This report covers conditions and observations made between Monday, June 29 and Sunday, August 2, 2015. The next report is scheduled for Monday, August 31, 2015. However, in the event of any significant occurrences prior to that date, this site will be updated as soon as possible.
This report’s photos for the southern region present the start of the 2015 harvest. First, a mower clearing the vegetation from the orchard floor near McFarland, followed by a shaker removing the crop from the trees near Delano, both in Kern County, and finally, a sweeper preparing the crop for harvest in the Chowchilla area of Madera County
Hot and humid conditions dominated the weather in the southern region during July, providing uncomfortable working conditions and increasing stress on the region’s orchards. Daily maximum temperatures, which dipped below the 90 degree mark for only a few days during the period, on the 9th and 10th of the month, reached well over the century mark on several days, with highest readings report during the last week of July. Morning lows followed a similar trend, with readings reported in the lower 60s to lower 70s throughout the period. Adding to the temperatures, the high humidity levels created by monsoonal moisture cast off of tropical storms over Mexico made the temperatures seem even higher. The instability accompanying the moisture produced thunderstorms on several days during the period, with isolated areas of the region receiving as much as an inch of rain from the heaviest downpours. While the storms made growers nervous, no lasting impact on the crop has been reported.
Harvest operations are now well underway in the Southern San Joaquin Valley. Growers sent shakers into the most advanced plantings along the west side of the region during mid-July, with operations beginning in the balance of the region in the closing days of the period. Growers have reported differential maturity within the trees in many plantings, with nuts at the tops of the trees and the ends of the branches being dryer and ready for harvest, while those deeper within the tree canopy being “greener” and harder to shake. While loads of in-hull almonds have been received from the earliest orchards by the huller/shellers, most have chosen to accumulate enough product to justify starting the hulling/shelling season. Only a few loads of shelled almonds have been received as this report was being prepared. We anticipate the start of “full-blown” harvest operations beginning during the first week of August.
Preparations for the harvest dominated growers’ work during the period, with irrigation and pest management being the prime activities. Observers are reporting that many orchards around the region are exhibiting signs of severe water stress, along with the affects of poor quality water. Wilted trees, salt damage and premature defoliation are very evident, particularly in Madera County. Adding to the problem, a number of orchards have seen rising populations of web spinning mites, which have benefitted from the stresses imposed on the trees, aggravating the degree of defoliation in the impacted orchards.
Efforts to manage Navel Orange Worm, NOW, populations within the orchards also intensified during the period. Traps counts, in both egg traps used to monitor females and pheromone traps, used to monitor males have been running very high throughout the year. University research has shown that orchard sanitation, removing mummy nuts remaining in the trees after harvest to reduce the number of over-wintering insects in the orchards, is the best way to manage NOW and reduce damage to the crop. Unfortunately, the dry winter conditions have translated into very poor mummy shaking conditions and over-wintering populations have been quite high. As a result, the only opportunity to control this serious pest is with treatments timed at hull split, intended to control the larvae before they enter the nut.
Observers are reporting that with the Nonpareil harvest now underway, the balance of the region’s varieties are progressing rapidly, no doubt driven by the stresses on the trees. As a result, it appears that the harvest has a high possibility of being very compressed, with pollenizer varieties harvesting immediately after the Nonpareil.