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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fertigation: Combining fertilizer with irrigation

Fertilizer Storage Tank
This weekend we were fertigating. Fertilization and irrigation are combined to form a process called fertigation using the irrigation system. Nitrogen fertilizers are used in the spring and early summer to promote almond and vegetation growth. Since almonds are high in protein they use a lot of nitrogen to form proteins in the almonds. We also fertigate with potassium, almonds are high in potassium therefore the tree takes up a lot of potassium out of the ground to produce the crop. This potassium needs to be replaced in the soil for next years crop to be successful.

The process of fertilizing is made easier for farmers who use drip or micro irrigation. Fertilizer is delivered to our storage tanks by the semi truck load. Next, when the timing is right for the tree to efficiently use the fertilizer we pump the fertilizer into the irrigation system. Since we use drip irrigation on our farm, we simply pump the fertilizer into the irrigation system. Then the water drips from the hoses in the field and fertilizer is delivered directly to the tree.

Drip irrigation hose delivering water and fertilizer to the tree
Before we installed drip irrigation we used to drive tractors with a trailer and tank spreader through the orchard. This required more man power, more time and extra costs to operate another piece of equipment. This also wasted fertilizer due to evaporation because the fertilizer wasn't being applied immediately with irrigation. With fertigation we are more efficient and smart with our farming practices; we use less inputs, we are easier on the environment and the bottom line is much happier.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Drilling a new water well

Over the last two weeks we had a water well drilled on our farm! Because of the drought, we have an 80 acre field that district water allocations would be cut off as of may 15th. We have an old well that had the metal casing collapse 10 years ago and is no longer usable for us. We placed a request 6 months ago to have a well drilled and two weeks ago we got word that we were next up!

Soil Samples taken every 20-30 feet
Drilling a well is quite the process. They drill foot by foot taking samples every 20 to 30 feet. These samples ensure that the water is good quality and available at that point. Also, the samples are used by the county and the drilling company to determine how deep we need to put cement around the well to ensure nothing is able to get down to the aquifer that is not supposed to be there. The drilling rig had to go 340 feet before they hit the top of the aquifer at our farm. The drilling continued to 935 feet in total to ensure we would have an active well if the aquifer drops further.

During drought times a lot of farmers drill new wells on property they solely or partially depended on district water before. With everyone drilling wells it will soon lower our aquifer even more. But a few years ago farmers were asked to stop drilling in fear of lowering the aquifer and were told the state and central water projects would be able to supply us water. This has not been the case, so we drill to keep farming. Without drilling this well we would not have any water supply to 80 acres, which would cause the trees to die by the end of the year.


Drilling a new water well.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Drought caused spraying

This week we are spraying for mite, peach twig borer, navel orange worm and leaf fungus. Mite is a small insect that eats leaves off the almond tree, these leaves provide shade and protection to the nuts. Peach twig borer and navel orange worm are worms that attack the almonds and destroy the crop. Leaf fungus can kill the leaves and negatively impact this years and future years almond production. Because of this years drought we had poor mummy removal which created more worm habitats and survival through the winter. Now we have to spray to control these worms. The drought also makes mite infestations worse, mites thrive on lack of water and weak trees. Rust has become a problem due to late season rains and lack of rain during winter months. Fungus grows rapidly in warm, humid conditions that we are currently experiencing. A miticide is used to kill the mite, a insecticide is used to kill the worms and a fungicide is used to prevent the leaf fungus. The combination of these is used to help us save the almond crop. We will spray for all of these problems at minimum one to two more times this year, most of which can be attributed to the drought conditions we are experiencing.