WCN0320 Archives - West Coast Nut

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Bacterial Canker and Blast in California Almond Trees

Bacterial blast and bacterial canker are caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae (Pss). Both diseases are a tough problem to deal with in almond and stone fruit orchards. Bacterial diseases are more common in cold and humid regions causing significant damage to orchard trees. However, we can still see both diseases causing significant losses under certain conditions here in California. As detailed below, it doesn’t require existing wounds for infection (but they certainly can increase a tree’s vulnerability), it is exacerbated by but doesn’t need plant stress to infect, and it currently has no effective chemical control options....

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Putting Almond Waste to Good Use

Make electricity from almonds trees? Convert almond wood waste into a biopesticide? Those are intriguing business plans put forth by two new companies that aim to remove wood, shells and hulls from the waste stream and put them to beneficial use. Eric McAfee of Aemetis Inc., a renewable fuels and biochemical company, and Mike Woelk of Corigin Solutions LLC, an organic ag solutions company, laid out the science and the business plans for their technology endeavors at an Almond Industry Conference session in December. Their common goal is to divert wood waste and end open burning of orchard waste. Aemetis...

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Gains Being Made in SIT NOW Research

Hopes that sterile insect technology (SIT) can offer a viable alternative for controlling navel orangeworm (NOW) in tree nut crops appear to have undergone a reversal of fortune as researchers were able to dramatically improve trial results between 2018 and 2019. “After the initial field trials in 2018, we realized we were facing a lot of challenges with these sterile NOW,” said Houston Wilson, a Cooperative Extension Specialist with the Department of Entomology at University of California Riverside, who is leading the research along with Chuck Burks, a research entomologist at USDA-ARS in Parlier, California. “As we go into 2020,...

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Successfully Navigating H-2A: Making Decisions About Using the Farm Guestworker Program

As labor shortages continue across agriculture, many growers are wrestling with the option of using the nation’s farm guestworker program. It has been the subject of spirited debate in recent years, playing a critical role in how Congress addresses immigration reform. For many in California, though, the program appears untenable and that assessment is often made on soundbites of information as opposed to a thorough analysis of the program’s requirements, as well as its strengths and weaknesses. The reality is, unless meaningful change happens in short order, many growers need to take the time to learn the program’s specifics and...

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Hazelnut Grower of the Year

About 800 hazelnut growers recently converged at Oregon State University in Corvallis for the 105th Annual Winter Meeting, hosted by the Nut Growers Society (NGS). NGS represents hazelnut growers from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, and is responsible for keeping growers up to date on the latest industry news and trends. The Winter Meeting is one of two paramount events—along with the Summer Tour—that are held annually to bring hundreds of growers together to share ideas, learn about research results and find out about the newest technologies that could benefit them in the orchard. The 105th edition of the meeting...

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Identifying Rodents is the First Management Step in Tree Nut Orchards

Vertebrate pests chew the bark on young trees, create extensive burrow systems that pose problems with equipment movement and worker safety, damage irrigation lines and in extreme situations, affect crop yields. Roger Baldwin, UCCE wildlife specialist, said that correct identification of the problem species is the first step in controlling populations. What may work for ground squirrel control won’t be as effective against a vole invasion. Understanding biology and habitat of the target species will help with choosing the most effective control strategies. Identify the Pest California ground squirrels are a common pest in many tree nut orchards. They are...

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Telling His Farming Story Through Social Media

In 1933, Valk Ranch was established in Oakdale, California at a time well before Instagram or YouTube and definitely before smartphones. Generations later, Ryan Valk is using social media daily to not only improve his farming practices, but in his new role as an agriculture advocate. Like many of today’s new age farmers, Ryan is using social media and his phone not only to help him farm and operate his business more effectively and efficiently, but to help share his farming story. You might know Ryan better as @CaliforniaFarmer, his handle on Instagram and YouTube. You might even be a...

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Insurance for Hullers and Processors Skyrockets

California’s catastrophic wildfires have claimed yet more victims, and these victims didn’t see it coming either. While not directly related, many agricultural processing facilities, including tree nut hullers and processors, have seen exorbitant increases in property and stock insurance as a result of devastating losses absorbed by insurance companies over the past two years due to horrific wildfires. Insurance companies have paid out more than $26 billion in wildfire claims in the past few years, resulting in cancelled policies, huge rate increases or, in some cases, insurance companies leaving California. Several agricultural processing facilities have seen double- or even triple-digit...

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Orchard Weed Expert Stresses the Screwdriver Rather than Hammer Approach to Managing Weeds

Sometimes a bigger hammer isn’t the best solution for our orchard weed management challenges,” said UC Cooperative Extension Weed Specialist Brad Hanson. “A bigger hammer doesn’t put a screw in any better than a small hammer. A screwdriver is the best tool for that job.” Hanson uses that philosophy as the principal investigator on several research projects to find new ways beyond the use of broad-spectrum post-emergent herbicides to address weed problems in the orchard. Glyphosate is very commonly used in California orchard production systems for its broad weed control spectrum. In most tree nut crops, glyphosate is applied to...

