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Articles from 2020 In June

TNFP0702-ARS-hull-split_BT_Edits.jpg USDA ARS
Almond husks, or hulls, naturally split open as the nut matures on the tree. This opening makes it easier for navel orangeworm larvae to find their way to the nutmeat inside.

‘Tis the season for almond hull split

In bowling, keglers call the 7-10 split the most infamous of splits, dreaded because only a skilled kill shot can take out the remaining pins.

According to the Almond Board of California, in their industry, hull split holds a similar dread because precise knowledge of when it begins unleashes a concentrated pest management procedure.

When hulls split, a scent is released that attracts female Navel Orangeworm moths to lay their eggs on the splitting hull or for peach twig borers to invade or hull rot fungi spores to spawn infections. Missing the onset of hull split and allowing those pests to gain a toehold can wreck a grower’s season.

Hulls split as the fruit ripens and that timing fluctuates based on a variety of issues, but the nonpareil typically splits earlier than other varieties, generally in early-to-mid July although the actual timing depends on not only the variety, but weather conditions, frequency of irrigation, soil type, and other factors.

One practice recommendation involves controlled water management during the period approaching hull split which will encourage the majority of developing nuts to be in sync and split as quickly as possible.

To determine if hull split has occurred, look all the way to the treetops where nuts mature at a faster rate. Use pole pruners to cut small branches from the top southwest portion of half a dozen trees to see if hull split has begun. Split can be determined by squeezing the end of the hull — if the suture opens up and exposes the shell inside, it’s time to spray.

The annual battle begins with an opening salvo, a warning shot in the form of kernelless blank nuts whose hulls are traditionally the first to split, days ahead of those with full kernel. Nuts at the top of the canopy and trees on the edge of the orchard often ripen first.

Preventing hull rot

The Almond Board’s Newsroom quotes orchard systems advisor Mohammad Yaghmour (University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources) as saying that integrated pest management principles represent a key for growers to prevent hull rot.

“Don’t just rely on one method, use as many tools as possible from your IPM toolbox,” says Yaghmour, who advises Kern and Kings county growers.

During hull split, the cracked hull represents an entry point for air- and soil-borne fungi attracted by the water and nutrients in the hull. Once inside, the pathogens release toxins affecting the spur, the fruiting wood on which the hull hangs.

“Hull rot isn’t a threat to the current year’s crop, but does affect the shoots and twigs that will produce next year’s nuts — and impact grower yield the next crop year,” Yaghmour advises.

Once hull split has been identified, timely treatment is called for, hopefully an entire orchard aerial spray within five days as ground-based sprays don’t always guarantee complete coverage at treetop level.

Early morning or dusk are the recommended spraying times as the heat of the day will evaporate the spray, wasting time, money, spray material, and not achieving the necessary coverage to battle crop damage.

This isn’t a time to cheap out by spraying just every-other-row. There are two sides to the tree and both need to be sprayed.

UC Integrated Pest Management experts recommend shaking a few trees to determine if nut removal time has arrived (when 95% of hulls have split) and harvesting almond crops as early as possible in order to reduce the amount of time the crop will be exposed to pests or encounter additional complications caused by early rains.

For more news on tree nuts as reported by growers and farm advisors, subscribe to the Tree Nut Farm Press e-newsletter.

TNFP0702-april-nobile-ants_BT_Edits.jpg April Nobile
Southern fire ants can do damage in almond orchards, a UC IPM expert says.

Watch for ants in the almond orchard

Trying to keep things in perspective — there are 12,000 known ant species in the world, each with its own unique characteristics that help them survive in their environment.

In California, there are about 300 ant species, many of which have no impact on agriculture.

In the California almond-growing community, “(w)e’re lucky because there are only two species on our radar that adversely affect the industry, the pavement ant and the southern fire ant,” says Kris Tollerup, a University of California Integrated Pest Management advisor in the Fresno area.

The pavement ant is more frequently found in Northern California while Southern California more often sees the southern fire ant. Growers in the central part of the state can often find both in their orchards.

