-What You Should Consider When Starting an Almond Orchard-
Interview with Conrad de la Torre from The Nursery Co.
We interviewed Conrad de la Torre from The Nursery Co., in Chowchilla, California to see what he had to say about picking rootstock and varieties and how these important steps can determine the long-term outcome of your almond orchard.
When you’re acquiring a piece of land to plant almond trees, what do you look for?
First and foremost, you need to understand the soil type. Figure out if it’s heavy or sandy, if it has a high PH, high alkaline, high water table, etc. You need to understand the basics of soils so you can better determine if you’re making the right decisions. You also need to educate yourself on the water source and water quality. If it’s salty high sodium, or not. Also, try to do some research on the history of the land and figure out what was planted beforehand. Once you have a better understanding of the history, you’ll be able to better determine the best overall Rootstock and Almond variety selection for your next orchard.
How does someone go about selecting a rootstock?
If your ground is high in alkaline and salt, then you want to use a peach almond hybrid, these include: Hansen 536, Titan Viking or Atlas. The reason you would want to use these rootstocks is because they are more resistant to those types of soil conditions. Remember there is an advantage and disadvantage to all rootstocks. For example, some hybrids, like peach hybrids, don’t tolerate extremely wet conditions and the same goes for other hybrids who might not tolerate extremely sandy soils due to the high susceptibility to certain types of nematodes.
Does rootstock selection vary based on your location? For example, what is the different between Northern California growers and Southern?
It varies a lot from North of Sacramento. Farmers get a lot more rain up North than the growers from the Southern part of The Central Valley, so you have to select rootstocks that are more tolerant to wet conditions. If you farm anywhere from Stockton south the conditions tend to vary from sandy to heavy soils. Depending on location of land and selecting the right rootstock is very important.
Why do you believe the hybrid is the future rootstock?
Hybrid is probably the most ideal for a couple of reasons:
1. They are better anchored
2. Salt tolerant
3. Drought tolerant
All three of these reasons match today’s reality in farming in the Central Valley.
Additionally, hybrids are the best suited especially when replanting 2nd and 3rd generation orchards. When it’s time to remove a previous orchard, fumigation is always recommended if nematode counts are high. The hybrids will be best because they tend to have better anchorage and are more vigorous in weaker soils and tend to last longer due to their better anchorage.
Once the grower has chosen the rootstock, how do you choose the variety?
When selecting varieties there are a lot of things to consider. A few questions to ask yourself would be:
· What is your overall farm operation?
· Do you have your own equipment?
· What type of existing varieties do you have?
· What is the harvest timing you would like to have? For example, in heavy soils you want varieties with earlier harvest timing.
Once you’re able to answer these questions, you’ll be better prepared to decide the variety. You also want to be smart about the amount of varieties you choose to plant. Too many varieties in small blocks can quickly become a problem. For example, if you have 100 acres, try to keep it to 2-3 varieties. If you plant too many varieties in smaller blocks this can create harvesting problems, especially if you are having it custom harvested.
After you choose your rootstock and variety, what does a successful grower do?
A successful grower will make sure that they properly prep their land. This is probably the most important part because you only have one chance to do it right and it’s something you can’t come back and fix. The second most important thing to do is designing the proper irrigation system. I’ve seen so many growers try to save money during the land prep and irrigation process. Don’t try this! It’s really important to put the time and money behind the proper land prep and irrigation because it will go a long way. Saving dollars during the land prep and irrigation process will only cost you more dollars in the future.
What are other common growing mistakes that you see?
Good growers understand the basic details of land prep. These details include, fumigation if needed, followed by the proper irrigation system and fertility needs. Or in other words, they simply educate themselves. Growers can become accustomed to schedules instead of the needs of different soil types, this can be done by actually going out into the field and making the decisions with their own hands and a shovel. Getting out there and evaluating your orchard is a key component of being a successful farmer.
How have nursery sales been for The Nursery Co. this year?
Sales have been really great. We’re almost at 80% sold. If you’re looking for trees, it would be best to call as soon as possible and reserve the trees you need.
Lastly, can you tell us why The Nursery Co. prefers bare root instead of a potted tree?
We believe that bare root is easier and more grower friendly. If you’re planting from December through April, it’s always easier to go with bare root instead of potted. As we like to say, “with bare root you can plant it, set it and forget it.”