Posts Tagged: almonds
Four staff research associates will join the ranks of UC Cooperative Extension scientists in the coming months to support nut crop advisors conducting critical research in walnut, almond and pistachio production.
The California Walnut Board, the Almond Board of California and the California Pistachio Research Board together have provided about $425,000 to cover annual salaries, benefits, travel and equipment for the new UC Cooperative Extension staff. Under the terms of the agreement, the new positions will be funded annually for up to three years, pending available funds and success of the program.
“By supporting these new positions in UC Cooperative Extension, the California Walnut Board, the Almond Board of California and the California Pistachio Research Board show their recognition for the value of applied research conducted by our nut crop advisors,” said UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president Glenda Humiston. “We are grateful to these industry organizations for this vote of confidence and the generous funding to generate science-based knowledge to apply on California farms.”
The new research associates will each devote time supporting two advisors with tree nut assignments:
- Allan Fulton and Luke Milliron, serving Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties
- Katherine Jarvis-Shean and Franz Niederholzer, serving Colusa, Sacramento, Solano, Sutter, Yolo counties
- Mae Culumber and Phoebe Gordon, serving Fresno, Madera and Merced counties
- Elizabeth Fichtner and an advisor under recruitment, serving Tulare and Kings counties
The arrangement reflects a change in how UC Cooperative Extension supports the agriculture industries in California with applied research. With less funding from its traditional revenue sources – USDA, the state government and counties – advisors cover more territory than in the past. Over the years, they have also taken on an increasing share of UC's applied research mission serving the state's specialty crops industries.
The new staff research associate positions were crafted to attract highly qualified candidates who will support advisors' applied research efforts. Their primary focus will be on assisting advisors with planning, execution and gathering data on experimental and demonstration field trials.
UCCE advisor emeritus Joe Grant, who now serves as production research director of the California Walnut Board, chaired an industry working group that drafted the plan based on advisors' input about their needs.
“Advisors are competent and creative people with the skills and knowledge to do research. They need the same support that researchers on campus have,” Grant said.
The California Pistachio Research Board previously provided funding for a plant pathology researcher and an integrated pest management advisor at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier. In addition, the board supported creation of $1 million endowments for a nut genetics researcher and a tree nut soil science and plant-water relations researcher as part of an initiative co-funded by UC President Janet Napolitano.
“We've been concerned for a long time about UC Cooperative Extension's research capacity and infrastructure issues,” said Bob Klein, manager of the California Pistachio Research Board. “This new initiative will increase efficiency and productivity for farm advisors and also reduce their stress from being overcommitted.”
Josette Lewis, the Almond Board chief scientific officer, said the organization depends on UCCE farm advisors for unbiased, quality information about almond production.
“Advisors are a valuable link between UC campuses and growers, not only in doing applied research that helps growers thrive, but in meeting California's goals of environmental and social sustainability,” Lewis said. “The information they generate is shared with a host of ag industry professionals – pest control advisers, crop consultants and people in the private sector who provide services to growers.”
Commodity industry funding for UC Cooperative Extension reflects the value the nut crop industries leverage from one of the strongest agricultural research and extension systems in the world, Lewis said.
The new program is modeled after a pilot project in Colusa County in which the Almond Board provided funding for Niederholzer to hire an intern to support almond research. A young scientist who held the post from 2015-16 was Milliron. In 2017, UC Cooperative Extension named Milliron a sustainable orchard systems advisor for Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties and he will now supervise one of the new staff research associates.
“We had a chance to keep him in the system and capitalize on what he learned during his internship,” Lewis said.
There are other tree nut and fruit advisors in need of research help, Grant said. For example, there are concentrations of tree fruit and nut acreage and growers in Kern, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.
“We positioned these four research associates where we heard the need for help was most critical. We can see adding another position or two in the future if funds are available,” Grant said.
An airborne fungus from Europe, ganoderma adspersum, has been killing almond trees in the San Jaoquin Valley since it was discovered in the area five years ago, reported John Cox in the Bakersfield Californian.
The fungus rots wood from the inside out, usually weakening the trunk a ground level.
Three kinds of ganoderma fungus infections were identified recently in California almond orchards; University of California researchers say 94 percent of the cases were of the adspersum variety.
"We are seeing those trees collapsing at 11, 12, 15 years old,” said UC Cooperative Extension orchard systems advisor Mohammad Yaghmour. The infections have results in the removal of orchards at less than half their typical 20- to 25-year life span.
Spraying for the fungal disease is ineffective. Yaghmour believes that in time researchers will identify a root stock that is resistant to the fungus.
UC Agricultural Issues Center has released new studies estimating the cost and returns of establishing an almond orchard and producing almonds for three growing regions of California.
“These cost studies are valuable for agricultural producers all along the continuum – growers considering entering into a new crop production business, less experienced growers, and those with decades of experience,” said Emily Symmes, UC Cooperative Extension integrated pest management advisor for the Sacramento Valley. “The information in these cost studies allows growers to evaluate their production practices and associated costs relative to an exemplary hypothetical orchard specific to their geographic region, and can help with development of business models, crop insurance and lending.”
In 2018, almonds ranked third among California commodities with almond growers receiving nearly $5.5 billion in cash receipts.
The cost analyses are based on hypothetical farming operations of well-managed almond orchards, using cultural practices common to the region. Local growers, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors and supporting agricultural representatives provided input and reviewed the methods and findings of the studies.
“The recent almond updates for the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys reflect costs associated with the continually evolving conditions facing agriculture,” said Symmes, who co-authored the almond cost studies. “Some of the notable updates include labor, irrigation and pest management costs – all integral to producing and delivering a high-quality crop.”