“If you’re a grower checking out your trees, looking down as well as up, and you spot ants, you need to know what species they are to determine if they will do your crop damage,” Tollerup says. “If you’ve done sampling and don’t find examples of the two bad species, chances are any other kinds of ants can be left alone because they won’t be a bother.”

In fact, most ants outside the suspect species, are beneficial in that they eat the larvae of damaging pests like the navel orangeworm.

“Put some corn chips, a slice of hot dog, or some almonds in a vial and leave several vials in the orchard. Collect them in the morning, then freeze them and look at them the next day under a hand magnifier. The UC IPM website has some good resources that will help growers identify the species of ant they’ve recovered.”

Inspection is best done early

Orchard ant inspection is best done early on, like May in southern San Joaquin Valley, but June in northern San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys is not too late to discover colonies and apply baits, because their destruction is really done when nuts are on the ground, say sometime during an August harvest. A second bait treatment may be pertinent in younger orchards where high ant populations can cause significant damage to a smaller crop than that found in a mature orchard.

“The longer the nuts lay there desiccating for processing, the longer they are vulnerable to ant damage, especially the soft-shell, the nonpareils, that have a small split in the shell that can act as an open door for ants,” Tollerup says.

So, removing nuts from the orchard floor as soon as possible after shaking will help limit ant loss because when the nut meat is exposed, ants feed directly. “They go in and use their mandibles and chomp, chomp. Ants can completely hollow out nutmeats leaving only the pellicle.”

The amount of damage is contingent on a number of variables such as the number of colony entrances over a specific square footage and how many days the nuts stay on the ground. 

“I’ve seen growers get up to 12% damage where nuts have been on the ground for three weeks,” Tollerup says.

Even if control methods don’t get started until later in the season and it’s too late for insect growth regulators, there are control options available in the category of stomach poison baits that work quickly. Foraging ants collect the bait and bring it back to the colony where it eventually kills the queen and stops development of maturing larvae.

According to the folks at UC IPM, the more destructive southern fire ant is more prevalent in drip- and sprinkler-irrigated orchards than in the flood-irrigated ones. Notes one grower about the micro-irrigation environment, “Drip lines have become freeways for ants who build condos along those freeways.”

“Ant damage potential also appears to be less in weed-free orchards and those without cover crops,” reports UC IPM.

For more news on tree nuts as reported by growers and farm advisors, subscribe to the Tree Nut Farm Press e-newsletter.

TNFP0702-UCANR-recycling_BT_Edits.jpg Brent Holtz/UCCE San Joaquin County
Whole orchard recycling is lauded as a sustainable method of tree removal that enhances both air and soil quality.

With orchard recycling, it’s out with the old

Unpredictable climate conditions and higher prices for almonds have spurred growers to turn their orchards over faster, ripping out older, less-productive trees and planting newer, faster-growing, less-water-intensive varieties.

In theory, a reasonable and prudent action and one the Almond Board of California estimates will involve some 40,000 trees over the next decade, trees that have outlived their productivity among the state’s 7,600 almond growers and processors.

That leaves a lot of dead wood that used to be burned in the field or sent to biomass power generation plants. But since 2015, burn permits are few and far between and biomass generation plants have dwindled in number.

Being touted now is the concept of whole-orchard recycling, the on-site grinding/chipping of whole trees and the incorporation of that chipped biomass into the topsoil prior to replanting.

WOR is lauded as a sustainable method of tree removal that enhances both air and soil quality and reduces the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

University of California, Davis research reports that WOR increases the health and productivity of the subsequent replanted orchard and its soil base while at the same time sequesters carbon, improves soil structure, and increases water use efficiency.

Published study results indicated an increase in water-use efficiency and crop yield, both about 20%. Report author Amelie Gaudin, an agroecology professor of plant sciences, was impressed with the water part of the equation.

“Water is central to how we think about agriculture in California and this is a clear example of real benefits for water conservation.

“WOR practices build soil potential to become a carbon sink while building nutrients and improving water retention — all important factors as water becomes more limited.”

‘It’s a new day’

Brent Holtz is one of the six study co-authors. The farm advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in San Joaquin County says, “It’s a new day. Clean Air Act restrictions mean growers can’t burn in the field anymore and cogeneration plants have closed.  In the old days, no organic matter was going back into the ground.

