Posts Tagged: Almonds
Outsized wildfires, rising sea levels and disappearing glaciers are dramatic signs of climate change, but not the only ones. New UC Agriculture and Natural Resources research provides forewarning of a change that will be economically and environmentally costly to California – a fifth generation of navel orangeworm, the most destructive pest of almonds, walnuts and pistachios.
Navel orangeworm (NOW) will be more problematic in the future because of warming temperatures, UC Cooperative Extension scientists report in Science of the Total Environment.
Like most insects,NOW's development rate, physiology, behavior and reproduction are highly dependent on the ambient temperature. When the weather warms in the spring, NOW moths emerge from the nuts left in the tree or on the ground during the winter. After mating, females then recycle those last year's nuts to lay eggs and complete one generation. Adults emerged from that first and subsequent generations then lay eggs on in-season hull-splitalmondnuts, where larvae feeding damages the crop. Typically the pests fly three to four times per year – with more flights in areas with warmer weather.
“Warmer temperatures can result in early activity of the pests in the spring and increased activity during the season,” said Tapan Pathak, the UC Cooperative Extension climate change specialist and the study's principle investigator.
The scientists looked at 10 climate models to determine what nut farmers can expect to face over the next 80 years and applied NOW developmental models to the changing climate. Daily maximum and minimum temperature data were obtained for 1950 to 2005, and future projections stretched to 2100.
“The fifth generation can happen in the next few decades,” said Jhalendra Rijal, UC integrated pest management advisor and co-author of the research. “The climate models suggest that spring will begin earlier. That causes insect activity to start earlier. With increased temperatures through the season, the number of days to complete a generation is less. At the end of 2050 or so, we'll see an extra generation.”
The study focused on 23 counties in the Central Valley, from Shasta County in the north to Kern County in the south, where 1.78 million bearing acres of nut crops are planted. About two-thirds of that acreage is planted to almonds, 20% in walnuts and 16% in pistachios. The tree nut crops were valued at more than $8 billion combined in 2018, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
The completion of the NOW life cycle is faster in pistachio compared to almonds and walnuts, so the potential risk of crop damage and economic loss is higher in pistachio, according to the research report. There are only a few years historically in which the models detected the fifth generation of NOW in Kern County pistachios. The occurrence of the fifth generation in almonds and walnuts was historically nonexistent, but it starts appearing in three southern counties by 2040 and eleven counties by 2100.
“In order to alleviate some of the risks related to navel orangeworm damage to nut crops, it is important to implement integrated pest management practices,” Pathak said.
IPM preventative and control measures include sanitizing the orchard during the winter by removing all the nuts on the ground and in the trees, applying synthetic reproductive hormones to limit the pests' ability to find mates, encouraging natural enemies, judicious of least-toxic pesticides if necessary and harvesting the crop early to avoid a new generation of the pest.
“A better understanding of future navel orangeworm pressure on California's major nut crops can help facilitate and strategize integrated pest management practices in order to minimize production risks,” Pathak said.
The results of the research can also inform growers and pest control advisers about the potential increased threat from other pests as the climate changes.
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.
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.”
One of the forces driving agricultural experiments in California's fertile San Joaquin Valley is climate change, reported Mark Schapiro on Grist.org. Although some sources still don't feel completely comfortable with the concept.
"Whether it's carbon built up in the atmosphere or just friggin' bad luck, the conditions are straining us," said John Duarte, president of Duarte Nursery.
The state's fruit and nut orchards are taking the most heat as conditions change. A fruit or nut tree planted today may be ill-suited to climatic conditions by the time it begins bearing fruit in 5 or 10 years. Between 1950 and 2009, “chill” hours trees needed annually to reboot trees' metabolic system for the spring bloom had already declined by as much as 30 percent, according to a California Department of Food and Agriculture study.
“If trees haven't had that low-chill period when they wake up in the spring, it's like being up all night and then trying to go to work.” said Mae Culumber, a nut crop advisor with UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno County.
Researchers have already observed that cherry, apricot, pear, apple, pecan and almond trees are often less productive than they used to be.
The article said farmers may turn to pistachio trees to weather a warmer and dryer California. Pistachio trees require one-third to one-half as much water as almond trees. During droughts, pistachio tree metabolism slows and when water returns, they start producing nuts again. And they can produce nuts for 80 years or longer, almost four times the life span of an average almond tree.
For field crops, scientists are looking at improving the soil and transforming growing systems to help farmers adapt to the warming climate.
“When I drive to the Central Valley, I get goosebumps; I feel the urgency,” UC Davis agronomist Amélie Gaudin said. “I see an agriculture that is basically hydroponics. It's like a person being fed/kept alive by an IV.”
“What happens when you no longer have the sugar-water?” she adds.
Gaudin is focusing on using agroecological principles to develop efficient and resilient cropping systems. Planting cover crops and reducing tillage show promise for mitigating the impact of climate change in the valley.
No, it's not Valentine's Day, yet. Yes, the almonds are blooming. No, it's not spring. But it looks like spring in Benicia. The almonds are...
Benicia resident Gordon Hough captured this image of a bee nectaring on a Pyrus calleryana (Bradford pear or another cultivar) at the Benicia State Recreation Area on Monday, Jan. 21, as identified by Daniel Potter, UC Davis professor of plant sciences.
Almonds are blooming in Benicia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)