The lower production in some of his varieties this year was expected, as the trees recovered from a strong performance the last several years, he says.

Norene’s most prolific varieties this season included Chico and Hartley, whose production dropped off last year. “However, I’ve heard reports that, statewide, Hartley production seems to be down a little from last year,” Norene notes.

His best-yielding variety this year was Howard. “It was up about 15 percent this year,” he adds. “Overall, Howard tonnage for the industry is up this year.”

Jelavich was disappointed by the size of his 2011 crop. Overall, production of his trees fell 20 percent to 25 percent below last year’s level.

Other walnut growers have also experienced a drop in production this year. In fact, California’s 2011 crop is projected to top out at around 485,000 tons, Jelavich notes. “That would be 3 percent under last year’s 502,000-ton crop. Since walnut acreage continues to increase, he attributes most of the drop in crop size this year to Mother Nature.

“The looks of the crop fooled me and everyone else who looked at the orchards this season,” he says. “It looked like the crop was similar in size to the last three years. But, when I started harvesting the first varieties, Serrs and Vinas, I thought ‘Boy! What did I do wrong?’ Once other growers started picking, their crops were short, too. So, I’ve concluded my smaller crop was due to the weather and nothing I did.”

As it was, production of Jelavich’s Serrs this year was down 40 percent from last year, while yields of his other early variety, Vina, fell by 30 percent. However, production of his later varieties declined no more than about 10 percent from his three-year average. “The early varieties were affected more by the spring rains, which resulted in more blanks and nutlets that didn’t develop,” he says.

Jelavich is also disappointed by the quality of the nuts. “They look either real good or just mediocre,” he says. “There’s not much in-between. Color and size both seem inferior to average.”