and improve immune responses in poultry. There a few studies on cattle-fed fermented feed, El Mashad said, but probiotic supplementation with yeast trials show nutritional benefits in addition to potential reduction in enteric methane emissions.

The aim of the research is to develop methods for producing high-quality fermented feed from almond hulls and to determine the anti-methanogenic and nutrition value of fermented almond hulls. Noting differences among almond varieties, hull sugar content and phenolic compounds, El Mashad said hulls fermented with Saccharomyces Cerevisiae for 14 days reduced enteric methane production by 96% over 72 hours digestion at a 20% inclusion rate in the cow diet. Dry and green hulls produced fermented feed with similar characteristics.

Research suggests mixing low amounts of hulls in alfalfa cubes could be beneficial for milkfat and yields compared with cows consuming no almond hulls (all photos by Ed DePeters, UC Davis.)

Next steps in the research include scaling up fermentation process and producing a consistent and high-quality feed mix. El Mashad said feeding trials with dairy and beef cattle would determine the percentage of the fermented feed in the cattle ration. Currently, researchers have a CDFA Specialty Crop grant to create fermented feed from almond hulls and tomato pomace. Funding is pending for a CDFA Enteric Methane Reduction Grant.

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April 2024 www.wcngg.com 27

Handling and Processing

Coproduct Innovations Include Fiber, Food and a Replacement for Plastic Nursery Pots

Almond coproducts, the hulls and shells after harvest and the woody biomass from pruning or orchard removals, are finding a higher calling in new food, fiber and energy products.

Nutrition bars, man-made cellulose and single-use plastics including pots for nursery plants are some of the innovative products under development, adding higher value to hulls, shells and chips.

Josette Lewis, chief scientific officer at Almond Board of California, said while the current lower-value streams for almond coproducts including animal feed and bedding require minimal processing for use, higher-value products from coproducts will require higher levels of processing.

Almond Board has been funding research to develop higher-value uses for almond coproducts, but Lewis said they are now moving into the commercial development phase for products, making opportunities more visible to industry and communicating with the investment community.

Commercial development using coproducts depends on reliable sourcing of byproducts on a yearround basis, cost competitiveness with products they would replace, and that any additional processing does not result in unwanted or useless byproducts.

Demand for hulls and shells in innovative new products can significantly increase their value compared to uses in animal feed and soil amendments. An Almond Board-commissioned market assessment showed extraction and

torrefaction processes for coproducts result in much higher values than traditional uses.

Extractive products include foodgrade almond hull sugar extract syrup, nutraceutical energy bars, soluble and insoluble fiber nutrition products, peat moss replacement for mycelium production and pulp for thermoformed containers. Nanocellulose is another promising product but is still in the research phase.

A third platform for uses lies in torrefaction, or burning to produce high-quality carbon.

Lewis noted progress in efforts to use powdered hulls as an ingredient in nutrition bars. Food development company Mattson has created a bar which Lewis said supplies 5 grams of fiber, is low in carbohydrates and lower in calories than other conventional nutrition bars on the market. While still in the development stage, work is being done to reduce regulatory hurdles with use of powdered hulls and educate food products manufacturers about the benefits of using this almond coproduct.

Replacing Plastic

Paul Kephart, founder of Monterey-based Nutjobs, said the company aims to replace single-use plastics like the black plastic pots used in the nursery industry with materials made from nutshell waste. These plastic substitute products are also compostable.

Working with major manufacturers, consumers are the driving shift toward bioplastics. Kephart said the California agriculture and horticulture industries use 12.5 million tons of plastic every year for plant and

Food products under development include a nutrition bar low in carbohydrates and lower in calories than that of other conventional nutrition bars (all photos courtesy Almond Board of California.)

animal production. 12% of all solid waste in landfills is plastic.

Kephart said the plastic containers used in nursery production are single use but designed to last for years. Products he is creating with hulls and shells to replace plastic nursery containers include a biodegradable sheet for weed control and preservation of soil moisture, a biodegradable insulated carton for shipping and biodegradable plant containers.

All three products, Kephart said, will lower plastic use and carbon emissions and are compostable. Containers made from nutshell waste meet two important packaging criteria, Kephart said: impact resistance and thermal performance. He has patented the formulations and products to replace single-use plastics and polystyrene. The value of these

Higher value producgts from co products will require higher levels of processing.
28 West Coast Nut April 2024

formulations lies in the ability to integrate them into current manufacturing processes, they are less expensive to produce and come with higher margins than other bioplastics. Kephart also said he has a scalable business model and has secured his first customer.

Products for Consumption and Wear

Back to human consumption products, Switzerland-based RE Nut has developed a processing method to boost yield per pound of raw materials to deliver high fiber, antioxidant, clean label and sugar reduction products.

Roland Laux of Re Nut said the new technology processes in-shell nuts into three valuable nut products: solids, drink and oil. Nut solids can be used in bakery products, foodservice and bakery and chocolate confectionery. Composition can be adjusted by adding additional shells or kernels to the process infeed.

“Our goal is to get more good out of the raw material,” he said.

The process begins with roasting whole nuts, crushing them into small particles and adding water to make a slurry. Three products are separated out in the drying process: solids, liquid and oil, which can all go into the food nutritional cycle. There is no waste from production.

The Hurd Co. is making it possible to make clothing from ag waste. In this case from almond orchard removals.

Taylor Heisley-Cook, CEO and co-founder of The Hurd Co. said her company has developed a product from almond chips called agrilose, a man-made cellulosic pulp. The product can be made for the same cost as pulp from logged trees and is of comparable quality, she said. Compared to tradi tional pulping technology, this product is made with zero emissions, using half the water and 90% less energy. The Hurd Co. is the only company using al mond trees to produce MMC at a price competitive with logged trees.

The apparel industry, Heisley-Cook said, is hungry for sustainable and closed-loop materials. The fastest-grow ing part of the apparel industry uses man-made cellulosic pulp, made from logged trees, to make viscose, rayon, lyocell and Tencel material. Lyocell fiber

is made from agrilose by the largest fiber extrusion company in the world.

Bringing agriculture producers, industry and manufacturing together, BEAM Circular makes connections in the bioeconomy supply chain, spanned by key development sectors, institutions and players.

Bioeconomy is using biology to create value through diverse inputs, technologies and outputs.

Feedstocks are agricultural residues, green waste, food processing byproducts and wastewater sludge. The conversion processes include anaerobic digestion, chemical and thermochemical (pyrolysis and gasification). The products being created include fuels, chemicals, plastics, fabrics, polymers, food additives, alternative proteins and construction materials.

BEAM Circular CEO Karen Warner said being active in the northern San Joaquin Valley puts BEAM in the center of valuable resources companies can use in manufacturing. Waste products, including orchard trimmings, nut shells,

food scraps, and livestock waste, are sought for everything from building materials to renewable energy to industrial chemicals to consumer goods.

Project highlights for BEAM include a bioeconomy development opportunity zone certification for tree nut biomass supply chain assessment.

BEAM determines if there is a reliable supply for nut crop biomass and assesses supply chain strength and infrastructure.

By facilitating collaboration, BEAM is accelerating and scaling innovations in bio-based products that deliver value for local communities and growers.

Investors in the process include Stanislaus County and the state with a $3.6 million Economic Development Pilot Grant. More than $850,000 has come from private/philanthropic investment.

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April 2024 www.wcngg.com 29

View from the Top

Why Rabobank is Bullish on the Almond Market Outlook expert Roland Fumasi foresees a significant rebound over the next five years.

Roland Fumasi knows it’s impossible to predict the future. But it’s his job to make sense of the road ahead.

Fumasi is the North American regional head of the RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness group, which Rabobank calls its “knowledge center.” Rabobank is, of course, a global leader in providing financial services for the food and agribusiness sector.

In February, RaboResearch released its “Five-year almond market outlook,” with Fumasi as lead author. Fumasi, who joined Rabobank in 2014, holds a doctorate in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University. Rabobank colleagues David Magaña and Pia Piggott collaborated with Fumasi on the almond outlook.

The team looked at current and future market conditions and analyzed various risk scenarios. Their report explores structural changes likely to occur in the almond industry. While the Rabobank researchers highlighted several key factors for improved prices, they zeroed in on what they believe to be the biggest driver.

“What makes the market recovery possible is the significant drop in carry-in this year,” Fumasi told West Coast Nut at this year’s World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif. “The power of carry-in size cannot be overstated.”

Q. Your bullish price outlook is good news for California’s almond growers. Why do you think almond prices will rebound over the next 12 to 18 months?

We’ve already seen prices strengthen over the last few months. Part of that is the realization that last year’s almond crop, the 2023 crop, will be a little lighter than the USDA objective estimate of about 2.6 billion pounds. The industry’s now realizing it’s going to be closer to 2.5, maybe even a little shy of 2.5. Another part of the story is that, so far through January, exports are up about 12% year over year. That’s

really a positive piece of the story. Those two big drivers mean we’re likely to have a very, very manageable carry-in going into the 2024-25 marketing year.

Q. What amount do you project for the almond carry-in on Aug. 1, 2024?

If we can keep this pace of shipments, which is being led by exports, we estimate we will have a carry-in of somewhere around 500 million pounds. That carry-in number is extremely powerful. It’s essentially

Almond prices will rebound significantly over the next 12 to 18 months, says Roland Fumasi, here at World Ag Expo in February (photo by C. Merlo.)
30 West Coast Nut April 2024
Both domestic and export shipments will hit new record highs over the next five years, says Rabobank (photo courtesy Port of Oakland.)
Handling and Processing

known on day one of the marketing year, so it starts to play into the mentality of sellers and buyers. When you start with a low carry-in, sellers aren’t under as much pressure versus when they have a big carry-in. In the last two seasons, we’ve had 800 million pounds plus. A 500-million-pound carry-in is extremely manageable. We think there will also be some recovery in domestic shipments in the coming couple of seasons. We think recovery will start this next season.

Q. Your average estimate for California’s 2024 almond production is at just above 3.1 billion pounds, basically in line with the 2020 record. Can you explain?

We think the trees have the capability in 2024, given their age, to again produce a 3-billion-plus-pound crop. That’s assuming favorable weather and more snow for plenty of irri-

gation water. I will tell you, though, that number is the most controversial piece in our report. We’ve had some people tell us they don’t think bearing acreage is actually as high as we think it will be over the next year or two or three. They


The significant drop in carry-in this year is what makes the market recovery possible, Rabobank says (photo by C. Merlo.)
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Handling and Processing


point out that it’s been a painful few years and growers have been so cash-strapped that they may not push everything into the trees that’s needed to get the kind of yields to produce a 3-billion-pound crop. We acknowledge there’s always more downside yield risk than upside, and a lot of weather to happen between now and this summer. The risk in these estimates is well documented in our report.

