Spring is always special in the valleys of Arizona and California. However, this year has been something extraordinary to behold.
I recently returned from a swing through Southern California and Arizona where the desert was a carpet of green. It was mesmerizing to see how green the desert had become with rainfall not seen in many years. Desert plants have sprouted that have never before been seen.
Arizona has been in a drought, but that has ended in a matter of three months. Phoenix recorded six inches of rain in 12 weeks earlier in the year and the rain continued through March.
There are Arizona rivers that have been dry since 1999 that run bank full on several occasions this winter as officials released water from lakes swollen from the second wettest winter in the city since the 1940s.
There are fields now scheduled for cotton in Arizona that have not been planted in several years due to a lack of water allocation from dry reservoirs.
Roadsides and Interstate medians are filled with mustard and other weeds. Insects abound. In driving back to California in early March, my pickup windshield was splattered with insects like it was June.
The story is the same in California where Los Angeles endured more than 11 inches of February rain, three times normal. Fresno had nearly its annual rainfall total by mid-March, and more storms continued to roll into the state from the Pacific.
On a recent drive to Pismo Beach, the coastal range on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley never looked greener. It made for ideal spring grazing conditions for calves, and cattlemen were obviously taking advantage of one of the best foothill grazing seasons in a long time.
Final snow pack reports are a few weeks away. However, farmers are looking for a good surface water irrigation season for a change.
Obviously the wet spring has delayed or hampered farming operations. Almond growers and marketers did not get the spring bloom weather they desperately needed and wanted, but post bloom weather has been good and hope is that the crop can recover enough to get the 1 billion pound crop needed to meet growing demand. Tree fruit and nut growers have also spent a lot of money on fungicides this season.
The same is true for Arizona and Southern California desert lettuce growers. Unfortunately, the wet weather has not helped with lettuce prices.
Cotton growers were still waiting for clear skies to plant as the calendar approached April 1. Seed companies have sold out of Pima varieties as growers hope it will clear enough by April 15 to 20 to get Pima in. Pima spot prices have reached stratospheric levels of 1.50 to 1.60 cents per pound, and the SJV Pima acreage estimate continues to soar above the 250,000-acre mark. Acala acreage will take a major hit if the weather clears enough to get as much Pima planted as growers want.
Each year is a weather year. 2005 is a dramatically different weather than last year’s once-in-a-career season when spring conditions were ideal.
No question this season will be more of a struggle. However, without the rain that has made the valleys of the West so spectacular this spring there would be no water to grow the crops farmers will produce.
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