This time of year, almond growers are primarily focused on getting their crops harvested, but it’s also a time to remember the importance of postharvest irrigation. UC Cooperative Extension Pomology Advisor for Merced County David Doll noted, “the water we apply to our orchards in the postharvest is the most critical water we apply for next year’s crop.”
Depending on the location and weather, almond trees can require between 12 to 15 inches of water during the post-harvest period of mid-August to early November. The biggest demand from trees comes in the first six weeks following harvest due to longer, hotter days. The first eight inches of water that is applied it the most significant for crop development.
Thirty years of research has shown that the period directly following harvest is vitally important to the development of next year’s crop. “The tree is developing carbohydrates that then provide energy for the bud development that the trees are currently undergoing,” Doll stated.
Neglecting to begin irrigation programs promptly after harvest can negatively affect flower quality and quantity, leading to a reduction in overall fruit set of next year’s crop.
The season is wrapping up for early starters and now harvesters are moving into later varieties such as Monterey, Butte, Fritz, and Padre. “As a whole, the season has been a lot longer than many of us were expecting and I think a lot of that had to do with the really long bloom that we have earlier this year, due to the weather,” said Doll.
Throughout the process of harvesting, it is important to mitigate tree stress to maintain the productivity of the tree itself, by paying close attention to soil moisture levels and being timely during the shaking process. Postharvest irrigation should begin as soon as possible to help combat the stress experienced during harvest.
Listen to the interview below.