Q. What do you see for almond production through 2028?

We think yields are going to stabilize at right around 2,200 to 2,300 pounds per acre. Bearing acreage will stabilize at just above 1.4 million acres. When you combine those two factors, that means production will stabilize at around 3.2 billion to 3.3 billion pounds. We think the industry can market that amount of almonds and still keep a much better price than we’ve seen over the last

few years. Under that scenario, we see price at $2.15 to $2.20 a pound, which is much more favorable than the $1.40 we saw last year.

Q. Why do you expect domestic almond shipments to reach a record high by 2025-26?

Domestic demand, just like exports, has fallen off the last couple years. Part of that has been due to this high inflationary environment, which impacts consumers. We have

Almonds’ price recovery begins this season, with potential to reach $2.20 per pound (photo by C. Merlo.) Both domestic and export shipments will hit new record highs over the next five years.
32 West Coast Nut April 2024

to remember the almond industry has done a phenomenal job of stimulating almond demand. Almonds’ healthfulness, convenience and eating profile combine super powerful forces. And there’s the plant-based health trend. Almonds check those boxes very well. But in an inflationary environment, people have to make choices. That’s weighed on almond demand, not just in the U.S. but globally. As we get into a more normal inflationary environment, that pressure gets released.

Q. What’s behind your belief that U.S. almond exports will continue to grow, including double-digit growth for 2023-24?

We’re halfway through the marketing year and exports are up 12%. And we’re assuming that trend of solid growth, in the mid-single digits, will continue. There are the same drivers as we see for domestic growth and an additional one for exports: continued rising incomes in developing countries around the world. That’s super powerful.

Q. Despite its overall positive outlook, your report doesn’t ignore the significant risks that California almonds face over the next five years. What are the biggest risks ahead?

Geopolitical tensions are on the rise, with an escalation of global conflicts. Logistical concerns are always looming. Low water levels in the Panama Canal are reducing shipping capacity. We’re seeing container availability issues and rising shipping costs due to the disruptions in Red Sea maritime traffic. Upside energy-price volatility is likely. On the production side, there is more downside yield potential from negative weather shocks and potential water constraints. There’s the increased risk of overplanting as prices recover. And there is ever-growing competition in the tree nut space.

almond pricing back to a level where these operations can much more easily cash flow. That’s the biggest takeaway. Find the full report at https://research.rabobank.com/far/en/sectors/ fresh-produce/five-year-almond-market-outlook.html .

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Q. What’s the biggest takeaway from your report?

We are already seeing some recovery in almond price to the grower, and we expect to see even more upside recovery to price. Price will get back to a level where many almond producers will be able to break even at a minimum. We’re not talking about huge profits in almonds, but at least we get

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The significant drop in carry-in this year is what makes the market recovery possible.

Handling and Processing


Understanding the global marketplace for California walnuts and ensuring reliable quality and freshness for buyers are pathways for the walnut industry to improve prices for growers. Innovative products, grower/handler collaboration and improved grading are key strategies that the industry will need to implement to have an impact on prices.

For now, prices remain tough. Robert Verloop, executive director and CEO of the California Walnut Board and Commission, said in February walnut pricing is expected to remain under pressure through 2024. A three- to five-year correction may be needed, he added.

Current annual walnut production in California is about 823,000 tons but needs to be pared down to 625,000 to 675,000 to balance supply with demand, he noted. Growers can hope for better walnut prices in the future, but UCCE Farm Advisor Emeritus Bob Beede noted at the annual Tri-County Walnut Day in Tulare there is no guarantee prices will rebound anytime soon.

Varying degrees of hurt by low walnut prices across the state has sparked multiple conversations about how nuts are marketed in domestic and export markets. Some walnut growers have responded to low returns for their crop by removing a record number of acres in the last two years.

Orchard removals may make the walnut industry leaner.

“They may be part of the solution but not a solution,” Verloop said.

Eric Heidman of Diamond Walnut Growers, Brent Barton of GoldRiver Orchards/Barton Ranch and Mike Poindexter of Poindexter Nut weighed in on some of the root causes for low walnut prices at Tri-County Walnut Day in Tulare and pointed out strategies for improving the market.

Their discussion, led by Verloop, focused on global markets and developing a better understanding of consumer needs. He noted that market demand has shifted away from the basic commodity raw inshell nuts to value-added products.

“The challenge to handlers is to shift from being sup-

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pliers of a commodity to investing time and effort in value-building partnerships,” Verloop said.

Concentrate Marketing Efforts on High-Spec Products

Poindexter noted of the 72 walnut handlers in the state, very few are developing demand with new products, but they are still supported by growers.

“Talk to handlers and find out what they are doing to close the gap,” he added.

Barton, a walnut grower and partner in GoldRiver Orchards, a walnut processor and handler, said the Escalon-based business is focused on developing high spec walnut products coupled with customers that value those products.

Their market expansion is targeting Japan and Korea with their new products. They are also meeting packaging needs for those customers and coupling that with customers that value highspec products.

“They want superior quality, includ-

We are working with retailers to develop more in-store sales promotions, looking for year-round promotional opportunities and elevating their knowledge about walnuts.
—Robert Verloop, California Walnut Board

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Handling and Processing

ing color and very, very few kernel defects,” Barton said of their Japan and Korea markets.

GoldRiver also wants to develop additional reliable markets for non-Chandler inshell.

While 60% of GoldRiver’s product is Chandler, he said the remaining 40% of their volume is important and needs additional attention. Barton said they are also looking to develop markets where light kernel color may not be the primary consideration.

“We think a good market exists, and we have an opportunity to do better.”

Eric Heidman, vice president of Grower Services at Diamond Foods, said his company is aggressively widening its footprint in the snack market with portable grab-and-go-size packaging and new flavors. Diamond has also introduced a new line of crunchy nut toppers for the salad audience. One of their marketing highlights is supplying the glazed walnuts for Chinese fast food Panda Express restaurants. Duplicating this success across other restaurants is a primary goal, Heidman said.

Product Innovation

“We are working with retailers to develop more in-store sales promotions, looking for year-round promotional opportunities and elevating their knowledge about walnuts,” Verloop said.

Sales activation is his biggest concern as the California walnut industry has not worked to create relationships with retailers except for the big buyers, which he said is a lost opportunity. Food service is another market that needs attention, he added. New products such as culinary ingredients and components and educating customers about the need to preserve shelf life by proper handling and refrigeration of walnuts are other avenues that need exploring.

Heidman said a variety of Diamond’s new walnut products are headed for the snack aisle. Portable grab and go sizes and new flavors including Hot Honey and Maple Glazed have been introduced. They also have sweet and savory trail mixes. Further innovations include nut-based pie crusts.

“More cool things are coming,” he said.

Barton said GoldRiver ships mostly shelled product, and

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most of it is destined for further value-added use. For that product innovation, he said it is important to understand the end user’s needs.

California Walnut Board and Commission initiatives are seeking to partner with food service and food manufacturing firms in co-developing new uses and applications for walnuts, something which GoldRiver heartily supports.

Attention to Quality

Rancidity and freshness are the biggest barriers to growing domestic markets.

Heidman said there is not enough awareness of alignment among both sellers and buyers, and as a result, onshelf quality of walnuts can vary greatly. Education about in-store and at-home storage is key, he added, as walnuts are more perishable than people think and need refrigeration to preserve freshness.

Mandatory refrigeration along the supply chain may be an answer to preserving walnut quality, Barton said. Refrigeration during the warmer months

would ensure better quality. Effect of high temperatures in transit may not be noticeable at first, Barton said, and refrigeration would make it possible for more handlers to avoid quality problems. He suggested a ‘standard for cold storage’ validation that the product has been kept cold throughout the supply chain would ensure a quality product.

“It would not be easy, and there is an expense, but it would be something to do to improve returns,” Barton said.

Strengthen GrowerHandler Collaboration

Barton said this involves continuing to develop new products and supply chain efficiencies between growers, their huller-dryers and processors. Better, value-added markets for shells, walnut flower or oil stocks will be explored.

Processors can even curate new product and new services development ideas from their grower network. Interconnected systems can maximize knowledge and use of optimal agronomic practices to promote orchard

productivity and potentially reduced production Input costs along with harvesting costs.

Intra-handler opportunities could involve co-marketing, capacity sharing and specialization. Logistics networking could potentially reduce transportation costs.

Crop Estimation, Grades and Standards

Improved, digitized and standardized incoming grading of the walnut crop could improve product utilization from start to final disposition, Barton said.

“This would reduce or even eliminate the subjectivity that currently exists in the incoming grading process and be a huge win for us growers.”

Improved market reporting and sharing context with buyers could also help move product at superior and disciplined pricing, he noted.

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Disease Prevention from Cultural and Cost-Saving Angles

Apreventative systems approach to disease management in almond orchards involves cultural practices and management of irrigation and nutrition.

Jim Adaskaveg, plant pathologist at UC Riverside, said although almond orchards can be affected by numerous fungal or bacterial diseases, climatic conditions in California generally limit severe outbreaks of disease, a plus for growers. To further protect orchard health, modification of orchard environment, monitoring for disease and taking note of orchard history can direct management practices.

Disease management begins with noting orchard location, including elevation and proximity to riparian areas. Orchard design, including number of trees per acres, planting design, irrigation system and variety, can also be a factor in disease susceptibility. Age of trees and historical records should also be taken into consideration.

Almond Board of California, along with Semios Precision Agriculture, has developed regionalized disease forecasts that can help with risk prediction. Seven-day disease risk predictions for multiple diseases can be found at industry@almondboard.com

Springtime Diseases

Occurrence of the springtime diseases brown rot blossom blight, jacket

rot, shot hole, anthracnose, bacterial spot and bacterial blast is highly dependent on environmental conditions, specifically rainfall and temperature.

Occurrence of late spring and summer diseases scab, Alternaria leaf spot, rust and hull rot is more dependent on microclimatic orchard conditions and cultural practices.

Adaskaveg said the goal with fungicide programs is to minimize the number of applications and to use the most effective and least costly treatment. Fungicides should be applied when infection risk is highest.

