West Coast Nut - June 2024

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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

Douglas Amaral UC ANR Pomology Advisor

Santosh Bhandar

UCCE Associate Specialist, Tulare County

Lori Fairchild

Contributing Writer

Elizabeth J. Fichtner UCCE Farm Advisor, Tulare County

Richard Heerema Extension Specialist, New Mexico State University

Rich Kreps

CCA, SSp., Contributing Writer

Mitch Lies

Contributing Writer

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

Renee Pinel President/CEO, Western Plant Health

Kristin Platts Digital Content Writer

Jennifer Randall Professor, New Mexico State University

Jason Scott, MS CEO/Publisher, JCS Marketing Inc. and West Coast Nut

Mike Wade Executive Director

Surendra K. Dara

Kevin Day

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

Researchers are exploring a link between an aggressive wood decay fungus and crown gall in almond trees after almond orchards in Kings, Tulare, Kern and Madera counties have experienced tree loss due to Ganoderma adspersum where high incidence of crown gall was reported.

4 Pioneering Research to Forge Closer Ties with Agricultural Professionals 6 Sticks and Stones 10 Walnut and Pecan: Related Crops with Different Bud Break and Bloom Habits 14 Almond Crop Estimation Can Help Save on Input Costs 16 The Ins and Outs of Carbohydrate Dynamics in Pistachio 22 Plant Nutrients Secure Our Food and Future 26 Scott Severson on the Joys and Challenges of Being a Small Family Farmer 32 New Hazelnut Cultivar a Fit for High-Density Orchards 36 Tree Precocity Reframing Debate on Double-Density Hazelnuts 38 Labor and Trade Policies Lead to Unsustainable Food Production Here…and Abroad 40 The History of Pistachios in the U.S. 46 Ryan Hill Brings Weeds Expertise to Cooperative Extension 48 Options for Replanting Orchards are Many, but Choices Depend on Return on Investment 50 Nitrogen Nutrition in Mature Pistachio Orchards 54 5 Things to Know About Stink Bug Pests in Orchards 58 Crown Gall/Ganoderma Connection in Almonds Being Investigated 62 Inoculate Soil Year-Round to Build Up Long Term Defense 64 A Northern Tree Nut Perspective for June Contributing Writers & Industry Support UC Cooperative Extension Advisory Board
Director, North Willamette Research and Extension Center
County Director/UCCE
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. Award Winning Editorial By the Industry, For the Industry IN THIS ISSUE
See page 58
SPOTLIGHT:ExploringaConnectionBetweenCrownGallandGanodermainAlmonds June 2024 www.wcngg.com 3


In the dynamic world of agricultural marketing, understanding the pulse of the market is crucial. West Coast Nut, a renowned name in the sector, has taken significant strides to enhance its connection with the agricultural community through a targeted, third-party independent readership study. This initiative not only helps West Coast Nut better understand the needs of its readers, comprising growers, handlers and crop consultants, but also enables advertisers to refine their products effectively.

Recognizing the unique requirements and challenges of the agricultural industry in California, West Coast Nut has invested heavily in research to delve deeper into the needs and preferences of its audience. This print read-

ership study is meticulously designed to gather insightful data that spans various dimensions of agricultural practice and product usage, ensuring both editorial content and advertising are perfectly aligned with reader expectations and industry trends.

The investment extends beyond just financial commitments. West Coast Nut dedicates substantial time, staff and resources to ensure the research is comprehensive and reflective of current and future market trends. This dedication is a testament to the company’s commitment to delivering value to both its readers and advertising partners.

Moreover, West Coast Nut boasts an editorial team that is deeply embedded in the local community. Unlike competitors whose operations may be based elsewhere, West Coast Nut’s editorial staff works directly from the heart of California’s agricultural scene: the orchards, fields and farms. This local presence not only enhances the authenticity and relevance of the content but also ensures the information is grounded in real-world, practical experience and local knowledge.

The company employs more editors and freelance writers across the state than most local competitors. This extensive network of professionals helps West Coast Nut cover a wide range of topics and stories with an accuracy and depth that is unmatched. Each piece of editorial content is crafted with

precision, aiming to provide the most comprehensive and insightful information available to those who make their living from the land.

West Coast Nut’s approach to integrating in-depth, third-party research into its operations fundamentally enhances the quality of its editorial offerings. Advertisers benefit from this approach by gaining access to tailored, effective advertising solutions that speak directly to a well-informed audience. The research not only helps in understanding what products are needed but also how they are used in the field, leading to better product development and marketing strategies that resonate well with the target market.

In summary, West Coast Nut stands out in the agricultural marketing landscape of California not just for its commitment to quality and detail but also for its dedicated approach to understanding and serving the agricultural community. By investing in robust print research and maintaining a strong local presence, West Coast Nut ensures its content and advertisements are not only top-tier in quality but also in relevance and effectiveness. This makes West Coast Nut not just a participant in California's agricultural sector but a pivotal entity that helps shape its future.

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The research not only helps in understanding what products are needed but also how they are used in the field, leading to better product development and marketing strategies that resonate well with the target market.
4 West Coast Nut June 2024
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provide an

for growers to

Sticks and Stones

Almond growers, hullers and shellers share their perspectives on crop conditioning and foreign material removal.

To condition or not to condition?

That is the question many almond growers face at harvest, and their decision ultimately may affect hullers and shellers.

Some almond producers have never used the practice, while others have eliminated it to reduce costs in the current low-price nut market. Proponents, on the other hand, say conditioning speeds harvest, allows them to deliver a cleaner and better-quality crop to huller-shellers, and actually saves money.

The practice involves running a conditioner through the windrow created by sweeping to screen out dirt, rocks, leaves and sticks. It finishes by laying an even layer of mostly almonds on the orchard floor and depositing the collected debris at the end of the row.

Huller-shellers like conditioning because it improves unloading, aids quality and reduces the amount of debris they have to dispose of. In fact, many hullers and shellers have started charging based on field weight as an incentive for growers to deliver cleaner product. Others have invested in additional machinery to handle foreign material at the huller.

Even if growers don’t condition their crop, huller-shellers say using something like a de-sticker goes a long way to remove extraneous material.

To try to provide direction for growers, the Almond Alliance’s Grower Committee has been tasked with looking at conditioning, said Kelli Evans, who chairs the committee and also farms almonds with her family near Live Oak.

“How would this affect their bottom line and how could this save them money?” she said.

Committee members plan to review information from manufacturers, large processors such as Blue Diamond, huller-shellers and UC, among other sources.

Big Sticks a Problem

Most of the current conditioning issues deal with larger sticks, and the problem appears more prevalent in older orchards that haven’t been pruned for several years, said Mel Machado, Blue Diamond vice president of member relations. At one time, smaller woody chips left over after shredding orchard prunings were a major issue.

If the material was shredded too late in the season or wasn’t shredded finely enough, it didn’t have time to decompose and would be picked up during harvest along with the nuts.

Citing long-term research, UC began encouraging growers several years ago to move away from annual orchard pruning after the first few years of training and shaping trees. That has gone a long way to reducing the small woody pieces that made their way into the huller, Machado said.

Delivering a Better-Quality Crop

Evans herself is a proponent of conditioning. Her family adopted the practice about three to four years ago after her

6 West Coast Nut June 2024
Crews at an almond huller pull out sticks as a trailer is unloaded. Many hullers have begun charging by field weight to incentive condition their crop beforehand (all photos by V. Boyd.)

father conducted an informal trial that compared conditioning with no treatment. While Evans doesn’t have hard numbers, she said pick-up was much faster after conditioning and she believed they deliver a better quality product.

“I feel like the product is easier for them to hull and shell,” she said. “There are less chips. Every one of those things adds up.”

In addition, Evans said they saw less wear and tear on their pick-up machines.

Machado said conditioning also may speed drying on the orchard floor by up to three days, depending on weather conditions. It does so by taking the nuts in the windrow, removing extraneous material and depositing mostly nuts in an even layer over a wider area in the row middle.

Early in harvest, such as in August or September, he said the improvement in drying may not be that much. But in October, the difference “could be worth quite a bit,” he said.

Conditioning also complements the push for early harvest, which is designed to get nuts off the trees in a timely fashion and reduce their exposure to insect pests, Machado said. The trade off may be growers shake nuts at slightly higher moisture levels.

Come harvest, Machado said he believed conditioning also is beneficial.

“I believe the net cost still comes out a positive,” he said. “Growers will tell you, ‘This is goofy. You have another pass with a machine.’”

Hypothetically, he said it may cost $200 per hour to run a conditioner. A harvester, on the other hand, may cost $450 to $500 per hour to operate.

“I’d rather slow down a $200 machine than a $500 machine,” he said. “Now [after conditioning] that $500 machine runs faster and more efficiently.”

Flory Industries recently conducted a study that looked at the benefits of conditioning for a 250-acre producer who uses custom harvesting. Turnout improved to 25% compared to 20% for the non-conditioned nuts. Truckloads

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decreased to 46 for the conditioned crop compared to 58 for the non-conditioned. Over one season, Flory found a savings of $4,610. That grew to $23,050 over five years.

For a large-scale producer with 2,500 acres and who owned equipment, Flory found savings ranged from $139,700 for one year and $698,500 over five years. The actual benefits will vary based on several factors, including yield, orchard age, orchard floor management, quality premiums and equipment financing costs, to name a few.

More Than Just Cost Savings

For the first time, Donny Hicks, who farms near Hughson, hired Mike Colombo of Colombo Ag Services to custom condition his crop last year to address concerns about navel orangeworm. Hicks liked the end result so much that he said he planned to continue doing it.

Normally, it would take about nine hours to harvest his orchards. Last year, it took only about six hours after conditioning.


Because Hicks is a smaller-scale grower, he does most of the field work himself. Having the conditioner stop just before the end of the row provided a turning space for the harvester. It also meant that Hicks didn’t have to rake nuts to create that turning area.

“An added benefit for me is it saved me about four hours of raking work,” he said.

In addition, Hicks said he was able to deliver a cleaner quality crop to the huller-sheller, and his grade sheets reflected that. For his Independence, he had a 37% turnout.

“That’s crazy,” Hicks said. “Independence in the 30s is pretty phenomenal.”

Huller Equipment Diverts Sticks

Parreira Almond Processing Co. in Los Banos is among the huller-shellers that have started charging based on field weight to incentivize growers to deliver a cleaner crop, said David Parreira, managing partner.

The Los Banos facility also installed a Slipstick conveyor instead of an auger to feed elevators that feed its pre-cleaner to address larger sticks. Many of the new elevators used to load semis as the nuts come out of orchards also have built-in

“Obviously, there’s still some sticks, particularly in the older

blocks,” he said. “With our receiver pits with the Slipstick, now we’ve been able to get a lot of it out. We used to be tearing up belts and buckets on the bucket elevator. Getting rid of big rocks is another real benefit.”

In the past, Parreira Almond used to burn the woody material diverted from incoming nuts. To comply with current San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control Board regulations, the Los Banos operation installed an air curtain burner more than two years ago. It uses super-heated temperatures and a secondary burn chamber to ignite woody material and significantly reduce emissions.

Parreira Almond has used the Air Board-permitted burner for the past two seasons, and Parreira said, “It worked out tremendously.”

Garrett Howser, who operates Howser Almond Shelling near Modesto with his father, Dan, has mostly smaller-scale customers, many with older orchards. To handle the large influx of sticks and other material, Howser designed and fabricated a belt system to remove much of the foreign material before the field-run nuts go into a pre-cleaner. He based his design on equipment he’d seen in the mining industry and adapted it to hulling and shelling.

Howser said he saw the need after watching his crew spend time removing sticks and other material as they unloaded trailers before the nuts dropped into the pit.

“All I saw was my added waste and labor, and that doesn’t pay the bills,” he said. “This speeds the pre-cleaner up faster than I thought it would.”

2023 was the first year they used the new system, and Howser said it worked well overall. With last season’s smaller crop, he said there seemed to be a higher ratio of foreign material to nuts.

Because they built the system themselves, Howser said he didn’t have exact break-even costs. But he said it should pay for itself in no more than two seasons. It’s already increased capacity by 25% while decreasing labor.

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Garrett Howser, who runs Howser Almond Shelling near Modesto with his father, designed and fabricated a belt system in their huller to remove much of the extraneous material before it enters pre-cleaners.
209-754-9636 3474 Toyon Circle, Suite 333 Valley Springs, CA 95252 Complete Walnut and Pecan Hulling And Drying Systems 8 West Coast Nut June 2024
A worker runs a conditioner through almond windrows, removing sticks and other unwanted material and laying the almonds in a flat layer on the orchard floor. Depending on weather, conditioning may speed drying by up to three days.

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Walnut and Pecan: Related Crops with Different Bud Break and Bloom Habits


Associate Specialist, Tulare County

JENNIFER RANDALL | Professor, New Mexico State University and RICHARD HEEREMA |

Extension Specialist, New Mexico State University

Walnut and pecan represent two of the four major nut crops grown in California. The California walnut industry dwarfs the state’s pecan industry in acreage, with over 300,000 acres dedicated to commercial walnut production and approximately 3,000 acres to pecan. The relatedness of the two crops has facilitated an overlap of specialization in the grower community, with many long-time walnut growers also managing the state’s pecan acreage.

Walnut and pecan are both in the same plant family (Juglandaceae); consequently, they have similar reproductive habits. They are both monoecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on the same tree. Also, both pecan and walnut produce male flowers called ‘catkins’ (Figure 1), and the non-showy female flowers are produced at the terminus of a preformed shoot (Figure 2) that emerges from a compound bud. On walnut, the catkin buds are visible at nodes, sometimes with two catkins occupying a single node as a primary and secondary bud (Figure 1a). Conversely, the catkin buds on pecan are not readily visible before bud break (Figure 1b). During the delayed-dormant phase in pecan, the catkins are hidden behind a scale sheath that covers the catkins and com-

Figure 1. Catkins are visible during the dormant and delayed-dormant season on walnut and are borne either alone or in pairs (a). On pecan, three buds are produced at nodes, but the primary bud is usually the only one to push; the secondary bud serves as a backup in case of damage to the primary bud (b). In pecan, the catkins remain hidden behind bud scales that encapsule an assembly of buds including the compound bud and catkin buds (c). In pecan, catkins are borne in groups of three, often with two sets of catkins associated with each compound bud.

in sets of three

Figure 2. Both walnut (a) and pecan (b) produce nuts on preformed shoots arising from compound buds. Catkins are born either singularly on walnut, or in pairs. In pecan, catkins are borne in groups of three at the base of preformed shoots. Photo 4a taken 3/9/2020; photo 4b taken on 4/2/2024.

A A B C PECAN secondary catkin bud individual catkin at secondary bud position primary catkin bud maturing catkin inner bud scales emerging immature catkins outer bud scale primary compound bud (contains catkins and shoot) secondary bud preformed shoot preformed shoot apical emerging shoot lateral emerging shoot seondary compound bud lateral primary compound bud
preformed shoot preformed shoot
10 West Coast Nut June 2024

giving rise to in-season growth

that may develop into in-season shoot

3. Both walnut (a) and pecan (b) produce pistillate flowers on the current season’s shoot. These female flowers become visible as the last of the preformed leaves unfurl. In-season (neoform) growth may result from shoot growth emanating from a new bud that has formed in a leaf axil.

pound shoot bud (Figures 1b and 1c). As a result, the catkins only emerge as the entire bud assemblage pushes, generally in late March to early April in California. The compound bud, containing the current season’s shoot and female flowers, is assembled with catkins that emerge in groups of three (Figure 1c and 2b). As a result, groups of catkins mature at the base of the current season’s shoot (Figure 2b). The compound buds of walnut and pecan are similar in that the bud contains the preformed shoot and preformed leaves as well as the female (pistillate) flowers. The female flowers are located at the apex of the preformed shoot (Figures 3a and 3b). Walnuts and pecans both have variable numbers of pistillate flowers in each compound bud. Walnut flowers are readily visible with the naked eye, whereas pecan flowers are smaller, and observation of the stigmatic surface may be enhanced with the aid of a hand lens. The final nut set of each compound bud varies based on the number of initial pistillate flowers and the success of pollination and fertilization processes.

