California pecan grower Bob Silviera finally completed his harvesting work in January — his latest finish ever.
Normally, he’s done by the end of October. But last year, as a result of the cool growing season that slowed crop maturity, the Glenn County farmer didn’t even start shaking his trees until the third week of the month — about three weeks later than usual. Then, once he started, progress was hindered by rains and wet ground from November through early January.
Planted in 1995, the R. J. Silviera Farms pecan orchards are located near Orland, Calif. In mid-February, he planted another 35 acres of trees, adding to the original 10 acres. The main variety, Pawnee, is pollinated by Shoshone. Pawnee nuts are lighter colored and a little longer than Shoshone. Wichita, the more common variety in the area, is similar in size and shape to Pawnee. Both Pawnee and Shoshone mature earlier than Wichita.
Silviera’s choice of varieties is designed to avoid some of the adverse weather than can hamper harvest, while profiting from the typically higher prices of an early-market crop. “That strategy has been working for us,” he says.
Inshell yields for the 2010 crop hit his target goal of 3,000 pounds per acre. Color was good, as was crack-out, with a nut meat yield of 55 percent.
However, the nuts, which measured out at about 61 per pound, weighed a little less than Silviera wanted. He would have liked that number to be at 58.
“I’m not quite sure why they weren’t as heavy as they should have been,” he says. “We irrigated the same as usual and the nuts had the size we wanted, but they just didn’t fill properly or produce as much oil as normal.”
The wet orchard floors this winter have prevented Silviera from doing his customary pruning. Instead, he’s been limited to hand crews cleaning up broken limbs from wind damage. In the third week of February, a series of storms dropped a total of about two inches of rain — a little more than he usually receives during a single spell of rainy weather. Once the ground dries out enough, he plans to hedge and top the trees. He’ll also be repairing ruts left in the orchards from the harvesting equipment.
Recently, Silviera was finally able to apply the potassium that he normally puts down in the fall. He bands potassium sulfate about 6 feet on either side of tree rows, and tries to apply the full amount needed each year, even if the price of the fertilizer rises.
“The trees really need potassium,” he says. “We base our rates on the results of leaf analysis done in July. Usually, that test shows low potassium levels.”