This report covers conditions and observations made between Monday, August 4 and Sunday, August 31, 2014. The next report is scheduled for Monday, September 29, 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 central region present a sweeper moving the previously shaken nuts in to a windrow during the evening hours in the Waterford area of Stanislaus County and the Fritz variety in the Gustine area of Merced County ready for the shaker. Our final image presents an example of the Independence variety that has been infected by Rhizopus, the same fungus that causes moldy bread.
Warm and predominately dry conditions prevailed during the period in the northern San Joaquin Valley. While monsoonal flows of moisture coursed over the region early in the month, threatening to dampen the start of the harvest, skies remained dry throughout the period. Daily maximum temperatures varied between the lower 80’s and upper 90’s with a few excursions just above the 100 degree mark at mid-month. Meanwhile, morning low temperatures were reported at their highest values in the period’s opening days, with readings in the mid and upper 60’s. Temperatures then quickly retreated back into the upper 50’s and lower 60’s for remainder of the period.
Following a relatively early start, harvest operations have progressed very quickly in the northern San Joaquin Valley. The crop has been maturing very rapidly and shakers are moving from orchard to orchard as quickly as possible. While some have elected to begin shaking their Sonora, Carmel and California type varieties without pausing to irrigate after picking up the Nonpareil, growers with Butte and Padre have also begun to shake the earliest maturing orchards. As an example of this year’s accelerated maturity, the grower of the Fritz planting in the photo accompanying this report was bringing the shaker to the orchard as the photo was being taken.
In contrast to reports in the opening days of the harvest, growers are have been reporting variable shaking quality in many orchards; some have shaken very cleanly, while many plantings have been very difficult to shake, with a substantial number of nuts remaining in the trees. Shaking has been further complicated by the amount of bread mold that has attacked many plantings. A consequence of the high humidity levels noted in last month’s report, infections of Rhizopus and Monolinia have been reported in all areas of the region and have grown quite serious in spite of grower’s best efforts to ward off the disease. As may be seen in the photo accompanying this report, while bread mold infections first attack the hull as it splits, the fungal infection produces toxins that can kill spurs and branches in the trees and as a result make the nuts very hard to shake. As a result, some growers have resorted to sending poling crews into the orchards to bring down as many nuts as possible.
Observers and growers are both reporting that yields of the Nonpareil variety are running below last year’s production levels in all areas of the region. Quite a few growers have reported that their crop “looked better in the trees than on the ground”. Many growers and huller/sheller operators have also reported observing “blank” or empty kernels in the flow of product, which are invisible to the eye until the crop is harvested. Adding further offense, growers are also reporting that reject levels are running above last year’s very clean levels. Navel Orange Worm has been implicated as the primary cause, both in the form of older, larger larvae and more recently hatched pinhole infestations. Losses have reached significant levels in many orchards. While huller/sheller operators are working to remove as many of the reject kernels as possible, they are reporting that the crop is flowing through their facilities quite rapidly with very low levels of chipped and broken kernels.
Growers are monitoring their orchard soil moisture levels closely. Those with water still available are hoping that they will have enough to provide a deep post-harvest irrigation. Flower buds for the next crop are differentiating now and require adequate moisture in order to complete their evolution into viable flowers. Piles of gypsum placed alongside orchards on the west side of the region by growers who have already completed their harvest signify their attempt to prepare of the coming crop. Gypsum is commonly applied to lower soil pH and improve water penetration. Growers are hopeful that the gypsum combined with ample rainfall this winter will leach salts from the soil profile and improve conditions within the orchard.