Blue Diamond Almonds – 2014 Harvest Update – Sept. 29, 2014

September 29th, 2014

Throughout the majority of the region, growers in the Sacramento Valley experienced clear skies and warm, dry conditions for nearly all of September. However, wet weather returned to the region on the 25th of the month as a cut-off low pressure system spun across the valley, scattering rainfall throughout the region. Rainfall accumulations varied widely, with as little as 0.10 inch reported in the southern areas of the region and nearly an inch reported in the Chico area of Butte County. Daytime high temperatures were reported between the lower 90’s to just over 100 degrees during the first half of the month, then declined gradually to their coolest values in the mid 70’s as the storm system swept across the region. At the same time, morning minimum readings ranged from the mid 50’s to 60’s throughout the period.


Northern Region –

Observers are reporting that the seasonal transition from Summer to Fall is being accompanied by the closing days of the 2014 harvest. The accelerated pace of crop development has provided for a very efficient harvest, allowing growers to move quickly through the orchards from variety to variety. While the rain brought harvest operations to a temporary halt, observers noted that the moisture has not adversely impacted the crop and served mainly to clean the air over the region. The dry soil in many orchards quickly absorbed the moisture in all but the heaviest soils, allowing growers to resume shaking within a few days. As this report is being prepared, observers are reporting that growers are working on Butte, Padre, Mission, Monterey and Fritz and that barring any further complications from the weather, operations in the field are expected to be completed by mid-October.

Growers are reporting variable crop yields, with some orchards running above last year’s levels, but most running at levels lower than experienced in 2013. Production levels of the Aldrich have been particularly disappointing, given this variety’s normally consistent behavior. While pollenizer yields have been running stronger than the Nonpareil, most are still below last year’s levels and observers have noted the inconsistent yields make a forecast of the year’s production quite difficult. Quality levels have also varied. Grower’s initial reports noted excessive damage levels from Navel Orange Worm in the Nonpareil. However, reject levels have improved somewhat as growers moved into the pollenizer varieties.

Growers who have completed their harvest moved quickly into a post-harvest mindset. Post-harvest irrigation, application of soil amendments and potassium fertilizers are well underway along with pruning and the removal of older, low producing orchards. Meanwhile huller/sheller operators moved quickly into previously stockpiled product upon the arrival of the rain and will return to field-run product as soon as the crop dries sufficiently in the orchards.

Central Feature

Central Region –

The harvest in the northern San Joaquin Valley has progressed at what many consider to be a record-setting pace. Growers completed the harvest of the Nonpareil variety by mid-month and quickly sent harvest machinery back into the fields to bring in the Carmel and California type varieties. As a result, many growers have completed their harvest and have moved on to post-harvest tasks. As this report was being prepared, harvest operations have largely been brought to a temporary halt by the rain. Many are expecting to resume harvest operations within the first days of October. Butte, Padre, Monterey and Fritz are the predominate varieties remaining to be harvested and growers with these varieties are expecting to complete their harvest by mid-October if no additional rain is received.

Crop yields continue to fall below last year’s levels. As noted in last month’s report, yields of the Nonpareil were being widely reported at lower than expected levels. Growers are reporting that while most of their pollenizer varieties are producing comparatively better yields than the Nonpareil, production levels are still running slightly below what was harvested in the 2013 crop. Quality issues have also persisted with some finding excessively high levels of Navel Orange Worm damage in susceptible pollenizers.

With the rapid pace of the harvest, in-hull almonds have been accumulating in sheller’s stockpile yards for shelling after field operations have been completed. Sheller operators are reporting that the crop is moving quickly through their facilities with low levels of chipping and foreign material. This year’s water stress during the growing season has promoted an increase the amount of wood that falls from the trees during shaking that must be removed prior to shelling. However, the stress has also provided for additional space between the inside of the shell and the outside of the kernel, allowing sheller operators to increase flow rates through their machinery while still producing a reduced level of chipped and broken kernels in the final product.

As previously noted, post-harvest tasks have already begun. Growers east of the San Joaquin River who receive their water from local irrigation districts have been rushing to complete critical post-harvest irrigations prior to the end of the water delivery season, scheduled for the first week of October. Growers have also begun spreading gypsum in the orchards to promote leaching of salts that have accumulated in the soil during the year’s irrigation season. Observers have noted many loads of gypsum have been stored near the orchards for application after the harvest, particularly along the west side of the region. Growers are also accumulating loads of potassium fertilizers and a few have begun pruning their trees in preparation for the 2015 growing season.

Southern Region –

South2Harvest operations are winding down quickly in the southern San Joaquin Valley. The hastened pace of crop development and accelerated maturity levels have promoted a rapid harvest, allowing growers to move quickly through the Nonpareil variety and on to the various pollenizers in rapid succession. While the majority of the region escaped adverse impacts from the rain, increased humidity levels have created heavy morning dew, which delays the start of harvest operations each day. Observers are reporting that growers are now working on the Butte, Padre, Monterey and Fritz with many are expecting to complete the harvest within the next two weeks, assuming no additional complications imposed by the weather.

Production levels continue to confound. Many growers have noted that their crops appeared to be stronger in the trees than lying on the ground after shaking. While yields of the pollenizers have been running at stronger levels than reported in the Nonpareil, production levels remain predominately at or below those experience in the 2013 crop. Quality levels have also been mixed. Some are reporting very low reject levels while others are experiencing significant losses caused by infestations of Navel Orange Worm, as described in last month’s report.

The rapid pace of the harvest has been accompanied by a nearly equally rapid flow of the crop through the region’s huller/sheller operations. Nevertheless, in-hull almonds have been accumulating in stockpile yards for processing after the harvest. Sheller operators are reporting that the crop is moving through their machinery quite quickly and that many expect to complete their operations approximately ten days ahead of last year.

Post-harvest tasks have become the norm for those who have completed their harvest. Growers receiving their water from local irrigation districts have been rushing to complete post-harvest irrigations prior to the end of the delivery season, while those with private wells are able to continue irrigating, if needed. Tractors can also be spotted in the orchards pulling orchard floats to level the area between the rows while loads of compost and gypsum are accumulating near orchards throughout the region. These soil amendments will soon be spread into the orchards as growers work to combat the salt levels that have accumulated in the soil. Sufficient rainfall over the coming fall and winter months will play a critical role in improving the soil health, in addition to providing water for the 2015 growing season.