Selecting the best materials with the broadest spectrum and timing the application at a critical stage can lower costs. Adaskaveg said at bloom, a single application with a translaminar fungicide can replace two applications with a contact fungicide under moderately favorable conditions.

He noted generic compounds can lower the cost with four to six timings for the season. Best timings are based on monitoring and environmental conditions.

Cultural practices to minimize diseases in orchards include water and nitrogen management.

Water Management

Wes Asai, former UCCE farm advisor, who operates Wes Asai Pomology Consulting in Turlock, said a simple

thing like water management can go a long way in reducing disease outbreaks, rather than using chemical intervention to control disease. Even orchards irrigated with drip or microsprinklers can have issues with standing water if systems are not managed properly.

Young trees, especially potted trees, need water delivery near their roots until their systems become established, but Asai said as the root zone expands, emitters or sprinklers need to be moved away to avoid wetting tree trunks. Internal infections or those caused by contaminated water sources are exacerbated by wetting the trunks.

Cultural practices can also help control freeze event injury and subsequent disease problems with blast. Minimizing cold damage by running sprinklers during freezing weather, even before bloom, can help, Asai said. Controlling weeds in the tree rows allows the bare soil to absorb heat and radiate upward at night, affording some frost protection. Avoid cultivating the middles at peak frost season, Asai advised, because any heat absorbed is not held.

Avoiding pruning when wet weather is forecast and orchard mowing at hull split are also cultural disease prevention strategies. Pruning cuts, particularly large cuts or jagged cuts from hedging and topping, leave wounds that can become infected during wet weather. Most hull rot organisms are

38 West Coast Nut April 2024
Large pruning cuts or jagged cuts from mechanical hedging or topping leave wounds in branches that can become infected during wet weather (all photos by W. Asai.)

soilborne, Asai noted, and mowing orchards at hull split can spread the hull rot pathogens.

Overapplication of nitrogen or incorrect application timing can cause hull rot.

Canker Diseases

UC Plant Pathologist Themis Michailides noted canker diseases can severely impact tree health and productivity if preventative measures are not taken.

Canker is a continuous mass of killed tissues in tree trunks, scaffolds, branches and shoots. The canker pathogen colonizes the entire canker tissues and beyond. Aboveground canker diseases are band canker and ceratocystis canker.

Band canker is a fungal disease in almonds that kills the bark and cambium layer. The pathogens Botryosphaeria dothidea and Hendersonula toruloidea are associated with band canker. The same pathogens can also cause infections in pruning wounds.

Symptoms include amber-colored gum exuding from the canker infection and forming a band around the tree trunk or limb.

Over the last few years, surveys and diagnostics have revealed this disease is prevalent in several major almond-growing counties, including Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Sacramento, Yolo, Solano, Yuba/Sutter, Colusa, Glenn, Butte, Tehama, Madera, Merced, Fresno and even as far south as Kern County.

Band canker presents with single or double bands of gumming around tree trunks. Cankers can result from infections of pruning wound, but Michailides noted distribution of fourth-leaf trees with various levels of cankers led to a hypothesis that trees were delivered to the orchard bearing latent infections but not showing any disease symptoms.

A molecular technique to quantify the DNA of canker pathogens has been developed to detect latent infections. Use

of the systemic fungicide Topsin-M, (Thiophanate Methyl) which has preventive and curative action, can also reduce incidence of band canker.

Preventative approaches in young orchards are obtaining disease-free trees from nurseries; spraying trunks of first-, second- and third-leaf orchards with Topsin-M at label rate; and keeping tree trunks dry and protecting pruning wounds with application of Topsin-M at label rate.

When band canker is present in young orchards, keeping tree trunks dry and treating trunks and scaffolds with Topsin-M is advised. Protecting pruning wounds with this material, removing killed trees and stumps and keeping wood piles with their spore inoculum away from the orchard are also preventative measures.

Ceratocystis cankers are caused by a fungus, and infections can begin in trees that have injuries from harvest or other machinery, injuries from the tie rope and insect damage.

To manage this canker, shaker pads should be adjusted to avoid trunk injuries, cut off irrigation within two to three weeks prior to harvest date and limit wounding.

Following correct tree training and scaffold selection along with minimal pruning helps with canker disease management.

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April 2024 www.wcngg.com 39
Cultural practices to minimize diseases in orchards include water and nitrogen management.


Minimizing soil surface disturbance, maximizing soil cover and promoting conditions for viability of soil critters, including bacteria, fungi and earthworms, are the main emphasis of the Healthy Soils program.

With the award of a $5 million grant to American Pistachio Growers (APG) to promote soil health practices, pistachio growers are deciding which practices they can incorporate in their operations to meet the goals of the program and realize a return on investment.

Sessions at the annual APG conference focused on soil health and why it makes sense to integrate soil-building practices in pistachio orchards.

The soil health seminar and grower panel were focused on adding to grower understanding of the benefits of soil carbon in the form of organic matter (OM) and also suggested grant-supported practices growers can adopt to assess their benefits in pistachio production.

Speaker Bob Beede, UCCE farm advisor emeritus, reminded growers improving soil health is a process, not a single event. Soil health improvement

can be made over time, he said, with supplementation of OM via native or planted cover crops, animal manure or compost applications. These can lead to a significant gain in soil carbon, which has many benefits to the structure and biological activity in the soil.

Soil carbon in the form of OM benefits the soil by supporting biological activity including beneficial fungi such as mycorrhizae. OM also supports earthworm activity and higher levels of actinomycetes, a gram-positive bacterium. Beede said OM also stores and cycles nutrients and increases soil aggregation and water holding capacity.

Panel Provides Practical Advice

The conference hosted a panel of farm managers and pistachio growers who highlighted practices they are using in their orchards to improve soil health.

“It’s all about becoming efficient at whatever you are doing,” said Zack Raven, a grower in the Laton area and manager for Keenan Farms. Keenan Farms takes a more conventional approach, applying nitrogen fertilizers

at the right time and at the right rate. Compost applications are incorporated into the fertilizer program, and Raven said they are seeing positive results from the first application in an orchard two years ago. While the compost applications augment use of CAN-17 and UN-32, he said they are seeing an increase in soil OM and improved water infiltration.

“If we can cut fertilizer costs by 20% using compost, that is a huge savings,” Raven said. Compost applications continued on Keenan Farms pistachio orchards last year. Adding the organic material is a cheaper and more natural way to release N into the soil, Raven said. So far, he reports positive results, particularly with water infiltration.

Raven said the compost is sourced from a certified dealer as specified in the Healthy Soils Incentive Program. By using more soil amendments based on soil tests, Raven said they are adapting more regenerative farming practices with the opportunities provided by the Healthy Soils grant, but still see the benefits of combining those with old school to produce good crops.

Bob Beede, UCCE farm advisor emeritus and speaker said annual supplementation of organic matter via native or planted cover crops, animal manures or compost is necessary to realize a significant gain in soil carbon, which has many benefits to the structure and biological activity of the soil (all photos by M. Katz.)
40 West Coast Nut April 2024
Panelists at the American Pistachio Growers Soil Health Workshop included, from left, Gary Smith, country manager, Ingleby Farms; Zack Raven, farm manager and grower representative, Keenan Farms; Shane Bickner, crop manager, Woolf Farming; and Joseph Coelho, agronomy manager, Maricopa Orchards.

Shane Bickner, farming manager at Woolf Farming in Huron, said cover crops have helped with water percolation challenges in orchards. After three years of drought from 2020-22, he saw soil electrical conductivity rising and said the solution has been cover crops.

The cover crop was flown on a mature Kerman on PG1 rootstock. The original intention, Bickner said, was to improve percolation, but with groundwater at 1800 lbs. sodium/ac-ft, the target became sodium reduction. First year with the cover crop drastically reduced standing water in the orchard, but 30 years of preemergent use was difficult to overcome. In 2022, the crop came on, and Bickner needed a herd of hungry goats to graze it down. Last year’s rainfall spurred huge growth, and Bickner said the plan is to keep the cover crop going because it eliminates four herbicide applications, saving $200 per acre. Pest insects have been noted as a problem with green cover crops, but Bickner said even with high lygus populations, the bugs stay in the cover crop. An added bonus is decomposition of mummy nuts in the green cover crop.

“Six months out of the year, it’s the best thing. By summertime, it’s ugly,” Bickner said.

Pistachio grower and manager at Maricopa Orchards and Terra Linda Farms Joe Coelho said a search for economical weed control in organically grown pistachios led him to try several methods: weed mats, propane burning and organic approved herbicides. None, he said, were economically viable.

Turns out a flock of sheep solved a couple problems for Coelho. They not only eliminated weeds, they also chomped down the mummy nuts that were on the ground.

“They prefer the weeds, but when that runs out they will eat the mummies,” he said. The sheep preferred to eat the mummies immediately after harvest when the nuts were fresh, opposed to late winter when they were decayed.

Coelho took part in a California Pistachio Research Board project on the impacts of sheep grazing on pistachio orchard sanitation. The first year of the research, led by UCCE Entomology Specialist Houston Wilson, reported on

average there was about a 25% reduction in mummy densities following grazing. The study also found grazing reduced the groundcover biomass.

Coelho said he has also made efforts to reduce orchard tillage, mainly in conventional orchards.

“One of the simplest things you can do is just go to no-till in the centers,” he said. Center can be mowed throughout the season, particularly prior to stages that vegetation might attract pests, leaving plant carbon residue behind for a variety of benefits, while some traditional weed control on berms may continue.

In his own blocks, he said they have planted wheat and oat crops in the middles of non-bearing pistachios. Rather than deep discing after harvest, he said they have successfully drilled seed back into the stubble for the next crop. The plan, he said, is to continue even with revenue-generating grain crops until larger equipment such as bailers and swathers no longer fit under the tree

canopy, establishing a volunteer seed bank that can be lightly reseeded with grasses such as Blando Brome to maintain a vegetated center.

When it comes to nutrition, Coelho said economics proven through research will drive the willingness of growers to adopt soil-building practices. High yields can still be achieved with sustainable practices in pistachio production. Compost applications, carbon residue from cover crops, carbon-based fertilizers and amendments contribute to greater N use efficiency, soil health and replacement of traditional inputs.

“Pistachios have strong potential to lean into sustainable practices,” Coelho said. “If you show the economics and feasibility to growers, that is when adoption of practices takes place.”

