Growers on lookout for husk fly, other emerging problems
By TIM HEARDEN
RED BLUFF, Calif. -- Nut harvests in California are winding down, and growers of almonds, walnuts and pistachios are mostly happy with their yields.
Almond growers expect to meet an early estimate of 1.95 billion pounds statewide, which would be a record. Walnut farmers had varied results, but overall it "went pretty well," said Dennis Balint, CEO of the California Walnut Commission.
Pistachio growers in the San Joaquin Valley are enjoying their second-largest crop ever after last year's record yield, and the nuts look exceptional, the California Farm Bureau Federation reports.
Postharvest cleanup and pruning were starting in many orchards around the state last week, and finished walnut groves were being irrigated, the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service reported.
"It's an excellent season," said Dave Baker, director of member relations for Blue Diamond Growers. "The crop is coming in nicely even though we fought our way through some of the wet period. Nonpareil receipts look to be on target."
Nut harvests came to a halt in early October because of several rainstorms, although mild weather later in the month allowed crews to catch up. Some walnuts that were knocked to the ground developed mold, Balint said.
"The rumors I've heard is that guys are still complaining about the quality" of walnuts, said Rick Buchner, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Red Bluff. "We're getting a lot of black husks on them, so there's a suggestion that we may have some husk breakdown and husk fly problems. It's probably too soon to tell yet."
Walnut growers already expected to fall short of last year's record crop. This year's yield was predicted to be 485,000 tons, slightly lower than last year's 503,000 tons, according to NASS.
A 1.95 billion pound almond crop would easily surpass last season's roughly 1.65 billion pound harvest, which was also a record. This year's yield comes after trees had excellent chilling hours last winter and a prolonged blossom caused more overlap among varieties, NASS reported.
Nonpareils appear to have met their expectations of 750 million pounds, Baker said. That's 35 percent above last year's deliveries. The nonpareil variety represents 38 percent of California's total almond production.
"It is a high-quality crop," Baker said. "It's the lowest reject average we've had ever at this point in time ... The processing is going well, sales are excellent and shipments and commitments are up substantially over last year at this point in time. That means we're on target to sell all of this crop."
Blue Diamond Growers: www.bluediamond.com
Almond Board of California: www.almondboard.com
California Walnut Commission: www.walnuts.org/walnuts
American Pistachio Growers: http://www.westernpistachio.org