March 16, 2015

This report covers conditions and observations made between Monday, March 2 and Sunday, March 15, 2015. The next report is scheduled for Monday, March 30, 2015. However, in the event of any significant occurrences prior to that date, this site will be updated as soon as possible.

Taken in Madera County, this report’s photos for the southern region display the developing crop of the Sonora, Nonpareil and Butte varieties breaking free from their jackets.

Steadily rising temperatures during period have pushed nut development along strongly since the completion of the 2015 bloom. Daily maximum temperatures, which were widely reported in the mid and upper 60’s at the start of the period peaked in the mid and upper 80’s in the period’s closing days, interrupted briefly on March 11th and 12th, when a weakening weather system brought trace amounts of rainfall to the isolated areas of the southern San Joaquin Valley and dropped readings back into the upper 60’s and lower 70’s. Morning lows followed a similar pattern, rising from the mid 30’s early in the period to a peak in the mid 50’s under the insulating cloudy skies that accompanied the storm’s passage before settling back into the upper 40’s and lower 50’s as the period concluded.

As may be seen in the photos accompanying this report, bud development is progressing quite rapidly in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Nuts of all varieties are breaking free from their jackets and differentiating in size; the larger sizes will most certainly be retained to harvest, while a significant proportion of the smallest sizes will be shed from the trees. Growers have noted variable nut sets in many plantings, with the orchards that endured the greatest stress last year exhibiting a weaker set. Many have noted that the Nonpareil variety appears to have been affected to a greater extent than other varieties.

While the date indicates that the southern region remains firmly in the final phase of winter, the weather has taken on a more summer-like tenor. Thus, growers have moved into a growing season state of mind. While vegetation and pest management move into focus as growers mow weeds within the orchards and monitor their orchards for signs of insect infestations, irrigation and water supplies have taken a front and center position in everyone’s mind throughout the region.

Growers receiving water from the federal Central Valley Project have been informed that they will once again receive no water for the 2015 irrigation season. Meanwhile, those drawing water from the State Water Project will receive 20% of their contracted allocation. With supplies of surface water questionable at best, growers will be forced to rely largely on their private wells and any water that they can purchase from other sources to get through the growing season. Unfortunately, supplies from wells are also questionable. While growers have been diligently servicing existing wells and drilling new ones over the past two years, problems still prevail. Growers in Madera County are enduring particular difficulties. Pumping levels continue to drop, reducing the yield produced by wells, while wells in the weakest areas continue to fail. Adding to the anguish, the water produced by many wells in the area is of questionable quality. Purchase prices for available water have also become very expensive. Water purchases set at $700 per acre foot have already been reported, with talk of higher prices quite common. In spite of the difficulties faced by those in the southern region, growers are working diligently to get their crops to harvest.


Current weather at the National Weather Service
Ernie Reichmuth
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