West Coast Nut - July 2024

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Foundational mite control

Publisher: Jason Scott

Email: jason@jcsmarketinginc.com

Editor: Marni Katz

Email: marni@jcsmarketinginc.com

Associate Editor: Cecilia Parsons

Email: cecilia@jcsmarketinginc.com

Production: design@jcsmarketinginc.com

Tel: 559.352.4456

Fax: 559.472.3113

Web: www.wcngg.com

Contributing Writers & Industry Support

Vicky Boyd Contributing Writer

Athena Ushana Programs and Communications Manager, AgSafe

Almond Board of California Contributing Writer

Lori Fairchild Contributing Writer

Kristin Platts Digital Content Writer

Rich Kreps CCA, SSp., Contributing Writer

Roger Isom President/CEO, Western Agricultural Processors Association

Priscilla Rodriguez Assistant Vice President, Western Agricultural Processors Association

Denise Manker Head of Biologics Outreach and Engagement, Bayer Crop Science

Stetcyn Maldonado Seeds for Bees Manager, Project Apis m.

Jacquelyn Fernandes Territory Manager, Nutrien Financial

UC Cooperative Extension Advisory Board

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

Steven Koike Tri-Cal Diagnostics

Jhalendra Rijal UCCE Integrated Pest Management Advisor, Stanislaus County

Mohammad Yaghmour UCCE Area Orchard Systems Advisor, Kern County

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

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.


The tree nut industry in California stands as a testament to agricultural excellence, contributing significantly to the state's economy. The industry faces increasing pressure to meet growing global demands while managing costs and improving sustainability. One of the most promising solutions to these challenges lies in automation and the integration of artificial intelligence (AI).

The AI Revolution in Agriculture

AI's influence on various industries is undeniable, and agriculture is no exception. The rapid advancements in AI technology are revolutionizing farming practices, leading to increased efficiency, reduced costs and higher yields. For California's tree nut industry, early adoption of these technologies is not just advantageous but crucial for maintaining competitive advantage.

Why Automation Matters

Enhanced productivity

Automation streamlines labor-intensive processes. From planting and irrigation to harvesting and processing, AI-powered machines can perform tasks faster and more accurately than humans. This leads to higher productivity and allows growers to manage larger areas with fewer resources.

Precision agriculture

AI enables precision farming, which involves using data analytics to make informed decisions about crop management. By analyzing soil conditions, weather patterns, and plant health, AI systems can optimize water usage, apply fertilizers more efficiently and predict pest outbreaks. This reduces waste and enhances crop quality.

Cost reduction

Labor shortages and rising wages are significant challenges in agriculture. Automation mitigates these issues by reducing the dependence on manual labor. Robots and automated systems can work around the clock, leading to significant cost savings in the long run.


Environmental sustainability is a growing concern. Automated systems can minimize the environmental footprint by optimizing resource usage and reducing the need for chemical inputs. AI-driven irrigation systems, for example, ensure water is used efficiently, addressing one of the most pressing issues in California agriculture.

The Role of JCS Marketing

JCS Marketing, a leader in the agricultural marketing sector, recognizes the transformative potential of automation and AI. Our commitment to innovation and improvement drives us to explore and implement new technologies that can benefit the tree nut industry. By embracing automation, we aim to set a benchmark for efficiency and sustainability in agricultural practices. We are constantly integrating technologies to strengthen our business.

Case Studies: Automation in Action

Smart irrigation systems

One of the key areas where AI has made a significant impact is irrigation. Companies are developing AI-driven irrigation systems that use sensors to monitor soil moisture levels in real time. These systems automatically adjust water delivery based on the needs of the plants, ensuring optimal growth conditions while conserving water. For tree nut growers in California, where water scarcity is a constant challenge, such systems are game changers.

Automated harvesting

Harvesting tree nuts is labor-intensive and time-sensitive. AI-powered harvesters can operate continuously, identifying and collecting ripe nuts with minimal human intervention. This not only speeds up the process but also reduces the risk of human error, ensuring a higher-quality product.

Pest and disease management

AI systems equipped with advanced imaging and data analysis capabilities can

detect early signs of pest infestations or diseases. By providing real-time alerts and recommendations, these systems enable growers to take proactive measures, minimizing crop losses and reducing the need for chemical treatments.

Adopting Early

In the fast-paced world of technology, being an early adopter can provide a significant competitive edge. The tree nut industry in California must recognize the urgency of integrating AI and automation into their operations. Early adoption allows businesses to stay ahead of the curve, benefiting from the efficiencies and insights these technologies offer.

Moreover, early adopters often shape the development and refinement of new technologies. By collaborating with tech companies and participating in pilot programs, the tree nut industry can ensure the solutions developed are tailored to their specific needs.

The future of California's tree nut industry lies in its ability to adapt to and leverage technological advancements. Automation and AI present unparalleled opportunities to enhance productivity, reduce costs and promote sustainability. At JCS Marketing, we are committed to leading this transformation, continuously seeking innovative solutions to automate our business practices and support the growth of the tree nut industry.

Embracing AI is not just about keeping up with trends; it's about ensuring long-term success and sustainability. The tree nut industry must act now to harness the full potential of automation, securing its place at the forefront of agricultural excellence. By doing so, we can meet the demands of a growing global market, protect our valuable resources and pave the way for a prosperous future.

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Ready, Set, Go: Preparing for a Successful Harvest

Important components of an efficient and successful almond harvest include irrigation management, harvest timing, orchard floor preparation and dust mitigation practices.

Leading up to harvest, growers and crop managers develop strategies for orchard irrigation timing and rates, following ET, using a pressure bomb and/ or moisture sensors. They also allow for varietal differences in maturity where they have irrigation flexibility. Smooth, clean, hard floors are the goal for picking up cleaner loads and minimizing dust. Hull split sprays timed for navel orangeworm (NOW) control and scouting for protein-feeding ants are included in the plans. The goal is to avoid tree stress, achieve maximum removal of nuts and avoid tree injury and insect damage.

In a Growing the Valley podcast, UCCE Farm Advisors Franz Niederholzer and Luke Milliron agreed water management is a critical part of the harvest plan. Strategic water management can affect crop quality and tree health and can yield economic benefits.

“June and July are critical times for kernel dry weight growth when fats and

proteins accumulate inside the shell,” Niederholzer said. This weight increase is driven by healthy leaf function (photosynthesis) supported by good water management. Water management leading up to harvest can also help reduce stick/ hull tight. Trees can tolerate some moderate water stress early in hull split, but that time is passed, and kernel weight increase

is best supported by low water stress (good irrigation practices) between 90% hull split and preharvest irrigation cut-off.

Outline for Harvest Preparation

July is the last full month before harvest. What is done in July can have a major impact on crops this year and next year. Especially this year, with high risk of

Planning routes for equipment so dust is blown back into the orchard rather than out near roads or residences is part of dust reduction (all photo courtesy Kathy Coatney.)
Orchard floor prep leads to improved pickup.

NOW damage, practices in July and into August will impact growers’ bottom lines.

Water management

Drought in July means:

• Lower kernel weights

• Possible stress on buds differentiating for next year

• High stress = stick tights/hull tights

• Possible leaf loss

Drought during harvest means:

• Possible reduced yield in future years due to leaf loss following extended irrigation shut-off during harvest.

Orchard floor prep

Clean and flat = easier pickup, no lost nuts

Ant management

Ant bait should go out up to eight weeks before harvest (shake) depending on the product. Talk with your PCA regarding materials and timings.

Harvest timing

Timely harvest is after 100% hull split. This is earlier than traditional timing for in-shell product, but if this harvest is ahead of egg laying for the third flight of NOW, damage will be reduced. Drying time on the orchard floor is longer with timely harvest, leaving the crop exposed to ant damage if ants aren’t controlled.

Dust management

For on-farm and off-farm safety, manage harvest dust.


During Harvest

He explained water stress during harvest, especially when there is a long interval between irrigation shutoff and the next irrigation, can also impact future yield. Many growers are now limiting the time irrigation is off during harvest. Niederholzer said he has observed growers with double-line drip systems avoid water stress in all varieties by blowing Nonpareil nuts away from drip lines within 48 hours of shaking and irrigating carefully to avoid getting water on the drying nuts. Some Independence variety growers blow nuts into every other row middle and irrigate with one of two drip lines on each row where the nuts have been cleared out. The goal in all examples is to limit, as much as

possible, water stress in the orchard while allowing the nuts to dry.

An almond orchard is ready for “timely harvest” any time after 100% hull split; the last nuts down low in the canopy are split (the hull pops open when the ends are squeezed together.) This is earlier than traditional timing for in-shell product, but if this harvest is ahead of egg laying for the third flight of NOW, damage will be reduced. In a year with heavy NOW pressure in many orchards, it may be advisable to deliver cleaner kernels than wormy inshell product. Drying time on the orchard floor is longer with timely harvest, leaving the crop exposed to ant damage if ants aren’t controlled.

Timely harvest can prevent serious NOW damage. Taking out the Nonpareils in a timely manner can lessen worm pressure for later varieties. Ant bait spread in orchards as early as eight weeks prior to anticipated harvest (shake) can reduce ant populations. Talk with your PCA about materials, rates and timings. Fresh ant bait should be applied to dry ground for the best

possible results.

Successful Shakes

Successful shakes depend on formation of an abscission layer between the nut and peduncle. This stage is optimal for nut removal. Waiting increases the chances for stick tights. Shaking can be initiated when interior orchard trees reach 100% hull split.

Initiation of shaking before full maturity can also cause damage. Niederholzer noted that ‘barking’ of trees occurs when machinery is not calibrated and adjusted properly. Shaking harder or longer to dislodge nuts causes barking which can provide a trunk and scaffold pathogen entry to trees. Shaking harder to get nuts off, especially young trees, can cause permanent bark damage. Ideally, he said younger trees may be shaken later after mature trees as the cambium layer is stronger later in the season. He noted research by UC Davis Pomologist Ken Shackel found bark strength of trees is not related to stem water potential but that the bark cambium gets stronger and

less vulnerable to barking the later in the year shaking is done. Orchard floor preparation prior to harvest is done with a goal of a vegetation-free, clean, smooth floor. This helps with a

Use of herbicides to burn down cover crops or native vegetation is common, but Niederholzer said material choice is important. Some growers are trying to avoid use of glyphosate due to export market concerns, he said. There are other burndown options. Check with your PCA regarding materials and rates.

Being aware of the need for dust management is critical for orchard and public safety, Niederholzer said. Dust reduction during sweeping and harvest is also one of Almond Board of California’s (ABC) 2025 goals for the industry.

Creating a clean orchard floor is the first step a grower can take to reduce dust at harvest. Removing vegetation, sticks, rocks and other debris and filling in any low spots or holes makes for cleaner loads arriving at the huller and fewer nuts rolling into holes and being left behind.

Planning routes for equipment so that dust is blown back into the orchard rather than out near roads or residences is part of dust reduction. Trees can capture and filter dust. Working from the outside in and going slower reduces dust. Niederholzer noted that proper adjustment of equipment is also part of best management practices for dust mitigation. Do not set sweeper heads lower than necessary to move the crop. Wire tines can be set as high as a half inch off the ground and still be effective. Sweeper head set lower will move more dirt into the windrow and result if excessive dust when nuts are picked up.

Finally, slowing down harvest equipment can help. Taking almond harvester ground speeds down a notch can reduce harvest-generated dust. ABC notes a pick-up speed of 1.5 mph cuts dust 50% compared to 3 mph.

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Avoiding shaker injury can reduce the chance of problems down the road.
Weeds can compete with irrigation and nutrients.
Drought in July can result in lower kernel weight.

NOW Protection from SPLIT TO SHAKE

Vulnerability begins the moment hulls begin to split. Navel orangeworm fly from every direction to that new crop. But on your side are the powerful insecticides from Corteva Agriscience to protect tree nuts until shaking so you can reach the highest yield potential and achieve top premiums.

Fast-acting and long-lasting insecticide provides highest level of NOW control. Two modes of action impacts all life stages of NOW (eggs, larvae, adults). Won’t disrupt beneficial insect populations. Excellent at all hull split spray timings.

Extended residual, unparalleled activity on eggs and excellent activity on NOW larvae. Will not disrupt beneficial insect populations or lead to secondary pest outbreaks. Excellent at all hull split spray timings.

1-day PHI allows NOW control right up to shaking or between shakes. Good activity on NOW eggs, larvae and adults. Useful rotational insecticide in orchards where Intrepid 2F, Intrepid Edge or diamides were used.

Sheep Gone Nuts!

Research looks at effectiveness of sheep grazing in managing pistachio mummies on orchard floors.

Houston Wilson is leading a study on the effects of sheep grazing on pistachio mummies on the orchard floor. He got the idea from a PCA who was grazing sheep in a pistachio orchard (photo by H. Wilson.)

Asmall but increasing number of tree nut producers have enlisted sheep to graze cover crops, reduce mowing and herbicide costs, and recycle nutrients. Now a group of researchers believe the wooly weed eaters may also have a role in managing orchard floor mummy nuts and the pests that overwinter in them.

“I’m really excited about it because there’s such a potential for just about everybody to win,” said Houston Wilson, a UC Riverside associate CE specialist based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center near Parlier. He is leading a study on the effects of sheep grazing on pistachio mummies on the ground.

Although not part of this study, Wilson also has seen sheep eat almond mummies on the ground.

For tree nut producers, using sheep may offer a more effective way to destroy ground mummies as they graze compared to mechanical flail chopping or grinding. This is particularly true with pistachios, which have a hard shell, making them more difficult to destroy. They also are smaller and can easily be mashed into orchard vegetation, protecting them from mechanical destruction.

As animals graze on orchard vegetation and possibly mummies, they also recycle nutrients back to the soil.

For sheep herders who typically pay to run their flock on winter alfalfa fields, having access to orchards could provide a potential new business opportunity.

Preliminary Results Look Encouraging

Although results of his initial study conducted during 202324 were encouraging, Wilson said several questions remain, such as animal stocking rate, grazing duration and an economic analysis. He hoped to answer at least some of those this season and winter.

