Almond Industry is Strong at 1.3 Million Acres

Almond Industry’s Vision is Continued Strength

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The vision and the overall business model of the almond industry in California are looking very strong. Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board of California, expanded on these strengths in a recent interview with California Ag Today.

“One way that the almond industry has achieved success is the fact that we are very resource rich, and the Almond Board of California is blessed by very strong support financially and strategically for the industry,” Waycott said.

Richard Waycott, Almond Board
Richard Waycott, Almond Board President and CEO

“We have the ability to work on very serious projects and programs for California agriculture and because of our size, just over 1.3 million acres, we can have a tremendous impact on the ecology of the state, on environmental practices, on ag practices that can then obviously be disseminated and taken advantage of by other California agriculture,”  Waycott explained.

Waycott said the almond industry’s role is to produce this wonderful food product for human consumption.

“The hulls and shells [are used] for other purposes, and we’re working very hard on that to determine new applications for those co-products, but then again to use the financial and the talent and treasurer of the industry and the size of the industry to innovate more rapidly and provide for constructive change,” Waycott explained.

Excellent business practices is a part of the Almond Board of California’s mission.

“We do see almonds as being a crop that should be grown in California, and it’s producing a product that should be consumed more by humans,” Waycott said. “The industry strives to farm more sustainably in the future than we do today and to provide for more automation in the industry, better grow our practices is what our mission is, and we’re very much on a road to executing that in a very responsible, in an innovative way.”

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Elaine Trevino to Head Almond Alliance of California

Trevino Chosen After Big Search

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The Almond Alliance of California (AAC) has named Elaine Trevino as its new President and CEO. Trevino will provide oversight of the organization’s operations, communications, government relations and overall advocacy efforts on behalf of California’s almond industry.

In addition, she will manage the organization’s various industry strategic partnerships, initiatives and memberships across the state of California. Based in Modesto, Trevino will report directly to Brad Craven, Chairman of the Almond Alliance of California, and general manager of Superior Almond Hulling of Cantua Creek, CA.

“We are excited to have Elaine be part of our team,” Craven said in a news release. “She brings a wealth of experience, statewide relationships, extensive community outreach, public policy, government affairs and strategic partnerships. We look forward to having her contribute to the continued advocacy efforts of California’s almond industry. In looking for a new president of the Almond Alliance, we knew that the almond industry has enjoyed a lot of success, making this position attractive to a large pool of candidates. In order to enjoy continued success, our organization will also need to take on any challenges or threats head-on, with integrity and confidence. This is what Elaine brings to the Almond Alliance.”

Most recently, Trevino was President of California Strategic Solutions, a consulting company focused in business development, community outreach and delivering comprehensive strategies for complex issues. Trevino has diverse experience in both the public and private sectors in the areas of agriculture, transportation, community development and technology. She is a recognized leader in the Central Valley and understands the importance of strong bi-partisan relationships. Equally important, Elaine understands the value of communication and outreach to all segments of the California almond community.

Chairman Craven praised Interim President Andrea York for her efforts over the past few months.

“The board deeply appreciates Andrea stepping up from her busy role as Government Affairs Manager and taking on the additional responsibilities as Interim President,” he said. “We look forward to Andrea working closely with Elaine on the broad range of issues vital to the almond community.”

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Freeze Damage Could Be Wide Spread

Deep Freeze May Have Caused Significant Damage to Almonds, Tree Fruit

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Editor’s note: Photo shows freeze damage to almonds ovule. On right is healthy ovule. On left, ovule died due to deep freeze. (Photo: Kern County Farm Bureau.)

While possible  freeze damage is still being calculated, we know that many areas of almonds and tree fruit have been damaged from recent hard freeze across the state, with temperatures as low as 23 degrees.

Daniel Jackson of Family Tree Farms, based in Reedley, reported that at least one block of peaches on sandy ground was lost.

“The sandy ground could not hold water to protect the roots from the freeze,” he said.

Jackson explained that the five-generation operation is waiting to see if more damage was suffered by the trees.

