West Coast Nut - January 2023

Page 1

MOCKSI PLANT GROW TH REGULATOR PERIOD. Kim-C1, LLC © 2022 K im- C1, LLC. All rights reser ved. MOCKSI and K im- C1, LLC logo are registered trademarks of K im- C1, LLC. Always read and Contact Ben Letizia at 559-284-1392 or benl@kimc1.com for more information MOCKSI® PLANT GROW TH REGULATOR HIGHER YIELDS. NOW MORE THAN EVER, TURN TO THE POWER OF MOCKSI TO POWER YOUR ALMOND RETURNS! Kim-C1, LLC © 2022 K im- C1, LLC. All rights reser ved. MOCKSI and K im- C1, LLC Contact Ben Letizia at 559-284-1392 or benl@kimc1.com for more information MOCKSI® PLANT GROW TH REGULATOR B egin planning for 2023’s almond bloom NOW, understand the benefits of a MOCKSI application and be ready for a strong 2023! Kim-C1, LLC Contact Ben Letizia at 559-284-1392 or benl@kimc1.com for more information PLANT GROW TH REGULATOR B egin planning for 2023’s almond bloom NOW, understand the benefits of a MOCKSI application and be ready for a strong 2023! Kim-C1, LLC © 2023 K im- C1, LLC. All rights reser ved. MOCKSI and K im- C1, LLC logo are registered trademarks of K im- C1, LLC. Always read and follow label direc tions. 559-228-3311 Contact Ben Letizia at 559-284-1392 or benl@kimc1.com for more information

Publisher: Jason Scott

Email: jason@jcsmarketinginc.com

Editor: Marni Katz

Email: marni@jcsmarketinginc.com

Associate Editor: Cecilia Parsons

Email: cecilia@jcsmarketinginc.com

Production: design@jcsmarketinginc.com

Award Winning Editorial By the Industry, For the Industry IN THIS ISSUE

Almond Board of California Contributing Writer

Vicky Boyd Contributing Writer

Kathy Coatney Contributing Writer

Brittney Goodrich

Assistant Professor of Cooperative Extension, Dept. of Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Davis

Gabrielle Kirkland Contributing Writer

Rich Kreps CCA, SSp., Contributing Writer

Priscilla RodriguezAssistant Vice President, Western Agricultural Processors Association

Surendra K. Dara Director, North Willamette Research and Extension Center

Kevin Day County Director/UCCE Pomology Farm Advisor, Tulare/Kings Counties

Elizabeth Fichtner UCCE Farm Advisor, Tulare County

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

Tel: 559.352.4456 Fax: 559.472.3113 Web: www.wcngg.com View

Steven Koike Tri-Cal Diagnostics

Jhalendra Rijal UCCE Integrated Pest Management Advisor, Stanislaus County

Mohammad Yaghmour UCCE Area Orchard Systems Advisor, Kern County

4 Bacterial Spot ‘Still Out There’ 8 Almond Pollination Outlook for 2023: Economic and Other Considerations 16 Roundtable Discussion Focuses on NOW Control Strategies 22 Flattening the Alternate Bearing Curve in Pistachio 26 What’s in the Net-Energy Metering (NEM) 3.0 Proposed Decision 30 Start with System Maintenance 36 View from the Top: California’s Water Crisis and Ag’s Path to Survival 40 Workshop Explores Water, Nitrogen Use Efficiency to Reduce Environmental Impact 42 Getting More with Less Key to Water Management 46 Young Almond Grower Receives National Recognition 50 Doing Anything Counts When it Comes to Winter Sanitation for Nut Crops 56 Matching Plant Demand at Critical Times Can Reduce Inputs Significantly 60 Raised to Pursue Ambitions, Almond Grower Mallvinder Kahal Applies the Same Strategy to Farming 64 Industry Loses Researcher with Long Legacy in Improving Irrigation in Nut Crops 66 Leaner Almond Conference Reflects Industry Challenges 68 We All Want Rain, But Not During Bloom 72 Turkey Poised for Continued Hazelnut Domination Contributing Writers & Industry Support UC Cooperative Extension Advisory Board
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.
our ePublication on the web at
In today's tight market, growers need to be especially mindful of inputs to ensure they aren’t adding anything to our soil that our crops aren’t picking up. SPOTLIGHTARTICLE:MatchingPlantDemandatCriticalTimesCan ReduceInputsSignificantly
www.wcngg.com See page 56
Mitch Lies Contributing Writer Catherine Merlo Contributing Writer
Irrigation January 2023 www.wcngg.com 3

Bacterial Spot ‘Still Out There’

Two successive dry springs have led to reduced incidence of bacterial spot in almonds, but the disease continues to pose a risk in orchards with impact sprinklers that are interplanted with the Fritz cultivar.

And, according to UC Riverside Plant Pathologist Jim Adaskaveg, it would be a mistake for growers to assume the disease is no longer a threat. Given the right environmental conditions, bacterial spot can and most likely will rear its head again, regardless of which irrigation system is being used.

“The disease is still occurring and out there, but because we haven’t had wet springs, it isn’t very prominent,” Adaskaveg said. “But it is surviving at low levels even in orchards

that have the type of irrigation systems, such as drip or microsprinkler, that limit the spread of the pathogen by keeping the canopy dry.”

Also, Adaskaveg said, since its discovery in the Sacramento and northern San Joaquin valleys nearly a decade ago, the disease inoculum has now spread throughout the state’s almond growing regions.

“We’ve had it in our plots down in the north Modesto area, and we’ve had people send samples from Kern County as well. And I have collected samples in Colusa and Glenn, and I’m sure it is in Tehama and Butte counties, too,” Adaskaveg said. “It is across the whole state.”

Long a major problem on peaches in the Eastern U.S., bacterial spot caused significant crop loss in the Sacramento and northern San Joaquin valleys when it was first identified in California nearly a decade ago, in part because of its unfamiliarity to growers.

“Back in 2014, we weren’t aware of its presence in almonds,” Adaskaveg said. “We were thinking there were other causes. Since then, UC ANR farm advisors and UC researchers determined the cause by isolations, culturing and conducting Koch’s postulates that resulted in expanded understanding of this disease.”

The disease occurs mainly on the Fritz cultivar, but when inoculum is high and conditions are conducive to disease development, it can spread to other cultivars.

“Nonpareil, Butte, Carmel and Price are mostly resistant,” Adaskaveg said. “But, when Fritz gets it, if they are interplanted and the rain and the environment become very conducive, then it can rapidly increase on Fritz and then spread to other varieties as well.”

Still, crop loss in other varieties is minor compared to the potential for crop loss in Fritz, he said.

Disease Symptoms

Caused by Xanthomonas arboricola pv. pruni, bacterial spot shows up as small, watery blemishes on almond hulls that produce light- to dark-amber gumming. Lesions can slowly increase in size during the season as the infection extends into the hull, according to UC IPM Guidelines.

Early season infection can lead to fruit drop, and infections that reach the kernel can cause off-grades or unmarketable fruit. Symptoms are first visible seven to 21 days

4 West Coast Nut January 2023
Bacterial spot shows up as small water blemishes on almond hulls that produce light- to dark-amber gumming (all photos by J. Adaskaveg.)


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after infection.

Leaf symptoms, which are less common than fruit symptoms, include small, water-soaked circular lesions that develop mainly along the midrib and toward the tip and margin of a leaf where water accumulates. Lesions become chlorotic and then turn brown

and necrotic, according to UC IPM literature. Some lesions will abscise, creating small holes with the appearance of shot holes, while other lesions may coalesce to create larger irregular lesions. Under severe disease severity, some tree defoliation may occur.

Fruit mummies on the tree act as the primary inoculum source with infections initiating on developing fruit, according to UC ANR literature. “The

bacterial pathogen needs wet conditions to infect and splashing water to spread,” Adaskaveg wrote in Sacramento Valley Orchard Source. The pathogen infects through natural openings such as stomata (leaf pores) or wounds.

Severe infections are most common with frequent periods of rainfall or irrigation during fruit development, according to UC IPM Guidelines. High moisture conditions and warm (higher than 68 degrees F) temperatures are very favorable for infection.

Twig cankers also can harbor the pathogen during tree dormancy, according to the guidelines. However, under California conditions, infections of young green shoots in the spring and twig cankers are rare. Still, because stem cankers have been reported in other almond production regions of the world, Adaskaveg said he suspects that cankers may occur under favorable conditions.

Impact Sprinklers

In the absence of high rainfall, growers mainly at risk include those with high-angle impact sprinklers in orchards interplanted with Fritz, Adaskaveg said.

“People with high-angle impact sprinklers can get ahead of the disease with dormant season and in-season bloom-time treatments, but then when they stop spraying, the population builds back up again,” Adaskaveg said. “It is like you are spending this money and overall staying in neutral. You knock it back and then it builds back up again on an annual basis.”

Still, Adaskaveg said that he understands that growers are unlikely to invest in a new irrigation system or pull out a healthy orchard with impact sprinklers just because of bacterial spot.

Growers with other types of sprinkler systems have largely been able to forego dormant treatments for bacterial spot the last two years, Adaskaveg said. And, he said, with inoculum levels low, they probably don’t need to be thinking about a dormant spray anytime soon.

“If you are a grower who has microsprinklers and you have Fritz and the disease pressure is low, you wouldn’t necessarily think, ‘I have to apply a dormant treatment,’” Adas-

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kaveg said. “You can come in at full bloom or right after that when we do traditionally get rain, say in late February or March, and you can manage it that way.

“And then when it dries out as the spring goes into summer, you are ahead of the game, because you are not increasing the disease because your irrigation is not hitting the canopy,” he said. “So, you are maintaining the status quo.

“You don’t necessarily have to follow a recipe that includes a dormant and in-season spray every year,” he said. “But, if you’ve had an outbreak the previous year, you have an opportunity with these dormant treatments to really knock it back. And then, with the in-season application, based on the rainfall, you could come in and give it a second treatment.”

Cultural Controls

Keys to minimizing issues with the

disease include shaking mummies off trees and mowing them.

“These winter shakes are really good because they remove the inoculum from the trees,” Adaskaveg said. “And it is not just the bacterial spot pathogen you are removing. You are also taking care of insect problems like any navel orangeworm remaining in those nuts that didn’t get harvested. And there are other pathogens that persist in the nuts, such as anthracnose.”

Adaskaveg added that mummified fruit are like a fortress that organisms retreat to during dormant periods.

“If you shake and mow the mummies, then there are other saprophytic organisms, including bacteria in the soil, that are all going to be competing. And these plant pathogens don’t like competition, and their chances for survival with all the other competition is in your favor,” he said.

As for spray materials, UC IPM disease management guidelines call

for use of copper or copper-mancozeb at delayed dormancy to reduce inoculum levels in the orchard, followed by a single in-season treatment in the spring, again with copper alone or a copper-mancozeb combination.

Cultural control recommendations include using strategies to improve air movement to reduce the relative humidity in an orchard, designing irrigation systems that reduce or prevent wetness of the tree canopy and following good sanitation practices.

Research has shown, incidentally, that early dormant treatments in mid-November or mid-December were less effective and that in-season treatments were most effective when timed around rain events and before temperatures rose above 77 degrees F in the spring.

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January 2023 www.wcngg.com 7

With every new year comes the realization that almond orchards will be in full bloom before long. This article summarizes some considerations for the 2023 almond pollination season, including a discussion on how to cut pollination expenses this year while maintaining

compliance with requirements for federal crop insurance.

Almond Industry Update

Many almond growers are feeling the stress of narrowing profit margins over the last couple of years. Almond prices are hovering at or below $1.75

per pound primarily due to international trade issues including supply chain disruptions at the ports (for more information, see Carter and Steinbach 2022.) For context, current prices are 20% lower than the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) 2017-21 average of $2.19 per

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lb. While almond prices have remained relatively low the last few years, input prices have increased substantially. The current state of almond profit margins likely indicates that recent trends of expanding almond acreage will slow.

The Almond Board of California and Land IQ estimate the removal of around 60,421 acres of almonds by September 2022, approximately 4.5% of the 1.3 million bearing acres in 2022. This is up slightly from 2021, when an estimated 56,949 acres where removed.

According to the USDA NASS Nursery Sales report between June 2020 and May 2021, nurseries reported 41,000 acres of sales, with 24,000 for new orchards and the remainder replacing existing orchards. Compared to removals in 2022, this may be the first year in the last two decades that more acres have been removed than replanted. Though notably in 2022, only six out of nine nurseries reported sales, so this may be an underestimate of acreage planted. At the very least, it suggests a leveling off

of almond acreage as opposed to the expansion that has been occurring in recent years.

To get a better idea of what is driving these removals, I dig a bit further into the Land IQ removals report. Typically, almond orchards are thought to last 25 to 30 years after planting. Older orchards are the most likely candidates for removal; however, many have speculated the additional removal

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of younger orchards in the past couple of years due to water scarcity concerns from consecutive years of drought and expected limitations due to the Sustainable Ground Water Management Act. Table 1 shows the number of 2022 removals by orchard age and shows a large portion of removals (72%) were orchards less than 25 years of age, and

42% of removals occurred in orchards less than 20 years old.

Figure 2 shows for each county the proportion of total acres removed in 2022 that were acres planted less than 20 years ago. It is clear that the southern San Joaquin Valley has seen a relatively higher proportion of young orchards removed out of total removals. This is not surprising given the southern San Joaquin Valley is generally

more water stressed than the northern San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys.

Table 1 and Figure 1 (see page 9) indicate that water availability coupled with narrowing profit margins may be driving growers in some areas to remove orchards earlier than in the past. Despite these removals, at least 1.3 million bearing acres of almonds remain

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Now is the time to start preparing for early season diseases such as anthracnose and brown rot blossom blight. These diseases will quickly reduce peak yield potential if they are not carefully monitored and effectively treated.

Rotating modes of action is one of the most powerful approaches in an effective integrated pest management (IPM) program. “In addition, research indicates that combining biologicals with chemistry – in tank mixes or rotations – can improve management of problematic pests,” says Dr. Melissa Jean O’Neal, Ph.D., Senior Product Development Manager, Pro Farm Group, Inc.


Combining the power of biology with the performance of chemistry is called a BioUnite ™ approach by Pro Farm Group.