Nevertheless, the initial results were promising enough that the California Pistachio Research Board, which helped fund the first year of research, renewed funding for 2024-25.

Stephen Vasquez, executive director of the California Pistachio Research Board, said they decided to underwrite Wilson’s project for a second year because it was “outside-the-box research.”

“Depending on the time of year, growers shake nuts, blow them into the middles, and that all takes money,” Vasquez said. “I think if you can eliminate one of those steps by shaking and bringing in animals to eat them, that could be a savings.”

Should Wilson answer the questions about the stocking rate, grazing duration and economics, Vasquez said grazing could become another tool at growers’ disposal to manage navel orangeworm (NOW).

Finding effective ways to address pests that overwinter in mummy nuts has taken on even more importance as the carpophilus beetle was recently found infecting pistachios and almonds and in one walnut orchard, Vasquez said. The pest overwinters in mummy nuts. Entomologists say they suspect the carpophilus beetle is now widespread through-

out the San Joaquin Valley.

The results of Wilson’s initial study also led him to join a group of colleagues from UC and The Organic Center in a fouryear $2 million study of livestock grazing in organic orchards. Funded by USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, the project is titled “Influence of Orchard Grazing on Soil Health and Pest Control While Mitigating Food Safety Risk.”

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration requires animals be pulled from floor-harvested tree nut orchards at least 120 days before harvest to minimize risks from potential foodborne pathogens.

In the USDA-funded project, researchers will conduct trials in organic pistachio, almond and walnut orchards in two distinct growing regions of the state: the Sacramento Valley and the San Joaquin Valley. Wilson will head the pest management portion and examine grazing’s effects on orchard pests.

The researchers are currently mapping out how they will approach their trials and seeking cooperators with whom to partner. Field work will begin later this fall.

A Light Bulb Moment

For some time, Wilson had been looking for a mechanical way to better destroy mummies on the orchard floor than current methods. But he was never able to find an engineering solution that looked promising.

A recent producer survey conducted by UCCE Farm Advisor Phoebe Gordon about NOW management found weather was the

main impediment to winter sanitation followed by labor availability and costs, and equipment.

Then a conversation with a PCA who was running sheep in a pistachio orchard led to a light bulb moment for Wilson.

"Listen, listen," the PCA told him. "That's the sound of sheep crunching mummies.’ It kind of dawned on me at that point. We may already have the perfect machine in a sheep or goat.”

Vasquez said pistachios likely lend themselves to sheep because they leaf out significantly later than almonds and on about the same schedule as walnuts. The longer leafless period would provide ample opportunity for the animals.

Putting Sheep to the Test

Wilson partnered with Research Entomologist Joel Siegel with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, a farm agronomy manager at a cooperating pistachio orchard and a PCA on a smallscale trial near Cantua Creek in west Fresno County.

It involved a 640-acre block of mature Golden Hills variety pistachios that was divided into 14-acre plots. From there, the researchers randomly selected 10 plots from which they sampled total pistachio mummies and biomass in 10 randomly selected points within each plot.

Then roughly 900 Dorper sheep were put in the block, allowed to graze for three days, and the vegetation and mummies resampled after the animals were removed.

The sheep did not appear to differentiate between filled and empty nuts, with both equally affected by grazing. The animals also readily consumed old nuts, some of which were moldy or rotten, as well as new nuts, Wilson said.

What the researchers found was the sheep don’t work like

lawnmowers and instead grazed from the top of vegetation toward the ground.

In a heavily cover-cropped field, Wilson wondered whether the sheep would pick out the mummies, kind of like children pick out the marshmallow bits from a bowl of Lucky Charms. Based on conversations with the sheep herder, Wilson said the sheep don’t necessarily go after the mummies initially. Once a few animals find the tasty treats, others learn and follow suit.

Overall, Wilson found about a 25% reduction in mummy densities following sheep grazing. The sheep also reduced the vegetation biomass, suggesting the animals could contribute to both crop sanitation and weed management.

One question he said he hoped to answer this year was stocking rates, or the number of sheep per acre and the duration they’re allowed to graze.

With a hard shell, pistachio mummies are more difficult to destroy during winter sanitation. They’re also smaller and can easily be mashed into orchard vegetation, protecting them from mechanical destruction


“We’ve already seen when in some cases there were too many sheep and they ended up barking trees,” Wilson said.

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(photo by V. Boyd.)


California has introduced a new regulation this year, setting standards for indoor heat regulation and other necessary practices. These rules will apply to any indoor work environment where temperatures exceed the circumstantial range of 82 to 87 degrees F. While air-conditioned office spaces may generally remain unaffected, growers must pay particular attention to non-air-conditioned areas, such as buildings, sheds and kitchens. Title 8, Division 1 defines “indoor” as “a space under a ceiling or overhead covering that restricts airflow and is enclosed along its entire perimeter by walls, doors, windows, dividers or other physical barriers that restrict airflow, whether opened or closed.” Outdoor heat illness standards will still abide by Labor Code section

3395, with the following specific to proposed section 3396 for indoor heat.

By adopting best practices for heat illness preparedness and staying informed about regulatory changes, employers can safeguard their workers’ health and ensure compliance with new laws. Preparing now ensures when the regulations take effect, businesses will be ready to roll out compliant practices, maintaining productivity and safety in tandem.

While storage sheds are generally exempt from these regulations, any instance where the temperature exceeds 95 degrees F and an employee enters the space, even briefly, will trigger the need for compliance.

On June 20, 2024, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board

approved California Code of Regulations, Title 8, section 3396, “Heat Illness Prevention in Indoor Places of Employment.” The Office of Administrative Law (OAL) has 30 working days to review and approve or deny the proposal. The Standards Board requested that the regulation take effect immediately after OAL approval.

Steps for Employers to Prepare

Utilize Industry Resources: Businesses should consult with industry experts to understand the specific implications for their operations. These organizations can offer advice on how to implement temperature recording, engineering controls and establishing cooldown areas.

Evaluate and Modify Workspaces: Employers need to assess their current workspace and determine the best locations for cooldown areas. For businesses with limited space, creative solutions like outdoor cooldown zones should be considered.

Training Programs: Initiate training programs for employees on heat illness prevention and the proper procedures for taking cooldown breaks.

Acquire Necessary Tools: Invest in tools for accurately measuring the heat index rather than relying solely on standard thermometers.

Key Requirements for Employers

Much like the existing outdoor heat regulations, the new indoor heat regulations will mandate several critical measures to ensure employee safety:

1. Provision of Cool Drinking Water:

Employers must ensure employees have access to cool drinking water at all times. It is generally recommended each employee should drink about 1 cup (8 ounces) of water every 15-20 minutes when working in hot conditions. This equates to approximately 1 quart (32 ounces) per hour (8 hours x 1 quart/hour = 8 quarts (2 gal) per person per day).

2. Cooldown Areas: A designated area where employees can cool down must be provided. This could be a dedicated room or an outdoor space if indoor options are limited. The temperature in indoor cooldown areas shall be maintained at less than 82 degrees F.

3. Cooldown Breaks: Employees are entitled to cooldown breaks to prevent

heat-related illnesses. During these breaks, someone must monitor the employees. When temperatures reach 95 degrees F or above, the employer shall ensure that the employee takes a minimum 10-minute net preventative cooldown rest period every two hours. Employees shall be allowed and encouraged to take a preventative cooldown rest for a period of no less than five minutes at a time when they feel the need to do so to protect themselves from overheating.

4. Training and Record-Keeping: Employers are required to offer training on heat illness prevention and maintain detailed records of temperature and heat index readings.

5. Monitoring Heat Index: Unlike simple temperature readings, the heat index considers factors like humidity. Employers will need specialized tools to measure this accurately. AgSafe members have had good experiences with:

• ThermoPro TP62 Indoor Outdoor Thermometer Wireless, 200ft Range Outside Thermometer with Remote Temperature Sensor

• Taylor Precision 5154 Wall Thermometer

6. Consideration for Restrictive Clothing: Workplaces where employees wear heavy or restrictive safety gear will have lower temperature thresholds at 82 degrees F, acknowledging the additional heat burden these clothes impose.

Best Practices for Heat Illness Preparedness

To ensure compliance with upcoming regulations and improve worker safety, the agriculture industry has adopted several best practices:

1. Pre-Shift Meetings: Conducting meetings before the start of shifts to educate workers about the signs of heat stress and the importance of hydration and taking breaks in shaded areas.

2. Buddy System: Implementing a buddy system where workers look out for each other and recognize the early signs of heat illness.

3. Heat Stress Monitors: Utilizing heat stress monitors that provide real-time data on environmental conditions, helping supervisors make informed decisions about work-rest cycles and hydration needs. Examples of tools that can be used:

• Kestrel 5400 Heat Stress Tracker

• Extech HT30 Heat Stress WBGT Meter

4. Emergency Response Plans: Establishing clear emergency response plans, including the availability of first aid and quick access to medical care in case of heat-related emergencies.

In recent years, heat indexes have reached record highs, posing significant risks to workers, particularly in industries such as agriculture. Thanks to the enhanced practices the agriculture industry has proactively implemented and a greater emphasis on heat illness preparedness, we have seen a decline in heat illness incidents. This decline is a testament to the effectiveness of proactive measures and the importance of

understanding the specific requirements and adopting best practices for heat illness prevention, growers can safeguard their employees' health and wellbeing. Early action will not only demonstrate a commitment to worker safety but also help avoid fines and penalties associated with non-compliance. As the anticipated regulations move through the final stages of approval, now is the time for employers to consult with industry experts, evaluate and modify workspaces, implement training programs, and acquire necessary tools for heat index monitoring. By preparing now, growers will ensure a smooth transition to full regulatory compliance, maintaining both productivity and safety in their operations. Stay vigilant and proactive to protect your workforce and uphold the standards of excellence in the

Equip your employees with the tools necessary to prevent heat illness. These team members were stocked with cooling towels and water bottles.

vides training, education, outreach and tools in safety, labor relations and human resources for the food and farming industries. Since 1991, AgSafe has educated

Almonds & Walnuts

Summer Application Yield Increases

Summer foliar fertilizer applications have been proven over a 3year study to consistently increase yield potential. Hull Split Navel Orange Worm sprays are a great time to apply nutrient formulations that have been tested and documented to penetrate thick, waxy pistachio leaves even during the heat of summer. Applying effective nutrients based on a “Science Driven™” approach will help pistachio growers maximize nut size and splits on this year’s crop, increasing per acre returns.

Apply Sysstem®-LeafMax @ 2 qts/acre, SeaBest 0-19-19 @ 2 qts/acre, and Top-Set D.L. @ 1 pt/acre to achieve a proper balanced nutrition that will increase yield, quality, and overall plant health.

Agro-K’s Sysstem-LeafMax (zinc and manganese phosphite base) provides nine key nutrients including magnesium, iron, and copper in a highly systemic (phloem and xylem mobile) mix for complete chlorophyll development. Pairing SysstemLeafMax with SeaBest 0-19-19 and Top-Set D.L., a boron and molybdenum product, provides a full-spectrum nutrient load specifically needed to influence carbohydrate storage, flower bud development, and crop yield the following year.

Building nutrient levels this year sends trees and buds into winter with larger carbohydrate and nutrient reserves, two critical components for a well-timed budbreak and synchronized bloom. This nutrient application strategy consistently improves yields and weights by minimizing blanks, improving nut size, and mitigating alternate bearing issues.

3 Year Trial Increases Yields 350 lbs Annually

Bisabri Ag Research - ‘Gold Hills’ Pistachio - 2017-2019


8030 Main Street, NE • Minneapolis, MN 55432

763-780-4116 • www.agro-k.com

Applying nutrients during hull split/mid-season not only ensures the continued development of this year’s crop, but also positively impacts the building blocks for next season’s crop. Pistachio floral bud development begins as early as April, continues into July, and then rests until October, when differentiation resumes.

Nutrient deficiencies during flower development have irreversible consequences which lead to reduced flower numbers, flowers with immature sex organs, delayed and sporadic flowering, premature flower abscission, decreased pollen count, and reduced pollen viability.

Sysstem-LeafMax, SeaBest 0-19-19, and Top-Set D.L., when foliarly applied mid-season, deliver zinc, manganese, copper, molybdenum, and boron to flower buds with the nutrients needed for healthy, viable flower formation and fertility before deficiencies disrupt development.

Agro-K designs specific nutrient programs tailored to meet the needs of your crop. Our products and programs are developed with Agro-K’s 5 Rs of Plant Nutrition in mind. By focusing on the 5 Rs—applying the Right nutrients, in the Right form, at the Right time, in the Right mix and in the Right place—nutrient uptake, availability, and synergies are maximized while nutrient antagonisms and wasted dollars are reduced.

Incorporate Agro-K’s Science Driven Nutrition programs into your farm this year and increase quality and yield potential for seasons to come. For more information, call (763) 780-4116, visit www. agro-k.com, or email info@agro-k.com. Your Agro-K distributor and PCA can provide guidance on all Agro-K products.

Products Available At:


Maximizing Almond Hull Value Within the Animal Feed Sector

For decades, almond hulls have been a popular feedstuff mixed into the ration of dairy cows. Combined with the strong dairy presence in California, it has been mutually beneficial for both top agricultural commodities in the state.

This relationship has prompted questions of what other industries can take advantage of almond hulls, how the almond industry can ensure hulls remain a staple ingredient in dairy cow diets and how the almond industry can capitalize on these potential profits.

Proactive investment to explore these initiatives has been established by the Almond Board of California (ABC), starting with research in the poultry industry.

Feeding Hulls to Laying Hens

A study to introduce almond hulls into poultry diets was conducted at Mississippi State University under the direction of poultry nutritionist and associate professor, Pratima Acharya Adhikari. The goal of Adhikari and her team was to feed coarsely

ground almond hulls to laying hens and analyze its effects on egg production and characteristics. Pullets were raised from day 0 and were fed almond hulls at 3%, 6% and 9% for 16 weeks before they began the laying hen study.

