Scale weights of Darren Ventura’s walnuts harvested this year confirmed what saw in his orchards in August – a decent, average-size crop.
The Stanislaus County, Calif. grower manages about 150 acres of walnut trees for Hudelson Company Hughson, Calif.
“It was a pretty good harvest for us and production reached our expectations for this year,” he says. “Quality of the nuts, including size, was pretty average.”
However, he was somewhat disappointed by his 65 acres of 35- to 40-year Hartleys. Yields there averaged about 1,550 pounds per acre. “I would like to have seen a little more,” Ventura says. “But, for what it costs us to farm those really old trees, we still came out ahead.”
He began his walnut harvest the first of October, starting with his Tulares, where yields were average, before moving onto the Hartleys. Ventura finished with Chandlers, the last of his three varieties, by the end of the month. His Chandlers produced closed to 6,500 pounds of nuts per acre. “That’s not too bad for that block,” he says.
The only wet weather during harvest was when Ventura was shaking the Chandlers. “We got about a tenth of inch of rain,” he says. “But, the ground was so dry it soaked up the water really fast. We were able to get back into the fields within about six hours.”
Ventura was able to keep his walnuts clean of any disease and insect damage this year with his normal spray programs – with one exception. That involved a 10-acre block where University of California researchers were experimenting with the use of a low-volume, high-pressure spray system to treat the trees with a bait and insecticide to protect against walnut husk fly.
“We had a spike in the husk fly population in early August and weren’t able to control the insect before they had caused some damage,” Ventura notes.
Ventura reports harvest prices for walnuts in his areas are ranging between $1.30 and $1.50, with Chandlers commanding the higher prices. He’s pleased with those levels.
“Right now, tree nut farmers are doing okay,” Ventura says. “I can’t complain.”
He’ll end the season by feeding his trees muriate of potash in the last part of November. He’ll band it on either side of the tree at 400 pounds per acre.