Sacramento Valley tree nut grower Dan Cummings expects the 2013 almond crop in his part of the state to be more above average than the one now developing in the San Joaquin Valley. Specifically, he looks for Sacramento Valley growers to produce about 10 percent to 15 percent more almonds this year than last year.

The CEO of Capay Farms, Inc., Orland, Calif., Cummings bases that assessment on what he’s seeing in his 6,000 acres of almonds and on what he’s hearing from growers statewide.

Almond orchards in the Sacramento Valley escaped much of the 100-degree-plus weather experienced in the almond-growing area of the San Joaquin Valley last year. NorCal growers were able to better meet the water demands of their trees last summer and fall, resulting in a better bloom this spring, he says. Sacramento Valley growers also enjoyed favorable weather this spring.

“Often we don’t get the good weather for pollination that growers farther south have,” Cummings says. “This year, as in the San Joaquin Valley, the weather during pollination was about as good you can get. So, combine that with a better bloom and almond production in the Sacramento Valley should be better relative to its average than the rest of the state.”

By the second week of June his almonds were maturing about a week to 10 days earlier than normal and about three weeks sooner than last year. Cummings expects hull split to start July 1, a week earlier. And, he’s preparing for the possibility of one of his earliest harvest starts ever, starting about Aug. 5. That would be about five to seven days earlier than usual and almost two weeks ahead of last year.

This spring’s drying winds have helped minimize development of diseases such as alternaria, rust and scab in his orchards.

Cummings’ trees had some brown almond mite pressure earlier, but mite pressure is not a problem now. The leaffooted plant bug has shown up in a few orchards. However, the bugs appeared after shells had hardened enough that they weren’t susceptible to damage from the feeding adults.

However, the threat to his orchards this year from the navel orangeworm (NOW) is a different story. “It’s particularly worrisome,” Cummings says. “Last year, we had more navel orangeworm damage than we’ve experienced in a long while and a lot of nuts in the Fritz, Butte, Winters and Sonora blocks didn’t come off clean, leaving a lot of mummies. So, I suspect the worm populations will really build up this year. Because of all the acreage we’ll have to treat, we’re already committed to doing two hull split sprays. I can’t remember the last time we did that on all the almond acreage.”