A decent bloom combined with a strong nut set has set the stage for a promising almond crop for Stanislaus County growers. “A few orchards here and there are pretty spotty,” says Roger Duncan, University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor for the county. “Some growers say the Butte-Padre production is off this year, but I haven’t seen that. There are quite a few Carmels here. Last season, their yields were down. But this year, I’ve seen some orchards were the Carmel trees were loaded with nuts.”

An early bloom and the higher number of degree-days than usual for this time of the year could mean an early hull split and harvest, Duncan notes. Near the mid-point of April the hulls had reached full size and were beginning to fill. He projects that, overall, the county’s almond crop this year would come in as good to very good. That assumes adequate supplies of water.

 

 

“Growers relying on district water for irrigation may see some yield reductions due to limited supplies of water this season,” Duncan says.  “But, those with access to ground water should end up with some good yields. Industry-wide, though, production will probably drop from last year, due to cutbacks in water deliveries.”

Several inches of rain, following a mostly dry winter, has helped replenish soil moisture reserves in many of the county’s almond orchards, Duncan reports.  As of mid-April, no surface water had been released in the canals. He expects deliveries will begin at least three weeks later than usual. “This delay at the beginning of the season is a good thing, because it will really help growers stretch very limited supplies of water,” he says.

 

 

Meanwhile, growers are taking other steps to make the most their available irrigation water this season.  For example, some growers who normally would have allowed vegetation to grow in row middles are applying herbicides from one edge of the orchard floor to reduce competition between trees and weeds for water, Duncan notes.

Growers are also keeping closer tabs on moisture levels in their fields using such tools as tensiometers, gypsum blocks and neutron probes to measure soil moisture and pressure chambers to monitor the water status of their trees, he adds.

 

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