No matter where they grow in California, June is a month when avocados are being watered on a regular schedule. How regular that schedule is should be carefully reviewed by the irrigator. In 1991-'92, right along the coast in a Ventura irrigation plot, we applied 32" of water, but in '92-'93 we put on only 26". Same trees, nearly the same size, but a 23% difference in applied amounts dictated by differences in water demand due to different weather. The irrigation schedule we use is driven by tensiometers and a CIMIS weather station. The station generates reference evapotranspiration values which tell us how much water to apply at an irrigation, and the tensiometers are used to verify whether the trees are doing well by the schedule. Irrigation on a fixed schedule, such as once a week for 24 hours, is going to guarantee that on average you will be either under or over irrigating at each irrigation. Using some soil-based measure, such as a soil probe or tensiometer can assure an irrigator that trees are getting the appropriate amount of water when they need it. If you haven't done so, the irrigation calculator available at the Avovcadosource.com website can be quite useful in guiding an irrigation schedule - http://www.avocadosource.com/tools/IrrigationCalculator.asp - check it out. You also need to correct for salinity accumulation.
In orchards which have not closed canopy yet, weeding is an ongoing activity. In a research plot, we are using tensiometers to monitor the effects of weeds, bare soil and chipped yard waste mulch around trees. In weedy plots soil moisture profile rapidly show 30-40 cbars of tension at 6", whereas the bare and mulched plots can go much longer before showing 40 cbars. Centibars is a measure of moisture tension, the higher the value, the drier the soil. As trees get older they make their own leaf mulch and shade which limit weed growth. There is no question that a cover crop can improve soil conditions through reduced erosion, improved water infiltration, and possible reduced disease and pest problems. These soil improvements tend to improve tree growth and orchard productivity. But, if water is the primary issue, weeds and a cover crop can add considerably to water use in an orchard, especially a young one. Weed control through the use of mulches and herbicides can effectively reduce the water requirements of trees.
June is still a good time to replant an orchard. The soils are warm enough to give the trees a good start and there is enough fine weather left for them to establish before winter comes. Late plantings (September, October) are discouraged because the root-shocked plant sits in a cold, wet soil through the winter and becomes a prime candidate for root diseases. Especially in a replant situation, it is a good idea to start them off with a fungicide with one of the phosphonate products, to give them some protection until they get established. The best time for to apply the material to do its job on older trees is when there is a good root flush of growth which occurs after the leaf flush in spring and fall.
When replanting, try as much as possible to avoid interplanting between older trees. The different water requirements of the young and old trees is such that one or both will be stressed because they need different schedules - less but more frequent for the young trees. Attempts can be made to put together a system where the older trees remain on the 10 or 15 gpm mircosprinkler and the young trees are put on a 1 gpm dripper. This still cannot be an ideal situation, since the needs for application frequency are still different between the small and big trees. The best thing to do is to clear out trees within an irrigation block and replant, or replumb a block with a new valve so that small new block can be irrigated differently from the older trees. Where clonal rootstocks fail in a root rot replant situation, it is invariably where water control is lacking or poor.
As we all know, this has been a long dry spell in the avocado growing areas along the coast. With the levels of salt in our waters, it's important to have some kind of a leaching program to ensure that salts do not accumulate in the root zone. Each winter, rain leaches the accumulated salts from the previous irrigation season and starts the orchard off to a good start. These years it hasn't happened and one of the things that can affect the trees is a stress. This is a salt stress that is most pronounced at the end of irrigation lines and where low pressure results in low output, often at the top of the hill. Any irrigation system that has poor distribution uniformity is going to have areas where less water than average is applied.
One of the responses of the trees to salt stress is to exhibit cankers in the branches. These can be silver dollar-sized cankers running in a line up the branch or as diffuse white spots in the branches. The first symptom is related to bacterial canker and the second is to black streak. These are not killer diseases, but they are reflective of the tree being under stress. As soon as the irrigation schedule is corrected, these symptoms can clear up in several months. If the schedule is not corrected the tress will begin losing leaves and sunburn can result. The symptoms of these two problems can be viewed at the UC Integrated Pest Management website - http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/r8100611.html and http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/r8100311.html.
Again these are primarily stress-related diseases and the way to correct the situation is to improve irrigation distribution uniformity and the irrigation schedule. If it goes on too long it can cause problems especially in young trees. When you boil down farming to the basics, the most important activity in the orchard is ensuring proper irrigation.
On typical days, the air near the ground is warmer than the air above it. This is because the atmosphere is heated from below as solar radiation warms the Earth's surface. A surface inversion occurs when the atmosphere at the earth's surface is colder than the layer above it. There are four common causes of surface inversions, some of which can occur at the same time. Remember - inversions flow like water:
Advection of cool air:
A slab of cool air slides into and under a warmer air mass. This "drainage inversion" can occur when there are sea breezes, cold fronts or when cool air drains downhill into warmer air.
Advection of warm air:
Warm air flows over cool surfaces and lower layers cool more rapidly than those above.
Shading from trees as well as from rolling terrain can cause an inversion to set in earlier and stay later.