'The final nut set of each compound bud varies based on the number of initial pistillate flowers and the success of pollination and fertilization processes.'
B preformed leaf preformed leaf preformed leaf preformed leaf preformed leaf pistillate
pistillate flowers
' June 2024 www.wcngg.com 11

Both walnut and pecan tend to exhibit apical dominance as evidenced by the stronger, and often earlier, growth of the apical bud. In walnut, two buds (primary and secondary) may be present at each node. Usually, one bud will dominate and grow, while the weaker bud will remain static or die off. Occasionally, both primary and secondary buds grow, resulting in branching at acute angles, often referred to as “forking.” In walnut, nut set can be evaluated by early June, and buds for the next year’s crop may already be visible in May (Figure 4a). In vigorous orchards, in-season growth may be produced beyond the position of the nuts (Figure 4b). In-season (neoform) growth is less common in pecan. Researchers speculate the neoform growth observed in walnut may be related to the use of vigorous hybrid rootstocks. Although pecan and walnut are

'‘Growers with a lifetime of experience with walnut may be baffled by the lack of visible catkins on pecan during the dormant season.’

related species hailing from the same plant family, their growth and reproductive habits do have notable differences. Growers with a lifetime of experience with walnut may be baffled by the lack of visible catkins on pecan during the dormant season. A bit of patience in the spring, however, reveals the reproductive structures upon bud break. The need for patience in pecan cultivation is also notable at harvest time. In California, the pecan harvest generally commences after the walnut harvest is complete and often continues into the successive year as fall rain events may impede orchard access.

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B in-season growth A
catkins for next year's bloom compound buds for next year's growth Figure 4. In both walnut and pecan, nuts mark the terminus of the preformed shoot. Some shoots will stop growing after nut formation (a) and some may put on neoform (in-season) growth (b).
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By now, most growers, farm managers and crop consultants have walked their orchards and decided more or less what size almond crop their trees are bearing. However they arrived at their particular number, and what management decisions they will make with that information, can have a bearing on their profit margin.

While the almond industry and individual processors use grower and orchard surveys for crop forecasting to make marketing and logistics decisions, growers can help themselves manage inputs when they have a good idea of the size of the crop on their trees.

You have got to walk the orchard and have the ability to read the trees,” Blue Diamond Vice President of Grower Relations Mel Machado said.

Surveying almond orchards in midApril, Machado said he saw good and not-so-good yields in individual orchards.

Sebastian Saa, Almond Board of California’s associate director of research, said there are several opportunities during the growing season to make crop size estimates. A highly accurate estimation of crop size is unlikely to be made early, but Saa said the starting place is to estimate the yield potential. That can be done by adding known orchard factors, including tree age, variety and, if trees have produced a previous crop, crop size. Environmental factors at bloom and later could also impact yield potential.

“You know that a fourth-leaf orchard is unlikely to potentially produce more than a 2,000-pound crop while a fifth or

older orchard may, depending on tree size and variety,” Saa said. He noted studies have shown a high correlation between canopy size and yield. Mature trees that capture 85% light can have a much higher yield than trees capturing only 50% sunlight.

It is difficult to make an accurate estimation early in the season prior to 70% leaf out when the first fertilizer application is made, but that is the starting point with a potential yield, Saa said. As the season progresses and crop size becomes more apparent (or not), depending on other factors, crop size estimation continues. Growers must take into account late frosts, rain, disease and fruit drop in June as these can affect yield potential.

Individual orchard yield estimates are used for everything from nitrogen

geting to planning insecticide treatments.

As the growing season progresses, and crop size becomes more apparent, consider limiting factors including disease and June fruit drop which can affect yield potential (all photos by C. Parsons.) bud-
14 West Coast Nut June 2024

“It is subjective, a visual thing,” Machado said. “You have to use orchard yield history to keep it in perspective, to see the capability of the block.”

Use Yield from Last Year

Integral Ag founder and crop advisor Justin Nay said at some basic level, almond growers are always trying to make a crop estimate, and some are better with their estimates than others.

“They are likely in the range of 10% to 20% plus or minus,” Nay said. “They usually use their yield from last year and say it looks better or worse, or the same.”

Nay uses the word “guesstimate” because he is not counting nuts on the tree, just adjusting an estimate as the nuts size and the crop thin.

However a crop yield is estimated, Nay said the number is used for everything from nitrogen budgeting, fertilizers and amendments as well as planning insecticide treatments and working with the grower to figure out the crop value. In an IPM program, the economic injury level requires “at least a stab” at the value of the crop, Nay added.

Almond grower Christine Gemperle agreed with using last year’s yield and deciding if this year’s crop looks heavier or lighter and by how much. She lines that up with last year’s fertilizer use to develop a nutrition strategy. Also, she said it is important to keep in mind the following year’s crop and not cut back on fertilizers and water at critical bud development stages.

A sound number will come into sight as trees begin to look heavy (or light). That is the time to fine-tune the nutrition plan, Saa said. Growers can cut back with a light crop and save costs. It can be a balancing act, Saa noted, because the first fertilizer application was done with only the potential in mind. The in-season adjustment is based on what a grower sees on the trees.

There won’t be a perfect estimation early, but in using orchard production records, variety and effects of weather, a closer number can be determined. How many pounds expected at harvest is what drives the total amount of N to be applied. Productivity cannot be improved by adding more N than the trees can use. Since growers are required to have nutrient management plans to

protect groundwater quality, estimation can help. Overapplication of N can also lead to excessive input costs, hull rot and groundwater contamination.

“In low price years, it is important to be as accurate as possible with yield estimation,” Saa said. “That way you can make little adjustments as needed.

Technology in the Future

Technology may play a part in crop estimation in the future. Work is being done to develop models using data inputs for early yield prediction in collaboration with UC Davis via research supported by the Almond Board of California, but while the technology is evolving, there is not yet an efficient method for growers to use for predictions.

Research published by UC Davis researchers used aerial imagery and deep learning for early almond yield forecasting. The study looked at bloom intensity to predict crop load at the tree level from aerial images. Alireza Pourezza, instructor in the Dept. of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and the Digital Agriculture Lab, leads research and ex-


tension education in digital agriculture, remote sensing, precision agriculture and mechanization.

In the research, no consistent relationship between bloom density and crop load was found over the years for any of the cultivars in the study. In addition, low-resolution images from the satellite imagery did not work to predict bloom density. The study did emphasize the need for continued research to better understand the complex relationship between bloom density and yield.

Pourezza noted overall, the study highlighted the potential of using deep learning models to predict bloom density. He added future research will be needed to measure the impact of the external features on crop load and yield and establish a more generalizable relationship between bloom density and yield that can be transferred to another date and geographical location.

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The Ins and Outs of Carbohydrate Dynamics in Pistachio

Recent research on pistachio physiology is giving new insight into carbohydrate dynamics.

Katherine Jarvis-Shean, a UCCE orchard systems advisor in Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties, said research being led by Dr. Maciej Zwieniecki at UC Davis over the last eight years is helping piece together what’s actually happening during dormancy.

“We’ve always called winter dormancy a black box,” Jarvis-Shean said during a recent Madera-Merced pistachio day. “We don’t know what’s happening between the first day of November and February, we just know if it’s not cold enough, bad stuff happens, if it’s not warm enough, bad stuff also happens.”

The research is also helping scientists understand yield in carbohydrates better,

some determinates of yield, and how to predict it. As researchers come to understand their findings, she said the next stage will be putting some solid numbers to how they can better manipulate carbohydrates in an on-farm setting and determine if and how that manipulation will pay off in a cost-benefit scenario.

Jarvis-Shean emphasized that these aren’t the kind of carbohydrates often associated with bread and pasta but ones called nonstructural carbohydrates. These components, which aren't part of the plant's structure or cell walls, serve as energy sources for the tree, aiding in cell growth. Additionally, they function as osmolytes, like how salts influence water dynamics and can act like signals, akin to hormones, which alter physiological activities.

“We’re talking about sugars and starches. Sugars, as you know, are a product of photosynthesis, the leaves are cranking out sugars, they’re the building block of starch, they’re an active part of biological cell activity, so they’re a signal molecule,” she said, “and because they are a signal, the level of sugar is actively regulated by the tree.”

She went on to explain starch serves as a storage form for carbohydrates, unlike signal molecules such as sugars that actively influence physiological activities. Starch breaks down into sugar when sugar levels are low and there is a need for energy.

In plant physiology, sugar is like cash on-hand, Jarvis-Shean said, something you keep in your wallet, and starch is like money you keep in your bank’s savings account.

16 West Coast Nut June 2024
A pistachio tree at bud break. Research has shown a strong relationship between late-season management and carbohydrate yield in fall and winter, suggesting strategies aimed at carbohydrate loading could enhance both the timing of bud break and long-term yield outcomes (photo by Vicky Boyd.)

The Dormancy Mystery

With yield being discernibly important for production agriculture, the UC Davis Carbohydrate Observatory was established to propel the research. Growers sent in twig samples regularly over the course of several years to be analyzed. Most pistachio locations that participated were in the southern San Joaquin Valley with a few in the higher north.

“They would analyze how much carbs were in these twigs, and in the different components, how much is in the bark, how much is in the wood center, and how much sugar and how much starch in the different components,” Jarvis-Shean explained.

By following the samples over time, they hoped to have a better understanding of how trees use carbohydrates for vegetative and fruit growth and how they are used for dormancy defense against pathogens and other stressors. Until a couple years ago, she said it was a subject that had relatively little data.

When analyzing the data on how carbohydrate levels fluctuate throughout the year, Jarvis-Shean said there was a consistent pattern observed. Carbohydrates declined from the end of dormancy to their lowest point at bud break before rising again. Starch levels in bark remain low and stable for most of

the year, peaking only in the fall, whereas sugar levels in bark are low in spring and then stabilize. In wood, starch levels are lowest during bud break and peak in the fall, while sugar levels are lowest around bud break and then remain stable.

“What’s happening here is the leaves are pumping out sugars, the plant is sending those sugars right away in the growing fruit and vegetation, that’s what’s happening over the course of the growing season,” she said. “If there’s any spare, that’s going into starch.”

Going into winter, she said the tree knows whatever is leftover needs to go into storage, so while it’s easy to think of dormant trees as just sitting there doing nothing, they still require energy.

Can Carbohydrates Predict Bloom?

A consistent trend in the study led by Dr. Or Sperling was seen at bud break across almond, pistachio, walnut, apple and even peach, where there was a last-minute upsurge of starch and a decline in sugar.

“What’s exciting about this is that this is related to two different enzymes, this is about starch synthesis, so taking that sugar and making it starch, and starch degradation, a different enzyme, which takes the starch and turns it back into sugar,” Jarvis-Shean said.

That’s significant because the two enzymes have very different temperature responsiveness, and they’re managed in different concentrations in the trees.

The Carbohydrate Observatory collects tree nut carbohydrate data from growers to understand tree health and predict yields (courtesy UC Davis Carbohydrate Lab/Z Lab.)
June 2024 www.wcngg.com 17
A diagram shows the seasonal trend of tree non-structural carbohydrate budget (courtesy UC Davis Carbohydrate Lab/Z Lab.)

Chill portions, or the dynamic model for counting chill accumulation, something Jarvis-Shean said was established in the 1980s and 1990s, speculated there were two chemicals that had different responsiveness at different temperatures, but scientists didn’t really know why.

“We think these are those two imaginary enzymes they were talking about; when it’s warm, we get this enzyme that turns sugar into starch because that most often happens during the growing season when leaves are pumping out sugar, because they’re photosynthesizing a lot,” Jarvis-Shean said. “When it’s cold, we get starch degradation to turn starch into sugar because sugar also acts as a natural antifreeze.”

All these aspects were combined to come up with an equation to help predict bloom timing, she explained. Coming out of a cold winter, you need less warm time to get bud break in the spring, but the opposite happens with a warm winter because starch synthesis is overactive in warm temperatures in trees and so less of the starch synthesis enzyme gets made.

“So, you’ll get less of it coming into spring to get the desired amount of starch synthesis to happen,” she said. “The result is you need more warmth than in a normal spring to get bloom.”

She noted it's always been known colder winters require less heat for bloom, while milder winters require more heat, but the study provides new information in the identification of the actual mechanisms behind this observation, which had not been previously established.

“So, you can put those mechanisms together and build a mechanistic model of what’s happening with bud break timing,” she said.

Broadly speaking, she said, the more sugar you have going into winter, the earlier bud break will be; the lower your sugar, the later bud break will be.

Related research by UCCE’s Giulia Marino also examined the role of carbohydrates in yield, and specifically addressed the alternate bearing years pistachio growers must contend with. That research looked at carbohydrate sinks when nuts are in high fruit set and sources when there is an abundance of leaves, which are available to fill those sinks.

Marino explained the tree will boost photosynthesis to meet the high carbohydrate demands of many fruit sinks during kernel fill, while low carbohydrate sources decreased photosynthesis after kernel fill.

“This is an interesting additional layer on what’s driving alternate bearing and what we might be able to do about it, or manipulate it, understanding that carbohydrates drop, that there wasn’t as much carbohydrates to support the bud growth for the fruit bud that would be making the fruit in the following year,” she said. “So, because those hungry sinks were taking a lot of the nitrogen out of those leaves, there wasn’t as much photosynthesis after that to make healthy buds for the following year.”

While some of this link between yield and carbohydrates is related to this alternate bearing-carbohydrates-bud health relationship, carbohydrates and yields are related in on-years, too. Jarvis-Shean said this relationship has been noted across other tree nut crops as well, including almond and walnut.

Data has been collected by UC Davis from participating growers throughout the state of California (courtesy UC Davis Carbohydrate Lab/Z Lab.) The study looked at carbohydrate sinks when nuts are in high fruit set and sources when there is an abundance of leaves, which are available to fill those sinks (courtesy K. Jarvis-Shean.)
18 West Coast Nut June 2024
Pistachio trees showing symptoms of low chill in Fresno County on May 1, 2024 (photo by K. Jarvis-Shean.)

“It’s not just about alternate bearing; there is this general relationship found across multiple nut crops that found the more carbo loaded you are going into winter, the stronger your yields will be the following year,” she said.

What It Means for Production

The chill-heat-carbohydrates relationship helps to understand why warm winter temperature, and why warm wood and buds from having less fog, would lead to delayed and protracted bloom, Jarvis-Shean said.

“That’s a mechanism we just haven’t understood that well before,” she said.

It explains several things, including why chemical sprays that interfere with respiration have a dormancy manipulation-related effect and why reflectants that keep wood temperature lower could help compensate for lower chill.

For this issue, she said future research should determine how warm temperatures need to be to justify the cost of reflectants and identify the optimal timing for applying dormancy-breaking treatments.

She also emphasized the strong relationship between late-season management and carbohydrate yield in fall and winter suggests strategies aimed at carbohydrate loading could enhance both the timing of bud break and long-term yield outcomes.

While research hasn't perfected an exact method for carbohydrate loading yet, Jarvis-Shean said it suggests maintaining healthy leaves on trees through October to maximize sugar production before the leaves drop.

She notes for pistachios, particularly with young trees, it's crucial to strike a balance to avoid keeping the trees too active and risking juvenile tree dieback.

“So, we don’t want to keep them super vigorously growing through October, but we do want those leaves on there pumping out carbohydrates,” she said.

Growers interested in learning more about how your farm lines up with the state’s data can visit the UC Davis Carbohydrate Observatory website or contact Maciej Zwieniecki at mzwienie@ucdavis. edu or by phone at (530) 752 9880.

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

June 2024 www.wcngg.com 19
Unlock the Full Potential of Your Crops with DPG Potassium Plus™ ADVERTORIAL 20 West Coast Nut June 2024

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™?

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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

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Choose DPG Potassium Plus™ for your crops. It's not just a fertilizer; it's a comprehensive solution for better yield, better soil health, and a better future. For more information on how DPG Potassium Plus™ can transform your agricultural practices, visit our website or contact a Deerpoint Group representative today.

