14 June 2018

Problems because a too much wet spring

​That the weather is crazy, there's no doubt about it. If last year we had a poor harvest due to the great drought, this year it is just the opposite because it has rained a lot and in many places even too much. In our area a good harvest of cereals is expected, although we will have to wait to see if this is really the case because the combination of so much humidity with weather variations from cold to hot and vice versa generates a multitude of diseases that can spoil the harvest and this spring is too wet.

As you can see in the first picture, we have had more than 400 mm of rain in our area since the beginning of this year 2018. Last year there were 309 mm in the whole year and in many cases very poorly distributed as there were many periods without any rain at key moments for the growth of crops. Another example that the weather has changed is the one that one of our farming friends, Timo, from Finland, sent us a few days ago. They are used to have a lot of rain there and this year they are worried about the barley that sowed a month before because it hasn't rained for three weeks and they think the crop will have serious germination problems.

The winegrowers are totally busy with phytosanitary treatments, especially with fungicides, to prevent mildew and oidium (phytopathogenic fungi) in the vines. We have had to treat the lentils (with copper and fungicides) to prevent rust. The legumes are suffering a lot and even some, such as the yeros, are spoiling, having an appearance of being burned, also by rust. Remember that this disease causes weakening of the plants as well as premature defoliation and floral abortion. In very intense attacks the plants dry up and take on the appearance of being burned. As for wheat, we will also have to be very careful, although our area is not a wheat producer.

The harvesting of spring garlic has already started and it is also having problems as the garlics come out with a lot of mud and therefore makes it more difficult to harvest and cut roots and stems. We'll see if they don't affect the quality. And finally, regarding the purple garlic, there are also fears about the fungus called "blanquilla", which usually begins because of the lack of heat and excessive humidity.

In the pictures you can see some leaves of adult vines after the treatment with hydraulic spray. I insist on the sprayer because as you see the treatment has many small impacts that is the quality mark of a treatment and with a sprayer which is blamed for having too little drop and too big against those who defend the atomizer or even the nebulizer because as you see the sprayer with the right pressure also does a good job. In the last picture you can see a newly planted vine that is already protruding from the protector and is therefore about 50 cm high. Finally, you can also see the problems that are occurring in the harvesting of spring garlic, having mud on the roots.

Surely in other areas the problems are different.... all the excesses are bad. We are looking forward to your comments.

Versión en español.

29 May 2018

Olive tree (II). Growth pruning

In the previous article we talked about thinning pruning that applies to olive trees in production. On this occasion, we will mention some of the most important features of growth pruning. The growth pruning, as its name indicates, is carried out to shape the olive tree. This type of pruning begins from the first year, which will end when the tree is perfectly formed and ready to produce the maximum kilos of olives in successive years.

This pruning can be more or less aggressive, depending on the growth of the tree. If the olive tree is growing strongly, you can do a more aggressive pruning, but if the olive tree is growing slowly (usually in dry fields) the best is to do a light pruning or even waiting a little longer for the trunk to be thicker. As with thinning pruning, the ideal time to prune is at a time when it is not too cold, as the tree is left unprotected after pruning.

In this type of pruning there are two techniques, the first one with an olive tree tip and the second one without any tip. We have practiced the second technique, as we need the olive tree to continue growing without excessive branching. The main objective of this pruning is to eliminate the branches that are in the lower part of the trunk. With this technique, the tree will grow in its upper part. At the same time, we are forming the trunk that will be very important to be able to apply a mechanized harvesting (with shaker machine) in the future.

The objective of removing branches from the upper part is to form the cross (first branches) at a height of about one meter, so we will have to leave the trunk clean until the first branches we see are similar in thickness that will indicate the branches in the future. The cuts are recommended to be done at a distance of 1 cm from the trunk, so that the scars are not so direct on the trunk.

The pruning task is a very controversial issue, since according to the farmer, the area, the type and variety of tree must be applied in one way or another. Thus, what we have said here is what we have said and what we consider most appropriate for our explotation. We sure many farmers have made another technique that we'd like to know.... we look forward to your comments.

Versión en español.

