AG Watch

Rain worries valley almond growers

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Most valley farmers welcome the rain but for some it comes at a bad time. Many local almond orchards are in full bloom right now.

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The nuts don't form unless the blossoms are pollinated by bees. Right now it's too cold for the bees to work.

The rain has given valley almond blossoms a good soaking. Many fallen petals floated away in water-logged orchards and the bees brought in to pollinate these blossoms are staying inside.

Even when you pop the top, the buzzing bees stay in the hive as they try to keep warm. Madera almond grower Rick Cosyns said, "They can smell that pollen out there but if it's still in the mid-50's or below they will not emerge.

Cosyns' Madera orchard looked as if light snow had fallen.

His almond trees were sprayed with fungicide before the rain to protect the blossoms during a critical time. Cosyns explained, "We think there's maybe a 5-7 day window period as these blossoms open up and are viable to accept pollen and produce that small nutlet."

Some bees died on the job in the cold and rain.

During the bloom, almond growers like to see some wind following a storm. Cosyns said, "That helps to dry the moisture off these blooms."

But Cosyns worries what could happen if we don't dry out. "While it looks like we're gonna have a good supply of water on the east side of the valley this year, we may not have the almond crop to support that."

Farmers whose crops aren't affected by the rain are glad to see the storms pass through. They see it as free irrigation.

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Tags:
agriculture, madera, california water, ag watch, dale yurong
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