The USDA-NASS 2020 California Almond Subjective Forecast estimates California almond orchards will produce 3.0 billion pounds of nuts this year, up 17.6 percent. These are of course excellent news for the industry, and they carry some important implications for growers’ best practices.
This becomes especially important in light of the SGMA law and its implications on efficient water management. So one of the main questions is the correlation between high yields and recommended irrigation practices.
Communicating trees’ real-time water demand
Based on direct plant data from 6 million almond trees in The Valley, Phytech’s team has observed significant phenomena that have already caused a shift in irrigation strategies applied by Phytech’s customers.
Pollinators showed higher water demand
Researchers at UC Davis recently discussed the possibility that Nonpareil almond trees and pollinators might differ in water requirements. This can be attributed to the difference in tree size and crop load. Phytech’s growers already know the answer: they differ and not by a small margin. According to Phytech data, Carmel and Monterey experienced 3 times more stress compared to the NP variety. This was further validated by data from Australia, where Phytech almond customers managed to save 80 billion liters in 2019 thanks to irrigating differently between varieties and based on real-time water demand.
The clear difference in water demand between varieties helped farmers fine-tune their irrigation plans per block, save water and avoid over-irrigation in less stress-prone blocks. While some blocks showed no-stress status (green) others with pollinators entered stress and required intervention and adapting irrigation policy.
Frequency or Quantity?
Another important question is what should be the best response for stress at this stage of the season? should growers deliver more water during a long session or apply smaller quantities more frequently? Again, no need to guess. Phytech’s data shows that in most of the cases, the quantity of water delivered was not the issue. Stress-avoidance was achieved by raising the irrigation frequency. Pollinators’ bigger size and crop load might affect their water uptake from the deeper root zone, so keeping the upper part of the soil adequately irrigated with frequent water delivery will keep the trees happy. Another advantage of the “frequency” strategy is that smaller quantities will less likely wash away important nutrients that are still in the soil.
Phytech is helping the world’s leading growers manage and optimize their production by connecting them to their plants. They call this Plant-based Farming. Based on real-time data from the plant, the fruit (in relevant crops), and the irrigation system growers can avoid stress, optimize water delivery, and achieve better and higher yields.
Phytech currently operates in the USA, Australia, Israel, Europe, and South America and supports the following crops: Almonds, pistachios, citrus, avocados, grapes, apples, pears, mangos, cherries, corn, soybean, cotton, hemp.
With hundreds of customers in California, 70%+ coverage of almond trees in Australia, and 90% of the Israeli market, Phytech has become the top management platform for advanced growers looking to optimize their production and harness the power of digital transformation.
How does it work
Phytech sensors on selected plants continuously monitor micro-variations of stem diameter, which are scientifically proven stress indicators. Phytech applies patented algorithms that transform data into crop-specific plant status (their plant status patent has been recognized both by the US and the Australian patent departments) which are then presented in a simple color-coded indicator. Keeping plant status in the recommended range (green) and avoiding stress (red) leads to production optimization.
MDS (Maximum daily trunk shrinkage) and trunk growth graphs complete the picture to give growers a deeper understanding of what is happening in each block as well as certainty in decision making.
Phytech’s irrigation recommendation provides further support and a benchmark that helps growers avoid under/over-irrigation. The plant reference line is a new feature that enables growers to compare their trees’ current growth status against a historical benchmark (same variety, same age) gathered from millions of trees that we have covered from years.
In crops such as citrus and apples, they install fruit sensors that allow growers to achieve the desired fruit size by monitoring the fruits in real-time and changing irrigation accordingly.
Pressure sensors placed on the irrigation system monitor actual irrigation in each block and trigger push notifications alerts once low pressure has been detected. Accurate tracking of irrigation quantities has become super important in California where growers need to comply with SGMA regulations.
For growers ready to take the next step, Phytech offers a standalone automation solution that is also compatible with existing HW suppliers such as WiseConn and Motorola.
Irrigation management made smarter and simpler
These 2 data streams generated from the tree and the irrigation system (as well as weather and soil moisture data) give growers a complete view that helps optimize production. Stress and irrigation push notification alerts enable fast response from their mobile. Phytech’s Planner allows growers to easily create an irrigation plan, track events, and share tasks with co-workers. No hardware installation, no maintenance fee.
A subscription-based model gives their customers flexibility and peace of mind. Pay annually for the data and do not have to invest in hardware or deal with maintenance. Their 24/7 success teams making sure that growers are making the most out of the service.