“On the plus side, over seven years of monitoring whole orchard recycling, we’ve found the wood chips we’re now putting back in the ground are building carbon and soil organic matter and increasing water-holding capacity.  This is a win-win-win from our viewpoint because our soils in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys are pretty low in organic matter.”

There are other things to consider however.  “When you’re removing an orchard and the wood chips are about 50% carbon, you’re adding about 54,000 pounds of carbon per acre, so you’ve altered the soil chemistry, that carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, quite a bit and we’re working on modifying that ratio so trees won’t be stunted by all that carbon,” Holtz says.

Numerous trials have shown that early nitrogen applications — no more than one ounce per tree in the first year of growth — spurs shoot growth.

Some concern has been expressed about disease in old trees that could be spread via the wood chips. 

“We haven’t seen a problem with that,” he says, alluding to another difficulty. “Some growers are worried they’re going to be picking up recycled wood chips left over from the previous trees, but we found that a plow and rototiller took care of that concern better than a disk.”

Grower reaction to a process that will improve soil health has generally been favorable. Grower numbers and WOR acreage is growing. 

“This whole arc of recycling is being accepted,” Holtz advises.

Another positive is that the concept falls under the umbrella of healthy soils program efforts and some funding is available for recycling. 

“The likelihood is that growers will do well by adopting whole orchard recycling, will see an increase in yield, and can go back and get paid for their conservation efforts,” he says. “If I give growers advice, I suggest this is a new and different way to do things…and it’s a better way that should be considered.”

For more news on tree nuts as reported by growers and farm advisors, subscribe to the Tree Nut Farm Press e-newsletter.

Rangeland in Montana Meindert van der Haven-GettyImages

Rejuvra herbicide approved for annual grass control

The Vegetation Management business within Bayer CropScience LP, announced this week a new product for controlling invasive weed species on rangeland, CRP land and natural areas, including grazed areas on these sites.

Rejuvra herbicide was approved by the EPA but is not yet available for sale. Bayer says the first sales of Rejuvra herbicide are anticipated in July 2020, following state registrations.

This product appears to be primarily useful in the West, where non-native annual grasses fuel repetitive wildfires and simplify the habitat.

Rejuvra is a pre-emergent herbicide and restoration tool that researchers said in the company’s webinar on Tuesday is showing consistent multi-year control of invasive annual grasses like cheatgrass-downy brome, medusahead and ventenata. At the same time it controls seed germination in the problem grasses, it allows native plants to regenerate.

With one application, Rejuvra helps control the seed bank for these problem grasses for several years. Research in the Great Basin showed four years of control. A single pre-emergent application of this product provides consistent multi-year control of invasive annual grasses, they said, and it should reduce costs associated with time and labor for management using other products, the researchers said.

Researchers in Colorado and elsewhere have shown controlling invasive annual grasses with this herbicide allows remnant desirable perennial grasses and forbs to recolonize treated areas at more numerous levels. Forage quantity and quality is improved and wildfire risk is reduced. Trial work across the western United States showed that areas treated with Rejuvra demonstrated a two-fold to three-fold increase in perennial grass biomass, compared with untreated areas.

The increases in forbs should be beneficial to pollinators and grassland birds, and those increases along with higher-quality forage and browse should help wildlife species such as deer, elk and pronghorn antelope, according to wildlife researchers and specialists in Colorado.

This product began life as Esplanade, a product designed for areas such as roadsides and powerline right-of-ways. Now, Rejuvra’s formulation and labeling allows it to be used on grazing lands and natural areas.

Bayer listed its documented benefits of using Rejuvra herbicide:

  • Provides multi-year control of invasive annual grasses, with seed bank depletion.
  • Releases and restores perennial native vegetation. Perennial plants respond quickly to the additional water and nutrients that become available when invasive annual grasses are controlled. This results in increased perennial biomass and forage production, and restored native plant communities.
  • Reduces wildfire risk by lowering fine fuels that feed wildfires.
  • Improves wildlife habitat by increasing quality of grass, forbs and shrubs beneficial to pollinators, birds and other wildlife.
  • It’s economical because fewer applications are needed to control weeds, saving time and labor. Multi-year weed control with a single application can provide a greater return on investment (ROI). 
  • There are no grazing restrictions when used by label recommendations. However, the webinar offers suggestions for best results. 

