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.
This report’s photos for the southern region present an example of a severely stressed Fritz planting in the Buttonwillow area of Kern County, followed by a shuttle cart unloading the crop into an elevator and a grower’s well being serviced in the Chowchilla area of Madera County.
Elevated humidity levels in the opening days of the period quickly returned to more reasonable and seasonal levels where they remained for the balance of the month, providing welcome relief from the oppressive conditions. Daily maximum temperatures were widely reported between the mid 80’s and just over the 100 degree mark, while morning lows ranged from the upper 50’s to upper 60’swith occasional incursions into the lower 70’s. While monsoonal moisture flows spawned some spectacular thunder storms in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east, the southern San Joaquin’s valley floor remained dry throughout the period.
Harvest operations are moving at a very rapid pace in the southern San Joaquin Valley. As a sign of the advance maturity levels witnessed this year, growers have moved quickly through the Nonpareil and are already shaking all other varieties, including the last-to-harvest Monterey and Fritz in particularly advanced plantings.
Observers are reporting the trees are not shaking as cleanly as last year and definitely not a cleanly as desired. Both the rapidly maturing crop and widespread incidences of Hull Rot produced by infections of Rhyzopus and Monolinia fungal growth on the splitting hulls, which then kills spur and shoots within the trees are to blame. A number of growers have resorted to sending crews into the orchards to knock the nuts remaining in the trees after shaking with poles. However, some are reporting that with the simultaneous harvest of other crops in the valley, the supply of available labor has been rather tight.
As in the balance of the Central Valley, yields of the crop harvest thus far have been running below expectations and below last year’s levels. Loads from the fields and the kernel weight extracted from each load are both running short, leading to reduced crop production. Unfortunately, reject levels are running at greater than desired levels, caused mainly by Navel Orange Worm. University research has proven that orchard sanitation, removal and destruction of “mummy” nuts remaining in the trees after harvest during the winter period, is the best method for reducing Orange Worm infestations. However, the dry conditions of the past two winters have not been conducive to easy mummy removal and insect pressure has increased in many orchards. A wet winter in the coming months will not only replenish depleted water supplies, it will also help to reduce Navel Orange Worm infestations in the 2015 crop.
Harvested crop can be found accumulating in stockpiles throughout the region, both at huller/sheller facilities and alongside orchards. Huller/sheller operators are reporting that the crop is flowing very quickly through their facilities. However, truckloads of product are arriving very quickly from the fields and given the advanced maturity of the crop, deliveries to huller/sheller now extend to nearly all varieties grown in the region.