AlmondBeat 2021 #1: When and how much to irrigate as almond trees wake up

As our southern-hemisphere growers are busy harvesting, in California, Israel and other parts of the northern-hemisphere things are just blooming. This is also a period when growers (when they're not being hypnotized by the beauty of their orchard) start to look more frequently at the growth and MDS (Maximum Daily Shrinkage) graphs to catch the first sign when trees' will wake up from dormancy.

Identifying wake-up time

In the next couple of weeks, sugar production and water demand will gradually start to increase, which will be indicated by a steady positive growth rate. With Phytech's sensors communicating in real-time trees' status and growth, timing the first irrigation of the season is made a lot easier. Some growers will wait for a daily shrinkage value around 100 micron to open their valves and others will look for their first "yellow" plant-status of the season. Strong positive growth in this period affects future productivity, so growers can also use Phytech's plant reference line, an optimal growth benchmark based on millions of the same trees, to keep their trees' above the graph.

How much should you irrigate

After identifying when to start irrigating, now comes the question of how much water should be delivered.

At this stage of the season, many growers believe that excess water might wash away from the soil much needed nutrients for trees' development. They would rather fill the tree's water bank, let the tree suck the moisture near the upper part, and focus they're attention on delivering fertigation. So reacting to the season's first signs of stress with a long-duration high dose of water might not be efficient.

Using Phytech's real-time feedback and clear visibility of trees' status, many growers have learned that not every stress sign in this stage of the season or further down the road, should trigger a long-cycle of irrigation. In many cases, switching to short irrigation cycles - less quantity delivered more frequently - proves to be a better tactic to prevent stress or to help trees recover from one.

As we'll see as the season progresses, raising irrigation frequency - not quantity - can be a better (less pricy and more sustainable) way to reduce or avoid stress.

By listening to their trees and getting clear visibility of their water-demand, growers are not bound to pre-determined irrigation tactics, and can save water by applying it 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.

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