How We Grow

2020 March/April 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 PEST MANAGEMENT 5 Left Jab, Right Jab, Block: Knocking Out Pests, One at a Time A year after setting their sights on an ambitious goal to increase adoption of environmentally friendly pest management tools by 25% throughout the California almond community, industry leaders have honed a strategy to measure and report growers' collective progress toward this Almond Orchard 2025 Goal, one of four created back in 2018. Achieving this 2025 Goal will be a challenge as it will require more growers to take on something they haven't always been comfortable with: sharing in-orchard practices. "We're on a journey, not only to change some of our own behaviors as an industry, but to be able to communicate those improvements. The challenge is to have our work recognized and appreciated by key audiences, including consumers, food companies who market to consumers, and policy makers, for whom this is top of mind," said Josette Lewis, chief scientific officer at the Almond Board of California (ABC). "Consumers are looking for food products that are grown using fewer chemicals," Lewis said. "Meanwhile, California regulators are acutely interested in managing the amount of chemical use in agriculture. Along with consumer and regulatory pressures to grow almonds more sustainably, we have an opportunity to look at the economics of more targeted pest management, to help growers improve their bottom line." Lewis was among several leaders who spoke at The Almond Conference 2019 in Sacramento last December on the topic of how progress toward the four Almond Orchard 2025 Goals will be measured. Defeating key pests requires a thoughtful game plan To reach the 2025 Goal of increasing environmentally friendly pest management tools by 25%, ABC is helping the industry focus on a strategy of proven cultural practices, alternatives to pesticide sprays when possible, precision application and reduced drift when sprays are needed, and practices that avoid exposure of bees and other pollinators to hazardous chemicals. These strategies will be applied to five key pest problems that growers face regularly in the orchard: f Navel Orangeworm (NOW) f Mites f Alternaria Leaf Spot f Hull rot f Weeds While much advancement in these areas is already taking place within the industry, Lewis is confident that growers and Pest Control Advisors (PCAs) will continue their trend of adopting stronger IPM practices, as improved practices help growers' bottom line by lowering costs of inputs and keeping losses related to insect damage at acceptable levels. This reality is explained in the "Almond Orchard 2025 Goals Roadmap," 1 developed by the Almond Board to help the industry navigate a path toward achieving the 2025 Goals. As described by industry experts in the roadmap, diligently carrying out known beneficial cultivation practices, such as shaking and destroying mummy nuts after harvest to control NOW, one of almonds' worst pests, reaps benefits all the way from the orchard canopy to the grower's bottom line. The roadmap demonstrates how, throughout the 1970s, about 6% of the almond crop was lost to insect damage. Today, that has dropped to less than 2% due to improved knowledge, tools and practices, allowing for increased production and, ultimately, profitability. New strategies in the ring When looking to increase attention on these five pests, Mel Machado, director of Member Relations for Blue Diamond Growers, suggested neighboring growers compare notes and share pest monitoring data to coordinate control efforts. "Neighbors have to work together to manage pest populations," he said. Machado added that when a treatment is needed, it is important to do it right: "When we do have to make an application, we need to make that application as precisely as possible." Newer IPM tools and practices will also help growers compensate for the loss of older pesticide chemistries such as chlorpyrifos (Lorsban ® ), which is being taken off the market in California by CalEPA. 2 Mating disruption is one tool that has proved vital in mitigating the loss of these compounds and effectively managing NOW. "Mating disruption is the newest tool we have available to control Navel Orangeworm," Lewis said. "It's a non-synthetic chemical tool in the sense that you are using a natural pheromone in the orchard, and there is solid, ABC-funded research that shows it has a significant impact on reducing NOW populations." 1 "I highly encourage growers to participate in CASP, not just to help tell our story, but to take advantage of the tools and opportunities it provides," said Lewis.

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