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n a time where the conversation about health, nutrition and environmental sustainability is more critical than ever, the role of fertilizers in agriculture emerges as a vital topic for discussion. Western Plant Health (WPH), representing fertilizer companies and agricultural retailers, emphasizes the indispensable function of plant nutrients in fostering healthy plant growth, improving soil fertility and ensuring food security.

Just as humans take multivitamins to fill dietary gaps and increase our health, plants require a balanced intake of nutrients to thrive. Fertilizers deliver essential minerals and vitamins to the plant, acting as a multivitamin that ensures plants receive the necessary nourishment. These nutrients promote robust growth and enhance the plant's ability to resist the effects of diseases, retain water and withstand drought conditions. Fertilizers lay the groundwork for a more resilient agricultural ecosystem by strengthening a plant's natural defenses.

The benefits of proper fertilizer use extend far beyond the individual plant. They contribute to a wide range of positive outcomes, including soil fertility, increased crop yields and the revitalization of local ecosystems.

Food Insecurity

The number of people affected by hunger globally rose by 828 million in 2021, representing an increase of 46 million people since 2020 and 150 million more since 2019.

In California, the fourth-largest economy in the world, “3,571,920 people are facing hunger, and of them, 1,165,400 are children.”

Increased crop productivity has profound impacts on communities grappling with food insecurity. Increased production of healthy food translates into greater food security by providing more diversified food selections at reduced prices. This is an important link in providing a lifeline for populations vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition.

Many of our underserved communities face food insecurity and lack access to healthy and fresh food. As a result, these individuals are at an increased risk of developing diet-related health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Malnutrition can negatively impact children, who need a balanced diet to grow and develop properly.

Food insecurity can also lead to increased stress, anxiety and depression, harming a person's overall well-being.

The California Air Resources Board has explicitly stated that regulating fertilizers would not provide any value to its effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Protecting Local Ecosystems

Healthier plants allow for more production per acre. This means more food without converting natural lands into food production. This is an important contribution from fertilizers. California and the U.S. have not had to engage in the type of land clearing we see in other parts of the world, resulting in the dramatic loss of native plant and animal species.

Fertilizers play a critical role in agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability, contributing significantly to the preservation of local ecosystems. Healthy plants support a diverse array of life forms by providing habitat and food for a wide range of organisms, from microorganisms in the soil to insects and larger animals, thus fostering biodiversity.

Using fertilizers can help mitigate soil erosion and degradation, two significant ecosystem threats. By promoting vigorous plant growth, fertilizers ensure more plants are available to hold soil in place with their root systems, reducing erosion caused by wind and water. Additionally, healthy plant cover decreases the likelihood of soil degradation by protecting the soil surface from the direct impact of raindrops and reducing surface runoff.

In addition, healthy plants with ade-

22 West Coast Nut June 2024

quate nutrient supply are more efficient at using water, an aspect critical in areas prone to drought or where water is scarce. Through improved plant health, fertilizers can enhance a plant's ability to absorb water, reducing the need for frequent irrigation and thus conserving water resources. This efficiency supports plant life and sustains water availability for other uses within the ecosystem.

Environmental Stewardship and Best Management Practices

Over the past couple of decades, concerns have been raised about historic nitrogen contributions by dairies and fertilizer applications by growers that have resulted in nitrate contaminations in groundwater. The concerns are linked to allegations by some interests that nitrate contamination from dairies and fertilizer use has resulted in infant methemoglobinemia, or what is more commonly referred to as Blue Baby Syndrome.

Blue Baby Syndrome can result

The role of fertilizers in agriculture mirrors the function of multivitamins in human health: they are essential for growth, resilience and well-being.

in cognitive deficits, sensory impairments, developmental delays and other difficulties. Consumption of excessively high levels of nitrate-contaminated drinking water can, in theory, lead to Blue Baby Syndrome. However, it is important to note there has never been an instance of Blue Baby Syndrome from nitrates in agricultural groundwater or drinking waters in California.

Even though there has never been an instance in California, the fertilizer industry proactively chose to address these concerns, and over 30 years ago, WPH sponsored legislation that established a fertilizer mill tax self-assessment to undertake research and educate growers and consumers on the most environ-

mentally safe use of fertilizers. The program is overseen by CDFA to ensure the research is conducted objectively and all results are released for public evaluation. This program, the Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP), has provided millions of dollars of research and education funds to improve the environmental stewardship of fertilizers.

FREP has spearheaded the development of tools like nitrate quick-strips, one of the most used tools now by growers to assess N requirements of crops, identifying crop specific application rates, and the development of the Certified Crop Advisor Program (CCA). The CCA Program is a professional certification for crop consultant


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professionals who evaluate the nutrient needs of crops and the appropriate fertilizer application rates so growers can comply with California’s State and Regional Water Quality Control Board nitrate regulations.

The FREP Program remains the leading funding source for establishing fertilizer application rates to maximize production while minimizing potential environmental impacts. It is providing millions of dollars to educate disadvantaged growers who traditionally have not participated in educational programs. It has also provided valuable dollars to improve growers’ irrigation practices to improve the environmentally safe use of fertilizers.

In recent years, allegations have been raised that fertilizers contribute to climate change. In response to these allegations, through CDFA FREP, the fertilizer industry provided hundreds of thousands of research dollars to assess if fertilizers like N fertilizers were contributing to greenhouse gases and climate change. To ensure the objectivity of the research, it was conducted and assessed in coordination with research conducted by UC Berkley, the California Energy Commission and the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The results clearly demonstrated fertilizers were not responsible for greenhouse gases or contributing to climate change. The results were so demonstrably clear that CARB explicitly stated regulating fertilizers would not provide any value to its effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since this multi-agency research was conducted, there has been no peer-reviewed studies that have demonstrated a need for the regulation of fertilizers to protect air quality.

WPH members are leaders in environmental stewardship through our commitment to translating the research provided by FREP and other research programs into educational programs and best management practices for the use of conventional and organic fertilizers. Every year, hundreds of agriculture professionals come together to hear and ask questions of researchers on new research to improve the environmentally

The fertilizer industry has initiatied a mill tax self-assessment to undertake research and educate growers and consumers on the most environmentally safe use of fertilizers.

safe use of fertilizers. The conference is held jointly between WPH and CDFA FREP so the audience can benefit from both academic research and how this information can be translated for practical field use by industry agronomists.

Growth, Resilience and Well-Being

The role of fertilizers in agriculture mirrors the function of multivitamins in human health: they are essential for growth, resilience and well-being.

WPH's advocacy for the sustainable use of plant nutrients is grounded in a vision of a world where agriculture and environmental stewardship go hand in hand. We underscore the universal importance of nourishment and care by drawing attention to the parallels between human and plant nutrition.

As our state, nation and world navigate food security challenges and environmental sustainability, the responsible use of fertilizers ensures a

future where our crops and our communities can flourish.

To ensure the benefits of plant nutrients are realized, WPH will continue to promote fertilizer management practices and education programs that promote sustainable and responsible use. Our educational and training programs will continue to give growers the knowledge and tools to apply fertilizers responsibly, maximizing their positive impact while safeguarding against potential environmental harm.


Global Hunger, United Nations: https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/07/1122032 Californian’s Facing Hunger: https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/california

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

myaglife.com/events 24 West Coast Nut June 2024

Science Driven Nutrition Delivers Increased Yields in Almonds and Pistachios This Year and Next

Finishing this year’s crop relies on well-timed nutrient applications that satisfy the demands of hard-working trees. Applying effective nutrients based on a “Science Driven” approach will maximize nut size and splits on this year’s crop, increasing per acre returns.

In almonds and pistachios, next season’s crop starts developing now as vegetative tissue in the newly grown wood. To develop into flowers, and ultimately nuts, these tissues undergo a series of changes: floral induction, initiation, determination, and differentiation. These changes are heavily influenced by mineral nutrient and carbohydrate levels in the plant. To complicate matters, many of these processes overlap and are competing against the developing fruit for nutrients and carbohydrates.

To ensure that both this and next years’ crops are a success, the nutritional needs of the flower buds need to be addressed while they are developing. 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 pollen viability. Zinc, manganese, copper, molybdenum, and boron are all needed for the development of healthy, viable flowers.

Applying the Right nutrients, in the Right form, at the Right time, in the Right mix and in the Right place—Agro-K’s 5 Rs of Plant Nutrition—maximizes nutrient uptake, availability, and synergy while minimizing nutrient antagonisms and wasted dollars.

In Pistachios, floral bud development begins as early as April, continues throughout May and June, and then rests until October, when differentiation resumes.

In almonds, floral bud development begins from roughly 2 weeks prior to hull split up to a few weeks after, depending on the variety. Female flower parts determine and differentiate first, while male flower parts develop in late dormancy (generally December through bloom).

Foliar nutrient applications at Hull Split in almonds and kernel bulking to hull slip timings in pistachios provide the best opportunities to nutritionally impact flower development for next year’s crop while reducing abiotic stress issues this year. Agro-K nutritional tools applied at hull split help support and finish off this year’s crop, reduce stress factors, and begin to store key nutrients needed to support a strong bloom and nut set next season.

Seabest 0-19-19 supports nut fill with potassium, reduces heat and other stressors with potassium and seaweed, and supplies phosphorus to help build carbohydrate reserves for next year’s crop. Sysstem-LeafMax is a one jug solution that contains all the nutritional components needed to maintain chlorophyll levels and activity in a formulation that easily penetrates thick waxy leaf cuticles.

Applying Seabest 0-19-19 and Sysstem-Leafmax at hull split in almonds and bulking to hull slip in pistachios is a win-win for your trees and your bottom line. Beginning to manage next year’s nutrient needs now will improve nut set, reduce nut drop, and will increase both nut size and total yield. Don’t miss the yield boosting opportunity hull split sprays offer!

For more information, call 763-780-4116, visit www.agro-k.com, or email info@agro-k.com. Your authorized Agro-K distributor and/or PCA can provide guidance on all Agro-K products. Call today!

Science-Driven Nutrition™


8030 Main Street, NE • Minneapolis, MN 55432

763-780-4116 • www.agro-k.com

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From the Orchard

Scott Severson and his wife Kimber began growing almonds and walnuts in the late 1980s. Severson says one of the biggest changes he’s seen in his decades of farming has been in genetics. The increase in rootstocks and varieties has been a big reason for the growth of the tree nut industry in California (all photos courtesy S. Severson.)

Scott Severson of Severson Family Farms is big on giving back to the next generation. He and his wife Kimber farm 65 acres of walnut and almond, some on land that has been in Kimber’s family since her grandparents immigrated to California from Japan in the 1920s.

Both Scott and Kimber come from families with a background in farming, and they know the importance of passing on their knowledge to the next generation. While the couple once farmed as much as 135 acres, it has never been their full-time job. Scott worked as a PCA while Kimber worked outside the ag industry. Now retired, Scott works

Scott Severson on the Joys and Challenges of Being a Small Family Farmer

with Almond Board of California’s Ag Leadership Program to invest in the next generation of farmers.

The Seversons entered the industry in the 80s and have seen a lot of changes over the decades. We asked Scott to share with West Coast Nut some of his thoughts on how the industry has changed and where he thinks it will go in the future.

Q. Tell me a little bit about the family farm and how you got into farming.

My wife and I bought our first piece of property in either 1988 or ’89, and we bought it from my in-laws. Both of

our families have come from farming families. My parents, that's what they did, they farmed. Her dad farmed on the side, but they owned a small pharmacy in Turlock, and he was the pharmacist. They ran that little store, but the roots all come from farming for both of us.

I got my degree in plant science from Fresno State. I retired in 2022 as a licensed pest control advisor. I worked with growers. I had customers for over 36 years. Kimber had a different professional career.

Our farming kind of got started as a side business. We used our day jobs to pay for the farm and to purchase the ground and get it going. Our neighbor

26 West Coast Nut June 2024

decided they wanted to sell properties, so we had the opportunity and were fortunate enough to be able to figure out how to purchase that. Then another neighboring property came up several years later, and we were able to purchase that piece. Then my parents decided they were done with the full-time farming, so we leased their property from them for several years.

So, we've purchased. We've leased. We've actually sold some. My parents sold their property, so our farm has kind of grown, and now it's shrunk back down to a much more manageable level in our retirement phase.

Today, we have about 65 acres split pretty evenly; 35 acres of walnut and 30 acres of almond.

I think what's interesting is if we go to my wife's side, her great-grandfather immigrated from Japan in the 1920s. And here, locally in the community we live in, the Cortez community, there were probably half a dozen farmers that were Japanese immigrants that started this community. And they started a co-op in 1924 called Cortez Growers Association. This year, the co-op is still operating, and they're celebrating their 100-year anniversary.

It's a pretty amazing story. The property has been in their family since the ’20s. They had to go through internment camp and all that mess in World War 2. They were lucky enough to have some landowners here, farmers locally, that were tenants of all the properties around here, and so when they got out of the internment camp, they still had their property here. They weren't in great shape, but they at least had their property where they could come back and continue and develop their farming operations.

On my side of the family, we're transplants from Orange County. My family and I moved up here when I was a year old and started farming up here in Central California. But my grandparents farmed on the Irvine ranch down in Irvine when it was still all ag land and not roads.

Q. How have farming practices evolved over your career?

It has certainly gotten more mechanized. I think of our harvest process; it's

equipment. Technology has grown so the amount of people it takes at harvest time to shake the nuts on the ground, sweep them in wind rows and pick them up and deliver them is really down to just a couple of people in that process where it used to be all hands on deck. When I was a kid we hand-raked the almonds out from the trees, and we had a sweeper that would sweep them into the final row. But you had to, at least, the first step was you had to hand-rake them out from the rows, and they used to hand knock the trees. You'd have crews that would climb into the trees with mallets and physically hit the limbs to knock them down.

You go to the equipment show and look at what's available now, and it's just incredible.

Q. How have production practices changed?

Precision irrigation, drip and micro. When I first started in the business of farming, micros and drip were really kind of new and not necessarily

mainstream at that point. There was still a lot of flood irrigation, impact sprinkler irrigation.

When it comes to the whole growth of the nut industry in California, part of that is because of changes in irrigation techniques. You can now farm in the foothills because you don't need to have flat ground to flood. So, that's where the big expansion started is after the drip and micro technology really began to get a foothold.

Another big change I've seen in my career is genetics. When I first started in the business, there were maybe two to three available rootstocks to choose from. Now there's probably at least 10, if not even more, that have allowed growers to plant in areas that maybe weren't suitable or the ideal to grow almond or walnut.

Then varieties. I mean, we've got self-fertilizing common varieties now that require very few bees, if any. I think it's a big reason the industry has grown geographically because what works up maybe up in Sacramento Valley doesn't

June 2024 www.wcngg.com 27

Severson has seen big changes in irrigation in the past 40 years. When he started, most growers were still using flood irrigation, but the advent of micro and drip irrigation has not only helped to conserve water and better meet the needs of the trees but also allowed the tree nut industry to grow into other areas of California where the land was not flat enough for flood irrigation.

necessarily mean it’s going to work down in Kern County. It has allowed farmers to be able to grow in a variety of soil types and climatic conditions.

Q. What is your proudest achievement when it comes to your career?

I was lucky enough to learn from a lot of people who were smarter and more experienced than me. So, as I began to get smarter and more experienced, I really tried to pass that down to the next generation the same way it was handed to me. I feel pretty good that I was able to help develop some younger people in the industry that are now very successful and doing really well. That's probably more than anything, the most important to me.

Q. What are the three things that keep you up at night when it comes to growing tree nuts?

First of all, not a lot keeps me up at night, but water is a big deal right now, and I'm sure you're well aware there are major changes going on in California through SGMA and the availability and the quantities of pumping, and that's all evolving. I don't think any of us really know what exactly it's going to look like, but it is going to be different than it is now.

There's no question it's going to impact not only just the nut industry but the whole agricultural industry going forward. I mean, things are happening. You're starting to read about things that are happening. That's one area I stay pretty involved with. I sit on our local water district board, so it kind of keeps me engaged in the industry a little bit. But it's also going to change. There will be some

areas in California that will really be impacted hard as far as growing the nut crops.

