Almond Update: ‘Benefits Far Outweigh the Cost’ for Cover Crops

Brian GermanAlmond Update, Almonds, News from our Sponsors

A small grower in Hughson is having some positive experiences with implementing cover crops in the orchard. Donny Hicks said that he has been cover cropping for two years and is already starting to see some of the benefits. “I’m getting a lot of good infiltration. That was part of my problem in the past. It seemed to help on that,” Hicks explained.

cover crops

Initially, Hicks ran into some challenges in the first year. After getting a bit of a late start on the process, the seed he was using plugged up the broadcast spreader. “So, I grabbed the lawn feeder and I proceeded to walk the whole 18 acres of the orchard spreading it out by hand,” said Hicks.

The cover crop was terminated during the bloom that first year and subsequently disked and worked back into the ground afterward. Hicks got an earlier start the second year, securing seed from Project Apis M. in time to start getting seed out in late September. “I was able to get a guy to come in and drill it and then flood irrigate it. I had one flood irrigation left. I put a flood irrigation on and boy it took off. Then after 25 inches of winter rain, I had a stand that was over five feet tall,” Hicks noted.

Once bloom came Hicks said that his orchards were full of bees. After another frost event during bloom, he mowed the cover crops down and rototilled after bloom. Project Apis M. has free seed available for growers for the first two years of cover cropping. However, Hicks said that he will continue the practice as he’s seen incremental benefits that make it worth the cost.

“I would just encourage everybody to cover crop. The benefits for the bees and also for the soil have been great so far,” Hicks explained. “The cost is really minimal. I think I paid $450 for the guy to come out and drill it and the seed is very minimal too. But the benefits far outweigh the cost.”

Listen to the segment below.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West