The initial 2011-12 California Valencia orange forecast is 28 million cartons – a normal crop year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Field Office in Sacramento, Calif.

The forecast is based on the results of the 2011-12 Valencia Orange Objective Measurement Survey conducted by NASS from Jan.13 to Feb. 23, 2012.Estimated fruit set per tree, fruit diameter, trees per acre, bearing acreage, and oranges per carton were used in the statistical models estimating production.

Measurements and weather conditions are indicating a normal crop year.

Cold winter temperatures did not appear to negatively impact the crop.

Survey data indicated an average fruit set per tree of 611, relatively close to the five-year average of 591.The average March 1 diameter was 2.583 inches, very close to the five-year average of 2.585.

A sample of 578 Valencia orange groves was randomly selected proportional to acreage, county, and variety representation for the state, with 533 of these groves being utilized in this survey.

Once a grove was randomly chosen and grower permission was granted, two trees were randomly selected for each grove.For each randomly selected tree, its trunk was measured along with all connected branches.A random number table was then used to select a branch, and then all connected branches from the randomly-selected branch were measured.

In the last week of the survey period, fruit diameter measurements were made on the right quadrant of four trees surrounding the two trees of every third sampled grove.These measurements were used to estimate an average fruit diameter per tree.

Of the 533 utilized groves, 219 were in Tulare County, 102 - Kern County, 53 - San Diego County, 57 - Ventura County, 34 - Fresno County, 36 - Riverside County, 13 - San Bernardino County, 14 - Madera County, 2 - Imperial County, and 3 - San Luis Obispo County.