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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Recharging Aquifers Using Floodwaters

 

Floodwaters Could Recharge Aquifer

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

Last October, the Almond Board of California announced new partnerships with Sustainable Conservation, Land IQ and UC Davis researchers to look at ways floodwaters could recharge Central Valley groundwater aquifers. Daniel Mountjoy is the Director of Resource Stewardship for Sustainable Conservation, an organization helping to solve some of the challenges facing our land, air and, most importantly, water.

Mountjoy explained the idea behind the partnership: “The concept is, ‘Can we capture the available peak flows when they’re available from surface supply and recharge the groundwater so that it’s available during dry years when surface flows are under stress from environmental needs and other demands for it?’ ”

The thought is to use surface irrigation water during times of availability in order to flood almond orchards to recharge the aquifers.  This would not only help growers during times of drought, but also benefit those with limited access to surface irrigation.  Mountjoy has found some success in their research.  The initial focus will be on sandy soils, where the infiltration is really fast.

The concept behind the effort has already shown a level of success on a smaller scale.  “In 2011, Don Cameron at Terranova Farms in Western Fresno County captured 3,000 acre feet of water on 1,000 acres of sandy farm land. He infiltrated on pistachios, grapes and alfalfa fields in some fallow land during winter, as well as well into June and July on some of those crops,” Mountjoy said.

Partnerships like these are needed as California begins to fall under the full implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  “What we’re doing with the Almond Board right now is looking for sites in the Sacramento Valley, because there’s more likelihood that we’re going to have water supply there to test the concept. Both UC Davis and Sustainable Conservation are out working with growers,” Mountjoy said.

UC Davis will be working on the crop health aspect, while Sustainable Conservation will be looking into how much water can be put on different crops and what types of management compatibility there is with the crop.  Once a significant amount of data is collected, the next step in the process will be looking towards how to further incentivize the method for growers.  “Any time you recharge an aquifer, it becomes everyone’s aquifer. There’s still not a system in place to credit landowners for the benefit they are providing to their neighbors and to other irrigation pumpers,” Mountjoy said.

There are over one million acres of almonds stretching roughly 500 miles from Red Bluff to the south end of the San Joaquin Valley. Nearly two-thirds of that land is considered moderately good or better in its ability to percolate water into the underlying aquifers.  “We have to prove the viability that you can actually do this on farm land across extensive acres, because that’s really the cheapest solution, rather than buying land, dedicating it to recharge basins and managing it that way without production of crops,” Mountjoy said.

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Almond and Pistachio NOW Sanitation Critical This Winter

Joel Siegel on NOW Sanitation

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Last year was a bad year for navel orangeworm (NOW) mainly in pistachios, but also in almonds. If left in the trees, infested nuts become a great reservoir for more NOW to inhabit them.

Joel Siegel, NOW research entomologist, USDA Agricultural Research Service
Joel Siegel, research entomologist, USDA Agricultural Research Service

Joel Siegel, a research entomologist for the USDA Agricultural Research Service based in Parlier, stresses the importance of having a good sanitation plan in place to remove those NOW mummy nuts. “When we talk about sanitation, it should be the foundation for everyone’s nut program. That’s something that you control.”

“In almonds, it’s absolutely essential. Where we’ve taken a look at it in the south, every infected mummy per tree is good for 1 percent damage. So going from one mummy to two mummies, your damage on average increases another 1 percent.”

“It’s also important to destroy the mummies on the ground. You figure, for every eight or nine mummies on the ground, that’s good for about a half a percent increase in damage. Get them off the tree and shred the almonds.”

Siegel noted that while pistachio growers can clear mummy nuts off the tree, the industry has not been able to shred the fallen pistachios effectively. The hard, rounded pistachio shells just bounce around in the shredder machine.

almond_mummies
Almond Mummies

“What you can do is shake them off the tree as soon as possible so they’re on the ground where they can start rotting. You get those weeds growing around them. It has been shown that they break down faster in the weeds,” said Siegel.

“Growers disc them in. But if you’re going to disc them in, you have to disc them twice. Again, you’re not destroying the nuts, you are burying them so that NOW cannot lay eggs in the spring,” he said.

The risk of poor sanitation is high. Considerable NOW damage can prevent pistachio and almond growers from earning the premium paid for nuts that are pest-free.

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Ricchiuti on World Nut & Dried Fruit Conference

Ricchiuti is Positive on Almond Industry 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Pat Ricchiuti, a third-generation diversified fresh fruit, olive and nut crop grower-packer-shipper and owner of P-R Farms in Clovis, attended the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council  (INC) World Congress on Nuts & Dried Fruit in San Diego early this month. Having met with industry handlers and traders from countries across the globe to discuss international almond prices, Ricchiuti’s observations were very positive for American nut growers.

