No reason to smile
Normally, this kind of start to the season would be reason to smile. Not this year.
“The single biggest issue my growers and everyone else involved with agriculture around here face is how much water will be available for the rest of the season,” Anderson says. “Nothing else even comes close.”
Still, between the amount water carried over from last year, well capacities and any water purchases, he expects his growers should have enough to get their trees through this season.
“I know there are quite a few other growers out there who have no water this year,” Anderson says. “It will be a real disaster for them.”
Growers, with almonds and other permanent crops who would otherwise be growing row crops, like tomatoes and melons, have fallowed those fields, diverting water from them to their trees and vines.
In fact, he attributes the 45 percent drop in his business this year to the amount of row-crop ground that has been left fallow this season.
Adequate water is especially critical for almonds, he notes, at two times during the year, – from now until around early June, while the nuts are sizing, and again after harvest. “The trees can get by with 50 percent of ETc from June until harvest,” Anderson says. “But, without enough water after harvest, yields next year could be down as much as 20 percent to 40 percent,” Anderson says.
However, it’s not just the meager amount of available water this year that concerns Anderson and his growers. It’s also the quality of that water. The water that growers are pumping from the grounds contains much higher amounts of salts, like boron, sodium and chloride, than surface water. Without adequate irrigation to flush these salts out of the root zone, trees can take up toxic amounts of them.
In addition to burning the leaves, too much of these salts could also damage bud wood, reducing potential yields next year, Anderson notes. In severe cases, excessive salt accumulation in the tree could lead to defoliation,
His growers have been taking various steps to reduce soil pH levels to the 6.0 to 6.5 range. Some banded gypsum under their trees last fall or have installed machines to add gypsum to their irrigation water. Some are injecting sulfuric acid into their irrigation systems at their water filter stations. Others, who are getting some surface water are blending it with their well water.