Regalia® Biofungicide is a biological that is particularly effective against anthracnose and brown rot blossom blight, and has a broad spectrum of activity against many other fungal and bacterial diseases. This product also supports tree health and imparts overall stress tolerance for almonds.

Regalia Biofungicide is highly compatible with other crop protection products. When combined with popular chemistries such as Pyraclostrobin + Fluxapyroxad, field studies such as those below indicate that Regalia Biofungicide reduced the incidence of brown rot blossom blight by 12 percent, when compared to using traditional chemistry alone.

Adding Jet-Ag® 5%, a peroxyacetic acid (PAA), in tank mixes or rotations is another IPM approach to improve disease management by utilizing a contact curative. This product kills pathogens on contact and has an extremely broad spectrum of activity. Jet-Ag also tends to be widely available and is quite economical to purchase.



• Regalia 1-2 qts./A

If disease is already present, tank mix with peroxyacetic acid as a contact fungicide for best results.

• Stargus 1-2 qts./A

• Jet-Ag 2-4 qts./100 gal. Do not apply Jet-Ag while bees are foraging.

• Regalia 1-2 qts./A OR Stargus 1-2 qts./A

Another biological to consider is Stargus® Biofungicide, containing a unique strain of Bacillus that is broad spectrum and provides multiple modes of action. “This Bacillus differs from other species and strains in that it generates living spores to form a protective barrier; therefore, pathogens have a more difficult time establishing within the plant,” says O’Neal.

Both Regalia and Stargus biofungicides increase crop performance through induced systemic resistance (ISR) and systemic acquired resistance (SAR), boosting a plant’s innate ability to defend itself.


Ben Wallace, PCA/QAL for P-R Farms, Inc., a 5,000 acre farm near Clovis, California, shares that biologicals are used on both their registered organic and conventional acres. While P-R Farms has been using the same “IPM recipe” on the fourth-generation farm for five years, Wallace says they continue to try new combinations to help them succeed into the future. “Biologicals are used in every foliar application from bloom spray and May sprays to hull split,” he says. “They play a huge role in our organic orchards, but evidence is showing that adding to our conventional sprays will maximize effectiveness.”

In summary, benefits of biologicals in an IPM program include utilizing novel modes of action that improve pest management, reducing the development of pesticide resistance, and offering cost-effective tools through new formulations.

For more information, visit www.MarroneBio.com/Almonds/ and download the bloom spray IPM guide.

©2022 Pro Farm Group,
rights reserved. Always read and follow label instructions.Please find labels and more information
™ are trademarks
Bio Innovations. 180 175 170 165 160 155 150 145 140 135 130 Untreated Control Merivon® 6.5 fl. oz./ A BC Regalia® 1 qt./A A | Merivon® 6.5 fl. oz./ A BC Stargus® 1 qt. /A + Jet-Ag® 1% v/v A | Merivon® 6.5 fl. oz./A BC BIOFUNGICIDES FOR ALMONDS 12% Decrease in Brown Rot Blossom Blight (Monilinia sp.) with Regalia vs. Merivon Alone Eurofins, Sanger, CA, 2021 Diseased Flowers/1 Min. Search 2/24/2021 2/17/2021 3/2/2021 Full Bloom Pink Bud Early PF TREATMENTS B A C
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of Marrone

going in to 2023. Figure 2 displays bearing almond acreage by county for 2022. The counties of Kern, Kings and Tulare, which saw relatively high proportions of young acres being removed in Figure 1, still contain significant amounts of almond acreage (about 22% of the state’s total.)

Estimated Colony Demand

Figure 3 plots the estimated demand for colonies based on bearing almond acreage each year from 2016 to 2023 as well as the total number of colonies in the U.S. on January 1. Estimated demand is calculated using two colonies per acre for traditional varieties and one colony per acre for self-fertile varieties (Shasta and Independence). For the 2022 almond bloom, roughly 1.3 million almond acres (6% in self-fertile varieties) required an estimated 2.6 million honeybee colonies for pollination (Figure 3).

As seen in Figure 3, estimated demand for colonies in 2023 is 2.8 million colonies, roughly 8% higher than the 2.6 million required in 2022. However, given the higher rates of removals of almond acreage in recent years and the timing of USDA reporting, this 2.8 million could be a slight overestimate. In recent years, it has seemed that self-fertile variety plantings have started leveling off the estimated demand for colonies. However, the colonies that


Oregon State has developed an Aglime Score which is basically an efficiency rating. Particle size or mesh size is key to this rating and is the primary indicator of reactivity. Studies have shown that pulver ized limestone smaller than 40 mesh (size of table salt) are considered 100% effective and are the quickest to dissolve in the soil to release calcium and adjust soil pH.

Mildly acidic water and soil conditions will dissolve finely ground limestone. For example, the pH of rainwater in California is typically around 5.7, which is enough to dissolve our aglime that is broadcast. Our pulverized limestone products average 85% passing 100 mesh (diameter of a human hair). Remember aglime quality increases when particle size decreases.

U.S. 20 Mesh U.S. 40 Mesh

Figure 3. Total U.S. colonies on January 1 and estimated demand for colonies for almond pollination, 2016-23.

Sources: 2016-2021 Almond Acreage Reports, USDA NASS and CDFA; Honeybee Colonies Reports, USDA NASS

Note: Estimated demand is two colonies per acre for traditional varieties and one colony per acre for self-fertile.

Figure 4. U.S. Drought Monitor, July 26, 2022

will be required for almond pollination in 2023 represent over 90% of the 2.88 million colonies in the U.S. on January 1, 2022, so at least in the short run, it’s unlikely this leveling off of demand will put downward pressure on pollination fees.

An article published in Nature found the Independence variety showed an increase in yield by 20% from allowing bee visitation (Sáez et al. 2020). This study eliminates any claims that these self-fertile varieties do not require honeybee colonies for commercial production. Growers of self-fertile varieties who do not currently place honeybees in their orchards are likely “borrowing” pollination services from neighboring orchards. In the future, growers with traditional orchard varieties surrounded by many self-fertile orchards with few (or no) colonies per acre may have to compensate by placing more colonies per acre.

Colony Supply Issues

The primary influence on the supply of available colonies

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Colony Strength Number of Rentals High Fee Low Fee Average Fee

4-6 Frames

7-9 Frames

10-12 Frames

>12 Frames

2,700 $180.00 $125.00 $166.39

130,830 $215.00 $180.00 $204.70

4,280 $260.00 $185.00 $241.54

5,836 $310.00 $185 00 $231 97

Source: California State Beekeeper’s Association 2022 Pollination Fee Survey.

Table 2. 2022 almond pollination fees by colony strength category.

for almond pollination is colony health and populations throughout the U.S. Colony health issues can impact both the strength of colonies (approximate number of bees/hive) and the total number of colonies that survive the winter. Two potential issues impacting colony health for 2023 almond pollination were Hurricane Ian hitting Florida in September 2022 and a summer drought in most of the Western U.S. Recently, NPR reported that around

400,000 of Florida’s honeybee colonies were in the path of Hurricane Ian, and as many as 100,000 colonies were completely destroyed while others remain struggling (Rodriguez-Feo Vileira, L. 2022). This means the hurricane could have negatively impacted roughly 13% of the total U.S. colony population at the time (estimated using colony numbers on October 1, 2021.) This disruption has the potential to severely decrease the supply and strength of

surviving colonies coming out of Florida for almond pollination.

Weather during the summer months can have an impact on honey production as well as bee health due to the availability of nutritious forage. Figure 4 (see page 12) shows the U.S. drought monitor as of July 26, 2022, displaying drought conditions across large swaths of the U.S. In particular, Texas was one of the states with the worst drought conditions. Texas is consistently one of the top five honey-producing states in the U.S. As of July 1, 2021, 138,000 colonies were located in Texas, roughly 4% of the total U.S. population at that time. Beekeepers with colonies in the areas plagued by drought may suffer higher winter mortality rates and lower colony strength of surviving colonies in addition to higher costs of feeding.

Almond Pollination Fees

Table 2 shows the distribution of fees reported by colony strength

Knowledge is Power!

Introducing BeeHero Pollination Research Stations

This year we are expanding our Pollination Research Stations statewide. From Colusa to Bakersfield you can now track and monitor bloom as it progresses in your county.

The data from each station is derived from advanced scientific monitoring and leverages the power of our precision pollination platform.

Each location is equipped with a full compliment of precision instrumentation to help you make informed decisions during bloom.

• Weather station equipment can alert you to potential frost advisories.

• Bee counters provide accurate bee flight times.

• Scales. Colony weight gain is a good indication of foraging and pollination activity.

• Cameras to give visual confirmation of bloom progression across the entire state of California.

The data from all our Stations is free and available to all. To track bloom in your area this season visit: https://growers.beehero.io/ExternalsentinelStations

prs.indd 1 12/12/22 3:14 PM
January 2023 www.wcngg.com 13

Colony strength Category Hives/Ac Average Frames/Hive Frames/Ac

Pollina:on Fee ($/ Hive) Pollina:on Cost ($/Ac)

Savings compared to 2 hives/ acre at 8frame average ($/ Ac)

Low 3 4 12 $125 $375 $35 2 6 12 $180 $360 $50

Standard 1.5 8 12 $205 $308 $103 1.8 8 14.4 $205 $369 $41 2 8 16 $205 $410 High

1.2 10 12 $231 $277 $133 1.5 10 15 $231 $347 $64 1 12 12 $241 $241 $169 1.5 12 18 $241 $362 $49

Source: Author calculaHons based on fee esHmates using Table 2

Table 3. Sample colony strength and hive density combinations that meet current crop insurance requirements. ContinuedfromPage13

requirement from the California State Beekeeper’s 2022 Pollination Fee Survey. The average fee for the 2022 almond pollination season for the most common colony strength requirement (seven to nine frames) was $205 per colony, though this ranged from $180 to $215 per colony. Smaller colony strength requirements of four to six frames received an average of $166 per colony, while higher colony strength requirements of over 10 frames averaged $232 to $241 per colony. The overall projected average fee for 2023 is $206 per colony, roughly equivalent to the $205 per-colony overall weighted average for 2022 suggesting that beekeepers expect fees to hold steady into 2023.

Hive Density, Colony Strength and Crop Insurance Requirements

In 2023, growers may be looking to

cut expenses due to low almond prices. In 2022, 72% of almond acreage was insured through USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) and the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC), and in order to collect indemnities when a disaster occurs (like the frost in 2022), growers must make sure they are adhering to the requirements of crop insurance. Failure to use an adequate number of bee colonies and/or frames per colony is not an insurable cause of loss and will often be the first practice verified when a grower makes a claim. Thus, I wanted to touch on how to go about cutting pollination costs in the right way so that crop insurance requirements are met.

USDA and FCIC allow for substitution between colony strength and hives per acre in their almond crop insurance policy. The current policy document states as a guideline that a producer should have at minimum two

colonies with six active frames, or its equivalent (USDA 2018). Technically, that means one 12-frame colony per acre or 1.5 eight-frame colonies per acre would satisfy this requirement. Almond growers can even deviate from this standard as long as they have consistently been using the same number of hives per acre and colony strength requirements and have had consecutive non-loss years (this flexibility in the policy allows growers to capitalize on benefits from self-fertile varieties that require fewer colonies per acre.)

I expect a large portion of growers in the past have been using the standard two hives per acre at an eight-frame average. Table 3 displays a few combinations of hive density and colony strength that satisfy two conditions: 1.) They meet the minimum standard defined by crop insurance (12 frames per acre); and 2.) they result in cost savings compared to renting two

14 West Coast Nut January 2023

hives per acre at an eight-frame average. The pollination fees per hive are my estimates based on those reported in Table 2 (see page 13).

Table 3 shows there is flexibility when it comes to pollination expenses. Even using the lowest colony strength category (four frames) at three hives per acre can lead to cost savings at the right pollination fee per hive. The key to accessing this flexibility will be working directly with your pollination provider. If your beekeeper has already spent a substantial amount of time and inputs to provide high-strength colonies, it may not be profitable for them to make an agreement with low colony strength and corresponding low fees, in which case reducing the hives per acre for a higher colony strength category may be the mutually beneficial solution.

There are other ways to lower pollination expenses that won’t impact the number of bees per acre. Negotiating with your beekeeper to pay a portion up front for a lower fee is one option. Providing bee holding yards before bloom, locked gates in orchards, planting bee-friendly cover crops, providing guarantees against losses from pesticide exposure, or some other benefit to the beekeeper/pollination broker may also get you a lower fee, though don’t count on substantial cuts.

Almond pollination services continue to require most of the total colonies in the U.S. Even when times are tight, make sure to communicate with your beekeeper and pollination broker, and maintain good relationships to ensure a secure supply of pollinators going forward. Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2023!


Sáez, A., Aizen, M. A., Medici, S., Viel, M., Villalobos, E., & Negri, P. (2020). Bees increase crop yield in an alleged pollinator-independent almond variety. Scientific reports, 10(1), 1-7. nature.com/articles/s41598-020-59995-0

Carter, Colin A. and Sandro Steinbach. 2022. “California Almond Industry Harmed by International Trade Issues.” ARE Update 26(1): 1–4. University of California Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics. s.giannini.

ucop.edu/uploads/pub/2022/10/24/ v26n1_1.pdf

U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2018. Almond Loss Adjustment Standards Handbook 2019 and Succeeding Crop Years. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture Federal Crop Insurance Corporation and Risk Management Agency, FCIC25020 (102018).

Rodriguez-Feo Vileira, Luena (2022). “Florida beekeepers rally community

in Hurricane Ian recovery efforts.”

NPR. National Public Radio. December 7, 2022. wuft.org/news/2022/12/07/ florida-beekeepers-rally-community-in-hurricane-ian-recovery-efforts/

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January 2023 www.wcngg.com 15

Roundtable Discussion Focuses on NOW Control Strategies

The guys with boots on the ground shared their control strategies and concerns about navel orangeworm in a roundtable discussion at the California Tree Nut Conference.

As growers, farm managers, PCAs and processors representative, they collectively presented a picture of the damage navel orangeworm can cause in almonds and pistachios, their views on control methods and why control is important.