And then climate change. You know, we can all argue about causes and solutions and things, but there's no question our falls are longer. Our winters have been warmer. When I started in the business, it was not uncommon in the wintertime to go for two to three weeks without seeing the sun because of the fog. And I was always told that was what made the San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley very unique, that allowed us to get all our chill hours and dormancy hours for the permanent crops that needed that.

We just don't get very much of that anymore. The warmer winters make it really difficult on the high chill-required permanent crops. Walnut would be one in the nut crop side, pistachio. Almonds don't require quite as much. It hasn't really impacted the almonds so far. It clearly has impacted some of the permanent crops.

Then there’s the extremes in rain. It just seems like we'll be behind our normal rainfall amounts then in three weeks, we're 50% over our average, so it seems like our rain events are just not as frequent. But when we get them, there's a lot of rain, which makes it hard to get out in the field and do things. Where that's going to go, who knows? But it definitely has made it more challenging.

The last one is the viability of small family farms going forward. It's going to be challenging. My parents raised a family of five on 55 acres of almonds and peaches. We lived a nice, middle-class lifestyle. There's no way. It would probably take a couple of hundred acres now, if not even more, to be able to just live off a farming income, so that makes it challenging. I think most of your operations our size are going to be side businesses.

Q. How is it different to be a small family farm versus a much larger farm?

It's difficult because you need the capital to own equipment. Everything's just so expensive right now. To justify buying a $100,000 tractor with a nice cab on it is difficult for a small family operation. So, what you're seeing is maybe outsourcing certain practices now because it's more cost-effective to pay someone to come in and do things like spraying an orchard than it is to own all your own equipment and do it yourself.

I think the other thing is just finding, if you're going to outsource and have people help you, those people and making sure they're willing to come into a small operation. There's always a tendency to go to the larger customers. As a small farming operation, you have to really build relationships with your vendors and make sure that you pay your bills on time. You want to give them every reason to come and want to do business with you.

It's more of a lifestyle, really. I mean, even in good years, in our operation, our size, it's not enough to change your lifestyle. And it's in your blood, so you just don't want to give it up. It's not for everybody. There are days you don't go to the lake with everybody else. There are nights where you don't go to bed at a normal time. Sometimes you have to miss birthday parties, those kinds of things.

28 West Coast Nut June 2024

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

I think the important thing is for the industry to stay viable. Clearly, it's important that consumption continues to increase globally through innovative products.

The current state the industry's in right now, it is not viable. There are very few people making money at it right now, probably a lot more people that maybe break even, but I think the majority of people are actually losing money right now.

They just released the bearing acreage from the Almond Board, and it actually dropped for the first time since '95, I think it was. For the industry to be viable, consumption is going to have to continue to increase both for almonds and walnuts, or it's going to be tough going forward.

For probably anybody that's 45 or younger, the current economic situation we're in, none of them have ever faced this. When I first started in the business, in the mid- to late 80s, it was pretty similar. We had high inflation, people

were losing their properties, and banks were repossessing things. There's not as much of that happening now, but the economics were tough. I remember that, and I wasn't really wise enough to know everything that was going on. But as I look back, I'm thinking, man, when I first got into the industry it was just like this.

Q. What do you think needs to happen for the industry to be viable?

The almond industry, through the

Almond Board, they've done a really good job. The perfect storm happened. All this new acreage came into production, you had the pandemic, and everything that happened with that. Now you've got the economy and inflation and the world economy. It was the perfect storm that just really put the brakes on in the almond industry.

But they've been pretty advanced and are impacting the increase in consumption globally. I think that, within

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Severson and his wife Kimber still farm the land that Kimber’s grandparents bought when they immigrated to the U.S. from Japan in the 1920s. Their grandkids are the fifth generation to help work the land.
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another couple of years, things are going to start turning in the industry.

The walnut industry was further behind. We just did not do a good job building that demand globally until we realized we were in a problem. The Walnut Association now is kind of retooled and has refocused what they're doing, and it appears they have a good plan and are executing their plan. It's starting to show some early impacts of that, but I think it's going to take longer because we're just further behind in that effort compared to the almond industry.

Q. What do you think needs to happen to set the industry on the best possible path?

I think it's happening right now in this reset moment. Growers are going to get smarter. They're going to become more efficient because if they're going to survive right now, they have to. I think that's going to be what it takes.

Going forward, you're just going to have to continue to adjust your operation to be more efficient. People will have to rethink what they're doing and how they're doing it.

Q. Talk a little bit about sustainability.

Ten to 15 years ago, when that term first came into play, growers just dug their heels in, and it was like, "No way I'm going to." But fast-forward to where we are now in the industry, and it's pretty amazing how many growers have adapted to the concept.

I think growers have stopped just listening to themselves and their own small groups, and they've begun to realize that the consumer, especially the consumer we're looking at now and going forward in the future, not only are they interested in nutritious food, but it's very important how that food is grown. I applaud the Almond Board for trying to get in front of that and message it. They've done a great job of messaging over the last four or five years on how we grow our almonds.

The Almond Board has a self-reporting system called the California Almond Stewardship Platform (CASP). You kind of score yourself then you can choose to share that with your handler. Some handlers are actually paying an incentive now to complete the self-reporting CASP. It’s things like we grow cover crops and the pollinator health concept. The industry has really changed, and so have we. It's important, and every year it seems like more of the industry jumps

on board. There are still some that are slow to adapt, but I'm totally convinced that if our consumers or our future consumers don't like the way we grow our nut crops, they will find another alternative.

I know almonds, but I'm not who I'm selling my almonds to. We're selling to a completely different clientele than ourselves. That's been a challenge.

Assuming our grandkids live a normal longevity life, they're going to be alive after the turn of the century. And you wonder what we're going to hand to them. I mean, what's this place going to look like? It makes me and my wife think of things differently now that our pace has slowed down, and I think these practices that we're incorporating into our operations are good and hopefully, our handlers can share those stories and the Almond Board can share their stories and we'll be compensated accordingly because it does increase your cost of operation.

In 2023, we had the opportunity through the Almond Board to host some influencers on our farm, and it just blew me away. It was really interesting to watch from the beginning to the end after they heard the story of the family farm. We were redeveloping a block right next to where they were at, so we were doing the whole orchard recycling. We just removed an orchard, chipped it, and were getting ready to incorporate it so they could see what we were doing there.

I asked people from the Almond Board after it was done, I said, "How do you know if they were impacted?" They were monitoring all their social media, and they could just tell it was successful by the number of hits on their Instagram sites and all the activity that was going on. That's when I kind of realized that advertising has changed in a big way. It was interesting how information moves and where people find it. I now have a completely different perspective on social media and the impacts these influencers have on marketing a crop, or whatever it is they're marketing. It's pretty amazing.

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

We have a great product that's healthy, nutritious, high quality, and is versatile, both for almonds and walnuts.

30 West Coast Nut June 2024
Sustainability is a hot topic for growers. Severson says consumers today want to know how their food is grown, and younger generations want to know growers are using sustainable practices like cover crops that contribute to the health of the land.

And I think that's our biggest asset.

We may not have as much good water, but we have really good water for the most part in the state, so we can grow this abundance of healthy, nutritious nuts.

And through the Almond Board, we've got smart people that can help us build that demand out, and that's another huge asset.

There's a lot of smart, innovative people in this industry, so they're a huge asset.

Q. How do you give back to the community?

Our community here, this Cortez community, is small, so it's all hands on deck when something needs to happen. There's nothing formal; it's just everybody knows, everybody pitches in.

I do volunteer with the Almond Board in their Ag Leadership Program as a mentor. When I retired, I was approached by the Almond Board asking if I'd be interested. It's fun because you get to be around all these young movers and shakers in the industry, and that gives me hope when I'm around groups like that. It keeps me engaged a little bit in the industry, too, and it's just a way of sharing some of my experiences, good and bad, with other people.

Q. What advice would you have for a young person who wants to get into the industry today?

That would be a hard one. I was reading one of your previous articles about family farms, and he said it just isn't going to basically happen. And I kind of have to lean with him on that.

But stranger things have happened. Maybe a neighbor wants to get out of farming, but they don't want to sell the ground. So maybe you can arrange to lease the property. I think there are still ways you might be able to get into it.

But I think the biggest takeaway I would have for someone young is that you have to find trusted people to advise you because you can't afford to make a mistake. If you make a mistake, it'll probably bankrupt you.

You have to figure out who your trusted advisors are, whether that's in the banking side of it, the crop production side of it or the processing side of it. You have to do your due diligence and forge those relationships

and lean on those people to help you through that process because it can be daunting, especially if you don't have a background in it.

Q. Who was your biggest mentor?

I would say, obviously, my parents. I mean they instilled that work ethic and the passion to farm in me. And beyond that, I've had several. I had several customers who were my mentors. They are now retired, and we still get together and visit, but there have been so many in my professional career. You really just can't name one.

You're impacted by so many different people, and I was lucky to be around really good people that I worked with, worked for, and customers that I worked with for decades. I probably learned more from my customers than I did anywhere else, good and bad.

That's why Kimber and I are lucky because we had this huge resource of information that we could make our decisions on versus trying to find things on the internet or just real hands-on experi-

ences from other farming operations.

Q. What advances do you see having a big impact in the future?

I think one of the areas that will be interesting to see how it evolves is the efforts to reduce dust at harvest time and how people are experimenting with off-the-ground harvesting. How is that all going to look 20 years from now? That will be an interesting one to watch.

Technology's going to change, and we're going to get our precision irrigation even better, our fertilization’s going to get better, and equipment's going to get more efficient. It always has, and I think it always will. Going forward, farmers are innovators, and they'll figure it out. They'll figure out a way to do it if you just let them do it.

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New Hazelnut Cultivar a Fit for High-Density Orchards

Hazelnut growers looking for a compact cultivar well-suited to high-density orchards have a new option in the Oregon State University (OSU) Hazelnut Breeding Program’s latest release, Thompson.

The release, the first for the breeding program since 2018, offers growers an opportunity to implement production methods associated with high-density orchards with minimal pruning, according to OSU Hazelnut Breeder Shawn Mehlenbacher.

“I’m excited about Thompson because it targets a different production system than the standard hazelnut production system,” Mehlenbacher said. “It opens up an opportunity that wasn’t there before. It targets people who are willing to take a chance and try something new. We have a lot of new people in our industry now, so it’s not just planting them 20 x 20 feet apart like we’ve done for 80 years. This is a new opportunity, and I think some people will jump on it.”

Grower Interest

Mehlenbacher said growers have approached him in recent years about releasing a compact cultivar for high-density planting. Thompson, with its low vigor and high-quality kernels, stood out among other selections with similar growth habits in the breeding program. In trials spanning 2017-20, the new cultivar outperformed the high-yielding cultivars Jefferson and McDonald in nut-yield efficiency, scoring the highest of all trial entries when factoring in tree size, a factor that bodes well for per-acre yields in high-density plantings. Nut weight of Thompson was similar to McDonald in the trials, according to an OSU report, while ker-

Becky McCluskey, a senior research assistant who works in the Oregon State University Hazelnut Breeding Program, stands next to a seven-year-old Thompson tree. The tree was in the final year of a yield trial (photo courtesy OSU.)
32 West Coast Nut June 2024

nel weight was intermediate between McDonald and Wepster, two popular cultivars also released by the breeding program in the past 11 years.

Thompson produced a high percentage of good nuts in the trials and a low percentage of blanks, brown stain, poorly filled nuts, twins and kernels with black tips, according to the report.

“There may be some disappointment from the handlers in that they would like the percent kernel to be higher,” Mehlenbacher said. But the kernels the tree produces are of good quality.

Susceptibility to bacterial blight has not been quantified, but researchers saw no bacterial blight infection in two trials. Nevertheless, OSU is recommending applying copper to minimize damage from the Xanthomonas campestris pathogen, particularly in the first three years of the tree. The variety has shown good resistance to bud mite.

While not maturing as early as McDonald and PollyO, Thompson is still earlier than Barcelona, the industry

standard, by four days. Also, Mehlenbacher pointed out, if growers harvest over the top, which doesn’t require waiting for nut drop, they could be harvesting in mid-September.

Recommended pollinizers for Thompson include Wepster, PollyO, Dorris and Yamhill.

Thompson held up well against Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB) in the trials, but that was before a new strain of EFB was discovered in the Willamette Valley, a strain that is able to overcome the single Gasaway gene resistance contained in Thompson as well as several other releases from the OSU Hazelnut Breeding Program.

“It’s unfortunate the EFB fungus has changed,” Mehlenbacher said, “but these things happen in agriculture.”

Changing Practices

When fully mature, Thompson trees are considerably smaller than Barcelona, and its trunk cross-sectional area, or TCA, is considerably less than Barcelona,

Oregon State University Hazelnut Breeder Shawn Mehlenbacher addresses participants at the Winter Meeting of the Nut Growers Society of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia earlier this year in Salem, Ore. The OSU Hazelnut Breeding Program in August released its first new cultivar since 2018 (photo by M. Lies.)

coming in at 46.7% of an adjacent row of Barcelona trees in one trial. Comparatively, the TCA of Jefferson, McDonald and Wepster were between 70% and 80% of the Barcelona trees in that trial. Thompson trees can be planted 7 feet apart within a row, according to OSU literature, with row spacings of between

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16 and 20 feet.

The tree’s compact growth habit should fit well with new production practices being used in the Willamette Valley, including fruiting-row designs and over-the-top harvesting with a converted blueberry harvester. A smaller tree is also easier to cover with fungicides, according to OSU Plant Pathologist Jay Pscheidt, which should help with EFB management if the new strain of the fungus were to infiltrate a Thompson orchard. And OSU Extension Orchard Specialist Nik Wiman noted it is easier to optimize other inputs as well in a high-density system.

“One thing I really like about high-density systems is they’re more efficient because you can concentrate your nutrient applications and your irrigation,” Wiman said. “You can manage the canopy easier with the sprays you have to put on.”

The spherical growth habit of Thompson also should help minimize tree losses from an ice or a snow storm. Arguably, however, the main benefit of planting Thompson in a high-density system is the improvement it brings in early returns,

“The problem with hazelnuts, like some other orchard crops, is they’re slow to mature and you really don’t start

making any money back from your initial investment until you’re pretty deep into it,” Wiman said. “But by filling the space with more trees, you can have a much higher precocity and much higher early returns on the orchard.”

Growers in Europe have widely adopted high-density hazelnut orchard systems to considerable success, Wiman said. “Some of that came out of olive production, because olives are even slower maturing than hazelnuts, and they were looking for ways to get returns on investment a lot sooner for olive orchards, and they started applying some of the same principles to hazelnuts and having a lot of success.

“If you look at other orchard crops, such as apples, they’ve all gone toward higher density production,” he added.

Double-density planting, a system that involves removing half the trees once they begin to crowd out one another, is a practice growers have long used to improve early returns. But it is becoming less attractive as of late, Wiman said, in part because of changing cultural practices.

“In the economic models we have for double density, we like to see orchards get to 9 or 10 years before the trees have to be thinned,” Wiman said, “but almost no one is making it that long any-

“I’m excited about Thompson because it targets a different production system than the standard hazelnut production system.”
– Shawn Mehlenbacher, Oregon State University

more. Trees are growing faster with our cultural practices and many people are reaching that stage where trees need to be cleaned out sooner than we used to.”

Wiman noted researchers will be planting Thompson trees at a rate of around 400 per acre in an experimental orchard they are starting this fall to try

to quantify the advantage high-density offers in terms of early returns.

Tree Pedigree

Thompson, named after Maxine M. Thompson, who initiated the hazelnut breeding program at OSU in 1969, has a pedigree that includes germplasm from Italy, Spain, England and Turkey. Its release last August marked the culmination of nearly 20 years of work as breeders made their first cross with Thompson in 2005. Typically, it takes 17 years from the first cross of a variety to a release date. In this case, the release was delayed because trees were not available until August.

Mehlenbacher noted North American Plants in Lafayette, Ore. has told him they have trees to sell if growers are interested.