504 laying hens were studied in two phases: Layer 1 (22 to 42 weeks of age) and Layer 2 (44 to 70 weeks of age). The hens underwent seven treatments where they were fed 100 grams of feed, with increasing percentages of hulls in each treatment.

At the end of the Layer 1 study, Adhikari and her team began seeing a decrease in the yolk color, high amounts of albumen, which directly correlated to freshness, and variations in shell weight depending on the percentage of hull inclusion.

During the Layer 2 phase, the research team did not balance the bird’s diet with additional energy and relied solely on the hulls. This resulted in low production levels, especially in Treatment 7, where the highest level of hulls was present. Seeing this trend, the re -

searchers shifted the feed formulation during the last six weeks of the study to meet energy requirements.

The team concluded from 22 to 44 weeks of age, feeding a diet of up to 15% almond hulls can increase production and egg weight as well as albumen height, and creates a better feed conversion rate and feed intake.

In late-laying hens, it is recommended to feed up to 5% of hulls without any negative effects on production.

All this to say the ideal percentage of almond hulls fed to laying hens without negative effects greatly depends on the stage of the hen’s life. Hulls also should not be fed to hens without meeting their energy requirement and should not be the sole source of energy, Adhikari noted.

This research is the first of its kind, so Adhikari advised that the next step would be to research ways to increase the digestibility of amino acids and energy in the hulls. She also recommended testing prime-type hulls to determine if the outcome would be different.

The relationship between almond hull consumption and dairy cows has prompted questions of what other industries can take advantage of almond hulls (all photos courtesy Almond Board of California.)

Cubed Hulls/Alfalfa for Dairy Cows

On the other hand, there is extensive research proving almond hulls to be valuable in ruminant diets, but there is still work to be done to discover how they can be mixed in with different feed stuffs to maximize nutritional value.

During a 2021 study, Dr. Katherine Swanson and the team at UC Davis took four different qualities of alfalfa (low, medium, low-medium, high) mixed with four different quantities of almond hulls to find the optimum combination for digestibility and fermentation. The hope was to determine the strengths of each product to develop new innovations that could lead to additional markets.

“We found that by adding even as low as 25% hulls to our low-medium- and medi um-quality alfalfa, we could get the same rate of fermentation and digestibility as our pure, high-quality alfalfa that’s typically fed to dairy cattle,” Swanson said.

Based on those results, the team decided to pursue further research ana lyzing apparent digestibility, palatability and production levels in dairy cattle

being fed cubed alfalfa/almond hull mixes using a medium-quality alfalfa and varying percentages of almond hulls.

Over nine weeks, high-producing, lactating dairy cows were fed alfalfa cubes containing 0%, 20% and 30% almond hulls using a Latin square design, meaning the cows switched diets every 21 days to ensure each cow consumed every diet.

The data was collected within the last seven days of the 21-day period, and the team measured feed intake, milk production, metabolic markers using blood samples and collected rumen fluid to assess changes in their volatile fatty acid production.

Swanson said they did not see any significant differences in feed intake or milk production between the trials, but the biggest variation between this study and the 2019 study, where dairy cows were fed increasing levels of hulls, was digestibility levels. Using data collected from rumination collars, they found that the cubes with 20% almond hulls had

the lowest overall digestibility.

“The cows spent the most time per day ruminating which makes sense if things are less digestible,” she said. “They needed to be chewing more, and the feed spent more time in their rumen being broken down and fermented.”

The cows consuming the 20% cubes also had significantly higher fat percentages in their milk compared to the cows consuming no hulls, Swanson added.

Swanson and her team concluded dairy farmers who elect to feed lower-quality alfalfa to milk cows can still meet high levels of production by adding 10% to 20% almond hulls into the cow’s diet.

“Consuming a diet that is a little bit lower in almond hulls will really help those cattle to better utilize lower-quality alfalfa without having a huge negative effect on digestibility,” Swanson said. “Even with that drop in digestibility, it was still supporting very high-level milk production as well as improving milk fat composition.”

Reducing Emissions Using Fermented Hulls

Nutritional value isn’t the only thing almond hulls can provide ruminants. Early studies now show fermented hulls may be a step in the right direction to reduce methane emissions produced by dairy cows.

Data show probiotic supplementation with yeast can have nutritional benefits and reduce enteric methane, which makes up 25% of U.S. methane emissions. While not all attributable to dairy cows, this led ABC to fund research to develop methods for producing high-quality fermented almond hulls and determine how they can be utilized by dairy farmers.

Dr. Hamed El Mashad and the team at UC Davis first experimented with placing different almond hull varieties of both dry and green hulls in vacuum-sealed bags with different temperatures and moisture contents. Their findings showed both dry and green hulls produced comparable fermented feed with similar characteristics.

Another study was performed by Dr. Matthias Hess, this time using in-vitro rumen fermentation with a hull inclusion rate of 20%, incubated for 72 hours. The results were very promising, showing yeast-fermented hulls reduced methane production by 96%.

Mashad explained more research is needed to support these claims, which would require scale-up fermentation

In first-of-its-kind research with almond hulls and hens, researchers concluded from 22 to 44 weeks of age, feeding a diet of up to 15% almond hulls can increase production and egg weight as well as albumen height, and creates a better feed conversion rate and feed intake.

processes with high-quality feeds and more in-vivo trials on cattle to assess the proper inclusion rate for their diets. Grant projects are in the works to provide more insight, he said.

[subhead] Expanding Areas of Profit for Growers

ABC recognizes the importance of finding ways to repurpose almond byproducts, which is why developing innovations in the animal feed sector are top of mind, but there

A lot of the potential overseas buyers, when they hear about some of this research that the industry is doing, they’re really excited.

Keith Schneller, Almond




Early studies show fermented hulls may be a step in the right direction to reduce methane emissions produced by dairy cows, an additional benefit to consumption.

is also a need to scale beyond California.

Keith Schneller, ABC senior trade policy specialist, said they are also working toward expanding market access of almond hulls into China. Although the import protocol for almond hull pellets and cubes was approved in 2020 as part of the U.S.-China Phase 1 Agreement, work is being done to expand the protocol to include whole and ground almond hulls. As of late 2023, ABC was also working through the final steps to get hulls listed in the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture’s feed ingredients catalog, which is a prerequisite before Chinese importers can sell almond hull pellets and cubes into Chinese livestock feed channels. As soon as the hulls are listed in the catalog, there are already six California processors on China’s approved list who can start exporting to China. Schneller acknowledged investment in new processing infrastructure will be necessary to comply with cube and pellet demands, but based on feedback from exporting partners, it is a favorable

Although the import protocol for almond hull pellets and cubes was approved in 2020 as part of the U.S.-China Phase 1 Agreement, work is being done to expand the protocol to include whole and ground almond hulls.

opportunity for the almond industry.

“A lot of the potential overseas buyers, when they hear about some of this research that the industry is doing, they’re really excited,” Schneller said. “Hopefully with the growers, it’ll really pay off.”

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Research concludes dairy farmers who elect to feed lower-quality alfalfa to milk cows can still meet high levels of production by adding 10% to 20% almond hulls into the cow’s diet.


Bacterial infections such as almond blast and walnut blight pose significant challenges for growers. Bacterial blast is primarily caused by Pseudomonas syringae pathovar syringae, a bacterium that is responsible for approximately 95% of the infections observed, whereas walnut blight is caused by Xanthomonas arboricola pv. juglandis.

The bacterium of almond blast typically lives on the surface of plants without causing problems; however, under cold or stressful conditions, it becomes pathogenic, attacking the flowers, buds and shoots. These conditions often manifest in symptoms, such as blossom blast and shoot dieback as well as leaf and fruit spotting, and can be particularly damaging in young orchards between two to eight years of age. In the worst cases, shoot dieback can be seen with significant loss of spurs, according to Jim Adaskaveg, professor and plant pathologist at UC Riverside.

Adaskaveg has conducted extensive studies to understand and combat these diseases and spoke about his findings during the North Valley Nut Conference in Chico, Calif. earlier this year.

One diagnostic method for blast is the absence of fungal mycelium or sporulation typically occurring with brown rot or green fruit rot infections, with symptoms instead appearing as the sudden death of leaves, blossoms and spurs. Adaskaveg noted during the canker phase, typically in late winter and early spring, peeling back the bark reveals cankers with discoloration and necrotic flecks, and field diagnosis is often conducted by scent.

“When you go to smell it, it has a very sour smell to it,” he said.

Occurring especially on stressed trees and disseminated by rainfall to natural plant openings, bacterial blast and canker are not limited to almonds but also affect a variety of fruit crops, including citrus and stone fruits. While peach is less susceptible, some varieties and rootstocks are more susceptible than others, including Mariana 2624 and the peach-almond hybrids Hansen, Nickels, Cornerstone, Titan and Bright’s.

Adaskaveg and his team are managing these diseases through a strategy that primarily focuses on testing a variety of bactericides. He presented data demonstrating the effectiveness of bactericide treatments in combating bacterial blast,

The almond blast bacterium, typically harmless on plant surfaces, becomes pathogenic under stress, attacking flowers, buds and shoots, and causing symptoms like blossom blast and shoot dieback. It is particularly damaging to orchards between two to eight years (all photos by J. Adaskaveg.)

highlighting several trials that evaluated experimental materials, including one on Fritz in Colusa County and one on Independence in Stanislaus County.

He said they specifically chose to work with a unique mode of action called Kasumin, a commercial formulation of the bactericide kasugamycin, a FRAC Code 24, because it is separate from all medical antibiotics.

“There’s no overlap, it is specifically being used for plant agriculture; there’s no human or animal usage, so it’s not really going to affect what happens in the medical world,” Adaskaveg said.

The experiments showed applying Kasumin prior to a forecasted frost can significantly reduce the incidence of the disease and help preserve nut yield.

“We actually did nut counts later in the year, and we can see there are more fruit that survive, there was less blast, so you got more nuts,” he said, noting this was how they determined Kasumin was working against bacterial blast in the Colusa orchard.

The bactericide is applied using an air-blast sprayer seven days prior to a forecasted frost event, Adaskaveg explained. The closer the application to the frost period, the higher its performance.

He noted it’s also important to know that unlike some other materials, these applications are designed to only last about seven days.

“So, if you put it on, you have to be as close to the forecasted frost as possible to get the best effect of disease control,” he said.

Referring to the study in Stanislaus County, Adaskaveg said Independence is highly susceptible to bacterial blast. Following a similar process as the Colusa study, Kasumin also showed a reduction there. He stressed achieving 100% control with bactericides is challenging, unlike with some newer fungicides, yet significant reductions in disease levels are still attainable.

Adaskaveg suggests maintaining tree health and vigor through proper nutrition, preplant fumigation, postplant nematicides and removing dieback can be a good way to help protect against bacterial blast and canker.

He said a Section 18 emergency request was submitted for Kasumin, specifically for bacterial blast of almond, with applications requested from bud break to petal fall. It became effective Feb. 2, 2024, and was valid until April 15, 2024.

Walnut Blight Management

Fruit infections from walnut blight result in black, irregular lesions on the hull with infections progressing into the kernel, causing direct crop loss, Adaskaveg said. The pathogen survives between the bud scales of living flower buds (both in male catkins and female pistillate flower buds) and in cankers, or dead tissue.

He said many people don’t realize it can survive in cankers.

“Some of these newer varieties get cankers in the wood, and the pathogen is also overwintering in those types of situations,” he said.

He observed symptoms such as spur dieback and blackened catkin infections in the Tulare variety, noting the pathogen can be isolated from cankers and catkins, but isolation of the organism from female flowers is particularly easy.

Adaskaveg explained the disease cycle of walnut blight, noting the pathogen is heterogenic with multiple strains residing on the surface, spreading as the plant and flowers grow. He described the primary inoculum, often the initial cause of the disease, as “end blight” because there is a high concentration of stomata around the stylar end of the fruit that serve as entry points for the pathogen.

Walnut blight infections create black, irregular lesions on the hull, extending into the kernel and leading to direct crop loss.

During the walnut blight disease cycle, the heterogenic pathogen spreads from surface strains as plants grow. The primary inoculum, termed "end blight," enters through the high concentration of stomata at the fruit's stylar end.

Occurring especially on stressed trees and disseminated by rainfall to natural plant openings, bacterial blast and canker are not limited to almonds but also affect a variety of fruit crops, including citrus and stone fruits.

“The bacterium likes to get in through those points of entry,” he said, adding secondary infections called “side blight” are initiated from the inoculum that ooze out of primary infections and will occur with rain or other wetness events, such as when irrigation is hitting the tree.

Walnut blight typically exhibits a

monocyclic phase, meaning only one cycle occurs without rain, but transforms into a polycyclic cycle with multiple infection periods if rains persist, he added.

While copper has been the standard treatment for walnut blight for many years, mixtures of copper with mancozeb (Manzate or Dithane) registered in the 1990s is

the current standard, Adaskaveg said. Still, we are concerned with mancozeb continuing to be available due to tentative import tolerances after the EU cancelled mancozeb for the European walnut industries.

“We’re trying to fight that; they want to lower the MRL (maximum residue limits) numbers to what they cannot actually measure accurately, and we think that’s unfair,” Adaskaveg said.

With that in mind, alternative methods need to be considered, he said. Currently, one of those materials is dodine (Syllit) that was recently registered as an alternative to mancozeb. It can be mixed at low labeled rates with copper or with kasugamycin. Other materials they looked at included biologicals like Blossom Protect, Serenade, Regalia, Dart and essential oils that reduce the disease under low disease pressure but are less effective as conventional treatments under high disease pressure with weekly rains and warm temperatures.

“The goal is to have multiple materials that can be rotated or mixed with each application and prevent the selection of resistance, like what happened with copper,” Adaskaveg said. “We know that if we

overuse any of the products, bacterial pathogens (like the walnut blight pathogen) can develop resistance.”

Adaskaveg said managing blight will remain a top priority in walnut production, particularly if the cli mate changes to wetter and warmer conditions. He noted ongoing efforts include development of effective alternatives that perform well in favorable environments, discovery of new modes of action against bacterial pathogens and identification of syner gistic mixtures for rotational use.

