Madera County, Calif. almond grower Dave Hansen expects production of the Nonpareils to be down as much as 25 percent to 30 percent from last year, based on trailer weights of his unhulled crop.
Nonpareils represent 35 percent of California’s total almond production. In Hansen’s case, they account for half of the 18 acres of almonds on his farm and a similar portion of a neighbor’s 500 acres of almonds, which he helps manage. The rest of this acreage is pollinator varieties.
Hansen started harvesting his Nonpareil on Aug. 8. The day he finished the Nonpareil shake he started with Sonoras and planned to begin in the Aldrich and Woods Colony blocks the last week of August. Hansen expects to begin shaking the Butte and Padre trees the first week of September. Fritz will be the last of several other pollinator varieties harvested.
Last year, yields in of Hansen’s Nonpareil blocks ranged between 3,500 and 4,200 pounds per acre. This year, the top Nonpareil yield has been about 2,700 pounds per acres, he reports.
In 2011, two of his neighbor’s Nonpareil blocks produced between 3,200 and 4,800 pounds per acre. This year, yields in those blocks dropped to just 1,500 to 1,600 pounds per acre, he adds.
Despite favorable weather at bloom, the Nonpareil trees were short on blossoms this year, Hansen notes.
(For more, see: California almond growers ready for harvest bounty — photo gallery)
“I knew the blocks looked pretty light early in the season,” he says. “Later, it looked like the crop would get bigger. But, we ended up with yields being about what we expected earlier — mostly between a ton and 2,500 pounds per acre.”
Towards the end of August, production of the pollinators appeared to be down from last season but not as much as the Nonpareils, Hansen notes. “Last year, the Sonoras made 2,800 pounds per acre,” he says. “They’ll probably make 2,400 to 2,500 pounds this year. The Carmel and Monterey production doesn’t look quite as strong as last year. The Butte-Padre fields that produced 3,000 to 3,500 pounds of nuts last will probably yield around 2,800 to 3,000 pounds this season. Some other Butte-Padre blocks that had yields of 2,500 to 2,800 pounds last year will probably do that again this year.”
Three percent to 5 percent of the Nonpareils processed so far have been showing navel orangeworm (NOW) damage, he notes. Hansen started seeing the worms on the Nonpareil row ends in mid-July. This was after an insecticide treatment of the blocks on June 24 and June 25. “That’s when we had a big buildup of navel orangeworm,” he says. “Because development of nuts on the end-row trees is usually so much more advanced, they were more susceptible to damage than nuts on trees farther into the fields.”
The Nonpareil nuts this year are larger than last year and are ranging in size from 23 to 25 nuts per ounce, Hansen says. Meanwhile, the pollinators appear to have decent size nuts, as well.
The 2012 California Almond Objective Measurement Report, issued at the end of June by USDA/NASS, forecast the Nonpareil production to be 7 percent less than last year for a total of 730 million meat pounds. Hansen isn’t so sure it will be that high, based on what he’s seen in his Nonpareil fields and what’s he’s heard from other areas.
He wouldn’t be surprised to see almond prices strengthen as the harvest continues. He’s heard reports of a grower in the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, who harvested 4,000 pounds of Nonpareils per acre last year, bringing in yields of just 1,500 pounds an acre this season, and of a West Side almond grower whose 2012 Nonpareil crop filled nine sets of trailers. In 2011, it took 13 sets of trailer to hold his Nonpareil production.
“The savvier buyers are seeing the Nonpareil crop coming in smaller than they had thought earlier in the season,” Hansen says.