While harvest is top of mind, experts stress the importance of monitoring soil moisture and taking samples to prepare for post-harvest cultural practices. (Photo by Brian Milne, Holloway Agriculture)

Monitoring soil samples now can help growers better prepare for post-harvest activities.

By Brian Milne, Vice President, Director of Marketing & Communications, The Holloway Group

Harvest is in full swing in the Central Valley, and our crops are loaded up after a wet year and mild growing conditions.

That said, during harvest, many of our crops are as stressed as they get during the season as growers cut back on irrigating to get in and out of the field with harvest crews and machinery.

In permanent crops such as almonds, experts stress the importance of irrigating as soon as possible after harvest and to manage the soil profile properly throughout the fall, as depriving trees of post-harvest irrigation can significantly affect the following year’s production. Numerous UC Cooperative Extension studies have shown a significant reduction in bloom density, fruit set and load, and kernel yield when post-harvest irrigations are cut.

“Moderate stress during this period will have little effect on subsequent year’s nut numbers,” UCCE tree fruit and nut researcher David Goldhamer writes, “but severe stress during bud differentiation has been found to dramatically reduce fruit set the following spring.”

Before the dust settles this harvest season, Holloway’s agronomy team also suggests growers take soil samples to determine the nutrients their ground is lacking after maximum crop removal for the season. This is especially important following a wet year, when applying soil amendments and fertilizers was difficult, and other nutrients may have been leached from the root zone.

“It all starts with what the soils are telling us,” Holloway CEO Brian Maxted said during a Soil Health Seminar at World Ag Expo earlier this year. “When someone comes to us and asks, ‘How much compost, or gypsum, or should I put this NPK on?’ We say, ‘Well, what are your soils saying?’ Science should dictate what your farm needs.”

Holloway’s Director of Agronomy Steve Lenander agrees, noting he uses September soil samples and hull samples, combined with July tissue samples, to identify nutrient deficiencies in the soil and crop.

“Now is a great time to get your soil samples done, while crews are busy harvesting, so you make the right recommendations when you’re ready to apply amendments,” Lenander said. “Right now, the crop isn’t taking up nutrition at this point. You can get those new soil samples, compare them with your July tissue samples, and previous soil samples, to make more-educated decisions for 2024.”

And with a late harvest and lots of talk of an El Niño on the horizon, that window to get post-harvest soil amendments on could be another tight one this year.

“Planning is the key,” Lenander concluded.“This past year, we saw a lot of rain, so some growers weren’t able to get amendments on until it dried out well after the new year. Taking soil samples now makes sure all of our bases are covered…let the soils drive your decision-making.”

Learn more about Holloway’s agronomy services, soil amendments and orchard redevelopment services at
hollowayag.com/growmore2024

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