Driving up Interstate 5 you may have seen extra activity in the still leafless almond orchards. In the evenings, flatbed trucks unloading white boxes with beehives inside has been a common sight for a week now. You may even be able to catch a white blossom or two, as the sun comes up over the valley. All of this means that the almond bloom, as farmers call it, is about to start.
In the farm papers and climate websites there has been a lot of talk about the early bloom. It’s true. Farmers in the Sacramento Valley say that it is about two weeks earlier than normal. No doubt you will see early blossoms on backyard fruit trees as well.
What does that mean with the recent rain? Farmers here and everywhere in the state have the same response – let it rain. We need it.
Will the heavy precipitation, while much needed, knock many blooms from the trees? Not so much, say farmers since the blossoms are just starting to open. A few will be knocked off but not enough to be worried about.
After the rain, the bees will come out of the hives ready to do their annual job of pollinating the tens of thousands of acres of this important crop.
Grower’s eyes are cast a bit further into the year for potential problems. Early bloom and rain are manageable. Hard frosts present a bigger concern. With the blossoms arriving earlier, it means that the young nuts are present when there is still a threat of frost. In the Sacramento Valley the last date for frost is about mid-April.
More important still is the drought and the availability of water to irrigate the orchards. Unlike sunflowers, tomatoes and rice in the valley, it’s hard to fallow some of your trees to make the water stretch on the balance of the farm.
So join Sacramento Valley farmers and be glad for the rain. Hope for more and keep an eye on the thermometer until a bit after Easter.