Hive strength vital for yield
“For short bloom cycles, bee hive count and hive strength are imperative for high yield. Some growers say their young trees exhibited a higher set than older, larger trees, because bees had a smaller volume of trees to deal with.
“Colony strength was a key factor this season. Blocks where colonies averaged above 12 frames have a record crop, while growers with colonies that were split into less than an eight frame average prior to being moved into the orchard had a fair nut set.”
Coleman agrees with Akel that the overall crop set may not measure up, but Nonpareil nut and even California varieties are large nuts.
“Carmels are as big as you’d expect Nonpareil to be this time of year, and the Nonpareil nut is huge. I expect what I may lack in set, I should make up on tonnage,” he predicted.
Kelley said the large nuts are very desirable on the marketing side of the equation.
“Some growers say a short bloom makes a better crop. I have had long blooms in the past and have been disappointed,” he said.
Coleman says overall, “the crop is okay … nothing to write home about, but with the current price structure we will be fine.”
Coleman does all his spraying and mowing. “When you are driving a tractor, you just keep on going and don’t really pay that much attention to the crop size. However, when you walk the orchard, it looks different,” he said.
Oddly enough, the best way to evaluate crop size is at night.
Older growers told Coleman that when you shine a light on the trees at night the nuts glow silver and separate themselves from the leaves. “You can really get a better idea of how many nuts are on the trees at night,” he commented.
Kelley said his board recently estimated the crop the association will hull and shell this year at 70 million pounds, about 5 percent more than last year.
The association with plants in Kerman and Sanger is the largest almond huller/sheller in the world.
The crop is late due to the cold weather, but Coleman and Kelley said it could make up the week it is behind with a hot summer, “that is what the weatherman is predicting.”
Coleman has been farming for 30 years. He has three orchards, eight, six and four years old. “It is my second go-round with trees. I took out two orchards that were 26 and 31 years old and replaced them with new trees.” One new orchard was not in trees previously.
His pollinators are Carmel, Butte and Padre. He would select Monterey instead of Carmel to do it over. Although Carmels are a good pollinator, they suffer from what is called crazy top, dead limbs on top of individual trees.
“You get a lot of crazy top in dry years, and we have had dry years for the past two to three years before this spring,” he said. “You can have one good Carmel tree right next to one with crazy top. It’s genetic. It does not make a lot of sense.”
Coleman is pleased with the growth of his young orchards. He attributes it to a Simplot fertilizer blend, 21-7-14. “Almonds are a big user of nitrogen, but they need the other elements. I attribute a lot of the strong growth on my young trees to that.”