In his 35 years of working with almonds, Blue Diamond Member Relations Director Dave Baker has never seen the Nonpareil harvest start as late as it did this year — 10 days into September, he reports, green Nonpareils were hanging in orchards in the northern Sacramento Valley.
Even so, overall early harvested nut quality has been excellent — a beautiful blond color, he says, though that changed a bit during the second week of September when processors began seeing a little more navel Orangeworm damage.
“The rejects are beginning to increase due to the fourth flight of NOW,” Baker says. “Also, in the second week of September, one-half inch to 1.5 inches of rain delayed harvest in the Chico-Durham and Maxwell-Williams areas of Glenn County for several days.
“We began the harvest with excellent quality nuts,” Baker says, “but, that quality has started to deteriorate slightly. Still, we’re anticipating a fairly good quality almond crop this year.”
Shakers began working orchards of Harris Farms near Chowchilla, Calif., Aug. 20— about 10 days later than usual. Sept. 5, harvesting crews moved into California varieties, starting with Butte and Padre.
“So far, quality of the crop has been a mixed bag,” says Russell Harris, who runs the vertically-integrated business that includes orchards and The Almond Company, which processes and markets almonds for other growers. “About 75 percent of the nuts we’ve processed so far are clean; the rest have higher navel orangeworm damage than I had expected.’
He blames the increased worm numbers on the failure of growers to protect nuts between hull split sprays and harvest.
The 14 to 21-day residual activity of the various hull split sprays ran out before harvesting began, he explains. That left the almonds vulnerable to the fourth NOW flight, allowing moths to lay eggs in the split hull almonds.
“Growers who sprayed their orchards for worms a second time — immediately after losing the residual activity of their initial hull split application — ended up with clean nuts,” Harris says. “Those who didn’t had worm problems.”
Through the second week of September, nut size was fairly good. About 60 percent of the almonds were 23/25 or larger, Baker reports.
Nonpareil trees seemed to be producing a light crop. “I don’t think they’ll make the National Agricultural Statistics Service estimate for this year.”
He is encouraged by the industry’s shipment numbers for August, which were up over the same month for last year. “That’s a good indication that some people need the nuts,” he says.
Meanwhile, he’s concerned that recent cool temperatures, along with the late harvest, could mean trouble later this fall.
“The weather is making it hard to get nuts to dry, Harris says. “If we don’t get some warmer temperatures, any rain from the middle to the end of October could catch growers with 10 percent to 15 percent of the crop still in the fields. That could create some havoc.”