As the 2019 almond season has come to a close, the 2020 almond season has begun and California's harvesting is in full swing. California's Central Valley makes up nearly 80% of the world's almond production, with Australia coming in second and producing 7% of the global crop. Olam's Edible Nuts team has almond operations in both California and Australia, meaning we are operating in two different hemispheres and growing almonds year-round. Due to these counter-cyclical crops and the growing and harvesting seasons of these orchards being 6 months apart, our teams in both origins are on practically opposite schedules. As California harvests their bounty, Australia is basking in the beautiful blooming orchards and working with beekeepers and managed pollinators to set up for their next crop. Check out updates from both teams below to see what's going on out in our orchards...
California Harvest - Zac Ellis
Now that harvest is in full swing, operations have worked out all the kinks and are running smoothly. Nonpareils are being picked up, with pollinators starting to hit the ground. Wood Colony and Aldrich varieties are ready first, with Sonoras and Carmels close behind. So far the crop looks promising and trees are happy to have crop off their limbs. This heat spell we are experiencing has hastened maturity and magnified water stress. The objective now is to shake, sweep and put small shots of water to help preserve canopy health so our post-harvest fertility can effectively be taken up for next season. Almost halfway through and picking up steam with every week!
Australia Bloom - Hein Van Kralingen
In the orchards the Nonpareil cultivar reaches full bloom each year around middle of August, with Price cultivar a couple of days earlier and Carmel cultivar a couple days later. Bud development this season was more advanced. Colder weather has provided an abundance of good chill hours with more recorded this year in than the previous 4 years and well over what is needed for almonds to meet their chill requirements. Bloom on most of the orchards and varieties are heavy with some areas showing a slight delay in flowering.
Beehive deliveries have been done to all orchards. General quality of beehives appear very good considering the harsh season the beekeepers have just come out from. Hive inspections are being conducted by an independent party with assistance from Olam staff. Pollination conditions for the bees has been challenging at times but sunny weather during key periods is helping with pollination of the flowers
The period following full bloom and pollination is a critical period for frost damage. The period of frost risk continues into September. Young developing fruit is the most at risk of frost damage when temperatures drop below 1.5°C. Frost fans have been installed on orchards to help mitigate the risk of frost damage.
Following successful cross pollination of the flowers, almonds develop very rapidly through cell division and cell expansion, resulting in a period of exponential nut growth. Almonds have a very short period in which to set a good sized nut so the next few weeks is critical to achieve a good outcome. A good nutrition program has been developed to provide key nutrition elements at these critical times during this growth expansion, and to support vegetative leaf and spur growth. Vegetative buds have just commenced with leaf-out progressing. Irrigation demand will increase according to the stage of leaf-out.
Key orchard preventative sprays along with nutritional sprays will continue to mitigate the risk of fungal diseases and provide much needed nutrients for fast expanding leaves. The agronomy team and orchard scouts will be monitoring for early season aphids and nutritional deficiencies. Dormant season orchard sanitation work will be concluded soon. This work is crucial in management of Carpophilus beetle and Carob moth.