Off to a faster start than last year’s-weather delayed crop, Greg Markarian’s 280 acres of almond trees near Fresno, Calif., have been developing at their usual pace.
His Nonpareil crop appears a little light, he says, which probably reflects less than ideal conditions during pollination.
“They bloomed earlier than our pollinators and got the brunt of the cooler temperatures and rains at that time,” he says. “The weather had warmed up by the time pollination started in the hard shell varieties, like Carmel and Aldrich, and they have a pretty good crop now.”
Erratic bloom following last year’s big crop also contributed to this year’s light Nonpareil set. “We just didn’t get the fruit wood this year,“ Markarian says.
Spider mite numbers in the Markarian orchards have been lower than normal for several seasons, but that could change following arrival of the season’s first 100-degree temperatures in mid-June. High heat can stress the trees and encourage mite activity, he says.
“We’re starting to see them. Most of our tres are pretty vigorous and healthy, with no areas where mites are troublesome. The populations will pick up between now and the end of July; then we’ll spray as needed.”
Diseases pressure has also been low this season, he says, in contrast to 2011, when a wet spring encouraged fungal growth in his trees. “We’ve gotten off really easy this year, and have only had to apply one or two bloom sprays,” Markarian says.
All his almond trees are drip irrigated with well water, as are just about all of his 120 acres of raisin grapes, except for one vineyard that gets ditch water. This year, he says, his allocation of surface water has been reduced to about one-third of what he received last year.
To offset high potassium prices, he’s been holding off on applications of that nutrient. “It has become really expensive,” he says. “Five or six years ago, the price more than tripled, but it has gone up only about 5 percent in the last year or two. It’s our biggest fertilizer cost. Sooner or later, I’ll have to step up to the plate to get potassium levels where they need to be.”
Markarian’s optimistic about this year’s almond crop and the industry outlook. “Other than the cost of fertilizer, I don’t hear many growers complaining,” he says. “Everything is upbeat — all of agriculture is looking good these days.”