As for what is ahead for the breeding program, Mehlenbacher said he expects the program to release a cultivar with resistance to the new strain of EFB in two to five years. “We have many selections in replicated yield trials whose resistance is different than Gasaway,” Mehlenbacher said. “It is hard to forecast which one or ones are worthy of release at this point. But there are a lot in the pipeline.”

He added resistance to the new strain is the most important trait for the program as it advances lines at this point. “It is certainly high on our list of importance to hand a different resistance source to our growers,” he said.

He further noted the program has been working on finding different sources of resistance to EFB for more than two decades, though not as aggressively as it is doing so now.

“I’ve been here since 1986, and I’ve been collecting material pretty much everywhere I can get my hands on it, and we test everything to see how it reacts to Eastern Filbert Blight inoculation or exposure. And then we get into the mapping with DNA markers to find out which chromosome carries the resistance. So, we’ve been doing it seriously since about the late 1990s,” he said. “But at this point, that has become more important.”

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Like hazelnuts from the McDonald cultivar, Thompson nuts are expected to be ideal for the blanched kernel market. Open husks in the photo show that the nuts will fall free at maturity (photo courtesy OSU.)
34 West Coast Nut June 2024



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Jeff Newton, farm manager at Christensen Farms near Amity, Ore., is a firm believer in double-density planting of hazelnuts. Even with today’s more precocious varieties and new emphasis on inputs that push a tree to maturity well ahead of the days when he started on the practice, Newton believes it is beneficial.

“With irrigation and high nutrition, we’re pulling them away earlier now than we used to, so the economics of it are changing, but I am still a believer in double density and I have been for many years,” Newton said.

South of Christensen Farms near Albany, as Jimmy Lee prepares to take out temporary trees in an orchard planted to the Jefferson variety, he wonders whether it was worth it to go with double density, particularly given the rock-bottom prices hazelnuts have brought the last two years.

“Looking back, maybe I would have done single density,” Lee said. “If the nut price was higher the last year or two, it probably would have been better. But it’s a pretty large expense to take the [temporary] trees out.”

Opinions on the merits of double-density planting are nothing new in a hazelnut industry that has debated the pros and cons of the practice for decades. And with new varieties pushing out faster than old varieties, the debate has been reframed.

Lee, for example, said he was expecting to get 10 years out of his double-density system. Instead, he is taking out the temporary trees after just eight years.

“We just harvested eight-year-old trees and they are already shading out

one another,” Lee said. “The college said we’d probably have 10 years of double density, but with the amount of irrigation and how well the trees have performed, we’re thinking it’s time to take them out now.”

Lee was able to double his yields in the Jefferson orchard in years four through eight, which, given the price over that span and the expense to plant and take out the temporary trees, makes the economics of the practice “about a wash,” he said.

Lee also went with double density on 200 acres he planted to the Yamhill variety, which is a smaller tree than Jefferson. On those acres, he plans to keep in the double planting and hedge the trees.

“I just decided that for me, I don’t have the best ground in the world, so my trees are never going to get super big,” he said. “And I’ve got a big double-headed sickle machine that makes it pretty easy to hedge, and I have a big shredder I can shred all the brush with, and we’re burying the drip lines so we can really mechanize farming hazelnuts and get away with less labor.”

Lee, who also grew clover and grass seed crops between the rows of his tiled ground for the first four years of the orchard, believes the hedging system will generate better and more consistent yields, providing he can keep the sunlight interception high with pruning techniques.

‘Pretty Smart Practice’

Nik Wiman, orchard specialist for Oregon State University Extension, said in most cases, going with double-density planting, essentially a 10’ x 20’ or 9’ x 18’

This orchard of PollyO variety hazelnuts at Christensen Farms, which was planted to the standard double density of 10’ x 20’, yielded 1,000 pounds dry weight per acre in its fourth leaf this past fall (photo by M. Lies.).

spacing, can be beneficial.

“It’s a pretty smart practice because if you think about how slow hazelnuts come into their maturity and that for the first years of an orchard, you’re just waiting for the canopy to fill in and produce nuts, it makes sense to fill it in by planting extra trees and reap rewards earlier in terms of nut yields,” Wiman said.

But there are drawbacks, Wiman said, particularly when growers start without a clear plan for when and how they are going to remove the temporary trees.

In many of those cases, he said, growers have shown a reluctance to remove the temporary trees in a timely fashion.

“And you need to do that,” Wiman said, “because the trees start to compete with each other and, on a per-tree basis, the production will start to decrease. And if you wait too long, it could have a permanent effect on their growth form. So, there can be repercussions for waiting too long. And right now, a lot of growers are facing this dilemma because in the final years of double density, the yields get really good, and when you take out the temporary trees, you are probably going to see a yield reduction. But we only expect that to last a season or two before the permanent trees fill in that open space and they get back to where you were in terms of the production.”

Newton incidentally noted he has not encountered yield reductions in the year following removal of his temporary trees. “I’ve had orchards that go up in yield the year I take them out,” he said. “And at worst, your yield will flatline the year you take them out.”

36 West Coast Nut June 2024

Also at issue, Wiman said, the old model that OSU used for its enterprise budget for double density assumed nine or ten years before a grower needed to remove the temporary trees. That is no longer the case given the more aggressive growth brought on by today’s varieties and growing practices.

“I think people are finding they are surprised at how fast the trees are coming into competition,” Wiman said.

Changing Economics

Another factor driving double-density planting of late, Wiman said, is a changing economic model. “The old-school way was planting trees 22 feet apart and letting your grandkids reap the benefits of that orchard,” Wiman said. “Today, people tend to have a shorter-term outlook and need to have cash flow earlier on.”

Also, Wiman said, the old-school thought process was based on leaving orchards in place for multiple decades, sometimes 100 years. That’s not the current school of thought.

“Precocity is really the driving force for going high density and getting more returns out of the orchards sooner,” he said. “We are seeing a lot of that going on in Europe and Chile and elsewhere in olives and tree fruits and tree nuts. They’ve gone to high density production and figured out they can compete with a mature orchard much sooner than in the past.”

The main drawbacks to double-densi ty planting have always been the expense and labor involved in planting twice as many trees and removing half of them. But Newton pointed out that at times growers overplay the extra expense. He noted the extra cost for trees isn’t out rageous. And, he said, a double-density system basically takes the same amount of inputs as a single-density orchard.

“You’ve got $6 trees to start with and you got a little sawdust,” Newton said. “But the irrigation and fertilizer all cost the same, and unless you have a smart sprayer, no matter how many trees are out there, it’s the same rate of Roundup you’re putting out.”

And, Newton said, with the right kind of equipment, a grower can take out the extra trees without too much expense. At Christensen Farms, for ex ample, Newton uses a brush grinder and

Jeff Newton in a nearly four-year old PollyO orchard planted at double density at Christensen Farms near Amity, Oregon. Newton, farm manager, said he is a firm believer in the merits of double density planting (photo by M. Lies.)

stump grinder to remove the trees and puts the residue back in the soil. Newton also aggressively prunes

Employee Dennis Schlegel removes eight-year-old Jefferson trees in a hazelnut orchard planted to double density at Third Knight Farms in Albany (photo courtesy Jimmy Lee .)

in double density,” Newton said. “Even where I’m growing them fast and the timeline is getting down there to where

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Labor and Trade Policies Lead to Unsustainable Food Production Here…and Abroad

According to the LA Times, California asparagus production has declined by more than 90% since 2000 because of the state's high labor costs (photo courtesy California Farm Water Coalition.)

America's grocery stores may seem brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, but behind the vibrant displays lies a sobering truth: A significant portion of these products are imported from other countries. According to data from USDA, a staggering 60.9% of the fresh fruit and 38.8% of the fresh vegetables consumed in the U.S. are sourced from abroad.

That’s a 228% increase of fruit and 479% increase of vegetable imports since 1980. This heavy reliance on imports poses a concerning risk to the security and sustainability of our food supply, particularly given the alarming challenges overseas producers face, including political strife, war, degrading natural resources and inconsistent food safety standards.

Mexico's agricultural bounty has long been a boon for American consumers; however, the reliance on its produce comes with deeper concerns: unsustainable water supplies. Of total fruit and vegetable imports, Mexico now accounts for 69% of fresh vegetables and 51% of fresh fruits that make their way to the U.S.

Mexico is also one of the world’s largest exporters of tree nuts, with the water-stressed region of Chihuahua a major source of walnut production in the country. During the past 30 years, total tree nut production has grown significantly, with production increasing over 640% from 47,405 tons in 1992 to 304,747 tons in 2022. Walnuts alone have dominated the increase in tree nut production, growing from 2,900 tons in 1992 to more than 176,000 tons in 2022, according to USDA.

With an increasing demand for imported food products, attention is now turning to the long-term availability of

those products. Large swaths of Mexican farmland, including regions around Mexicali and the Baja Peninsula, are irrigated with water supplies that are not sustainable, according to a 2021 report by Sarah Hartman in the "Environmental Resource Letter."

The problem of water supply reliability is not merely a

38 West Coast Nut June 2024
Vast areas of unsustainable water use exist in the Northern third of Mexico, threatening food production largely destined for the U.S. (courtesy Sarah Hartman.)

local issue confined to Mexican borders; it poses a looming threat to the entire U.S. food supply chain. As water sources dwindle and aquifers deplete, there are potential risks on the horizon of shortages of fresh fruits and vegetables. Left unchecked, this could lead to disrupted food supply chains and reduced availability of these essential food products as well as higher prices for consumers across the U.S.

The situation in Mexico serves as a stark reminder of the interconnectedness of global food systems and the urgent need for policies that support domestic food production. According to the Hartman report, some of the bigger problems associated with unsustainable water use in Mexico is environmental degradation, localized water insecurity, soil degradation, habitat loss and a threat to biodiversity.

Addressing this pressing issue requires a multifaceted approach that prioritizes food produced by California growers. Trade policies over the last 30 years and more recent domestic labor laws have caused significant damage to California growers and the workers who plant, till and harvest our crops. Legislation in California that changed overtime laws for farmworkers, which legislators claimed was intended to benefit them, had the opposite effect. When implemented, wage increases meant that California growers were less able to compete with their counterparts south of the border, causing labor-intensive crops, such as asparagus, to move out of the state, as reported by a recent article in the Los Angeles Times.

To protect America’s food supply, elected officials must consider the long-term effects of their actions. This means making more careful decisions about the policies and regulations that affect farmers who grow our food. More and more regulatory burdens in California often result in transporting problems to other parts of the world instead avoiding them here in the first place.

Local examples include things such as investing in water supply infrastructure and technology, more flexible permit-

ting for capturing flood water to use for more groundwater recharge, eliminating regulatory oversight proposals to monitor activities that have yet to pose a problem and letting local water managers govern groundwater activities because a one-size-fits-all system doesn’t work.

Water legislation shouldn’t be based on a solution looking for a problem either. It should, when necessary, be aimed at keeping domestic farms producing the food we all depend on instead of relying on other countries where production practices don’t always measure up to California standards.

Consumers must also realize they have the power to drive change through their purchasing decisions. By supporting local farms that prioritize sustainability and choosing products with more localized supply chains, consumers can support food production in their own backyard.

The heavy reliance on imported fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly from Mexico, underscores the urgent need for lawmakers to reconsider policies that make farming in California uncompetitive. Failure to recognize the unsustainable water practices elsewhere in the world poses a significant risk to the future security and affordability of the U.S. food supply. It's time for elected leaders at all levels to stand up for American growers and the consumers who depend on them and support a domestic, resilient and sustainable food system.

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The percentage of imported fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S. has risen sharply since 1980 (courtesy USDA.)

The History of Pistachios in the U.S.

Pistachios have been growing wild in the Middle East as far back as 7,000 B.C., based on recent archeological discoveries in Turkey.

According to legend, the Queen of Sheba was a big fan of pistachios. She decreed them an exclusively royal food, and expressly forbade commoners from consuming the nut. As the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered pistachio trees to be planted in the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Pistachios are one of only two nuts

mentioned in the Bible. Genesis 43:11 reads, “Then their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift, a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds.’”

As empires grew and explorers travelled, pistachios were eventually taken throughout Europe and Asia. By the late 18th century, pistachios had become common in most of Europe, where they were incorporated into a wide range of recipes. In France, pistachios were used to season sausage and other meats. The Complete Confectioner, published in London in 1789, which describes itself as “a ready assistant to all genteel families,” includes recipes such as pistachio nut biscuits, white pistachio prawlongs (pralines) and pistachio ice cream.

introduced to the U.S. in 1805 “by the New Crop Introduction Division of the newly founded government.” No other source included this account, however.

Most historical accounts credit Charles Mason with introducing the first pistachios into the U.S., bringing seeds to California in 1854. This was shortly after Mason, the first Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice, a grower and a distributor of experimental plant seeds, was appointed Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office.

Pistachios Arrive in the U.S.

According to Eric Hansen in his article “In Search of the Mother Tree” in the magazine Saudi Aramco World, the first pistachio trees were

Mason’s predecessor as commissioner, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, was also interested in collecting seeds and plants from around the world. Ellsworth would use consular services to gather seeds from other countries and then distribute them for planting in the U.S. Without funding, this effort was done on a small scale. In May 1854, however, Congress appropriated $10,000

40 West Coast Nut June 2024
This Columbus "MB" Pistachio Nickel Dispenser Rare Globe, circa 1930, was made by the Columbus Vending Company of Columbus, Ohio (photo courtesy American Collectibles.)

to collect and distribute seeds and cuttings under the supervision of the Commissioner of Patents, who by that time was Charles Mason.

Pistachios from France

“Probably the first crop of this nut grown on the Pacific Slope was produced in 1881 on trees belonging to G. P. Rixford of Sonoma, Calif.,” wrote S.B. Hedges in Nut Culture in the United States, his report to USDA in 1895. “The trees were imported from the north of France in 1875. They are small (about 8 to 12 feet in height), but are thrifty and vigorous... Its culture may well be tested further in California.”

Unrecognized Potential

In the 1889 edition of The California Fruits and How to Grow Them, Edward J. Wickson wrote that after several years of research, it was “likely that erelong (in the near future) a commercial product of pistachios may be attained in Cal-

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The Queen of Sheba, a biblical figure, was a big fan of pistachios, according to legend. She decreed them an exclusively royal food, and expressly forbade commoners from consuming the nut (AI illustration by April Pastis.)

Plant explorer Frank Nicholas Meyer in Asia. As a result of his 13 years of travelling, more than 680 species and varieties of plants and seeds were brought to the U.S., including the Chinese pistachio (Pistacia chinensis) and the lemon that now bears his name.

ifornia.” Wickson would later become dean of the College of Agriculture and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of California.

Wickson wrote in the 1908 edition of the same manual, “The pistachio needs more time to declare its California career.” In 1919, he wrote “commercial results are only just beginning to be attained.” He acknowledged, however, that at the time, none of the varieties were adapting well to existing conditions. As a result, he considered the nut “a marginal crop in California’s agriculture” despite the fertile soil, hot, dry climate and moderately cold winters of California’s Central Valley.

USDA was slow to recognize the full potential of the pistachio. Its 1915 Yearbook reported, “The Chinese pistache (pistachio) tree gives promise of being a fine shade tree for large areas in the South and Southwest. It grows to be a stately tree with a dense head of gracefully pinnated foliage... It resists drought wonderfully well and will be especially appreciated in the warmer semiarid parts of the U.S.”

The Chico Seed Orchard

The Chico Seed Orchard in Chico, Calif. was established in the early 1900s as the Plant Production Station. It became part of the Agricultural Research Service in 1904, with the purpose of conducting plant breeding research and introducing plants from all over the world into the U.S.

Pistachio trees were studied there for almost 30 years. The first pistachios to be tested were the Buenzle, Bronte, Minasian, Red Aleppo, Sfax and Trabonella varieties. None of them, however, were deemed likely to become successful pistachio nut varieties in the U.S. The Red Aleppo and Trabonella were the most promising, but both had insufficient yields.

In 1929, the Office of Foreign Plant Introduction made developing better pistachio varieties one of its main objec-


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“We no longer have a functioning pistachio orchard as they were removed in 1990 in preparation for future Douglas fir orchards.”

