San Joaquin County almond growers started shaking trees as their Nonpareil crop reached 100 percent hull split.
“On a per-acre basis, yields look to be about average or maybe a little lighter than usual,” reports Paul Verdegaal, University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor for the county.
Growers have had few, if any, problems controlling diseases. With no pressure from leaf-footed plant bugs and only scattered problems with navel orangeworm and some mid-season outbreaks of spider mites, insects haven’t been much of a concern this season, either, Verdegaal notes. The number of growing degree days has been typical. However, he suspects a very dry winter may have held down production.
Many growers irrigated their fields in mid-winter and made up for the lack of winter rain. “As growers turn off their water to prepare for harvest, the fields may dry out pretty quickly,” he notes. “Some orchards are showing some stress.”
Several rains during bloom may also have hurt production by disrupting pollination and setting the stage for some diseases.
This year, California’s almond growers are expected to harvest a record 2.1 billion meat pounds — 3 percent more than last year. However, the size of the Nonpareil crop, which represents 35 percent of the state’s almond production, is predicted to be 7 percent smaller than in 2011.
(For more, see: California almond industry poised to topple records)
San Joaquin County yields tend to be less than those in the southern San Joaquin Valley and to the north in the Sacramento Valley. Production in those areas can range from 3,000 to 4,000 meat pounds per acre. “The almond crop here is influenced by the cooler air from the Delta,” Verdegaal says. “Good growers in this county can usually reach their goals of producing 2,500 to 3,000 meat pounds of almonds per acre. However, overall, county yields average between about 2,000 to 2,500 pounds.”
While they may not harvest as much tonnage from their orchards as growers in other areas of the state, San Joaquin County producers are known for the quality of their almonds. “We tend to have a much lower rate of reject nuts from insect damage compared to other counties,” Verdegaal says. “So, the quality of nuts grown here is always pretty good.”
The mid-August heat wave is accelerating maturity of the nuts. If warm, dry weather holds through harvest, growers could finish the season by mid-October with the hard shell varieties, including Butte and Padre, Verdegaal notes.
“Here in the northern San Joaquin Valley we have a big concentration of Fritz, “Verdegaal says. “It fits in really nicely as a pollinator for Nonpareil in our county as well as in Stanislaus and Merced counties. It’s a combination that’s hard to beat for productivity.”
Like the rest of California’s almond industry, San Joaquin County growers are also expecting to receive some pretty good prices for their crop.