To date, the weather has been very warm, with conditions favoring bee flight and pollination, but not the various bloom time diseases. The bloom looks strong across the county. In other words – so far, so good. I have received a few calls from a variety of topics, and will post some thoughts on these topics.
Next week, there looks to be a few showers moving into the area, so fungicide coverage may be needed to prevent various diseases – especially if a fungicide application hasn’t been made. If an application has been made, it should provide protection for 10-14 days, dependent upon the amount of rain received.
Delayed Varietal Bloom, Weak Bloom.
I have received several calls regarding delayed bloom of Monterrey and Fritz. Although these thoughts are conjecture, discussions with a few advisors concluded that post-harvest tree conditions/ practices may be the cause for these issues. Tree conditions include defoliation of trees last fall from scab and rust, water stressed from a delayed harvest, and inadequate rainfall during the dormant period. Practices that may have encouraged this separation include delayed application of nitrogen and water during the post-harvest period, and missed pre-irrigations this past winter due to lack of water. Also consider that these trees have had high yields over the past few years – with two years of delayed harvests (mid-Sep-Oct) with Fritz/Monterrey.
Many people have asked about inadequate chilling being a possible cause, but ample chilling has been received. More importantly, if it was a weather effect, we would expect to see the variations in bloom time occurring across a wide area – not just in a single orchard. For example, one orchard has had an issue with the delayed bloom, while the neighboring orchard with the same varieties is blooming as expected.
Birds Eating Blossoms?
Catching me a bit by surprise, I have had a few reports of birds feeding on almond blossoms. Although a bit abnormal, the flower tissues are soft and sweet, as well as full of energy which makes it a relatively high value food at this time of the year for birds. In orchards with severe issues, various strategies to antagonize the birds should be employed, which include frightening, shooting, and trapping. Frightening strategies should be rotated to prevent birds from becoming desensitized. For example, week one patrols should use cracker shells, the second week rotate to a propane exploder, and in the third week install electronic noisemakers. These strategies will keep the birds from becoming established, which leads to increased losses. In regards to shooting and trapping, contact your local ag commissioners office for local regulations.