Judging by the conditions of his trees in mid-June, the walnut crop managed by Sacramento Valley grower Dan Cumming is perking right along.
He’s CEO of Capay Farms, Inc. based in Orland, Calif., which looks after orchards in Butte and Glenn Counties. Both of his varieties – Chandler and Howard – are healthy, very clean for mites and walnut blight and on track to an earlier-than-usual harvest. Plus, he’s seeing a little limb breakage, reflecting the high number of doubles he’s seeing in the canopies.
“It looks like a good to very good walnut crop for us, but not a bumper crop,” says Cummings after walking his orchards on June 12.
Based on the sag of the limbs and the number of single, double and triple nuts he was able to spot among the large leaves, some as high as 40 feet above the ground, he estimates his crop size this year to be about 11 percent bigger than in 2013.
However, much of that increase reflects increased production as younger trees gain some age.
“It’s not necessarily a heavier crop load as it is rapidly-growing canopies as the trees mature,” Cummings explains.
However, underlying the encouraging performance of his walnut orchards, is his concern about having the water he’ll require to meet the needs of his trees and to finish the crop.
“The first thing I think about every day is the water situation,” Cummings says. Water is the primary issue all of us growers have been confronting this season and will continue to confront until the rain starts to fall again.”
At the top of his list of daily chores is reviewing the status of his wells and taking any needed action to correct any problems. This includes checking pumping levels and water pressures; reducing the acreage being irrigated at once, if flow rates drop, to maintain adequate pressure in his line; and connecting main lines so that a given well can service another block on the same farm, if necessary. In the process he’s making various decisions. Should he buy more water? If so, when and where would it be put to best use?
So far, Cummings reports, two of his wells have failed but he has back up water sources. Also, he has his fingers crossed.
“It will be a long summer until harvest,” Cummings says. “But, it looks like it will be an early harvest. That’s a good thing. We’re all feeling the impact of reduced water supplies this year.”