June 1, 2013

Almond Growers Face New Water and Salt Issues

California almond growers are used to water issues, but this year is worse. January and February 2013 were the driest in California’s recorded history, and Sierra snowpack levels are 34% below average. As growers prioritize their irrigation uses, many are facing critical decisions about what to water, and when.

Water’s impact on orchards

Understanding the impact of water shortages is critical to the health of your orchard – both now and for years to come. Almond industry experts are warning growers about the timing of any irrigation cutbacks, because recent research shows that some stages of almond fruit growth are more sensitive to water stress than others.

Those findings indicate water use from leaf-out through mid-June should not be compromised, if possible. During this critical period, rapid vegetative growth and nutrient uptake are necessary for canopy and fruiting development, and water stress can severely impact shoot growth and budding. On the other hand, water reductions from mid-June through harvest have been successfully used with only minimal losses in nut weight. It’s also important for trees to have adequate water at hull split.

Almond trees’ response to salinity

Another serious concern during moisture shortages is how almond trees respond to salinity. California almond-growing regions have soils naturally high in salt to begin with, and restricted water makes the problem bigger. With adequate water supplies, steady irrigation reduces the risks of soil salinity by leaching salts beyond the root zones.

With adequate water supplies, steady irrigation reduces the risks of soil salinity by leaching salts beyond the root zones.

But when less water is there to rinse out those salts, they stay in the soil – or worse, in the tree’s roots and leaves. Salt inhibits roots’ ability to absorb soil moisture, and can injure both roots and leaves. To compound the threat, much of the lower-quality water available now is high in salinity of its own.

Input considerations

Unwanted sodium and chloride in soils can accumulate and damage almond trees. Almonds affected by excess sodium, chloride, and boron tend to have stunted growth and leaf burn, which can dramatically affect yields. It’s a good idea to have leaf sampling done to determine if salt is approaching toxic levels.

Your choice of a potassium fertilizer is also important when dealing with salinity issues, whether for in-season or post-harvest application in the fall. Protassium+® is virtually chloride-free and has a much lower relative salt index than muriate of potash (MOP) which is 47 percent chloride.

Protassium+ won’t add to the challenges already caused by salinity in soil and water, making it ideal for almond growers looking to ensure crop safety and optimal production.

This year, use nutritional and water strategies that help protect your almond crops from the increasing risks of salts. For more information about low-chloride potassium sources, call 1-855-308-3334 or contact us today.