The researchers based one study in the Sacramento Valley, one in the northern San Joaquin Valley and the other in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
The southern SJV study is based on an orchard that uses double-line drip irrigation, whereas the other two locations use microsprinkler irrigation. All are multi-year studies, estimating costs from removal of the previous orchard, through almond orchard re-establishment and the production years. The economic life of the orchards used in these analyses is 23 to 25 years.
Navel orangeworm (NOW) is a major pest in almond production; Symmes and her co-authors describe in detail the pesticide applications and winter sanitation methods for each location for NOW control and include the costs.
The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for orchard establishment, almond production, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead. A ranging analysis table shows net returns over a range of prices and yields.
The new studies are titled:
- Sample Costs to Establish an Orchard and Produce Almonds in the Sacramento Valley - 2019
- Sample Costs to Establish an Orchard and Produce Almonds in the Northern San Joaquin Valley - 2019
- Sample Costs to Establish an Orchard and Produce Almonds in the Southern San Joaquin Valley - 2019
The studies are available for free download at the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available on the website.
For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact Donald Stewart at the UC Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact a local UC Cooperative Extension advisor, find the UCCE office in your county at http://ucanr.edu/County_Offices. The Agricultural Issues Center is a statewide program of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources will host the UC Almond Short Course Nov. 5-7, 2019, at the Visalia Convention Center.
UC faculty, UC Cooperative Extension specialists and farm advisors and USDA researchers will provide in-depth, comprehensive presentations of all phases of almond culture and production. An optional field tour will be offered on Nov. 8 in Parlier.
The program is based on the latest information and research and will cover the fundamental principles that form the basis for practical decisions. Each session will include Q&A, quality time with instructors and networking opportunities. The full agenda is at https://ucanr.edu/sites/almondshortcourse/2019_Agenda.
This year's short course offers an in-depth field tour at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center on Friday, Nov. 8. For an additional fee, participants can learn firsthand about topics ranging from orchard establishment and management to integrated pest management. See the tour agenda at https://ucanr.edu/sites/almondshortcourse/2019_Field_Tour.
Registration is $900, discounts are available until Oct. 21. On-site registration will be $1,000.
- Three full days of instruction with more than 35 presentations
- Binders containing presentations
- Three lunches and two receptions
- DPR (PCA) & CCA continuing education credits (pending approval)
- Option to add Field Tour for $65
For more information, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/almondshortcourse. Register at https://ucanr.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=27971.
Last May, a Turlock almond grower noticed nearly all the nuts on a row of trees in his orchard had fallen to the ground.
“It looked like we shook this row,” he said. “I was scared. I thought the whole orchard was going to go.”
He called UC Cooperative Extension.
UCCE Integrated Pest Management advisor Jhalendra Rijal, who serves Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties, determined the cause was an infestation of brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), an invasive pest from Asia. For years, BMSB had only been found in urban areas of California – most notably a 2013 infestation in midtown Sacramento.
With few natural predators and a wide host range – including apples, pears, cherries, corn, tomatoes, grapes and a variety of landscape trees – the population eventually moved into agricultural areas, first appearing in crops in 2016 in Stanislaus County. Rijal has been doing BMSB research since then.
Rijal hosted a gathering of farmers and pest control advisers Aug. 13, 2019, in the Turlock almond orchard to give them a first-hand view of the pest and the problems it causes.
BMSB are hard to find in orchards. They lay greenish colored eggs on the underside of leaves, typically in a cluster of 28 eggs. The majority of damage is caused by adults, which sting the hull with a needle-like mouth part to get to the nut. The sting can even penetrate the almond's hard shell when the fruit is mature.
Globs of clear sticky sap appear on the damaged almond hulls, typically indicating nut loss inside. Early season (March-April) infestation leads to the most severe yield loss when the nuts drop to the ground. The best way to confirm the damage is caused by BMSB is to use a trap.
“I recommend growers and pest control advisors put BMSB traps in orchard edges if they suspect BMSB damage or if the orchard is located near potential overwintering structures or host crops,” Rijal said. “BMSB are good flyers and active throughout the season, damaging nuts from April through the fall. But the most substantial damage happens in the spring through early summer."
If the orchard is close to BMSB-favored host plants, more damage is seen. A particularly troublesome neighbor plant is tree-of-heaven.
“Tree-of-heaven is a magnet for BMSB,” Rijal said, pointing to an abandoned farmhouse site on an adjacent property. “Tree-of-heaven has a nice fruiting structure that can support a lot of BMSB.”
Also an Asia native, tree-of-heaven was brought to California by Chinese immigrants during the Gold Rush. The roots, leaves and bark are used in traditional Chinese medicine. But its rapid growth and ability to clone itself to develop thick groves make it a noxious weed.
BMSB isn't a serious pest in its homeland because it is controlled by a natural enemy. Charles Pickett, the California Department of Food and Agriculture biological control scientist, shared a mounted sample of a Samurai wasp from Asia, Trissolcas japonicus, which lays its eggs in BMSB eggs.
“The parasite attacks most of the eggs in the field in eastern Asia,” Pickett said. “It's our goal to release the wasp in California. We first need a special permit to make sure it won't harm our environment and doesn't attack any beneficial stink bugs.”
The Samurai wasp has already found its own way to some BMSB infestation sites in the Eastern U.S. and in Los Angeles.
“We hope to someday release the parasitic wasp,” Pickett said. “It won't eradicate BMSB, but it will help.”