This report covers conditions and observations made between Monday, March 31 and Sunday, April 27, 2014. The next report is scheduled for Monday, May 26, 2014. However, in the event of any significant occurrences prior to that date, this site will be updated as soon as possible
Our photos for the southern region present a down-the row view of the Nonpareil and Carmel under drip irrigation in Madera County, followed by a close-up of the top of the Nonpareil tree in the same orchard. Our final image shows a crane pulling the pump and column from a well in the Dinuba area of Fresno County.
As with the northern San Joaquin and Sacramento Valley, generally good conditions have dominated the region’s weather during April, with rain falling in both the period’s opening and closing days. Daily maximum temperatures reported in the upper 50’s and lower 60’s as the period began rose to the mid and upper 80’s where they remained until the final days of the period as a new weather system passed over the state. Morning lows followed a similar pattern, with readings rising from the lower 40’s early in the period to their warmest levels in the upper 40’s and lower 50’s during the period’s second week. Readings moderately slightly during the final days of the period as the relatively cool weather system worked its way across the valley.
Owing to its geographic location, rainfall totals for the month were much lower than in the other growing regions. Nevertheless, the region received from a few tenths of an inch to as much as one inch of rain, with some growers reporting additional amounts from storm cells that passed through the region on Friday, the 25th. Observers noted that hail was reported in areas of Madera, Fresno and Kings Counties on the 25th, but widespread damage had not been reported as this reported was being prepare.
Crop development continues in the southern San Joaquin at the accelerated pace established since the completion of the bloom. During the period, trees have been shedding the nuts that they are unable to carry to maturity. Growers have been busy working to maintain the crop, fertilizing to supply needed nutrients and monitoring the orchards for signs of insect infestations and fungal infections. Some have reported damaging populations of Leaf-Footed Plant Bugs and have treated accordingly. Still more have noted that Navel Orange Worm, NOW, trap counts have been rising and are making plans to begin treatments according to the life cycle stage of this serious insect pest. The lack of winter rainfall and the corresponding few days of fog resulted in very poor conditions for the removal of mummy nuts remaining in the trees after the 2013 harvest. These mummy nuts serve as over-wintering sites for NOW and can greatly increase the potential for damage in the subsequent crop. Given “the hand that they have been dealt”, growers are monitoring the insect’s life cycle closely to determine the correct course of action and minimize damage to the crop. Growers are employing the newly developed NOW pheromone trap to attract adult male moths in addition to the traditional egg traps used to lure female moths and monitor their egg laying activity.
While the generally beneficial weather conditions experienced during April have allowed the crop to develop nicely, water remains the over-riding concern of all growers in the southern San Joaquin Valley. The State Water Project has increased allocations to its service areas to 5% of contracted amounts. However, most expect that this small increase in available water will provide little benefit as it will not be available until after September 1. Allocations by the federal Central Valley Project remain at zero south of the San Joaquin/Sacramento Delta, while deliveries to the Exchange Contractors, who have superior water rights, remain at 40% of contracted amounts.
In the complicated puzzle of water rights and allocations that make up the San Joaquin Valley, the Exchange Contractors on the valley’s west side have rights to the water in Millerton Reservoir near Fresno if they are unable to secure their normal supplies. Millerton’s water normally supplies growers along the east side of the valley, serving the Madera and Fresno Irrigation Districts as well as other districts to the south via the Friant-Kern Canal. According to published reports approximately 410,000 acre feet of water has been pumped from the Delta and stored in San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos on the west side of Merced County as the run-off from the March and April storms passed through the Delta. If an additional 300,000 acre-feet could be pumped and stored, the Exchange Contractors would not need to source supplies from Millerton, making that water available to east side growers.
Clearly, groundwater supplies will be critical to growers in the southern San Joaquin. Some have already reported difficulties with their wells. Pump and well companies are working around the clock to maintain systems and have been unable to keep up with the demand for service. A tour of the west side of the region will find miles of 10 and 12 inch aluminum pipe running from wells in one orchard to other orchards as growers work to meet their orchard’s needs. Excessive stress has not yet been reported, but will most certainly appear as we move into the late spring and summer months.