Precision Spray Pollination Would Negate Problems Such As Not Having Enough Honey Bees, Distribution of Pollen-borne Viruses and Insufficient Pollen Distribution

CATCH THE BUZZ      February 2, 2017

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Spray pollination may someday replace bees in orchards, withholding irrigation before cherry harvest doesn’t do much and adding hand pruning to mechanical pruning every other year boosts yields.

That’s what Matthew Whiting, Washington State University plant physiologist, told growers at the Northcentral Washington Stone Fruit Day in Wenatchee on Jan. 17.

Precision spray pollination would negate problems such as not having enough honeybees, distribution of pollen-borne viruses and insufficient pollen distribution, Whiting said.

Pure pollen can be kept alive in a liquid state for two hours without loss of germinability, he said.

“We are pursuing this further. We are using an electrostatic sprayer for 12 to 14 gallons per acre. Electrostatic because the (flower) stigma has a negative charge,” he said.

For years, growers have debated whether withholding irrigation a week or two before harvest yields better cherries. Whiting said two years of studies led him to conclude “it’s a much ado about nothing.”

While recognizing there are many variables — including soil depth and type, genotype of the cultivar and rootstock and types of irrigation systems — Whiting set up trials withholding water from seven to 17 days before harvest and found no effect on bud density, bloom, firmness, cracking, size or quality.

Soil moisture dropped but trees showed no significant stress, he said.

The only potential benefit was a 2 percent increase in soluble solids, mostly sugar, which could be tasted but only with Lapins and not Chelans, he said. In one case, soluble solids increased 10 to 13 percent and firmness dropped about 6 percent, he said.

Mechanical pruning of planar or fruiting-wall style orchards saves labor and can save 20 percent or more in annual production costs and improve worker safety and efficiency, Whiting said.

Powered by tractors, mechanical pruners hedge the sides of trees and top them. There are more ragged cuts and only half as much wood is removed so a good plan is to remove more wood by following mechanical pruning with hand pruning every other year, he said.

Mechanical pruning is 23 to 29 percent faster than hand pruning. Mechanical combined with hand pruning is 66 percent more efficient than hand pruning alone, he said.

Fruit weight is slightly smaller with mechanical pruning but yield is greater because more wood and more buds are left, he said.

Hand pruning cherry trees costs an estimated $741 per acre versus $168 for mechanical only and $590 for a combination, he said.


California Almonds Have Smaller Impact Than Many Foods

Yale Environment 360   July 21, 2015

California almonds could become carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative if growers were to make full use of practices such as shell, hull, and biomass recycling, according to new research in the Journal of Industrial Ecology. Eighty percent of the world's almonds come from the drought-stricken state, and production operations there have drawn much ire since studies showed that almonds are a particularly water-intensive crop. However, the new research shows that the energy and greenhouse gas footprints of almonds can be lessened by, for example, using shells, hulls, and orchard biomass to generate electricity or feed dairy cows. Soils and woody biomass in almond orchards also temporarily store carbon, and when this is taken into account, their greenhouse gas footprint may be reduced by an additional 18 percent, the researchers say. "Our research shows 1 kilogram of California almonds typically results in less than 1 kilogram of CO2 emissions," said author Alissa Kendall, which is "a lower carbon footprint than many other nutrient- and energy-dense foods."

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Almond Prices Surge as Sales Boom Collides With Drought

Bloomberg News   By Leslie Patton  July 5, 2015

The almond is having its moment.

Though criticized for being a water-thirsty crop grown mostly in California, almonds are more popular than ever. And spreads made from the tree nut are increasingly supplanting peanut butter in U.S. lunch boxes and pantries. Americans are eating about 2 pounds of almonds per person annually, double the amount they consumed just seven years ago.

Protein-rich Paleo diets, peanut-butter allergies and evolving

tastes have all fueled demand. That’s sent major U.S. food makers such as Hain Celestial Group Inc. and JM Smucker Co. into the market, where they’re vying against smaller suppliers. Almond butter now comes in a range of flavors, including maple and dark chocolate.

But the almond craze has come at a cost. The growth in consumption -- coupled with smaller crops...


The Fall and Rise of the Honeybee

Pollinator Partnership    By Peter Loring Borst    August 12, 2014

By now most people have heard of the “unprecedented losses” of the honey bee; some tabloids have even gone so far as to warn of its impending “extinction.” Are these losses unprecedented? Are these stories even true? It’s pretty hard to make a claim... 


California Almond Farmers Face Tough Choices

Standard Examiner  By Scott Smith, Associated Press    2/24/14 

FIREBAUGH, Calif. -- With California's agricultural heartland entrenched in drought, almond farmers are letting orchards dry up and in some cases making the tough call to have their trees torn out of the ground, leaving behind empty fields.

In California's Central Valley, Barry Baker is one of many who hired a crew that brought in large rumbling equipment to perform the grim task in a cloud of dust.

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Symphony in the almond blossoms!

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey  2/22/13

There's a wild almond tree planted in a field off Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis, that's incredibly beautiful.

Honey bees from the nearby apiary at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility reunite on the blossoms, each bee seemingly vying for the best pollen to take back to her hive.

The tree is not quite in full bloom, but don't tell that to the bees. We captured a few images of them in flight, a...


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