Moderator Bob Van Steenwyk, UCCE entomologist, said California Department of Pesticide Regulation reports that pyrethroid use to control NOW has dropped as resistance issues have surfaced. The use of Intrepid was also trending down. More growers are using mating disruption in orchards to control this pest. Here is a look at some of panelists’ questions and answers.

Q. Advantages and disadvantages of MD to control NOW and do you use it?

Jimmy Nichols with Nichols Farm in Hanford said this control tool is good if the population of NOW in the orchard is low, which can be achieved by good orchard sanitation. Sanitation is an intensive operation at Nichols Farms, he said.

It includes a mummy shake and then poling if necessary to remove all mummies. Mummies are blown off berms to the centers and ground up with a modified conditioner, leaving no overwintering sites for NOW.

Zack Raven, farm manager and grower relations with Keenan Farms, said even after adopting mating disruption in their orchards, they have continued with insecticide sprays as needed. When NOW pressure lessens, then they can cut the number of sprays.

Covering smaller block with MD is a challenge, Mel Machado with Blue Diamond noted, but taking a regional approach with neighbors is one answer.

“Mating disruption does work,” confirmed PCA Mike

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Roundtable participant Mel Machado said the industry recommendation is that all varieties of almonds are sanitized to achieve the lowest number of mummies possible. Moisture helps with mummy removal (all photos by C. Parsons.)


Strimska, “The disadvantage is the cost. Cost has come down, and the more acres involved, the better it works.”

Q. Have you observed resistance of NOW to the pyrethroids lambda cyhalothrin or bifenthrin or Intrepid?

Strimska said he has not observed resistance to Intrepid and does not use pyrethroids for NOW control. Raven said there is resistance to the pyrethroids.

Q. Do you breakdown the insects’ damage to positively identify the cause of the reject in your deliveries? In almonds, is your problem ants or NOW?

Machado noted that Blue Diamond offers the reject breakdown as a service, and he encourages growers seek this information on a representative sample.

Raven said determining what caused the damage is worth the trouble, considering bonus payments for quality and the loss due to rejects.

Strimska said due to MD use, trapping is not always a good indicator of NOW pressure.

Q. How many insecticide applications do you typically apply to maintain control and what is your timing?

It depends, said Strimska, on neighbors, MD and location. In blocks along I-5, he said pressure is high due to adjacent almonds, so they may apply four times, three on

18 West Coast Nut January 2023
Almond Board of California notes that growers can determine if hull split has occurred (and if it’s time to spray) if, when they squeeze the end of the hull, the entire suture opens up, exposing the shell within. Almond hulls split as the fruit ripens, and timing varies based on weather conditions and variety.

Nonpareil and one on pollinators. But he noted that in some years, only one is needed; two to three is typical.

Machado suggested aerial spraying for NOW to reach the top of the canopy where blanks split faster.

Raven said using MD has allowed them to reduce insecticide applications to two.

Q. If a grower can’t shake in a prompt manner, do you treat with another insecticide application?

Nichols advised to do it but to be confident that the shake will be late.

Don’t wait with Golden Hills, Raven said. The hulls can break down rapidly.

Q. Will NOW lay eggs on almonds after they have been shaken?

“That’s a lesson people learn the hard way,” Strimska said.

Machado said it really depends on the pressure in the orchard. Nichols confirmed that it does happen and is a reason why they send a representative load to compare with their stockpiled almonds.

Q. Does the NOW infestation in a neighbor’s crop influence your pest management decisions? How do you handle a dirty neighbor?

Communication and collaboration

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were the key answers to this question from round table participants. Strimska said egg traps will tell how many females are flying in; if using MD, the L2 PPO traps are used. If needed, timed border sprays can help.

Q. What is the impact of lower commodity pricing and increased production costs on NOW management?

“Figure it out,” Raven said. At $65 an acre to spray, you can recoup costs with MD. Most processors pay a premium for quality, he said. “After looking at the numbers, at 1% you can lose about $300 to $400 per acre depending on crop yield.”

Machado said Blue Diamond provides a site where growers can plug in yield and price, and it will show the loss at varying reject levels. Even with lower prices, he said that at 2% reject, the real figure is 4% as those nuts don’t make it out of the orchard.

Q. What impact have you observed with delayed harvest and NOW infestation?

“Delay is your number-one enemy,” Strimska stressed. He said delay in harvest will cause a sharp curve in damage. Raven said with the Golden Hills variety of pistachio, the faster hull degradation makes prompt harvest a must.

“They are vulnerable to infestation, so you have to be on top of harvest,” he added.

Strimska noted that with the recent harvest, it was difficult to get nuts off in time, and the delay made late insecticide sprays necessary. Mummy numbers were the highest he has seen, he said, and it is causing him to wonder about NOW pressure next year.

Q. Do you sanitize all of your orchards or only the susceptible varieties? What level of mummy nut removal do you strive to achieve during the

winter and is
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20 West Coast Nut January 2023
Panelists at the NOW session moderated by UCCE Entomologist Robert Van Steenwyk, included from left, Mike Strmiska, PCA, Advanced Nut Crop Sciences, Mel Machado, Vice President Member Relations, Blue Diamond Growers; Zack Raven, Grower Services Manager/Farming Technical Manager, Keenan Farms; and Jimmy Nichols, VP Farming Operations, Nichols Farms (photo by M. Katz.)

flail mowing of the nuts required?

Machado said it is recommended that orchards with all varieties be sanitized to achieve the lowest number of mummies possible. Moisture helps with removal, he noted.

Some years, mummy shakes are difficult, Nichols added. Pruning crews that come in later can help with removal.

and especially cover cropping, will this reduce the amount of mummy destruction? Would this create a higher-than-normal overwintering NOW population?

said that mummies break down quicker than in sandier soils. That is where the NOW pressure is highest, he said.

Cover crops do not work in every orchard every time, Machado said. Growers have to be flexible with this tool to achieve the goals they have.

Final thoughts on upcoming restrictions on groundwater pumping and the possible effect on NOW management: “Sick trees don’t hull split at the same time. This will make it harder to prevent NOW damage,” Machado said.

Raven predicted there would be more pea splits early in pistachios, opening the way for NOW infestation.

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After California’s first billion-pound pistachio crop in 2020, the question was, should the industry have expected an ‘off’ year in 2021? IN fact, despite it technically being an off year, yields came close to the previous year’s record.

Bob Klein, executive director of the California Pistachio Research Board, said the records from 2020 show it wasn’t a real ‘on’ year despite the record billion pounds plus shaken from the state’s pistachio orchards. Klein said if you look at the pounds per acre, trees in 2020 produced an average of 2,800 pounds per acre. In an on year, Klein said, the expectation is higher at 3,000 pounds per acre. So, what has, and has not, changed when it comes to alternative bearing in pistachios?

What Has Not Changed

What has not changed is the physiology of alternate bearing. There is strong evidence it is an evolutionary survival strategy that evolved in wild fruit and nut trees before they began to be cultivated for yield. Alternate bearing is a within-bearing-shoot phenomenon. And it is more pronounced in an apically dominant deciduous species like pistachio which have a limited number of bearing points (shoots per tree) versus a spur bearing species like apple or almond with thousands of bearing spurs. While the specific physiological mechanism of alternate bearing is unknown, the visible mechanism is easily observable. As the pistachio kernel is growing within the fully expanded pistachio shells, the buds for the following year’s crop begin to abscise.

By mid-August, the next year’s potential crop of an individual shoot is easily observed. As the shoots on a tree are all part of the same tree in the same soil exposed to the same environment, it is not surprising the shoots within a tree, the trees within an orchard and orchards within a region synchronize. Earlier research by Kern County Farm Advisor Craig Kallsen, UCCE Specialist Louise Ferguson’s lab, and current research, specifically that of Dr. Maciej Zwieniecki’s “Carbohydrate Observatory”, strongly support the hypothesis that the current year’s yield is primarily a function of the previous years’ crop. Physiologically, the tree’s current-year resources, carbohydrates available to support the future crop, determine the crop for the following year by precipitating bud drop. Specifically how they precipitate bud drop is unknown. A good review of alternate bearing in pistachio is available at link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00468-020-01967-y. Finally, it is important to remember presenting bud drop will not decrease alter-

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Capturing Maximum Genetic Potential

nate bearing. In 1986, Ferguson (ACP Archives) demonstrated 2,4-D will prevent bud drop during and through the current season, but the buds do not produce the following season.

What Has Changed

What has changed, in this order, is production practices, the genetics of pistachio rootstocks and the industry composition of bearing to non-bearing trees. In 1995 Ferguson, Maranto and Beede demonstrated severe mechanical topping entering the low crop year strongly mitigated alternate bearing in ‘Kerman’ pistachios on an Atlantica rootstock.

What the trial demonstrated was that the mechanical pruning did not affect the mechanism of alternate bearing. What the topping did was produce a better composition of bearing to non-bearing shoots per tree, effectively “damping” the intensity of the alternate

bearing. Beede followed this trial with another in a mature Kerman block with four seedling rootstocks: Atlantica, Integerrima, or Pioneer Gold I, and their two reciprocal seedling hybrids, rootstocks now marketed as seedling and cloned UCBI and the clone Platinum® .

This trial demonstrated two things: First, trees on Atlantica and PGI rootstocks, in that order, strongly alternate bear, and this alternate bearing is more

strongly mitigated by mechanical topping entering the low-crop year; second, this trial demonstrated that it did not matter when the Kerman trees on both seedling hybrid rootstocks were mechanically pruned; before the low-crop or high-crop year, alternate bearing was fully one third to one half that of Kerman on either Atlantica or Integerrima rootstocks respectfully. These trials demonstrated that Integerrima parentage in a pistachio root-

24 West Coast Nut January 2023
Since 2015, 40,000 to 65,000 acres per year have been entering production, increasing production each year and effectively damping the overall industry alternate bearing of the mature trees.

stock introduces vigor that interacts with mechanical pruning to decrease alternate bearing.

Because this trial did not include unpruned or hand-pruned controls (which, depending upon severity, could approximate severe topping), it cannot be determined from these results which had a stronger effect on alternate bearing, rootstock or pruning. However, the implication from these results is that the decreased alternate bearing we are increasingly seeing in pistachio production in recent decades is a result of a higher percentage of trees on hybrid rootstocks and a greater incorporation of moderate annual or biennial mechanical pruning.

Important Points

Two important points about alternate bearing and pruning: First, the interaction of rootstock and mechanical pruning did not change the mechanism of alternate bearing within a bearing shoot; buds on a bearing shoot still

drop in response to the shoot’s crop load; second, pruning is not “thinning”. Thinning is decreasing the number of nuts within the rachis, reducing the demand the shoots resources. Thinning is commonly done in another alternate bearing fruit, olives, to reduce the number of fruit on a shoot, enabling the remaining fruits to become larger. Yield is not decreased, but the olives are larger and more valuable.

A third factor that has reduced industry-wide alternate bearing composition is bearing acreage. Within the last six years, since 2015, 40,000 to 65,000 acres per year have been entering production, increasing production each year and effectively damping the overall industry alternate bearing of the mature trees. The alternate bearing might look smaller now, said Klein, but the on/off cycle in an individual orchard has not changed much. And pistachio acres coming into production haven’t yet established an alternate bearing cycle.

Finally, as Kallsen notes, weather in an individual year can strongly affect alternate bearing. Though the preceding crop year may end with sufficient buds and carbohydrate resources for a potentially good crop, weather can decrease it. Poor winter chill in 201315 strongly decreased yields. Weather during bloom, too high or too low, can also decrease yields.

In conclusion, alternate bearing is an interesting physiological problem that affects pistachio production, but we have some tools to mitigate it, specifically rootstocks and canopy management. How it is affected by a changing climate is becoming more obvious. But, as Kallsen notes, it is not the problem it appeared to be in the early years of the industry.

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In what is considered to be good news for the agricultural industry, this past month, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced the release of a new Proposed Decision (PD) for the Net Energy Metering Program, which they are now referring to as Net Billing Tariff (NEM 3.0) for all customers of PG&E, SCE and SDG&E who install solar after implementation.

The new Proposed Decision is in response to a CPUC study that looked at solar net energy metering. According to the CPUC study, “A review of the current net energy metering tariff, referred to as NEM 2.0, found that the tariff negatively impacts non-participating ratepayers; disproportionately harms low-income ratepayers; and is not cost-effective. This decision determines that the successor tariff should promote equity, inclusion, electrification and the adoption of solar paired with storage systems and provide a glide path so that the industry can sustainably transition from the current tariff to the successor tariff and from a predominantly stand-alone solar system tariff to one that promotes the adoption of solar systems paired with storage.”

To best understand the evolution of net energy metering, it is important to take a quick look back at how it began and where we are now.

NEM 1.0

In 1996, Senate Bill (SB) 656 (Alquist) established net energy metering in California, an electricity tariff-based billing created to “encourage private investment in renewable energy resources, stimulate in-state economic growth, enhance the continued diversification of California’s energy resource mix and reduce utility interconnection and administrative costs.” In the first net energy metering tariff, NEM 1.0, customer-generators received a full retail rate bill credit for power generated by their onsite systems that was fed back into the grid when generation exceeded onsite energy demand.

NEM 2.0

In 2013, Assembly Bill (AB) 327 (Perea) mandated that the CPUC adopt a replacement to the net energy metering tariff. “In NEM 2.0, customers continued to receive full retail rate credit for energy

subsidization of residential customers who the utilities allege “weren’t paying their fair share.” One group estimated this to be as much as $4 billion in costs that were shifted from solar customers to non-solar customers. The Proposed decision states, “these changes will help meet California’s climate goals and increase reliability while promoting affordability across all income levels.” This newly released Proposed Decision builds off the current NEM 2.0. The following is a summary of some of the key points:

Annual True Up

The Proposed Decision maintains an annual true-up, which was one of the most critical issues to be resolved. Currently, NEM 2.0 customers receive a monthly bill and, if the customer generates more bill credits than they use during that month, they can carry forward the excess credits to the following months, within a 12-month period based on the

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Decision ContinuedonPage28 The Net Energy Metering revised proposal includes an annual true up so hullers and shellers are compensated fairly for the energy they produce during the busy season (photo courtesy Salida Farms.)
What’s in the
Metering (NEM) 3.0 Proposed
26 West Coast Nut January 2023

during the bright summer days but use the most energy in the fall and winter. The revised PD protects this.


