After struggling earlier in the year to stay ahead of constantly changing weather conditions and to complete their fieldwork in between rains, Tehama County walnut growers are finding the going much easier as the season winds down.

“This is one of the best walnut crops I’ve seen,” says Rick Buchner, University of California Cooperative Extension orchard farm advisor for the county.

Despite the variable spring, the trees hit a wide enough window of favorable conditions to set the nuts, he thinks.

Whatever the explanation, growers are now seeing what appears to be a good size, clean crop of decent quality, and prices remain strong.

If you would like to read more of Buchner’s comments about the 2011 Tehama County walnut crop 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 e-newsletter that is emailed twice monthly through the growing season. It is sponsored by Cheminova.

Off year for Arizona pistachios

Arizona pistachio grower Steve Seplak expected his production would go down in 2011 — an off-year for the alternate bearing crop. He just didn’t expect it to drop as far as appeared likely in the early days of August.

One of about 30 pistachio growers in the Sulfur Springs Valley near Bowie, Ariz., he grows about 20 acres of pistachio trees in his SAS-Z Nuts orchard near Willcox, Ariz. Between the on-years and the lower-producing off-years, the trees yield an average of 1,850 pounds of nuts per acre annually. In a good year, that can reach 2,500 to 2,850 pounds.

Last year was an exceptionally productive one; his yields shot up to 3,550 pounds per acre. The weather may help explain that, he says.

“Winter before last, we had a lot of rain and a mild spring, and everything came out strong. Even the fruit orchard crops were out of this world.”

For more, go to the Tree Nut Farm Press archives file http://enews.penton.com/enews/farmpress/treenutfarmpress/current

Madera County almonds

Even though the crop was running about two weeks behind usual at the beginning of August, Madera County, Calif., farmer Chris Cardella was encouraged by the way his almonds were developing.

“The trees look nice and healthy and have a good crop on them,” he says. “Based on the size and number of nuts I’m seeing, I think yields will be about 5 percent higher than last year.”

Now in his 11th season of growing almonds, Cardella’s 300 acres of trees near Firebaugh, Calif., include Nonpareil and the later-maturing Aldrich, Butte, Padre and Monterey varieties.

Starting when 10 percent of the Nonpareil hulls had opened, he completed his first hull split spray the last day of July. Up to that point, pressure from navel orangeworm had been light.

Cardella first saw some rust in his orchards this year in May, and since then, he’s treated the trees twice with fungicides to control the disease.

“It’s still in the trees,” he says. “This is one of those seasons when rust has been hard to stop. It’s not pretty— leaves are falling off because of it, but I don’t think it will affect yields.”

During the first part of August, he’ll be running a float through row middles to smooth them out prior to harvest. He expects to start shaking Nonpareil trees around Aug. 25.

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.