Significant almond damage could be widespread as the freezing temperatures struck the trees in full bloom.  If there is significant losses, it could result in higher almond prices around the world.

A report from Joel Nelsen, President 0f California Citrus Mutual, based in Exeter, noted no damage to the state’s citrus crops.

With California growers, ranchers, producers, and rural landowners experiencing recent freezing temperatures sweeping the state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has multiple agencies that provide financial and/ or technical assistance to recover from natural disasters, such as freeze.

Listed below is an overview of applicable programs provided by the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

  • Tree Assistance Program: Provides financial assistance to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters. Forests are not eligible.
  • Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP): Provides compensation to producers who grow uninsurable crops and have purchased NAP coverage by the crop signup date.
  • For more information, visit http:// difsa.usda.gov

Please contact your local FSA County Office as soon as possible. Your local FSA specialists are available to assist you with the programs listed above and more.

 

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ReTain Increases Yields

ReTain Now For Aerial Use in Almonds, To Extend Bloom Time

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

ReTain plant growth regulator from Valent is now registered for aerial use in almonds.

“ReTain was registered for use on almonds this past growing season, and this past winter, California Department of Pesticide Regulation registered it for aerial use, so now it can be applied by air as well as a ground applications,” said Pat Clay, a field development manager with Valent USA.

“It really helps with making a timely application across large acreage.  ReTain works best when applied at 30 to 60 percent bloom and being able to go by air allows for more ground to be covered as well as target those applications to that specific bloom time,” he explained.

ReTain extends the viable bloomed time in almonds.

“ReTain reduces ethylene production on the almond flower,” Clay said. “Ethylene is responsible for senescence (aging) of the floral organs, particularly the stigmatic surface. So by applying ReTain, it’s extending the viability of the flower by about a day-and-a-half to two days.”

“With aerial applications, we’ve seen the yield increase greater than 300 pounds per acre on Nonpareil almonds,” Clay said.

Other crops have been using ReTain with great results.

“It has been used in apples for harvest management and cherries for very similar use to what we’re using it for in almonds. It has also been used widely in walnuts for pistillate flower abortion,” Clay explained.

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Almond Band Canker has No Cure

Almond Band Canker Creeping up Again

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Themis Michailides, a UC Davis Plant Pathologist based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, recently told California Ag Today that almond band canker is becoming a big problem.

“This was a very old disease, and almost forgotten, but now we have major problems, particularly in the young orchards, first leaf, second leaf, third leaf, and it can also be found in six year old trees,” Michailides said.

Band canker is a fungal disease caused by a group of Botryosphaeria fungi that are very common in major crops like grapes, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, avocados, citrus and other crops, so they have a large range.

Band canker establishes itself as a spore inoculum that resides outside and also inside of orchards and waits for the right conditions, which are wetness and also high temperatures.

“It develops first like a ring, a canker that is a horizontal canker on the trunks of the trees and decays the wood and produces sap. It’s a disease that can kill young trees in the orchards,” Michailides said.

“Once you have the cankers developed in the trunks of the trees, there’s no cure, but we can prevent it by managing irrigation, trying to keep the trunks of the trees dry,” he said. “We need to develop protective sprays in order to avoid the development of the disease in young trees.”

“Once we have the water and the temperatures rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the conidia – the spores of this fungi – will germinate and infect vigorous varieties we have now through the growth cracks,” Michailides said.

“It’s getting more serious, especially now, because we see that the disease is uniformly distributed throughout the orchard, which indicates to me perhaps that the inoculum is in the trees and not coming from the outside sources. We don’t see the patterns we saw years ago, where we had the source and then a center of disease close to the source,” Michalides explained.

 

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Measuring Crop Protection Material Tolerances

Biological Tolerances May Be Needed

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California Ag Today recently spoke with Gabrielle Ludwig, Director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs for the Almond Board of California, about the issue of crop protection in almonds. Almonds are the number one specialty crop export. Almonds also remain the number one nut in global production and are California’s number two agricultural crop.