The Proposed Decision proposes no changes to the previous NEM 1.0 or NEM 2.0 tariffs. Existing customers will remain on the existing tariffs as long as they do not significantly add to the existing project for 20 years from their initial interconnection date.

“The Commission reiterates here that all consumer protection efforts initiated for prior net energy metering customers will continue for future customers taking service under the Net Billing tariff.”


The Proposed Decision proposes for non-residential customers to get credited for excess power based on the avoided cost calculator (ACC). This rate will be approximately between $0.06-$0.08/ kWh. Projects that have an energy storage component, such as a battery, will

get a higher compensation rate.

“This decision also clarifies that a customer currently taking service under NEM 2.0 may add battery storage to their existing distributed generation system without altering their NEM 2.0 status.”

Aggregation Program

The Proposed Decision proposes no changes to the NEM Aggregation program. This is another win for agriculture as the utilities have wanted to eliminate it.


The NEM 3.0 start date is a little unclear. A customer can take service under the NEM 2.0 program if they submit an interconnection application no later than 120 days after the adoption of this decision. The interconnection application date is defined as the submission date of an application that is free of major deficiencies.

It’s important to note that this is a proposed decision, not a final one. The Proposed Decision can be voted on by

the Commissioners as early as December 15, 2022. If this timeline holds, the new version of NEM could be implemented for people as soon as April 2023. If you are already under NEM 1.0 or 2.0, this Proposed Decision does not change anything for you. Existing customers are grandfathered in either NEM 1.0 or 2.0 for 20 years after their interconnection date.

All in all, this is a good decision for agricultural operations like tree nut hullers and processors and is why we have worked hard as members of the Ag Energy Consumers Association (AECA) to preserve it. In a state that cares nothing about the soaring cost of electricity and the debilitating impact it has on the industry, we need every opportunity we can to avoid or minimize these costs. Solar has been good for agricultural operations, especially tree nut hullers and processors, and we need to keep it that way.

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Start with System Maintenance

With another dry year looming, growers begin irrigation planning.

As the state heads into what could be a fourth year of drought, many growers have already developed irrigation plans based on worst-case and best-case scenarios. Ultimately, irrigation strategies will hinge on tree age, water allocations and production goals, whether growers can hope to make a crop or simply keep trees alive, said Curt Pierce, a UCCE area irrigation and water resources advisor for Glenn, Tehama, Colusa and Shasta counties.

And in some areas that have had perennial water

cutbacks, growers are deciding whether to even keep orchards.

“These are the hard decisions they’re having to make,” Pierce said.

For growers with orchards, he recommended off-season maintenance of irrigation systems to ensure they’re ready to run at peak efficiency come spring.

“When I’m going out on farm calls, I’m seeing a lot of maintenance issues,” Pierce said. “If you’re having iron sludge in the system or sand in your system, it doesn’t matter what you’re planning for your deficit irrigation, the water isn’t going where you think it’s going.”

Mobile Irrigation Testing

To aid growers, mobile irrigation laboratories perform irrigation system evaluations and offer tips and recommendations free of charge or at a low cost.

The North West Kern Resource Conservation District, for example, has had a mobile lab serving growers from Kern County north to Madera County for 35 years. But recent state Water Efficiency Technical Assistance grants have allowed some RCDs elsewhere to start offering similar services.

“This year (2022) was the third-busiest,” said North West Kern RCD Manager Brian Hockett, who has been conducting irrigation audits for 35 years. “The year before it was the highest year in 35 years of doing testing. I average 150 to 160 (visits) a year. In 2021, it was 227, and in 2022, it was 188, so it’s above normal and it starts out as early as January and runs through the summer.”

He’s already had growers calling to make appointments for system testing after the winter holidays. For persons interested in the service, Hockett said it’s better to call sooner rather than later because he expects to be in high demand once again this season.

Having a system evaluated annually isn’t necessary, and he said once every two years typically is fine. But Hockett said he has one client who has his system

30 West Coast Nut January 2023

checked every year.

“He uses that as an incentive for his irrigators to do a good job,” Hockett said. “He gives them a bonus if they’re above 90% DU (distribution uniformity).”

Most evaluations run between 85% and 90% distribution uniformity, indicating growers are keeping up their systems. But a few are significantly lower than that.

“When water costs $250 up to $1,000 to $1,500 (per acre-foot), you can’t put it out there willy-nilly. And in some areas, that $1,500 is low,” Hockett said. “You want to make sure you’re doing as efficient a job as possible.”

How to Divide Reduced Water Deliveries

Pierce said ultimately, irrigation regimes depend on the amount of available water. UC research conducted by Mario Viveros and David Goldhamer in the 1990s and Ken Shackel in the early 2000s found mature almond trees can survive on as little as 8 inches of water annually. But canopy growth and nut production decreased significantly under severe water restrictions.

The subsequent year’s crop also may be affected since bud development occurs during the previous mid-summer. In addition, the effects can be cumulative with continued deficit irrigation.

“Almonds are a drought-resistant crop,” Pierce said. “They’re rain-fed in other parts of the world. In California,

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we support them with irrigation because we’re looking to maximize yields.”

If irrigation deliveries are reduced 40% or less, Pierce said growers should focus on the applications in the period right before and after hull split. His recommendations are based on mature orchards.

“If you’re over 60% [irrigation allocation], I’d feel more confident trying to bias the deficits around hull split,” Pierce said.

Applying full irrigations through early June, depending on the orchard location and variety, will aid shoot growth and kernel fill, while deficit irrigations from mid-June through July can aid in hull split. That’s as long as irrigations are resumed about two weeks before hull split at their location. An irrigation after hull split should help reduce sticktights and help with shaking. He encouraged growers to save some water for a postharvest irrigation to set the tree up for next season.

Gauging Tree Water Status

Pierce recommended using soil moisture monitoring technology such as tensiometers to gauge soil moisture levels. But soil moisture is only part of the story and doesn’t necessarily reflect the water status of the tree. For that, he encouraged growers use pressure bombs, also known as pressure chambers.

Although the technology is viewed by some as labor-intensive, Pierce said that growers can reduce labor requirements by dividing an orchard into zones based on soil water-holding capacity. Then they only need to sample one representative tree within each zone.

If growers expect to receive significantly reduced water deliveries, Pierce recommended a simple approach of spreading applications out evenly during the growing season.

“With situations where you’re only able to irrigate to less than 30% or 40% of ET (evapotranspiration),

you’re not really so much supporting the crop as dealing with almond tree survival. Even when more water is available, evenly applying any irrigation deficits throughout the season might be the best approach for most situations,” he said.

For walnuts, Pierce said the best way to maximize irrigations is to delay the first spring water application until pressure bomb readings are 2 bars below baseline. “This is really the best way to realize some water savings for walnuts,” he said. “This could get you through, or deep into May without having to irrigate.”

While walnut irrigations can be withheld through the early season with little negative or even some positive effects, water reductions after the May and early June period may cause quality issues for the current season’s crop. It also will likely lead to reduced bud development and crop in the subsequent year.

ContinuedfromPage31 ContinuedonPage34
A tensiometer or other soil moisture sensor measures the amount of water in the soil, but it doesn’t show how much of that water is making it into the tree (photo courtesy UC Davis.) Despite recent rains, the state remains in a drought. UC irrigation specialists recommend growers develop more than one irrigation plan based on varying anticipated water allocations (photo by V. Boyd.)
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Some Tough Decisions

Fresno-based Woolf Farming has almond orchards from Kern to Stanislaus counties and in Glenn County, said Daniel Hartwig, Woolf Farming resource manager. As a result, they have varying surface supplies, depending on the local irrigation provider’s contracts and water rights. Groundwater supplies and quality also vary with location.

Outside of orchards in the Westlands Water District west of Fresno, most of the trees are young at 5 to 7 years old. Even under deficit irrigation, he said younger tree production tends to bounce back once full irrigation is resumed.

But Westlands is a different story. The district received zero federal water allocations in 2022 and 2021 and only 20% in 2020. The last year the district received full deliveries was 2017.

In addition, groundwater depths and quality have continued to decline. If surface water was available for sale, Hartwig said it was prohibitively expensive.

Anticipating a fourth year of drought, he said the family farming operation plans to pull “a pretty good chunk of acreage” of older almond trees within Westlands.

“We know those yields aren’t coming back, at least in the foreseeable future,” Hartwig said. “With the trees being so old, they might not come back at all.”

He said they also factored in lower almond prices and Sustainable

Groundwater Management Act implementation that will start in 2023 within Westlands.

To stretch water supplies and maximize water-use efficiency, Hartwig said they use several technologies, including tensiometers, pressure bombs and satellite imagery.

All of their orchards are on double-line drip irrigation, and they perform system distribution uniformity tests at least once annually. They also conduct pump tests multiple times a year, starting at the beginning of the season and finishing with season’s end.

“It’s our most important resource and our most limited resource,” Hartwig said.

Woolf’s pistachio orchards are in Fresno and Madera counties, with orchards ranging in age from 7 to 12 years to some with trees as old as 25 years. But production within the older pistachio trees appears more resilient to drought conditions than older almond trees.

“Pistachio production really doesn’t seem to drop off when you get out to those older trees,” he said of deficit irrigation regimes. “They seem to be a lot more salt-tolerant than almonds. We haven’t really made those tough decisions, and prices have been more stable.”

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View from the Top

California’s Water Crisis and Ag’s Path to Survival

Water Expert Caitlin Peterson of the Public Policy Institute of California on the Hard Facts, Difficult Decisions and Path Ahead for Irrigated Agriculture

Amid a changing climate and chronic drought, California’s vast water system is being tested as never before.

Once-reliable water management strategies are failing. The Sustain-

able Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and limited water supplies are forcing thousands of acres of almond trees and other irrigated crops out of production in the San Joaquin Valley. Residential wells have gone

California must be ready to capture surplus water during the state’s rare but vital wet years, says water expert Caitlin Peterson of the Public Policy Institute of California (photo courtesy PPIC.)

dry in some rural areas. Wildlife and habitat are suffering.

And when the wet years arrive, bringing both surplus water and flooding, California has insufficient infrastructure to capture that valuable supply.

Keeping a close watch on this new normal is the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group based in San Francisco. Along with its Water Policy Center, PPIC works to inform and improve public policy in California through independent, objective research.

In November, PPIC’s Water Policy Center held its annual fall conference, headlined “Surplus and Shortage—California’s Water Balancing Act.” Among those addressing the in-person and online audience was Caitlin Peterson, associate director of the PPIC’s Water Policy Center. She is co-author of the recent PPIC report, “Exploring the Potential for Water-Limited Agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley.” Peterson holds a doctorate in agricultural ecology from UC Davis and grew up on a small farm in Florida.

Here, she shares the hard facts, the difficult decisions that lie ahead and the opportunities emerging for California’s farmers as the state’s footprint for irrigated agriculture shrinks.

36 West Coast Nut January 2023

Q. What does the science say about climate and drought in California?

People talk about the last drought and the current drought. On the other hand, you could say we’ve been in one long, intense drought since 2012. We’ve only had two wet years in the last 10.

On top of that, every one of the past 10 years, since 2012, has been above average in temperature. Not only are we in a drought, we’re in a hot drought. That means we’re also dealing with a thirstier atmosphere. You’ll hear the term “evaporative demand.” That’s basically the atmospheric conditions that suck moisture out of plants and soil. That demand was at an incredible high in 2021, which was a bit of an anomaly. Regardless, the trend toward thirstier atmospheres is clear. That’s going to affect the kind of water supplies we can expect in our future.

Q. What needs to be changed in how California manages the wet years?

In the past, the main water management concern was flood protection during the very wet years. Floods can be devastating and expensive for infrastructure and communities. But now, in this era of reduced supply, water managers have to think beyond flood protection to leveraging those extra resources for supplies and trying to bank them.

Those wet years are also hugely important for bolstering the health and quality of our ecosystems, which all cycles back to improve our supply and resilience for coming years.

But the wet years are becoming less frequent, and they come fast. We have to be ready to take advantage when they’re here. In 2017, we had an excess of run-off that flowed out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. More of that water could be stored without doing any harm at all to ecosystems or other water users. Investing in infrastructure to move that water around will be important too. We have to be ready to move flood waters from where they are to where they need to be stored in the ground.

Q. The footprint of California agriculture is shrinking as a result of the drought and SGMA. PPIC research fellow Jeffrey Mount has said the real debate now on water and ag should be around

farmland transition and safety nets. Can you talk about that?

Absolutely. This is a difficult topic because it’s about demand reduction. All signs point to this reduced footprint for irrigated ag in the valley, even if we do a really great job of finding new sources of supply, and even if we develop really robust and flexible groundwater and surface water trading markets. We’ve modeled out all these scenarios, and we’re still facing at least half a million acres

of cropland, about 10% of our irrigated footprint, that will need to come out of irrigated production to meet the goals of SGMA. This isn’t a worst-case scenario. This is a probable-case scenario.

We need to be looking at what happens to that land. Is it just going to be this unplanned, haphazard process of land being left idle, turning into tumbleweed patches and dust bowl, which

With California expecting a fourth consecutive dry year, the State Water Project will deliver only 5% of requested supplies for 2023 as announced Dec. 1 (photo by C. Merlo.)
January 2023 www.wcngg.com 37
Limited water supplies, SGMA and low almond prices are likely behind the pulling of this almond orchard west of Shafter, Calif. (photo by C. Merlo.)



nobody wants to see? Or can we manage this proactively and think, “OK, if it’s not going to be irrigated ag, then what else can we do with that land?”

That’s farmland transition. The question for the valley is how to manage that transition in a way that creates benefits for the most possible parties and avoids creating a liability. That’s challenging because a lot of

those benefits are on the public side whereas the land itself is managed on the private side. That’s where the need for safety nets, incentives and some kind of coordinating mechanism becomes really important.

Some alternative land uses could potentially pay for themselves. Solar is a good example of a land-use alternative that’s more lucrative. Things like habitat conservation, cover crops, dust-mitigation efforts, even dryland crops, are often not as lucrative as their cropping alternatives. But there are other benefits from those land uses. How do we make them cost effective?