April 2024 www.wcngg.com 41
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Get Calcium Right This Year for Cleaner Soils and Heavier Crops

Well, well, well. Two years in a row of above-average rainfall?

“Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore…” What is this world coming to? We’ve now lived through the next coming ice age, global warming, rising seas, melting polar ice caps (the south, and then the north), a new lake in California (that isn’t really new), climate change and now global climate dynamics, all in 30 years. Pretty impressive on you growers to still be making it happen with all these factors moving the goal posts. The true predictable integer in this equation is that growers

are dynamic. And we whole heartedly thank you for that. In fact, the entire world thanks you for that. You people must be nuts!

Speaking of dynamics, actual nuts that grow on trees, unlike legumes on a bush that call themselves “pea”nuts, are very dynamic. Right now, that statement is more true than any other time of the year.

We’ve finished it and are sizing nicely in our almond orchards, while pistachios and walnuts are probably winding down as this article is published.

Cell Division

Typically, science tells us that nuts have about a month of hyperactive cell division. At that time, my favorite nutrient, calcium, is critical in making that happen. Of course, we have to have all 17 of the outsiders dialed in while Mother Nature provides us those other three in carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. But limited supplies of ionic calcium is critical for all those cells to keep dividing and remain strong. Calcium ions (Ca 2+) appear to participate in the regulation of several aspects of cell division.

42 West Coast Nut April 2024

Evidence is accumulating that transients or local gradients in the (Ca 2+) contribute to different events including nuclear envelope breakdown and reformation, cleavage furrow formation and growth, and cell plate formation. By the early to mid-70s, the ideas were in the air, and thus well before the actual documentation of the [Ca 2+], many scientists working on different aspects of plant growth and development were coming to recognize the potential importance of Ca 2+ as an intracellular signaling agent ” (Hepler 2005).

The problem with Ca is while it may be abundant in the soil, it is rarely significantly soluble enough to provide adequate levels at a consistent quantity. The soil pH, biology and moisture levels play a key role in making that happen. The programs I design for my growers always push many applications throughout the season of soluble Ca, chelators, complexors and biology to ensure this happens.

“Keep it Coming”

“While early work concentrated on the role of Ca as a nutrient and structural component, it has become more and more clear now that the main function of Ca lies in its ability to serve as a second messenger in a vast variety of physiological, developmental and stress-related processes, and indeed some of the observed effects of Ca application might also be connected to this function rather than being purely structural” (Thor 2019).

Here’s the other problem with Ca, unlike N: It is immobile in the plant once it finds a home. It does not relocate from old tissue to new tissue and growing points. We need a constant supply to ensure optimal health and yields. It is a secondary messenger, telling the plant to elicit responses to pathogens and stress. While it’s locked up in structural components of plants as they grow and repair, it can’t help with the secondary messenger duties or new structures. To me, this means, “Keep it coming!”

How about some more love? Elemental ionic Ca has two charges. It will lock on to soil and kick off two sodium molecules, cleaning up the ground as water percolates. It is also a

larger element and has a larger hydration radius. Ca helps wedge the ground open on a microscopic level and allows water to flow better. If you don’t apply a soluble Ca, you can acidify your water and break much of that Ca locked up as carbonates, bicarbonates, gypsum and even to some extent calcium phosphate to achieve some of that effect. You can also increase your soil health and functionality by improving your soil biology. Add some carbon sources, active biology, inactive residues from previous biological reactions and compost (in the form of actualv compost or teas.) Increase your C:N ratio if is not ideal at about 10:1

I harp on getting your Ca right because it is such an important element. There are so many things we need to do right to make it available and effective. With the cleaner and more abundant water, if our government allows it to be (?), we should be able to make more of this element available and instrumental in cleaning our soils and creating heavier crops. More cells,

healthier trees and heavier nuts means more money in our pockets at the end of the season. Healthier trees should equate to less crop protection products and less passes through our fields. That means less compaction. Better water use efficiency can translate into less electrical or diesel expenses to pump water. It all adds up. Effect your own change, change your practices a bit and put some more change in your pocket.


Hepler, Peter K. “Calcium: A Central Regulator of Plant Growth and Development,” The Plant Cell, Academic.oup. com/plcell/article/17/8/2142/6114599, August 8, 2005

Thor, Katherine. “Calcium, Nutrient and Messenger”, Frontiers, www. frontiers.org/journalists/plnt-science/ articles/10.3389/fpls, April 24, 2019

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Plant Bug Damage on the Rise: Tips for Combatting this Pest Management Challenge

One of the biggest tasks for almond growers each growing season is pest management. Growers must stay informed and vigilant on new and existing pests and understand how to deal with insects that can possibly threaten their crop.

Plant bugs, for example, are not a new pest for most almond growers but are quickly becoming a widespread issue in the industry. Over the last five years, PCAs have witnessed increasing pressure

from these insects, and they are finding their effects can linger from year to year.

The leaffooted bug, brown marmorated stink bug and boxelder bug are the main insects from the plant bug family that find their way into almond orchards. They damage the nuts, causing decreased yields and harvest rejects and in turn leaving behind dollars in the field instead of in the pockets of growers.

The good news is damage can be

kept to a minimum if these pests are diligently monitored, said Mateo Marquez, PCA at Integral Ag.

What Damage Looks Like

Damage caused by a plant bug is not linear. When a plant bug punctures a nut with its piercing, sucking mouthparts, the nut is not only physically damaged but also chemically damaged. This can occur either prior to shell hardening or post shell hardening,

44 West Coast Nut April 2024
Gumming is a sign of brown marmorated stink bug. When a plant bug punctures a nut with its piercing, sucking mouthparts, the nut is not only physically damaged but also chemically damaged.

Marquez said.

Prior to shell hardening, growers will notice damage has been done when some nuts begin turning yellow and eventually fall off the tree. After shell hardening, those damaged nuts are more likely to remain on the tree and hull split early. Gumming will start on the inside of the kernel that eventually becomes a brown spot.

“Plant bug-damaged nuts that stick in the tree tend to hull split early, as much as 14 or more days before healthy nuts hull split,” Marquez added.

Additionally, what experts are seeing is these nuts that split early can create a host site for navel orangeworm (NOW) by giving it an entry to cycle through the orchard and exacerbate a NOW issue.

Signs and Symptoms

Marquez noted identification is the “most important fundamental” when it comes to monitoring, and although tedious and time consuming, field scouting is the most effective way to discover a problem. As a proven gold standard practice for decades, it’s often obvious from year to year when a field has been scouted consistently.

Additionally, signs and symptoms are helpful clues, but they don’t always tell the whole story, especially when assessing the temporal aspects of the


damage. That’s why frequent, regular checks help growers and PCAs understand the issue at hand without having to fill in the gaps.

Each plant bug has different characteristics that make it detectable in the orchard. Spotting the insect itself is the goal, Marquez said, but there are also telltale signs that can be useful for identification.

The most common symptoms a grower should look for are gummosis on the sides of the nut, a puncture or hole through the shell resulting in damage to the developing nut, and egg masses along the shell.

It’s also important to note what aren’t plant bugs. Beneficials like the rough stink bug and the assassin bug can often be found in the field and easily mistaken for a harmful plant bug.

Likewise, signs and symptoms that appear as evidence of a plant bug can


Monitoring is important step to detect brown marmorated stink bug; sticky traps in the orchard are a good monitoring tool (all photos courtesy Almond Board of California.)

April 2024 www.wcngg.com 45


actually be nutrient deficiency or a diseased tree. Marquez expressed the importance of knowing the difference before making a treatment decision.

Tips for Monitoring

So how can growers know what to look for when it comes to monitoring for plant bugs? Marquez outlined a few tips to help growers recognize what’s happening in their orchards.

Know the field history. Visit the

field frequently and take notes. “If you had a block that had problems this year, there’s a good chance it had problems frequently in the past,” Marquez explained.

Assess nearby overwintering sites. Are you near a riparian or residential area? Plant bugs love to overwinter on structures or landscaping plants, so blocks of orchards near these areas can see increased damage if not actively monitored.

Look at the sunny sides of trees, especially in the mornings. Because insects do not generate their own heat, they will often be exposed where the sun is shining.

Concentrate on edges. “UC research has shown damage dissipates as you move into the orchard when it comes to plant bug damage, so the edges are really where you want to focus your attention,” Marquez noted.

Use a long stick or pole to knock branches. Trying to scan every nut on a tree can be very time-consuming, so this method can help speed up the process.

Use all your senses. Sometimes what sight cannot catch, smell or hearing can. For example, some plant bugs can put off a recognizable odor, and the clicking sounds they make can be very distinct.

Some varieties are more susceptible to damage than others. If you are a grower growing Independence, Aldrich, Monterey or Butte trees, know that these varieties are frequently targeted.

Treatment Options

If a plant bug problem is found in an orchard, it’s first important to consider how severe the infestation is and determine a plan of action for applying chemicals.

There are different options of chemicals for growers to choose from, but most opt to use a pyrethroid. While pyrethroids are the most effective and economical option, they also are the most broad-spectrum. This may result in pairing it with another chemical, which ultimately raises the treatment cost, Marquez warned.

Another option is clothianidin, a softer chemical that has less impact on

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beneficials and is found in pyrethroid alternatives, although it does not have the same residual effect and can require retreatment of fields.

Generally, chemical applications can be tricky depending on if it occurs prior to or after shell hardening. Marquez recommended assessing the issue at hand to determine if application can be delayed or combined with another chemical treatment to save the grower time and money.

“If it’s before the shell hardening period, the nuts that get stung are not going to end up in your grade,” he said. “While you’re going to lose some nuts, if it’s not that bad, we can delay until we know we’re going to have to spray for navel orangeworm or whatever treatment that’s coming up.”

Some growers with mixed varieties in their orchard can also cut time and costs by only spraying the varietal most prevalent to plant bug damage, Marquez suggested.

Adding to this challenge are the regulatory restrictions on chemical use coming down the pipeline. Marquez explained there is a potential for pyrethroids to be eliminated as a treatment method all together if this happens.

However, on a positive note, a new pheromone monitoring lure is currently in development, with hopes of making this process more streamlined for growers and PCAs alike, Marquez said. This product also has the potential for an “attract and kill program,” which sets out a specific number of traps per acre as a treatment instead of spraying.

Future Outlook

It’s no secret that plant bug pressures are undoubtedly increasing, so growers must take initiative on scouting their orchards and driving preventative and proactive measures before a problem arises.

