Near ideal growing conditions and minimal pest problems have combined to start California growers and marketers talking about record 2012 walnut, almond and pistachio crops. It’s getting to be a broken record — one after another for tree nut crops. This includes another 2-billion pound California almond crop.

Pete Jelavich, a walnut producer near Yuba City, Calif., sees “the potential for a record-breaker. I’m fairly confident it will be more than the 2010 level — my guess would be around 520,000 tons.”

“I hesitate to call it excellent in size,” he says “I thought we had a good size crop last year, but it came up short of expectations.” especially for some varieties. So, I’m a little cautious.”

The record now is 502,000 tons for 2010. Last year’s crop came in at 460,000 tons, 8 percent below the existing record.

“Keep in mind,” Jelavich says: “Even though we started with what appeared to be a decent crop, it won’t get any bigger from here on out.”

Central San Joaquin Valley Pest Control Adviser (PCA) Donald Thomas reports little pest pressure from mites and leaffooted plant bugs this season in the tree nut orchards he work.

However, sees the possibility of navel orangeworm numbers building to high levels in some almond orchards now at hull split.

“I think we have potential for a bad year for navel orangeworm (NOW),” he says.

“Mite pressure is a little lighter this season than in the past few years, but they’re still present. You can drive by ranches in the valley and easily see some trees suffering from what appears to be mite stress.”

Thomas now concerns himself with possible high navel orangeworm pressure in both almond and pistachios based on trap counts.

Populations started building early but remained light into May. In most cases, especially in pistachios, the numbers never went down completely to zero for any length of time. “We’d spray and knock the numbers down, but they’d rapidly come back up to an average of 20 eggs per trap a week in some locations.”

As of the second week of July, he was finding navel orangeworm eggs on split hulls in Nonpareil. At the same time, he was also finding eggs and small worms in some pea-sized pistachio splits.

“Depending on where growers are in the central San Joaquin Valley, they probably have navel orangeworm in their trees now,” Thomas says.