2009 California walnut production is forecast at 415,000 tons, down about 5 percent from the 2008 record crop of 436,000 tons.

The forecast is the result of the 2009 Walnut Objective Measurement (O.M.) survey conducted by the California Agricultural Statistics Service (CASS).

The 2009 walnut crop is generally in good condition.

There were adequate chilling hours during the winter and mostly ideal weather conditions during the spring with the exception of some rain which caused minimal blight damage in some areas, CASS reports.

“Walnut growers have experienced good growing conditions this year despite 100 degree temperatures lasting more than one week during summer months,” according to California Walnut Commission (CWC) Chairman Sam Keiper.

“This year's crop is not last year's but it's a high-quality crop and we're very happy with it,” Keiper said.

Irrigation water is a concern in some areas, but CASS says the crop was mostly unaffected by the drought.

The 2009 survey conducted from Aug. 1-22, utilized a total of 736 blocks with two sample trees per block. Survey data indicated an average nut set of 1,523 per tree, up 8 percent from 1,416 nuts per tree average in 2008.

In 2009 CASS said the Hartley variety nut set was up 34 percent; Chandler was down 6 percent; and Serr was down 22 percent from 2008.

Percent of sound kernels in-shell was 97.9 percent statewide. In-shell weight per nut was 22 grams, while the average in-shell suture measurement was 32.5 millimeters. The in-shell cross-width measurement was 33 and the average length in-shell was 39.3 millimeters.

CASS will release the final 2009 walnut production figures in February 2010.

Overall, the California walnut crop has increased by 74 percent since 2000. Walnut trees can produce nuts for 75 to 100 years.

The California walnut industry includes more than 4,000 growers and 61 handlers. The growers and handlers are represented by two entities, the California Walnut Board (CWB) and the CWC.

“The California walnut industry consistently produces high-quality walnuts while maintaining a superior food safety record which is becoming increasingly important as consumers seek out food products to improve their well-being,” said Dennis Balint, executive director, CWB.

Established in 1948, the CWB represents California walnut growers and handlers. The CWB is funded by mandatory handler assessments and governed by a federal walnut marketing order. The CWB promotes walnut usage in the U.S. through publicity and educational programs plus funding for walnut production and post-harvest research.

The CWC, established in 1987, is funded by mandatory grower assessments. The CWC is an agency of the State of California that works in concurrence with the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The CWC’s main focuses include health research and export market development activities.