10 May 2018

Olive Tree (I). Thinning pruning

In the following two posts we will deal with pruning tasks in olive trees related to: thinning pruning and formation pruning. On this occasion, we will talk about the thinning pruning (also called production pruning) that we have carried out on the olive trees that are in full production. These tasks are recommended when the vegetative activity of the tree is insignificant, which occurs between January and April. The aim of pruning is to help prevent premature aging of the tree, we help to renew the branches by removing old branches and creating a balanced growth. We perform pruning tasks of the olive trees every two years and we make that it coincide with the year they have most harvest (remember that they are trees that normally have good production every two years). In this way we help to make the year that generates less yield less aggressive for the tree.

Thinning pruning consists of selecting the branches to be removed so that air and light can enter through all parts of the olive tree. The olive tree, for its development and good production, needs a lot of sunlight, so when it has too many branches generates shade between them and this can be detrimental to its performance. Be careful if you remove too many branches as the light could damage the trunk by sunstroke. With this kind of pruning, we also take advantage of this to form the top of the tree and thus have the same shape, avoiding that the branches remain at great height and we may have problems in the harvest (we should highlight that we make a manual harvest).

Once pruning has been completed, all the waste generated must be collected. Years ago, the waste used to be eliminated with fire but in recent years the option of chopping the waste is dominating with the aim of reincorporating it back into the soil as organic matter.

After pruning, this is the ideal moment to cure the scars that have been generate with the cuts by means of phytosanitary treatments. Wounds are the main entry of bacteria into the tree... but we will talk about this in future articles.

Versión en español.

26 April 2018

Planting pistachio trees: Step by step

The pistachio crop is fashion. We really don't know if it is a bubble... we have to wait a few year to know it. Our friends Rafa, Frand and Iñaki have decided to plant pistachio and they are proud of telling us their experiences. After looking for ideal fields, information and receiving training about this crop, they have gone on the adventure of planting about 4 hectares, which is about 750 plants of grafted pistachio.

Their fields have no irrigation system, so the planting frame has been 7x7. They used the cornicabra pistachio rootstock because it is ideal for our weather. The UCB1 pistachio rootstock is more vigorous but it needs more water and fertilizer so it was dismissed. The variety used has been Kerman with Peter male pollinator in 1/9 proportion which is, according to the books/studies, the male that most overlaps his pollination time.

When they had to buy plants, they had to make a decision that will be very important in the long term:
  1. The cheap option. To be patient to plant cornicabra  rootstock (cost from € 0.5 to € 1.5). They have to wait at least a couple of years to start grafting on them. They have to add at least another couple of years to all the plants you have grafted with an average of 3 attempts of graft/plant. You are already at almost 5 €/plant cost and the most important thing is that "it loss 4 years until you can say that your field has pistachio trees".
  2. The expensive option. That was ultimately chosen. They bought the variety of pistachio already grafted with two years on the cornicabra  rootstock (the price is 10-12 €/plant). They are sure that all tress planted grow up evenly (except from, logically, the ones lost that are, since if it is a plant of guarantees they should not be more than 2-5%)... they think that with this way they will win a couple of years with respect to the first option and they could return the initial extra cost more quickly.
Before planting tasks, it is very important to make a soil analysis to rule out the presence of whorl, lethal for this crop. At the same time, they had to pass the subsoiler several times to have a good depth. Also, Besides, they had to buy the tutors (bamboo, wood, PVC, iron, aluminium,...) and the protectors (normally made of 70cm high plastic when it is for the grafted plant and mesh when it is for  rootstock). The selection of the tutor is very important, since it will be many years doing his job. In the case of Rafa, Fran and Iñaki bought galvanized steel hollow tube recovered from a sprinkler irrigation, 225cm high and 24mm in diameter. For the pistachio, the tutor has to ensure no less than 6-8 years of good support and great height because the males have to make the high crosses, not less than 1.8m.... so they ruled out the bamboo or wood.

In order to complete the planting tasks it is necessary to water. They irrigated more than 40l/tree. It is rather than the water requirements trees, by the mechanical action of compacting and removing air from the subsoil while helping the bare root of the plant to bind as quickly and better as possible with the soil.

Regarding the sale of the product, average prices are around 5 €/kg of opened pistachio although in recent years they have even been paid at 8 €/kg. Here and now, we have to see when this installation will pay for itself, 7, 8, 10 years.... we'll see it! 

Versión en español.