Almond blossoms are a common sight in the Central Valley come February, but recent freezing temperatures could jeopardize this year’s bloom — and, subsequently, the upcoming almond crop.
Freezing temperatures are of the most concern during the bloom period. During the bloom, and especially right after the petal fall, is the most vital period of time for the developing nut. Even just a short, 30-minute exposure to freezing temperatures can cause measurable damage to a crop.
There were eight days in February where Turlock and surrounding towns experienced low temperatures of below 32 degrees, causing significant concerns for local farmers. Temperatures locally will drop to below freezing again this weekend.
This week’s freezing weather could also spell trouble for almond pollination, despite farmers’ best efforts. According to the Almond Board of California, blossoms release pollen when temperatures are above 55 degrees, with it being collected by bees by mid-afternoon. The temperature is expected to drop to about 55 degrees this weekend.
Despite affecting the bees, the cold weather mainly poses a threat to the almond trees and their new blossoms, putting them at risk of freezing.
Growers can protect their crops with irrigation water and sprinklers, which provides a thin layer of insulation, but there’s still worry. Brian Wahlbrink, who co-owns Sperry Farms of Denair, told AgInfo.net’s California Tree Nut Report this week that recent temperatures are the lowest he’s seen throughout his 17 years in the industry.
Despite warmer-than-normal temperatures during Super Bowl weekend, “damaging” conditions were felt by farmers and trees alike shortly after — something they didn’t expect.
“That was definitely a curveball for everybody with the warm weather we’ve had so far,” Wahlbrink said. “And it always takes a few days to determine how much damage that low temperature did to the blossoms and the future crop.”
It’s still too early to tell, he added, as frost conditions continue.
“It’s about a degree warmer, but it’s still right there on the edge,” Wahlbrink said. “If people have had water or have access to water, they’re applying water right now trying to effectively raise the temperature of the orchard a degree or two, just to try and get away from the frost zone. If the canals aren’t filled and they don’t have water, there’s not much you can do.”