What is in this article?:
- Nonpareil almond yield over 20 percent lower for Kern County grower
- Bone dry
- Cost-effective hedging
- 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.
Next year, Wegis and Young will fine tune its tree hedging program – hedging every row and every year but a little wider cut. Hedging will expand from 32 inches this year to 44 to 46 inches next year to allow more sunlight and air movement in the orchard.
“It is very cost effective to hedge prune versus hand prune,” said Wegis. “Hand pruning crews clean out the centers of trees; one to two cuts per tree.”
Almond plantings are on the dense side with six-year-old orchards planted 24 feet by 16 feet apart (114 trees per acre). This compares to more conventional populations in California of 100 trees per acre.
“We are growing for early returns and plan to manage our way through the later years the best we can,” Wegis said.
Other family members in the operation include Wegis’ father, Rick Wegis; his brother-in-law Joe Etcherry; uncle Richard Young; and cousins Mike and Jeff Young.
Of Wegis and Young’s almond acreage, about 1,850 acres are bearing and 250 are non-bearing.
Wegis and Young Property Management LLC will plant about 1,000 acres of almonds in March in western Kern County for outside investors. The company manages 10,000 acres of crops in the Blythe area and 1,000 acres in the Lake Isabella area.