The latest California Fruit and Nut Review from the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Sacramento, Calif., Field Office:
A series of thunderstorms in early-June moved across California producing heavy rain, hail, and frequent lightning strikes. Hail damage was reported in several prune orchards in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) and the rain caused some loss of fruit to splitting in cherry orchards. The scattered storms and cool temperatures also interrupted field work in some locations.
As conditions allowed, treatments for aphids and peach twig borer were applied to dried plum and peach orchards. Some peach thinning was observed, plus applications of sulfur and fungicides.
Grapevines across California were fertilized, irrigated, and treated with fungicides. Vineyards were sprayed with sulfur to control mildew in the SJV, and along the north coast vines were thinned to optimize airflow.
Herbicides and insecticides were applied to walnuts and pistachios and preparations began for hull split spraying. Cooler temperatures in the SJV slowed pest development in almond orchards, but mites and leaf scab remained a concern for many growers. Codling moth treatments continued in walnut orchards and trapping for walnut husk fly began in the Sacramento Valley.
Plum, fig, peach, and nectarine harvests continued during June, and the commercial cherry harvest was nearly complete. Most prune orchards had a moderate-to-heavy set. Fruit in pear and apple orchards continued to develop.
Strawberry harvest ended in the SJV, and blueberry, blackberry, and boysenberry harvests continued. Almond, pistachio, and walnut nutlets continued to harden throughout most of the state.
Citrus groves were irrigated in the SJV in order to reduce crop stress and increase fruit set. Groves were also thinned and fertilized. Valencia oranges and late varieties of navel oranges continued to be picked, but some larger sized fruit was excessively dry due to over-maturity. Some Valencia lots showed signs of re-greening, so gassing was necessary to enhance color. Star Ruby grapefruit and lemons were also harvested.
• Non-citrus fruit
Apricots – California's 2009 apricot production is projected at 66,000 tons, representing 88 percent of the total U.S. crop. This estimate is unchanged from the June forecast, but down 14 percent from 2008.
Cooler temperatures have allowed for a uniform harvest. Producers are reporting good yields, limited pest problems, and mostly favorable weather after frost early in the year. Producers were also able to secure water for post-harvest irrigation.
Grapes – California’s all-grape production is forecast at 6.25 million tons, down 4 percent from a year ago. Wine grapes account for 53 percent of California’s total production, raisin grapes account for 34 percent, while the remaining 13 percent are table grapes. Growers are expecting an average crop this year and the cooler than normal weather has been excellent for berry development. Mildew problems have been reported primarily in the SJV.
Wine grape production is forecast at 3.3 million tons, up 8 percent from the 2008 crop. In general, bunch counts in the SJV are up from 2008. The most significant increases were in the red varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rubired, Ruby Cabernet, and Syrah.
Table grape production is expected to be 850,000 tons, down 13 percent from last year. Harvest of table grapes was underway in the Coachella Valley. Although production is forecast to be down from last year, the quality in this region is expected to be high due to good growing conditions.
Peaches – The California Clingstone crop is forecast at 440,000 tons, unchanged from the June 1 forecast, but 3 percent above the 2008 crop. This season's bloom was reported as good to very good in all growing areas. Freezing temperatures in early March resulted in slight frost damage in some areas.
However, early March rainstorms gave way to good weather for pruning, spraying, and tree planting. By the end of April, the fruit was starting to differentiate in size. Harvest began on June 18, which was the same starting date as last year.
The California Freestone crop is forecast at 350,000 tons, down 5 percent from the June 1 forecast and 19 percent below the 2008 crop. Freezing temperatures in early March, along with decreased bearing acres, has resulted in a lower production forecast. Harvest continued during June with Brittney Lane, Crimson Lady, Spring Flame, Earlirich, Sierra Snow, and Ivory Princess being the major varieties.
• Citrus fruit
Grapefruit – The California grapefruit forecast is 8.6 million cartons (144,000 tons), down 2 percent from the previous forecast, 17 percent lower than last season. At the end of June, harvest transitioned from the Star Ruby variety to the Marsh Ruby variety in the coastal region.
Lemons – The California forecast, at 44 million cartons (836,000 tons), is up 16 percent from the previous forecast and 49 percent higher than last season. Lemon harvest in southern coastal areas continued. Fruit size and quality were reported as good, but demand was lower than anticipated.
Oranges – All orange production in California is forecast at 106 million cartons (1.99 million tons), unchanged from the previous forecast, but down 15 percent from last season. Navel orange harvest was complete for the season, and growers reported good quality and size. The Valencia harvest was off to a slow start, but fruit size and quality were excellent. Freezes in March and hot temperatures in May contributed to the decrease in production from last year for both varieties.
Tangerines – The California tangerine and mandarin forecast is 13.4 million cartons, unchanged from last season's final utilization. Harvest was complete and, despite challenges with heat and drought during the growing season, it turned out to be a good year for California tangerines and mandarins.
• 2009 California almond production down
California's 2009 almond production is forecast at 1.35 billion meat pounds, down 7 percent from May's subjective forecast and 17 percent below last year's crop. The forecast is based on 710,000 bearing acres.
Production for the Nonpareil variety is forecast at 450 million meat pounds, 26 percent below last year’s deliveries. The Nonpareil variety represents 36 percent of California’s total almond production.
After a difficult spring, the 2009 almond crop is generally in good condition, although it looks to be about 2 weeks behind. Bloom progressed slowly due to wet conditions, and wet weather hampered pollination. Cool temperatures extended the almond bloom in parts of the Sacramento Valley. Freezing temperatures in March caused damage to some almond orchards.
Mites were present on almonds across the state; however, control measures combined with some spring rains resulted in little damage to the crop. Irrigation water availability is a concern but has had minimal impact on the 2009 crop.