Almond grower and PCA Dave Loquaci, with Madera Ag Services, Madera, Calif., is finished with winter work in his almond orchards and now is awaiting full bloom.
“There seems to be a lot of buds that have swelled well,” he says.
Farther north, in Merced County, University of California Cooperative Extension Pomology Farm Advisor David Doll is also expecting a good almond bloom.
“We’ve had a nice accumulation of chilling hours,” he says. “If warming weather holds, we should have an uneventful, compact bloom.”
As chilling hours build over the winter, he explains, the difference in bloom times among almond varieties tends to diminish, resulting in a shorter overall bloom period.
A longer bloom makes it difficult insure effective fungicide coverage. Also, the more extended the bloom, the greater the chance of rain-induced fungal diseases.
Increasingly, more growers are discovering the benefits of using the relatively new insect growth regulators to control peach twig borer, Doll notes. They’re more expensive than traditional broad spectrum insecticides, but unlike broad spectrum materials, for the most part they target only the problem pests, which include peach twig borer, navel orangeworm (NOW) and oriental fruit moth, while having less effect on beneficial bugs.
“University of California research, concluded a few years ago, shows that applying these insect growth regulators along with the traditional bloom spray can be just as effective in controlling peach twig borer as treating those trees in May,” he says.
That could eliminate the expense of another trip through the orchard. Further, it will provide the flexibility to delay the May spray to match the emerging populations of NOW, offering another spray timing option for controlling the pest.
He cautions growers against becoming too complacent about current soil moisture levels this year.
“We got lucky with weather fronts from the north that gave us the rains earlier this winter. But that doesn’t mean we won’t have high temperatures this spring or summer. So, it would be prudent to keep to your irrigation schedule from the early part of March and into April.”
Many growers fall behind in their irrigations during this period, thinking the trees don’t use much water early in the season, Doll says. His advice: Take some time to check soil moisture levels then and assess how your trees are doing.
“Early-season water management can help alleviate possible problems later in the year,” he says. “It’s something to think about.”