Joe Bavaro and his father, Nick, finished the hull split application of a miticide, fungicide and insecticide in their northern San Joaquin Valley almond orchards and are preparing for a mid-August start to this year’s harvest. That would be about seven to 10 days earlier than usual.
Bavaro Farming Company, Inc., Escalon, Calif., manages about 3,000 acres of almonds in the eastern areas of San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties. That includes their own orchards and their clients and includes Nonpareil, Carmel, Aldrich, Monterey and Butte-Padre varieties. The Bavaros also own or manage 350 acres of walnuts, mostly Chandler and Tulare.
“The trees look great,” Joe says. “The year started out dry, By the time we were beginning to get concerned about the lack of precipitation, we got some rains that really helped out. Except for the first week of July, when we had four or five days of 100-degree-plus temperatures and were really pushing the water, the trees have enjoyed good growing temperatures, in the mid-90s, this month.”
The Bavaro orchards are served by three irrigation districts. They also have riparian rights and deep wells for supplemental water in some blocks. Consequently, the Bavaros have been able to meet the water requirements of their trees.
Production in their almonds appears to be down somewhat this year. “Yields of the Nonpareil may be a tick or two lower,” Joe says. “The Butte-Padres look fairly strong. But, they represent only a small part of our total crop. Production in some of the pollenizers is up a bit, while in others it’s down a little. Overall, our crop is a little lighter than the last two years.”
“On crack-out, they’re not as large as in previous years, Joe says. “That’s in line with the objective measurement survey.”
That report said the average kernel weight for all varieties sampled was the lowest in 40 years.
With timely treatment, rotation of chemistries and the help of dry weather, the Bavaros were able to prevent any fungal disease problems this season. Joe attributes their IPM program with keeping navel orangeworm numbers in check when many almond orchards have been under unusually high worm pressure.
However, the Bavaros were caught by surprise in early June when they discovered and infestation of the leaffooted plant bug. The insect, known for its secretive nature and habit of staying in the tops of trees, appears infrequently. Feeding by adult leaffooted bugs on young nuts can cause spotting gumming  on the shell and nut drop. Softer shells varieties are more vulnerable to bug damage for a longer period during the season, report University of California Cooperative Extension entomologists.
The last time the leaffooted plant bug caused any problems for almond growers in their area was six or seven years ago, Joe notes. The Bavaros escaped that threat without any damage.
They weren’t so lucky this season.
“The leaffooted leaf bug is a really shy pest,” Joe says. “By the time you see the gumming they cause on the almonds, the bugs are all around you. Once we knew we had a problem, we sprayed varieties susceptible to the insect immediately.”
But that wasn’t before they had lost about 15 percent of their Fritz crop in one block. “We had a little damage and nut drop in the Butte and Monterey blocks,” Joe says. “But, it was nothing like the first block of Fritz where we were caught off guard. In the future, we’re going to be really vigilant in watching for them.”
This report is from Tree Nut Farm Press, a twice-monthly electronic newsletter published by Western Farm Press during the growing season. If you would like to receive Tree Nut Farm Press, see here for sign-up .
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