This report covers observations and conditions just prior to the start of the 2015 bloom. We anticipate posting the first of the daily Bloom Reports sometime during the second week of February.
Taken in Kern County, the first of this report’s photos presents a sample of the operations underway in the southern San Joaquin, with a sweeper moving previously shaken mummy nuts into a windrow for destruction by flail mowers, and bee hives placed at the edge of an orchard in the western area of the county. Our final image shows an advanced example of the early blooming Neplus moving into the green tip stage near the Kern County community of McFarland, while our feature image provides a glimpse down the row of the Nonpareil and Monterey varieties in Madera County.
A series of storms passing over California during December gave all in the region hope that the drought conditions plaguing the state may be drawing to an end. While the rainfall totals experienced in the southern San Joaquin may not be impressive to observers in the northern end of the state, accumulations of approximately two inches in December provided some degree of hope. However, while areas of the southern San Joaquin Valley did receive a few showers during January as weak storms brought tropical moisture into the southern state, January 2015 has gone into the books as one of the driest in recorded history with no more than a tenth of an inch of rain reported during the month.
Obviously, water remains a prime consideration for all growers in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Growers continue to service wells throughout the region and develop new ones as equipment become available. Irrigation continues in many area of the region as growers with water available have started supplying water to the orchards, attempting to fill the root zone to optimum levels prior to the start of the bloom. All in the region were hopeful that the rain received in December would continue throughout the winter, bringing much-needed snow to the Sierra Nevada watershed while also helping to leach impurities from the orchard soils. Unfortunately, the most recent snow survey by the California Department of Water Resources has set the current snow pack water content at approximately 25% of normal, heightening apprehension of difficulties during the 2015 irrigation season.
While the dry weeks of January were not desired, at least they have provided ample opportunity to complete the various tasks required prior to the start of the bloom. Growers have been shredding previously pruned brush, as well as applying fertilizers, herbicides and soil amendment materials. Foggy mornings during January have provided good conditions for shaking mummy nuts remaining after harvest, allowing growers to reduce the number of Navel Orange Worm larvae over-wintering in the trees. Many growers experienced elevated reject levels in the 2014 crop as a result of the poor mummy shaking opportunities in recent years. At least December’s rainfall provided enough moisture to promote the development of foggy conditions needed to support mummy removal.
Daytime temperatures in recent weeks have been mixed. While foggy conditions have held temperatures to more stable, cooler readings, clearing skies and bright sun has also allowed afternoon highs to rise to warmer values. As a result, there has been much discussion among growers about chilling accumulation and the potential effects on the crop as bud development has pushed ahead. As may be seen in the photo of the early blooming Neplus accompanying this report, advanced plantings are moving into the green tip stage while individual trees also presenting a dusting of open flowers.
Trucks carrying beehives can now be observed driving through the night delivering colonies to the orchards. The pace of deliveries will increase over the next two weeks as additional loads of hives arrive in the Valley from in-state storage yards and from their summer homes in states throughout the U.S.