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AlmondBeat: #6: Master the Shake: Analysis of the 23 Almond Harvest

As the 2023 almond harvest is underway, we have been analyzing the data accumulated since the harvest began. Our analysis has led us to a crucial realization - the significance of Phytech Plant Status Data in determining when the trees are ready for shakes and guiding your post-harvest decisions with Growth Data to promote bud differentiation.

AlmondBeat 2023 #6: Master the Shake: Phytech's Analysis of the 2023 Almond Harvest Information Provided by Phytech Agronomy Experts, Ziv Attia, Mark Sherfy and Ido Gardi

Fine-Tuning Shakes for Optimal Results Navigating through the harvest, one of the challenges that arise is the phenomenon of barking, where the bark detaches from the tree. This occurrence is primarily driven by poor equipment handling but also from improper irrigation practices, resulting in the trees retaining excessive moisture in their trunks, rendering them vulnerable to damage during the shaking process. A common approach involves initiating a "drying out" phase for the trees before shaking them. Not only does this prevent shaker damage, but it also prevents equipment from rutting the fields, which as we know, can cause nuts to become lost.

A Precise Preharvest Approach Through careful comparison of specific data from tree blocks, such as trunk dimensions, water needs, actual water supply, and the stress history of the area, along with insights shared by our customers regarding barking rates in their respective fields, we've uncovered an effective approach. This method aids our customers in utilizing deficit irrigation methods to prevent barking, maintain tree health, and minimize yield-impairing stress. Our analysis has indicated that most varieties will benefit from three stress days prior to shaking (independence will benefit from lower stress levels, 1-2 days), which substantially reduces shaker-induced harm, leading to a more efficient optimization of this phase. Adjusting irrigation, inducing stress (evident through a red plant status), and halting tree growth three days ahead of shaking could potentially result in bark-free trees and an improved rate of harvested nut yield. Another benefit of monitoring is that we do not want to over-stress our trees. This can cause “stick-tights” wherein the almonds become stuck and fail to come off when shaken. This can cause another round of shakes, a loss of nuts, or both. By closely monitoring and applying the appropriate amount of water and stress to your trees, the chances of stick-tights and barking drop dramatically.

Developed for growers - By Growers

Head of Agronomic Research at Phytech, Ido Gardi, adds: "This protocol was developed together with growers and has been adopted worldwide. We are working closely with our customers to find new tools and methods to push forward the almond industry. The dendrometers of course are the ideal way to monitor the trunk's moisture level and the causes for tree injuries, and what differentiates Phytech from other methods".

Supported by Scientific Research

This approach is also corroborated by research conducted by a UC Davis team led by Prof. Ken Shackel, who utilized our dendrometers to monitor day-to-day trunk growth."Reduced trunk growth prior to shaking could potentially reduce tree susceptibility to shaker injury," the researchers noted. In their study, nine trees received excess irrigation before harvest, maintaining trunk growth, and 8 out of 9 were damaged by the shaker. In contrast, only 3 trees in the standard (control) treatment were affected (source: Lysimeter – Whole Tree ET Response to Mild and Moderate Water Stress, Shackel et al. 2019).

Promote Bud Differentiation Post-Harvest

Following shaking, it is crucial to guide the trees back to a positive growth trajectory to ensure their health and future productivity. It is not enough to just “pour” the water back on but to monitor the actual responses of those trees and adjust accordingly. Phytech users gain immediate and transparent insight into their trees' reactions to irrigation and growth rate, guiding their post-harvest decisions with Growth Data that promotes bud differentiation

Stay tuned for our next AlmondBeat report post-harvest.

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