“If you remember one thing from this, it’s to take time to scout your fields,” Marquez concluded. “That’s really what’s going to save you when it comes to plant bugs.”

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April 2024 www.wcngg.com 47

Early Legislative Outlook for 2024

In 2024, several Assembly Bills rise to the top of the concern lists with a ban on rodenticides, increased requirements for pesticides near schools, heat illness certification requirements and increased pesticide mill taxes.

Through the first couple months of this year, we are painfully reminded it is an election year. Couple that with a looming $73 billion budget deficit, new leaders in the Assembly and Senate and the legislative outlook in California for 2024 promises to be very interesting. Will 2024 bring even more regulatory pressures to a state that is the most heavily regulated by far? Or will they find new ways to spend even more money, which does not seem to be a problem for a state that went from a $98 billion surplus in 2022 to a $73 billion shortfall less than two years later. The deadline to introduce new bills just passed, and more than 2,100 new bills were introduced with over 600 of those being spot bills, so we will have to wait to see what those hold in store.

One thing for sure: There is always one bill that makes you wonder what goes through the legislature’s mind in times like this. One might think it is water concerns, homelessness a $58 billion budget deficit, overregulation, etc. Well, this year, AB 2504 was introduced that would establish the Black Abalone as the “State Seashell,” which I am sure is vitally important because we don’t have one. And if you think that won’t be a big deal, wait until the Pacific Mussel or Pismo Clam supporters get wind of this. It might even cause an uprising or, at the very least, long committee hear-

ings like those that occurred a few years ago when the California legislature named Augustynolophus Morrisi the State Dinosaur. Yes, the state legislature spends valuable time and money to debate and consider important, mission-critical issues like this.

Back to the real world, we have only had time to give a cursory review of the 2,100 new bills. Of these bills, several rise to the top of the concern lists with a ban on rodenticides, increased requirements for pesticides near schools, heat illness certification requirements and increased pesticide mill taxes. Potential opportunities might also exist with bills introduced to look at biomass, potential changes to classification of cargo thefts, exemptions for waste reporting for certain facilities and increased water storage. For now, I think it is important to take a deeper dive on what we know of some of the critical bills that have been newly introduced.

AB 1864 (Connolly)

This bill by Assemblyman Damon Connolly would require a county ag commissioner to require a notice of intent to be submitted before a person applies a pesticide within a quarter mile of a school site as specified. The bill would require the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to require a separate site identification number for

the portion of an agricultural field that lies within a quarter mile of a school site. The bill would also require DPR to modify and amend permit applications to include reporting on the specific method of applying the pesticide and the exact date and time of the start and end of the period during which the pesticide is to be applied. The bill would require the director to expand the scope of specified related regulations to also apply to private schools serving pupils in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12.

AB 2264 (Arambula)

This bill by Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula would, commencing July 1, 2028, requires an employee to obtain a heat illness prevention certification from the division within 30 days after the date of hire and to maintain a valid certification for the duration of their employment as specified. The bill would require the Division of Occupational Safety and Health to develop and make accessible the heat illness prevention certification process on its internet website by July 1, 2028 and to offer the certification process in English and in the five most-used non-English languages.

AB 2552 (Friedman)

This is a bill by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman that would expand the definition of a wildlife habitat area to

48 West Coast Nut April 2024

include open-space land. The bill would additionally prohibit the use of a second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide (SGAR) within 5,000 feet of a wildlife habitat area and prohibit the use of a first-generation anticoagulant rodenticide (FGAR) in or within 5,000 feet of a wildlife habitat area. The bill would prohibit the use of chlorophacinone or warfarin. This bill would make a person who sells or uses a SGAR or FGAR in violation of the aforementioned provisions liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $25,000 per day for each violation, in addition to any other penalty established by law. The bill would authorize any person to commence a civil suit to enjoin a person who is alleged to be in violation of the aforementioned provisions as specified. This bill is unprecedented and would give citizens unprecedented authority. The Association is actively opposing this far-reaching legislation.

AB 2658 (Bains)

This is an Association-sponsored bill carried by Assemblywoman Jasmeet Bains to provide an exemption for tree nut facilities from the SB 1383 waste reduction reporting requirements. Currently, some counties are requiring tree nut hullers and/or processors to register with the county and to report the food waste they send to a landfill, even if they don’t send anything. In some counties such as Tehama, this includes fees. The Association is actively fighting that requirement, and this legislation will exempt these facilities from that requirement.

SB 1153 (Hurtado)

This a bill by Senator Melissa Hurtado that would prohibit a hedge fund from purchasing, acquiring, leasing or holding a controlling interest, as defined, in agricultural land within the State of California. The bill would define a “hedge fund,” for these purposes, to mean a privately offered investment vehicle, foreign or domestic, that pools the contributions of private investors to invest in a variety of asset classes, such as securities, futures contracts, options, bonds, currencies, real estate, agricultural land, water, energy and other resources or commodities. This bill would exempt from this prohibition any agricultural land held by a hedge fund before the bill’s effective date. The bill would make land transferred in violation of these provisions subject to divestiture as specified.

SB 1374 (Becker)

This bill by Senator Josh Becker would require, no later than July 1, 2025, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to ensure any contract or tariff established by the commission pursuant to the aforementioned provisions for renewable electrical generation facilities configured to serve either multiple customers with meters on a single property, or multiple meters of a single customer on a property or a set of contiguous properties owned, leased or rented by the customer, meets certain requirements including that the eligible customer-generators may elect to aggregate the electrical load as specified. It is hoped this bill can fix the hole left behind this past year when CPUC eliminated “aggregation” for purposes of net energy metering, which is the only way agricultural

farms even had a fighting chance to use solar in the future.

New Leadership

Senator Mike McGuire (2nd) is the new Senate Pro Tempore taking over from Senator Toni Atkins, who is stepping down as Pro Tem to focus on running for Governor. Senator McGuire represents the North Coast of California, and we will have to see how Senator McGuire handles ag issues at this level. Meanwhile, the Assembly has a new Speaker as Assemblyman Robert Rivas (29th) has replaced outgoing Speaker Anthony Rendon. It was no secret that Assemblyman Rendon didn’t have a real affinity for agriculture. Assemblyman Rivas represents the Salinas Valley and Watsonville areas, so agriculture should be at or near the top of his interests, as will labor issues.

To wrap this up, this was a small subset of legislation that was introduced, and we are still combing through the bills to make sure we understand all their intended goals or how they might be modified to impact agriculture. Stay tuned for further updates as the legislative session continues throughout 2024. Meanwhile, take comfort in knowing we will have a state seashell named when it is over.

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April 2024 www.wcngg.com 49

A View from the North: April Orchard Considerations

Hmmm… time to assess the hand that Mother Nature has dealt as the orchards leaf out and the growing season begins. This isn’t draw poker; all cards are final.

Another wet winter is slowly ending. The rainfall amounts are good news but tree nut prices are below the cost of maintaining healthy, productive orchards and delivering high-quality crops. Still, a wet winter means a root zone full of sweet (not salty) moisture good early season reservoir levels. This means there is good potential for healthy orchards this season.

To balance that good news, there could be good chances of a large crop statewide, at least based on the season so far. Bloom weather was generally mild with some rain but much better bee hours than last year. With the number of acres in the ground, just an average crop per acre up and down the state should mean a statewide crop in the 3-billion-pound range (±0.1 billion pounds.)

So, with light prices relative to costs and good chances for an average-plus crop, what’s the plan to get through this season and next with the best results? Experi-

50 West Coast Nut April 2024
A wet winter means a root zone full of sweet moisture and clean surface water available.

enced growers I’ve talked to or heard speak generally agree that the trick to staying in the game long-term will be shaving costs without eliminating any basic proven practice: small ball, not homers. In a low-price market, dropping one or more proven practices risks further income loss through reduced yield, quality or both. Producing a good crop (yield and quality) will help if you are digging into equity to grow this crop. The shallower the hole dug now, the faster you should get out of it as things get better (hopefully they do before too long.)



The wet winter and surface water situation for 2024 is a big plus. As I write this, the federal water project allocation is at 75%, and the March forecast from the National Weather Service is for elevated chances of rain in the Sacramento and northern San Joaquin Valleys. Fingers crossed for a full allocation this year.

Improving your game in irrigation is a solid goal. Start out the season with good irrigation distribution. Mobile labs can help take the measures. Good irrigation is the most important factor in successful tree crop production. Period. There is no more important activity in an arid land. The best tree health, crop yield and pest management are delivered under good irrigation practices. The best tool for determining irrigation status is the pressure chamber. If you are new to this topic or want a source of information for review, check out the excellent nine-article series on stem water potential listed in the reference articles at the end of the column.

If you are not using a pressure chamber, soil moisture and/or evapotranspiration (ET) estimates plus soil water holding capacity can be used to gauge soil dry-down to the point where an irrigation set refills but not overfills the soil profile, harming root health. See the Almond Board’s Irrigation Continuum in the references. Irrigation is important, and using several monitoring tools helps get it right.

The goal of April irrigation is to shift smoothly from rainfed to hose-

fed soil moisture without stressing the tree with too much water (bad for root health) or too little (limits shoot/spur that limits future flower sites).


T he 2023 navel orangeworm (NOW) damage levels were rough. While it’s too early to know how the 2024 NOW season will turn out, some early points are worth noting. There is a general sense that while sanitation was better this past winter than the previous winter, there are mummies in many orchards, and given the damage last year, there should be more NOW in the surviving mummies than last year. This means more NOW overall pressure as the season starts.

Comparing spring NOW egg numbers to past years will help bring the pressure situation into focus. Biofix (first eggs of the season) should be around mid-April at the earliest this year in the Sacramento Valley. The trap count history over the last 10 years at the Nickels Soil Lab in Arbuckle suggests NOW biofix in those orchards

will be somewhere around April 13 to 19. A later biofix often means, but doesn’t guarantee, that more of the second generation of NOW eggs goes on the new season nuts than the mummies. That can mean building pressure as Nonpareil harvest approaches in August. We’ll know more as the season progresses.