Explorer Frank Nicholas Meyer

In 1905, Frank Nicholas Meyer, a plant explorer for USDA, set sail for China with task of sending back "every fruit, nut or vegetable that he thought would have value in this country." In addition to China, Meyer visited such places as Korea, Siberia, and Turkestan, mainly by walking long distances.

Along the way, Meyer was often attacked, robbed and threatened. He was also confronted by bears, tigers and wolves. During China’s cultural revolution of 1911, he was mistaken for being on both sides of the revolution. In June 1918, Meyer boarded a steamer on the Yangtze River bound for Shanghai and was never seen again.

As a result of his 13 years of traveling, more than 680 species and varieties of plants and seeds were brought to the U.S., including the Chinese pistachio (Pistacia chinensis) and the lemon that now bears his name.

and “wanted more.

“In 1922, Salim F. Zaloom (Farjalla’s other son) developed

Almonds & Walnuts

William E. Whitehouse is considered by many to be the father of the American pistachio industry. (Courtesy of Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA)
June 2024 www.wcngg.com 43

porter and roaster of pistachios in the U.S. Five years later, however, the company was overstocked with pistachios, with 1 million pounds in its inventory.

“Then a New York vending machine operator called at the company’s office with the idea that he could sell white pistachio nuts in his machines,” the article continued.

The Zaloom family called the vending machine operator “crazy” because, after all, pistachios were considered a high-

priced product at a cost of 32¢ a pound. The operator was undeterred, however, arriving at the Zenobia offices the next day and paying $4.60 for 5 pounds of pistachios. His purchases from Zenobia for an increasing number of vending machines eventually reached 5,000 lbs. for 1,000 machines.

As other operators learned of his success, they decided to sell pistachios in their own machines, and the demand for pistachios resulted in Zenobia’s stock of 1 million pounds of pistachios being virtually sold out.

By the 1940s, vending machines in busy locations such as train stations, restaurants, and bars were responsible for 85% of total pistachio sales. A well-known advertising slogan of the time was “A dozen for a nickel.”

“The pistachio nut became well-known and appreciated in the early 1930s,” wrote Joseph Zaloom. “Undoubtedly, the vending machine became a common medium for making peanuts, cashews and pistachios more accessible to American customers.”

During the 1930s, the Zenobia Company was sold to John Germack, also an immigrant from Syria. Under his leadership, Zenobia dominated the U.S. pistachio business. During World War II, he arranged for Liberty Ships to bring pistachios across the Atlantic Ocean, while avoiding hostile German submarines. As a result, Zenobia had the country’s only supply of pistachios during the war.

Red Pistachios

When most pistachios were imported from Iran and other countries, a red dye was commonly used to cover up any defects during production. The downside of the dye was that the red color on imported pistachios would rub off on hands and mouths. U.S. companies would also use a red dye to sell to consumers who had come to expect the color on their pistachios.

As the U.S. pistachio industry grew and producers started using newer mechanized harvesting processes to pick, hull and dry the nuts, stained shells were no longer an issue, eliminating the need to dye the nuts. Today, most red-dyed pistachios (if you can find them) are sold as novelty items.

This photo of growers by a pistachio vera tree in Damghan, Iran was taken by William E. Whitehouse during his pistachio gathering trip in 1929 (photo courtesy Chico Plant Introduction Station Photograph Collection, Special Collections, USDA National Agricultural Library.)

Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, the first Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office, was interested in collecting seeds and plants from around the world (illustration courtesy USDA.)

William E. Whitehouse

According to his obituary in The Washington Post, William E. Whitehouse, a longtime official of USDA, “is

In 1929, Whitehouse was sent to Iran with the goal of returning with pistachio seeds that could be successfully planted in the U.S. The result of his mission was 20 pounds of various pistachios brought back to the U.S. (Some sources say “smuggled.”)

Most of the seeds were planted at the Chico station, and when the trees were evaluated, the “Kerman” showed the most promise. Named after a town in Iran’s central plateau, the single pistachio that eventually developed the U.S. pistachio industry was found in a pile of drying nuts in the town of Agda.

In 1976, the first commercial crop of Kerman pistachios harvested in California produced 1.5 million pounds. Less than 40 years later, Kerman had become a billion-dollar agricultural product.


and the Pistachio

The U.S. pistachio industry grew exponentially as the result of a change in the tax code and the response to a

the federal tax code to eliminate tax shelters for both almond and citrus fruit growers. Pistachio trees, however, were still acceptable tax shelters to the IRS. As a result, many California growers replaced their almond and fruit crops with pistachios.

Iran was the world’s leading pistachio grower throughout the 1970s, but events in 1978 would soon change that.

On Nov. 4, 1978, a group of students protesting the U.S. support of the Shah of Iran stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 66 American hostages. President Jimmy Carter responded by announcing an embargo on goods from Iran, including pistachios.

In 1986, the embargo was modified to allow some Iranian goods, but by that time the U.S. pistachio industry had become a major pistachio producer. Since 2008, the U.S. has been the world’s leading grower of pistachios.

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Ryan Hill knew he wanted to work with growers and ranchers from a fairly young age. One of the UCCE’s newest farm advisors, Hill got a taste in his youth for what that line of work might look like, travelling around the San Joaquin Valley with his dad, who worked in the processing tomato industry.

“I got to see him out in the field, meeting with growers and conducting variety trials. I was able to see how interdisciplinary agriculture is,” he said.

Hill, who serves as the extension weed science and agronomy advisor for Tehama, Shasta and Glenn counties, said the opportunity to tag along with his dad also helped him realize later he wanted to pursue a career in agricultural research, an interest that would take him through college and beyond.

He attended George Fox University in Newberg, Ore. and spent a summer working for Extension Specialist Chal Landgren at Oregon State University’s (OSU) North Willamette Research and Extension Center. He earned a bachelor’s in biology from George Fox University in 2014.

“It was a really interesting time attending George Fox and working as an extension intern. I was able to explore plant pathology, entomology, plant breeding and ecology as I developed an idea of what I wanted to pursue a career in,” he said.


Finding His Path

Following graduation from George Fox with his bachelor’s, Hill moved back to California and landed a job at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. The functional genomics lab needed someone to bulk seed stocks for their transgenic plants, specifically Brachypodium distachyon, which they used as a genetic model to study the genomes of grass species, he explained.

“They needed someone to grow ~23,000 lines of this species they had modified, so they hired me. For someone newly graduated with a bachelor’s degree, it was an incredible privilege

to bump elbows with some world-class geneticists,” Hill said.

His time with the Berkeley lab gave him time to think about what he wanted to do for graduate school, and after his appointment with the lab ended, Hill found himself back in Oregon to begin his master’s studies in plant breeding and genetics at OSU. He joined Dr. Shawn Mehlenbacher’s hazelnut breeding lab where he studied the genetic basis for self-incompatibility in hazelnut and worked as a member of the hazelnut breeding team.

Upon graduation with his master’s in March 2020, he joined the perennial weed science lab at OSU. There, he ran lab and greenhouse operations and managed trials at the research farm on crops like hazelnuts, cranberries, hops, blueberries and Christmas trees.

“It was a big change in focus for my career, but I believe it was the best professional decision I’ve ever made,” Hill said.

He spent the next three and a half years working at the lab with Dr. Marcelo Moretti, an assistant professor in weed science and perennial horticultural crops, immediately finding a mentor in him.

“It was such a joy to be a member of that lab and work with Marcelo; he’s an exceptional weed scientist with a really great team.” Hill said.

The experience allowed him to lead students, conduct research, publish articles and present results to stake-

Ryan Hill seen spraying a pasture. As a new farm advisor, he hopes to work on weed management for agronomic crops, forage crop production and cover cropping.
46 West Coast Nut June 2024
Ryan Hill is serving the counties of Tehama, Shasta and Glenn as a weed science and agronomy advisor (all photos courtesy R. Hill.)

holders. While he was hesitant about pursuing weed science at first, coming from a plant genetics background, it was a better experience than he could have imagined, thanks in large part to working with Moretti.

“The discipline you work on, it matters, but having the right person to work under and learn from matters a whole lot more,” he said.

Hill said his time in the weed science lab provided him with the skills and ideas he’s now able to use in his new role with UCCE.

Addressing the Needs of Growers

What excites Hill the most about his new extension role is the opportunity to address what growers are dealing with on a direct level. He said that while his prior role in weed science was also extension-focused, most of his time had been spent on research operations.

“Now I get to take the role of meeting with growers, hearing their concerns and trying to collaboratively identify solutions,” he said.

So far, he says grower concerns in his area are really boiling down to high input costs and too little return on investment. That’s a difficult problem to solve and one he said brings on a host of other, smaller problems, like how to maintain an effective weed management program while cutting costs at the same time.

“Narrow margins mean sometimes there isn’t much left over for weed management,” Hill said. “Part of my job now is to find the most effective solutions for the lowest cost while still addressing complex issues like herbicide resistance management and crop safety.”

He’s also heard concerns from growers about herbicide-induced trunk injury, something he had a chance to work on in hazelnuts while in Oregon. He will now be able to focus on those issues in walnuts, almonds and prunes, following up on previous work done in Glenn County by former orchard systems advisor Dr. Dani Lightle, he explained.

“She’s no longer there, but I’ll be carrying on the project to investigate how trunk injury is induced and what you can do to protect your trees from herbicide injury,” he said.

Other areas he hopes to work on in

his advisor role include weed management for agronomic crops, forage crop production and cover cropping.

“I’m not as familiar with the agronomy aspect of my position, but I am determined to make as much of a positive impact as I can,” he said.

He’s already started research projects on weed control in small grains and alternative forage crops and said he’s continuing to lean into his strengths.

“It’s going to take some time for the agronomy side to be a strength, but I intend for it to be,” he said. “I spent the last three and a half years focusing on one area, and maybe three years from now I’m going to be a passable expert on agronomic crops. I’d like to see that.”

Hill practices a biblical philosophy when it comes to serving the growers in his area. A passionate Christian, he says he filters everything he does through what scripture says about people and the world we live in, that every person is a reflection of God.

Hill will also be starting the UCCE

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An area of focus for new Farm Advisor Ryan Hill will include addressing grower concerns about herbicide-induced trunk injury in walnuts and almonds, something he had a chance to work on in hazelnuts while in Oregon.

Master Gardener program in Tehama County soon, a door he sees opening to have more contact with the general public in addition to the growers he serves.

He lives in Tehama County with his wife and three children.

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Options for Replanting Orchards are Many, but Choices Depend on Return on Investment

Hesitancy to replant tree nu ts after an orchard removal may spark some creative uses for the ground. Tree nut orchard removal across the Central Valley has increased in the past year for a variety of reasons: low prices, higher water costs and older trees that are no longer highly productive. In previous years, orchard sites were regularly replanted with trees as soon as feasible. Now, growers are looking at options for land use that can generate some income.

Pushing trees and removal of the biomass is stalling some replant activity due to the high cost and shortage of removal equipment. Luke Milliron, UCCE orchard advisor in Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties, noted that leads to more ‘unfarmed’ orchards which can be a source of insect and vertebrate pests as well as a potential fire hazard, making orchard management difficult for neighbors. Another option is livestock grazing where feasible. That would still require a water source and possibly fencing.

Milliron said adding a fallow year to the ground before replanting can be part of the solution both for on-farm budget reasons, improving the odds of a successful new planting, and even where Groundwater Sustainability Agency rules limit pumping.

If continuing to farm the ground is the plan, UCCE Restoration Ecologist Mandeep Riar said there are some things to

consider: how the orchard was removed, if the biomass was chipped and spread or burned onsite, and residual herbicides and soil compaction.

Riar, an advisor in Kern, Kings and Tulare counties, said she has observed many whole orchard recycling operations in the past year. Any crop planted soon after the orchard has been removed, chipped and chips spread and disced into the soil will have issues due to a carbon to nitrogen imbalance. Growers will have to pay close attention that first year with annual or perennial crops and provide extra N to keep the plants growing.

Soil compaction can be an issue with annual and tree or vine crops following orchard removal. How the orchard was removed must be considered, Riar said. With whole orchard recycling, the amount of biomass can limit planting options. Riar said planting a cover crop can be one decision that will help with soil compaction but will need time to achieve full effect. N-fixing legumes can add to soil health and improve soil tilth.

A Plan for New Crop

“Leaving land fallow doesn’t pay the bills,” said farm manager Brad Shepard, standing next to a 30-acre block west of Porterville where walnut trees were being chipped.

The plan for this piece of ground, he said, is to plant kiwis, a crop that was once in the top 20 list of crops in Tulare

Whole orchard recycling where a Tulare County 30-acre block of walnut trees were pulled. Plans are to plant kiwis after land preparation, irrigation and trellising are done (all photos by C. Parsons.)
48 West Coast Nut June 2024

County but has lagged in popularity in recent times.

Shepard said the chips from the walnut trees will be spread over the ground which will then be deep ripped. Discing with a slip plow will follow, and then a hand crew will be brought in to pick up any large pieces of roots that remain. Prior to planting, they will install an irrigation system and apply fungicide.

“I’m not doing my job if the kiwis aren’t planted by fall,” Shepard said. Incorporating the chips and planting soon after will require some careful management of N. Shepard said he will be feeding more N the first year after planting until the chips break down. He added spreading and incorporating the chips back on the orchard site is the least costly option. No one has any use for the large amount of biomass that comes from a large orchard. Co-generation plant use is a thing of the past, and burning is restricted in the San Joaquin Valley.

In Tulare County, where walnut orchards are being pulled, he said, choices for annual crops are limited, mostly to winter silage for dairy feed. Permanent crops, including almonds and pistachios are the most popular choices.

Glenn County walnut grower Leslie Nerli noted the time it takes to remove and clean up pulled orchard ground gives growers a chance to think about a possible new crop investment for the long term. Right now, she said those options for payback are very limited.

Tomatoes Are One Viable Option, but Land Prep Isn’t Cheap

Patricia Lazicki, UCCE vegetable crops advisor for Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties, reported walnut

prices are driving most orchard removals in those counties. For the most part, she said almonds or pistachios are being planted following orchard removals. She did note growers, where possible, are planting a lower-value crop for the first year, mostly small grains, before going with a permanent crop.

She reported in Sacramento Valley Walnut News that some growers who were removing walnuts did choose to plant processing tomatoes. While little formal research has been done for this crop option, tomato processors have weighed in with their observations.

Cannery representatives she spoke with said they have zero tolerance for woody material in the field and in incoming loads. Large root pieces and branches slow harvest machinery, and if the wood ends up at the processor, it has the potential to damage or clog processing machinery. Labor is needed to remove roots if not allowing a transition period of one to two years (there can be issues with harvest of tomatoes.) Leftover nuts in the ground can also cause

a load rejection. If detected as ‘material other than tomato,’ a big deduction for growers can be seen.

Lazicki said growers should consider another crop between the orchard removal and a tomato crop. Root removal should be a priority to ensure cleaner loads will be harvested. Other issues include preemergent herbicides that may have restrictions on plant back, making it important to check dates and products used. Nutrient tie-up has not been a problem when a field is well cleaned and the biomass removed.

She reported a large Yolo County farming operation with experience transitioning fields from walnuts to tomato warns it is an expensive undertaking, from pulling trees, to grinding and cleaning the ground. Higher yields can be achieved when the transition is done correctly.

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June 2024 www.wcngg.com 49
Debris from walnut trees must be removed by hand for planting preparation.


Nitrogen is the most important mineral nutrient in tree nut crop production. It can be absorbed as nitrate or ammonium by active roots. The key to sustainable pistachio N fertility is matching the amount and timing of N delivery to tree N use as excess N in the soil is easily lost from the root zone. If the N is not available in key application windows, yield can be lost. Therefore, spring and summer are key times for pistachio N management.

Matching Nitrogen Supply with Tree Demand

To reduce costs, maximize yield and minimize losses to the environment, matching tree N demand with N supply is essential. Therefore, when making fertilization decisions, growers need to

consider the different supplies of N as well as the demand for N due to tree growth and fruit production requirements. An understanding of all different N (re)sources (fertilizer, compost, cover crop, manure, irrigation water) and how N can be “lost” (run-off, leaching, etc.) in the orchard will help growers better make management decisions.