Pat Ricchiuti, owner of P-R Farms
Pat Ricchiuti, owner of P-R Farms

“The greatest part of the conference was meeting a lot of good people—current customers and new people who handle and trade almonds globally,” said Ricchiuti.“We talked about the economic defaults in the Middle East, India and China and how they have affected current supply and demand.”

Ricchiuti said, “Everyone was questioning the 2 billion pound-subjective estimate for the almond crop,” USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) early forecast about the coming Fall 2016 California almond crop developed after it is set [unripe nuts have emerged, ready to mature].

Many thought the subjective estimate was low—that more of a crop is out there. Some handlers and traders,fear that if we don’t have a good progress shipment report for this next month, it would be a disadvantage,” he said.

But, having a more positive outlook, Ricchiuti held that the crop is at least that amount and could be more. “It’s a reality but it shouldn’t scare everyone in the marketplace that tP-R Farms Logo Ricchiutihe price should go down any more. We need to be positive and I think the price can even move up a little more with the shipment reports being positive,” he said.

“We keep positive on shipment reports because everyone’s been buying hand-to-mouth. The warehouses are empty; there’s no one stockpiling almonds, even at the low prices. There’s hesitation in buying, but they’re buying on need and it’s picking up,” noted Ricchiuti.

Ricchiuti stated, “We just need to get these people away from thinking it’s doom and gloom and the sky is falling. It is not; it’s something that is very positive. First of all, there will be plenty of almonds to sell,” he elaborated.

We had a good shipment month last month and this month looks like it’s going to be good. People are still hungry for almonds; they still want almonds, but pricing is disrupting the market.”

“Even if it’s more than two billion,” Ricchiuti commented, “we think there’s a world market and demand from the consumer for almonds will continue.” He expects they will have less carryover [unsold crop], which will help with diminishing supply. “We feel it’s stabilized now. It has come up somewhat, about 50 cents a pound in the last few weeks.” he said, “so that’s been very positive.”

Ricchiuti explained, “We are looking forward to the objective estimate [in late June to early July] to really hone in where we are, what the May shipment reports will be, and move on from there. We just need to keep a very positive marketing attitude, keep selling almonds and keep selling the consumer on how nutritious and how good they are for you.”

Ricchiuti said conference topics included the immense nutritional value of almonds, how good they are for you and the diversified uses—”more so than any of the other nuts. We need to teach this younger generation to include almonds into their lifestyle. ‘Hey, have a handful of almonds every day.'”

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Why Almonds Belong in Your Diet

Almond Nutrition

Source: Alissa Fleck, Demand Media

Natural, unsalted almonds are a tasty and nutritious snack with plenty of health benefits. Loaded with minerals, they are also among the healthiest of tree nuts. Just a handful of nutrient-rich almonds a day helps promote heart health and prevent weight gain, and it may even help fight diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Nutrition

Eating about 23 almonds a day is an easy way to incorporate many crucial nutrients into your diet. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, minerals and potassium. Additionally, almonds are a significant source of protein and fiber, while being naturally low in sugar. One 23-almond serving packs 13 grams of healthy unsaturated fats, 1 gram of saturated fat and no cholesterol or salt. Of all tree nuts, almonds rank highest in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin content by weight. There are 160 calories in 23 almonds. While many of these calories come from fat, it is primarily the healthy unsaturated fats and not the unhealthy saturated kind.

Almond Hull-split
Almond Hull-split

Heart Health

According to the FDA, eating 1.5 ounces a day of most nuts, like almonds, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Many of the nutrients in almonds help contribute to increased heart health. For one, almonds are rich in magnesium, which is critical in preventing heart attacks and hypertension. Several clinical studies have also shown almonds can be effective in reducing bad cholesterol and preserving healthy cholesterol, which plays a major role in heart health.

Weight Maintenance

Nuts, like almonds, are also beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. The fiber, protein and fat content of almonds means it only takes a handful to keep you feeling full and satisfied so you won’t have the urge to overeat. According to “Fitness” magazine, the magnesium in almonds helps regulate blood sugar, which is key in reducing food cravings. Almonds may even be able to block the body’s absorption of calories, making them the ultimate weight-loss-friendly snack. Because almonds are naturally high in calories, it’s important to limit your serving size to the recommended 1 ounce, or 23 nuts.

Other Health Benefits

Almonds may also promote gastrointestinal health and even combat diabetes. The high fiber content of almonds gives them prebiotic properties, which contributes to health in the gastrointestinal tract. Prebiotics are non-digestible food substances, which serve as food for the good bacteria in the intestinal tract and help maintain a healthy balance. According to a study by the American Diabetes Association, a Mediterranean diet incorporating nuts, such as almonds, helps fight diabetes even without significant changes to weight, physical activity or caloric intake.