For nut growers: It’s all about the weather … and water availability

Weather is the No. 1 item on the agenda as Western tree nut producers enter the new production season.

California almonds are blooming, and the weather has been rainy and cold — not a good combination. But no one is complaining ... yet.

California desperately needs snow and rain.

Fresno received more than two inches in February. Farther north, Sacramento is approaching 3.5 inches for the month and Chico is nearing six inches.

According to the California Department of Water Resources, the average water content of the Sierra Nevada snow pack climbed to 16 inches (71 percent of average for the date) Feb. 16, up from 10 inches (55 percent) at the beginning of the stormy period Feb. 5. Snow levels fell to 1,500 feet in many mountain and foothill areas.

As promising as February has been, California agriculture keeps hoping for another “Miracle March.”

Even if it happens, the state is going into its third drought year. Reservoirs are at record lows and growers with wells are expecting to pump water to supplement any surface water supplies they receive. Many will be almost totally dependent on groundwater.

Joe Traynor, Bakersfield Calif., bee expert, says his benchmark almond orchard was at 1 percent bloom Feb. 14, and the next day it was at 15 percent.

Madera County University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor Brent Holtz says orchards in his Central area were starting to show pink flowers Feb. 19.

“It looks like we are going to have one of those years when everything pops at once,” Holtz says.

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