As previously stated, N is essential for a wide range of processes in tree production, such as growth of all annual (flowers, leaves and kernel) and perennial organs (branches, trunk and roots). However, the primary factor impacting N demand in pistachio trees 10 years and older is fruit yield. The industry’s understanding of the pattern and rate of N uptake from the soil is derived from a series of experiments conducted

in high-yielding orchards throughout California from 2008-11. Based on these trials, it is estimated with every 1,000 lbs. pistachio fruits produced (CPC yield), 28 lbs. N are exported from the field, and an additional amount of N is required to satisfy the trees’ annual growth demand (25 lbs. N per acre per year). Thus, potential yield estimation early in the season can have a significant impact on N management decisions.

Approaches to Improve Nitrogen Management

To achieve maximum productivity and to reduce N losses to the environment, close attention to the 4Rs (Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place and Right (re)Sources) is needed in all orchard fertility programs. Another way to think of it is that you need to TRAP the N in the soil:

• Time N application according to tree uptake patterns

• Identify/understand available N resources (fertilizers, composts, manure, cover crops, irrigation water)

• Apply the amount needed according to tree demand

• Place N to the tree’s active root zone

Following the 4Rs principle can be viewed as a balancing act with the goal of applying adequate N to supply tree demand for growth and fruit production. Fertilizer applications can be optimized, and considerable N losses can be reduced if N applications are matched with the actual tree N requirement. Ideally, N fertilizers should be applied at a rate and timing that are synchronized with the demand curve by using very frequent or even continuous fertigation as illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 1. The nitrogen cycle: A balancing act with the goal of applying adequate N to supply tree demand for growth and fruit production, and to avoid N losses to the environment (adapted from ABC N-BMP 2020 guidance.)
50 West Coast Nut June 2024

N status, and annual leaf testing is recommended. This is an important tool to measure the adequacy of the fertilization program and to diagnose nutrient deficiencies and toxicities. However, the current practice of sampling leaves in July is too late to allow for current-season adjustment of fertilization practice. As a result, a validated model for predicting July N levels from tissue samples taken earlier in the season has been developed and can effectively predict summer tissue values. For example, a 3% N tissue analysis 40 days after full bloom would predict that you would have 2.6% in July, a level sufficient to begin kernel filling. The model allows growers to assess the future N status of their orchards from late April and May tissue samples and can be found at fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/ files/208409.xls.

In the period from dormancy through early leaf-out, the tree depends almost fully on N that is remobilized from perennial organs, and practically no N uptake occurs from the soil. After flowering, during the period of leaf and fruit expansion, uptake from the soil starts while remobilization of N from perennial tissues continues. From full leaf expansion until early hull split, tree N demand is satisfied completely by soil N uptake. Following fruit maturity (hull split), tree N demand and root uptake decline quickly and stop completely as soon as leaves begin senescence. While fruit is developing, the rate of soil N uptake is directly determined by the yield of the tree. Even though the demand for N to support new tree growth is smaller than the demand for fruit development, the fertilization program should not only replace the nutrients removed in the fruits but also supply the nutrients for annual growth of the trees. N in flowers, leaves and perennial storage N is predominantly provided from internal and soil N recycling and, consequently, does not contribute to annual fertilizer N demand.

It is important to note all fertilization decisions will be influenced by local environment and must be adjusted accordingly. For example, in regions with rainfall that may persist well into leaf-out, application to the soil may be problematic. Also, in areas with substantial rainfall, growers must adopt practices that minimize the amount of N that resides in the soil at that time. Pre-harvest and postharvest foliar applications of N, as a substitute for soil applications, could be used to provide N to trees if yield and tissue sampling indicates a need.

Spring Leaf Sampling: Useful Tree Status Monitoring Tool

Determination of N concentration in leaves from the current season growth can also be useful in estimating tree

Recommended Sampling Criteria

Leaf sampling is valuable and provides information on the

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Figure 2. Nitrogen in pistachio trees during 'on' and 'off' years. Before leaf-out, little N was taken up and the trees relied on N remobilized from perennial tissue. In on years, approximately 30% of N was taken up during spring flush (mid-March to late May) and 70% during nut fill. N uptake was negligible between harvest and leaf senescence. In off years, the proportion of N taken up during spring flush was slightly higher.

Figure 3. Following the sampling protocol guidelines is important to get around the challenges of leaf sampling canopy variability (a). Each sampled tree must be at least 25 to 30 yards apart (b), and only sub-terminal leaves from non-fruiting branches should be collected (c).

status of the tree and the effectiveness of growers’ management decisions. Sampling can be conducted in mid-May to help predict seasonal N demand, while July sampling can be used to monitor plant N status and make end-of-year adjustments. For each orchard/block or sub-block that you wish to have individual information on, do the following:

• Collect sub-terminal leaves from non-fruiting branches.

• Collect leaves from 18 to 20 trees per orchard.

• In each tree, collect 10 leaves around the canopy from

well-exposed branches located between 5 to 7 feet from the ground.

• Combine all leaves in a single bag for submission to a reputable laboratory. Each sampled tree must be at least 25 to 30 yards apart. A minimum of 180 leaves per sample bag is required.

Nitrogen Management Plan

It is important to note leaf sampling alone does not provide sufficient information to make fertilizer recommendations. The recommended approach to N fertilization scheduling consists of the following steps and should be repeated for each orchard block:

• Conduct a pre-season estimate of expected yield, based on historic yield trends for each orchard, last year’s yield, winter chilling and spring flowering weather. Grower judgement and observation remain critical.

• Estimate annual inputs of N in irrigation water, manures, composts, fertilizers, etc.

• Calculate preliminary fertilization rates and timings and make first application of fertilizer in early to mid-spring (mid-May).

• Collect and analyze May leaf samples according to preceding instructions.

• Conduct in-season yield estimation (April to May).

• Adjust fertilization strategy for the remainder of year to reflect May leaf and yield estimates.

Too Much of a Good Thing

While it is always important to ensure sufficient N supply for optimum growth and yield, it is equally important we do not assume more is better. N is the nutrient most often abused in terms of this ‘more-on’ approach. Adding high levels of N to the soil early in the season will not result in greater plant uptake unless the tree is deficient. In addition, excess N can cause several problems; when N is overapplied, it negatively affects the uptake of other nutrients and can also cause excessive growth rather than production.

N management plays an important role in determining your bottom line so ensure you manage this nutrient well to keep tree performance, production and fruit quality up as well as costs down. Some approaches that can be adopted to minimize risks and optimize N use include applying N to meet tree demand according to tree uptake patterns. For this, an efficient irrigation system is essential; fertilizers must be present in the root system where they are most likely to be used by the tree.

In summary, an efficient management of N requires that every orchard that differs in age, soil, environment or productivity should be sampled and managed independently. Every individual orchard must have a specific N management plan; there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.

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Table 1. Nitrogen application timing. Table 2. Nitrogen concentrations in summer leaf samples.
52 West Coast Nut June 2024


No longer secondary pests in orchards, large bug species that cause crop loss and damage are posing more challenges as tree nut growers strive to deliver a quality crop. Stink bugs and leaffooted bugs (LFB) were secondary pests in orchards. However, with the transition to softer chemistries, they have now become primary pests that cause damage directly to the fruit and crop loss.

Green stink bugs, brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) and LFB are becoming serious problems for tree nut growers due to their broad host range, high mobility, ability to directly damage the crop, changes in chemical use and difficulty to control. Costs to monitor these pests and apply insecticides affect the bottom line.

The crop damage toll is found on processor grade sheets. Using their piercing-sucking mouth parts, these pests are inflicting both early season crop loss seen as nut drop and late-season kernel damage (brown spot) that shows up in processing. Lauren Fann, Almond Board’s senior pest management specialist, said these pests can cause crop damage in all mobile life stages.

Without effective lures or traps to determine if pest stink bugs are present in the orchard, damage levels in last year’s crop, presence of host plants near orchards and visual observation are recommended. The first step is correctly identifying the pest and hosts that might be boarding your orchard.

1. Identification

Adult LFB are the easiest to identify with their distinctive hind leg leaf structure. These hemipterans are large and easy to spot as adults, but when in the nymphal stage may be harder to identify. Nymph bodies can range in color from orange to reddish brown, and the leaf-like hind leg does not develop in the early instars. That changes in the late instars when their bodies change to a dark brown color. LFB eggs are laid in chains on branches, leaves or peduncles of host plants. This pest is found all over the Central Valley.

BMSB are identified by the white bands on antennae and legs. Adult bodies are about ¾ inch in length and brown. Nymphs are nearly the same shape but are wingless. The invasive

The predatory rough stink bug is a faded grey or dull color and does not have mouthparts like the brown marmorated stink bug (photo by Richard E. Rice, courtesy UC Statewide IPM Program.)
54 West Coast Nut June 2024

BMSB is found mainly in the northern San Joaquin Valley.

Green stink bugs adults are bright green with yellow margins around the thorax and abdomen. Early instars are black and white with red bands. Later instars are green and black with some red coloration. Eggs are barrel-shaped and laid on the underside of leaves in a cluster.

UCCE IPM Specialist Jhalendra Rijal said these pest species should not be confused with the predatory rough stink bug, which is a faded grey or dull color and does not have mouthparts like the pest species. Close inspection of stink bugs shows their piercing stylet.

2. Phenology

The biological life cycles of pest stink bugs are important to recognize.

BMSB overwinter as adults in aggregations outside of orchards. They can be found in sheltered areas of buildings or debris piles or eucalyptus stands during the winter. When this pest emerges in the spring they mate and deposit eggs on the

underside of the leaves of a host plant.

Adults are also looking for food sources, Fann said, and as nuts develop on the trees, they move from adjacent hosts into orchards. Rijal said feeding may begin at fruit set and can continue throughout the growing season with adults and nymphs present at the same time. Prior to shell hardening, the feeding is destructive, causing fruit drop. Feeding after shell hardening results in gumming and dark spots on the kernel. Pinholes, water-soaked lesions and necrotic spots are signs of internal feeding.

LFB also overwinter as adults, emerge from shelter in the spring and begin looking for food. They move into orchards as temperatures rise. LFB produce two generations per year. Rijal said the overwintering adults that move into orchards in the spring cause the most economic damage.

Green stink bugs do overwinter in orchards, then move into orchards during the summer. Populations are slow to increase.

3. Monitoring

If there is a history of stink bug or LFB damage in an orchard, Rijal recommends visual sampling for both stink bug life stages and damaged nuts. There are no commercially available lure/trap combinations for LFB or green stink bugs, but BMSB activity can be determined with a trap and lure that attracts both nymphs and adults. Rijal said these traps should be placed in the border row facing the most likely overwintering site.

Regular scouting for LFB should be done on the sunny side of the tree on edges to detect adults. They are often in higher branches. Stink bugs are highly mobile; adults are strong fliers and nymphs can walk long distances to get to food sources, Fann said. Gummosis, nut drop and cutting into nuts to see if they have been pierced by LFB or stink bug mouth parts is advised. Rijal said beat trays held under tree branches can be used to determine if stink bug populations are building in an orchard. There are no economic thresholds determined



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Without effective lures or traps to determine if pest stink bugs are present in the orchard, damage levels in last year’s crop, presence of host plants near orchards and visual observation are recommended.

for stink bug numbers, but orchard history and signs of nut damage can be used to determine if control measures should be taken.

There is an aggregation pheromone lure for BMSB. It attracts all mobile life stages and can attract other species of stink bugs. UC researchers, including Professor of Entomology Jocelyn Millar and IPM Specialist Houston Wilson, have been working on a lure/trap combo for LFB.

4. Biological Control

Rijal said there are several predators and parasites in orchards that can keep bug numbers below a certain level. An egg parasite can keep LFB populations under control during the summer. There are chewing, piercing and sucking insect species that prey on stink bugs. Rough stink bug, big eye bug and leafhopper assassin bug are among predators that attack pest stink bugs. Daddy long legs and lacewing larvae are also

Removal of overwintering sites, including woodpiles and trees that harbor brown marmorated stink bug (eucalyptus, juniper, cypress and tree of heaven), is recommended (photo by

listed predators. Parasitoid wasps attack stink bug eggs. A list of additional natural enemies can be found on UC IPM’s natural enemies gallery.

Aside from predators, Fann noted management practices that can help cut down on pest populations. Removal of overwintering sites, including woodpiles and trees that harbor LFB and BMSB (eucalyptus, juniper, cypress and tree of heaven), is recommended.

5. Insecticide Control

Not having economic thresholds for damage by stink bugs and LFB makes it difficult to choose pesticide applications. By the time adult numbers build up, crop damage is likely to have already occurred.

Rijal recommends following the UC IPM guidelines for stink bug and LFB for specific insecticide rates and the potential impacting beneficial insect populations. If scouting shows LFB activity in the spring, a one-time spray may be effective. Overlapping generations of BMSB may require more applications.

For all true bugs, pyrethroids and neonicotinoids are considered effective but are likely to impact natural enemy populations.

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Karey Windbiel-Rojas, courtesy UC Statewide IPM Program.)
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Alink between an aggressive wood decay fungus and crown gall in almond trees is being studied by a team of UCCE advisors. Almond orchards in Kings, Tulare, Kern and Madera counties have experienced tree loss due to Ganoderma adspersum where high incidence of crown gall was reported. Plant pathologists suspect that the crown gall, caused by the bacterium Agrobacteri-

um tumefaciens, may predispose trees to the decay fungus.

Elizabeth Fichtner, UCCE plant pathologist and advisor in Tulare and Kings counties, said crown gall infections may be present years before a tree becomes infected with Ganoderma. The theory is crown gall creates an infection court (a technical term for the opening that allows the fungus an opportunity to infect the tree).

Almond growers in these San Joaquin Valley counties have been aware of this wood decay fungus since 2016. While there are four known species of Ganoderma in California, the G. adspersum species is most aggressive in young trees and appears more prevalent on Nemaguard rootstock. This disease spreads by spores in the air which are released by large conks growing at the base of the tree. The

58 West Coast Nut June 2024

fungal disease can be present in the tree for as many as five years before signs of the conks appear. Meanwhile, the wood decay fungus goes undetected as it weakens the tree.

G. adspersum fungus destroys almond trees from the inside out by rotting the wood at the base of the tree. Other signs of infection are a less dense canopy, a later-than-nor mal bloom, shallow root systems and flat strips on the trunk.

Crown gall bacteria survive in gall tissue and in soil. This disease is most damaging in young trees. According to Almond Board of California (ABC), most peach-almond hybrid rootstocks are very susceptible to crown gall.

Crown Gall Bacteria Invades

Cliff Beumel with Agromillora California Nursery said crown gall is a very distinctive disease in almonds. As the scientific name implies, Agrobacterium tumefaciens produces tumors where bacteria have invaded the tissue through an opening caused by wounding or from nat ural causes like growth cracks. The soil around the gall or tumor contains a higher level of the bacteria, and any equipment or water moving from there can spread the disease. He said the bacterium does not move systemically to a very limited extent in an infected tree but can cause galls to appear in different locations once initially infect ed with crown gall.

Potted nursery trees are popular with growers who want to avoid early crown gall infections in a new orchard,

Beumel said. These trees are grown in a substrate and do not have contact with soil until planted. When planting, opening for disease. Beumel said fields are fumigated with methyl bromide to eliminate soil pathogens present before

Starting with clean soil is the first step in establishing an orchard, Beumel said. Research done by UC did show fumigation with methyl bromide killed much of the crown gall

soil disinfestation has been used in their bareroot nursery

research data from the state nematologist, performed at the fumigation for nematode and other pathogen suppression.

from conks through the air in an orchard. Postharvest irri-

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Fichtner said it is unclear how long it takes for conks to develop on trees after infection. A study is underway to determine how fast the conks regrow after they are removed. She noted that of conks removed from trees in December, 10% regrew by March and 20% had regrown by April. The conks that regrew formed on new places on the tree and not in the location where the old conks were excised.

