WCN walnut 3

(originally published December 2017)

There was a time when people thought the world was flat. There was also a time when people thought walnuts could only be grown in class one soil. Both “facts” have been proven wrong.

According to Bill Krueger, emeritus University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Glenn County farm advisor, “research and grower experience has shown with the right preparation and planting system, walnuts can be successfully grown on less-than-ideal soils.”

He went on to say, in the process of planning and planting a walnut orchard, soil evaluation is the place to start.

Katherine Pope, UCCE area orchard systems advisor for Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties, said, whether planting a new orchard or replanting, getting things off to a good start is essential when considering the investment cost required to develop a successful orchard.

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(originally published November 2017)

Pecans are the only native nut crop in North America. California pecans, compared to other nut crops like almonds, pistachios, and walnuts are a minor crop, but pecan acreage is making slow, continual growth.

Wet Feet

Karlene Hanf, an orchard specialist with Linwood Nursery in La Grange, California, said they have seen an increase in pecan plantings in California.

     “In 2019, I’ll have more pecans going in the ground than I have historically. Every year it grows a little bit. Is it a huge volume? No,” Hanf said, but growers are learning that pecans do better near rivers or areas with a high water table.

During the drought many growers planted walnuts or almonds near rivers or where there was a high water table, and this year they found out that was not a good idea, Hanf said.

     Richard Heerema, pecan specialist at the University of New Mexico, agreed. “You go through a few years of drought and everybody starts planting almonds and walnuts in low lying areas, and then you go through a year like California had last year, and that’ll change opinions pretty quickly.”

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(originally published September 2017)

Subsurface drip irrigation in almonds may not be the way to go for all growers in the state, but for two almond operations, Terranova Ranch in Fresno County and 4R Farming in Arbuckle, the practice has proven to be very successful.

The use of subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) is nothing new on a worldwide level. In Israel the practice has been around since the 1960s.  SDI has had many diverse uses around the world for a multitude of crops on multiple soil types in various climates.

Here in the United States, studies and research into SDI, its advantages and disadvantages, continues, as is education on the system and commercial activities.

SDI is a system that provides a low-pressure water source to almonds, and other crops, through buried drip tape or hard tubing with built-in emitters.

Terranova is a diversified farm that grows more than 20 crops per season on roughly 7,500 acres, of which nearly 1,000 is in almonds in the varieties of Nonpareil, Monterey, Butte, Carmel, Wood Colony, Aldrich and Independence.

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(originally published August 2017)

Nut crop commodity growth has been explosive in California’s San Joaquin Valley in recent years, requiring new and expanding operations to develop on increasingly marginal soils. Much of the available acreage has been in long-term grape or cotton production, crops that are generally tolerant of these soil conditions. Perennial tree crops by contrast can have the greatest yield and quality potential when established on deep uniform productive soils. The probable tradeoffs of orchard establishment in areas characterized by poor uniformity, fertility, drainage, high salinity, and structural problems requires careful consideration. A thorough evaluation before planting can help identify the appropriate pre-plant modifications and help guide long term management actions that may improve substandard growing conditions and increase long-term profitable production and return on investment. Proper site evaluation can be a daunting task, especially for growers for which tree crops are a new venture. There are several online tools and phone applications that can facilitate the process of site evaluation and planning for a new orchard.