This report covers conditions and observations made between Monday, September 1 and Sunday, September 28, 2014. The next report is scheduled for Monday, October 27, 2014. However, in the event of any significant occurrences prior to that date, this site will be updated as soon as possible.
Taken in San Joaquin County, the first two of this report’s photos show a harvester pulling a conditioner though an orchard near Ripon as the grower works to dry his crop in the field following the rain. Our final image shows an orchard in the Tracy area that has received an application of Gypsum intended to increase water penetration and remove salts that have accumulated during this year’s irrigations. This report’s feature image shows an early morning shot of the Monterey variety just prior to the rain near Crows Landing, along the west side of Stanislaus County.
Clear skies and warm temperatures dominated the weather in the northern San Joaquin Valley during September, providing ample opportunities for growers to bring their crops in from the fields. Daily maximum temperatures varied predominately between the lower 80’s to upper 90’s with warmest locations just breaking through the 100 degree mark at mid-month. Meanwhile, morning low temperatures were widely reported between the mid 50’s and low to mid 60’s.
The dry conditions gave way to brief rain on September 25th as a cut-off low pressure system moved across the northern half of the state, bringing from 0.10 to as much as 0.5 inch of rain the areas north of Merced and dropping daytime temperatures into the middle 70’s. While the greatest amount of rainfall was received on the 25th, the cut-off nature of the weather system allowed it to linger over California and Nevada through the final days of the period, spreading occasional scattered showers over the region.
The harvest in the northern San Joaquin Valley has progressed at what many consider to be a record-setting pace. Growers completed the harvest of the Nonpareil variety by mid-month and quickly sent harvest machinery back into the fields to bring in the Carmel and California type varieties. As a result, many growers have completed their harvest and have moved on to post-harvest tasks. As this report was being prepared, harvest operations have largely been brought to a temporary halt by the rain. However, as seen in the photos accompanying this report, some have sent conditioners into the fields to promote drying of the crop by removing the leaves and soil from the windrow and depositing the nuts back on the orchard floor to dry. Many are expecting to resume harvest operations within the first days of October. Butte, Padre, Monterey and Fritz are the predominate varieties remaining to be harvested and growers with these varieties are expecting to complete their harvest by mid-October if no additional rain is received.
Crop yields continue to fall below last year’s levels. As noted in last month’s report, yields of the Nonpareil were being widely reported at lower than expected levels. Growers are reporting that while most of their pollenizer varieties are producing comparatively better yields than the Nonpareil, production levels are still running slightly below what was harvested in the 2013 crop. Quality issues have also persisted with some finding excessively high levels of Navel Orange Worm damage in susceptible pollenizers.
With the rapid pace of the harvest, in-hull almonds have been accumulating in sheller’s stockpile yards for shelling after field operations have been completed. Sheller operators are reporting that the crop is moving quickly through their facilities with low levels of chipping and foreign material. This year’s water stress during the growing season has promoted an increase the amount of wood that falls from the trees during shaking that must be removed prior to shelling. However, the stress has also provided for additional space between the inside of the shell and the outside of the kernel, allowing sheller operators to increase flow rates through their machinery while still producing a reduced level of chipped and broken kernels in the final product.
As previously noted, post-harvest tasks have already begun. Growers east of the San Joaquin River who receive their water from local irrigation districts have been rushing to complete critical post-harvest irrigations prior to the end of the water delivery season, scheduled for the first week of October. Growers have also begun spreading gypsum in the orchards to promote leaching of salts that have accumulated in the soil during the year’s irrigation season. Observers have noted many loads of gypsum have been stored near the orchards for application after the harvest, particularly along the west side of the region. Growers are also accumulating loads of potassium fertilizers and a few have begun pruning their trees in preparation for the 2015 growing season.