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Taking the Mystery Out of Rootstock Selection in Pistachios

Interest in planting pistachio trees continues to grow in California, but many growers, even those with experience in pistachio production, may not be aware of all the basics of rootstock selection for their orchards. UCCE Tulare County farm advisor Elizabeth Fichtner said she receives many questions from new growers about pistachio rootstocks, including differences between seedlings and clones and how they are produced. Fichtner’s presentation at the annual Statewide Pistachio Day was directed at answering many of the questions and “demystifying rootstocks.” In the past 10 years, Fichtner said, there has been an overlap in tree nut production, with walnut...

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Shake the Rust Off That Shovel

A shovel. A farmer’s best friend and sometimes worst enemy. You can hear it, calling your name, beckoning you to help it shake off that winter coat of rust and get into that soil. Of course, it can’t do it alone, but the old saying, “the best thing a farmer can put on his field is his own footsteps,” rings especially true in the spring. Last year we had a few incredible deluges late in the spring here in the Central Valley of California that upset the apple cart. This year, we are praying for that again as the drought...

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As Spray Season Approaches, Panelists Offer Advice for Protecting Pollinators

Pollinator protection starts with education and communication, according to panelists at a recent California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) brown bag lunch emceed by DPR Director Val Dolcini. There are literally thousands of different kinds of pollinators, including many varieties of bees, flies, butterflies, moths, birds, and even mammals such as the Mexican fruit bat, but honeybees are the keystone pollinator, and their numbers are dwindling. Several factors contribute to honeybee decline, including habitat loss, pesticides and mites but it is a problem recognized as far back as the mid-1970s. To make up for habitat loss, growers can plant new...

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Introducing the Superpowers of Pecans

Revitalizing New Year’s Resolutions We’re now a couple months into 2020, and like many people, you may have made plans for a healthier year. Resolutions have long been a part of ringing in a new year – pledges to make this year better than the last with improved habits and lifestyle changes. Living a healthier life is often first on the list. In a recent INC.com survey, 71 percent of respondents stated that dieting, or eating healthier, was their number one resolution for the New Year. However, as many of us know, resolutions of change are easier to make than...

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Preparing Your Orchard for Ag Tech:

The technology floodgates have burst wide-open in the agriculture industry. It is nearly impossible to read a trade magazine, attend a convention or scroll through social media without encountering agricultural technology in one form or another. That should be no surprise. The rapid pace of technological advancement is transforming many industries, as well as our daily personal lives. But the continual procession of new ag technology products and services can be overwhelming, and the associated time and cost of evaluating each is proving to be a barrier to adoption. Most growers and consultants recognize a need to become more efficient...

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NOW in Walnuts

Contiguous acreage of nut crops in California is making navel orangeworm (NOW) a more pressing pest concern for walnut growers, according to Emily Symmes, Sacramento Valley area IPM advisor with the UC Statewide IPM Program and Cooperative Extension. “Navel orangeworm has a broad host range and availability in the state, with tree nuts among the preferred hosts,” Symmes said. “And we are seeing expanded, contiguous acreage in tree nuts of almond, walnut and pistachio, up nearly 50 percent in bearing acreage over the last decade.” The contiguous acreage makes NOW movement and spread a significant threat to nut crops. “What...

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‘Moonshot’ Effort Needed to Build Future Agricultural Water Supply

After decades of over-pumping groundwater, California faces declining aquifers and stark choices – a future so challenging that a collective “moonshot” effort is needed to preserve irrigation supplies and viable agriculture in many parts of the state. That message was the theme among experts participating in a panel at The Almond Conference 2019 focused on the state’s landmark 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA. SGMA requires many areas to balance supply and demand for groundwater, leaving local regions scrambling to develop plans to ration pumping while figuring out how to return more water to aquifers during times of plentiful...

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Drone Technology in Nut Crops

Growers have put ‘boots on the ground’ for generations to visually inspect their fields and orchards. With the advent of unmanned aerial vehicles that carry infrared cameras, growers now have the opportunity to view real time orchard and field conditions on their phones and make management decisions to improve crop health and production. Dr. Gregory Kriehn, California State University, Fresno, engineering professor and speaker at the Walnut Day in Visalia, said use of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones is becoming more common in agriculture as growers are seeking more precision in application of water, nutrients or pesticides. California farms, which...

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Understanding Physiological Effects of Winter Chill in Pistachios

Gurreet Brar hopes to determine not only what it will take to boost pistachio yields following warm winters, but the reason why trees fail to produce in the absence of winter chill and whether and why treatments improve yield. The understanding, Brar said, will help researchers provide a science-based solution to what has become a persistent problem in recent years: low chill accumulation in winter months. Brar, an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at California State University, Fresno, is in the midst of four-year study analyzing several issues surrounding chill requirements in pistachios. Among issues he is...

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Let the Tree Dictate When to Start Irrigating

There are many available techniques for scheduling irrigation in walnuts during the season, says Ken Shackel, Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. These schedules are based on weather, soil measurements, plant measurements and “WYND - What your neighbor does.” “But, how do you know when to start irrigating,” he asks. The most proposed method of late for scheduling irrigation is Evapo-Transpiration (ET). But newer research suggests there may be better alternatives for determining when to start. He explains that growers worry about two things--starting too late, and starting too early. “Growers worry that if they wait...

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