He also noted the challenges of navigating the registration and regulatory processes with agencies like the EPA to bring new bactericides to the walnut industry. The EPA has been particularly difficult when it comes to registering bactericides because of the hypothetical potential to select for human pathogen resistance when used in the environment such as in plant agricul ture. Although this has been shown not to occur because of the short persistence of most antibiotics in the environment

cankers that overwinter the pathogen, creating higher risk next spring season. After the fruit are harvested,

if a more aggressive spray programmycin, kasugamycin-mancozeb and

combinations for managing walnut

under low to high disease pressure will

Helping Farmers Grow NATURALLY Since 1974

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at


The heat is on! There isn’t a more critical time to get your irrigation dialed in than when the mercury climbs above 95 (degrees F). I drove by the San Luis Reservoir in early June only to see the water line already hundreds of feet down. With the delta still flowing well, but the conveyance pumps at a slow idle, our state isn’t doing us any favors. We have to be on our game to make ends meet and make every drop count. When those hot temps get there early in the morning, we have even more issues to deal with than just putting on water. It has to be efficient, and nutrients have to get into our trees. But how do we deal with this logistically?

My pistachio farm is easy. I live here. I also have an irrigation/fertigation scheduling system. I can program the start times, end times, hours of injections, choose from which tank products are injected, and decide how many days a week I want to run. That makes it nice. There are several companies developing and integrating these types of systems in the marketplace, and they really do make things more controllable. When you have more staff than, say, my wife and I, you will need to schedule system start times after someone is there to check leaks and system performance.

Then schedule end times after someone is there to make sure nothing blew out the night before. Leaks are always a bad problem with coyotes and rodents looking for a drink. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but make it easy on yourself and your staff, and start being able to program your water in shorter sets more often. There are several advantages to this method. A system can actually pay for itself very quickly.

When we run 48-hour sets, we overly saturate the soil. It becomes anaerobic for a bit, and it’s also very easy to push soluble and single-charged nutrition below the root zone quickly. When we overapply, specifically at the end of a set, we lose a lot of that nutrition to leaching. I say inject your nutrition in the front of your sets and run shorter sets when you are fertigating. It’s more of a scheduling issue, but it saves time, money and becomes more efficient. When the soil gets saturated, the roots have already had their “big drink” up front, and they slow down on the uptake. If that big slug of fertilizer you applied with the water doesn’t get absorbed, or the good bacteria were knocked back by anaerobic conditions, hampering their ability to make it available, we lose it. It keeps flowing

further into the soil. The next time we run water, that nutrition that got pushed down below the root zone gets pushed down further, and the cycle repeats itself. Wasted money.

My good buddy Guy Brautigam is a soil guru. He loves probing soil, figuring out chemistry and scheduling irrigations. He loves to say that by July 4, there isn’t much deep moisture anywhere in most of our soils. So, let’s stop trying to push it below those feeder roots. Run shorter sets more often. If we were able to run 12-hour sets every other day, we’d get those 48 hours of water on week one. But week two would only be 36 hours. Eight hours of running those pumps is a significant money savings. And the trees got a drink every other day in 100+ degree F temps without getting soggy. If the pumps were on at 5 p.m. and an irrigator’s shift ended at 6 p.m., he’d have time to check for leaks. Scheduling a morning irrigator at 5 a.m. would allow you to look for any leaks that may have arisen that evening.

Other reasons to attempt this style of irrigating and fertigating include more opportunities to inject nutrition more often at a slower pace, keeping it in the root zone, never letting the trees

‘Inject your nutrition in the front of your sets and run shorter sets when you are fertigating.’

dry out while not getting soggy, and losing way less water to evaporation only running at night. The savings on nutrients and electricity could be a boost to the financials while making the whole system more efficient. It should also optimize yields, which puts more money in your pocket.

When prices are down, we have to resort to guerilla warfare to get a crop to market. Being vigilant on input costs with water usage can save us quite a bit of money. Keeping yields up with lower prices can even out some tough times. Going down that spiral of low prices and low yields makes it very difficult to farm. Several have resorted to the old-school approach our grandfathers did of N and K. You still have to apply a balanced array of plant-ready nutrients to keep yields at their peak and capitalize on every acre. With the state disrupting the system and the heat ramping up, we are being forced to be that much better. If we dig a little deeper now in our efforts, we may be able to keep a little more green on our side of the soil.

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

With water deliveries still at a stall, it’s even more important to make every drop count
(photo by Danita Cahill.).

Farms are required to conduct assessments of their preharvest agricultural water annually, and whenever a significant change occurs, to identify any conditions likely to introduce known or reasonably foreseeable hazards into or onto covered produce or food contact surfaces.

FDA Publishes Final Rule on Pre-Harvest Agricultural Water

Last month, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published its final rule on agricultural water. The revised requirements are intended to enhance public health by improving the safety of water used in produce cultivation. The revisions are also designed to be practical across various agricultural water systems, uses, and practices, while remaining adaptable to future advancements in agricultural water quality science. The final rule replaces certain preharvest agricultural water requirements for covered produce (other than sprouts) in the 2015 produce safety rule with requirements for systems-based agricultural water assessments to determine and guide appropriate measures to minimize potential risks associated with preharvest agricultural water. Specifically, this rule:

• Establishes requirements for agricultural water assessments that evaluate a variety of factors that are key deter-

minants of contamination risks associated with preharvest agricultural water. This includes an evaluation of the water system, water use practices, crop characteristics, environmental conditions, potential impacts on water from adjacent and nearby land, and other relevant factors.

• Includes testing preharvest agricultural water as part of an assessment in certain circumstances.

• Requires farms to implement effective mitigation measures within specific timeframes based on findings from their assessments. Hazards related to certain activities associated with adjacent and nearby land use are subject to expedited mitigation.

• Adds new options for mitigation measures, providing farms with additional flexibility in responding to findings from their preharvest agricultural water assessments.

Farms are required to conduct assessments of their preharvest agricultural water annually, and whenever a significant change occurs, to identify any conditions likely to introduce known or reasonably foreseeable hazards into or onto covered produce or food contact surfaces. The rule also finalizes the dates for compliance with the preharvest agricultural water requirements for non-sprout covered produce as follows:

• For very small farms: April 5, 2027

• For small farms: April 6, 2026

• For all other farms: April 7, 2025

Annual water assessments should take into consideration certain factors: agricultural water systems, agricultural water practices, crop characteristics, environmental conditions and other relevant factors. For agricultural water systems, consider the location and na-

ture of the water source such as ground water vs surface water.

Also, evaluate the type of water distribution system, whether it is open or closed to the environment. Assess the degree of protection from potential contamination sources, including other users, animal impacts, adjacent and nearby land uses related to animal activity and the application of biological soil amendments. For agricultural water practices, consider the application method used, such as overhead sprinkler or spray, drip, furrow and flood. The time interval between the final direct application of agricultural water and the harvest of the covered produce should also be considered. The assessment should include the susceptibility of the covered produce to surface adhesion or internalization of hazards. Unlike other commodities, walnuts have a hard outer shell that acts as a barrier to the edible meats. The assessment requires considering the frequency of heavy rain or extreme weather events that may impact the agricultural water system by stirring sediments that could contain human pathogens or by damaging the product. Damage can increase the susceptibility of the product to become contaminated. Additionally, consider air temperatures and sun (UV) exposure.

Based on the findings of the agricultural water assessments, you must determine if corrective or mitigation measures are necessary to reduce the potential for contamination associated with preharvest agricultural water.

The final rule includes a requirement for supervisory review of the written preharvest agricultural water assessment and the determinations that were made based on the outcomes of the assessment.

The farm can be exempt from conducting a conducting a preharvest agricultural water assessment if it demonstrates their preharvest agricultural water for covered produce:

• Meets certain requirements that apply for harvest and postharvest agricultural water,

• Water received from a public water system or supply that meets requirements and the farm maintains water system results or certificate of compliance, or

• Is treated water in accordance with the standards in the Produce Safety Rule.

And it is reasonably likely the quality of the aforementioned water will remain unchanged before being used

as agricultural water.

The rule does not alter existing requirements for harvest and postharvest agricultural water activities. The compliance dates for this portion of the rule and requirements for harvest and postharvest agricultural water activities for large and small farms have already passed. These requirements differ from those for preharvest water.

FDA has stated the agency is committed to taking an “educate before and while we regulate” approach to supporting compliance. Along with the rule, FDA also released a number of fact sheets that offers more details on factors for conducting these assessments (fda.gov/media/178221/download?attachment). The FDA has also updated the Agriculture Water Assessment Builder (fda.gov/food/ food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/agricultural-water-assessment-builder).

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• Now reversible

• New and improved!

• Gathers nuts from the end of each lane; positions them to prevent spillage on the corners

• Eliminates lane-end hand raking labor

• Hook-up is 3 point, Cat. II.

• Virtually eliminates ground crop loss

Conservation Cover Plantings PollinatorExtendHabitat Add Value for Growers

Adding one more thing to an almond grower’s plate may seem like pushing the envelope at this time. Already coping with higher input costs, pest pressure and environmental regulations, will growers be willing to take on a pollinator habitat project?

Permanent pollinator habitat is sited near orchards and consists of woody, herbaceous, perennial and annual species, often planted in a hedgerow. Plants provide nutrition, habitat and nesting space for managed bees and native pollinators. Impacts from insecticide or herbicide applications are lessened outside the orchard. Mature pollinator habitat can decrease soil erosion, increase water infiltration and help filter dust from farming operations. The site does not have to be large. It can be effective at 1% or less of the acreage.

“Conservation cover” or permanent pollinator habitat is like a cousin to a cover crop,” Stetcyn Maldonado of Seeds for Bees said. The organization, along with Pollinator Partnership and UC Davis researcher Neal Williams, is offering information to growers on siting, preparing and planting pollinator habitat. Grower incentives to establish permanent pollinator habitat are being offered by Blue Diamond and the Madera/Chowchilla Resource Conservation District.

More Pollinator Visits

Williams, in a study funded by NRCS and USDA, found mature pollinator habitat attracted on average six times the number of native bees and three times the beneficial insect diversity compared to unplanted controls without attracting more pest insects. These benefits can extend to increased yields in crops, including California almonds.

The added nutrition source, researchers report, will help with hive strength and increased numbers of native pollinators, which contribute to pollination and crop yield.

Maldonado confirmed hedgerows of native plants planted near orchards attract beneficial insects, or natural predators of pest insects. Species native to California are likely to establish best as they are adapted to soil and climate conditions.

Williams, with funding from the Almond Board of California, is guiding habitat placement for pollinators and other beneficial insects in orchard landscapes.

His work helps to prioritize locations for habitat using spatial modeling and field validation to develop predictive maps. These can show where available uncropped land exists, even showing places where two or more growers can collaborate on the habitat and guide reduced pesticide risk management strategies.

Williams explained land use data can identify ‘land in

Sran Family Orchards practices a variety of bee-friendly farming techniques, including providing alternate sources of forage for bees. They have planted more than 10 linear miles of flowering hedgerows, with plants such as bottlebrush, rosemary and manzanita bordering their almond orchards. Another 15 miles are currently being planted (all photos courtesy Seeds for Bees.)

between,’ parcels adjacent to orchards that are not farmed. These are good spots for pollinator habitat and can provide access to more than one orchard. The models also find larger orchard blocks. These are more suitable for mating disruption for navel orangeworm control and can rely less on insecticide application, lowering risk to bees and native pollinators.

Williams said his efforts are aimed at showing grower opportunities to increase pollinator habitat.

Billy Synk with Pollinator Partnership said more almond growers are seeing the value in habitat establishment. Thanks to incentive programs, he said more than 25 linear miles of hedgerow habitat has been planted in the last year.

Hedgerow plantings are favored, he said, because of low maintenance needs once established. He noted buying lower-priced small plants is not the best option for hedgerow habitat. The most cost-effective strategy, he said, is to buy the mid-size plants, plant them 6 to 10 feet apart and provide irrigation until established. Pollinator Partnership can also assist with identifying the most suitable plants for the site.

Weed Control a Must

Site preparation, including weed control, is important

prior to planting. Solarization may be effective if site preparation is initiated during the summer months. It will not be successful if there is substantial infestation of hard seeded or rhizomatous weed species present.

Williams said ‘dealbreaker’ weeds at the proposed site include field bindweed, hairy vetch and mallows, which may need more time and herbicide applications to keep them from outcompeting young hedgerow plants.

He said if weed control was consistent during the first year of habitat establishment, less effort would be necessary in following years. Irrigation after favors weeds; drought can be one form of weed control in habitat plantings.

With mixed species plantings, sunny locations are favored by bees. If irrigation is possible due to a connection to an orchard it can help with timing of germination to manipulate bloom to support bees prior to almond bloom. Irrigation can also help if solarization of the ground is used for weed control.

The benefits of permanent habitats planted specifically to attract pollinators may be worth growers’ effort and the expense. Grower incentives to plant pollinator habitat near orchards are available. Both Natural Resource Conservation Service and Blue Diamond have new grant programs incentivizing pollinator habitat projects.

California Wildlife Conservation Board funding is being offered by Madera/Chowchilla Resource Conservation District. They are offering technical advice and help with the design and

implementation of habitat projects, including hedgerows. Funding is available for site preparation, installation and materials like native plant plugs and seeds. They also provide ongoing monitoring and maintenance assistance.

Blue Diamond’s Orchard Stewardship Incentive Program (OSIP) goes one step further by delivering financial support to assist in the implementation of climate-smart stewardship practices. For Blue Diamond grower-members, this is an opportunity to receive their normal OSIP incentive and now also be reimbursed for implementing stewardship practices that may otherwise be cost-prohibitive.

Blue Diamond's grower-members


planted more than 100 acres of conservation cover in the first year of the project. Starting May 1, the cooperative began accepting applications from their approximately 3,000 grower-members for the second year of activities, which are supported by grant partners Project Apis m. and Pollinator Partnership.

Beekeeper Alicia Perez of Bee Happy Farms said beekeepers support pollinator habitat establishment alongside orchards.

