Going Organic In Almonds

Going Organic

 

 

 

 

 

 

After enjoying many seasons of consistently strong returns, almond growers have seen prices soften in recent years, leading many to consider farming some of their crop organically. But there are several considerations growers should take into account before making the move, says University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Adviser Roger Duncan.

Speaking on his home turf at a recent seminar at the Stanislaus Ag Center co-presented by the Organic Fertilizer Association of California and the American Society of Agronomy’s Certified Crop Adviser program, Duncan said those growers considering the move should have one overriding thought they must keep in mind.

“You can produce just as high-quality an almond in an organic system as you can in a conventional system,” he said. “It just takes a lot more time, more effort, and more money.”

More Time

Growers are going to need to spend a lot more time monitoring their crops. Actually, Duncan wishes that all growers — organic and conventional — would take more time for such tasks as scouting for pests. By getting ahead of potential problems, such as a pest infestation, growers can avoid much more serious problems later on.

It’s vital for growers who are making the move to organic farming to realize that monitoring will become even more important because they must avoid those serious problems because they won’t have the same tools to take care of them as they had in the past. “They simply won’t have as big of a hammer,” said Duncan.

In addition, scouting doesn’t stop when harvest begins. In fact, right now — during harvest season — is a great time to find out what’s going on in your orchards. You will need to really get to know the Big Three of almond pests, says Duncan (See photos). Part of the reason it’s so critical to know the Big Three — navel orangeworm (NOW), peach twig borer, and ants — so well, he says, is that each needs to be treated very differently.

More Effort

For example, by making the effort to examine those rejects and really learn what problems you have, you can use the proper strategy for NOW control. That strategy is pretty much the same for organic farming as it is conventional because much of it is cultural, he says. It means improving winter sanitation and earlier harvest. For treatment, the organic insecticide Entrust (spinosad, Dow AgroSciences) is pretty much on par with Lorsban (chlorpyrifos, Dow).
It will also take more effort to learn the ins and outs of various products, says Duncan. Organic growers have much greater responsibility to find out what can and can’t be applied to their orchards. For example, if you have San Jose scale, some growers might simply spray oil, thinking it’s not a pesticide per se. “But not every oil is organically acceptable,” he says. “Sure, most are, but it shows how important it is to check with an organic certifier to make sure it is acceptable. Don’t assume.”

More Money

It all comes down to the bottom line, so growers making the move to organic farming must realize that not only are the materials — everything from fertilizers to herbicides — generally more expensive, they require more applications because the formulations are generally not as intense. Besides that, all that extra monitoring, what with the cost of labor, isn’t cheap either.

Besides the increased cost, Duncan emphasizes that growers must realize that farming organically has a steep learning curve. For instance, one of the toughest problems for organic growers of all stripes — weeds — requires a new mind-set. (And maybe a bit of the old, see “Start Conventionally.”) There are currently no residual organic herbicides. As for fungicides, sulfur works well on almond rust, but other than that, organic fungicides generally aren’t nearly as powerful, as reliable, or as long lasting as conventional fungicides.

The good news for those who go organic? Besides the hopefully higher returns, growers will learn that almond trees can take a lot more than most think. Look at mites, for example. “In our area, I am convinced that many almond orchards could go without mite sprays at all, or maybe just hitting the edges or hot spots,” says Duncan. “I think almond trees are much more tolerant of mites than almond growers are.”

Start Conventionally

This may go against conventional thinking — pardon the pun — but University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor Roger Duncan says growers who intend to farm their almonds organically should consider starting out farming them conventionally. This isn’t for those people who grow organically for philosophical reasons, who can’t abide using products that aren’t organically approved, but for those who opt to farm organically as purely a business decision.

Because if it’s a business decision, it’s really a no-brainer. Why? Because when it comes to farming almonds organically — or most crops for that matter — one of the most vexing problems is weed control. Or, as Duncan puts it: “Weeds put the pest in pest management for organic orchards.”

Organic growers don’t have the option of using such products as glyphosate or pre-emergent herbicides to take care of weeds, which are especially damaging to young orchards. As trees mature, their canopies will shade out a lot of weeds. There’s no financial drawback to starting out conventionally because you don’t really have much of a crop to sell those first three years anyway, which is the length of time needed to transition your orchard from conventional to organic.

In addition, unless you’re planting on virgin ground, you’re likely going to run into nasty replant problems. You’re going to want to fumigate that soil prior to planting, which will take care of nasty parasitic nematodes and worrisome weed seed.

“Your trees will literally be twice as big by the end of the first year if the ground is fumigated and all weeds are eliminated — there’s such a difference in how those trees grow without competition,” says Duncan, who makes his position on the matter crystal clear. “If I was going to farm almonds organically, I would start out conventionally.”

