How We Grow

2020 Jan/Feb How We Grow

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A L M O N D O R C H A R D 2 0 2 5 G O A L S WATER USE 7 ABC's Free Irrigation Evaluation Finds Issues, Provides Solutions The Markarian siblings are relative newcomers to almond farming, and they admit that they're learning as they go. "The biggest surprise and learning curve for me has been how much we have to stay up on our irrigation practices," Linda Markarian Gavroian said. But the siblings, who grow almonds in Fowler, aren't new to farming or irrigation by any means. Their family grew Thompson Seedless grapes for three generations in Fresno County, and when their father Herbie Markarian passed away, his wife Joan and their children found themselves at a bit of a crossroads: They were left to decide if they should continue in the family raisin business, transition to another crop, or sell the family farm. "The raisin business was getting tough," Linda said. "The profits were low, and our vines were nearing the end of their productive life. We decided to keep most of the family farm and plant almonds because we heard we could get a crop after three years and that it was a relatively easy harvest compared to the labor- intensive raisin harvest." New beginning brings new challenges In 2016, the Markarians planted their first almond orchard and installed a micro-sprinkler irrigation system on a farm that had seen only flood irrigation for almost half a century. Understanding and maintaining this new irrigation system steepened the family's almond growing learning curve as they were also racing to get up to speed on proper pest management, fertilizer applications and other agronomic practices. After four years of preparing for the orchard's inaugural gathering of the crop, the Markarians found that the hard work in almond production, especially in relation to irrigation management, is in the months leading up to harvest. They determined there was a lot more they wanted to learn about almond growing to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operation, so Linda turned to the Almond Board of California's (ABC) Field Outreach and Education team for assistance with their irrigation system – a decision she said provided her with peace of mind. "You put so much money into a farm and into an irrigation system that you just hope and pray is working sufficiently according to its design specifications," Linda said. "To have ABC staff come out and check the system – at no cost to us – was a huge benefit. Sure enough, we had some issues we may have never discovered, and we were able to correct them on our end." ABC Field Outreach and Education Specialist Ashley Correia conducted an initial irrigation evaluation and conservation assessment on the Markarians' orchard in July 2019. This free evaluation, offered by the Almond Board to all California almond growers, helped Linda determine their irrigation system's distribution uniformity, which is a measurement of equal water applied to each tree within an orchard block. In addition to providing an in-orchard assessment, Correia also provided Linda with a detailed, printed report explaining the results of their irrigation system's performance. Following the evaluation, Correia discussed her findings, measurements and recommendations with Linda, who was surprised by some of the results. "After speaking with Ashley, I learned that the drip line was designed to be split, but a few of the rows were combined and were only being fed by one riser, so pressures were down on those rows," Linda said. "I also found out that the wrong nozzles were installed on some micro-sprinklers, and so we worked to get that issue corrected, as well." After addressing the problems identified in ABC's evaluation, the family noticed a more uniform irrigation pattern in their orchard. California almond grower Linda Markarian Gavroian with her husband Rodney. "To have ABC staff come out and check the system – at no cost to us – is a huge benefit." – Linda Markarian Gavroian

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