What influences hull-split timing?

Hull-split in almonds.

Hull-split often occurs around the end of June though the first week of July within the San Joaquin Valley. The start and duration of hull-split is influenced by the variety, weather, and tree stress. As many are aware, the variety has the strongest influence on hull split initiation and progression, but this article will focus on the influence of weather and tree stress.

Most people believe the weather experienced in mid-June strongly influences the start of hull-split. Research has indicated, however, that this is not true. Work by Ted DeJong (UC Davis Plant Sciences), has found that the beginning of hull-split (which is indicated as 1% hull split) can be predicted by weather conditions experienced during the first 90 days after bloom. Cooler conditions experienced during this time will lead to a later hull-split, while warmer conditions result in an earlier split. Temperatures in the latter half of the spring and early summer have a minimal influence on nut progression, regardless of being warmer or cooler than normal. The model can be found at http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/Weather_Services/almond_hullsplit_prediction/ and can be applied using localized CIMIS data.

There is some evidence to support that tree stress and nutrient status influences the duration of hull-split. Stress in June decreases water content within the hulls, which means a faster drying time when they begin to split (think of hull-split progression like a bell-shape curve – stress in June shortens the x axis).  This is often related to high heat experienced in June, which leads to tree stress due to inability to properly manage the irrigation or the application of regulated deficit irrigation (RDI). Nitrogen status of the tree also influences the rate of split, in which trees having a higher nitrogen content have a longer duration of hull split.

Often vigorous orchards are grown with minimal stress and higher rates of nitrogen. This leads to an uneven ripening of the nuts within the tree. In some observed cases, nuts on the top part of the tree split 2-3 weeks before the nuts in the bottom half of the tree, which delays harvest and increases the risk of insect and diseases infestation. Implementing good practices such as RDI and proper nitrogen management can reduce the duration of hull-split, leading to an easier shake and harvest.

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