What are effective NOW management practices in the spring? Mating disruption (NOW MD) reduced net economic loss when processor reject numbers were 1% or higher in UC trials in two years. The work was done in 2017-18 when tree nut prices were higher, so the breakeven point might need to be adjusted slightly higher, but if you had industry-average damage of 4% to 5% reject losses in 2023, MD would have more than paid for itself based on the UC research results. All commercial, season-long products were equally effective in UC trials when used

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following manufacturers’ guidelines. The larger the acreage that uses NOW MD, the better the effect on the moths and the reduction of damage. Almond Board of California has put together an interactive map where growers can share location of orchards with mating disruption (and walnuts and pistachios) and, perhaps, build a larger area where the NOW population may be reduced. See the site at agneighbors.com.

The “mummy sprays” targeting early egg laying on mummies can have value, especially if there are lots of mummies in the orchard. However, an early spray for NOW should be an additional spray, not one used in place of a hullsplit spray. The current recommendation from UC researchers and advisors is two sprays of effective, long-lasting materials (Altacor, Intrepid, Intrepid Edge, etc.) in June/July targeting the second generation of NOW followed by timely harvest. A mummy spray should be in addition to the two hullsplit sprays, and that gets expensive.

Where will the money come from to pay for the increase in NOW control practices most probably needed to get through 2024 with a reasonably clean crop? One place could be biological spider mite management. With good irrigation and careful monitoring for spider mites and their predators, especially sixspotted thrips, miticides may not be needed this year. See monitoring details at the end of the column, especially the YouTube video with David Haviland.

True bugs (stinkbugs and leaffooted bugs) are a growing problem in many regions of the state. Brown-spot on harvested almonds is believed to be from stinkbug, especially green stinkbug, which overwinter in almond orchards. Look for barrel-shaped eggs in masses, often on almond hulls. More information on stink bugs is available from UC IPM.

Get ahead of ant damage this spring before the rush of harvest. Scout for protein-feeding ants beginning in April to June. Talk with your PCA regarding control options if scouting shows a need.


Talk with your PCA/CCA about disease risk and control options based on current orchard conditions and forecast weather. Disease pressure builds in an orchard, especially spring and summer diseases, so knowing when conditions are risky is key to best disease control. Almond Board of California, working with UC researchers and Semios, has sponsored a disease prediction

webpage that forecasts relative risk of anthracnose, alternaria, bacterial spot and bacterial blast in general regions of the state. See the page at ag-radar. com/almond. The password is Almondboard2022.

Almond rust is a foliar disease not covered in the disease prediction webpage. Weekly monitoring helps ID early symptoms and apply control sprays before the infections spread and defoliation occurs at harvest.

Rust on the front and back of the same leaf, showing the difference between the two. Phytophthora can damage walnuts too (photo by John M. Mircetich, copyright UC Regents.)
52 West Coast Nut April 2024
This photo shows a puffer in an almond tree used for NOW mating disruption, an effective strategy for keeping NOW levels down.

Where water stood for days after heavy rains on susceptible rootstocks (see new UC info on almond rootstocks) this past winter and/or spring, PRCR (phytophthora root and crown rot) maybe an issue. Talk with your PCA about new and established fungicide options for phytophthora control. Growers now have multiple effective options. See page 37 of the 2022 Fungi cide Efficacy and Timing publication for efficacy of registered products.

After the wet winter last year, aerial phytophthora infections were common up and down the Central Valley. Phosphite materials are the most effective material against aerial phytophthora and should go on as a foliar spray soon as enough leaf area has developed. Blocks with vulnerable rootstocks (especially peach and peach x almond hybrid) and saturated soils in the spring are most at-risk.


If it’s a big crop this year, nitrogen and potassium demand will be up, and meeting that demand could cost hun dreds of dollars per acre. Early season leaf sampling/analysis results can help learn if crop nutrient demand is high or low, so be as efficient as possible with fertilizer inputs. Relatively low levels of leaf N early in the season can indicate a large crop and the need for more N fertilizer.

The early leaf sampling window in almond is 45 days (±6 days) after full bloom using the UC Davis April sam pling protocol. See details of the sam pling and analysis (and more crucial N management info) in the free Management Practices for Nitrogen booklet from Almond Board of California. See page 14 for details on the early season sampling protocol. Private labs have developed their own guidelines for interpreting early season leaf sample results. Talk with your CCA about what is available.

in walnut can be delayed for weeks beyond the traditional start time with little impact on trees, and with water and money savings to the grower. This should be done with the help of pressure chamber readings to track orchard water status and using an irrigation threshold of -2 to -3 bars below (more

and help reduce irrigation costs.


Walnut blight is a major pest of walnut, and the traditional approach to managing blight is a combination of two of copper, EBDC fungicide (Dithane, Manzate, etc.) or the new bactericide Kasumin® for both highly effective


Walnut bloom may just be getting started as April begins and this issue hits your mailbox and or inbox.


Recent research suggests first irrigation

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constant through the summer, so the recommendation is to apply 25% of the annual budget each month from May through August. In the case of the example from above, this works out to 40 lb. N (11.3 gallons UN-32)/acre/month from May through August.

Potassium is important for productive walnut orchards, and K should be added to keep July leaf K levels at 1.5% K or above. Potassium demand in walnut is generally less than in almond, partially because hull pieces drop through the walnut pickup chain and return K to the soil as they degrade.

Best wishes for a good nut set for all growers and a rise in price for walnut and almonds.


Climate forecast: cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/


Mobile irrigation labs: tehamacountyrcd.org/mobile-irrigation-lab sutterrcd.specialdistrict.org/mobile-irrigation-lab-367e01c



Irrigating almonds

almonds.com/sites/default/files/2020-02/Almond-Irrigation-Improvement-Continuum. pdf


Irrigating walnuts

https://www.sacvalleyorchards.com/walnuts/ irrigation-walnuts/spring-start/



ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/almond/webspinning-spider-mites/ ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/almond/stinkbugs/

ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/almond/ants/ ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/almond/ants/ youtube.com/watch?v=ufJ4VCa-IFI (a great video on spider mite monitoring with David Haviland, UCCE Entomology Advisor in Kern Co)

https://ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/ (At the bottom of this page is a link to the free, 73-page document from UC IPM “Fungi-

cides, bactericides, biocontrols, and natural products for deciduous tree fruit and nut, citrus, strawberry and vine crops in California, 2022.)

sacvalleyorchards.com/almonds/ trunk-soil-diseases/aerial-phytophthora-outbreaks-in-wet-years/ Recent article on aerial phytophthora from UC experts. Lots of great pictures.






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

April 2024 www.wcngg.com 55

Economist Shares Where Cutting Costs in Almond and Walnut Hurt and Help the Most

Recent UC Davis cost and return studies on almond and walnut in the Sacramento Valley showed low prices and high input costs have been significant in lowering profitability for growers. Results from the studies, which are enterprise budgets for various California crops, were discussed at the North Valley Nut Conference on January 31 in Chico, Calif.

While the results were notably not positive, presenter Brittney Goodrich, an assistant professor of cooperative extension at UC Davis, hoped to provide strategies that growers can use to try to come out ahead in these trying times by evaluating profitability in their operations.

Almond Study Estimates

Goodrich presented 2023 preliminary estimates for the Sacramento Valley almond production cost and returns study and compared preliminary estimates with the same study completed in 2019. It presumed 100 acres with 124 trees per acre at a 16’ x 22’ spacing and assumed traditional varieties planted. Microsprinkler irrigation with a 25-year life span and production year yield was also assumed at 2,200 lbs/acre. Labor costs included taxes and workers compensation, with equipment labor at $28.60/hour and non-equipment labor at $25.74/hour.

“Overwhelmingly, you see everything is increasing in price; unfortunately, all of our inputs are increasing, but then our almond prices are not increasing, so it’s not looking super promising,” Goodrich said, but noted the numbers were prelim-

inary and may be subject to change before publishing.

The estimates showed prices increased across the board, with costs like insecticides growing with the addition of mating disruption considerations as well as increased water costs.

Goodrich said while it looks like labor costs are decreasing on paper, that’s just because they added a custom pesticide application that’s not done by the farmworkers on the farm.

“So, then they’ve taken that out of the labor costs, but overall labor costs are increasing since 2019,” she said.

Interest rates have also increased significantly to 8.5%, compared to 5.25% in 2019.

“In order to break even on operating costs, we’d need about $1.74/pound on almonds,” she said. “We’re not quite there, so we’re losing a little bit of money this year.”

Cash overhead, which includes various expenses assigned to a whole farm and not a particular operation, such as office expenses, have increased by about 38%, Goodrich explained. These included environmental and regulatory fees, which increased across this study as well as other studies, she said. This category also showed crop insurance numbers at a 70% coverage level at about $42/acre.

“For those of you thinking about crop insurance options, there are cheaper options available, especially in times when prices are relatively low like they are now,” she said.

The study looked at non-cash overhead costs like capital recovery costs for equipment and other farm investments where you need to pay on a loan each year.

“Orchard establishment costs have more than doubled,” she said, which is due to the high interest rates. “So, that’s part of the reason why that orchard establishment cost is increasing quite substantially.”

Net returns also didn’t look good in the study, which showed them in the negative.

“We’re not covering our operating costs in this orchard, and that’s just not a sustainable way to move forward in farming,” Goodrich said.

Walnut Study Estimates

Goodrich presented results from the Sacramento Valley cost and return study on walnuts, which was published in 2022, and she compared costs with the same study completed in 2018. It looked at 100 acres with 64 trees/acre at a 26’ x 26’ spacing on Chandler or clonal Paradox rootstocks. Like the almond study, it considered microsprinkler irrigation. The life production assumed was 30 years, and labor costs included an additional 45% for taxes and worker compensation and put equipment operator costs at $26.10/hour and non-equipment costs at $22.48/hour with production at 6,000 lbs/acre.

The study showed a similar story to the almond study, showing that everything increased, Goodrich said.

“Everything from labor, machinery, water, again, has increased substantially; we’re using $16/acre-inch, and then fairly low walnut prices in 2022,” she said.

The breakeven operating cost per

UC Davis' Brittney Goodrich shared data on the minimum price needed in order to cover costs of production. For almonds, she said the break-even rate came in at $3.29.
56 West Coast Nut April 2024
Brittney Goodrich, an assistant professor of cooperative extension at UC Davis, provided strategies for growers to maximize profitability in their operations at the North Valley Nut Conference in January (all photos by K. Platts.)

pound was 57 cents, and the study used 50 cents per pound.

“Again, we’re not recouping our operating costs,” Goodrich said.

Similar in terms of cash overhead costs, she said they didn’t change a lot of aspects between 2018 and 2022, so the main increases were on property tax and insurance. Also, non-cash overhead costs increased by about 41% due to orchard investment costs increasing substantially due to much higher interest rates.

