Establish Pest Control Procedures
If it walks, slithers, flies, hops or crawls, it is a potential source of bacterial contamination in the orchard. This includes wild and domestic animals, birds, reptiles and insects. These creatures can carry and deposit any number of pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli on trees, orchard floor, equipment, storage areas or any other location they may access. Additionally, insects create the conduit that introduces mold spores into almond kernels that can result in aflatoxin contamination.
In addition to the issues of animal management in the orchard and orchard floor, it is important to minimize attraction, harborage, and potential for contamination at all operational facilities and sites.
- Develop a regular program for inspection of all buildings and structures to check for evidence of pest populations or deposits of animal droppings. Document these inspections on a simple site-identified checklist.
- Prevent the accumulation of pest and vector attractants, including water, cull piles, and any food source. Collect and remove garbage, trash, and related debris frequently. All waste receptacles should have tight-fitting covers.
- Prevent insect pest build-up; this can prevent the attraction of birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Preventing rodent and small mammal population build-up can reduce the presence of predators (although land-based predators and raptors are often encouraged in some pest management systems).
- Remove dead or trapped birds, insects, rodents, and other pests from traps and property in a timely manner.
- Ensure that potential nesting, roosting, or hiding places for pests have been minimized.
- Regularly inspect all equipment and almond handling or contact surfaces for evidence of animal droppings or deposits. Clean and sanitize soiled surfaces with approved disinfectants.
- Carefully follow all government regulations and pesticide label instructions.
- Document your pest control program.
The USDA Wildlife Service has a number of helpful fact sheets on pest control on farms and within farming operations.
There are a diversity of model and template audits to guide you in prioritizing and developing a pest management plan. The USDA Fresh Produce Audit Verification Program has an extensive checklist that can be consulted for guidance in combination with the GAP resources provided by the Almond Board of California.
For specific pest control recommendations, consult a licensed pest control operator.