Things That Matter What do growers need to pay attention to in order to achieve optimum returns ? According to Mel Machado, Blue Diamond’s Membership Director, there are “things that matter.” Varieties Matter Nonpareil growers producing for kernels and inshell need to hit targets of 2.5 percent or less reject level to achieve the premium for inshell, and two percent rejects for the premium for meats. “High-quality inshell is not hulled, it’s grown,” said Machado. “Good quality inshell occurs in the field. You need a reject plan that addresses, Navel orangeworm (NOW), ants, spit bugs – whatever the threat is. There has to be a good control plan.” He emphasized close attention to timing and application of treatments to maximize protection. “Make sure your workers are doing their job,” he advised. “Watch your orchard, so you know what is going on.” Woods Colony presents a challenge in manufacturing due to its tendency to develop a suture in the kernel in up to 30 percent of the crop, which renders blanching, slicing, and peeling impractical, thereby increasing processing costs and lowering the value of the delivery. Monterey, while an excellent producer and a fine pollinator for nonpareil, often produces doubles. Doubles result in a high degree of chipped and broken, and a lower return for growers. Nevertheless, plantings of Monterey are increasing making the incidence of doubles in deliveries a growing issue. Blue Diamond this year launched a tracking study to determine what kind of problem the cooperative may have in regards to the amount of doubles in grower deliveries. Chipped and Broken Nuts Matter This is not just a huller/sheller issue. As Machado puts it, “Garbage in equals garbage out.” When rocks, wood debris, wood spurs, and other foreign material combine in a delivery the nuts will be damaged. Too much chipped and broken degrades the value of a grower’s delivery. Better conditioning in the field equals cleaner deliveries and less damage in the processing. Ants Matter Ants damage almonds on the ground and in the trees, surprisingly. Machado has found ants swarming on nuts in trees, as well as nuts drying on the ground. “I have seen as much as two percent damage per day on a crop on the ground,” he said. Young orchards are especially susceptible to ants. Ant activity begins earlier than might be expected. Machado has seen active ant hills in orchards at bloom. Growers must be vigilant, walk their orchards, and apply a good bait as soon as activity appears, and to maintain control through harvest. Plant Bugs Matter Plant bugs have emerged as an increasing threat to almonds, with new species of the pest moving into the state. Leaf-footed plant bugs and stink bugs are “traditional” perpetrators of losses in the orchard. The insect feeds by probing the nut much like a mosquito. Early season damage kills the nut, causing it to drop from the tree. Later season damage after kernel hardening can result in “Brown Spot,” which is classified as an inedible reject. Growers must walk their fields every couple of days starting in late March to look for clear gum oozing from green nuts. While the insect can cause damage in all varieties, it appears to prefer Independence, Sonora, Aldrich, Price, and Fritz, and typically attacks these first. The discovery of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs in Stanislaus County is particularly alarming. This insect feeds aggressively and causes serious losses. “Be careful with this ANNUAL GROWERS MEETING 2 8 A L M O N D F A C T S