“When we take our bees to the almond orchards, they not only do their job of pollinating the crop, they also receive the first round of nutrition from the cover crops or planted habitat. A good food source for our bees during this time is critical to increasing hive numbers for the year and maintaining the number of colonies needed for our apiary operations.

Perez said more diversity in nectar and pollen available for bees through cover crops or dedicated pollinator habitat increases health of bees.

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

Let’s find solutions for every field, together.

Wilbur-Ellis agronomists, researchers and experts across fields of study are building up our arsenal of expertise to help growers troubleshoot today’s challenges while planning for tomorrow’s.

Hedgerow plantings are favored because of low maintenance needs once established.
California Wildlife Conservation Board funding is being offered by Madera/Chowchilla Resource Conservation District for site preparation, installation and materials like native plant plugs and seeds.

Crop Consultant Conference

Offers Premiere Event for PCAs, CCAs

The 2024 Crop Consultant Conference is set to return to the Visalia Convention Center Sept. 25 and 26 and promises to be the agricultural event of the year. Taking place in the heart of California's Central Valley, the conference is an essential gathering for PCAs and CCAs. Hosted by JCS Marketing’s Progressive Crop Consultant magazine and MyAgLife, and Western Region Certified Crop Advisers, a leader in PCA and CCA education, the event offers a unique blend of continuing education (CE), networking and industry insights you won't find anywhere else. Renowned for its agricultural productivity, the Central Valley is an ideal setting for this conference, which will immerse attendees in an environment

that reflects the latest advancements and enduring traditions of California agriculture. “This strategic location in Visalia allows participants to connect directly with the innovations and practices that are shaping the future of crop consulting,” said JCS Marketing CEO Jason Scott.

Scott said the event's focus on innovative pest control strategies, sustainable farming practices and cutting-edge technology ensures attendees will leave with practical knowledge that can be immediately applied.

Comprehensive CE Opportunities at an Affordable Price

Scott said he recognizes the vital role of continuing education for ag pro-

fessionals and strives to offer a range of CE opportunities at the conference each year. MyAgLife ensures attendees can earn their credits through early online courses, live event sessions and post-conference offerings.

“This flexibility allows professionals to manage their schedules while keeping up to date with essential knowledge and skills,” Scott said.

With a registration fee of just $350, the conference is an exceptional value.

“T his cost-effective pricing translates to mere pennies per CE credit, making it an unbeatable investment for PCAs and CCAs,” Scott said, adding the affordable fee ensures every participant can access high-quality education and networking without breaking the bank.

An Event Packed with Opportunities

The Crop Consultant Conference is more than just a series of lectures; it's a full-fledged experience designed to benefit all attendees to connect them with industry leaders, decision-makers and peers through structured networking events and informal gatherings.

“It’s a unique chance to build relationships that can lead to new opportunities and collaborations,” Scott said.

At tendees can expect to sit in on innovative seminars and workshops to learn the latest research, cutting-edge technologies, and best practices that are driving the industry forward. They will also have access to the latest products, services and technologies in the agricultural sector during the conference’s trade show, allowing them to engage with exhibitors who are at the forefront of innovation and see firsthand the tools that can enhance your practice.

All photos by Kristin Platts.

Scott said the trade show is also a great opportunity for companies who are looking to increase their visibility and establish industry leadership by taking advantage of exclusive sponsorship opportunities.

“Our sponsorship packages offer prominent exposure to a highly targeted audience of ag professionals,” he said.

High Demand and Limited Availability

With its comprehensive educational program, affordable pricing and unparalleled networking opportunities, the Crop Consultant Conference is expected to sell out quickly. Both registrations and sponsorship opportunities are in high demand, so it's crucial to secure your spot early.

“This is an unparalleled opportunity to join your peers and industry leaders in the Central Valley for an event that promises to be both educational and transformative,” Scott said.

He said the Crop Consultant Conference represents a pivotal moment for

ag professionals. By bringing together PCAs, CCAs, researchers and industry experts, the conference fosters a collaborative environment where attendees can enhance their knowledge, skills and professional networks.

“MyAgLife's commitment to providing flexible and accessible CE opportunities makes this event an invaluable resource for those dedicated to excellence in crop consulting,” Scott said.

Act Now: Secure Your Spot

Given the high level of interest and limited availability, it's imperative to

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Visit progressivecrop.com/conference to register and secure your place at the 2024 Crop Consultant Conference.

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Sept. 25: 7AM-5PM Sept. 26: 7AM-2PM

Visalia Convention Center 303 E Acequia Ave, Visalia, CA 93291

Invest in Your Ag Future and Make Critical Connections:

Live Conference and Trade Show

Over 70 Exhibits

Mixer with 2 drinks included First class dining

2 Breakfasts and 2 Lunches

The new 2024 CEU program includes 11.0 pre-conference hours available online starting on August 1, 2024, 12.5 in-person hours, and an addi- tional 37.0 post-conference online hours. This totals 60.5 hours, more than enough to meet your CEU requirements for the year. Pending nal approvals.

CCA of the Year Award by WRCCA and More...

Attendance is filling up fast and this is one conference you don’t want to miss! The Best of the Best, Together in One Room!

Co-Hosted by:


Our team is proud to present yet another year of the industry's most insightful and valuable talks, coupled with an unparalleled amount of continuing education units. Get All Your CEU for the Year at the Crop Consultant Conference!

Advancing Pest Management: Innovative Strategies for Industry Leaders

Discover advanced pest management solutions in agriculture, from Carpophilus beetles to nematode and rodent control, with industry collaborations.

Harnessing Science for Agriculture: Breakthroughs in Disease and Weed Control

Delve into the latest scientific advancements in RNAi technology, biofungicides, and soil health to combat diseases and weeds effectively across diverse crops.

Sustainable Practices in Crop Protection: Updates and Insights

Stay informed with the latest updates on anaerobic soil disinfestation, integrated pest management, and the impact of new regulations on traditional pest control methods.

Your Key to the Conference

The MyAgLife App is now more essential than ever for navigating the conference. This year, we're excited to introduce the new CEU Manager feature, allowing you to effortlessly track all your annual credits directly within the app.

At Deerpoint Group, we understand that potassium is a vital nutrient for the growth of permanent crops, especially tree nuts. Our unique product, DPG Potassium Plus™ , featuring the highly soluble potassium formate, is a game-changer in agricultural nutrition.

Why Choose DPG Potassium Plus™?

Potassium formate sets DPG Potassium Plus™ apart from conventional potassium sources like potassium acetate, potassium thiosulfate, potassium chloride (muriated potash), and potassium sulfate. These common forms are less soluble and less readily available to plants. The formate anion of DPG Potassium Plus™ ensures that it dissolves more effectively in soil and water, making potassium immediately available for plant uptake.

The superior solubility of potassium formate is not just a claim—it's a proven fact supported by our published solubility graphs. These illustrate how DPG Potassium Plus™ outperforms other potassium sources in terms of solubility and plant availability.

The Anion Advantage

An essential aspect of DPG Potassium Plus™ is its anion component. All fertilizers comprise a positive cation paired with a negative anion. DPG Potassium Plus™ uses potassium formate, where the potassium cation (K+) pairs with a formate anion. When applied,

the fertilizer disassociates, allowing the potassium to be absorbed by plants efficiently. This is what defines the high solubility of our product.

Moreover, unlike other potassium fertilizers that might include harmful anions like chloride or thiosulfate, DPG Potassium Plus™ is free from any negative effects associated with these components. Chloride, for example, can be toxic to plants, potentially leading to chloride toxicity especially under drought conditions where salts accumulate in the soil.

Carbon Contribution and Soil Health

DPG Potassium Plus™ doesn’t just stop at providing essential nutrients: it also can enhance soil health. The formate anion is a synthetic, carbon-based compound that contributes valuable carbon right at the root zone. Carbon is crucial for maintaining a healthy soil microbiome, including beneficial bacteria and fungi, which in turn supports robust plant growth.

The inclusion of carbon through DPG Potassium Plus™ helps improve the soil structure and fosters a more productive environment for microorganisms. In California’s challenging climates and soil conditions, the introduction of carbon is particularly beneficial, promoting better soil health and sustainability.

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Increased regulatory challenges are putting a focus on biologicals to enhance pest management and beyond.

Biological products have been used in agricultural systems for decades and more recently have been shown to provide benefits beyond pest management. Before thinking about how to incorporate these tools into farming practices, it’s important to consider what goals you are aiming for and how these products can be used to help in achieving those goals.

Due to increasing regulatory challenges, particularly in states like California, there can be a lack of adequate options for growers who are trying to manage pests and diseases. Several previously available synthetic pesticides have been removed from the market or are under current regulatory pressure for future use. In addition, new challenges are emerging, such as the potential restrictions on fertilizer use and regulations around air and water quality. It is unlikely that future regulations will become less stringent, and there is a need to embrace new technologies that can help growers maintain profitability considering this regulatory environment.

Benefits of Biologicals



Increased use of fewer remaining available chemistries can lead to poten-

tial for development of resistance for synthetic single-site products. Resistance development to synthetic pesticides has been growing rapidly since they were introduced. Fortunately, integrating biologicals into conventional programs, whether they are rotated or tank mixed, has been proven to slow resistance development to important synthetic tools due to their unique and multiple modes of action.

Managing Residues

For crops with important export markets, considering Maximum Residue Levels (MRL) to meet various geographic requirements can also be challenging. By crafting a program where biologicals can be used to replace some chemistries, especially closer to harvest, the MRL challenges can be met for successfully meeting buyers’ standards.

Regenerative practices

While there is no commonly agreed definition of regenerative agriculture (or regen ag for short), the term generally refers to farming principles or practices aimed at improving the overall environment with a strong focus on improving soil health and enhancing the benefits to society provided by agricultural

farm biodiversity, conserving water resources through improved water retention and decreases in water run-off, and improving the social and economic well-being of growers and communities. The move toward regenerative farming practices embraces several areas where biologicals can be key partners for achieving these goals.

Soil Health

In recognition of soil health as an important component of regen ag, American Pistachio Growers were recently awarded a $5 million grant for promoting soil health practices. Healthy soils require biology and biological products along with practices such as composting and including cover crops to help move production toward more

Biocontrols can replace some synthetic pesticides to help growers meet ever-more complex MRL requirements for exports.

sustainable practices. Improving soil health can have additional benefits for regions where water can be a limiting resource. USDA estimates that for every 1% increase in organic matter, soil can retain an additional 25,000 gal per acre. Were all the pistachio acres in California to increase their organic matter by only 1%, soil water capacity would increase by around 11.3 billion gallons.


Agriculture and biodiversity are inextricably intertwined. Healthy crops depend on resilient ecosystems comprised of soil organisms, beneficial insects like pollinators, habitats for wild flora and animals that live in and around the crops, and even the genetic diversity of the crops themselves. At the same time, ensuring a safe and secure food supply involves changing how the natural environment and resources are used, and this has an impact on biodiversity. Biologicals typically have low impact on beneficial insects and soil biology and can even help increase biodiversity.

Improved Nutrient Use Efficiency

With increased fertilizer costs and in consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and run-off, finding tools that can improve nutrient use efficiency could be a real benefit for growers. Microbes are integral for moving nutrients from soil to roots. In a fairly recently studied process known as rhizophagy, it has been shown root-as sociated microbes are transporting key nutrients directly into plant root cells. Plants expend around 30% of their energy to make root exudates designed to attract beneficial microbes to their root systems. Once these ben

eficial microbes begin to colonize the root surfaces, the resulting symbiosis results in more complex and healthier root masses. Most interestingly, as these microbes are gathering nutrients from the soil, the root cells engulf the bacteria, taking them inside the root cells and stripping nutrients from them directly. This explains the term ‘rhizophagy’ or “root-eating.” After extracting the nutrients, the microbes are expelled from the root cells to reform and gather more nutrients for the plants. Providing the right biological products to crop roots can thereby increase nutrient uptake. In addition, the root-associated microbes can trigger stress tolerance pathways in the plant, helping crops manage through difficult conditions, such as heat, drought or too much water.

How to be Successful with the Use of Biologicals

Understanding biological products will greatly increase successful use of these important tools. There are a diversity of available biological products and therefore a number of different uses. Many of the products work by contact action, and therefore good coverage is very important for controlling pests or diseases. Knowing the mode of action of the biological product will help with

action and security in manufacturing. Carefully reading label requirements for storage as well as compatibility with other agrichemicals will also improve outcomes.

Identifying the needs or goals of incorporating biologicals will help define when and how these products can benefit the farming practice. To manage MRLs to meet market demands,


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Yield and quality are often improved in systems incorporating biological products (photo courtesy V. Boyd.)

Providing an environment for natural predators to flourish is an important component in biocontrol.

are developing resistance to synthetic pesticides. As it is more and more difficult for industry to discover and develop new synthetic pesticides, growers need to use practices that keep current products on the market as long as possible. Biological products are different from synthetic chemistry and are best used in integrated programs. Testing biological products as if they were systemic pesticides, under high disease pressure with long intervals, will result in disappointing results. However, within an integrated system, biologicals can provide excellent results since they work best under low to moderate disease or insect pressure.

For products designed to help with improved nutrient uptake that rely on root colonization, apply during active root growth when root exudates provide stimulation for microbial products to start the process. During winter months when trees are dormant, exudates are not produced and therefore this application timing should be avoided. Getting plant health started

early in the season helps plants tolerate less-than-perfect conditions later. Since biologicals can have several different benefits for farming systems, the best measure of their value for growers is to include assessment of additional attributes that contribute to growers’ profitability. Yield and quality are often improved in systems incorporating biological products. Beneficial insect populations may also be supported and may result in lower need for some insecticide applications.

Agricultural biologicals are innovative nature-based technologies that can serve as an important part of many integrated crop management systems, often in the form of biocontrols and biostimulants. When complemented by leading varieties, digital tools and chemical crop protection, biologicals can help growers achieve the best results in their fields.