At the trial site, Fichtner said about one third of the trees have a documented history of conks, but believes this is an underestimation of the real level of disease incidence in the orchard because the trees may be infected before the conks (also called fruiting bodies) appear. She added there does not seem to be any pattern to the infections other than Ganoderma being more prevalent on trees that had crown gall.

Studies conducted at UC Davis suggest stem infections with crown gall do not alter a tree’s susceptibility

to future infection with G. adspersum.

Fichtner, along with UCCE Farm Advisors Mohammad Yaghmour and Raymond Mireles, began their study of this disease interaction in February. More than 6,000 trees were surveyed across two orchards and rated for incidence of crown gall and Ganoderma. Both orchards are planted on Nemaguard rootstock and include Nonpariel, Monterey and Fritz varieties. Fichter noted in her Tulare County Programmatic News that results of the statistical analysis indicate a significant association between the two diseases on all varieties in both orchards. She said for each incidence of crown gall, the probability of infection with G. adspersum increased by more than 80 times across all varieties in both orchards.

Conks growing on almond trees. UCCE Farm Advisor Elizabeth Fichtner, along with UCCE Farm Advisors Mohammad Yaghmour and Raymond Mireles, began their study of Ganoderma adspersum and crown gall interaction in February. More than 6,000 trees were surveyed across two orchards and rated for incidence of crown gall and Ganoderma. Both orchards are planted on Nemaguard rootstock and include Nonpariel, Monterey and Fritz varieties (all photos by R. Mirele.)

As part of their research, Fichtner, Yaghmour and Mireles are also trying to determine if a phosphite treatment can help affected almond trees. Phosphite products induce plant defense responses to pathogens, preventing disease, not curing. In their study, they are testing the use of KPhite® 7LP, a Plant Food Company, Inc. product, for prevention of disease spread in orchards. This product is known to control other plant diseases such as Botryosphaeria and Phytophthora. Fichtner said it can be applied to trees as a foliar treatment or delivered with fertigation. In the trial, she said the foliar application is being done on the Nonpareil and fertigation on the Fritz and Monterey varieties when the trees are actively growing.

She said they will also be evaluating the response of phosphite treatments on the rate of fruiting body or conk regrowth and hope to identify control measures growers can take to mitigate the effects of these diseases.

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60 West Coast Nut June 2024

Inoculate Soil Year-Round to Build Up Long-Term Defense

We get busy. Full stop. Life happens, and it’s June. Every year, I look back now and take account of all the things I could have done better. I often think, “What got in the way of getting everything done in a reasonable fashion and at a reasonable timeframe?” Again, life.

At 52 years old I decided it would be a great idea to go back to school to get my master’s in business administration. I help run the fertilizer company I work for and felt I needed to greatly enhance my ability to wade through the depths of all things finance and business. After realizing putting this on my plate may be a huge piece of my inability to get all things done in a timely manner, I come across a quote in a business learning module that brought me right back to ag: “A tree grows in two directions at the same time.” Profound, right? So many times, we forget that piece of the puzzle.

I try to do my part to talk about the importance of the continual effort to improve soil health. Our land wasn’t meant to be monocultured or chemically inoculated to control unwanted aspects of doing just that. We kill bugs, we kill fungus, we kill weeds, all while trying to grow a crop. The parts we don’t see, the roots, are affected by all these practices, and sometimes we kill those. In addition, overapplication of specific nutrients and water can be just

as effective in killing those roots and soil biology, or severely stunting them as the “cides” we apply. So, what can we do in June to help alleviate that?

Let’s increase our diligence in beneficial applications of symbiotic augmentations. We know that carbon can have a significant impact on soil health. Humic and fulvic acids have been added more and more in recent years to help eliminate the middleman in waiting for traditional soil amendments to turn into more stable and complexing carbon derivatives. But what about other beneficial acids? We add citric acid to our spray tanks, why not the ground? Do yourself a favor and spend a little more time than an article like this can highlight and do some of your own research.

Malic acid is made by all living things and gives some fruit that sour taste. It has very profound beneficial effects. Lactobionic acid is a larger molecule produced by living organisms and can have a solid antistress and antioxidant effect on plants. Gluconic acid produced mainly by pseudomonas species can have a profound effect on solubilizing phosphates. The salt that’s a byproduct of gluconic acid, gluconate, is a great chelator and helps with the uptake of micronutrients. That’s a triple bang for your buck. More carbon, better phosphate and micronutrient

assimilation? Sign me up. We create lactic acid when we burn carbohydrates in our bodies. So do yeasts in our soil. Lactic acids have been proven to increase growth and yields, increase water holding capacity and improve soil structure. Win, win, win. And the list goes on.

So, what’s the point? We may not have gotten all aspects of farming right so far this year. Mother Nature has a way of changing that every year as well. Why not hedge your bet that biological activity in the parts of the tree you can’t see are keeping us on track and will help next year’s crop while finishing this one? Increase the soil health; inoculating your soil throughout the year with active biology will help keep it propagating even after we have applied our cides to knock back any undesirables. Full disclosure: That’s what I do. The company I work for has been doing just that for almost 40 years. Back when it was snake oil and not the latest and greatest thing you could do for your crops, we came full circle. Here's even better news: There are a lot of companies out there that are now fully invested in increasing soil health by a plethora of practices. We can add carbon sources: sugars, fats, oils, composts, green waste, mulch and manures. We can add strains of mycorrhizae, yeasts, bacteria, algaes and beneficial fungi.

62 West Coast Nut June 2024

We can add beneficial predatory bugs to our fields to reduce the use of pesticides.

The better our soil’s health, the better our crops and the better we look as growers. Even when we are off on our applications, those cooks in the kitchen help stabilize and optimize our other inputs, making us more efficient. The benefits are often not measured by what we can see, but what is happening beneath that foliage. Since we are always growing from two directions, don’t neglect the part that’s pushing roots. That is the foundation of everything we seek to get the benefits from. When life gets in the way, sometimes we can fix that by adding just a little more, well, life.

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Beneficial acids act as a middle man to help soil amendments do their job.
[pesticides] to knock back any undesirables.
Increase the soil health; inoculating your soil throughout the year with active biology will help keep it propagating even after we have
Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com
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A Northern Tree Nut Perspective for June

The almond crop subjective forecast is for a big crop (3 billion pounds), a 21% jump from 2023. With the crop potential set in each orchard, the focus is now on delivering the best quality crop possible with a tight budget. The good news is with good winter rains and clean surface water available, almonds are in a much better water situation than two years ago, so chances of good kernel size and reduced mite pressure are higher.

Almonds Water

Careful attention to soil and/or tree moisture is critical for good nut growth while maintaining good root health (not too much root zone moisture). For growers with access to pressure chamber monitoring (the gold standard of irrigation management), the sweet spot for minimal water stress without excessive root zone moisture is one to

two bars below baseline in early June. Sustained summer water stress reduces kernel size and risks higher mite pressure. During the second half of June, growers may want to consider changing irrigation practices ahead of hull split. Here’s an overview of an important practice that may (or may not) work for a particular grower.

Growers with the monitoring and irrigation system capacity/flexibility to micromanage irrigation can fine-tune irrigation to even up hull split and produce a timelier harvest. Sometimes called strategic deficit irrigation (SDI), this approach is worth considering but should be approached cautiously. The stakes are high. Underirrigation for long stretches during the summer can cost growers reduced kernel size at harvest. Not all growers, or even all orchards farmed by one grower, are a good fit for this practice. Please read The Almond

Doctor’s great article on whether deficit irrigation is right for you.

In theory, this is how SDI works in mature bearing almonds. It’s a bit like driving through a tight turn; ease into it using the brakes while backing off on the gas, then return to cruising speed after making the turn. In this case, the ‘turn’ is the onset of hull split. At no time should irrigation stop during this process; stopping in a turn is asking for a wreck. Instead, irrigation should just be reduced while tree stress is monitored with a pressure chamber (or automated measuring device such as FloraPulse). In the second half of June, heading into hullsplit, easing from low (one to two bars below baseline) into mild stress (2 to 4 bars under baseline) can help the trees feather into hull split. Once hull split starts, further back off moisture to maintain moderate to high stress (14 to 18 bars; 2 to 10 bars below baseline

Timely harvest can start when the last of the nuts in the tree reach Stage 2C (pictured). This is when the hull can be “popped” open by squeezing the ends. Shaking at 100% hull split before third-generation NOW egg laying should dramatically reduce damage compared with shaking after egg laying starts (photos by Clarissa Reyes and Luke Milliron, UCCE.)
64 West Coast Nut June 2024

depending on the weather) for just two weeks then increase irrigations to return orchard pressure chamber readings to no less than 2 to 4 bars below baseline (ease into hull split and return to cruising speed (low stress) heading toward harvest.) If the orchard is under moderate to high stress during nut drying (after hull split to shake), significant kernel size and income will be lost. Making this turn can help prep the orchard for a more uniform hull split, which is important in a year with heavy navel orangeworm (NOW) pressure, like this year...


Mating disruption (MD), when applied as a seasonlong program, reduces NOW damage by 50%. In a high-pressure year, MD will pay for itself when processor insect damage reports are 1% or more.

Low crop quality in a low-price year is doubly painful. To help deliver a high-quality crop and get maximum possible income from what could be another low-price year, growers should pay particular attention to ant and NOW control. The two pests are really a package deal. For the best NOW management, ants need to be controlled, too.

The focus on delivering a high-quality crop doesn’t necessarily mean spending more money than in previous years, but it does mean making sure that what is done is done right. Harvest nuts at 100% hull split ahead of third-generation NOW egg laying. Get ant bait down on dry ground at proper timing. Get careful hull split sprays on early. Monitor carefully for spider mites and their predators.

The key to delivering the best-quality Nonpareil crop is harvesting before egg laying begins for the third generation of NOW, which should begin in early August about 1800 degree days after first biofix. Beating the third generation may mean shaking nuts earlier (greener) than would normally be done for growers focused on the inshell market, and this means longer drying time on the orchard floor. The longer nuts sit drying on the orchard floor, the more vulnerable they are to ant damage, and this is why ant control is key to NOW control (why go to all the hassle/cost of a timely harvest for NOW control when the nuts get chewed up by ants while drying?)

Monitor for protein-feeding ants. Ant baits are very effective, although application timing and control length vary with product. Depending on the bait product, application can be as early as six to eight weeks before harvest (shake) or just two weeks ahead of shaking. Ant baits work well as the protein-eating pest ants are attracted to the soybean oil in the product. But rancid soybean oil is not attractive to ants. Open bags of ant bait means rancid soybean oil in one to two weeks. For best results, use ant bait soon after purchasing. Don’t apply bait to wet ground as it will degrade. Wait 24 hours after irrigating to apply bait, and don’t apply within 48 hours before irrigation. Circle the calendar, put an alarm on your phone, but don’t let ant control (where needed) slip your mind as the rush of preharvest gets going.

Give ant baits enough time to work. For example, Clinch and Extinquish are 0 PHI materials but really do need to go on a full four weeks ahead of shaking so once in the ant nest

the material acts on the whole population. Apply either of those products (or Esteem ant bait) too close to harvest and damage control will suffer. In comparison, Altrevin works fast but for shorter lengths of time.

Navel orangeworm: The best possible NOW management is achieved by practicing “the first and the last” program. The initial hull split spray should go on when the first sound (not blank) nuts just begin to split inside the orchard. These nuts are always in the tops of the trees. Earlier timing is better than later for NOW control. Timely harvest can start when the last of the nuts in the tree reach Stage 2C. This is when the hull can be “popped” open by squeezing the ends. The nuts close to the ground are the last to reach this stage. Shaking at 100% hull split before third-generation NOW egg laying should dramatically reduce damage compared with shaking after egg laying starts. The longer into the third generation shaking occurs, the more damage should be expected. Yes, more of the crop will need to be cracked out and inshell premium lost. However, it may be clean meats pay more than wormy inshell deliveries. Now, June, is the time to talk with your processor and PCA about delivery options and the steps needed to get the best results.


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Night spraying avoids evaporation for best coverage (photo by F. Niederholzer.)

Hull split insecticide sprays protect the new crop from NOW. Complete control is not possible, but spraying can reduce damage at least 50% when done properly. Spray practices that improve control in dense, heavily cropped orchards include slow tractor speed (more time for the sprayer fan to move spray throughout the tree), higher spray volume (150 to 200 gallons per acre) and night spraying (less spray evaporation). These are proven practices. Longer residual products such as Intrepid or Altacor provide the best control from hull split to harvest without flaring mites. The first spray should go on at the earliest sign of splitting of sound nuts and then as quickly as possible. The target nuts of the first spray are in the tree tops, where aerial application can deliver good coverage.

Mating disruption (MD), when applied as a season-long program, reduces NOW damage by 50%. In a high-pressure year, MD will pay for itself when processor insect damage reports are 1% or more. While sprayable NOW pheromone is commercially available, in UC research, the puffers and rubber strip products have been the effective treatments.

Don’t forget spider mites in the focus on NOW and ants. Continue to monitor spider mite populations and their predators. New information on monitoring six-spotted thrips, the new key predator for spider mites, is available. Given the good water situation in many orchards, a good predator population may mean miticide application at hull split is not needed. This decision

must be made on a block-by-block basis. Stink bugs can be another source of crop quality loss. “Brown spot” off grade is caused by bug feeding after shell hardening. Talk with your PCA about scouting options. The only effective control for stink bugs is pyrethroids, so know for sure a problem exists before using this disruptive (but effective) insecticide. Not all stinkbugs cause damage.

Disease: The key timing for hull rot (Rhizopus; black bread mold) management matches with the first hull split timing for NOW. Talk with your PCA about materials and rates if a particular orchard has a history of hull rot or if humidity levels indicate the chance for increased hull rot. See the UC IPM publication on Fungicide Efficacy and Timing for additional information.


By June 1, nitrogen use by the crop is tailing off while potassium demand is still steady. A quick leaf sample will show the relative N and K status of the orchard ahead of the usual July sampling window. If leaf levels are below what is “adequate” in July, some additional fertilizer may be advisable. For N, any extra should be balanced with hull rot concerns.


Shaking is still a couple months away, but there is value in planning ahead for harvest. A preharvest checkup with an experienced mechanic/technician may avoid costly breakdowns during crunch time later this summer.


Mark your calendar for 1) leaf sampling in July, 2) nut quality sampling when the nuts are drying (just before windrowing) and 3) hull samples for boron from the windrows just before pickup.


Irrigate and fertilize to maintain orchard and crop health wherever possible. Use a pressure chamber to manage irrigation without excessive water. Deficit irrigation in walnut is not advisable, but neither is overirrigation. June is the second month of the 25-25-

25-25 program for N fertilization of walnut. One quarter of the orchard N need should be applied in June.

Husk fly traps should be up by June 1. Codling moth traps and mite management should be monitored weekly. I’m hearing reports of elevated early codling moth trap catches. Also, given the nut price, walnuts are a good place to utilize biological control for spider mites. See the link for six-spotted thrips monitoring in the references.

All the best as the summer sets in.


Subjective almond forecast: nass.usda. gov/Statistics_by_State/California/ Publications/Specialty_and_Other_Releases/Almond/


Pressure chamber

What is baseline? youtube.com/ watch?v=F1xwJVAyQ3A sacvalleyorchards.com/manuals/ stem-water-potential/advanced-swp-interpretation-in-almond/

Using the pressure chamber for nuts and prunes: anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Details. aspx?itemNo=8503#FullDescription

The Almond Doctor thealmonddoctor.com/regulated-deficit-irrigation-application/ thealmonddoctor.com/irrigating-almonds-through-the-summer/


Ants: ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/almond/ants/

Spider mites: ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/ almond/webspinning-spider-mites

Monitoring six-spotted thrips for mite managing: youtube.com/ watch?v=ufJ4VCa-IFI

Navel orangeworm: ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/almond/navel-orangeworm/ Brown Marmorated Stink Bug: youtube. com/watch?v=fc2qv7YtaWU

Fungicide efficiacy and timing (at the bottom of the page): ipm.ucanr.edu/ agriculture/

Harvest timing: sacvalleyorchards.com/ blog/almonds-blog/when-do-you-shake/

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

66 West Coast Nut June 2024

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