“We’re not making money, it’s not sustainable, but hopefully we can get to a point where we have slightly higher prices and we can at least be covering our operating costs each year,” Goodrich said.

She said it’s really important for growers to consider break-even prices to reflect what the minimum price needed would be in order to cover costs of production. For walnuts, she said that number would need to be about $1.24/lb in order to cover all costs, which takes into account the high interest rates.

“If you established your walnut orchard 15 years ago, you’re not going to have to cover $1.24 because you had a much cheaper loan that you’ve taken out,” she said.

For almonds, she said the break-even

almonds increased from 43% to 45%, while regular inflation is increasing at 15% to 17%.

“What that means is our input costs are increasing way more rapidly than the overall inflation of the economy as a whole, which is unfortunate,” she said.

Tools and Tips for Survival

Growers interested in examining how costs have fluctuated over the years can use UC Davis’s cost study website to see the costs and returns on a number of crops along with archive studies dating all the way back to the 1930s.

The site recently started providing Excel spreadsheets, in addition to the PDF formats, to help growers update their own costs. The spreadsheets are currently available for walnuts and prunes and will be available soon for almonds.

“As walnut or almond prices change, you can use that to kind of look at the dynamic nature of farming,” Goodrich said.

UC Davis also has a navel orangeworm (NOW) IPM economic calculator available for almond and will expand to walnuts and pistachios in the future. The calculator, available on the cost and return study page, will allow growers to plug in expected price and yield in

NOW this past year,” she said. “And we’re not necessarily trying to maximize yield because you can spend a ton of money to try and maximize yield, but does that actually make sense?”

Goodrich said it’s important to think about all the possible repercussions of the production practices as you make them. For example, decreasing your target walnut yield from 6,000 lbs/acre to 5,000 lbs/ acre while reducing revenue a bit would also reduce costs elsewhere, she explained, such as with irrigation, fertilizer and pest control.

“It’s really about trying to get folks to think about things in a creative way, because that’s what we have to be doing right now,” she said.

Adjusting crop insurance policies can also be a way to save on costs, but Goodrich warns against making any changes without consulting your crop insurance agent first. With crop insurance costs in the almond study showing about $42/acre, she said there are ways to balance the cost a bit. Growers may want to consider catastrophic protection, since it’s highly subsidized and only costs $655 per crop, per county, regardless of the number of acres.

“If you’re thinking about cutting your


Proposals Impacting Rodenticides Could Have Far-Reaching Impacts on Agriculture, Infrastructure and Human Health

Western Plant Health (WPH) recently submitted comments on the U.S. EPA’s “Draft Biological Evaluation, Effects Determinations, and Mitigation Strategy for Federally Listed and Proposed Endangered and Threatened Species and Designated and Proposed Critical Habitats” concerning rodenticide use. This far-reaching federal proposal could have tremendous impacts on the Western U.S.

But the threat to public health and safety is not only at risk at the federal level. In California, legislation (AB 2552 , by Assemblymember Laura Friedman) would ban the use of firstand second-generation rodenticides in wildlife areas, which would be redefined as any “open space” and require a 5,000-foot buffer around that area. In addition, it would allow any individual to file a private right of action against any applicator of a rodenticide on behalf of individual animals, wildlife or wildlife species at risk of being “harassed.” “Harassment” includes injury to an animal by annoying it to such an extent as to disrupt normal behavioral patterns, including but not limited to breeding, feeding or sheltering. This bill would substantially eliminate the ability to utilize rodenticides to protect the public and food supplies from diseases spread by rodents.

WPH supports minimizing the risks to non-target species when utilizing rodenticides through risk-mitigation measures. Rodent control specialists are regularly trained to survey and monitor rodent patterns correctly to target harmful rodents, and safely and efficiently utilize bait stations that con-

Rodent populations carry a range of diseases that pose significant health risks to humans and cause considerable damage to infrastructure, agriculture and the environment (photo by Cecilia Parsons.)
58 West Coast Nut April 2024
Assembly Bill 2552 looks to ban the use of first- and second-generation rodenticides in wildlife areas, which would be redefined as any “open space” and require a 5,000-foot buffer around that area (photo by Vicky Boyd.)

trol rodents while protecting non-target species. However, we oppose any proposed measures that compromise the effectiveness of the tools that can effectively control rodent populations. Uncontrolled rodent populations can cause death and substantial health and economic hardship to growers, warehouses and communities.

There is no argument that rodenticides are crucial tools for controlling rodent populations. These populations carry a range of diseases that pose significant health risks to humans and cause considerable damage to infrastructure, agriculture and the environment.

Health Risks of Rodents

The U.S. National Park Service notes rodents are carriers of fatal diseases and directly transmit several viruses, including hantavirus, leptospirosis, listeria, rat bite fever, rat lung disease and salmonellosis. These pathogens can infect humans through various routes, including direct handling, bites or contact (through breathing in air or eating food) with feces, urine or saliva. They also serve as the hosts for ectoparasite vectors (such as ticks or fleas) that transmit other diseases, including Lyme disease, bubonic plague, tularemia, murine typhus and tickborne relapsing fever.

These diseases have critical health implications, from respiratory issues and asthma, especially in children, to food contamination on farms, in homes and restaurants.

The Associated Press reported in 2017 the case of Ben Manilla and Eliza Lape, a newlywed couple from the Bay Area who contracted rat lungworm disease while honeymooning in Hawaii. Rat lungworm disease, a brain-infecting condition, led to severe medical complications for the couple following their stay in the Hana area of Maui. Ben Manilla, a lecturer at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, faced a dire health ordeal, including a monthlong intensive care unit stay, numerous operations, two instances of pneumonia, a blood clot and ongoing kidney issues.

Students and teachers at Villa Park Elementary School “were covered in

itchy, red bites after rats invaded an elementary school in Southern California.” CBS Los Angeles reported “rats were found underneath some portable classrooms. Health officials said the bumps that were reported by the students and faculty were caused by tiny bugs that live on rats.” After the news broke, vector control workers were sent to eradicate the rodents.

In the agricultural sector, roof

rats can run rampant in California orchards, according to UC ANR scientists. “In pistachio and other nut orchards, roof rats are burrowing and nesting in the ground where they’re chewing on irrigation lines, causing extensive damage,” said Rachael Long, UCCE farm advisor. “And it’s not just the fruit damage. They nest in citrus

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trees, feeding on the fruit and terrifying field workers when they jump out as people are picking the fruit. The chewing pests are also girdling tree limbs, causing branch dieback.”

These experiences are a stark reminder of the potential for severe health outcomes from diseases that are often overlooked or underestimated.

Economic Impact of Rodent Infestations

The economic implications of rodent infestations and the need for rodenticides are significant. With up to $504 million in annual losses to California agriculture due to rodent damage, the ability to use rodenticides is crucial for protecting crops and orchards. The potential loss of this tool could exacerbate economic and health issues associated with rodent infestations.

In 2009, CDFA, in partnership with the National Wildlife Research Center, conducted a study on the annual effects of rodents on 22 agricultural commodities across 10 counties throughout the state. The study found in Monterey

County, crop damage caused by rodent infestation was responsible for between $44 million and $128 million in annual revenue loss and 515 to 1,514 jobs.

Effectiveness of Rodenticides

Maintaining the use of rodenticides is supported by their proven effectiveness. California’s Integrated Pest Management Programs, which include rodenticides, are essential for preventing and eradicating pests. California’s stringent regulations on rodenticide applications and decades of scientific and health-related studies show rodenticides protect public health and the environment, highlighting the necessity of these tools for pest control.

In Los Angeles, we witnessed the reappearance of what Governor Newsom described as a medieval disease: typhus. In 2022, the last year of full reporting, there were 171 cases of typhus just in Los Angeles County alone. This medieval sickness is spread through fleas infected by rodents that carry the disease to new human hosts. To control the spread from rodents to people or to

family pets that then spread to people, the City of Los Angeles and other cities used rodenticides to protect our most at-risk populations.

Recently, the California EPA building management was battling a rat infestation. The building management tried “going green” for several weeks to solve the infestation. An activist group, Owls for Peace, wanted the building management to send in cats and owls, but not the “vicious mongoose” because “they are unreliable.”

After five weeks of going green, the Sacramento Bee reported the rats keep winning. “In an email to staff late in the afternoon on June 13, CalEPA officials announced that in the coming days they would be setting out a type of second-generation anti-coagulant poison to kill the rats that had overrun the I Street building’s exterior courtyard, which shares a playground with a daycare center used by the children of state government workers.”

In Malibu High School, administrators spent weeks dealing with their rat infestation. The Santa Monica-Malibu

60 West Coast Nut April 2024
With up to $504 million in annual losses to California agriculture due to rodent damage, the ability to use rodenticides is crucial for protecting crops and orchards (photo courtesy University of California.)

Unified School District also took a “green approach” to the infestation by “trimming trees to minimize access in the buildings; working with staff to ensure food is not left out and trash cans remain closed; asking everyone on campus to keep doors closed to campus buildings; installing snap traps throughout the campus; sending Best Management Practices cleaning teams to clean affected areas; and have the director of maintenance and operations, manager of operations and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tech walk around the campus with the principal, Dr. Michelle Nye, to address the issues.” But similar to the CalEPA building efforts, the rats were winning.

Malibu school officials said, “The problem is so bad that rodents have been gnawing through some garbage bins… It’s so severe that Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati has resorted to the authorization of using poison that rankled some of those in attendance.”

Rodenticides, developed through rigorous scientific research and regulatory scrutiny, have consistently proven to be one of the most effective tools for controlling rodent populations. These products are designed with a deep understanding of rodent behavior and biology, ensuring targeted and efficient management of infestations. Moreover, the industry is committed to continuous improvement and innovation, developing formulations that minimize environmental impact and non-target exposure while maintaining efficacy.

Public Perception and Education

WPH supports a balanced approach that protects public health and educates

the public about the importance of rodent control and the responsible use of rodenticides.

Rodents are not merely a nuisance; they are carriers of diseases and can significantly impact public health, agricultural yield and property. WPH members employ stringent safety measures and adhere to California’s strict regulatory guidelines to ensure our products are used effectively and with minimal environmental impact.

Public perception and awareness are crucial in understanding the balance between pest control and environmental stewardship. By fostering informed conversations, we aim to demystify the role of rodenticides in public health and safety, emphasizing our dedication to responsible pest management and environmental care.

