How We Grow

2021 May/June How We Grow

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Page 10 of 15

ALMOND ORCHARD 2025 GOAL of two ways: added benefits that cover crops provide – such as reducing soil compaction or enhancing pollinator forage – or problems that cover crops help growers address – like reduced nitrogen losses, nematode suppression, etc. After growers answer the question of what they want cover crops to accomplish – the purpose and desired benefits – they should look to their operation and consider their orchard's age, water sources, existing pest concerns and other factors (further outlined in the Cover Crop BMPs) to select the crop species and mix(es) that will work best within their orchard makeup. "Growers have many options when choosing cover crop species and mixes, which can make species selection a difficult part of the process. While having a cover crop of any kind can provide some benefit, specific species and mixes can help growers accomplish specific goals. That is why the BMPs encourage growers to first decide what they need and want from cover crops and then move to identifying the mix(es) and species that will facilitate accomplishing those goals," said Wauters. Once growers select their species and mixes, the Cover Crop BMPs will walk them through step-by-step instructions and recommendations on how to seed the crop, grow it and terminate it. From information on seeding equipment and rate to mowing considerations, this resource strives to address all aspects of growing, maintaining and reaping benefits from cover crops. "Cover crops are not a fit for every grower or every year and generally depend on late-fall rains or irrigation. But the benefit, together with incentives that can defray some of the cost, make it something every grower should at least consider," said Almond Board Chief Scientific Officer Josette Lewis, Ph.D. "With this guide, we hope growers and allied industry members gain a greater sense of all that's involved with planting cover crops and the ways in which it can deliver optimizations to the orchard. And, like most things in life, at the end of the day growers will get out of it what they put in – more intentional management will lead to more prosperous outcomes," said Lewis. Busting myths, spitting facts Throughout this resource, information is provided to address known, existing grower apprehensions or curiosities around the usefulness of cover crops and their ability to fit well within an orchard system. In terms of concerns that cover crops compete with almond blossoms for honey bees' attention, industry-funded, ABC-directed research shows that flowering cover crops do not compete with blossoms for bee visitation. In fact, cover crops can enhance bee health by providing pollinators with a supplementary food source during times when pollen is not as ripe for the taking (before and shortly after bloom), giving bees more energy to pollinate during the height of bloom. Continue on page 11 TRADEOFF CONCERNS Excess water use Frost damage NOW control Increased pest incidence Harvest complications MITIGATION STRATEGIES Species selection Check with seed supplier for species that will do well given your water availability Low-growing, will grow back after mowing N/A Choose based on specific pest Start by planting legume-heavy mixes Add more grasses and brassicas with more experience Management options Seed with rain Terminate promptly when rains end Mow when frost is forecasted (<2 inches for clover) or to terminate the cover crops A higher mower will not terminate the cover crop but may not increase soil temperature Use alternate rows for cover crops and winter sanitation Or mow cover crop to destroy mummies Terminate before senescence Monitor for pests of concern Terminate when cover crops flower Mow multiple times Irrigate Chemical mow pre-harvest This is a summary of the main concerns growers have about cover crops and strategies to mitigate those tradeoffs. Almond Board of California 10

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