From the Fields® - September 9, 2009

By Bruce Fry, San Joaquin County grape grower

Harvest is under way here in Lodi with what looks so far to be an average crop, neither too big nor too small. We started by hand picking some pinot grigio and then moved to our sauvignon blanc.

As far as quality, some years are better than others, but this crop looks good. Across all the varieties we grow here, it looks like a normal crop with nothing out of the ordinary.

The cooler than normal spring means we started harvest about a week later than last year. The nice thing about the cooler weather in midsummer is that it really helped with the color of the grapes. Then the cool weather was followed by some good sugar ripening weather, so the grapes are progressing in the right direction.

By Theresa Schneider, Butte County walnut grower

As harvest approaches this is a busy time of year. Codling moth cycles are about completed and husk fly numbers are coming up, which could mean another spray. Another concern during the hot summer months is dusty vein aphids and mites, which are being monitored closely.

We are busy mowing and solid spraying the weeds to have a clean orchard floor for harvest. It has been a favorable growing season with just a few 100-degree days so our sunburn damage has been minimal. Days around 90 degrees, plus or minus, are perfect for the walnuts.

The growing season has been going nicely. Irrigation is key right now to size up the nuts. Our irrigation is based on the groundwater supply. Our water table is starting to drop; pressure is lowering, but still maintaining adequate water. We hope to have a good winter rain season. We sure need it.

Our production looks great. Half of our Chandler walnuts are on black rootstock while our younger blocks are on Paradox rootstock. The younger blocks are growing strong with little signs of mites, red humped caterpillars or webworms. The older orchards look down about 10 percent from last year while still averaging three tons per acre. Hartley blocks are down in production as well this year, but still holding on for a good season.

On the market side of things, it is good to hear there is no carryover from last year's crop and that walnut prices are slowly increasing. This makes for a more profitable season.

By Sean Curtis, Modoc County beef producer

Things are about normal in our area of the state. Water is getting short. It's about time to start gathering cows off the federal grazing permits. The grazing season actually went pretty well. The range was in fairly good shape as long as there was plenty of stock water, which most places had. So from a range standpoint, it was pretty good. We had rain at the right time, and as a result the grass was decent.

Cattle will now be coming off the federal range and go onto what private pasture folks have, and then start feeding hay in late fall until next spring. God knows there is plenty of hay sitting around looking for a home. We'll probably market some of our cattle later in fall.

A lot of the fall pasture is going to be short on feed as there hasn't been the normal irrigation water to provide that, so folks will probably start feeding hay sooner than normal. But there's lot's of hay and it isn't worth anything. We shouldn't have to haul water, as there should be enough stock water.

By Steve Bontadelli, Santa Cruz County vegetable grower

Things are going well so far. The weather has been typical for the Central Coast, with foggy mornings that brussels sprouts love. Production started earlier than previous years and the markets have been good.

So far we haven't had any problems with water. We're going through our problems down in the Pajaro water management basin, but there haven't been any problems to date with any shortages of water.

Based on what we can see now, we're about a month away from full production, the machine harvesting. That usually starts about the end of September. Assuming that things continue the way they are, it should be a good crop year.

We usually harvest into early January, but this year we are going to be going to late January. We planted some for late harvest. We were cut back some in our contracts with the freezers so we had to make alternate plans for some of the acres.

The light brown apple moth can be a headache. It is still an issue in western Canada, British Columbia in particular, where they still require phytosanitary certification.

By Kevin Merrill, Santa Barbara County winegrape grower

The last few days of August saw an abrupt change in our weather, going from the mid-70s with morning fog and drizzle to temperatures hovering around 105 to 107 degrees almost overnight.

Grape growers in the warm Los Alamos and Santa Ynez valleys have started picking pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc fruit. Growers are irrigating vines to bring the sugar levels down to be in balance with the acids and Ph levels. If the warm weather continues, harvest will ramp up quickly.

We have our usual amount of botrytis showing up in the chardonnay, but the heat should keep it in check. Most of our red varieties have just finished veraison. Our crews will start dropping second crop clusters and any green bunches left behind.

There are a few small sales of grapes on the open market; most large lots of uncontracted fruit remain for sale, as wineries put any new purchases on hold, hoping for positive signs from a weak economy. Growers are left with the dilemma of dropping fruit on the ground or custom crushing, hoping to sell the wine at a later date for a decent price per gallon.