To learn more about this new product or to watch the recorded webinar go to

phytogen-cotton-todd-fitchette-wfp.jpg Todd Fitchette

Corteva Agriscience acquires full ownership of PhytoGen Seed Company

Corteva, Inc. today announced the company signed an agreement with J.G. Boswell Company to purchase its ownership interest in PhytoGen Seed Company, LLC — a joint venture between the two companies.

PhytoGen Seed Company, LLC, was formed to focus on the U.S. cottonseed industry. With a 53.5% stake prior to the agreement, Corteva has operated this joint venture in the U.S. market through its wholly owned subsidiary, Mycogen LLC.

“This acquisition provides a solid proof point of our consistent commitment to driving long-term growth through targeted investments in solid margin opportunities that at the same time strengthen our ability to serve our customers,” said James C. Collins Jr., Corteva Agriscience chief executive officer.

“With this action, we intend to build on the strong foundation we established with J.G. Boswell Company over the last two decades — continuing to serve cotton customers with our growing global portfolio of leading cottonseed products,” said Steve Reno, Corteva Agriscience Seed Business Platform president. “This step further strengthens Corteva Agriscience’s commitment to the cotton market — and positions the company well to diversify and grow this business globally over time.”

With a 100% ownership position in PhytoGen Seed Company, LLC, Corteva will become the sole owner of the intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, proprietary germplasm and information, as well as know-how. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Source: Corteva, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
GettyImages-965148388.jpg oticki/Getty Images Plus

3 considerations for double-crop soybeans

As small grains are harvested, Ohio State University offers some management considerations for double-crop soybean production.

Relative maturity

Relative maturity has little effect on yield when soybeans are planted during the first three weeks of May. However, the effect of RM can be larger for late planting. When planting soybean late, the latest maturing variety that will reach physiological maturity before the first killing frost is recommended (Table 1). This is to allow the soybean plants to grow vegetatively as long as possible to produce nodes where pods can form before vegetative growth is slowed due to flowering and pod formation.

Table 1. Recommended relative maturity ranges for soybean varieties planted in June and July in northern, central, and southern Ohio.


Planting Date

Suitable RM

Northern Ohio

June 1-15


June 15-30


July 1-10


Central Ohio

June 1-15


June 15-30


July 1-10


Southern Ohio

June 1-15


June 15-30


July 1-10


Row spacing

Double crop soybeans should be produced in narrow rows- 7.5 to 15-inch row spacing. The later in the growing season soybeans are planted, the greater the yield increase due to narrow rows. Soybeans grown in narrow rows produce more grain because they capture more sunlight energy, which drives photosynthesis.

Seeding rate

Harvest population for mid- to late June plantings should be between 130,000 to 150,000 plants/acre. Harvest population for early July plantings should be greater than 180,000 plants/acre. Harvest plant population is a function of seeding rate, quality of the planter operation, and seed germination percentage. It depends on such things as soil moisture conditions, seed-soil contact, and disease pressure.

Ohio State Universitysoybean-seeding-rate-mid-summer-OSU.png

Figure 1 shows the partial economic return by seeding rate (grain price of $9.44/bu and seed cost of $0.43/1000 seeds) for double-crop soybean planted in Clark County, Ohio. In June, the optimum seeding rate was >250,000 seeds/acre, while in July, the optimum seeding rate was 213,000 seeds/acre. The average harvest population for soybean planted in June at 250,000 seeds/acre was 143,000 plants/acre (57% of the seeding rate) due to heavy rainfall after planting. The average population for soybean planted in July at 250,000 seeds/acre was 204,000 plants/acre (82% of the seeding rate).

Originally posted by Ohio State University.

The source is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

farmer-net-worth-self-worth-470622695.jpg John Fedele/Getty Images Plus

Net worth and self worth are both important

The other day, a reader and listener of my programs questioned my comment that your self worth is not equivalent to your net worth. His point was that I was encouraging farms and ranches not to examine financial net worth. He worried that I was sending the message that financial net worth was not important.

