August 4, 2014

This report covers conditions and observations made between Monday, June 30 and Sunday, August 3, 2014. The next report is scheduled for Monday, September 1, 2014. 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 central region present the hull split of the Supareil variety under the cloudy skies along the foothills near Hickman in eastern Stanislaus County, followed by a shaker bringing down the Nonpareil and the early hull split of the Fritz, both in the Gustine area of western Merced County.

Hot, muggy conditions dominated much of the weather in the northern San Joaquin Valley during July as several waves of monsoonal moisture passed over the region, bringing cloudy skies and even a few drops of rain and bolts of lightning. Elevated humidity levels increased the impact of the daily maximum temperatures, providing for uncomfortable conditions during much of the period. Daily high readings ranged between the mid and upper 80’s to as high as 105 degree during the period, but felt much hotter. Morning lows provided only sparing relief, with readings dropping only into upper 50’s to mid 60’s.

The cloudy, unsettled conditions produced brief thunderstorms on several days along the eastern foothills. While radar returns showed fairly heavy areas of precipitation, the moisture largely failed to reach the ground level, producing only scattered drops in isolated locations and no measureable rainfall.

Growers in the central region spent the period preparing for the upcoming harvest. Irrigation and weed control have been prime activities as growers prepare their orchard floor to receive the crop. Insect management was also foremost on grower’s minds as they completed hull split treatments for Navel Orange Worm control and bait applications targeted at damaging ant species residing on  the orchard floor. Fortunately, web spinning mites have not caused wide-spread problems this year and growers have avoided significant damage due to mites.

On the subject of water, growers throughout the region have watched stress levels within their orchards rise as they metered out limited water supplies amid the hot conditions. Many growers dependent on surface water from local irrigation districts have observed increasing stress levels within their orchards, while those with privately owned deep wells have fared commensurately better. However, as has been discussed in previous reports, ground water can present its own set of difficulties if the well produces water with excessively high pH or salinity levels. This is particularly evident along the west side of the region where surface water has been more limited and growers are more dependent on their wells. However, observers have noted a wide variation in orchard conditions in all areas of the region, depending on the availability and quality of the water used.  The initiation of the hull split provides growers with the greatest opportunity to withhold water from the trees. Growers normally reduce the applied water to one-half of consumptive use for two weeks after the initiation of the hull split in an effort to reduce fungal infections on the hulls. However, this stress levels imposed by the drought impacts in many plantings have made further water reductions unnecessary or impractical.

As may be seen in the accompanying photos, the harvest has begun in the northern San Joaquin Valley. Shakers entered the first orchard to be harvested on July 11th in western Stanislaus County, bringing the crop down in an orchard that had been particularly water stressed. Shakers began moving into other west side orchards during the week of July 21st with sweepers following shortly thereafter. While harvesters have also begun to pick up the crop during the final week of the period, relatively few loads have been picked up and delivered to huller/shellers as this report was being prepared.

While the elevated temperatures the region has experienced this year has resulted in the first Nonpareil orchards being shaken approximately ten days earlier than last year, growers have also noted advanced development in various pollenizer varieties, signaling the potential for a compressed harvest. This is evidenced by the degree of hull split found in the accompanying photo of the typically last-to-harvest Fritz variety. Observers are reporting that growers in all areas of the region will begin shaking by the second week of August. While a compressed harvest can pose some degree of difficulty, growers are also aware that their local irrigation districts will be cutting off water deliveries earlier this year. All are aware of the importance of good post-harvest irrigation and its effects of the subsequent crop. As a result, growers would love to have the harvest done in time to squeeze in that last irrigation of the year before the irrigation season has ended.

Current weather at the National Weather Service
Mel Machado
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