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Going Organic In Almonds

  1. “almond growers have seen prices soften in recent years” This may be because many people want to buy truly raw almonds and not the pasteurized ones.

Nuts Stories
CitrusFDA, Federal Partners Develop New Method For Attributing Foodborne Illness
February 25, 2015
Data was analyzed from nearly 1,000 outbreaks to assess which categories of foods were most responsible for making people sick. Read More
CitrusBiocontrols 2015: Exhibition Sneak Preview
February 25, 2015
We take a look inside the exhibit hall at the Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow. Read More
NutsA Better Way To Gauge Chilling Hours
February 24, 2015
Using a new system, the chill portions model, can improve growers’ accuracy. Read More
CitrusNew App Helps Identify Insects, Diseases, And Nutrient Deficiencies
February 24, 2015
Spensa Technologies launches app that helps growers take control of pests and improve soil nutrients. Read More
Crop ProtectionFMC Launches Biological Fungicide With New Mode Of Action
February 18, 2015
The broad spectrum fungicide, Fracture, is labeled for prevention and control of powdery mildew, botrytis, and brown rot blossom blight. Read More
CitrusNew Desalination Technology May Be The Answer To California’s Drought
February 18, 2015
Researchers plan to address concerns with a process that will examine ways to turn seawater into drinkable water. Read More
NutsWalnuts May Improve Memory
February 18, 2015
A University of California-Los Angeles study found greater cognitive function in participants who ate walnuts. Read More
The Latest
FruitsNo Federal Water For California’s Central Valley Grower…
February 27, 2015
Skimpy snowpack leads Bureau of Reclamation to make unprecedented announcement that there will be a zero initial allocation for the second year in a row. Read More
FruitsMaximize Produce Profits By Focusing On Soil Health
February 27, 2015
Cover crops are just one of the ways you can help boost your trees’ and vines’ performance and your bottom line. Read More
FNV logo
CitrusPMA Announces Funding For Major Produce Marketing Progr…
February 26, 2015
The produce industry is getting into brand marketing in a big way. The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has announced the launch of a new promotional campaign - FNV - designed to take a page from the marketing strategies of big-money consumer brands like Nike and Apple. Read More
CitrusFDA, Federal Partners Develop New Method For Attributin…
February 25, 2015
Data was analyzed from nearly 1,000 outbreaks to assess which categories of foods were most responsible for making people sick. Read More
CitrusBiocontrols 2015: Exhibition Sneak Preview
February 25, 2015
We take a look inside the exhibit hall at the Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow. Read More
NutsA Better Way To Gauge Chilling Hours
February 24, 2015
Using a new system, the chill portions model, can improve growers’ accuracy. Read More
CitrusNew App Helps Identify Insects, Diseases, And Nutrient …
February 24, 2015
Spensa Technologies launches app that helps growers take control of pests and improve soil nutrients. Read More
Crop ProtectionFMC Launches Biological Fungicide With New Mode Of Acti…
February 18, 2015
The broad spectrum fungicide, Fracture, is labeled for prevention and control of powdery mildew, botrytis, and brown rot blossom blight. Read More
CitrusNew Desalination Technology May Be The Answer To Califo…
February 18, 2015
Researchers plan to address concerns with a process that will examine ways to turn seawater into drinkable water. Read More
NutsWalnuts May Improve Memory
February 18, 2015
A University of California-Los Angeles study found greater cognitive function in participants who ate walnuts. Read More
CitrusMegadrought In The West Predicted By End Of The Century
February 18, 2015
Lowering greenhouse gases will reduce risk, scientists say. Read More
CitrusTier 4 Regulations Pique Propane Interest
February 12, 2015
New rules are extending to non-road applications like irrigation engines. Read More
Nuts5 Tips To Combat Tree Nut Weeds
February 10, 2015
Follow these weed management tips to reduce yield loss. Read More
CitrusAgriculture Among Top Paying College Degrees Of 2015
February 9, 2015
Report reveals good news for graduates looking to make some green in farming. Read More
NutsPart 2: The Chinese Walnut Slowdown: Not A Worst Case S…
February 9, 2015
Although U.S. walnut exports to China are down, emerging markets are on deck to help compensate for the decline. Read More
NutsUSDA Designates Almost All California Drought Disaster …
February 5, 2015
Areas of Arizona, Nevada and Oregon are also declared disaster areas. Read More
NutsPart 1: The Chinese Walnut Slowdown: Not A Worst Case S…
February 4, 2015
The California Walnut Board and Commission’s Michelle McNeil shares insight into the recent slowdown in walnut exports to China, and why she doesn’t think there’s reason for concern. Read More
bee keeper
CitrusTop Beekeepers Wanted
February 2, 2015
Bayer CropScience seeks nominations for award honoring innovations in the beekeeping community. Read More