Q. What good things are going on to manage water supply and demand in California?

The good thing is we do have federal and state funding to work with. On the federal side, we have the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill as well as the Inflation Reduction Act, some of which goes toward water sup-

ply and infrastructure in California.

On the state side, a couple of funding packages passed in 2021 and 2022 for drought response, water supply management and climate resilience. Overall, they amount to over $10 billion. The Department of Conservation has several million in funding for the Multi-Benefit Land Repurposing Program. This funding will facilitate farmland transitions into another beneficial use, like habitat.

And we are making progress beyond funding. There’s a lot more excitement about, for example, Managed Aquifer Recharge (or flood-MAR), which is getting wet-year flood waters stored in the ground. There’s been a lot of attention paid to that, especially in basins in the San Joaquin Valley that are critically over-drafted and having to take a hard look at where they’ll get their supplies from in the future. It’s good to see agricultural water users getting interested in how they can recharge water on their own land.

Q. PPIC believes California can thrive with less water. Why?

Californians have shown that we can meet big challenges before, and this is our moment to do it again. California is a world leader in innovation, in agriculture, in renewable energy. We have an abundance of natural and human resources, and that’s really in our favor. We’ve also shown that we have the capacity to pass big reforms. SGMA is one example. That was really groundbreaking legislation, although it’s far from perfect. But that’s the kind of thing we need to address complex challenges. It helps to have the funding this year to take some of those actions. In short, we have all the tools. What’s needed is to bring them all together and come up with a strategic plan.

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New funding will help growers with farmland transition as irrigated cropland shrinks under SGMA, says Peterson (photo by C. Merlo.)
38 West Coast Nut January 2023


Workshop Explores Water, Nitrogen Use Efficiency to Reduce Environmental Impact

The regulatory environment and diversity of fruit and nut crops is driving research into nitrogen and irrigation management.

At a Kern County workshop that was part of CDFA’S Fertilizer Research and Education Program, UC Davis Agronomist Sat Darshan Khalsa said much of the research being done to improve nitrogen use efficiency and manage irrigation water is aimed at reducing impacts on the environment.

Nitrogen use efficiency studies were initiated, Khalsa said, as higher concentrations were being detected in groundwater. This was due to nitrogen use decades ago, he stressed, and it will take decades to remediate. There are economic and environmental benefits of nitrogen management.

Tree nut growers need to understand N demand by tree type and that it is different from fruit trees as nuts remove more N from the orchard, but they can also lose more N to the environment.

The efficiency factor with N use has improved, Khalsa said. Historically, it was not near 75%, and about half was lost to the environment. Growers are doing much better now as they budget based on tree needs. Making sure the N is in the right place in the orchard when there is tree demand helps avoid loss.

Compost applications in tree nut orchards can also help with nutrition and water holding capacity. Field trials have determined that best practice is a fall compost application on the tree berm at the rate of 7 tons per acre. Khalsa stressed that the compost works as a ‘savings account,” providing a slow release of nutrition while improving soil organic matter.

Fall timing is important as nutrients will be available when there is demand. Applications in late winter means mineralization will occur in July when demand is low.

Source of compost is an important consideration and depends on your goals. If tree nutrition is desired, Khalsa recommended dairy-based compost. If soil organic matter is important, he said green waste compost will work. Soil variation will affect applications. Sandy soils will not see the level of benefit from compost that loamy soils will.

Soil Properties and Irrigation Scheduling

Soil texture and structure must be considered when making irrigation management decisions.

Khaled Bali, UCCE irrigation water management specialist, said applying the right amount of water to optimize profit saves water, energy, nutrients and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

He also noted that an irrigation system’s design and management should be planned with soil physical properties and infiltration rates in mind.

Mohammad Yaghmour, UCCE farm advisor in Kern and Kings counties, said considerations for water budgeting include crop water requirements and irrigation scheduling using Eto, KC, Eta, CIMIS, Tule, plant-based technologies and soil moisture.

He also suggested fine-tuning a water budget using FRET, soil moisture and other technologies.

Irrigation and nutrition management in young trees requires flexibility as they grow. Phoebe Gordon,

UCCE farm advisor in Madera and Merced counties, said irrigating young trees is tough.

“You need to be able to hit the target while accurately estimating how much water the trees need, which can change within a year,” Gordon said. Competition with weeds complicates the matter.

Estimating ET needs for an orchard within complete canopy cover can be a challenge. Gordon noted that transpirational demands decrease and evaporation increases in a young orchard. ET isn’t just a factor of shaded canopy cover. Gordon said the rule of thumb is to estimate the shaded cover of the orchard at noon. Multiply that number by two, then multiply that percentage by the weekly ET to get your inches of water per acre. A newly planted orchard may be at 5% to 10% shaded cover. End of first leaf will depend on the crop. For almonds, it may be 15% to 20%. With pistachio, it is likely around 10%.

Targeting the root zones is essential for young trees as it is very limited. Water must be applied right at the root sone for newly planted trees. Gordon said water may move into root zones for bareroot trees, but water will not move into potting media from bulk soil.

To accurately target the root zone with inline drip emitters, Gordon recommended laying the lines before planting, leaving some slack for adjusting. Ensure an emitter is at the base of each tree. For microsprinkler orchards, ensure the emitter pattern matches what is advertised. Gordon warned that low pressure can result in smaller wetted areas. Sprinklers could be changed to drip emitters. Button emitters can be punched in

Compost applications in tree nut orchards can also help with nutrition and water holding capacity (photo by C. Parsons.)
40 West Coast Nut January 2023

at the base of the tree and expanded out later.

Gordon said that first-leaf trees are not utilizing all the water put out by a microsprinkler or drip system. Applied water may need to increase to compen sate and sprinkler caps may concentrate applied water into a smaller area, result ing in the soil profile being filled faster.

For wetted depth, the 50% allowable depletion rule still applies in young orchards, but the working depth may be much less. Consider impeding layers of soil and root growth of the tree species. For almonds and walnuts, that would be about a foot per year. Pistachio trees are phreatophytes, Gordon noted, and will likely root very deeply as fast as possible.

To be sure you are on the right track with irrigation, Gordon recommended augering into the soil. Moisture sensors can be inaccurate in newly planted

Many growers have converted to pressurized irrigation systems in recent years, Hockett said, because of the advantages. In addition to weed and disease reduction due to smaller wetted through the system. Microsystems can operate on hilly terrain with little or no

These advantages won’t be achieved without system maintenance. Problems frequently encountered include excessproperly set regulating valves, plugged

The average pressurized irrigation system has improved uniformities since 1988 when only 78% of drip and 80% of microsprinkler systems evaluated were operating as designed. Hockett said 90%tems evaluated were achieving distribu-

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O ce: 559-686-3833 Fax: 5 59-686-1453 2904 E. Oakdale Ave. | Tulare, CA 93274 newerafarmservice .com Helping Farmers Grow NATURALLY Since 1974
Soil texture and structure must be considered when making irrigation management decisions (photo
January 2023 www.wcngg.com 41
by T. Chalstrom.).



California’s shrinking water availability and increasing energy costs have put a premium on proper irrigation management, according to a certified crop consultant and water-use expert.

Cory Broad, territory sales manager for Jain Irrigation, said the days of going out and turning on the pump whenever you so desire are over. And with the uncertainties surrounding the future availability of surface water and groundwater, stresses on water use are only expected to increase.

Full implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and other impending regulatory actions will affect water users across the state, Broad said, “and, unfortunately, it is going to disproportionately impact agriculture.”

Approximately 600,000 acres of farmland in California will be idle this year due to water shortages, he said, and pumping caps of between 0.6 acre-feet and 1.3 acrefeet per acre will be common. “And it is going to impact 1 to 1.1 million acres permanently across the state.”

Broad noted that water use of 3.5 to 4 acre-feet per acre is common in tree crops. “So, there are some really challenging decisions that are already starting to be made by growers,” he said. “This is a kind of deer-in-theheadlight moment for everyone.”

Against this backdrop in a webinar this past fall, Broad said it is important for growers to prepare for the future by answering some basic questions, including how to grow a crop economically with good agronomic principles but with less water.

“These are things we are going to have to become comfortable with,” he said.

Partner with a Pro First off, Broad said, it is important for growers to partner with an irrigation professional. “Find a certified crop advisor with water management expertise,” he said.

“Water proficiency is a must-have for growers and their advisors,” he said.

Also, invest in high-quality, energy-efficient equipment. Drip, microsprinkler, flood and furrow irrigation all have their places, he said, but the products that support the system have to be high-quality.

“One question to ask [when purchasing equipment] is whether it is energy-efficient,” he said. “Energy rates in ag have basically doubled in the last 15 years in California. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon, especially as the 2045 Energy Initiative isn’t that far off.”

With fertigation common, maximizing investment in crop nutrients also should be a consideration when

investing in irrigation equipment.

“By investing and spending money on calcium and nitrogen and then putting it on ununiformly because you didn’t invest in an irrigation system, you are hurting your initial investment and you are hurting your long-term investment,” Broad said. “So, it is important to invest in good equipment.

“Also, investing in technology is important,” he said.

Soil moisture sensors can be invaluable, he said. “You can get moisture, you can get EC, you can kind of track fertigation. They are reliable and inexpensive.”

Growers also should consider going with an automated irrigation system, he said. “Our automation requests [at Jain Irrigation] have tripled this year because of labor challenges and the opportunity to use water more efficiently,” he said.

Also, software can be a critical addition to good irrigation management, he said. “It is something I interact with every day,” he said. “Good software that uses satellite imagery is low-cost, fits all economic models and allows a grower to do more with less.

“From our end, it gives us that opportunity to build confidence when we are doing water budgeting because we are using this imagery in conjunction with weather data and crop functions,” he added. “And it gives you a field-specific management view of what is going on. Each week, you are getting a calculation and an image, and it shows you literally how much water your field is using and giving you the health of your crop.”

First Irrigation

Another step growers can take to reduce water use and maintain crop health is to consider delaying their first irrigation in the spring, Broad said. And a key to that is knowing your soil water holding capacity.

“I think if you can start to understand your soils, their texture and structure, you can expand this budget and focus on

Using a pump-up pressure chamber to determine when to start irrigating can save on irrigation costs as well as help preserve tree health (photo courtesy L. Milliron.)
42 West Coast Nut January 2023

Apply less, expect more?


saving water, because you kind of know the water is there, and then you know how much you are going to use, and then you can say, ‘On this day is when I am going to start irrigating,’” Broad said.

“Knowing the rooting depth of your crop also is important to help calculate water availability,” he added.

Growers should consider measuring tree stress with a pressure chamber to determine when to start their spring irrigation, according to Luke Milliron, UCCE farm advisor for Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties.

“Not only do you save on water, which has become expensive all of a sudden and the availability of which is uncertain, but you also can avoid damaging the tree, which you can do in the spring if the roots are saturated for too long,” Milliron said.

Milliron noted that research has shown that even in drought years like 2021 and 2022, walnut growers using the pressure chamber found they didn’t need to irrigate until May.

“The ability for water savings is tremendous in walnuts,” Milliron said.

“A lot of folks just intuitively start irrigating in late March or certainly during April based on the ground drying out and early heat waves,” Milliron said. “They are concerned that they are losing deep soil moisture, so they are trying to keep the bank full, so to speak.

“What we have shown is that folks can wait, use the

pressure chamber, and even though the top of the soil is dry, the tree roots are tapping into water that is potentially as deep as 10 feet,” he said. “Let the trees tell us when to irrigate.

“Waiting for when the trees are actually experiencing just a modest level of stress according to the pressure chamber is a good trigger,” he said.

“You’ll get nervous because you probably are going to be irrigating later than all of your neighbors, and that is a nerve-wracking thing to do,” he added. “They might be on their second, third or fourth irrigation, and you haven’t started.

“In almonds, the soil dries out much sooner and they obviously leaf out sooner,” Milliron said. “Still, I think the pressure chamber is a tool you could use. The ability for water savings in almonds, at least in our research studies, is very modest, though. It might be one, or at the most two, irrigations.”

Information on the pressure chamber, including operating instructions, are available at sacvalleyorchards.com/ manuals/.

Proper Maintenance

Properly maintaining irrigation equipment also is important, Broad said, with flushing hoses a key component of any maintenance program.

“Every field requires different flushing protocols, but they all require care,” he said. Particularly if using surface water, growers should flush their hoses monthly at a minimum, he said.

In summary, Broad said it is important for growers to partner with the right people, invest in a good irrigation system, create a water budget for each field so they know what the crop is going to use and understand their soil types.

“And then, improve your irrigation maintenance scheduling,” he said.

With more water-use restrictions on the horizon, energy costs tripling over the last decade-and-a-half and crop input costs soaring, understanding how to grow healthy crops with less water and less energy is more important than ever, Broad said.

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Cory Broad checks nut fill in a pistachio orchard that is under deficit irrigation to ensure there is no effect on tree performance (photo courtesy C. Broad.)
44 West Coast Nut January 2023


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Young Almond Grower Receives National Recognition

It would be a good bet that the FFA member named the American Star Farmer 2022 has never been an almond grower.

Peter Bliss, a 2020 graduate of Golden Valley High School in Merced and an almond grower, beat the odds last October when he became the winner of this prestigious award at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.

The American Star Farmer Award is given to the FFA member who demonstrates the top production in a supervised agricultural experience. Bliss is only the third California FFA member in the 95-year history of the National

FFA Organization to be selected as the American Star Farmer.

“They really didn’t ask me much about my almond production. They stuck with questions about cotton and wheat (his other supervised agricultural experience projects) that they are more familiar with,” Bliss said in a recent interview with West Coast Nut Bliss’ agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor Cody Jacobsen said Bliss and his farming projects have been on the radar of the state FFA organization since he was named the state star farmer in 2020. He also has won two national FFA proficiency awards

for fiber and oil crops and diversified farming, competing with FFA members from across the nation.

“Lives and Breathes Farming”

“He just stands out with his actual farming experience. He lives and breathes farming,” Jacobsen said. He explained that the Star Farmer award is meant for the FFA member who demonstrates that they are in charge of their enterprise, make the decisions and do the work.

