How We Grow

2021 May/June How We Grow

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PEST MANAGEMENT Cover Crop Resource Clarifies Confusion In the past, many growers' experience with cover crops has started and ended with questions: "How can I harvest my crop when there is extra vegetation on the orchard floor?" "I heard having a cover crop in the middles increases the risk of frost damage – is that true?" "Can cover crops compete with blossoms and detract from bees' almond pollination?" Formerly, these questions and lingering unknowns kept many growers from considering the use of cover crops in or around their orchards. Today, however, research is delivering answers – after ten years of investigating cover crops in almond orchards throughout the Central Valley and studying a variety of factors, answers to growers' questions have been addressed and are culminated in the Almond Board of California's (ABC) latest resource: the Cover Crop Best Management Practices (BMPs). The Cover Crop BMPs summarize research funded by the Almond Board, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and others with the goal of defining and refining best practices for cover crop use in almond orchards. Authored by a team of University of California experts, led by Dr. Vivian Wauters, this guide outlines the production challenges cover crops address and the additional benefits they can deliver to the orchard. The BMPs then walk growers through the process of implementing cover crops, providing practical explanations of how to get started and scale up, as desired. "This guide builds on recent research and growers' experiences which have shown that cover cropping is a feasible practice in California almond systems with potential benefits to growers and the environment. It provides guidance on how cover crops can be managed to address specific objectives and limit tradeoffs in commercial fields," said co-author Dr. Amélie Gaudin. Plan, then plant Before purchasing new equipment for their operation, growers ask themselves, "How will this equipment make me more efficient in my day-to-day operations?" or "What does maintenance look like?" The same approach applies to cover crops. Growers should know what their goals are for using a cover crop and then manage said crop based on those goals. Goals can be thought of in one 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 9

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