Tim Hearden/Capital Press
RED BLUFF, Calif. — Despite concerns about water, California’s almond groves this season may come close to matching last year’s yields, a government report suggests.
The state’s 2014 almond crop is projected at 1.95 billion pounds, a 2.5 percent drop from last year’s production of 2 billion pounds, the National Agricultural Statistics Service has concluded after talking with growers this spring.
Yield is expected to average 2.27 pounds per acre, down 4.6 percent from the 2013 yield of 2,380 pounds per acre, according to a NASS news release.
Red Bluff farmer Tyler Christensen, who has about 130 acres of almonds in addition to walnuts and plums for prunes, said his crop is progressing nicely.
“The almonds have set really well for us,” he said. “We seem to have a nice, clean crop in there so far … We never turned our frost sprinklers on this year, either, which is rare.”
Christensen and other growers didn’t need frost protection because the winter was one of the warmest on record in California, which prompted the almond bloom to begin in early February — one of the earliest blooms in memory, NASS noted.
The prediction comes amid reports that some San Joaquin Valley growers have let their orchards dry up and had their trees taken out of the ground because of a lack of water. In all, the agency estimates that 10,000 acres — mostly older trees — have been taken out in the past year, according to a separate report.
Even so, NASS expects a net gain of 20,000 bearing acres this year to reach a historic high of 860,000 acres of productive almond trees statewide, according to its crop estimate.
“The production forecast is just a grower survey, and that’s just what they’re telling us is on the trees at this time,” said Lena Schwedler, a NASS agricultural statistician in Sacramento.
Dave Baker, Blue Diamond Growers’ director of member relations, cautions that NASS’ acreage estimates tend to be inexact and are based on a variety of factors. As for production, he said the drought’s impacts could be reflected in diminished expectations as the summer wears on.
“We haven’t seen the effects of the water problem yet ... and we’re just going to start seeing the effects in various areas,” Baker said. He added that growers could start seeing salt problems in trees and shriveled nuts.
Overall, the 2014 crop is developing faster than last year’s and harvest is expected to start early, NASS concluded. Pest and disease pressure has been lower than last year, the agency reported.
NASS has been conservative with its estimates. Last year’s 2 billion pound crop followed a late-season prediction the crop would only total 1.85 billion pounds, which would still have made it one of the biggest in state history.
2014 California Almond Forecast: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/California/Publications/Fruits_and_Nuts/201405almpd.pdf
2013 California Almond Acreage Report: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/California/Publications/Fruits_and_Nuts/201405almac.pdf