IN YOUR ORCHARD
After Planting & Germination, Now What? 7 Principles for Implementing
a Successful Cover Crop Management Program
Honey bees working Seeds for Bees’ Pollinator Brassica Mix and LOVING IT
I have noticed a few things over the years while watching growers, including myself, try cover cropping. We usually fall into one of two categories: the cover crop seed casters, and the watchful cover crop managers. The first group tends to simply plant and do nothing else until they must terminate; the others put in the time of watchful management to maximize the benefits of cover cropping.
The seed caster sees cover crop as a one-and-done in planting season. In contrast, the watchful manager sees a cover crop as something like their IPM, nitrogen, or water management programs; the more they put into it, the more they will get out of it economically and agronomically. Project Apis m ’s Seeds for Bees program aims to help growers to do it right — to manage their cover crop — to be operators who are cognizant, watchful, thoughtful, and adaptive to conditions after planting in their own unique orchard context . So, in this article, I briefly lay out seven principles that will help you as a grower have a successful cover crop management program.
need to care for our trees with water after harvest, so capitalize on that with your cover crop. There are a host of problems with water in California, and cover cropping is not immune to those challenges. We are in a drought. You may not have the water allocation to apply after harvest. You may not have the distribution uniformity to get to the middles. If you are relying on precipitation alone, you may have to wait until the later planting season at the end of October or early November to plant, or plant in the wetting zones of your drip or micro systems. Still, with all these challenges, growers can adapt and succeed — the principle remains the same. Principle 2: Other Necessary Orchard Operations During Cover Crop Growth Principle: Winter dormant orchard operations must be completed for the health of your trees and almond crop for next year. This means that hedging, pruning, and shredding/bucking must take place, as well as shaking, decomposition, and termination of mummies, etc. These are the pillars of a healthy IPM and yield program.
Principle 1: Irrigation and Precipitation After Germination
Principle: If you have irrigation water and you can apply it to the planting zone, spritz it in between rains until you feel the roots are strong and deep enough to handle some stress; if relying on precipitation alone, plant right before a set of rain events as much as possible. Typically, we put on one post-harvest irrigation and let the trees go to sleep. That is changing with the weather, literally. Hotter, dryer, warm seasons are extending our
1 An example contract can be found on Project Apis m.’s website here: https://www.projectapism.org/uploads/1/0/5/7/105706229/pollination-contract-template__1_.pdf.
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