SACRAMENTO -- California almond growers are set to reap another record crop in 2011, as 1.95 billion pounds of the nut are expected to come off 750,000 acres of trees.
The wet winter and cool spring that had farmers worried actually proved a boon to the bloom, as trees had excellent chilling hours and the prolonged blossom caused more overlap among varieties, according to a government report.
Cold weather can affect bee activity, but the bees came through this year, leaving an average nut set per tree of 7,353, up 23 percent from 2010, notes the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The crop's large size will help growers meet the increasing global demand for almonds, which is racking up a brisk 10 percent a year, said Dave Baker, director of member relations for Blue Diamond Growers.
"We feel very comfortable with it," Baker said of the July 6 NASS estimate, which was based on orchard sampling done in June. "It's very manageable and good for the industry to keep up with consumption demands around the world."
The abundant crop follows last season's roughly 1.65 billion pound harvest, which was also a record. That yield came despite mild weather that delayed the harvests of many California crops.
In mid-February, bee hives had been out on almond trees for a couple of weeks when winter storms returned after a respite, soaking the state with a parade of rain clouds through March.
Frost damage turned out to be insignificant, though freezing temperatures did affect northern areas, NASS noted. Older plantings suffered some damage from the strong winds that accompanied the spring storms, but overall damage was minimal, the report stated. Spotty damage from hail was also noted.
Despite all the rain, disease pressure has not been a problem, nor has lack of water for irrigation, reported NASS, which upped its crop prediction from a preliminary survey in May by 11 percent.
Production of the Nonpareil variety is projected at 750,000 pounds, up 35 percent from last year's deliveries. The variety represents 38 percent of California's almond production, which accounts for about 80 percent of the world's almonds.
"We're a high-growth industry, and fortunately every region of the world is increasing in their consumption," said Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board of California.
"The almond board doesn't foresee anything but opportunity in terms of being able to market this 1.95 billion-pound estimate efficiently over the coming year," he said.
-- Tim Hearden
2011 California Almond Objective Measurement Report: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/California/Publications/Fruits_and_Nuts/201106almom.pdf