California citrus acreage continues to be a mixed bag as trends continue to show a move towards thin-skinned, easy-to-peel varieties.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) reports that total Navel and Valencia acreage continues to decline as Mandarins and Mandarin hybrids increase in popularity among growers and the marketplace.
Navel oranges are still the most popular citrus tree planted by commercial growers. In 2014 more 126,000 total acres of Navels were still in the ground, with just over 3,300 of those acres non-bearing, according to CDFA statistics.
While Navel acreage has been trending down over the past few years, according to CDFA statistics, Mandarins and their hybrids have been trending in the other direction. A similar number of acres (about 4,000) of Navels went out of production since 2011 that went into Mandarins and their hybrids, according to the state report.
Mandarin and Mandarin-hybrid acreage climbed from just under 29,000 acres in 2006 to more than 46,000 total acres in 2014. Less than 2,000 of those acres are non-bearing.
Lemon acreage came in a close third at nearly 44,000 total acres (2,103 acres non-bearing) with Valencia plantings fourth at nearly 34,000 acres. There was virtually no non-bearing Valencia’s in the ground in the recent survey.
Popular citrus growing counties continue to be Tulare, Kern and Fresno. Tulare had the most Navels in the ground (69,643 acres) while Kern had the most Mandarins in the ground at 16,486, according to the report. At 14,261, Tulare also had the most Valencia oranges in the ground.
Lemon acreage is highest in Ventura County at more than 17,000 of the state’s 43,985 total acres.
Of the other citrus varieties sampled there were 8,695 acres of Grapefruit, 1,337 acres of Pummelos, and 510 acres of limes.
The voluntary survey sought input from 4,500 citrus growers. Officials say it is nearly impossible to achieve 100 percent participation in such a survey and that it is difficult for U.S. Department of Agriculture officials conducting the survey to detect growers who are planting citrus for the first time.
The survey includes a mailing to about 4,500 growers in January. Follow-up telephone calls and personal visits to large growing operations that did not return surveys were made several months later in an attempt to achieve more complete numbers.
A statewide report on citrus bearing acreage estimates will be released Sept. 18.