It was two weeks late getting started, but the Kern County almond harvest is moving into full swing, says PCA Alan Butterfield, who works with growers in the eastern side of Kern and Tulare counties.

“The late start puts a lot of pressure on growers,” he says. “They’ll have to work very fast and efficiently to get the crop in before the fall rains come.”

In the second week of August one of Butterfield’s clients was spraying trees for mites, after being surprised by a late influx.

He attributes this late-season surge to insufficient predators to keep the spider mites in check.

“I don’t think we had much buildup of predators earlier in the year,” he says. “So, when the weather turned hot, the mites came on strong, and there weren’t enough predators to hold them back.”

If you would like to read more of Butterfield’s comments about the 2011 San Joaquin Valley almond crop, go to http://enews.penton.com/enews/farmpress/treenutfarmpress/current where you can see the most recent issues of Tree Nut Farm Press and subscribe to the free enewsletter that is emailed twice monthly through the growing season. It is sponsored by Cheminova.

Late pistachios

While some pistachio processors are predicting this year’s crop will total 400 million to 450 million pounds, consultant and former grower Carl Fanucchi is weighing in with a bigger estimate — perhaps a 475 million, or even a 500-million-pound harvest.

“The crop looks good,” says t owner of Fanucchi Diversified Management, Inc., Bakersfield, Calif. told Tree Nut Farm Press, Fanucchi  works with pistachio growers throughout Kern County. “Nut fill on mature trees is excellent, and nut size is larger than last year. Also, the number of blanks is a bit lower than normal, except for first-crop trees where blanks might be a little higher than the rest. That’s probably the result of not enough pollen in those young orchards.”

Based on the color of the nuts, good disease control and lack of staining, and other insect damage, he also sees excellent prospects for a top quality crop.

“Because of all the rain this season, growers with any kind of history of fungal problems have done a good job of spraying their trees to prevent any disease problems,” Fanucchi says. “The trees look good.”

Southeastern Arizona pecans

Pecan grower Danny Tingle, manager of Sunland Farms, Cochise, Ariz., told Tree Nut Farm Press he was encouraged by the appearance of his 210 acres Western Schley at mid-August.

“They look good — really good,” he says. “They’ve exceeded the expectations I had going into this season. They’re about a week late because of the cool spring weather, but the trees are developing a pretty decent-size crop”

Due to a severe freeze several years ago, which all but eliminated production that year from half of his trees, his blocks represent about a 50-50 mix of on- and off-year production cycles.

“The trees that were in an on-year in 2010 and produced good yields have come back with an excellent crop again this season,” he says.

Six years ago Tingle began a program to reduce the year-to-year variation in production of the alternate-bearing pecan trees by pruning them heavily and giving them more nutrients and water during the on-year. The idea is to reduce stress on the trees going into the next year and promote higher off-year nut production.

San Joaquin County walnuts

With good control of earlier disease and insect threats, little sunburn injury, and a sizeable nut set, this season has all the makings of an excellent crop for San Joaquin County walnut growers. But they’re likely to be delayed in starting the harvest.

Although the crop could still make up some of setback in nut maturity caused by cool weather this year, growers probably won’t begin shaking their earliest varieties until about Sept. 15-20. That’s a good 10 days to two weeks later than usual, Joe Grant, University of California farm advisor for San Joaquin County, told Tree Nut Farm Press.

“Pretty much all of our varieties have set a decent crop this year,” he says. “The exception is Serr. We don’t have a lot of it, but where growers didn’t use the growth regulator ReTain to help correct for pistillate flower abortion, the crop is noticeably on the light side.”

Go to http://enews.penton.com/enews/farmpress/treenutfarmpress/current for the 2011 e-newsletter archives Tree Nut Farm Press and subscribe to the free e-newsletter that is emailed twice monthly through the growing season.