February 2, 2015

This report covers observations and conditions just prior to the start of the 2015 bloom. We anticipate posting the first of the daily Bloom Reports sometime during the second week of February.

This report’s photos for the northern region present an example of the Nonpareil moving into the green tip stage and an orchard that has received an application of gypsum, both in the Chico area of Butte County. Our final image shows a field ready to be planted in the Maxwell area of Colusa County. In this case, the berms where the trees will be planted have been formed and the area between the trees has been scraped flat, leaving the elevated tree site ready for planting. Our featured image provides a down-the-row shot of the Carmel and Nonpareil in the Chico area of Butte County.

As series of vibrant storms that passed over the Sacramento Valley during December dropped significant rainfall over the region, giving hope to the thought that the state was witnessing the end of the drought. Unfortunately, the very wet December, which dropped in excess of eight inches of rainfall in many areas of the region transitioned into the driest January on record, giving truth to the prospect that California’s growers are indeed facing another year of tight water supplies.

Following December’s strong moisture flows, high pressure re-built over the state, providing ample opportunity for the formation of fog that has blanketed the Sacramento Valley for much of January. Proving that every adversity also presents opportunity, the wet, gray blanket proved very beneficial for growers wanting to reduce the number of Navel Orange Worm overwintering within their orchards by promoting easier removal of mummy nuts remaining in the trees. Growers have also taken advantage of the lack of rainfall to shred brush pruned from the trees, complete fertilizer and herbicide applications and apply soil amendments such as gypsum intended to increase water penetration into the soil. While the wet conditions in December brought operations by growers planting new orchards or replanting individual trees within existing orchards to a standstill, drier conditions in  recent weeks have allowed them to re-enter the fields and planting operation continue as this report was being prepared.

University of California research has shown that soil moisture levels prior to bloom can have an impact on crop production. Accordingly, January’s lack of rainfall has inspired growers with water available to irrigate their orchards, partially filling the soil profile.  Growers are very mindful of the water they are using.  The prospect of limited water availability during the growing season is on everyone’s mind and any irrigations being made are limited to the minimum needed to sustain optimum response. Irrigation planning can also be complicated in the coming weeks if cold temperatures force growers to use water to protect against losses from frost.

Beekeepers have been bringing hives into the state for several weeks, storing colonies in locations where the bees can forage for food and in staging areas near the orchards. Now, with the bloom drawing close, trucks can be found driving throughout the region during the night, delivering loads of hives to the orchards.

As can be seen in the photo accompanying this report, flower buds in the early and mid-blooming varieties are swelling and will soon unfurl their petals. The current state of development indicates that the 2015 bloom timing will be similar to the comparatively early timing experienced in 2014.

Current weather at the National Weather Service
Dennis Meinberg and Ryan Christy
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