Around sunset, the ground cools rapidly by radiating heat upwards into space. The air in contact with the ground cools by conduction, causing the lowest layer of air to be cooler than higher layers. Air within this "radiation inversion" tends to remains in place.
Radiation inversions create problems for spray operators because they can cause pesticide spray to:
- stay concentrated for long periods over the target,
- move with the cool air for many miles when the breeze picks up,
- drain down slopes and concentrate in low-lying regions,
- drift unpredictably as the inversion dissipates during the morning
Radiation inversions happen every day and should always be expected to begin 3-4 hours before sunset, reach their apex just before sunrise and then dissipate no longer than an hour or so after sunrise… unless one or more of the following conditions occur:
- There is continuous overcast, low and heavy cloud.
- There is continuous rain.
- Wind speed remains above 7 m/h for the whole period between sunset and sunrise - although even this isn't always true.
Field air temperatures are often very different from local or regional forecasts, so the most reliable method of detecting inversion conditions is to measure temperatures at, and several meters above, the ground. Spray operators can recognize a surface inversion when:
- there is a big difference between the daytime and night time temperatures,
- evening and night time wind speeds are considerably less than during the day,
- sounds seem to carry further,
- odors seem more intense,
- daytime cumulus clouds tend to collapse toward evening,
- overnight cloud cover is 25% or less,
- mist, fog, dew and frost occur
- smoke or dust hangs in the air and/or moves laterally in a sheet.
If you suspect there's an inversion, then don't spray. Often, it's right on the label.
Farm Advisor Mark Battany measuring inversions/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
By way of the San Francisco Chronicle
Hopes of an almighty El Niño bringing rain to a drought-stricken California - with its fallow fields, depleted streams and parched lawns - were further dashed Thursday. The National Weather Service, in its monthly El Niño report, again downgraded the chances of the influential weather pattern occurring in the fall or winter.
The odds were 80 percent in May, but were placed between 60 and 65 percent this week.
Meanwhile, the agency also announced that the much-needed weather event is likely to be weak instead of moderate in strength - another retreat from the more robust projections made earlier this year that fueled speculation that California's three-year dry spell might be snapped.
With hot, dry winds, the question came up this week about whether the hot temperatures or the low humidity would affect pollen viability. It turns out that both day and night time temperatures will affect pollen tube growth. That in ‘Hass' approximately 48 hours about 50 deg F is needed to complete pollen tube growth and fertilization. If temperatures drop at night to below 50, there's not enough time for fertilization to occur. As temperatures increase, fertilization occurs more easily. In the tropics, there can be high temperatures and high humidities and good fruit set. But this question was not about fertilization, but how long the pollen would remain viable at high temperatures and low humidities. Work was done Loupassaki and Vasilakis for the World Avocado Congress III Proceedings and they basically found that when humidity dropped below 40%, viability was very low. This last week we have seen humidities below 10%. It probably means that even with bee visitation, non-viable pollen is being delivered to the flowers. When humidities come back up, there will probably be good fertilization, as long as we have decent day and night time temperatures.
Many years ago Gary Bender, down in San Diego, went to the Gulf Region of the Middle East to help establish an avocado orchard. The trees flowered, but never set fruit.
California Drought Watch
Although water is in short supply, UC Davis' expertise in water-related issues is not. California Drought Watch brings together the university's globally renowned resources in water sciences, management, law and agriculture to ensure that policymakers and the general public have access to the knowledge, research and technologies that are crucial to addressing the challenge of the state's drought.
Visitors to the site will find the latest drought research and news headlines, as well as drought management tools from UC Davis experts and water organizations throughout the state. They will discover how UC Davis is cutting back on water consumption, learn about upcoming events like the April 25 Drought Summit, and find out how to reach UC Davis' top experts in drought and water management.
“Policymakers and the public need to see, not just be told, that UC Davis is a go-to place on drought,” said Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. “This site should help draw tighter the wide range of work done on drought and related subjects from all across the campus.”
Farmer and Rancher Voices from the Drought
Over the sound of bleating sheep and singing birds, Dan Macon describes how the current drought has affected his sheep ranch, Flying Mule Farm, in the Sierra Nevada foothills: “This is the driest of three dry years in a row for us … Over the last three years, we've reduced the size of our flock by half. Because we've reduced the size of our flock, I have taken a part-time job and will probably take a second part-time job this spring.”
His is one of several audio stories compiled as part of Farmer and Rancher Voices from the Drought.
A team of UC researchers began the project this spring. Led by Ken Tate, UC Davis professor of plant sciences and rangeland watershed specialist in Cooperative Extension, they use digital tools to capture the voices of farming and ranching families who are battling the worst drought of their careers.
Each week, the team posts new tracks to SoundCloud — an audio-streaming service and social network where users can upload, record and share tracks they create. Friends, loved ones and colleagues of ranchers and farmers are also invited to interview them and post tracks to the SoundCloud group page. Several of the farmers and ranchers share practices that have worked for them so that others struggling with the drought can better cope.
Members of the state's farming and ranching community also share stories, photos and comments at the project's Facebook group page.
The project was inspired by Caroline Henderson's “Letters from the Dust Bowl,” which documented the voices of farmers and ranchers leaving dust-covered Oklahoma in the 1930s in search of a better life in California.