Welcome to the Ultra Gro Agronomy Letter!
In this issue, our team of experts dives into post-harvest strategies, late summer/fall citrus, and of course – drought. We're also re-capping our recent retreat in SLO and giving you the first look at our newest video. Watch out, Hollywood.

As always, please give us a call if you have any questions!
What You Do Now Will Affect the Next Bloom
by Robert Smith, Ultra Gro Agronomist
This season I have talked to growers that have reported patchy bloom/no bloom; bare shoots; witches’ broom growth (bud failure); or limited extension growth, etc. Each of these reflect, in part, effects on bud initiation and development. Bare shoots, for example, may result from failed bud formation, bud death before emergence, abnormal development, or extended dormancy. The causes of disrupted or abnormal bud initiation and development are not all understood, but it is known that buds are influenced individually or in combination, by their genetics; environmental conditions; nutritional, chemical and water status; and by biological organisms.

Factors influencing almond bloom intensity started 9 months prior to bloom. In almond, bud development generally occurs in late spring. During the early phase of bud development, vegetative and flower buds are all similar. In late summer a portion of the buds will differentiate to form flower buds. Consequently, the physiological and pathological stresses exerted on almond trees influence bloom and subsequent yield in the next year.

Bud initiation and development determine the potential productive capacity of an almond tree. Bud initiation and formation are directly affected by seasonal conditions (especially temperature extremes and water stress), genetics, nutrition, and tree structure. Some of these influences are within the control of growers, it is critical that growers understand the stages of bud formation, and the relative sensitivities of each stage, to the influential factors. 
Post-Harvest Nutrient Demand for Grapes
by Drake Salwasser, CCA
Grape harvest is underway here in the Central Valley. Canes are cut, and raisins are being laid down to finish drying. Wine and table grapes will continue to be harvested, depending on variety, for the next eight weeks. With all this hustle involved in executing a successful harvest, it is easy to overlook the importance of the post-harvest fertility period. 

Finishing your crop and harvest stress drains your vineyard of crucial resources. We MUST replenish the nutrients used by the intense draw from your recently harvested crop. Taking advantage of the Fall Root Flush to accomplish this goal has been a HUGE winner for my growers. A tailor-made application using Phosphorous, Potassium and Micro-Nutrients truly refreshes the vineyard and helps store carbohydrates over the winter for next year’s crop.  

Another important practice in the fall is conditioning your soil with available calcium to help leach excess sodium whenever possible. Additionally, biology is fundamental to all cropping systems, and applications of biological inoculants can significantly benefit your blocks. 

Typically, in California, we have low levels of organic matter. Some common amendments are compost, cover crop or humic acid. These amendments are great and definitely have a considerable benefit in the field. Growing a cover crop is gaining in popularity. And, why not? Consistently growing a cover crop will increase microbial activity and root exudates in your soil from which your crops will benefit. It will harvest carbon out of the atmosphere to feed your soil biome and keep the system thriving. The more life inside your soil, the more prosperity it will provide. After all, mining nutrients from within your soil is much cheaper than purchasing and bringing them in. Promote life in your soil and allow it to work for you.    

If this has sparked questions about your post-harvest vineyard protocol, reach out to your Ultra Gro CCA, and they will get your questions answered.      
Late Summer and Fall Citrus
by Dennis Laux, CCA
Phototropic plants revolve around sunlight and heat. The weather pattern is changing; the nights are getting longer and the summer heat is starting to diminish (not today!) and that means things start to happen in our citrus orchards. Yes, we are moving into fall, and hopefully, one morning I can wear a sweater to work.

Labor Day on the calendar means, fruit starts to grow, a fall leaf flush will soon appear and early navel harvest is right around the corner in late October. Lemons and Clementines will start harvest as well. 

A few of the big problems (we call them opportunities!) are size, color, and sugar-to-acid ratio test (not for lemons, they are picked on fruit size). The ability to increase size, color, and sugar levels can be altered to a healthy degree. The need for potassium and phosphorus is huge in getting more size, earlier color and more sugar (brix). 