California FFA members may have some unique challenges that FFA members in other parts of the country don’t often encounter. Jacobsen said their production costs are higher and they must deal with more restrictive environmental regulations.

During the interviews for the award, California FFA members have to educate the interviewers about permanent tree crops in California, Jacobsen added. Interviews done on Zoom do not tell the entire story about a student.

“If they met him in person and shook his hand, they would know he really does all the work.”

Bliss’ 105 acres of almond trees in the El Nido area are a big part of his farming efforts. The land is leased from his family, and Bliss said he helped plant many of the Monterey and Nonpareil trees at the age of six.

He is a fifth-generation farmer and also grows cotton and wheat.

46 West Coast Nut January 2023
Peter Bliss, a 2020 graduate of Golden Valley High School in Merced and an almond grower, beat the odds last October when he became the winner of the American Star Farmer 2022 award.

Crediting Farming Mentors

Besides Jacobsen, Bliss counts his father, and a neighbor, Scott Heupel, as his farming mentors.

“I look to them as well as neighboring almond growers for advice and information about taking care of this orchard,” he said. “The best advice I have been given is if it doesn’t make sense, it won’t make dollars.” Bliss said he applies that advice to all the financial decisions he makes for his operation. He budgets for the upcoming year by looking at previous year’s expenses and income. Those numbers, he said, will determine what he can or can’t afford to do in the next year. Bliss said that recently, those numbers have been challenging.

Heupel, an almond and walnut grower in Merced County, said he has watched Bliss grow into a “hands-on” kid who decided early on in his high school years to move to a program that matched his farming ambitions. Heupel, who was coaching the farm

power team at Golden Valley, said Bliss won the state farm power contest as a junior and continued to work on his FFA experiences.

“Pete is going to be a farmer for the rest of his life,” Heupel said of his young neighbor.

Heupel said Bliss has an incredible work ethic, which is why Heupel asked him to come work for him parttime.

“We talk about almonds and varieties and general farming practices like fertilization, pest management and why we do the things we do in farming, practical things we all have to learn.

“You can’t make a lot of mistakes in farming and continue to farm,” Heupel said.

January 2023 www.wcngg.com 47
Bliss’ 105 acres of almond trees in the El Nido area are a big part of his farming efforts.

to begin. At the same time, he is also dealing with pollination contracts, limited water availability and increased restrictions on pesticide use.

Bliss said he has a PCA on board to recommend applications, but he said he was not sure how cutting back on pest and weed control due to restrictions on use will affect his production.

He is also in the process of finding a new pollination service provider this year.

The water situation is making him nervous, Bliss said. His trees are in the Chowchilla Irrigation District, but he hasn’t received surface water deliveries in the past two years. With upcoming groundwater pumping restrictions, he is concerned about his ability to irrigate and avoid stressing the trees and keep up production.

Bliss said the toughest lesson to be learned in almond production is the effect weather can have on the crop. Weather at bloom can dictate how the

entire growing season goes. Keeping up with irrigation and pest control means he must be vigilant and watch the trees closely. Postharvest is a part of the year when he is crunched for time; just as the almond harvest is wrapping up, he said it is time for cotton harvest

ContinuedfromPage47 Comments about this

Last year was his first growing season with a drip irrigation system, converting from flood irrigation in the orchard. Bliss said the change was a positive one for orchard health and his ability to meet water needs more precisely. The result, he said, was higher yield than previous years. It also meant that he no longer had to change water at all hours of the night, an important consideration when you are also the head irrigator.

Bliss said with the drip system, kernel size improved. He explained that his ground includes an old river site, making it harder to push water through some parts of the orchard with flood irrigation. The sandy streaks were tough dirt, he said, but with the drip system, he saw much improved growth.

Bliss said he receives feedback on his crop quality from his processor after harvest, and they take time to talk about the markets and where his crop sits in the market. He said current plans are to stick with the Nonpareils as they are easier to sell. Pulling and replanting trees are not in his immediate future; Bliss said that decision will rest on the price of almonds in the future.

article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com
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Bliss said he helped plant many of the Monterey and Nonpareil trees on his land at the age of six.

Creating a Blooming Business for Almonds

Choosing and Applying Plant Health Products to Help Get the Job Done

When it comes to the three Bs in business – BBB –the Better Business Bureau likely comes to mind. But for PCAs and almond growers, there are three different B words that can impact the success of their almond enterprise. We’re talking Better Bloom Business.

Getting Down to the Business of Bloom

During the past several years, growers have been dealing with drought, low nut prices, weather pattern changes and shifts in disease pressure, to name a few. That’s why it’s more important than ever for growers to get down to business maximizing their efforts to protect Plant Health and make the most out of their almond bloom.

Unlike other crops that bloom multiple times throughout the season, almonds only bloom once, giving growers only one opportunity to protect and maximize their yield potential.

Building a Business Case for Merivon ® Fungicide

Considering all the factors at play, it makes good business sense for growers to incorporate Merivon® Xemium® Brand Fungicide into their fungicide program. Fungicides can help protect blossoms from disease and ultimately protect against crop losses due to fungal pathogens.

Merivon fungicide provides excellent activity against several key bloom-related diseases, such as monilinia and the Jacket Rot complex. Plus, Merivon fungicide offers key Plant Health benefits by promoting increased nitrogen assimilation, which leads to better root and shoot growth, and increased photosynthesis. Merivon fungicide also aids in reducing stress responses in the crop, from conditions like frost and drought, for better overall bloom and nut retention.

Merivon fungicide is the only bloom-time fungicide labeled for both disease control and Plant Health. While other products may hint at these physiological benefits, Merivon fungicide is the only one actually labeled for “disease control and plant health.”

Timing at Work

Selecting the ideal product for the job is just the first step. Enter the application window, which is highly variable and often depends on weather conditions. Growers must consider a variety of factors, as certain conditions favor disease development.

For example, if rain occurs and temperatures are mild during a 24-hour period or more, fungicide application is critical. Ideally, a prophylactic fungicide application before these conditions occur can be the best practice to minimize the chances that fungal diseases will take hold and become problematic. Considering that bloom overall is a fairly short event, even in the longer bloom years, growers could consider applying their fungicide at the same time they are putting out a foliar nutritional spray.

Forgoing Fungicide Can Be Bad Business What’s at stake if an almond grower misses the application window and/or forgoes a fungicide spray altogether? In the short term, the grower risks yield loss due to bloom loss. In the medium term, the grower risks lowering yield potential for the following year due to stress causing more buds to differentiate to leaves and not blossom. If the grower’s fungicide program is lacking for several years, it can shorten the life of trees or cause early tree death.

The smartest course of action is to always focus on the critical timings and best in class products that can help growers get to the business of building a better bloom. Consult your local BASF representative or trusted PCA to learn more.

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The U.S. EPA is proposing to make the most significant changes to Rodenticides in 15 years:

Cancelling products and crop uses

The U.S. EPA is proposing to make the most significant changes to Rodenticides in 15 years:

Adding more requirements to the labels Reclassifying some products to Restricted Use Pesticides

Cancelling products and crop uses Adding more requirements to the labels Reclassifying some products to Restricted Use Pesticides

Do you use rodenticides on your land? Are rodenticides essential to the viability of your agri-business? The EPA will seek public comments on its proposed mitigation measures for the registration review of rodenticides starting in November. During a 60-day public comment period, the Agency will accept comments on their proposed changes, as described in the Proposed Interim Decision (PID) documents for:

Acute Rodenticides (bromethalin and cholecalciferol)


60-day public comment period, the Agency will accept comments on their proposed changes, as described in the Proposed Interim Decision (PID) documents for:

Anticoagulant Rodenticides (chlorophacinone, diphacinone, warfarin, brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone)

Acute Rodenticides (bromethalin and cholecalciferol)

Zinc phosphide.

Anticoagulant Rodenticides (chlorophacinone, diphacinone, warfarin, brodifacoum,



Doing Anything Counts When it Comes to Winter Sanitation for Nut Crops Even with low prices for nuts, don’t completely walk away from sanitation. Navel orangeworm overwinter in an almond mummy (photo courtesy L. Milliron.) Please call 1.800.769.5040 or visit us online at www.wilcodistributors.com for info! www.responsiblerodenticides.org SEE OUR AD ON PAGE ??? Do you use rodenticides on your land? Are rodenticides essential to the viability of your agri-business? The EPA will seek public comments on its proposed mitigation measures for the registration review of rodenticides starting in November. During a 60-day public comment period, the Agency will accept comments on their proposed changes, as described in the Proposed Interim Decision (PID) documents for: Make Your Voice Heard! Acute Rodenticides (bromethalin and cholecalciferol) Anticoagulant Rodenticides TAKE ACTION The U.S. EPA is proposing to make the most significant changes to Rodenticides in 15 years: Cancelling products and crop uses Adding more requirements to the labels Reclassifying some products to Restricted Use Pesticides Do you use rodenticides on your land? Are rodenticides essential to the viability of your agri-business? The EPA will seek public comments on its proposed mitigation measures for the registration review of rodenticides starting in November. During a
Voice Heard!
Make Your
Make Your Voice Heard!
50 West Coast Nut January 2023

Winter sanitation for navel orangeworm (NOW) is still one of the most critical practices growers have in their toolbox to reduce NOW numbers, according to Luke Milliron, UCCE orchard systems advisor for Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties.

NOW Numbers

Milliron found several things troubling about NOW in the Sacramento Valley this year.

“First, I definitely heard rumors of some really high navel orangeworm levels this year, so I think that’s very concerning,” he said, adding a lot of growers had significant NOW infestation.

Second, many almond growers also struggled with the weather in the northern Sacramento Valley in 2022. Many growers experienced freeze damage and didn’t harvest their crops, so there are still nuts in the orchard.

“Unfortunately, there was only enough crop to create overwintering mummy nuts, so that’s really con-

cerning for making sure that those do finally get shaken and mowed,” Milliron said.

Sudan Gyawaly, IPM advisor for the Sacramento Valley, agreed nuts were left in the tree, and he hopes that growers will continue to do winter sanitation. If the mummy nuts aren’t removed, they not only increase next season’s navel orangeworm numbers by hosting larvae over the winter, but they also serve as the only place where adult females lay eggs in early summer, he added.


Nut prices are down which means growers are searching for ways to reduce costs.

“Almond prices are not good and walnut prices are absolutely atrocious,” Milliron said, adding I understand walnut growers skipping winter sanitation when NOW isn’t as much of a problem annually compared to almonds.

“While winter sanitation is technically the right thing to do, you’ve

got to start by looking at your books,” Milliron advised, and the reality may be that winter sanitation ends up much, much further down the list.

Gyawaly is also concerned that because nut prices are down in all nut crops, especially walnuts, growers may skip winter sanitation, which could

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Winter sanitation is like so many other things in life; it’s an insurance program. It’s the best insurance program for navel orangeworm we know.
January 2023 www.wcngg.com 51
– Luke Milliron, UCCE

result in higher NOW pressure in the coming years.

Nut prices are low, and at the same time input costs continue to increase (gas, pesticides, water, etc.), so growers may not do winter sanitation.

“That’s my really big concern right now,” Gyawaly said, adding this could result in much higher numbers of NOW.

“I have seen one grower especially struggling to even keep his trees alive because he cannot afford to irrigate them enough,” Gyawaly said, adding in that kind of situation, the grower may not harvest the crop, and those nuts become mummies and the host for overwintering NOW.

But not doing winter sanitation builds up the population in the whole valley, Gyawaly stressed.

Nut Damage

“I haven’t heard yet whether there was bad navel orangeworm in walnuts this year,” Milliron said, adding grade sheets are still coming in.

“I would be concerned that there might be elevated levels this year because we had this weird early rain in the middle of almond harvest and the walnut husks flew open after that. And so definitely they [walnuts] were vul-

nerable to infestation for a long, long time,” Milliron said, and while he’s not getting calls about NOW damage, he has received calls about black hulls and either mold or black kernels in walnuts.

“There have been some atrocious levels that many ag commissioners are looking into. It doesn’t look like it’s raising to the level of a crop disaster, but if it’s bad, it may be on the order of 5% to 10% across Butte County,” Milliron said, adding 30% damage is needed to declare a crop disaster.

Winter Sanitation

It’s important to consider what the impact will be if the orchard isn’t sani-

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A perfect scenario would be removing mummy nuts and getting it down to less than two mummy nuts per tree. But again, if your situation doesn’t allow for that, I think anything counts.
52 West Coast Nut January 2023
– Sudan Gyawaly, UCCE
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tized, Gyawaly said.

“When you talk about navel orangeworm management, winter sanitation is the foundation,” Gyawaly said. “Previous research showed that if you just rely on pesticides, it’s not going to work. Even if you spray the best of the pesticides, you are always going to get some unacceptable damage.

“Winter sanitation is probably one of the most important practices to minimize the damage to an acceptable level,” Gyawaly said, adding managing NOW is a combination of effective monitoring and utilizing available tools, such as winter sanitation, mating disruption, spray applications at hull split and timely harvest.

And the other side of that is chemicals are expensive, too, and prices keep increasing, so winter sanitation could result in fewer chemical applications during the season and save growers money, Gyawaly said.

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When Should Winter Sanitation be Done?

Doing winter sanitation too early results in more difficulty removing the nuts.

“In the Sacramento Valley especially, we have foggy weather, so that helps for the nuts to drop easily when we shake, so it’s better to wait until there’s some rain and some fog at the same time,” Gyawaly said.

But too much rain could make it difficult to get machines into the orchard to shake, so starting winter sanitation is a balance between getting wet weather, but not too much, Gyawaly said.

Shaker Head for Mummy Removal

Multiple University of California agricultural engineers including Uriel Rosa, John Miles and now Reza Ehsani; University of Cordoba, Spain; Sergio Castro Garcia; and industry harvester fabricator Phil Scott, owner of AgRight, have cooperated with UCCE Specialist Louise Ferguson on a canopy contact harvester for table olives. They also demonstrated the head of this shaker has potential as a fast continuous mummy knocker for pistachio and possibly almond. The application of this technology for mummy removal needs to be investigated further through rigorous field testing before being considered a viable option for removing mummies.