Ludwig explained that pesticides are used and necessary in today’s almond production. Pesticide residue is a concern for not only domestic production, but also for international distribution. And with biological products such as friendly fungi and bacteria, the biological industry noted that they are safe and free of residue tolerance.

“I would say for this industry, there’s a couple of things going on in parallel, and they don’t have exactly the same problems. So one is you have the sector where it is still a chemical that you’re applying, but it may not have very much toxicity or the residues are, for whatever reason, vanished,” Ludwig said.

“In the United States, we can get an exemption from a tolerance, where EPA has looked at and said there’s no health risk, and there’s no need to set a maximum residue limit. For those products then the question becomes: Do you have the same standards in other markets?” Ludwig asked.

“And again, one example is that the EU does have an exemption for tolerance process, but they don’t always have the same standards so EU is more likely to set a number than United States. And we have also seen examples where the United States is setting a number and the rest of the world says there’s no need to set a number because it’s a natural occurring compound.”

“So if you look at a pheromone, which falls into a natural occurring arena, there, you’re not even spraying the trees so it’s a totally different ball game,” Ludwig said.

“With biologicals, again, it’s a different ball game. You still need to have someone say, look at it, say it’s safe; because it’s going to be exempt from a tolerance.”

“But currently, there’s no testing for it,” Ludwig said. “With DNA technology, it probably wouldn’t be that hard to start testing for biological products’ lack of residue, especially ones that go on the produce that is eaten.”

“So again, what we’re saying here is, don’t rely on the fact you can’t be tested for it because we did that in the conventional pesticide arena and it’s caught up with us,” Ludwig said.

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New Aerial Images to Help Almond Farmers

Aerial Image Tools Help Almond Irrigation

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Aerial images of orchards can effectively tell farmers which almond trees aren’t getting enough water, according to the preliminary results of a five-year study by almond researchers at the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), with funding support from the USDA.

Researchers from the UCCE are confirming the utility of Ceres Imaging’s new-to-the-industry aerial views of farmland that helped the startup win a water innovation competition last year. The preliminary results follow four years of replicated research plots in a large commercial almond orchard.

Why does almond irrigation matter? California only recently emerged from a major drought, and for almond growers, water efficiency is a top priority. Since 1990, California farmers have increased the use of sprinklers and micro-irrigation systems from 33 percent to 57 percent of total acreage. But micro-irrigation, the method that usually offers the highest water use efficiency (crop per drop) is prone to clogging and other maintenance problems, which can stress crops and reduce yield.

“Water is the number one input for most growers and is managed carefully in terms of how much is used and when,” said Ashwin Madgavkar, CEO and founder of Ceres Imaging. “This study shows that Ceres imagery can be used with high confidence to monitor if your crop is getting sufficient water or if the crop is in a water-stressed condition, so you can make timely corrective actions. Ultimately, the tool can be used to help catch issues before they result in crop losses.”

Maintaining ideal irrigation levels is a huge challenge for farmers, as is predicting the final harvest tonnage, which is why the study examined the usefulness of Ceres aerial images in those areas. Detecting deficient irrigation quickly is one way Ceres images offer early warnings to growers.

“Findings over the last four years show that the average Ceres conductance measurement from their imagery over the season has provided the best correlation with applied water,” reported Blake Sanden, UCCE Farm Advisor for Kern County. “While there’s no perfect predictor of final yield, Ceres aerial sensing of canopy plant stress has a significant relationship with final yield.”

This UCCE study has been under way since 2013 and will end after results for 2017 are recorded.

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Navel Orangeworm Control Critical

Orchard Sanitation is Critical This Season To Lower NOW Numbers

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Emily Symmes is the area Integrated Pest Management farm advisor for the Sacramento Valley in the statewide IPM program. She recently spoke to California Ag Today about the high level of Navel Orangeworm (NOW) damage in nut orchards throughout California this past season.

“We had a lot of unique circumstances. The amount of rainfall we got in late 2016 into 2017 was pretty unprecedented and really led us into a really bad navel orangeworm year because we couldn’t get out and sanitize our nut crops,” she said.

