White ibis

White ibis
Ibis

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Cycle of Life in California Nut Orchards


I've been fascinated by the nut trees - mostly almond or walnut around here, and with how they are grown.  I'm attracted to the textures, colors, and shapes found in the orchards, or nut ranches, as I've seen them named on some of the signs.
The soil gets readied for the trees in the fall.


I think this area is being prepared for planting trees


Soil prepared for tree planting
Then, in winter the baby trees get planted. They come in these tubes which, I think, give them some protection from deer and the frequent drying winds.


New babies planted about a month ago.  They all will be irrigated.

Another young orchard


Planting pattern


Teenaged trees

The trees get trimmed each fall.  I think these workers are raking up the pruned branches.
Workers tending trees


Nut trees almost to the mountains


Trees in the fall


A Winter look for walnut trees


Almond flowers

Almond trees are totally dependent on pollination by bees. I have been seeing eighteen-wheeler flatbed trucks hauling hives of bees and then seeing rows of hives of bees by each almond orchard in readiness for the flowering season.


These trees looked almost spooky just before sunset

The End

I thought that this picture represented what happened to nut trees when they stopped being productive.  But I learned that  this is probably the end of an almond orchard. Almond trees have shallow roots and many of them have been blown down by high winds.  And the colony collapse disorder of bees has severely decimated the numbers of bees available for renting to the orchard growers to fertilize the almonds which depend totally on bees for pollination.

This has caused the cost of renting hives of bees to go way up and caused the growers to be afraid that they cannot get bees to pollinate their trees. So the local nut ranchers have been taking out their almond trees and replacing them with walnut trees. The walnut trees have to be grafted to a rootstock that resists walnut blight, a fungus disease caused by several species of fungus.You can see the different stock at the base of the walnut trees.