First of all, many of you know that I consider financial and business literacy actions and monitoring very important. A sense of both business and personal financial standing, whether progressing or regressing, can provide a sense of mental well-being. Benchmarking the business using trend analysis or peer review during both good and challenging economic times can provide a reference for your financial standing.

A recent Canadian study found that there was a connection between mental health and farm business management. The research showed that 88 percent of the farms and ranches who followed a written business plan indicated that it contributed to their peace of mind. Employing business management practices can assist producers in getting through tough times, such as market crashes and production challenges.

Recently, two young producers who had developed a business plan through the Farm Credit University online blended education program found it was useful in navigating the economic white waters caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the unprecedented economic times, they have been able to adjust their goals, objectives, and business plan after carefully monitoring cash flow and other financials with their lender and advisory support network. The business plan has been useful in maintaining a sense of balance between business, family, and personal life.

During the 1980s farm crisis, many suicides and severe emotional problems occurred when net worth suddenly declined. The same problem has occurred during periods like the Great Depression and major recessions when stocks and real estate investment values go upside down.

Early in my career, after a major shooting in a Midwest bank, an employee close to the event stated, “Never equate your self-worth to your net worth because it only represents one pillar of life.” If you have your physical, mental and spiritual health within the balance of financial standing, this can be a sustainable journey through life. Financials are important, but let's balance it with self-worth.

Green corn field in the sunset. vencavolrab/ThinkstockPhotos-

Options pricing is corn market’s lie detector test

Corn market rallies need a spark, and around Independence Day ignition usually takes forecasts for hot, dry conditions as pollination begins.

While little of the Midwest is officially suffering from drought, some dry areas persist and weather models are starting to call for above average temperatures, and perhaps, below average precipitation, too. These outlooks helped trigger sharp gains in corn futures Monday. The rally continued today, despite improving nationwide crop ratings reported after the close Monday by USDA, thanks to bullish acreage numbers.

But weather models, just like nature, can be fickle, with sudden shifts dousing rally hopes. So how do you tell if a bullish forecast is the real deal?

Traders use lots of methods to judge potential, primarily patterns on price charts. The market has another gauge of sentiment that helps show whether bulls are really putting their money where their mouth is. The relative cost of options offers clues.

Price insurance

Options are often described as price insurance. Buyers pay a premium for the opportunity to buy or sell a futures contract at a preestablished strike price. The more sellers of these policies demand – or that buyers are willing to pay – is an indication of just how nervous traders are about protecting their positions.

In volatile markets, of course, prices move up and down a lot. Historical volatility looks at what prices have done in the past. But rather than looking backwards, implied volatility offers a glimpse of what traders think about the future. It uses the price of an option to measure just how uncertain the market is about what could happen ahead.

The math used to calculate this is fairly complex, taking into account the price of the option and how long it lasts. The CME Group, parent of the Chicago Board of Trade, has a tool called QuikStrike that analyzes volatility, which is also reported on some futures price systems.

Fear factor

In the stock market this volatility has long had its own measurement, the VIX. It’s often called the “fear factor,” because it soars when investors panic over falling prices on Wall Street. Put options offer protection against down markets, and the VIX is highest when fear grips investors, as it has for much of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There’s a VIX for the corn market, but it works a bit differently. Volatility in grain options is normally highest when traders fear rising prices, so call options are key.

The relative price for December corn options on average peaks in mid- to late June, when forecasts begin peering into the window for pollination. Most years the crop gets through this period of vulnerability just fine, and implied volatility falls into July, rebounding briefly ahead of USDA’s August crop report, when the agency releases its first production survey of farmers and their fields.

In bearish years, which is most of the time, the market keeps fading until December options expire after Thanksgiving. The exception comes in years when yields suffer and damage is confirmed as combines roll in the fall. These bull market years can see rising volatility as the options get ready to go off the board.

What about this year?

So far in 2020, implied volatility for December corn options followed the pattern typical of years with plentiful supplies and prospects for big production. The December corn VIX stayed just above the lowest levels seen in in more than a decade until uncertainty over COVID-19’s impact caused a little concern this spring. Those fears quickly dissipated in June due to good crop ratings that took the VIX to its lowest seasonal level since at least 2008.

