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Drought makes for lighter almond crop

The harvests of almonds and other tree nuts are mostly wrapped up in California. Drought has taken its toll on almond sizes and weights, producing a crop that's estimated to be 7 percent to 8 percent lighter than last year's.
Tim Hearden

Capital Press

Published on December 4, 2014 10:21AM

Tim Hearden/Capital Press   
Workers sweep up almonds that were drying on the ground in an orchard near Gerber, Calif., in August. The harvest of almonds in California wrapped up earlier than normal this year.

Tim Hearden/Capital Press Workers sweep up almonds that were drying on the ground in an orchard near Gerber, Calif., in August. The harvest of almonds in California wrapped up earlier than normal this year.

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Tim Hearden/Capital Press   
Harvested almonds are loaded onto a truck for processing near an orchard in Gerber, Calif., in August. The harvest of almonds wrapped up earlier than normal this year.

Tim Hearden/Capital Press Harvested almonds are loaded onto a truck for processing near an orchard in Gerber, Calif., in August. The harvest of almonds wrapped up earlier than normal this year.


SACRAMENTO — Almond growers in California have mostly wrapped up their harvest of a crop that yielded smaller kernels and more rejects than normal because of the drought.

“We started early and finished early,” said Dave Baker, Blue Diamond Growers’ director of member relations. “It came out a very dry harvest and a fairly clean harvest. We had a higher reject percentage than last year, which was surprising because we didn’t see a lot of shriveled kernels.”

With the lighter kernels, Baker suspects that this year’s crop will end up being 7 percent to 8 percent lighter than last year’s statewide production of 2 billion meat pounds, he said.

In July, the National Agricultural Statistics office here predicted a 2.1 billion pound crop, buoyed by a net gain of 20,000 bearing acres this year to reach a historic high of 880,000 acres of productive almond trees statewide.

However, a few orchards didn’t turn a crop this year because of a lack of water, and near-daily 100-degree heat for a stretch this summer further impacted the crop.

Thanks in part to an early start, harvests were mostly finished before this month’s storms drenched the state.

“That was a good thing to get it all in under wraps while we’ve had no rain,” Baker said. “The bad part is not having the rain.”

Among other California nut crops, walnut harvest was nearly complete last week, with harvested orchards receiving post-harvest irrigation and pruning, NASS reported. Walnut produces expected a 545,000-ton crop — an 11 percent increase from last year’s production of 492,000 tons, according to the agency.

Pistachio growers wrapped up their harvest in November and started applying zinc to their orchards to protect them from frost, NASS reported. Pistachio production in the San Joaquin Valley was down an estimated 15 percent this year as crop development got off to a shaky start with a warm winter and uneven pollination, then a lack of water kept trees from producing as many nuts as usual.



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