Size matters. Just like any crop, “Production” is a big factor in citrus. One way to improve production is to set more pieces of fruit per tree, the other way is to make the fruit larger. One jump in fruit size will increase the volume of fruit by 12 percent. And if you grow lemons, larger fruit is what is picked first, and first picks usually bring greater per carton returns. So, size and “early-size” is everything in citrus. 

Ultra Gro Plant Food has some unique products, many of which I have used extensively in citrus. We have some of the best plant-ready potassium and phosphorus products on the market. Late August thru September is a good time to apply these products to increase fruit size and bring maturity earlier. I can say confidently, our growers regularly obtain 1 to 2 fruit sizes and this is very doable for most citrus orchards. Lemons are the fastest and easiest to gain size on. We have a program that kicks butt, and our customers are very happy with the results. More size, more color, more brix, more $$$$.
The Drought and its Effect on Soil and Water
by Derek Sissom, CCA
The drought has a tight grip on production agriculture right now. A couple of things we should be
looking at are how drought affects the quality of our soil and water (what little we have). Soil and water are connected at the hip, our soils always reflect the water we put on it. For the most part we are using more well water, which tends to lead to higher sodium, carbonate and bicarbonates in our irrigation water…even our canal water seems to have higher levels. As a result, ultimately, soil pH and sodium levels rise…

With soil and water quality decreasing (sodium levels building up) due to the prolongation of the
drought, we need to be very conscious of the fertilizers we are using and what they are derived from. Here’s one example: Neal Kinsey says to avoid MOP when pH is rising and above 6.8 (“Hands on Agronomy”, page 184). Shouldn’t we be circumspect of all of our nutrients? Are they adding to our rising sodium issues? What is the salt index of these fertilizers? Do they contain Chlorides?

Clearly, we are not in a “typical” year. It’s the right time to review past practices of our “typical” post-harvest fertility plan. Awareness and product knowledge are an important part of the solution. I recommend that growers consult with their agronomist and the Western Fertilizer Handbook to see how much sodium is in certain fertilizers and plan accordingly, we do not want to add to our problem. Having said the above, Ultra Gro has several low salt-index products that you may want to consider for your Post-Harvest program. Thank you.

  • UG Acidifier- helps break up salts, bicarbonates and free up nutrients that are tied up in the soil
  • NPK’s- Low Salt Index and 100% water soluble
  • Calcium products- Highly soluble, help to promote winter leaching
  • Biologicals- help to heal your soils, increase the water retention capacity
Ultra Gro Goes to San Luis Obispo
Last month, the Ultra Gro Sales Team ventured to San Luis Obispo for our annual sales retreat. The twenty of us enjoyed a great 3 days of meetings, field trips, guest speakers and team-building. The whole event came together at the last minute and we wanted to give a few SHOUTOUTS/REFERRALS to some people and places that played an important role in our event’s success… 

  • Hotel Cerro- This is a terrific hotel that housed our group and provided for our meetings. Everyone on the team has a can-do attitude…it is new, modern and first-class and located downtown in the middle of everything. We highly recommend that you stay there when you are in the area.
  • The Center for Wine and Viticulture at Cal Poly (pictured above) - We started our retreat with a tour of the brand-new winery and viticulture facility at Cal Poly. What an incredible place, many of our future wine makers will be learning their trade inside those walls. This is a must-see for any of our friends in Ag!
  • Reiter Brothers and KG Berry- Cool tours of these innovative and successful berry farming operations in Santa Maria…thank you!
  • A big thank you to the many guest speakers and facilitators that made this happen: Natalie Ward (GM at Hotel Cerro), Russ Kabaker (Asst Dean at Cal Poly), Dr Gerald Holmes (Director of the Cal Poly Strawberry Center), Jim Zion (Owner at Meridian Nut), Scott Quilty (GM at Jackson Family Vineyards), Matt Helm (Crop Manager at Monterey Pacific Farm Mgmt), Jonathan (Ranch Manager at KG Berry- Stowell Ranch), Paul McDougal (President of PM Marketing), Sarah Rosenthal (Koppert Bio Systems) and last, but not least, we had wonderful dinners at Central Coast stalwarts; Guiseppe’s and McLintock’s. Thank you all! 
Are you ready for Post-Harvest? Check out our newest video and give us a call to set up your plan for the coming season!