Stanislaus County, Calif., grower Darrell Cordova started his almond harvest Aug. 12, two weeks earlier than normal and 15 days sooner than last year.

“We’ve had more heat this summer and a lot more fluctuations in daytime high temperatures,” he says. “That’s pushed maturity along faster than usual.”

Another unusual feature of this season has been the frequent winds. They’ve complicated his spraying program. “It’s like we’ve been in a wind tunnel,” Cordova says. “Usually we’ve had to wait until evening when the winds die down to spray. But, even then, it’s been hard to find a calm night.”

Cordova’s operation, Triple C Farms, grows 240 acres of almonds near Denair. His Nonpareil trees were first to be shaken before moving on to 40 acres of fourth leaf Independence. The “self-fertile” variety was developed by Zaiger Genetics and is available exclusively from Dave Wilson Nursery.

“It has a real pretty big nut. We got enough off the second leaf trees to knock them down for mummy removal. So, we went ahead and sent them in to the processor. Last year, in their third leaf, production reached 1,100 pounds per acre.”

He anticipates production of all varieties will be up this year.. The Independence and Fritz crops should both be heavy. Yields in his Butte-Padre blocks appear to be noticeably higher than in 2012, while his Monterey trees have a good-size crop on them. His Nonpareil crop looks good, but will probably post the smallest yield increase.

A fast-acting, insecticide with long residual activity has enabled him to control navel orangeworm (NOW) effectively, he notes. This year, trap counts predicted high pressure in his orchards from this major pest. That plus the faster pace of nut development prompted Cordova to make his hull split sprays the end of June and first part of July. That’s a little early. However, he waited until mid-July do the hull split treatments in the later-maturing Buttes and Padres. Usually, that’s when he does the hull split sprays on the earlier varieties. These sprays also targeted his second biggest insect threat, the peach twig borer.

The early harvest should help the Nonpareil and Independence miss mostly all of the third NOW flight this season. Timing of the harder shell Butte-Padre harvest may leave those two varieties, particularly the Buttes, susceptible to most of the third flight. The Monterey and Fritz harvests, which Cordova normally doesn’t begin shaking until at least the end of September, are likely to coincide with much of the third flight.  ”The Monterey has a little better seal but could still be susceptible,” Cordova says. “We’ll look at the NOW pressure then and spray, if needed. Because the Fritz is a hard-shell nut, it will probably be all right without spraying.” 

Warm weather increased mite pressure this season. A mid-May miticide treatment kept splider mites under control except in several blocks of Independence where the trees bordered dusty roads. A second miticide application at the end of June controlled that threat, he reports.

As usual, he also put out ant bait ahead of harvest.

Cordova irrigates his fields with water from 700-foot deep wells. The water table, however,  is under pressure from new walnut and almonds orchards in the nearby foothills, he added.

“So far, so good for our wells,” he says. “We’ll have to lower the bowels on one of them, where the volume and pressure is beginning to drop. Groundwater levels keep dropping every year.”

He’s encouraged that prices for the new-crop almonds are going up, following the early-July release of the objective crop size estimate, which predicted a two percent smaller crop than last season. Higher price will help cover his rising costs for chemicals, fertilizers, bees and pumping water. “Prices are up. Hopefully, they’ll stay that way.”

 

This report is from Tree Nut Farm Press, a twice-monthly electronic newsletter published by Western Farm Press during the growing season. If you would like to receive Tree Nut Farm Press, see here for sign-up.

 

More from Western Farm Press

Water the commodity gold of 21st century?

Resiliency of growers shines with record crop values

Hahn's reinvents Central Coast wine-grape business

Central Coast grape growers want new water district

Conventional grower inherits puncturevine, mites from organic grower