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2023 AlmondBeat report #1: 4 Keys to kickstart the season

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

2023 season is about to kick off and we're happy to share this year's first AlmondBeat report. With vast amounts of water still in the soil after an exceptionally wet winter, many growers that have dealt with droughts in recent years ,are now facing new challenges.

here are some keys topics and tips for a successful start to the season:

  1. When to start irrigating - ask the trees, track the soil

  2. How to optimize fertigation and keep nutrients in the soil

  3. The bloom challenge

  4. Short Vs. Long cycles of irrigation

2023 AlmondBeat report #1 , Let's grow!

1) When should irrigation start?

Irrigating too early in the season, when the tree can "suck" water from the soil's deeper layers (still relatively soaked from weeks of rain), is not just inefficient but might also affect the tree's development.

"One of the questions growers are facing at the beginning of the season is when to start irrigating", adds Dr. Ido Gardi, from the agronomic research at Phytech. Combining the data from the trees and the soil can help growers choose when to apply water and fertilizers. Although this season some growers may start irrigation early, applying fertilizers too soon before the upper part of the soil (0-1 feet) has dried out, might be inefficient".

At this early stage of the season, the tree needs important nutrients that are available at the soil's upper part. Applying too much irrigation - too soon - might wash away those nutrients, and affect trees' development. Let the trees "drink" from the deeper part of the soil while continuing to "feed" on its nutrients.

A daily shrinkage value of around 100 or the season's first "yellow" plant-status are amongst those indicators that trees' water demand is building. Irrigating too early in the season, when the tree can "suck" water from the soil's deeper layers (still relatively soaked from weeks of rain), is not just inefficient but might also affect the tree's development.

Watch out for early-season stress

Over-irrigation can also lead to diseases at the root-zone level caused by excess water. The opposite is also true: avoiding irrigation when the temperatures are rising and trees are experiencing the season's first stress days might harm root-zone formation.

This "saving mode" is also valid for your fertigation consideration. During this period, trees' nitrogen uptake ability is relatively low so applying too much of it might result in leaching and of course - a waste of money.

2) How to optimize fertigation and keep nutrients in the soil

As crop prices decrease and inputs costs (water, labor, energy, fertilizers) continue to increase, growers should step up efficiency on all fronts, while also addressing sustainability issues and regulations demands such as SGMA (Sustainable Groundwater Management Act). Fertigation optimization is one particular area where Phytech helps growers avoid wastage and soil contamination while maximizing trees' health with tank-level and fertigation monitoring.

Phytech's fertigation monitoring feature

"The main macro nutrients almonds consume at this time are Nitrogen (N) and Potassium (K). in terms of the application time window, 70% of N and 60% of K needs to happen from 70% leaf out, which typically occur at the beginning of March till the beginning of nut fill at mid- June", says Ziv Attia PhD, Head of Agronomy. "With a large portion of farm costs' going to fertilizers, growers need to become super-efficient to run a successful operation. With Phytech's fertigation monitoring feature they can track their soil moisture level during and after events and see how their trees are reacting to fertigation events, by observing growth and MDS (Maximum Daily Shrinkage) and voiding leaching by detecting the moisture at different soil depths".

Physiological effects of nitrogen application as observed from the plant and the soil

3) The bloom challenge - keep calm and avoid stress

"After some really dry years, we had a record-setting water year in California", says CSM Manager, Joseph Jackson, "but we're also experiencing bloom problems which need to be addressed. That record amount of water left little time for the bees to fly, which means you need to prioritize the nuts you have on your tree. Early stress is even more unnecessary than usual and even more dangerous in terms of trees' productivity. Although many growers can put off irrigating longer than they ever have thanks to soil wetness, they need to keep an eye on their stress levels. See when the trees are really pulling and actually need some water".

4) Short Vs. long cycles

So irrigation at this early stage of the season is a delicate balancing act. Although the deeper part of the soil may still enjoy moisture, on hot days, trees are prone to stress because some of the top soil is dry. "Growers should apply short irrigation cycles to surgically deliver water to the upper part of the soil (0-1 foot)", explains Irrigation Specialist and Customer Success Manager, Mark Sherfy, "Long cycles, a common practice during the peak of the season, might wash nutrients too deep as well as create oversaturation in the deeper root zone".

By listening to their trees growers can save water and keep their trees' health and productivity. The root-zone gets just the right amount of water to overcome stress (without developing disease) in order to continue its formation, and nutrients are available for the tree, which has enough water to absorb them.

Here's how a short cycle strategy looks from last season:

Irrigate, listen, adapt

By listening to their trees and getting clear visibility of their water-demand, growers are not bound to predetermined irrigation tactics, and can optimize delivery by applying them according to what their trees communicate in real-time. Applying irrigation and instantly observing the effect on the tree make irrigation much more dynamic and effective both in terms of cost saving and production optimization.

Growers who have made the transition to higher frequency irrigation scheduling, are supported by Phytech's seamless integration with automation solutions which allows them to automatically execute their irrigation plans.

That's it for now.

see you on our next 2023 AlmondBeat report


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