Season off to Rough Start for California Growers, Managing Stress is Critical Going Forward

Central Valley Almond Bloom

Just as it looked as though California’s Central Valley growers would be heading into the season with less than optimal rainfall and chill portions, the region’s growers were hit by a hard freeze during almond bloom followed by back-to-back storms that produced standing water, high winds, and in some cases, crop threatening hail across the valley floor. And there’s more on the way.

Let’s face it, the season is off to a rough, but not impossible start for growers in the Golden State.

This time of year is critical for crops just coming out of dormancy. Bloom, root flush and leaf-out are all happening now for Central Valley almond and early stone fruit growers, with pistachios, grapes and other crops soon to follow suit.

Crop Stress-Yields Over SeasonMitigating damage from weather events by minimizing stress in the present and over the course of the season will help growers maximize the potential yields that can still be had. Damage to yields from crop stress events cannot be recovered as the graphic on the right illustrates.

Despite the recent rain and rain to come, there’s no way of knowing with certainty how much water is in the profile without having some way to verify.

Traditionally, even in wet years, growers and their staff would spend copious amounts of time driving from block to block to auger down to multiple depths to assess soil moisture, often times using the hand-feel method to determine moisture content, which is extremely subjective and leaves a lot of room for error.

Growers using Hortau’s real-time soil tension sensors, regardless of the crop or soil type, can get ahead of stress to the crop by diligently checking their graphs to make sure soil tension remains within the threshold of the comfort zone.

The graph below is from a young Central Valley almond orchard last season that demonstrates textbook execution of irrigation management with Hortau. Despite challenges from a wet season, the grower was able to keep soil tension at an a near-ideal range with appropriately timed irrigation from dormancy through hull split, minimizing stress to the trees.

Ideal Early Season Management in Almonds

The light blue vertical lines indicate irrigation events with times noted above, while the blue horizontal band indicates the ideal range of soil tension for this particular crop. You can see that the grower was able to anticipate on coming stress and apply water as needed before the soil tension had risen to a crop-threatening level.

This particular grower was able to maximize production and potential for yields in that particular block by limiting stress, and irrigating to the demand of the trees.

Factors such as soil types can affect infiltration rates and how much water is available to the crop. Without a way to see below the surface, you’re flying blind and putting the crop at risk.

Hortau’s system brings actionable data from the soil profile to the hands and fingertips of farmers, helping them to minimize stress to their crops and get the most out of their irrigation management.

Whether you’re new to Hortau, or are a long-time customer, we are here to help. Our trained and dedicated grower support specialists can help you identify solutions to your irrigation management challenges and assist with your irrigation and crop stress management strategy.

To learn more about Hortau and its irrigation management and scheduling services, contact us today or check out this presentation on Hortau’s precision irrigation management platform.