What is in this article?:
- Sensible inputs vital for almond grower Chuck Dirkse
- Making every drop count
- A lesson in worm control
- Chuck Dirkse has adopted a wide range of almond production practices designed to improve the long-term sustainability and productivity of his farm.
Chuck Dirkse in one of LaMancha Orchards almond blocks near Denair, Calif.
A lesson in worm control
Timely application of insecticides when populations have reached threatening levels has helped keep his two major insect pests -- navel orangeworm and peach twig borer – under control, Dirkse notes.
As a result of last year’s unusually high navel orangeworm pressure, 0he plans to start his NOW hull split sprays a little earlier than he has before. Also, he’ll change the way he sprays the trees. In the past, he’s treated the individual rows of trees. That takes several days before he finishes up by spraying the ends and edges of the field. Now, he’ll start on the outside and then work his way up and down the rows. This will give him a head start on the pests, he explains, since the moths move from the borders to the interior of the orchard as they lay their eggs in the spring.
“Last year, the majority of worms we found during harvest were on the ends and borders of the fields.”
Drilling for Water
This past winter, though, his overwhelming concern has centered on water – will he have enough for his trees this season as the drought continues, following California’s driest year in 119 years of record keeping? With no access to any surface water, even if it was available, he depends entirely on his wells to irrigate his trees.
This past winter, with little rain falling on his orchards, he was irrigating the trees about once a week. “I try to simulate rainfall over the winter so that the soil profile is moist enough to support a good bloom,” he says. “That’s when they need a lot of water to push petals and leaves.”
In January, water levels in his wells were in good shape, Dirkse reports. However, he plans to deepen one of his wells and replace another, which is 60 years old, in an attempt to reach cleaner water.
“Everyone I’ve talked to indicates they’ll be putting in new wells this year,” he says. “Even with the existing wells, the water table normally drops during the season as the weather warms and the trees’ water needs increase. As other growers drill new wells, my fear is that there won’t be enough water for everyone. I wake up at night wondering what I should do.”
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