How We Grow

2021 May/June How We Grow

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1 PEST MANAGEMENT Further, among growers' various concerns, the top perceived operational constraint to cover crop use is difficulty of harvest due to crop debris. However, as detailed in this resource, cover crops can be mowed to decompose fully and disappear by harvest. While specific timing varies by operation, if growers are intentional about managing their cover crops they may be able to terminate their cover crop as early as mid-March (depending on their orchard's needs) to reduce water competition with trees and ensure a clean orchard floor for harvest. If growers are still on the fence, the next best step may be to give cover crops a try on a small section of the orchard and monitor them for an extended period of time. Because cover crop species and mixes are so varied and able to address a series of challenges in orchards across the growing region, the best way to determine cover crops' success is to try them out. And for an increasing number of growers, that decision has paid off. "I'm a huge believer in cover crops – there are so many positives," said Chris Rishwain, an almond grower near Manteca who first planted cover crops roughly three years ago. "The cost is minimal. It's definitely helped with our soil compaction. I see improvement during pollination. And ultimately, we get a lot of bees and a lot of pollination and at the same time our beekeeper is happy and says the hive strength is phenomenal." Fourth-generation almond grower and owner of Pacific Gold Agriculture, Ben King, has worked with cover crops for multiple growing seasons. In addition to the benefits he's seen in his orchard and toward both honey bees and natural pollinators, he believes that, "looking long-term, growers need to really consider the benefits of cover crops to their orchards – having a lot more organic material and increased water infiltration is a good thing, both in the present and looking 10, 20 years down the road." Stay tuned: Bee+ Scholarship funds To support growers in their efforts to promote pollinator health, ABC is offering its Bee+ Scholarship for the second year in a row. Last year, this scholarship allowed 135 new almond growers to join Project Apis m.'s Seeds for Bees program and added pollinator habitat to nearly 15,000 acres of almond orchards, a 22% increase to the footprint of almond pollinator habitat from the prior year. 1 There are two components to the scholarship: free cover crop seed provided to almond growers through Seeds for Bees, as well as a waived Bee Friendly Farming certification fee through Pollinator Partnership, the world's largest nonprofit dedicated to pollinators and their ecosystems. More information on the scholarship will be shared later this month at Continued from page 10 In this Kern County orchard, the cover crop was terminated in mid-March, allowing for a clean orchard floor at harvest. Photo courtesy of Mohammad Yaghmour 11 Want a copy of the Cover Crop BMPs? Digital copies available: Request a physical copy at:

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