The strange growing season for Peart included only two days above 100 degrees this summer; instead 80s to low 90s were the norm. Three rain events totaling less than one-half inch in late August and September delayed the harvest even more.

“A rain front that moves through the west side of the Sacramento Valley is usually followed by several days of north winds which dry things up,” Peart said. “Instead the rain was followed by cool 70 and 80 degree weather with heavy dew each morning. It made for a long process to dry the nuts to take to the huller line.”

To accelerate the drying process, Peart attached a conditioner implement to the harvester to remove sticks and lay the nuts in a 3-foot band down the center of the tree row. The conditioner was purchased several years ago from Thomas Manufacturing Co. in Chico, Calif.

“Drying conditions for the almonds were less than ideal,” Peart said. The conditioner helped improve the drying process.”

On the pest and disease side, overall pressures were low on the Peart ranch. A miticide program with Agri-Mek provided good control. A first-ever fungicide application in July with the product Quash controlled alternaria, scab, and rust.

Soils on the Peart operation vary from sandy clay loam to clay loam. The average tree age is eight years; from two years to 15 years. Row spacing is 22 feet apart with 15 or 18 feet between the trees depending on the variety and soil.

Peart is slowly changing from the Lovell rootstock to the Krymsk rootstock due to high winds in the Sacramento Valley. A severe wind storm in the spring of 2008 destroyed about 2,000 Padre and Butte trees on Lovell rootstock on the Peart ranches; three quarter of the trees in one orchard.

Irrigation water use this year averaged 2.5 acre feet/acre, compared to 3 acre feet in 2009, due mostly to the extra rainfall this year.

The Pearts keep close tabs on irrigation management. Two years ago they invested in moisture sensor devices from PureSense to determine real time soil moisture content. The findings generated key information and brought needed changes toward better, long-term orchard health.

“I was probably irrigating too much in the spring and was under-irrigating in late June and early July,” Peart said. “It was amazing to learn how much water the trees used per day in the summer; more than 100 percent ET during late June and early July. I’m now better managing my water.”

Peart is now using more water. The trees are under less stress and better able to produce larger yields.