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Warm weather ignites California almond blossom

Tim Hearden

Capital Press

A stretch of warm and dry weather in California's Central Valley has facilitated a vibrant almond blossom, signaling that spring is on its way.

RED BLUFF, Calif. — A stretch of warm and dry weather has facilitated a vibrant almond blossom in California, offering the first signs of spring.

Bees have been active in orchards throughout the Central Valley since mid-February, and growers have been spraying to ward off pests such as the navel orangeworm and peach twig borer, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“It’s early,” University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor Allan Fulton said of the bloom. “We seem to have had, other than a couple of windy days, some good warm and sunny days for bee activity.”

Afternoon highs peaked into the 70s in Red Bluff for five straight days Feb. 20-24, the National Weather Service reported. A series of weather systems was expected to arrive by midweek and bring rain and cooler temperatures to the valley through this weekend.

However, the federal Climate Prediction Center is noncommittal as to whether the rainy pattern will continue into March, as it shows equal chances of above- or below-average precipitation in much of California over the next month.

Some almond blossoms have lingered for longer than others, and it’s too soon to gauge how long this bloom will last, said Fulton, who is based in Red Bluff.

“I think for the early varieties, it’s been pretty normal,” he said.

Almond trees are among the first in the Central Valley to bloom in the spring, with plum trees following shortly afterward and walnut blossoms coming later.

Growers have voiced concerns that an early bloom brought on by the drought could put their crops at greater risk of freeze damage. In 2012, an early March frost and an early April hailstorm affected some valley orchards after a warm and dry February had triggered a vibrant bloom.

However, the Climate Prediction Center envisions above-normal temperatures in the valley over the next month.

Among California’s other crops, according to the NASS office in Sacramento:

• Stone fruit trees were also blooming last week, and cherries were starting bud break. Sulfur and pre-emergent sprays were being applied in vineyards as the harvests of navel oranges, Murcott tangerines, lemons and Minnesota tangelos continued.

• Recent rains improved wheat and small grain conditions, but the crops are still behind schedule. Meanwhile, a lack of precipitation compounded aphid pressure on alfalfa, and growers have been spraying.

• As almond trees were blooming, growers of walnuts, pistachios and pecans were actively pruning their trees. Winter vegetable harvests continued in the Fresno area as asparagus was harvested in Monterey County.



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