As almond growers are getting ready for pollination, Director of Agricultural Affairs for the Almond Board of California, Bob Curtis, says at the field level, best management practices are critical. He says it all starts with a good working relationship between the almond grower and the beekeeper, especially when it comes to communication about the use of pesticides.
From the Almond Board:
Honey bees are essential for a successful almond crop.The single most important factor determining a good yield is pollination during the bloom period, and honey bees are the most successful pollinators of almonds blossoms. Colonies of honey bees are placed in California Almond orchards at the beginning of the bloom period to ensure pollination.
A working partnership between growers and beekeepers is the basis for a successful pollination. Growers need to avoid any activities that put the health and safety of bees in their orchards at risk, and beekeepers are responsible for delivering and maintaining the requisite number and quality of hives.
Best Management Practices
As part of an ongoing commitment to honey bee health, Almond Board of California developed a comprehensive set of Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) for California’s almond industry. Developed with a wide array of input from sources including the almond community, beekeepers, researchers, California and U.S. regulators, and chemical registrants, “Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds” represents the Almond Board’s most extensive educational documents to date to ensure that almond orchards are and remain a safe and healthy place for honey bees. The documents lay out simple, practical steps that almond growers can take together with beekeepers and other pollination stakeholders to protect and promote bee health on their land and in the surrounding community.
The weather is starting to warm up, and that means soon bee hives will be placed in orchards. Growers will need to be careful with almond spraying, to protect the bees. Almond Board Director of Agricultural Affairs, Bob Curtis, says things are little different during a wet year.
The blossoms of nearly all California Almond varieties are self-incompatible, requiring cross-pollination with other varieties to produce a crop. Even self-compatible varieties still require transfer of pollen within the flower. The single most important factor determining a good yield is pollination during the bloom period. About 1.6 million colonies of honey bees are placed in California Almond orchards at the beginning of the bloom period to pollinate the crop. California beekeepers alone cannot supply this critical need, which is why honey bees are transported across the country to the San Joaquin Valley each year.
Treating almond orchards for bloom-time pests, particularly diseases, is important, and fungicide applications are needed in many growing situations. Nevertheless, it is important to minimize exposure of bees and pollen to any spray by avoiding applications when pollen is available and bees are foraging. Furthermore, recent information indicates newer biorational insecticides that have been tank-mixed with fungicides at bloom may impact bee brood (developing larvae).
Along these lines, it is extremely important that pesticide applications at bloom follow these best management practices:
Applications of insecticides during bloom should be avoided until more is known about the impact on bees.
Exposure of bees and pollen to fungicides should be minimized by avoiding applications when pollen is available and bees are foraging; spraying should be done after mid-afternoon or at night.