Staying a Step Ahead with Real-Time Data

A cold start to spring has definitely affected California cherry growers this season.

With a warm winter, late February frost and plenty of spring rain and even hail in some regions, the “2018 California cherry crop is expected to be down from last year’s 9 million cartons, somewhere in the range of 4.5 million to 7 million cartons,” The Packer reports.

But using Hortau’s crop stress management systems, cherry growers have been able to remain a step ahead of Mother Nature and remain optimistic that 2018 can be a good season.

Know when to irrigate with real-time soil tension monitoring

Now that the worst of the weather is behind us, Hortau San Joaquin Valley Irrigation Management Advisor Travis Goldman says it’s time for growers to really focus on irrigation management and ensure root-zone soil tension is at optimal levels for production.

“It’s a critical time right now, to manage irrigation precisely to improve size,” Goldman said. “We’ve been getting some weird weather, and it can be tough to judge without the right tools. But using soil tension sensors, we’re able to make sure we’re not putting on too much water and can help avoid fruit splitting.”

In drier areas, growers can use real-time soil tension data to monitor how dry their soil profile is in order to rehydrate after the colder months.

Goldman said keeping the soil profile at recommended soil tension levels helps growers get the most out of their fertilizer programs as well.

“Tension readings help growers know when the trees need fertilizer, based on crop demand,” Goldman added. “It makes sure you don’t fall behind with your irrigations and suffer high tension, which in return will hurt fruit set and size.”

Anticipate stress and weather events with real-time weather data, alarms

Along with monitoring real-time orchard soil conditions, proactive growers can remain on top of looming rain, frost and hail events with Hortau’s weather service.

Leveraging real-time weather data, growers are able to set alerts (via text, email or phone call) for upcoming frost conditions and protect their buds accordingly when frost hits.

During dormancy, weather stations help keep track of chill hours, or hours of lower temperature, to determine critical points in the season – such as when cherries break dormancy and open for bloom.

“Over the dormant winter months, cherries need enough ‘chill’ hours or hours of lower temperatures (32°-45°), in order to break dormancy and open for bloom,” said Hortau Central Coast Grower Support Specialist Dustin Gonella. “Depending on the variety, cherry trees need anywhere from 200 to 900 chill hours and Hortau’s weather station keeps track of those chill hours for a grower. This year, Gilroy got more than 1200 chilling hours, so they did pretty well this year.”

To learn more about Hortau’s crop stress management services in cherries and other crops, contact a local irrigation management expert via our website.