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From the Orchard

Embracing Life on the Family Farm,

Gurajan Brar

is Excited About the Future

Finding efficiencies that improve farm operations and profits drives Gurajan Brar. “What I'm excited for is our transition to be as efficient as possible and continuing to look for ways to reduce costs,” he says. “Our main goal now is optimization, optimizing our current portfolio to where we can integrate more tasks in house.”

At 22, Gurajan Brar could be considered a rarity in the tree nut farming world. Two years ago, he joined his family’s almond, pistachio and winegrape operation, Brar and Son Farms, after completing an ag business degree at Fresno State.

Unlike so many young people who are choosing to leave family farms behind, Brar is excited about the future of tree nut farming in the state. His youth and enthusiasm are focused on the business side of his family’s farming business. His eyes light up when he talks about finding efficiencies and creating systems that will allow his family’s operation to expand.

He’s also a big proponent of young people in the industry finding mentors to help them learn. In his case, his dad and grandpa have served that role.

“I had to ask my grandpa a bunch of questions,” he said. “I still have to ask my dad a lot of questions on a lot of things.”

Brar shared his perspective and his hopes for the future in an interview with West Coast Nut.

Q. Tell us a little about the history of your farming operation. My grandparents came here in 1973 from Punjab India. They first settled in Yuba City, and they worked as farm laborers. Then it wasn't until 1993 when my dad and grandfather bought their first piece of farm ground in Madera. So that's where we still run our main farming operation. From there, my dad's grown that operation to now farming winegrapes, almonds and pistachios.

Q. How did you end up in the family business?

When I was growing up, I would work on the farm with my grandfather. Some of my first memories are of turning on the irrigation for our grapes, opening all the valves and spending time with my grandfather.

Originally, I didn't really want anything to do with farming. I was more interested in the finance side somewhere in the Bay area. But then I decided to stick around because of what my grandparents struggled for, and my dad, too.

It took them so long to get to this point, I decided I wanted to continue to build on their legacy and continue to grow the farming operation. I went to Fresno State and got a degree in ag business. During that time, I was hands-on with all dayto-day activities on the farm. Now, I'm in a position where I don't have to be driving all the tractors; rather, I play a more operational role, making sure everything's getting done on time and within budget. Also working along with my dad on financial decisions, whether it’s buying new farm equipment or trying new techniques to farm more efficiently.

Q. How would you say that farming practices have evolved over the course of your life?

Back in the day, there would be no moisture sensors. We would rely on what you can see visually, whereas now you have a lot more technology, for example, moisture probes. You can see exactly how much the trees are intaking.

We used to do a lot of flood irrigation. Now, we've essentially completely

switched over to just drip irrigation, so we focus exactly on what water we're going to put on. This is a more efficient way of irrigation as well as fertilization, especially with current prices. Other things, too, we're taking more tissue samples. We're taking a more technical approach to it. We've also added more automation to our pumps to save on certain costs to get away from the peak runtime hours.

Q. As a young person coming into an existing operation, what kinds of things are you excited about?

Our operation used to be not as technical in terms of actually having complete reports and such. What I'm excited for is our transition to be as efficient as possible and continuing to look for ways to reduce costs. Our main goal now is optimization, optimizing our current portfolio to where we can integrate more tasks in-house. That's what I'm excited for.

Q. What are three things that keep you up at night about growing nuts?

I'm lucky because I have my dad with me still, so he helps handle the stress. He has to take some of the more heavy burdens of financial, but at the end of the day, it's still mainly pricing, making sure that we're profitable. It's the biggest concern.

Second, with SGMA being imple-

mented, we have ground in the white area. So do we continue to find ways to continue to keep farming those acres without having to reduce water being pumped or to fallow some of the acres.

“ ”
We are growing three crops on the tree: the hull, the nut and the shell. All of that will get used. I think that's the main marketing push.”
– Gurajan Brar, Brar and Son Farms

Lastly, it comes down to the current supply. There are still large amounts of almonds and pistachios being planted and getting into production, adding onto the oversupply, so that’s also a continued concern.

Q. Talk a little bit about the difference between the almond and pistachio markets.

I think one of the major differences is pistachios still has room to grow whereas with almonds seems capped. We're hitting 3 billion pounds. It’s an intense supply. It's just about trying to continue to market them.

But on the growing side, there's a large difference. Pistachios are relatively easier since the window of farming is a bit shorter. You're farming them intensely for seven months of the year, whereas almonds there’s more stuff happening throughout the year that you have to address.

Q. Do you feel like there's anything the almond side could learn from the way pistachios are being marketed?

The Almond Board does a really good job all around. The main marketing point is just trying to get people to understand almonds are good for your health and the environment. Almonds have received a lot of bad publicity. We’re just trying to stay ahead and continue to educate people on what exactly we are doing and why, showcasing our more efficient practices.

We are growing three crops on the tree: the hull, the nut and the shell. All of

While the tractors at Brar and Son are still driven by people, Gurajan Brar says he thinks prices will come down to the point where more mid-size and small operations will begin adopting autonomous tractors and other machinery.

that will get used. I think that's the main marketing push, just trying to get rid of the stigma that almonds waste water and that they are not good for the environment. I think that's the main point that we still have to work on.

Q. What's the thing you're most hopeful about for the future when it comes to growing tree nuts?

A lot of orchards will eventually get pulled out and replaced, so we're hopeful the price of nuts will go up, but more so that there'll be more efficient practices that allow us to cut back our input costs.

Also, in the future, there may be new, higher-producing varieties. I am also hopeful for advancements in technology like automation; this will be big eventually. You'll have automated tractors that can save labor costs and be more efficient.

Q. In your opinion, what needs to happen to put the industry on the right track?

I think it's just going to come down to being able to market the nuts and finding more efficient ways to produce them.

We need more secondary markets opening up to different countries. They have tried it all at this point, but at the end of the day, what we are going to need is to see orchards coming out of production that will stabilize the current supply, and then as well, going forward.

Q. What do you think are the biggest assets of the tree nut industry in California?

I think it's just going back to how many people are actually employed, not just on the farms but also all the equipment, all the different companies that work in the sector. It makes up a big percentage of the overall ag industry.

Q. What would you say is your biggest achievement so far?

I am young, so I am in my early years in farming, helping make our farming operation more efficient and increasing production while continuing to find ways to reduce input costs. Financial tracking of all costs is very important, especially during these hard times due to depressed nut prices. With high costs of farm equipment, it's very important to keep the tractors serviced and main-

tained. Parts and labor have gotten very expensive. So, if you have kept everything in good condition, our equipment can run for a longer period of time.

Q. As you talk about cutting input costs, have you explored regenerative farming?

Yes, I have researched cover cropping. This fall, we will be planting cover crops in our pistachio and almond orchards. There are great benefits in cover crops from improving water infiltration to having a habitat for beneficial insects, thus reducing mite pressure during the season.

Q. Talk about how your operation is approaching sustainability.

Just going back to being sustainable with certain practices, like using moisture probes to schedule irrigation sets. Also run our deep wells on off-peak hours. Last year, with all the rain we had, there was just an excess amount of water, so we used programs like on-farm recharge, where you can flood the fields

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to help bring up the water table. It's just a way to be more sustainable.

Q. How do you implement practices like orchard recycling?

We've transitioned to now where all of our orchards we've removed, we do orchard recycling. We just got done with one last year, and we did another block the year before, so we've had some experience with it. The wood chips help build organic matter back into the soil.

I think it's a pretty great thing where you can recycle the trees and put the energy back into the field, incorporate it, get a little bit more nitrogen from the wood chips. The trees are ground and made into wood chips and then spread evenly across the orchard and incorporated back into the soil through discing or plowing.

Q. Talk a little bit about the water situation in California and how that affects you.

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every [grower’s] mind these days. The threat of thousands of acres needing to be fallowed is keeping a cloud on farming for the future. But I feel [growers] will figure it out, whether it's on-farm water recharge or rotating to other crops to maybe converting to solar farms. But also, discovering new techniques for reducing water usage. An example may be developing new root stocks that require less water to grow the crop.

Q. How do you go about giving back to the community?

We continue to help by donating to some good causes, whether it's with health care (i.e., cancer research) to public education to volunteering in our local community.

One of my long-term goals is to open my own animal shelter. That's my favorite because I love animals. I want to help every animal.

Q. You're pretty young yourself, but if you were mentoring a high schooler, what kind of advice would you give to them about getting into farming?

I think one of the biggest things is you need to take a hands-on approach in the beginning, like actually going to a farm, figure out how everything's done, because without that, you're not going to have an understanding of all the challenges and rewards that come from farming.

Another thing is just trying to find a mentor who's already doing it. That way

you can ask a lot of questions to help figure out if this is a career path for you. I think it’s just finding that person you can connect with who will help you with answering your questions that can guide you in the right direction.

But it's really important to actually go get hands-on experience from someone who's already in the industry rather than just trying to look at it through reading about it. It's a lot different from reading about it to actually going out into the orchard figuring out how things are done.

Q. Talking about mentors, who was the biggest influence on your learning?

It was probably my grandfather. Even though he didn't really have a formal education, it was just him giving me those hands-on lessons. And then my dad. He taught me the technical and financial reasons behind why we make certain decisions.

Q. What do you think has been the biggest advancement in growing?

The emphasis on efficiency. Everyone's been more efficient. You're not really seeing a lot of growers wasting anything, especially water. Also, reduction in pesticide and insecticide use. For example, we installed mating disruption puffers to help with [navel orangeworm] pressure in some of our blocks.

I think across the board now, growers are more focused on farming more efficiently.

Q. Do you see a lot of growers moving toward things like autonomous tractors?

Right now, it's mainly large farming operations, then you have some kind of outliers, more growers who if they're farming, they'll use it so they don't have to do it themselves. But you don't really see that many mid-sized growers doing it. It's mainly large ones, but it's kind of like everything. Eventually the cost will start coming down, so everyone can start implementing it into their operations. Right now, it's still very expensive.

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Gurajan Brar (right) of Brar and Son Farms joins his dad, Gursewak Brar, in the family business. Gurajan credits his dad and grandfather with mentoring him and encourages other young people to find a mentor as they enter the nut industry (photos courtesy Brar and Son Farms.)

Almond Variety, Rootstock Breeding Efforts Respond to Grower, Processor Needs

Evolving growing conditions, uncertain water availability and quality, along with global competition, are spurring efforts to develop new almond varieties and rootstocks that will meet those challenges.

“We have to look at future needs and which needs 20 years from now will be different than they are now,” UC Davis Plant Breeder Tom Gradziel said.

The UC Davis Variety and Rootstock Development Programs in cooperation with private breeders are working on genetic solutions for current and emerging challenges in California. While California’s climate has given almond growers an edge over global competitors that may not always be the case.

“Priorities will change in the future,”

Cliff Beumel president of tree nursery Agromillora, confirmed.

Given the current picture of low returns in almond production, Beumel added the outlook for the future is somewhat muddled. Growers will need new almond varieties and rootstocks in the future to be competitive on the global market, address environmental challenges and widen the harvest window, but they will also have needs specific to their growing regions.

Almond growers, and those planning their first orchards, have many choices in varieties and rootstocks, but the selection has to match the site characteristics. Climate, soil type, water quality and disease and insect pressure are immediate concerns. Variety compatibility with a chosen rootstock

further refines the decision. On top of that, yield and meeting consumer demand have to be considered.

Gradziel, who has been conducting UC Davis- and Almond Board of California (ABC)-funded almond research, said additional priorities identified by growers and processors for variety development include self-fruitfulness, disease and salinity resistance, and productivity with less water use. Processors are looking for varieties that have improved flavor, storability, oil and protein content, and kernel sizes to meet consumer demand.

Industry Investment

The Almond Board of California has invested an estimated $8 million

In full bloom, the recently released UC Davis almond variety Kester is seen in the Salida regional variety trial (photos by T. Gradziel.)

Almonds · Walnuts · Pistachios

in almond variety development and rootstock development over the past decades. UC variety development began in the 70s and rootstock in the 80s. Private breeders have also significantly contributed to breeding efforts. In addition, with Almond Board, Cooperative Extension and local grower support, UC has implemented regional variety trials

of most commercial varieties and rootstocks for regional performance, rootstock compatibility, resistance to diseases, salinity and drought. The trials provide growers with some confidence of the variety’s characteristics and possible shortcomings.

In his 2023 research update, Gradziel said processing and marketing needs along with new production challenges have slowed almond breeding progress worldwide.

He said a recent study has shown most almond breeding programs in Spain, France, Chile and Australia are breeding in self-pollen-compatibility as a means to have self-fruitful varieties. Because most are using the same genetic source for self-compatibility (the variety Tuono), they are dramatically narrowing the germplasm base for their new varieties. Some of the Spanish almond breeders have reported reduced yields as a consequence of this inbreeding.

The UC Davis almond breeding program as well as private breeders are exceptions to this because they have used commercial peach (Prunus persica) as an additional source for self-compatibility/self-fruitfulness while the UC Davis program has used both commercial peach, the wild peach species Prunus mira, and the wild almond species Prunus webbii, as alternative, additional sources for self-compatibility/self-fruitfulness. Not only are these programs avoiding inbreeding, they have also benefited from the introduction of new exotic germplasm which also possess a wide range of potentially valuable traits for future almond improvement. Those traits include tree architectures amenable to catch frame harvest, improved disease resistance, infield hulling, improved oil stability and resistance to new nematode threats along with improved water use, salt tolerance, lower chill requirements and tolerance to frost.

Reid Robinson at Sierra Gold said their breeding program has incorporated a diversity of genetics to create new almond varieties and rootstocks. They have recently released the new self-fertile variety “Earlybird.”

Burchell Nursery as well as Duarte Nursery also have very

A self-fruitful variety in Gradziel’s trials. Self-fruitful is a focus for future varieties.

long histories of breeding and releasing almond varieties.

Advances in rootstock breeding are notable for successfully meeting challenges to the point where almond production has been pushed into growing areas where it was not previously possible.

“New rootstocks really opened up more acreage,” Beumel said. “They give more protection when replanting orchards with the resistance of hybrid rootstocks.”

