Early almond tree bloom dangerous for the crop

FRESNO, Calif.

The blooming season has arrived early for many almond trees in the Valley. "I think the plants are a little confused. As it started warming up last week, we started seeing some buds coming out," said Dr. Ganesan Srinivasan, the director of the Agriculture Laboratory at Fresno State. He said the trees on the school's 65 acre almond orchard are blossoming early this year because of warmer temperatures.

And the late start to the Valley's rain season can slow down the budding process. "If we are in full bloom and if it continues to rain and it's cloudy and cold and the bees cannot come out, then it's a problem. It will affect your pollination, sometimes significantly," said Srinivasan.

The wet, chilly weather can keep bees from leaving their hives, stopping them from performing their critical work. "They carry pollen from one flower to another flower, which is very important for a bee pollinated crop like almonds and I think that window of one week to 10 days when it's all blooming, we ought to have nice clear weather," said Srinivasan.

Water from the recent storms can also pose a problem for budding flowers. "If we get more rain next week, most farmers, what they'd try to do is spray prior to the rain, and the spray is put on like a rain jacket. You got to do it before hand if you don't want the damage to occur in the bloom," said Hank Kelsey. Kelsey runs an almond packing house in Le Grand and he says farmers have been waiting for the rain but too much over a long period of time can damage the crop. "We want to have all the rain we can get. If we get rain during the bloom, if you spray fungicides, chances are pretty that you're not going to get wiped out," said Kelsey.

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