What is in this article?:
- Buttonwillow, Calif., grower Greg Wegis saw his season-long hope for an average to larger 2012 almond crop vanish this summer as early harvest tallies revealed a 20 percent to 25 percent shortfall in Nonpareil variety yields.
- Wegis believes the lower-yield culprits include back-to-back large crops over the last two years, combined with freezing temperatures this spring in low-lying areas.
- Wegis hopes a smaller than projected California almond crop might bolster grower prices.
- “Three dollars a pound would be great,” Wegis says.
GREG WEGIS, Kern County, Calif., almond grower, checks out his almond crop in early September. Wegis’ overall Nonpareil yields this year are down 20 percent to 25 percent from the farm’s record production last year of 3,500 pounds to 3,800 pounds per acre.
Greg Wegis’ great-great-grandfather started farming in the late 1800s when he moved from Germany to Buttonwillow. The elder Wegis’ son bought the Buttonwillow farm in the 1920s.
For the most part, Wegis says almond growing conditions were good all year including the critical pollination period except for the freezing temperatures in low spots in the late spring.
“It’s been a great growing year for the most part,” Wegis said. “The trees appear healthy.”
Harvest time weather conditions were good and dry in early September.
“This year everything is just bone dry,” Wegis explained.
Wegis and Young have the almond crop hulled and shelled at the Farmer’s Cooperative Almond Huller in Buttonwillow. The crop is marketed through Treehouse California Almonds, SunnyGem, and Supreme Almonds of California.
The primary pest-disease issue on the Wegis and Young almond ranch this year was alternaria leaf spot. Several fungicide treatments provided good fungus control.
According to the University of California IPM website, alternaria appears as a one-half to three-quarter inch diameter brown spot on leaves during the early summer which eventually turn black. Alternaria can almost completely defoliate a tree.
The problem is more commonly found in the southern SJV than in the northern areas of the Sacramento Valley.
Fertility management was right on target for the family’s almond crop. The trees were fed about 235 units of nitrogen and about 185 units of potassium.
“All leaf tissues indicated these rates were in the optimum ranges,” Wegis said. “We’ll stick with a similar fertility program next year.”
The trees received about four acre feet of irrigated water this year; about average on the ranch. The district water allocation was about 65 percent. Good-quality groundwater was fed first followed by district water to finish off the irrigation season.
Wegis says the family does a good job managing its farm inputs in a timely manner.
“We water the almond trees at the optimal time and have invested in technology to aid us using moisture sensing probes with the PureSense real-time water monitoring system. All irrigations are documented and recorded.”
Pest and disease sprays are also timely.
Wegis said, “We have a good group of people working with us – consultants, pest control advisers, partners, foremen, and employees – who get things done at the right time.”