Beumel said growers in California are looking for more ‘fool proof’ rootstocks with resistance to replant disease. He said 10 years ago, any peach-almond hybrid was a good rootstock choice. Now, he said, growers would like as many resistance traits as possible stacked in one rootstock as most orchards are now replants.

Growers in the north part of the state particularly want resistant rootstocks with good vigor and anchorage along with broad compatibility with all varieties. These rootstocks also need to

be tested in orchards throughout the Central Valley on all major varieties to be sure they are productive, Gradziel said.

Grower variety desires include more self-fertile options. Self-fertile varieties have the ability to accept their own pollen, Gradziel said, but structure of the flowers needs to be improved so a very high percentage of flowers are fertilized. There are new self-fertiles in the pipeline, Beumel said, and USDA, UC and private breeding programs will have self-fruitful varieties that will widen the harvest window. This is one of the current priorities, Beumel said. Will they also meet kernel quality and flavor expectations? There will likely be a few subtle flaws that appear over time, he said. Kernel size has been a common issue in some promising crosses.

A USDA-developed variety, Yorizane looked wonderful in early trials, Beumel said, but it will take time to gather data on nut quality and yield. The next step will be the ‘let's see’ period. About 10% of almond growers are willing to take a

chance on a new variety that has not been widely planted, Beumel said. The rest of the growers, Beumel added, are on the conservative side and will wait to see how a new variety performs over time.

“That 10% will either win or take the sword,” Beumel said.

The bottleneck in the breeding process is long-term testing to be sure new varieties and rootstocks will meet expectations without serious production flaws. Identifying key problems and making the crosses to achieve solutions is being done. Gradziel said to avoid risks, the promising crosses need to be tested for 10 to 20 years before release for commercial production.

He reported that a final goal of the UC Davis almond breeding program is the development of molecular markers for crucial traits so future public and private breeding efforts can use this information to dramatically speed up the selection process.

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Afield day held in a San Joaquin County walnut and cherry orchard highlighted the system-based approach Franz Eilers and Emma Wade have taken at Heartwood Farms in Linden, Calif., through biodiversity and whole-farm cycling of nutrients and carbon using orchard waste.

The Biologically Integrated Orchard Systems (BIOS) Whole Orchard Nutrient Cycling and On-Farm Composting event last spring was organized by Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), an organization that works on sustainable farming issues with farmers and ranchers through advocacy and on-the-ground education and cost-share programs.

A Home for Beneficial Pests

Heartwood Farms farm is a hub of biodiversity. A mix of cherries and nearly 50-year-old walnut trees, assorted cover crops welcome and support a variety of beneficial insects. Calling Heartwood Farm highly biodiverse, Kahl said it’s an ideal environment for predators of pests like spider mite, which she said is becoming an increasingly bigger problem for walnut growers as the climate warms.

She noted that CAFF’s ecological pest management program is conducting onfarm experiments with walnut growers, as well as wine grape growers, to learn how to control spider mites with funding from CDFA’s BIOS program.

“We do weekly sampling and monitoring to look at spider mite levels and predators of spider mites,” Kahl said, including predatory mites, six-spotted

thrips, big eyed bugs, minute pirate bugs, and spider mite destroyers.

Heartwood Farms are in the process of transitioning their farm to fully organic, but Eilers said they have always relied on a minimalistic approach, continually aiming to time things just right without a lot of artificial pulling and pushing of the landscape.

“I think nature is a little freer to

Heartwood Farms began transforming a year's worth of orchard waste into compost nearly a year before the March 2024 BIOS field day held on their farm, following the pruning and mowing of their walnut orchard.

express herself here,” Eilers said.

Transforming Orchard Waste into Compost

The Heartwood Farms compost pile began almost a year prior to the March 2024 field day, following the pruning and mowing of cover crops in their walnut orchard. Converting a year's worth of orchard waste into compost involves numerous considerations.

One of the first things they had to consider was figuring out how to turn wood prunings into a mountain of chips. Wade said that while there were many ways that could be done, they had to look at the most efficient method for their specific needs.

Ultimately, they chose to go with an 8-foot tub grinder, which produced a finer chipped wood than traditional orchard removal would have.

“The smaller the chip you have, the easier time you’re going to have to break it down,” Wade said.

The tub grinder, at an expense of about $3,500, was covered by the SARE

grant. While pricier than burning, it’s an unavoidable cost to comply with strict burn restrictions.

“Obviously $3,500 is more expensive than burning your wood, but we’re not allowed to do that anymore,” Wade said. “And what’s the cost of buying your

compost? So, all of those things go into the picture.”

Once the wood debris were chipped, Eilers said he used a front-end loader to begin dumping piles where the 700-footlong compost windrow would begin to take shape. The next component was to


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Thursday, August 8th, 2024

5414 E. Floral Avenue

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Social Hour at 10:30am

Lunch to be served at 12:00pm

The cover crops at Heartwood Farms in Linden, Calif. are an essential ingredient to making on-farm compost. (all photos by K. Platts.)

cut the cover crop, rake it up, and dump it on the top of the windrow at a ratio of about 1:1.

“We did that because the cover crop was a little bit mature, it was a little beyond its freshest point, otherwise we would have done a 2:1, 2 being wood chip, 1 being the nitrogen source of the cover crop,” Eilers said.

After that, they needed a tractor with a creeper gear, which allows it to operate slower than walking pace at a high RPM,

a tractor they conveniently already possessed, which they mounted a compost turner on. Wade noted that the compost turner was not funded by the SARE grant, but a separate, healthy soils grant with a compost incentive did reimburse them for it.

Once the orchard debris were mixed with the harvested cover crop, the compost required regular monitoring, watering, and turning as necessary. The pile was then turned weekly during

the first month, biweekly the following month, and once more after that. They consistently monitored the temperature, which remained around an ideal temperature of 140 degrees F. Its location, offering a balanced mix of sunlight and shade, created an ideal environment for the composting process.

“Making compost is fun, it’s a lot of work, but if you can put the time it needs, particularly in that first couple of weeks, this thing is going to cook,” Wade said.

She added that results from a nutritional composition test showed their compost was garden grade and considered highly desirable.

That’s no small feat, according to Marney Blair, who served as a technical advisor to Wade and Eilers throughout the project.

“Their first time at it, that is highly commendable,” Blair said.

Blair noted that the advantages of on-farm compost hinge on three key factors: it acts as a biological infusion for the soil; it introduces essential micro-nutrients such as zinc, copper, and magnesium; and it enhances the soil's physical structure by adding porosity and improving water retention.

Speaking to the economics of making compost, she said producers are starting to realize the more local they can be, the more economically sound they can be also.

“Composting can be extremely local,” she said. “Look what they’ve done, they’ve limbed their trees, they grew their over crop, and now they’ve created their own fertility. And it’s become this wonderful, circled system, that is a cost saving in itself.”

Farming as a System

Hanna Kahl, an ecological pest management specialist for CAFF, says the point of the BIOS approach is to explore how the farm is managed as a system, with interlinking parts.

“You can’t really treat one part of the system in isolation, and so a lot of these practices weave together and complement each other,” she said. “Like irrigation might interact with pest management, which might interact with soil health, it’s a complex system.”

Funded by CDFA, the BIOS program aims to minimize chemical inputs like pesticides and fertilizers through the

Compost can enhance soil with micro-nutrients like zinc, copper, and magnesium, and improve its physical structure for better porosity and water retention.
The 700-foot-long compost pile on Heartwood Farms is in an idea location, offering a balanced mix of sunlight and shade.

adoption of biological and cultural farming practices, thus lessening the environmental degradation associated with these substances.

“It’s just a really powerful, different approach in that, the way that we try to do things, is always to engage the grower first,” Kahl said.

That engagement includes learning each growers’ story, figuring out what’s working well on their farm and what isn’t and bringing in the people and specialists that the grower wants to be included, not choosing for them, Kahl explained.

“Every event that we organize and everything we do, we talk to the farmer about highlighting them and showcasing their approaches, rather than bringing ourselves too much into it, really just trying to foster farmer-to-farmer co-learning,” she said.

More information about BIOS can be found at https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/ opca/bifs.html

More information about CAFF and the incentive programs they offer can be found at https://caff.org

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

Franz Eilers, left, and Emma Wade, talk about the process of creating their first batch of on-farm compost during a field day at Heartwood Farms in Linden, CA.

Trial Aims to Show Biochar Contributions to Soil, Tree Health

Biochar, a dark, dusty product of pyrolysis, is not exactly a crop nutrient, but a form of soil amendment that is applied and tilled into the soil, serving as a catalyst to improve nutrient access and soil health.

Biochar application rates and its effects on soil health are the focus of an ongoing multi-year trial in a Madera-area almond orchard. UC researchers, partnered with American Farmland Trust and Pacific Farming Company, are seeking to quantify the benefits of biochar use in permanent crops.

Matt Angell of Pacific Farming Company in Madera said the trial was initiated to look at biochar’s ability to reduce soil compaction and hold soil moisture and nutrients where trees can benefit while producing more yield per acre.

At a recent workshop held at the site of the Pacific Farming Company trial, Paul Lum, California senior agriculture specialist with AFT, said the trial’s aim is to show predictable responses in soil health and productivity with different application rates. The workshop was the first of three planned for the site with the next scheduled for fall. The trial will wrap up in 2025.

According to the U.S. Biochar Initiative, biochar applications can increase soil moisture, microbial activity, pH, soil organic carbon and nutrient uptake. It may also decrease nutrient leaching, nitrogen volatilization, soil compaction and greenhouse gas emissions. These impacts may be dependent on soil type, biochar feedstock type, plant nutrient requirements and other environmental factors.

Biochar is created by heating

Matt Angell of Pacific Farming Company in Madera speaks at a workshop on biochar use in orchards. The block of trees where the workshop was held is the site of a three-year biochar trial (all photos by C. Parsons.)

biomass, such as orchard waste, or almond shells at 500 to 700 degrees C in a process called pyrolysis. The result is a black, chalky substance that varies in particle size.

At the Pacific Farming Company 85-acre trial orchard, effects of different applications rates, method of application, placement of application and timing are being studied, and data over the length of the trial is being collected.

Feedstocks Make a Difference

The feedstocks used to make biochar will determine its value in improving soil. Biochar made from woody feedstocks, such as prunings and tree removals of almond shells, has a lower nutrient content than biochar made from manures. Biochar for the Pacific Farming trial is being produced at Corigin Solutions, a largescale Merced facility that uses both shells and woody biomass.

Biochar, Lum noted, is stable in the soil and carbon-negative, meaning more is sequestered in the soil than is emitted into the atmosphere. It can be a component in soil health that improve structure, aeration, infiltration and retention in orchard soils.

“It is not charcoal, it is not fertilizer.” Lum said. It is also not a form of compost, although blending compost with biochar at a rate of 5% to 10% significantly activates microbial activity in the soil. Applications have been shown to improve soil structure, aeration, infiltration and retention.

Adding biochar to orchard soils may reduce fertilizer needs, save on water and contribute to long-term orchard sustainability and productivity, Lum said. Offsetting those costs with biochar would be a return on investment, Angell said.

Biochar application rates in the trial ranged from 1 to 10 tons per acre, with one ton being identified as the lowest effective rate.

Lum said biochar application timing is best suited to spring, but in the trial it made the most sense to apply it post-harvest. After application, light tilling was done to incorporate the biochar into the top 2 inches of soil. A

compost spreader was used to make the application.

Data Collection

Rebecca Ryals, a UC Merced agroecologist, is leading the biochar trial with a goal of collecting new data on soil health indicators. She said soil samples were taken prior to application to establish a baseline. Biochar

was broadcast at different rates over the entire are of the plot, not just the berm or row middles, Ryals said, because they were also looking at possible reduction in soil compaction in the middles along with infiltration rates. Ryals emphasized there are unknown effects with biochar applications. One possible effect is tying up N in the soil and/or affecting nitrogen use efficiency.

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Biochar is a persistent form of carbon, and knowing the type and baseline conditions in the soil is important.

Harol Gonzales Gallardo with AFT said it is important to incorporate biochar into the soil. In the trials, it has been broadcast and injected as a slurry in fertigation. Different forms of biochar can be applied, including pelletized biochar. Although not part of this trial, he said prior to planting trees, biochar can be trenched along the tree rows. Getting the biochar down deeper in the soil in established plantings is difficult and would require specialized equipment.

He noted there are some safety concerns with biochar applications. Self-ignition, experienced in a small percentage of biochar products, is one concern. In the presence of oxygen, some biochar products may begin to smoke or combust. Adding water to biochar and incorporating it into the soil as soon as possible will prevent self-ignition, he said. Dry leaves on the ground and low humidity can be contributing factors.

Clayton Lynch with AgraLife, a by-products marketing company, said how biochar gets into the ground is a crucial component in its ability to affect soil health. Combining it with compost, he suggested, makes a more efficient application. It does the best in the root zone, he said, but it should be placed where it will be wet.

Particle size of the biochar can also make a difference. Biochar, processed to ‘Rice Krispie’ cereal size fits in with most compost systems. Finer sizes are best but will increase the cost.

One of the ways suggested to make biochar less expensive is to use a mobile pyrolysis machine that can make biochar on-site. Aaron Van Klabern, a local grower who spoke at the workshop, reported on his experience with a mobile machine. The mobile machine, basically an air curtain burner, can make 7 to 8 tons of biochar per hour, processing orchard removals at the rate of five trees per hour.

This is a solution to offset cost of biochar, he said, but the issue with the mobile unit is the materials used to make it did not hold up over time.

“If they make a better machine, I would do it again.”

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Benefits of biochar applications include improved water infiltration.
Rebecca Ryals, left, of UC Merced is studying the benefits to soil and tree health from biochar applications in orchards. Darker soils show a heavier application rate for biochar.


• Protects elds and orchards from damage by small mammals

• Suitable control of gophers, ground squirrels, voles, moles and similar pests

• Eliminates fencing requirement

• Safeguards irrigation equipment from damage

• Encourages small mammal pests to vacate the premises

• Promotes small mammal population control

• Helps limit the (potential) spread of wildlife-borne disease

• Shown to be e ective even after precipitation

• Odorless and non-toxic to humans and animals


Each year small ground mammals cause extensive damage to farm elds, crops and equipment. Besides foraging on eld crops, many are burrowing animals, whose mounds and holes create hazards for livestock, obstacles for farm equipment and inhibit crops from growing on disturbed land. In other instances, these small mammals can get into stored grain or damage agricultural infrastructure (i.e. causing damage to drip irrigation lines).