California’s Regulatory Framework

While exploring alternatives and mitigation measures is meaningful, the California legislature must consider the limitations and effectiveness of these alternatives compared to rodenticides. The regulatory framework in California ensures that rodenticides are used responsibly, emphasizing the need for certified professionals in their application.

The consequences of eliminating the

ment solutions that address immediate rodent infestation concerns and longterm environmental health.


AB 2552: https://leginfo.legislature. ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_ id=202320240AB2552

National Park Service notes: https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/rodent-borne-diseases.htm

Bay Area Couple: https://www. cbsnews.com/sanfrancisco/news/hawaii-honeymoon-rat-lungworm-disease-bay-area-couple/

CBS News Rash spreads: https:// www.cbsnews.com/news/rash-spreadsamong-students-teachers-after-rats-invade-calif-elementary-school/

CA Department of Food and Ag Study: https://www.victorpest.com/ articles/economic-effects-of-rodent-infestation

Los Angeles Typhus: https:// www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/02/07/typhus-outbreaklos-angeles-flea-borne-disease-cityhall/2799275002/

Sacramento Bee: https://www. sacbee.com/news/environment/article233592047.html

Malibu High Took a Green Approach: https://malibutimes.com/article_7fbd-


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UC Davis Professor Ken Shackel reviewed some basics for walnut and almond growers to time and measure irrigation sets to improve water use efficiency and crop quality. Shackel, in a talk on irrigation advancements in walnut and almond at the North Valley Nut Conference in January, reiterated findings of a 10-year study on delaying irrigation onset in walnut.

The study was instated after Shackel talked with a Red Bluff grower situated along the river who expressed worry over the visible stress on his trees when water was halted before harvest. This prompted speculation that perhaps insufficient water was provided throughout the season, leading to water depletion. Concurrently, he noted concerns that initiating irrigation too early in spring might induce symptoms



such as dark kernels and leaf issues.

“So, we thought, even though the trees are stressed at harvest, maybe, actually, you were putting too much water on,” he said.

A 2014-24 delay trial tested, rather than matching the full evapotranspiration (ET), which starts with leaf-out in April and gets close to 40 inches in the season, holding off on irrigating until trees show stem water potential (SWP) that is at least a little drier (about 2 bars) than the fully irrigated baseline.

“We said, ‘Maybe what we want to do is wait to start irrigating whenever it occurs until the trees are a little bit drier than what we call the fully irrigated baseline,’” he said.

What researchers found was instead of starting in midApril, they were able to delay until May or June for the first irrigation, which is when weather starts to heat up.

“The first time we did this, the grower was very nervous because everybody else was irrigating and it was hot, but we were measuring the trees and they were okay,” he said.

Shackel shared a graph showing the average over 10 years comparing the experiment in the Red Bluff orchard with a standard grower’s orchard. In addition to delaying the irrigation, data revealed the grower didn’t actually apply anywhere near 100% of water ET to the trees.

“The reason why we were able to delay as well as not keep up with ET during the season, was that our delay was based

Jim Britton jimbritton1022@gmail.com (559) 994-1221 Bri on Ag Consulting
62 West Coast Nut April 2024
Research is exploring the effectiveness of automation as an alternative to pressure bomb readings for measuring stem water potential.

UC Davis Professor Ken Shackel recently presented on research in irrigation advancements in walnut and almond that showed delaying irrigation later in the season in walnut and cutting back water in almond during hull split can have some advantages (photo by K. Platts.) Shackel said it is OK to fertigate early in the season without starting irrigation in earnest.

on what the grower did, once we turned on the valve, we just let the trees get what the grower got,” he said. “Usually after the first year after the experiments, the grower changed what they did and they delayed some and didn’t go all the way up to full ET, and the reason why was, typically, our trees looked just as

good or better than their trees.”

Shackel also shared results from a trial that began in 2019 on a walnut orchard in Yuba City which showed every inch of rain in the winter from December to April allows a grower to start irrigating about two days later. He noted two days was a ballpark number,

and they would ideally like to do more complete studies, but said the results were impressive.

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gating, or you need to fertigate, doesn’t mean you have to start irrigating in earnest,” Shackel said. “I think we can make a practical conclusion that waiting for two to three bars below the baseline is a safe practice.”

In terms of yield and quality on the trials, he said it was kind of a wash.

“There’s not a lot of difference; we get a little improvement in quality on the delayed trees, but it’s hard to measure,” he said.

A Patterson orchard showed the same thing was happening, until 2022, when it yielded a substantial reduction

at 18%, but ended up 11% over the control the following year.

Shackel’s take-home message for walnut growers is it’s probably not a good idea to start irrigation right at leaf-out to avoid root health issues, and it’s best to allow soil to dry, particularly after a wet winter, which will both save water and result in healthier trees.

Measuring SWP in Almonds

Even under normal water availability conditions, there are benefits of water stress in almonds during hull split and a lot of reasons growers might want to consider cutting back on irrigation during that window, according to Shackel. Those reasons include speeding up hull split, reducing hull rot due to the sped-up process, reducing the navel orangeworm period, a reduction in sticktights, which improves harvestability, and saving water. 14 to 18 bars SWP during hull split is recommended in order to obtain those benefits.

Shackel said he’s often asked why he can’t just tell growers how much to irrigate, and he said it comes down to what kind of soil you’re on and why you need to measure SWP, especially for deficit irrigation. Referring to an orchard on the same irrigation line but planted on two different soil types, he said, is a really good example of why trees on two different soil types on the same irrigation line can show two very different outcomes of stress.

“It’s really hard to say how much irrigation; you have to at least try to check the trees to kind of calibrate what that means for your soil and your situation,” he said.

When determining how much water might be needed at a given time, Shackel said he’s often asked if there are any good, automated ways to use a pressure bomb or pressure chamber, which measures SWP. After spending a good amount of his career looking at alternatives to the pressure chamber, he said good options include the FloraPulse sensor and the Saturas sensor, which both measure the same thing.

But measuring SWP in an automated way has never been simple, he said.

“It’s amazing that the pressure chamber, as old as it is, is still doing the job,” Shackel said.

He noted there have been some recent developments around other devices that measure additional things that might be related to SWP, including one that measures the shrinking and swelling of the trunk, and a sensor that plugs into the tree and is designed to measure the gallons of water used by the tree.

“So, the important thing here is which ones are reliable enough to do the job to tell you when to irrigate,” he said.

Ultimately, he said the two he worked with that measure SWP reliably are the pressure bomb and the FloraPulse SWP sensor.

He said that last year’s stress treatment results in almond showed fully automated, plant-based irrigation control is possible with a reliable measure of plant stress, and the two devices showed a one-to-one line between what the pressure chamber says and what the sensors say.

“This is what’s very important: If you have something reliable, then it can actually be used to monitor water and control water,” he said.

In last year’s test, Shackel said he had two stress treatments on almond trees, a moderate stress treatment with a goal of 20 bars and a severe stress treatment with a goal of 25 to 30 bars.

“Trees kind of get relaxed during the night because there isn’t much demand on them, and then during the day, they dip down because they’re sucking water out of the soil,” he said. “And that’s what this measures, and it measures it really accurately.”

Shackel suggests tackling the issue of too much water in walnut and too little water in almond comes down to delaying irrigation to mitigate excessive water in walnut while reducing water for almond during hull split. He also anticipates automated management advancements are on the horizon and emphasized SWP holds the promise of dependable irrigation management for both crops.

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An example of early season irrigation in almonds (photo by Luke Milliron.)
64 West Coast Nut April 2024
A pump-up pressure chamber being used in walnuts (photo by Luke Milliron.)

Time to check your soil condition

As we are in the peak of water utilization for nut crop production, it is a critical time to check in with your orchard’s soil condition. One thing to consider is water penetration of the soil. Water penetration issues are typically either chemical or physical causes. While physical causes such as compaction or hard pan within the soil profile can be difficult to address in-season, soil chemistry can easily be adjusted to improve water penetration in-season.

How does soil chemistry affect water penetration?

High fertilizer salts can ‘thicken’ the soil, sealing it so that water cannot penetrate. A high bicarbonate content (from irrigation water) has similar effects to fertilizer salts. In particular, excess magnesium or sodium causes individual clay particles to clump together, blocking the soil pores. To restore water penetration magnesium and sodium need to be displaced. This can be done with calcium added in the irrigation water

Calcium is a double positive charge cation. When applied to the soil, calcium will push salts with a single positive charge off the clay particle–allowing it to leach from the soil profile.

The tricky part is that calcium needs to be readily available to make real-time corrections or adjustments.

“Water Soluble Gypsum” is not as soluble as people think, as it is only 0.24% soluble. For example, applying 450 pounds/acre/ season of the supposed water-soluble gypsum, with this level of solubility, would only supply 0.25 pounds/ acre/season of soluble, immediately available calcium to the soil solution. This isn’t very efficient for inseason adjustments.

This is one of the reasons OMEX® developed Cell Power® SLYCE 8% Calcium.

Cell Power® SLYCE 8% Calcium contains readily available calcium. Is a liquid calcium nitratebased material, formulated with short-chained sugars and organic acids to help

synergize the soluble calcium in the blend. The product allows for a wide range of application method (i.e. drip/micro irrigation, shank, broadcast, etc.,). The labeled rates are 1-5 gallons/acre/application. Nonetheless, depending on your specific situation most growers apply ½-1 gallon per acre as an initial application rate and then

every 2-3 weeks at 1-2 quarts/acre. Assuming the lack of soluble calcium is the issue, this is one product you can use to help water infiltrate into the crops’ active root zone.

Learn more at


The product names and brands referenced here are registered and trademarks of OMEX® Agrifluids, Inc.

Call 559-661-6138 Visit www.OMEXusa.com Email omexusa@omex.com

® Cell Power® SLYCE®

opening up soils with OMEX® plant nutrition technology

The benefits of Cell Power® SLYCE®

Provides organic compounds which increases the soil available fertility by reacting with granular nutrients to release their components for a faster and more efficient fertilizer use by plants

Promotes plant health

Cell Power® SLYCE® increases the plants ability to counter stress., and creates a good living envrionment for beneficial microbial masses

Aids water penetration and increases the permeability of the soil profile, providing better soil moisture movement for developing crops

Stimulates seed germination in a short time, greatly increasing the harvest and fruits quality

Boosts soils

Cell Power® SLYCE® increases the organic matter of soil and improves soil

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