Do Something

“From the IPM perspective, winter sanitation is really important. It’s one of the essential practices for an effective NOW integrated pest management program,” Gyawaly said, adding growers have to balance the cost, look at their present and future crop value and the cost if they don’t do winter sanitation.

Growers may choose to skip winter sanitation this year because the prices are low and they’re struggling to make any profits.

“A perfect scenario would be removing mummy nuts and getting it down to less than two mummy nuts per tree,” Gyawaly said. “But again, if your situation doesn’t allow for that, I think anything counts. Anything you can do to get rid of those nuts really counts.”

Milliron agreed and said doing something is better than doing nothing at all. “Even if you don’t go through and shake every tree again this winter, just make sure you go through and flail mow what’s on the ground. Doing something is better than doing nothing at all. So, if you can, don’t completely walk away from winter sanitation,” Milliron said.

“Winter sanitation is like so many

other things in life; it’s an insurance program. It’s the best insurance program for navel orangeworm we know. Some years it’ll pay for itself, other years it won’t, but you do it every year because you don’t know what next year will hold,” Milliron said.

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January 2023 www.wcngg.com 55


Ihope the holidays were festive, fun and full of all the family you could handle. Now get back to work! As farmers, we don’t get a whole lot of time off. Being January, almond bloom is

not very far off. Then it won’t be long until all the other crops follow suit. Let’s make a plan, and more importantly this year, alter it and make sure it’s working.

Just Enough Inputs

Being a crop advisor in addition to farming my own pistachios, I am acutely aware of the rising prices for fertilizer. We need to be mindful of our inputs to ensure we aren’t adding anything to our soil that our crops aren’t picking up. Let’s take a deeper dive into what that means. What did your crops yield last year? Sit down with your crop advisor and calculate the removal rates. Add to that what it takes to just grow your trees let alone the crops. A great resource for that can be found at the UC ANR website. Now look at your soils and see what the soil was supposed to release in the parts per million section. Calculate your total inputs for the season. Now look at your tissue samples and see what you were deficient in. How was that specific nutrient supplied and at what time of the year? Did you acidify your spray water below 7 before applying the nutrition foliarly? What was the pH of the water used to apply fertigations? How long did you run those sets that nutrition was applied? If you have soil moisture sensors, how far did the water move in that set? Was it below 12” to 18” or below the active root zone? How long did that soil stay wet and let the roots sit in anaerobic conditions? Were

56 West Coast Nut January 2023
Getting a balanced nutrient load early in the season can set them up for success later on (photo courtesy California Walnut Board.)
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specific nutrients applied when those ‘specific nutrients’ were in demand for your trees and crop?

Let’s run a quick example with nitrogen. If we use the standard rule that tree nuts can only take up about 10 units N per week, what happens when we apply 50 units in one fertigation? Assuming a 70% use efficiency, if a crop can take up 10 units per acre, we actually only need to apply 13 units that week. We put on 50. How’s that going to work out for us? Let’s say it’s UAN-32 which has a total N load of 3.54 pounds per gallon. We would have applied 14.1 gallons per acre in that fertigation according to the math. The nitrate content of that fertilizer is 0.86 pounds per gallon. That’s 12.14 units of just nitrate N in that total application. Let’s hope all of that got absorbed in that irrigation. When we check our irrigation, we see that water went down to 24”. Let’s just pray the urea portion (1.82 pounds N per gallon) and the ammoniacal portion of N (0.86 pounds per gallon) didn’t rinse all the way through

58 West Coast Nut January 2023
Matching N applications with crop demand can save input costs in the long run (photo by C Parsons.)

to those 2 feet. There aren’t many active feeder roots that far down. And how long will it take the biology to transform that N into nitrate in anaerobic conditions? How much of that urea volatilized? My point in all of this is that our inefficiencies in large slugs may be costing us serious money. Yet, we still probably have plenty of N. Did we need all of that? Maybe we did if we aren’t applying it correctly. Let’s change that.

Look at the Tissues

Rarely do I see any crops that are deficient in N. If your N levels are elevated and all your other nutrients are just at sufficiency levels, they aren’t balanced. Unbalanced nutrition is not efficient. Often, those imbalances create undesirable results like more vegetative growth instead of making crops. Let’s dig a little deeper on other nutrients. How often do you apply calcium? Remember, your crops need as much or more Ca every year as N. If you are getting your Ca in the form of CAN-17, that’s only half of what you need to keep up with N (17% N and 9% Ca). If you’re trying to rely on former gypsum applications or lime, you better be sure your water is below 6.5 pH and you’ve reduced the carbonates or it’s not going to release the 4000 ppm your soil test shows. The math says you need the tissues to have 10% to 15% of the N total in magnesium, 25% of the N total in sulfur, 80% of the N total in potassium, etc. Are we actually balancing nutrients or just overapplying one that is now costing us a lot more money?

Alright, enough of the questions and “what-ifs”. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. If we can reduce our inputs significantly and match actual demand at critical times, we can keep yields up and input prices lower. Oh, and one more thing (I feel like Columbo!): Let’s get it right early in the season this year. Giving a balanced dose of the nutrients the trees need early allows them to set themselves up. Our trees are stuck right where we put them, so we must make sure the nutrition gets to them in the

proper amounts. If bloom is successful and the trees have what they need for cell division and great big green solar panels, they can do more of the heavy lifting the rest of the year. If we start deficient, we will be chasing it the rest of the season. It’s better to get them off to a good start and give the trees what they need to work as hard as we do.

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

‘Unbalanced nutrition is not efficient. Often, those imbalances create undesirable results like more vegetative growth instead of making crops.’

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Raised to pursue ambitions, almond grower Mallvinder Kahal applies the same strategy to farming.

Mallvinder Kahal, managing partner at Atlas Almonds, Inc. and president of Kahal Farms, led the recent construction of an almond processor in Madera to compliment his family’s almond farming operation. Kahal began his ag career seven years ago, bringing new ideas and energy and acquiring invaluable insight about some certain farming philosophies that shouldn’t change.

The Kahal family’s acreage has doubled from 1,000 acres to 3,000 acres in Stanislaus, Madera and Merced counties, thus making the decision to build a 40,000-square-foot almond processor a natural fit.

Kahal had never worked in an almond processor before let alone build one. His approach was to avoid looking too far ahead as he managed the project.

He paced himself.

“At first, I wanted to attack it all at once. And then thought, ‘No, why don’t I focus on the smaller sub sections, one at a time,’” Kahal said.

He jokes the project took years off his life.

For Kahal, the 2021 season was the first full season in operation. Atlas Almonds sources almonds from family acreage as well as outside growers, with most of the production exported. There seems to be a pattern in how he embraces anything

“new” as an immersive hands-on experience.

When Kahal gets curious, then he is all in. He can tell you about his business stints in bee keeping and almond butter manufacturing.

Cyclical Market

Kahal joined the industry when almond prices were strong when there was an ease to managing business expenses. That’s changed in the past few years.

“I thought I knew what that meant to bare your teeth and deal with these market cycles, but I didn’t,” Kahal said.

With the uncertainty, Kahal acknowledged the generations of farmers who have endured pricing downturns in the past and survived the financial squeeze.

“I think farmers who are committed to the core ideology of having dirt on your hands and making sure you are in the field are the ones who are going to survive,” Kahal said.

Kahal’s father is that ‘type’ of farmer. The one irrigating, spraying and discing himself.

Once, he described his father’s methods as “old school,” and now, Kahal recognizes his father’s hands-on approach to farm close to the dirt is one of practicality.

“Farming is not for the faint of heart, on the physical level, mental level and financially,” Kahal said.

When asked about the next “all in” venture, he says his focus is on managing the existing operation.

“Real success comes from maintaining a focus and grind. It might seem mundane, but it is important,” Kahal said.

Not Ag

Kahal is surrounded by farming. His immediate and extended family farm throughout the state in counties that hug highway 99. The patchwork of county lines throughout California is how he identifies where the farms are located, stretching from Kern to Yolo counties.

Both his maternal and paternal relatives have been farming over multiple generations in California and the Northern Indian region of Punjab.

Many migrated to California in the 1970s and worked any job they could. He was raised listening to stories of movement throughout Central California as his family shifted crops and regions depending on where the opportunities blossomed.

As the youngest of four children, Kahal was raised to pursue ambitions fueled by higher education.

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Mallvinder Kahal, managing partner at Atlas Almonds, Inc. and president of Kahal Farms, is eager to bridge communication gaps with folks not in the farming community (all photos by G. Kirkland.)
60 West Coast Nut January 2023

For a while, that was the plan.

At the time, Kahal was a pre-med major attending University of California Los Angeles. To get exposure in the medical field, he worked as an emergency medical technician. The experience provided clarity that the medical field wasn’t a fit.

He pivoted to an environmental science major where he found himself in the middle of emotionally charged conversations about the state’s water supply. The drought, at the time, provided a framework to hear differing perspectives.

Aside from chores around the family farm, Kahal lacked farming experience to know how to defend the ag industry from a technical perspective.

So, he used what he knew.

He responded to comments made against farming with a conversation about inputs versus outputs.

“My counter argument at that time was nutritional density. Take the amount of water used to produce a crop and compare it with the nutrition found in the food. When you compare that with nutritional supplements to add the same nutrients as the crop, then we look at the footprint of a vitamin processing plant and compare it to carbon sequestering of the trees or plants. These are the arguments that need to be a part of the conversation still today,” Kahal said.

The college experience illuminated a default mindset which omitted variables important to the conversation.


Kahal stands out as a well-spoken advocate who appears eager to bridge communication gaps with the folks not in the farming community.

Kahal feels strongly about sustainability and its place in the farming community.

“If you sit there silent, then the world is going to tell you what it means. We really have to take ownership of that word and drive it home,” Kahal said about defining sustainability.

Sustainability is being defined by some people who have never been on a farm.

“The conversation is happening with or without you,” he said.

What does sustainability mean?

“At its core, sustainability is what goes in (inputs) and what comes out (outputs). On a larger scale, it is the collective mean-

ing as to what is environmentally healthy,” Kahal said.

In the ag industry, sustainability is “being good at farming where your input should match your output.”


The field of ag tech is continuously working to provide solutions to provide a more accurate picture of the variables that go into producing a crop. Unfortunately, operating in an orchard, ranch or field imposes wear and tear.

Kahal explained how technology makes sense conceptually but doesn’t always work in all situations. He used the example of automating water line gates. There are gates located in the middle of an orchard making it impossible to automate without a power source and cost prohibitive to install a new source.

Secondly, irrigating isn’t as simple as opening and closing the gate, he explained that water pressure determines the size of the opening.

“Farming is still a people-centric industry,” he said.

The issue is there is still a gap between what is practical and what is offered and expected.

Kahal explained it can be easy to dismiss technology as a whole when prior attempts to adopt technology ended poorly and cost time and resources.

Service provided by ag tech vendors has been improving, both with hardware and software, in onboarding new applications as well as maintaining equipment, Kahal said.

Kahal is one to watch. He has tenacity to navigate the ever-complex tree nut industry. In less than 10 years, Kahal has cemented his place in the California tree nut industry. His approach to blend traditional cultural practices with the ever-changing landscape and availability of ag tech is sure to yield important contributions to the industry.

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Kahal completed construction of an almond processor in 2021 to accommodate the family’s growing almond farming acreage.
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Significant improvements to irrigation efficiency in the almond industry and the tools developed by the Almond Board of California to assist growers in that vital space can be attributed in large part to two UC ANR Emeritus, one of which lost his battle with cancer in 2022.

Larry Schwankl, a long time UC Cooperative Extension specialist in irrigation, passed away in May 2022, at the age of 68.

Given the fact that California is in perpetual cycles of drought, it’s hard to estimate the impact Schwankl had on the state’s agriculture industry with his career focus on sprinkler, drip and flood irrigation management.

“Larry’s extension work was very practical and addressed the needs of the growers in California,” said Khaled Bali, UCCE Irrigation Water Management Specialist and Director of Kearney Agricultural Research and Exten-

sion Center. Schwankl helped develop several tools for growers including the UC ANR publications Measuring Irrigation Water Flow Rates and Maintaining Microirrigation Systems

Another tool Schwankl was instrumental in building out the content behind was ABC’s Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum. Working in partnership with long-time colleague Terry Prichard, retired UC Extension water management specialist, the irrigation tool served as a benchmark and starting point for advancing the ABC irrigation outreach program.

“Larry and Terry were key in writing the Continuum and seeking the consensus of other UC irrigation experts, which was quite a task, but with much patience and focus they were able to accomplish this,” said Bob Curtis, ABC’s retired director of agricultural affairs. He added that the two authors were very proud that the Continuum was the first comprehensive irrigation practices resource specific to a single crop. “In effect, it’s a one-stop shop for what you need to know to irrigate the

Schwankl, a native Minnesotan, spent time in Iowa before landing in California to attend UC Davis. After working for FEMA in Philadelphia, he returned to UC Davis to gain his Ph.D. In 2004, he transferred from the UC Davis Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources Department to the University’s Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center (KARE) near Parlier, CA, where he remained until he retired in 2014.

In 2004, Schwankl married Carol Frate, UC Cooperative Extension

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advisor, of Visalia and transferred to Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center near Parlier.

In 2014, the Irrigation Association presented Schwankl with their Person of the Year Award. In their award announcement, Dana Osborne Porter, associate professor and extension agricultural engineer in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University, was quoted as saying “Through his well-recognized applied research program, technology transfer efforts and service activities, Dr. Schwankl has dedicated his career to developing, evaluating and promoting water-efficient technologies and irrigation best management practices.”

People who worked with Schwankl often use the term “thoughtful” when describing him, and that went for the subject matter as well. “He taught me that you cannot irrigate knowledgeably without a flow meter, and you might as well just gamble away your orchard unless you do a distribution uniformity test on the irrigation system,” Ben Fabor, UCCE farm advisor in Ventura County, told UC ANR. “These are critical tools, creating good water management and healthy orchards.”

Curtis reiterated the “thoughtful” aspect of Schwankl, adding he was a good teacher because of that attribute. When approached by Curtis on a question or insight, Schwankl would

often take some time to discuss the answer with Prichard. “There were times when I would have to be patient so that the two of them could confer to give me the best answers to the questions I was asking. This was a good exercise for me to practice and enhance my ability to be patient.”