Emily Symmes

“NOW is ubiquitous, and there is an increased nut crop footprint in California, with more than one million acres of almonds, plus pistachios and walnuts,” Symmes explained. “All play host to NOW, as well as a host of natural plants. This thing isn’t going anywhere. And it was pretty bad in 2017 in terms of harvest damage.”

One of the key factors for higher navel orangeworm damage was not being able to get into the fields because of the standing water.

“There were a couple of other factors as well. Typically, rainfall and moist conditions can help NOW mortality in the winter. We tend to think that it can help rot the nuts and do us some favors, but we have to be able to get out and get the nuts shaken or get pulling crews in and get those things on the ground. And then them being on the ground is not always a sure thing. Sanitation was huge in terms of NOW problems this year,” Symmes said.

Heat units also played a part in the development of more NOW pressure. There were a lot of moths flying around longer and laying eggs.

“It got hot in mid to late June, and it seemed to just not let up. What that meant was, in terms of our degree-day models or the heat unit that drive insect development, it ended up getting pretty far out ahead of what is typical, if there is anything such as typical. But certainly ahead of the last couple of years,” Symmes explained.

By September, we were about two weeks ahead in degree-days and that means that the moths were out earlier. They’re flying around. They’re laying eggs on the nuts when they’re still on the trees.

Symmes stressed that the importance of sanitation is to minimize the site where the NOWs mature.

“It’s really important to remember that sanitation efforts aren’t just directly killing any worms that are over-wintering in your orchard. Yes, it does that. But it also minimizes those sites where your first and second generations are going to develop next year,” she said.

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Almond Achievement Award Nominations Being Accepted

Deadline for Almond Achievement Award Nominations is Oct. 19

News Release

Since 2011, the Almond Achievement Award has honored an industry or allied-industry member who has added value to the California Almond industry through long-term service, contributions or innovations.

Nominations for the Almond Achievement Award are being accepted now. Winners must:

  • Be an individual with long-standing and direct involvement with the California Almond industry.
  • Demonstrate lasting impact on and commitment to the California Almond industry.
  • Have a record of proven service to the visibility and growth of the industry.
  • Contribute to California Almonds becoming a Crop of Choice and supporting California Almonds becoming the Nut of Choice.

Almond Board of California’s (ABC’s) Industry Services Sub-Committee will evaluate the candidates and make a recommendation to the Board of Directors. The 2017 recipient will be selected by ABC’s Board of Directors and recognized during the gala dinner at The Almond Conference by ABC President and CEO Richard Waycott.

The names of the award winners are placed on the wall of the Nonpareil Conference Room at the Almond Board of California office.

Nominating an almond industry professional for the 2017 Almond Achievement Award is easy. Simply email Jenny Nicolau (jnicolau@almondboard.com) and state your nominee’s name and company, as well as your reasons for the nomination. Applications must be received on or before October 19 for consideration.

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Almond Board CEO Talks About Group’s Mission

An Ongoing Series on the Value of the Almond Industry

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Because it takes a while to harvest more than one million acres, the 2017 almond harvest is still going strong. The Modesto-based Almond Board of California is a federal marketing order charged to market those almonds both domestically and globally. A board composed of 10 grower members oversees committees focused on production research, almond quality and food safety, nutrition research and the environment, just to name a few.

Richard Waycott is president and CEO of the Almond Board. He noted that he’s proud to be part of this massively growing industry. “It’s just been a wonderful pleasure for me, and it’s such a great career opportunity to be part of this industry and try and have vision and work with my board of directors on agreeing on that vision and then with the great staff and all of the industry volunteers we have to implement the vision,” he said.

Waycott is suitably biased toward the almond industry. “We do see almonds as being a crop that should be grown in California. It’s producing a product that should be consumed more by humans,” Waycott said.

“Our efforts to farm more sustainably in the future, than we do today, and to provide for more automation in the industry and better grower practices, et cetera, is what our mission is. I think we’re very much on a road to executing that in a very responsible and an innovative way,” he said

This is part of a series on the big value of the California almond industry.

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