A farmer describes the thought process for replanting almonds

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The decision to replant almond trees after removing the existing orchard may not be as simple as ordering new trees and booking the moving company. As one central California farmer explains, the questions don’t start and end with strain and rootstock selection.

Denair, Calif. Farmer Cal Mast knew well in advance that he had plans to make. The orchard her stepfather planted on a pasture land adjacent to the family dairy has revealed some issues that need to be addressed if the next 25 years are better than the last.

Preparing the ground

Mast knew he had a problem where water would pool. It shows the corner of the plot on a map where the trees suffered and died due to drainage problems. Although there was no need to level the property because the planned drip irrigation system will overcome these problems, there was nonetheless some work to be done to determine how the water can drain from the area. old sloping pasture.

He also learned that reconfiguring the orchard at 90 degrees to a north-south configuration would likely benefit tree production and growth. He also wanted slightly wider rows.

The north-south decision was mainly based on light. The rows configured from east to west can see the trees – especially those on the southern edge of the orchard – leaning south as they chase the light, he said. He says he knows of an east-west orchard near him with a significant fungal disease problem, although he is not sure if this is due to the setup.

Mast was told that the north-south row configuration can help better capture light through the orchard without the south side of the orchard leaning towards the sun.

“They can lean in the row a bit, but you don’t have an entire row trying to tip over,” he said.

Mast keeps a personal notebook filled with questions, thoughts and ideas related to the new orchard. It contains notes of conversations with extension advisers and others he used to plan for his new orchard.

Choice of rootstocks

University of California extension advisers Roger Duncan, Katherine Jarvis-Shean, and Joe Connell have written about the importance of choosing rootstocks to improve profitability. Today, growers can choose from several choices to meet the unique challenges of individual orchards.

Mast opted for Guardian, a peach rootstock for the bulk of his 45-acre orchard. He said it was recommended for its situation – a former pasture for cattle with a slight slope that first became an almond orchard 25 years ago. A small segment of the previous orchard had drainage issues, which he said were addressed when preparing the land after removal.

In this segment of the orchard, it will use Rootpac R rootstock because of its ability to perform better in areas where drainage and the potential for soggy soil could be an issue.

According to a UC article by Duncan, Jarvis-Shean and Connell, growers are encouraged to understand their soil profile before selecting a rootstock. It is important to sample the soil profile in 12- to 18-inch increments to a depth of five feet, they suggest. Nematode testing and a thorough analysis of soil chemistry can be helpful in selecting the right rootstock.

Varieties

Although non-parallel almonds remain popular with growers due to their ability to capture higher prices, they require a pollinator, another variety from the orchard for cross-pollination. It may also require two harvest trips through the orchard. Mast did not want to make multiple harvest trips.

He opted for the new Shasta variety from Burchell Nursery. After talking to producers who have it, he likes what he sees and hears. These self-fertile trees are touted as requiring fewer bees for pollination, another benefit to profitability as the costs of pollination services continue to rise. They also show promise when it comes to nut size and the ability to shake easily.

Replacing his retired orchard with almonds, rather than switching crops, has become easier given the large area of ​​almond trees where he lives in Stanislaus County. Access to processing, labor, harvesting equipment, businesses to repair that harvesting equipment, and access to the trusted brains within UC Cooperative Extension have all been taken into account in its decision. Having 25 years of experience with culture also helped.

“You also need to think about how best to use this property and try to find something that works,” he said.


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