Even in retirement, Schwankl was helping growers. Bali said after

his 28-year career was over, he would often come back to the KARE Center to discuss topics with current irrigation advisors.

Schwankl will be remembered and missed by the California almond industry.

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UC Cooperative Extension scientists (left to right) Larry Schwankl, Aziz Baameur and Mark Gaskell with irrigation metering equipment (photo courtesy UCCE.)


Aleaner 50th annual almond conference this past December reflected the times almond growers are living in. While the conference was pared down, attendance was up as growers looked to panel sessions focused on reducing input costs while driving markets for expanded consumption of alomonds in coming years.

The Almond Board of California and Land IQ estimate the removal of around 60,421 acres of almonds for the year through September 2022, approximately 4.5% of the 1.3 million bearing acres in 2022. Compared to removals in 2021, this may be the first year in the last two decades that more acres have been removed than replanted. It will likely also result in the first year of declined production in recent memory.

With times so challenging, speakers at this year’s conference said they will call for a demand and supply correction as well as expanded efforts to target new consumers. While exports have also been a focus of alomond industry growth, this year’s conference fo-

cused on attracting younger domestic consumers. Instead of the usual panels of importers, attendees were introduced to social media influencers who the Almond Board will support to get health and lifestyle messages out to potential younger demographics in the U.S. Growers and crop consultants also flocked to research poster presentations and exhibitors looking for answers to production challenges.

On a positive note, many of the shipping contraints that challenged the industry the last couple years are beginning to correct themselves largely through legislative efforst to constrain shipping line manipulation, industry efforts to facilitate the flow of nuts to ports and a reduction in demand for imported goods that were causing some shipping contaiuners to leave California ports empty.

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We All Want Rain, But Not During Bloom

While many Californians are hoping for a wet winter season, there is a window during that time when almond growers would really prefer a dry spell.

Dry weather during and right after bloom reduces the likelihood of serious infection of bloom diseases. Spores are airborne or rain splashed. Infection is favored by rainy weather with temperatures in the mid-70s during bloom. Infections can also occur in dry years with high humidity.

Depending on the level of disease inoculum present in the orchard, moisture and warm temperatures can significantly increase the chances of severe infection which will affect production. Monitoring weather conditions during this critical time and taking timely preventative steps can be the difference between good almond production and devastation.

Pedro Hernandez, product development project manager for Nichino America, said the decision of whether to spray at bloom or not should be based on past experience of infection in the orchard and the chances of a rain event during bloom.

“Don’t gamble. Pay attention to the weather. Be proactive and protect the trees before infection starts if there is rain in the forecast. There is no cure for these diseases,” Hernandez warned.

Almond growers have a narrow window from pink bud to petal fall to prevent outbreaks of bacterial and fungal bloom diseases. Monitoring environmental factors during the critical period, knowing the disease history of specific orchards and understanding what needs to be done to prevent yield losses due to disease are important for almond growers as bloom time approaches.

Brent Holtz, UCCE farm advisor in San Joaquin County, reports that the main fungal diseases in almonds at bloom are Brown Rot Blossom Blight, Green Fruit Rot or Jacket Rot and Shothole. Less prevalent are Scab, Rust, Leaf Blight and Anthracnose. The pathogens that cause these diseases are usually always present in the orchard. Their levels depend on past year’s disease levels. Environmental conditions, temperatures and moisture trigger disease development.

68 West Coast Nut January 2023
Favorable conditions for bloom disease infection include cool, rainy weather and nut clusters that trap senescing flower parts (all photos by Jack Kelly Clark, courtesy UC Statewide IPM Program.)

A successful prevention program, Holtz noted, is based on wise choice of fungicides and good timing and coverage.

Hernandez said combination fungicide mixes are commonly used to cover the spectrum of pathogens that cause the diseases.

Brown Rot Formation

Justin Nay, a certified crop advisor and president of Integral Ag, said enough dew formation and warm temperatures can initiate a brown rot outbreak. In dry conditions, the threat of bloom disease can drop off a grower’s radar, he said. Decisions to make a preventative spray application should be based on history of disease and weather predictions. In young orchards where there is no history, treatment can be considered to prevent buildup of disease inoculum.

Growers will be looking at orchard history and calculating if fungicide applications are warranted, Nay predicted, due to costs.

There are specific conditions that favor bloom disease development. For blossom infection to occur at 50 degrees F, 18 hours of leaf wetness is needed. At 68 degrees F, only eight hours of leaf wetness is needed. High humidity also affects disease symptom development. Spore masses can quickly form on diseased flower parts and twig cankers. The stamens and pistils are the most susceptible parts of the flower.

Timing fungicide applications is an important part in preventing brown rot, jacket rot and other fungal diseases, but orchard access due to rain may be an issue. According to UC, brown rot (Monolinia laxa or M. fructicola ) infection timing is from pink bud through petal fall. Full blooms are most susceptible. Favorable conditions include rain or high humidity and dew along with temperatures over 58 degrees F. The most susceptible varieties are Butte, Carmel, Winters and Wood Colony.

Holtz reported that two fungicide applications are normal for brown rot prevention. The first is done at 5% to 20% bloom with a systemic. The second application, a rotation, is at 80% to full bloom or two weeks later. Weather conditions could warrant a third spray if

wet weather continues or the two-week protection period has lapsed.

Timing for preventative treatment in dry conditions is a single fungicide application at 20% to 40% bloom.

Jacket Rot

Green fruit rot or jacket rot is caused by the pathogens Botrytis cinerea, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum and Monilinia laxa. Favorable conditions for infection include cool, rainy weather and nut clusters that trap senescing flower

parts. Fungicide application timing is at full bloom and when bloom is extended. Nay said the Botrytis pathogen that causes this disease is found everywhere, and this infection can persist beyond bloom. Petals are susceptible as they fall and the pathogen moves into the jackets, damaging the nut embryo.

Shot Hole

Hernandez said shot hole is more

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of a later bloom disease. This fungal disease infects leaves, fruits and green wood. Leaf infections result in a lesion with a yellow halo. Later in the growing season, the lesion drops and leaves a hold. Severe infections can kill the developing nut or cause deformities.

Moisture and temperatures above 36 degrees F can trigger the disease. In warmer conditions, the fungus can produce spores and infect leaf tissues in less than six hours. Multiple infection cycles can occur within a season due to re-occurring rain events, which can cause severe defoliation.

Hernandez said this disease is more common when significant rain occurs after leaf-out.

The UC IPM guidelines noted life cycle and fungicides for control.

Anthracnose is less common, but outbreaks can cause severe damage, Nay said, citing outbreaks in 2017 and 2019

well after bloom. Warm, wet spring weather can trigger anthracnose. Prevention should begin from pink tip forward to protect blossoms.

Bacterial Disease

Bacterial blast, (Pseudomonas syringe) is a bacterial bloom disease that is low-risk in dry years but can cause significant damage in the right environmental conditions. The UC IPM guidelines report wet and freezing temperatures can trigger outbreaks of bacterial blast. Bacterial blast symptoms are shriveled-up-looking blossoms often on twigs that have died back. Additionally, buds can die, and dieback can occur on larger branches as a result of severe infections.

Decisions to make a preventative spray application for brown rot control should be based on history of disease and weather predictions. In young orchards where there is no history, treatment can be considered to prevent buildup of disease inoculum.

In 2022, a Section 18 emergency request for use of kasugamycin was granted during a specific time frame in counties that supplied crop loss data. The emergency approval allowed for use of kasugamycin when cold or freezing temperatures are expected at a use rate of 64 fluid ounces in at least 100 gallons of water by ground application.

Honeybee protection is always a concern with fungicide applications during bloom, Hernandez said. Reading and following the fungicide label and understanding the toxicity to foraging bees is advised. Applications should always be done late afternoon when bees are not actively foraging.

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70 West Coast Nut January 2023
A successful prevention program… is based on wise choice of fungicides and good timing and coverage.

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Turkey Poised for Continued Hazelnut Domination

Turkish hazelnut production, while rudimentary in some respects, continues to dominate the world supply. And according to a speaker at the 2022 International Congress of Hazelnut held in Corvallis, Ore. on Sept. 5 to 9, increases in planted acres as well

as advances in production and harvest practices should result in even more production in the years ahead.

The Congress, part of the International Society of Horticultural Science, drew approximately 130 people from 20 countries, according to Oregon State

University Professor Shawn Mehlenbacher, the conference chair. This marked the second time the conference has been held in the U.S. and the first since 2000. It typically is held every four years.

Day four of the conference featured a look at several of the top hazelnut-producing countries, including Turkey, which has long dominated the world supply and has an oversized effect on global hazelnut prices. In 2020, Turkey produced 62% of the global production of slightly more than 1 million tons. Italy, the second-highest producer, accounted for 13.1% of the world production in 2020. The U.S., with 6%, was third, followed by Azerbaijan and Georgia, each with 4.6% of the world’s supply. Chile, China and Iran made up the next three biggest hazelnut suppliers that year.

The vast majority of Turkey’s crop is exported, with Germany and Italy making up the top destinations. Germany consumed just under a quarter of Turkey’s kernel exports in 2021, while Italy consumed 22.2%. Turkish hazelnut exports to China have been increasing, rising to 3.2% of the country’s exports in 2021. The overall value of Turkish hazelnut exports was $2.2 billion in 2021.

During his presentation, Ankara University’s Veli Erdogan, who addressed participants via Zoom, said Turkey is expected to produce 765,000 tons this year, up 10% over last year and up 15% over the five-year average

72 West Coast Nut January 2023
Hazelnut harvest in Turkey is largely done by hand, with most growers hiring workers to pick nuts off trees. Some growers wait for nuts to fall from trees before gathering them from the ground by hand.

of 663,000 tons. Part of the increase is a result of increased area planted to hazelnuts, as hectares in hazelnuts in Turkey increased from 706,000 in 2017 to 738,000 last year.

With current acreage, Turkey’s yield potential is over a million tons, but issues with late spring frosts, summer droughts, some orchard care neglect and the age of some orchards consistently reduce the country’s annual output to around 700,000 tons, Erdogan said.

Production Regions

The country’s newer production regions, the Western and Central regions, are generating far superior yields than the Eastern or older production region, Erdogan said. In the Eastern production region, for example, yields averaged 727 kilograms per hectare between 2017 and 2021, while yields in the Central region averaged 970 kilograms per hectare during that five-year stretch and yields in the Western region average 1,218 kilograms per hectare.

“The productivity increases from east to west,” he said.

But about 60% of the country’s supply is generated out of the older region, where orchards are typically more than 50 years old, with some over 100 years old, and are often planted to shallow soils on steep slopes at relatively high elevations. Most of the production occurs below 500 meters of elevation, Erdogan said, but there are plantations in operation up to 1,000 meters in

elevation. Production in the old region extends about 30 kilometers inland from the Black Sea. Production in the newer regions extend inland as much as 60 kilometers, and most of it occurs at lower elevation.

Hazelnut trees in the newer production regions also are younger and plant-

ed on deep, fertile soils of flat or gently sloped terrain, Erdogan said. “Most of the [Central and Western production region] orchards are young, but they

Hazelnut trees in Turkey are planted in circular patterns of four to six individual trees called an Ocak system (photo by V. Erdogan.)
January 2023 www.wcngg.com 73
A significant portion of the hazelnut production in Turkey takes place on steep slopes, particularly in the older production region (photo by V. Erdogan.)

are now getting to an age of 40 to 50 years old,” Erdogan said.

Turkish hazelnut production is concentrated in small orchards, which average about 1.4 hectares in the old region and about 1.9 hectares in the Central and Western regions. The trees are planted in circular patterns of four to six individual trees in a multirooted planting system called Ocak.

Most of the nuts are harvested by hand by bending branches and removing clusters while still on trees, while some growers wait until nuts fall and then collect them by hand from the ground. In some cases, in the Western Region, simple harvest machines, such as vacuum harvesters, are used. Clusters are dried in the sun. Husks are then machine removed and nuts dried again in the sun.

Some Concerns

Issues with frost can significantly lower yields in any given year, especially in the Eastern region, Erdogan said, and efforts are underway to breed late-leafing cultivars that will be more frost-tolerant. Other significant hazelnut production issues in Turkey include bacterial blight, nectria canker, honey fungus and white root rot. Powdery mildew pressure has been decreasing lately, Erdogan said.

The citrus longhorn beetle, first detected in a nursery in 2014 before being moved to the Eastern Black Sea Region by ornamental plants, is a new pest of concern. In 2021, more than 400 hectares were affected by the pest, and eradication studies were performed by dismantling and burning the infested plants, he said.

“This year, the current estimate of dispersal is about 800 hectares,” Erdogan said.

Excess rainfall, which in 2017 caused landslides during harvest and resulted in hazelnuts being washed into the Black Sea by flood waters, also can be a significant factor in Turkish hazelnut production.

A significant development in the past decade, according to Erdogan, is the establishment of demonstration orchards, where researchers are looking at new planting systems, including a single-trunk tree that they say is doubling production.

“So, people are happy, growers are happy, and the Ministry of Agriculture is trying to convince the growers to renew their orchard,” Erdogan said.

The industry also this year released a cultivar that is producing a larger nut and significantly higher yields than existing varieties. The cultivar is early leafing and maturing and has no tendency toward alternate bearing, he said. It is being promoted for the coastal zone production.

The industry also has been looking at hazelnut drying machines, Erdogan said, but high energy costs associated with the machines could make the technology obsolete.

And growers in recent years have begun looking at harvesting nuts on nets where they place nets on the orchard floor and then gather nuts in the nets. The system is reducing labor needs by up to half, Erdogan said, and has sanitary benefits in preventing nuts from contacting the soil.

Poised for the Future

There is some question as to whether Turkish hazelnut production will continue to grow at the rate it experienced over the last decade. At least in terms of production area, the rate of increase slowed between 2019 and 2021, increasing just 4,000 hectares in that stretch after increasing 28,000 hectares in the three years prior. But as Turkish growers adopt more innovative production practices and utilize the higher-yielding varieties coming out of their breeding programs, it appears Turkey is poised to continue to dominate the world’s supply for years to come.

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