USDA’s surprising cut in corn acreage today should make the market even more sensitive to weather gyrations. Initial momentum should continue to come from short covering as speculators rush to buy back more of their large bearish bets. This in turn should take some of the carry out of the market, tightening spreads between December 2020, and say, July 2021 futures. But until traders are willing to pay more for options – and pay up for a while -- any rallies are suspect.

Seasonal December Corn Futures Implied Volatility

Knorr writes from Chicago, Ill. Email him at
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
Bobby.jpg Rebecca Bearden
Bobby knows he’s good-looking and often poses for photos.

7 life lessons only a trusted barn cat can teach

No other capture device made by man comes close. Our devoted barn cat contingency prides itself on keeping their living space rodent free. But their utility extends far beyond their primary job assignment.

Collectively, these cool cats and kittens have given generations of us Beardens (and now Bearden-Yeargans), the opportunity to learn life lessons that only they can teach.

#1 Respect personal space

Buttermilk was a ghostly shade of yellow that always bordered on dirty white and was rarely seen unless perched high atop the barn rafters for a nap on the retired square bale loader. If he ever allowed a human to touch him, I was not aware of it. Defending his territory was a full-time job for this guy. He ruled the barn supremely, his face puffy and swollen from a lifetime of fights.

#2 Balance work and play

Our beloved “Puff” line of cats and kittens were consistently locally sourced from the feed store in town. The namesake and matriarch had her paws full keeping both the office and the loading dock free of intruders. Her only breaks were to deliver and care for kittens. The trips to get flatbed loads of shelled corn were exponentially more entertaining when a kitten search was involved. I think we took home at least one from every litter. More like two. They needed someone to play with.

#3 Be prepared to negotiate

Our most memorable mama cat was Sassy, a beautiful orange and white tabby that someone abandoned along a local U.S. Forest Service road. During one of our weekend family trips to explore the fire lookout tower, we heard a distinct high-pitch call from the base of the hill that we knew was destined to return with us to the ranch.

#4 Be prepared to adjust

Sweet Sassy was the proud mama of multiple litters that she begrudgingly raised at the barn. For whatever reason, that mama cat was intent on delivering her broods on the ranch house carport. We would gently move the entire family unit to the barn, only to be followed immediately by her kitten-in-mouth relocation to the house. This basically lasted until the kittens were big enough to prefer dining at the barn, where the cat food resided.

#5 Control your destiny

Blackjack is the only surviving member of a litter I picked up off the side of a federal highway on my way home from my first paying job. The fact that he has only one good eye is a testament to his irritable nature and general intolerance for his entire feline family. I guess the barn just wasn’t big enough for him and his siblings. His black and white tuxedo coat gives him another level of distinction. He cares little for “pets” and mainly just expects you to feed him a decent meal.


Blackjack. Photo by Rebecca Bearden.

#6 Forget stereotypes

Elmo was a curious and very vocal stray that found my sister near a fence line after she had counted cows and was picking berries. The white ninja band on his left hind leg added even more personality to his friendly, in-your-face, please-pet-me attitude. Naturally Elmo came home with her and is still accompanying her on trips to check cows. This cat literally follows her around like a dog and even lets J.B. lay directly on top of him.


Elmo. Photo by Rebecca Bearden.

# 7 Keep your standards high

Our latest addition to the barn cat crew is Bobby, a handsome grey tabby “Pixie Bob” that Mama procured from her best friend and fellow cat-lover Sally. Bobby knows he’s good-looking and often poses for photos atop whatever round bale of hay that happens to be in his barn bay of choice. This guy never has a bad hair day and is extremely selective regarding who is allowed to pet him, and where they are allowed to do so.

If you claim not to be a “cat person,” I dare you to follow a good barn cat around for a day or two. The kitty kindergarten is sure to convert you, as well as satisfy multiple education requirements, including an afternoon nap.

JB and Elmo.jpeg

JB Yeargan, Rebecca's nephew, gets restful with his barn cat.

Rebecca Bearden writes about life on her family ranch in Alabama, and we always enjoy hearing from her.