Even though the crop was running about two weeks behind usual at the beginning of August, Madera County farmer Chris Cardella was encouraged by the way his almonds were developing.
“The trees look nice and healthy and have a good crop on them,” he says. “Based on the size and number of nuts I’m seeing, I think yields will be about 5 percent higher than last year.”
Now in his 11th season of growing almonds, Cardella’s 300 acres of trees near Firebaugh, Calif., include Nonpareil and the later-maturing Aldrich, Butte, Padre and Monterey varieties.
Starting when 10 percent of the Nonpareil hulls had opened, he completed his first hull split spray the last day of July.Up to that point, pressure from navel orangeworm had been light.
He’ll follow with two more sprays at two-week intervals to help protect the nuts as hull split begins on the other varieties. Except for navel orangeworm, he’s had no other insect concerns this season.
Mites haven’t been a problem, either. Following a trial in one of his fields, he replaced chemical treatments to control mites with predatory mites eight years ago. Each season, starting in February and continuing through the summer, Cardella replenishes the stock of predatory mites on a weekly basis. “Right now, the orchards are very clean of mites,” he says.
Normally, his trees get about a fourth of their annual nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium needs in May. However, anticipating a larger crop that last year, he bumped that up by 10 percent. As usual, he made his first fertigation for the new crop last October, when he supplied the trees with about a fourth of their annual needs. He applied the remaining amount in the spring, up until May.
Cardella first saw some rust in his orchards this year in May, and since then, he’s treated the trees twice with fungicides to control the disease.
“It’s still in the trees,” he says. “This is one of those seasons when rust has been hard to stop. It’s not pretty— leaves are falling off because of it, but I don’t think it will affect yields.”
During the first part of August, he’ll be running a float through row middles to smooth them out prior to harvest. He expects to start shaking Nonpareil trees around Aug. 25.