This Week At B & R Farms: Irrigation

This week, at B & R Farms, we’re particularly grateful for one of nature’s most precious resources: water. We’ve just wrapped up irrigation as we head into the winter season. Without water, there’d be no beautiful green orchards, and without orchards we’d never sink our teeth into the juicy, delicious Blenheim.

Water, especially in California, is a sacred resource. At B & R Farms, we use a drip and micro-sprinkler irrigation system in our orchards to concentrate and preserve our use of water. Further, our irrigations are scheduled based on moisture monitoring apparatuses that are installed in each block, along with crop usage guidance provided by the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS). This ensures our Blenheim apricot trees get enough water, but not more than is needed.

The goal of irrigation is to keep the apricot trees from experiencing stress due to lack of hydration. Irrigation requires a balance. If a tree does not receive enough water, the fruit is at risk for sunburn and reduced size. On the other hand, over-irrigating can threaten the health of a tree due to a condition called root rot. Root rot results from prolonged exposure to too much water, restricting the oxygen a tree needs to survive. This rot can even spread to healthier roots and cause tremendous damage to an orchard.

Typically, irrigation of stone fruit trees is not needed from the first leaf drop (fall) until shoot and leaf growth (spring). Winter usually provides enough water from above to support a healthy orchard. Yet as we know all too well, Nature follows her own agenda, and we’re always monitoring for an Indian summer, an unusually warm season in the fall.

As we head into winter, we want to be sure our trees have enough water to get through any potential prolonged heat, without breaching the risk of overwatering. With irrigation complete, orchard care will be quite the next couple months. Our sights are set on our next round of pruning for the older trees which will occur in January. That is, assuming we’re blessed with rain in the weeks to come!