2014 is expected to be a difficult year for California almond producers. Water shortages throughout the Central Valley could mean reduced yields and narrow profit margins.

That, in turn, will put a premium on “Disease Management for California Almond Production,” which is the title of a new online continuing education course for California licensed agricultural professionals.

The course, which is sponsored by BASF and the Almond Board of California, is designed to provide an update on current diseases that occur in California almonds – everything from branch and root diseases to vascular disorders. It is provide by Penton Farm Progress Group.

The nine-section free course contains the latest disease management practices that can protect valuable orchards at a time when producers will need to squeeze every drop of profit they can from their crops. The course concludes with a 30-question exam in which users must score 70 percent to earn credit.

Course topics include:

•  Basics of Disease Prevention

• Branch, Foliar and Fruit Diseases

• Jacket Rot and Leaf Blight

• Rust and Shot Hole

• Root and Crown Rots

• Trunk and Branch Diseases

• Diseases of the Vascular System

• Bud Failure Disorders

Disease Management for California Almond Production is live at pentonag.com/almonddiseases is approved for 1.5-hours “Other” credit by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and is Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) accredited in the U.S. and Canada for 1.5 hours (IPM) credit.

It is also accessible via the Western Farm Press website, www.westernfarmpress.com.

There are now over 11,000 licensed professionals and farmers registered on the portal, and to date, more than 70,000 courses have been completed for credit hours/units in more than 27 courses.

Almonds are California's largest tree nut crop in California with a total dollar value of approximately $4.35 billion at the farm level. Almonds have ascended to the No. 2 agricultural commodity in the state in terms of value. There are approximately 835,000 acres of bearing and non-bearing almonds in the state, only slightly less than vineyards.