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Local almond growers trying to weather the rain

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Almond blossoms

Almond blossoms on trees and on the ground signal the final stage of almond-blossom season in Tracy-area orchards.

The recent prolonged spell of cold, wet and windy weather will have an impact on the Tracy area’s almond crop, but how much won’t be known for at least two or three weeks.

The rain and wind have curtailed pollination of the almond trees, and the cold snap of several weeks ago put a temporary halt to the bloom and growth of the trees.

“But it’s too early to tell how much of an impact these weather conditions will have on the crop,” said Michael Rinauro of Valle Farm Management.

He said wintry weather shortened the number of hours bees were in the air pollinating blossoms on the trees during the bloom period, which has ended for most varieties.

Growers are assessing how moisture conditions will require application of fungicides for such problems as brown rot and varieties of blight.

Mel Machado, member-relations manager for the grower cooperative Blue Diamond of California, agrees that an accurate assessment of the almond crop’s development can’t be made until sometime around the first of April.

He said that although most varieties have completed their bloom, the weather in the next several weeks can still affect the almond set.

“The right growing conditions help the growth of branches and twigs that can handle almonds,” he said. “Temperatures between 65 and 68 degrees with blue skies would be great.”

In the past several decades, almonds have emerged as the largest crop in the Tracy area as a plethora of new orchards have come into production.

In 2017, the last year for which harvest reports are available, San Joaquin County almond orchards generated $362,721,000 in revenue for nut meats alone and a total of $471,771,000 when income from hulls and shells is included.

California produces more than 2.25 billion pounds of almonds on 1.3 million acres, mostly in the Central Valley. Although the U.S. market for almonds is the largest, exports are a major factor, although hampered to a degree by the Trump Administration’s trade war.

The Almond Board of California is stressing the development of sustainable almond growing with more efficient water management and improved cultural practices. It is also promoting the sale of almond milk and almond butter.

Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at shm@tracypress.com.

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