Penergetic b ZV’s purpose is to act as a deterrent by discouraging these pests from inhabiting treated areas. Since the target species often live under ground and have developed elaborate networks of tunnels, with multiple entrances, when using penergetic b ZV it is important to carry out a fairly land-expansive spraying program to ensure adequate coverage of the area they occupy.

Nitrogen Fixation and Free Cover Crop Seed

By STETCYN MALDONADO | Seeds for Bees Manager, Project Apis m.
Bell bean nodules from the Seeds for Bees® BioBuild3 mix. (photos courtesy Project Apis m.)

Finding a balance between fertilizer costs and achieving economically acceptable yields is a grower’s yearly endeavor. Orchards require good fertilization to produce yields and maintain tree health. Nitrogen-fixing cover crops can be used to supplement fertilizer requirements and may be an economic solution if managed correctly.

Through Project Apis m.’s Seeds for Bees® program growers can experience nitrogen-fixing cover crops by receiving free or subsidized seed. The application only takes a few minutes to complete, doesn’t require the submission of any additional paperwork, and applicants need to meet just three requirements: Be located in California, be able to plant 4 or more acres of cover crop, and either be or represent a commercial grower or beekeeper. Seeds for Bees® has several select nitrogen-fixing blends available through the program.

N is critical to plant growth. This nutrient is intricately imbedded in plant systems and is critical to the formation of DNA, proteins and chlorophyl. Chlorophyl is the photosynthetic machinery of plant cells and gives leaves their iconic green color.

‘Like all plants, cover crops use nutrients to grow and reproduce, a fact which is excellent for storing readily leached nutrients over the winter.’

78% of the earth’s atmosphere is comprised of gaseous N; however, it is unavailable to plants in this form. There are many ways N can be added to the soil and made available to plants. The most common method available in nature is N fixation by bacteria. Though there are some free-living nitrogen-fixing microorganisms, much of the naturally occurring plant-available N comes from a symbiotic relationship between plants and bacteria, such as that found between legumes and rhizobia.

Legumes, also known as the bean family, can be colonized by rhizobia, a family of bacteria. When this occurs, a nodule is formed on the plant’s roots. Within the nodule, the rhizobia turn inert gaseous N (N2) into biologically available ammonia (NH 3). The bacteria exchange this ammonia for nutrients and protection by the plant. As the nodules grow and mature, their interior will take on a red or pink color. This is due to the presence of leghemoglobin, a protein like the hemoglobin found in red blood cells. This protein ensures adequate amounts of oxygen are supplied to the bacteria to sustain optimal N production.

Nitrogen-fixing cover crops, like the Seeds for Bees® Nitro-

builder seed mix, can provide a measurable impact within the first year. A rule of thumb when cultivating a nitrogen-fixing cover crop is to terminate it when the legumes have reached 20% bloom. This is the sweet spot when the legumes have reached their ultimate growth but just before they’ve started investing their energy into pod formation. Percent of bloom can be determined by counting the number of open flowers on a single plant and comparing that to the number of unopened flower buds; the more plants counted, the more accurate this percentage will be. A soil sample should be taken after the cover crop biomass has decomposed to determine the amount of N and other nutrients that have been released into the soil.

Estimating Cover Crop N

If an estimate of the N present in the cover crop is needed before termination, the following method can be used. For more accurate results, it is best to take multiple samples. This system requires a premeasured area, like a 2 x 2 ft square PVC frame. Place this square over the cover crop, gently working it down to the ground. Once placed, cut the plant biomass within the square, working down to as close as possible to the ground without pulling the plants out by the root. For mixed cover crops, it’ll be necessary to separate the legumes from the rest of the cover crop species. Allow the cut biomass to dry in the sun for a few days before weighing the clippings, weigh the dried legumes separately and calculate

Nitrogen-fixing nodules seen on the roots of a bell bean cover crop.

the formula below for the legumes and the rest of the cover crop individually.

Once the weight of the dried cover crop is known, the following formula can be used to determine the total dry weight per acre. Note: 43,560 is the number of square feet in an acre. (Dry weight x 43,560)/area sampled in square feet = total dry weight per acre

If, for example, the dry weight of the sample was 0.6 lbs. and two 2 x 2 ft square samples were taken, then (0.6 x 43,560)/8 = 3,267 lbs. per acre.

Typically, legumes contain 4% N by dry weight at flowering, which drops to 3% when pods begin to form. Nonlegumes generally contain 3% N by dry weight at flowering and 2% during seed set.

‘With the average almond orchard producing between 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of kernels per acre, it is clear cover crops can’t provide for the entire N need of the orchard, but they can supplement a significant amount.’

For legumes, multiply the dry weight by 0.04 to calculate the estimated pounds N per acre, and for non-legumes, multiply the dry weight by 0.03. If the example cover crop was comprised entirely of legumes, then 3,267 lbs. x 0.04 = 131.68 lbs. N per acre. If the cover crop was mixed, multiply the dry weights by their corresponding percentages and then add the results to get the total estimated N.

The final step is to calculate the amount of N which will be made available within the first year. Since the N in the cover crop is tied up within the plant matter, it will need to be broken down by soil microbes before it will become available for plant use.

If the cover crop is terminated and the residue is left on the soil surface, 40% N can be expected to be available within the first year. If the cover crop is incorporated through disking or tillage, then 50% N can be expected. Following the example from before, if the cover crop is left on the surface, approximately 53 lbs. N will be available within that year. If it were to be incorporated, then roughly 66 lbs. N will be available.

Legumes can provide surprising amounts of N, which becomes available as those plants decompose. An example would be Crimson Clover, a component of the Seeds for Bees® Annual Clover mix, which has been found to provide between 50 to 150 lbs. N per acre if growing conditions permit. Compare that to the N needs of cash crops like almonds, where approximately 68 lbs. N is required for every 1,000 pounds almond yield.

Cover Crops Provide Significant N to Orchards

With the average almond orchard producing between 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of kernels per acre, it is clear cover crops can’t provide for the entire N need of the orchard, but they can supplement a significant amount. Keep in mind that typically only half of the orchard acreage is planted into cover crops, and the trees require a little extra N for their own


biological functions when planning on N from a cover crop.

With the greatest N requirements of tree crops occurring in the spring and summer, it is critical to time the cover crop around the orchard’s needs. Winter cover crops, like Seeds for Bees® mixes, are an excellent choice for California orchard crops as the cover crop can be cultivated while the orchard is dormant. If planted in the fall, cover crops can take advantage of winter rains, eliminating the need to irrigate them, be available for honeybees in late winter, and then be terminated in the spring, providing fixed N and the nutrients they scavenged over the winter to the orchard as they decompose.

Scavenged nutrients are the nutrients the cover crop took up while the plant was alive. Like all plants, cover crops use nutrients to grow and reproduce, a fact which is excellent for storing readily leached nutrients over the winter. Some nutrients are more leachable than others, such as N, sulfur and boron. These can be lost over the winter rainy season when they are washed below the root zone. Some deep-rooted cover crops can be used to retrieve some of these nutrients, but it is more effective to use cover crops to absorb nutrients before the rains carry them away. Cover crops could be like a sponge, sopping up soil nutrients and storing them until they are released after termination.

The difficulty with planning a nutrient plan around cover crops are their comparatively lower nutrient yields and seasonal fluctuation. Like all things in agriculture, the effectiveness of soil health practices is inevitably mediated by the weather and time. This requires additional management and flexibility.

Cover crops can be an economic way to supplement fertilizer costs while offering a variety of other benefits. Through Project Apis m.’s Seeds for Bees® program, growers can experiment with cover crops at little cost. Seeds for Bees® is entirely funded by donations from growers, beekeepers and corporations, making this program stackable with any government-funded opportunity.

The Seeds for Bees® application is open from April 1 to August 31. If you

are interested in applying, it is advisable to do so soon as the program is becoming increasingly popular and seed supplies are limited. Learn more or access the application at projectapism.org.


Duiker, S., Curran, W., & Gallagher, R. (2010) Hairy Vetch as a cover crop. Penn State Extension. Hairy Vetch as a Crop Cover (psu.edu)

Jennings, J. (NA) Value of nitrogen fixation from clovers and other legumes. University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension. Value of Nitrogen Fixation from Clovers and Other Legumes - FSA2160 (uada.edu)

Miller, J. and Shober, A. (2021) Leachable nutrients: Sulfur, boron and nitrogen fertility in corn. University of Maryland Extension. Leachable Nutrients: Sulfur, Boron, and Nitrogen Fertility in Corn | University of Maryland Extension (umd.edu)

SARE (2024) Cover crops at work: Keeping nutrients out of waterways.

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. Cover Crops at Work: Keeping Nutrients Out of Waterways - SARE

The Almond Board of California (2014) Nitrogen best management practices. Almond Board of California. ABC_Nitrogen_8.5x11_vmags.pdf (almonds.com)

Tripathi, D., & et al. (2014) Role of macronutrients in plant growth and accumulation: Recent advances and future prospective. Improvement of Crops in the Era of Climate Changes. Role of Macronutrients in Plant Growth and Acclimation: Recent Advances and Future Prospective | SpringerLink University of Minnesota Extension (2021) Estimating nitrogen credits from cover crops. University of Minnesota Extension. (428) Estimating nitrogen credits from cover crops - YouTube

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

Kraemer & Co. Mfg., Inc.

Theprofitability of your orchard depends on several external variables, most of which you won’t have much control over. Changing market conditions, labor shortages, regulatory pressures, irrigation availability, water sourcing amidst persistent drought conditions and variability in pest and disease management all play into the success of your crop.

There’s no simple equation that will guarantee you a profit come harvest time. The best tree nut growers can do to be successful in 2024 is to stay informed about changing conditions that affect your bottom line and make sound decisions so your financial and crop plans are aligned. To do that, you need a comprehensive view of the market and your operation to put yourself in the best position to earn a profit and to take advantage of growth opportunities. Critical strategies tree nut growers can implement to improve their odds of earning a return in 2024 involve budget and money management, risk management and informed decision-making, especially when it comes to managing your capital.

Consider these tips to maximize your profits and create confidence that you’ll be in a position of success come harvest.

Pay Attention to the Interest Rate Environment

Interest expenses have gone up significantly for most growers over the last two years, largely because of rising rates. In June, the Federal Reserve decided to maintain interest rates at their current levels for the sixth-straight meeting, keeping rates at a 23-year high as they wait for more reassuring signs of controlled inflation before considering a rate cut. Reducing interest expenses may seem like a challenge in the current market, but you can find savings by regularly evaluating the interest rate market, reviewing your lending strategy and assessing different options that can

Financial Strategies to Improve the Orchard’s Bottom Line

help bring down your interest expenses. Take a hypothetical example of an almond grower who is financing an equal amount for each of their input purchases over the same period. A financing package might include:

• Product Brand A at 9% APR

• Product Brand B at 2% APR

• Product Brand C at 4% APR

If this grower is using an operating line of credit to pay for these products, market interest rates range from 7% to 11% APR, making their interest payments significantly higher year-over-year. Another option to lower overall interest expense would be for the grower to use a blended-rate approach, financing the purchase of all three products, which would bring their interest rate down to 5% APR.

Focus on Cost Savings

Interest payments aren’t the only expense that can negatively impact your bottom line. Tree nut growers who use financing as part of a capital management strategy and who understand their cash flow needs have more options when it comes to saving money and supporting overall profitability.

You can’t only think of having the right mix of crop nutrition and protection products. You also need to consider how and when you’re paying for those products to get the most out of every dollar spent. Say your crop is infested with navel orangeworm; if you weren’t planning for this expense, you may find yourself in a tight, but avoidable position. Diversifying the streams of capital you can draw from in a situation like this, which includes complementing an operating line of credit with financing programs, will enable to you respond to an unplanned expense without worry.

It’s not a small feat to keep cash onhand. Younger growers just getting their start may not have access to cash the same as growers who opt for cash-based transactions. But having cash on-hand certainly gives you the advantage when it comes to making investments in the health

and vitality of your operation. Finally, don’t forget the simple and often avoidable things that can eat into your profits. Pay your bills on time. Be proactive in managing your credit, especially in the current market where finance charges and other fees can add up.

Manage Risk to Protect Your Profits

Risk is inherent in the ag business. No one can know with certainty how this year’s crop will fare, and in most cases, even if you did know the outcome, the things you’ll face on the journey to get there are hard to predict. The best course to manage risk in ag is to become an expert at adapting and building strong contingency plans.

Contingency planning is a critical element of your risk management strategy. In many cases, having a plan B (and beyond) at the ready, with financial options to back it up, can help you keep your profitability intact, even when you face conditions you weren’t expecting. Strategic financing of crop inputs can be a useful tool to manage. Similarly, you can reduce your financial risk by following some basic principles in managing your money:

• Don’t overextend yourself.

• Diversify streams of revenue and capital.

• Work with experts and people in your inner circle who can support your decision-making so your financial plan is as strong as possible.

Finally, embrace a forward-thinking approach as you navigate growing conditions and respond to different pressures driven by the market and by Mother Nature. Financial success comes to those who have a healthy view of risk because of the confidence they’ve built around their financial plan. As you look to the next fiscal year, it’s a great time to evaluate your finances and be proactive in considering these strategies to help improve your bottom line.

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Consider the best way to pay for inputs and investments as part of an overall risk management strategy.


Available Potassium

DPG Potassium Plus™ is completely soluble to maximize plant uptake and the e ciency of the potassium—the most soluble of any potassium fertilizer.

DPG Potassium Plus™ contains over 26% carbon material to improve soil conditions. No undesirable salts will accumulate in your soil.

allows for higher amounts of potassium to be applied without risk of phytotoxicity. Apply with Con dence

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.